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Contents

NATIONAL NEWS

INTERNATIONAL ISSUES

INDIA & THE WORLD

ECONOMY

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

SPORTS

AWARDS & PRIZES

IN THE NEWS(PERSON)
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Current Affairs 1

NATIONAL NEWS

Supreme Court to hear about criminality of section 377


of IPC
The Supreme Court will take a final call on whether Section 377 of the Indian Penal
Code (IPC), which criminalises consensual sexual acts of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual
and Transgender (LGBT) adults in private, amounts to denial of their rights to privacy
and dignity and results in gross miscarriage of justice.
A Bench of the three senior-most judges will hear a batch of eight curative petitions
filed by parents, civil society, scientific and LGBT rights organisations against a
judgment by the Supreme Court dismissing their review petitions on the ground
that Section 377 is constitutional and applies to sexual acts irrespective of age or
consent of the parties.
One of the eight petitions now listed for Tuesday is by 13 senior psychiatrists,
psychologists, counsellors and mental health professionals, including an editor of
the influential Lancet Series on Global Health.
They have argued that homosexuality was not a mental disorder, but a normal and
natural variant of human sexuality.

Only Business community from Japan would get visa


on arrival for now
After Prime Minister Narendra Modis announcement that all Japanese citizens would
get visas on arrival, the government has decided to extend it only to the business
community for now.
The government is actively considering including South Korea in this category. This
was being done keeping in mind the Make in India policy of the government and
to make India an attractive destination for investors from the two countries.
Japan and South Korea are already on the list of 113 countries whose citizens can
arrive in India through an electronic tourist visa on arrival (e-TV) platform.
In December, during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abes visit to India, Mr. Modi
announced a liberalised visa regime for all Japanese citizens.
Mr. Modi said that Ja- pan had earmarked a $11-12- billion fund for Make in India.
At least three Japanese firms were given the go-ahead in 2015 to set up shop in India.

SC concedes mistake in notice to Arunachal Governor


Just a few days after ordering Arunachal Pradesh Governor J.P. Rajkhowa to respond
why he recommended Presidents rule in the sensitive border State, the Supreme
Court recalled the order, saying it made a mistake by not realising that Governors
have complete immunity.
The turn of events was triggered by Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, for the Centre,
drawing the Benchs attention to Article 361 (1) of the Constitution which gives the
President and the Governor protection from legal action.

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Under the Article, both the President and the Governor of a State shall not be
answerable to any court for acts done in performance of their powers and duties.
However, such immunity to the Governor under Article 361 does not take away the
power of the Supreme Court to examine the validity of his action on the ground of
mala fide.

Sashastra Seema bal gets first women head for any


paramilitary force
Senior IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram was appointed Director General of
Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), the first woman to head a paramilitary force.
Ms. Ramasundaram, a 1980 batch officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre, is currently Special
Director, National Crime Records Bureau.
She has been appointed to the post till the date of her superannuation September
30, 2017.
The SSB is entrusted with guarding the countrys frontiers with Nepal and Bhutan.
The other four paramilitary forces are the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the
Border Security Force (BSF), the Central Industrial Security Force and the Indo-Tibetan
Border Police.
IPS officers K. Durga Prasad and K.K. Sharma have been appointed Directors- General
of the CRPF and the BSF respectively. They will take over after the incumbent chiefs
of these forces retire this month-end.

Cruz and Clinton won first polling state of Iowa


National front-runner Donald Trump lost the first polling state of Iowa to Senator
Ted Cruz of Texas in the run for Republican presidential nomination, an outcome
that will keep the race open and make it nastier.
The emergence of Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who finished a close third, however,
keeps the hopes of conventional Republicans alive that they could stop the
nomination of Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump, both considered insurgents and out of tune
withthe partys traditional base.
Mr. Cruz polled 28 per cent against Mr. Trumps 24, while Mr. Rubio, who now
seems to have edged out the rest, polled 23 per cent.
In the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton won a razor- thin victory over Bernie Sanders
in the Iowa caucuses.
With 100 per cent of precincts reporting, Ms. Clinton took 49.8 per cent, against 49.6
per cent for the Vermont Senator, her sole remaining challenger for the Democratic
nomination.

Pradhan Maitri Fasal Bima Yojna may not be applicable


to tenant farmers
The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY), which the NDA government
showcases as the shield against all risks faced by farmers, has failed to be universal
because there is a need for a comprehensive crop and income insurance scheme
covering income and yield risks for all farmers and all crops
All India Kisan Sabha joint secretary Vijoo Krishnan said that farmer suicides had

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Current Affairs 3
continued nation- wide for more than two decades since the neoliberal economic
policies were put in place.
However, the ruling classes have sought to underplay the unprecedented human
tragedy and linked the plight of farmers to the weather.
PMFBY continued the mandatory covering of loanee farmers. Non-loanee farmers,
tenant farmers and share-croppers were likely to remain outside its ambit.
Dalits and Adivasis, socially and economically oppressed, will also be excluded from
the scheme. To be truly inclusive, the Central and State governments must subsidise
the entire premium for the poor, small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers, share-
croppers as well as Adivasi and dalit farmers.
Trade liberalisation and free trade agreements ex- posed farmers to the volatility in
world markets.
An uncontrolled increase in input prices, coupled with a fall in the prices of farm
goods, had become a regular phenomenon. MSP did not cover production cost, he
pointed out.

Home minister send dual message to Pak


Sending out a dual message to Pakistan, the government said that it would continue
to engage with it to ensure it makes progress on the Pathankot investigation, but also
made it clear that the Sharif government would have to show sincerity as it is from
their territory that most attacks come from.
Most of the terror attacks emanate from Pakistan. It has to show some sincerity and
take action against terrorists operating from its soil, Home Minister Rajnath Singh
said at a counter-terror conference.
Our government will stand by Pakistan if it takes decisive action against terrorists
and their organisations, he added.
Earlier in the day, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said that despite the attacks, India
would continue to engage Pakistan at both the Foreign Secretary and National Security
Adviser levels.
The statements by the Foreign Secretary and the Home Minister, as well as those
made by President Pranab Mukherjee and NSA Ajit Doval indicate the governments
next steps with Pakistan are still under discussion, with no clear signs on whether
India will go ahead with Foreign Secretary-level talks that were called of last month.

Bharat Biotech announced developing worlds first Zika


vaccine
Vaccines manufacturer Bharat Biotech announced a breakthrough in developing the
worlds first Zika vaccine.
The Hyderabad-based company has submitted to the government two vaccine
candidates: one inactivated and one recombinant.
It said pre-clinical studies would be concluded in the next five months, and then the
process for regulatory approval would start.
An inactivated vaccine consists of the disease-causing microbe killed with chemicals,
heat, or radiation. This is more stable and safer than live vaccines.
A recombinant vaccine is produced through the recombinant DNA technology. This

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involves inserting the DNA encoding an antigen (such as a bacterial surface protein)
that stimulates an immune response.

Govt wants to provide DBT for social sector schemes as


well
The government has drawn up an ambitious plan to scale up the present regime for
direct transfer of benefits to the poor under various welfare schemes, by creating a
unified national database of beneficiaries that can be updated in real-time and
automatically trigger new benefits such as vaccine shots for a newborn baby.
The blueprint drawn up over the past three months aims to transform the direct
benefits transfer (DBT) regime launched in January 2013, into a social security
platform linked to the beneficiary database that will have details about the household.
While the trinity of Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar and mobile connectivity, referred to
as JAM, would still play a key role, the government believes there are still several
operational issues with thethree elements that will take time to sort out.
For instance, improvement in mobile network coverage and higher enrolments under
Aadhaar would take time.
A committee in the Cabinet Secretariat is also working with the Finance Ministry to
create a network of 2 million cash points such as kirana stores, chemists and Grameen
Dak Sewaks in 6 lakh villages by March 2017, so that getting the cash in hand isnt an
ordeal for the rural poor.

Instructions on OROP implementation issued


Moving a step closer to fulfilling its promise of implementing the One Rank One
Pension (OROP) scheme for military personnel, the government released detailed
instructions and tables on its implementation.
This is a follow-up to the notification on OROP on November 7 last year.
According to the notification, the annual recurring cost of the scheme would be
Rs.7,500 crore, pushing the total Defence budget for pensions from Rs.54,000 crore
(Budget estimate 2015- 16) to around Rs.65,000 crore (proposed estimate for 2016-
17).
The arrears for 18 months from July 2014 to December 2015 would be Rs.10,900
crore.
According to the government, 86 per cent of the total expenditure on account of
OROP would benefit jawans and Junior Commissioned officers.
However, the OROP notification had been rejected by ex-servicemen who said that
it was in violation of the accepted definition.
In December, the government appointed a one-man judicial commission headed by
Justice L.Narasimha Reddy, former Chief Justice of Patna High Court, to look into
the issues arising out of the implementation and the report to be submitted in six
months.

Govt is likely to make big disinvestment


The big thrust areas of Union Budget 2016-17, will be the agriculture and transport
sectors and big-ticket disinvestment, including strategicsales in high-value companies

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Current Affairs 5
such as Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), and oiland defence public
sectorunits (PSUs) such as Oil andNatural Gas Corporation(ONGC), Indian Oil
Corporation (IOC), Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL).
Mr. Jaitley will also announce in his budget speech a new centrally sponsored scheme
forirrigation.
On the expenditure side,the big outgo will be on account of the implementation of
the 7th Central Pay Commission recommendationsfor pay and pension hikes with
effect from January 1, 2016
Mr. Jaitley will present the budget in Parliament on February 29.
To meet the fiscal deficittarget, the government willrely on proceeds from
disinvestment for which the budget will set ambitious targets

Loss making Public sector undertakings to be winded


up
A two-year road map for three types of sales of government stake in PSUs.
First, a plan for windingup loss-making units, including rules for the disposal of
their assets and land.Passage next month of thenew bankruptcy code byParliament
during the bud-get session, it is expected,will aid these sales
Second,profitable PSUs will be list-ed on stock exchangesthrough public sales of
shares.
The governments shareholding in enterprisesalready listed will be pareddown
through public offers to the minimum level depending on the sector andin line
with governmentpolicy.
The third categorywill be that of strategic sales of high-value and big-sizecompanies
such as BHEL,and the oil and defense sector PSUs.
Based on inputs received from private investors, the government is finalising anew
revenue model for irrigation projects to be developed in the public-privatepartnership
space, whichwill bring down the down-stream user charges forfarmers.
This technology-intensive concept will beselectively applied to high-yield, plantation
and commercial crops.
The Centre has already opened up 100% FDIunder the automatic routein rolling
stock, services, catering and the developmentand running of passenger terminals.
Measures are likely for addressing delaysin land acquisition in various States that is
leading to stalled rail projects.

Ten soldiers died in Siachens Avalanche


The 10 soldiers trapped in ice after an avalanche on the Siachen glacier were declared
dead
The soldiers belong to the Madras regiment of the Army and have been posted there
recently.
Avery large rescue team has been deployed to reach down to the swamped Army
post. The rescuers are working at extremely low temperatures hovering between -25
to -45 degrees putting their lives at risk.
The major avalanche struck the Army post in Northern Siachen Glacier located at a

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height of 19600 feet


The Indian Army has been controlling the dominant heights of the glacier, the worlds
highest battlefield, since occupying it in April 1984 under Operation Meghdoot pre-
empting Pakistans move which controls heights at the lower altitudes.

50% quota for women in panchayats planned


Minister for RuralDevelopment and PanchayatiRaj, has said the government would
bepushing a Constitutionalamendment, first cleared bythe UPA Cabinet, to
increasereservation for women inpanchayats from 33 per cent to 50 per cent in the
budgetsession of Parliament.
Though someStates have provided 50% reservation to women in panchayats, the
government will,through the ConstitutionalAmendment, ensure that it isimplemented
in the wholecountry.
Though someStates have provided 50% reservation to women in panchayats, the
government will,through the ConstitutionalAmendment, ensure that it isimplemented
in the whole country.
Among the States that al-ready follow 50% reservationfor women in Panchayati
RajInstitutions (PRIs) are Bihar,Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.

First case to be decided under new Juvenile law


A decision will soon be taken by the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) on whether a 17
year-old boy, who is accused of committing two murders in Delhi in five months,
will be tried as a juvenile or as an adult.
As per the Juvenile Justice Act 2015, the boy could be tried as an adult if the board
assesses him mentally and physically capable of committing the heinous offences
and as having the ability to understand their consequences.
The boy, who will turn 18next month, was first apprehended last September on charge
of kidnapping a 13- year-old boy for ransom and killing him later.
He was released on bail in November, but the same boy allegedly robbed and killed
a 65-year-old woman in Delhis Lodhi Colony lastSaturday.
If he ends up being tried as an adult, his will be among the first such major case in
Delhi after the much-debated law was passed in December and approved by the
President on the last day of 2015.

Basmati rice all set to get Geographical Indication tag


The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) ordered issue of the Geographical
Indication tag for basmati rice grown in the Indo-Gangetic Plains on the foothills of
the Himalayas.
The order comes seven years after the application was made.
The application has been mired in litigation after farmers and exporters and Madhya
Pradesh wanted to be included in the list of States approved by the Agricultural and
Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the statutory
body responsible for export promotion and development of certain scheduled
products.
In 2014-15, India exported 37 lakh MT of Basmati Rice to the world worth Rs. 27,597.87

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Current Affairs 7
crore and is the worlds leading exporter of the rice, according to APEDA.
India exports a major quantity of basmati rice to Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab
Emirates, Iraq and Kuwait.

FM asks states to use greater devolution for anti-poverty


and infra projects
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, urged the Statesto boost spending on
infrastructure creation and anti-poverty programmes by leveraging the increased
devolution from the implementation of the 14th Finance Commissions
recommendations.
At a pre-budget consultative meeting, the StateFinance ministers, in turn, asked the
Centre to release the compensation for phasing out the central sales tax.
They said the government should reappraise its role in fundingsocial sector schemes
such as the SarvaShiksha Abhiyan.
The Centre had reduced its contribution to such schemes after the 14th Finance
Commissions recommendationswere implemented, placing a greater burden on the
States.

Indian medical association also supports Menaka


Gandhis view
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) came out in support of Union Minister Maneka
Gandhis suggestion to make pre-natal sex determination compulsory to check female
foeticide.
The IMA said the recent statement by the Union Women and Child Development
Minister indicates that a 20-year old ban on foetal sex determination may be lifted.
India is among the countries with the worst child sex ratio in the world. The 2011
Census showed that the child sex ratio has dipped from 927 girls in 2001 to 919 girls
in 2011.
Child sex ratio is the number of girls per 1,000 boys betweenthe age 0-6 years.
Since the PC-PNDT Act, the sex ratio in the country has not changed.

Health ministry in favour of single common entrance


test
The Union Health Ministry has cleared an amendment to a law, which, if cleared by
Parliament, will allow the Medical Council of India to conduct a single, common
entrance test for admissions for undergraduate and post- graduate medical courses
across the country.
The test may be introduced in 2016 if the Cabinet approves the proposal. A draft note
has been circulated among the Ministries before it is presented to the Cabinet.
If it comes into being, students will be spared theburden of traversing the length and
breadth of the country and pay multiple entrance fees to take several tests for a shot
at a medical seat.
The MCI, it is learnt, has told the government that it could either notify an existing
examination, for instance, the All-India Pre Medical Test (AIPMT), or a new one as

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the common test.


The MCI attempted to hold a common exam for postgraduate seats in 2012 and
undergraduate seats in 2013.
But nearly 80 private colleges, several led by minority institutions and that currently
have the freedom to organise theirown tests, united to take the MCI to court.
The Supreme Court ruled that the existing laws allowed the MCI only to decide the
curriculum and not to administer entrance tests.

Plan of abolishing various taxes gets attention from


secretaries
A presentation made last week for a sub-group of Secretaries set up by Prime Minister
Narendra Modi seeks to abolish income tax and over 30 local, State and Central
taxes.
The proposal from a Pune-based tax research outfit, Arthakranti, advocates replacing
the present tax system with a single 2 per cent levy per receipt in bank accounts and
recommends that just import duties be retained from the present system.
While the government is pitching for quick passage of the Constitution (122nd
Amendment) Bill for the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax, Arthakrantis proposal
envisages a system that does not tax consumption or income, as is the case now, but
the velocity of money.
The outfit has estimated that the levy it is proposingcan be collected through the
banking channel rather than the tax collection authorities. Without leading to a loss
of revenue, it will plug tax evasion and avoidance.
Arthakrantis calculations show that the 2 per cent tax will yield Rs. 40,00,000 crore.
The claim was contested by the eminent economist and former secretary-general of
the FICCI, Rajiv Kumar, who said that at 2 per cent, the proposed new tax will yield
Rs.14,00,000 crore.
In 2014-15, the Centres total tax revenue (revised estimates) were Rs. 9,084,63 crore.

David Headley made revelations about ISI, JuD


In an important turn in the 2008 Mumbai attacks trial, Lashkar operative David
Headley named Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief and 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed as the
head of the Lashkar-e- Taiba.
During his deposition before a special court here via video-conferencing from the
U.S., he identified Pakistani Army officers associated with the ISI.
Lashkar handlers Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi had also been named by Ajmal
Kasab, the Pakistani gunman who was executed for his role in 26/11, in his confession
statement in 2008.
Notably, Headley named Major Ali and Major Iqbal of the ISI and Lashkar commander
Sajid Mir as his contacts in Pakistan.
He also said the 10 people involved in the 26/11 attacks had made two previous
attempts on Mumbai.
The first, in September 2008,failed as the boat, which started from outside Kara- chi,
ran into some rocks and sank. The weapons and explosives were lost in the sea.

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Current Affairs 9
The second attempt took place a month later. It was Mir who informed Headley of
the two attempts.
Headley, who was convicted in the U.S. for his role in the Mumbai attacks, gave his
statement before special judge G.A. Sanap.
Testifying as a prosecution witness from an undisclosed location in the U.S., he
confinedhimself to the information he divulged following his plea bargain agreement
with the American government in 2010.
Terming his deposition live evidence, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said
it was a statement of oath of a person directly involved in the criminal conspiracy.

TRAI barred telecom service providers from charging


differential rates
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) barred telecom service providers
from charging differential rates for data services, effectively prohibiting Facebooks
Free Basics and Airtel Zero platform in their current form.
It said the prohibition was necessary to keep the Internet open and non-discriminatory.
TRAI said a fine of Rs. 50,000 would be levied per day, subject to a maximum of Rs.
50 lakh, for any violation of these regulations. An exemption, however, has been
made for offering emergency services.
Ruling out case-by- case approval for plans that might be priced differently, the
regulator said a clear policy should be formulated.
The regulator and Facebook have been at loggerheads over the issue with the authority
terming the social networking giants attempt to lobby for its Free Basics initiative a
crude attempt at turning the consultation over differential pricing of data services
into an orchestrated opinion poll on Free Basics.
Facebook had partnered with Reliance Communications in India to ofer Free Basics
service. However, the services were put in abeyance, post a TRAI order to this effect.
TRAI said tariff for data services could not vary on the basis of the website/
application/ platform/ or type of content being accessed.
For example, a consumer could not be charged differently based on whether she was
browsing social media site A or B, or on whether she was watching streaming videos
or shopping on the Internet.

United States shares details and specifications of LeT


operative Headley
The United States has provided the National Investigation Agency (NIA) with the
details and specifications of a mobile phone handset belonging to Lashkar-e- Taiba
operative David Coleman Headley, which was used by him tovideograph key targets,
a few months before the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
The same phone was used to film key targets when Headley again visited India in
March 2009, barely three months after the attacks.
Thedetails would help the NIA build its case against Headley and others in the
Mumbai attacks case.
Even after a Mumbai court accepted Headleys plea to become an approver in the

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case being investigated by the Mumbai Police, he remains an accused in the NIAs
case.
With this phone, Headley had filmed the residential areas around the Bhabha Atomic
Research Centre (BARC), Taj Hotel, the Naval Air Station, the Police Headquarters,
the State Assembly, Siddhi Vinayak Temple, Chabad House and Mumbai Stock
Exchange, Leopold restaurant and Trident Hotel.
Headley has also said he used to get calls from Major Iqbal on this number, and the
calls were masked to have generated from New York.

Gates Foundation would be closely scrutinised


The Indian government will closely scrutinise the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations
(BMGF) methods of donations in India after an international report accused the
worlds biggest philanthropist of influencing government policies in favour of
multinational pharmaceutical companies.
Unlike other international donors, the BMGF is not registered under the Foreign
Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), leaving its funding out of the ambit of the
Minis- try of Home Affairs (MHA), which is the regulatory authority for NGOs and
associations who receive foreign funds.
The foundation instead operates as a Liaison office under the Foreign Exchange
Management Act (FEMA) as approved by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Since it is not registered under the FCRA, the funding of NGOs doesnt come under
the governments watch list. It is not clear where and what they are funding.
It is a loop- hole and it can open gates for other NGOs as well to use this route to
escape scrutiny
The RBI allows liaison offices to operate in India and the central bank does not
want to give up this power. This is being exploited by many foreign associations and
organisations to route undetected foreign funds.
Though the RBI gives LO permits, it does not regulate them as there are no such
rules. No inspections can take place and thus no taxes are paid.
The BMGF works as a marketing office for U.S. pharmaceutical vaccines pushing
only WHO pre-approved manufacturers, all of whomare either USA or EU based

Plan to develop cities around major ports dropped


The Centre hasdropped the plan to develop smart cities around major ports in Mumbai
and Kolkata.
Lat year, the government had planned to build one smart city each at 12 major ports
at an estimated cost of Rs. 50,000 crore.
The ports Kandla, Mumbai, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Mormugao, Vi-
sakhapatnam, Cochin, Chennai, New Mangalore, Ennore, V.O. Chidambaranar,
Paradipand Kolkata have 264,000 acres of land around them.
These ports handle 61 per cent of the cargo traffic.

Women Qazis get support from Deoband


Islamic seminary Darul-UloomDeoband came to the defence of two Muslim women
from Rajasthan Afroz Begum and Jahan Ara who became Qazis (judges).

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Current Affairs 11
Who, in Islamic legal jurisprudence, has the authority to function as the head of
informal arbitration centres to sort out disputes related to personal laws as well as
other matters.
Deobands support for the two women came days after conservative religious clerics
in Rajasthan protested against the two women being awarded the certificate of
Qaziat by a Islamic training Centre in Mumbai.
Maulana Usmani also said there was no reason for any- one to oppose the two Qazis
because there are several madrasas that train women to become a Qazi or a Mufti.

Along with monsoon forecast IMD will start giving


summer forecast
For the first time in its history, the India Meteorological Department best known
for its monsoon forecasts will issue a summer forecast for April, May and June.
Those involved say that though such a forecast may not be of much help to farmers
who rely on IMDs rain forecasts to make sowing decisions and dont plant their
crops in these months.
The information would be useful to power companies, several service-sector
industries and state planners whod like a heads-up on possible water shortages.
In mid-March, the IMD will send out a colour-coded map of India, showing how
temperatures in different regions of the country are likely to deviate from whats
normal, during summer months.
These numbers would be updated every five day.
The IMDs initiative comes even as India bears the brunt of one of the long-est and
severest El Ninos ever experienced.
Said to be responsible for two consecutive droughts as well awry winter patterns in
North India, the El Nino a meteorological phenomenon marked by an unusual
warming of the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean and associated with droughts
is likely to continue for a couple of months more.
The IMD does give warnings about imminent heatwaves and dry weather but these
are no more than five days ahead.
The key factor to forecasting weather a few months ahead is in ensuring that the
computerised weather models are consistently able to simulate the weather as it
actually plays out.

Women would get child through surrogacy or adoption


will also paid maternity leave
In a first, thegovernment is set to mandate four months of paid maternity leave to
women having babies through surrogacy and those who adopt a newborn within
three months of birth.
Expectant mothers would be entitled to six-and-a-half months of paid leave, compared
to just three months now, under the proposed amendments to the Maternity Benefit
Act1961 that are expected to be considered by the Cabinet soon.
Under the proposed amendment, offices with 50 or more workers will have to

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12 Current Affairs

compulsorily provide crche facility on their premises.


Womens unions said the governments move to raise the leave to six months is a
good start and the benefit must be extended to those working in the unorganised
sector.
Globally, around 98 countries provided maternity benefit of at least 14 weeks till
2013, said a report titled Maternity and Paternity at Work prepared by the
International Labour Organisation.
Forty-two countries gave 18 weeks of paid maternity leave.
Women working in government offices in India get a six-month maternity leave,
according to the Central Civil Service (Leave) Rules 1972.

Highly elusive gravitational waves detected


The highly elusive gravitational waves have finally been detected. Understandably,
and justifiably, there is great elation within the global physics community, astro-
physicists and cosmologists in particular
After decades of search for these ripples in space-time, which Albert Einstein predicted
exactly 100 years ago.
Scientists working with the gigantic optical instruments in the U.S. called LIGO [Laser
Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory], have detected signals of
gravitational waves emanating from two merging black holes 1.3 billion light years
away arriving at their instruments on the Earth.
That is to say, this cataclysmic event of two black holes merging occurred 1.3 b yrs
ago, when multi-cellular organisms were just beginning to form on the Earth, the
gravitational wavesfrom which are being received now on the Earth.
The announcement was beamed across all the laboratories of the world participating
in the LIGO Science Collaboration (LSC). LSC comprises about 1000 scientists from
16 countries.

Lance Naik Hanamanthappa dead


Lance Naik HanamanthappaKoppad, whose miraculous survival days after an
avalanche hit an Army camp on the Siachen Glacier transfixed the nation, died on
Thursday morning.
This brought the focus back on the challenges of military deployment on the glacier,
with Pakistan indicating that it is willing to consider early de-militarisation.
The soldier of 19 Madras Regiment is survived by his wife and daughter.
Hanamanthappa was rescued alive on Monday, having been buried under 35 feet of
snow, along with nine other soldiers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in bidding farewell to Hanamanthappa.

BSE saw one of the biggest single day fall


Disappointing results from State Bank of India (SBI), amid global weakness, dragged
the BSE Sensex to its lowest close in 21 months.
The benchmark index posted its biggest single-day fall since August 24, 2015, slump-
ing 807.07 points, or 3.40 per cent, to 22,951.83 at the close on Thursday.

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Current Affairs 13
The broader Nifty fell 239.35 points, or 3.32 per cent, to close at 6,976.35.
Investor sentiment was affected after SBI reported a 62 per cent drop in its net profit
to Rs.1,115 crore owing to an increase in bad loans.
The lender saw fresh slippage of more than Rs. 20,000 crore, which took its gross
non-performing assets to a staggering Rs.72,792 crore or 5.1 per cent of its total loans.
On BSE, more than 2,400 stocks declined as against 288 gainers. The rupee also
weakened 0.45 against the dollar, the most in a month, to close the day at 68.30 amid
foreign fund outflows.

Much awaited plan for malaria elimination announced


by Health Ministry
The Union Health Ministry announced the much-awaited plan to eliminate malaria
from the country by 2030. This will be the first time that the governments policy
intervention will have deliverables and time-bound targets.
Under the new framework, India will be divided into three categories as per malaria
prevalence low, moderate and endemic States.
By 2016 end, all States are expected to include malaria elimination in their broader
health policies; by the end of 2017.
All States are expected to bring down Annual Parasite Incidence [API] to less than 1
per thousand population.
By the end of 2020, 15 States/UTs under category 1[elimination phase] are expected
to interrupt transmission of malaria and achieve zero indigenous cases and deaths
due to malaria.
It is also envisaged that in States with relatively good capacity and health
infrastructure, namely, Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra, accelerated efforts may
usher malaria elimination sooner within two to three years.
According to Ministry statistics, 1.13 million cases and 287 deaths were reported in
the provisional data.
However, British medical journal The Lancet estimates that India re- ports at least
50,000 malaria- related deaths annually, making discrepancy in data the biggest
challenge in elimination strategy.
The gross underestimation of data is something officials of the National Vector Borne
Disease Control Pro- gramme have acknowledged. At a recent press conference held
by the ICMR.

Severe penalties would be imposed on power companies


for not adhering to solid waste rule
The Central government has issued a circular to all power distribution companies
stating it was mandatory for them to buy electricity from power plants fuelled by
solid waste.
In case the companies brush aside the instructions, the government would impose
severe penalties on them, an entitlement that comes from the recent amendment of
the Electricity Regulatory Act (2013).
To turn Prime Minister Narendara Modis Swachh Bharat Mission a success, Venkaiah

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14 Current Affairs

Naidu-led urban development ministry convinced the power ministry inearly January
to amend the Electricity Regulatory Act 2013 and include the penalty clause for
companies that violate the new instructions.
The Centre now aims at generating 700 megawatts of electricity from solid waste-
run plants in the next fiveyears.
Every day, about 1.68 lakh tonnes of solid waste is collected across the country.
As State governments will have to build plants that can produce energy from solid
waste, the ministry offered to cover 20 per cent of the cost of each plant. This
money would come from the Swachh Bharat Mission.
Of its budget allocation of Rs. 62,000 crore, Rs. 38,000 crore would be spent on building
solid waste management infrastructure across the country.
The road to arriving at energy generation is still long but the ministry has made a
significant progress in setting up an effective door- to-door collection and
transportation of solid waste.

SC for uniform compensation scheme for differently


abled rape victims
Highlighting the plight of differently abled victims of rape and sexual exploitation,
the Supreme Court ordered all States and Union Territories to formulate a uniform
scheme for providing them compensation.
It stressed that no amount of money can wipe away the tears of these women who
have to battle both the social disadvantage of their disability and stigma of the crime
committed against them.
The compensation given to rape victims was negligible compared to the trauma they
had to undergo all their lives.
Compensation and rehabilitation expenses range from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 1 lakh at the
most, except in the State of Goa where victims were paid Rs. 10 lakh.

Jawahar Lal universitys student union leader arrested


As the Centre hardened its position, a Delhi court remanded Jawaharlal Nehru
University Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar in three-day police custody.
He was arrested on the charge of sedition, after anti-India slogans were allegedly
raised at the university during a recent protest meeting in memory of Afzal Guru,
hanged in 2013 after his conviction in the Parliament attack case.
It was registered under IPC Sections 124A (sedition), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and
34 (acts done by several persons with a common intention). Five more persons are
absconding in the case.
The university also initiated action, barring eight students from academic activity
pending an enquiry, though they would be allowed to stay as guests in thehostels.

National undisclosed income increased from 6000 crore


to 90000 crore from 2011 to 2014
The nationwide crackdown on black money has meant a steady increase in detection
of undisclosed income, which has jumped 15.5 times over the past five years.

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Current Affairs 15
A comprehensive report of the Director General of Income Tax (Intelligence and
Criminal Investigation) shows more and more prominent business houses, including
diamond traders, steel magnates and the countrys leading pharma companies coming
under the taxmens scanner.
National undisclosed income jumped from just Rs. 5,894 crore in financial year 2011
to Rs. 90,391 crore in 2014.
The undisclosed income detected in 2012 was Rs. 6,573 crore and Rs. 19,337 crore in
2013.

Urban development ministry made buying of compost


from solid waste mandatory
In an attempt to boost the NDA governments flagship Swachh Bharat Mission, the
Ministry of Urban Development has made it mandatory for private companies to
buy compost that is extracted from municipal solid waste.
Since solid waste management is a key feature of Swachh Bharat Mission, the Ministry
is finding creative ways to turn mounting waste into a national asset.
In early January, the Ministry arrived at an agreement with the Ministry of Chemicals
and Fertilizers that private companies must promote the municipal compost and
slowly reduce the market size of urea.
The government is also weighing whether to ofer a deal where subsidy would be
granted if one bag of municipal compost is bought with every two bags of chemically
rich urea.

India summoned U.S. Ambassador to the External Affairs


ministry for F-16 sale
Angeredby a U.S. decision to sell eight more F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, India
summoned U.S. Ambassador Richard Varma to the External Affairs Ministry to
express displeasure with the deal.
At the nearly 45-minute meeting, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar told Mr. Varma
that India was not only disappointed but also upset that its protests over the past
year on the issue had gone unheeded.
The Pentagon conveyed to the U.S. Congress the decision to sell the planes in a
$699.04-million deal, and the U.S. government announced the sale.
Rejecting the State Departments contention that the sale was in the U.S.s vital
national security interests as it helped Pakistan fight terror groups, the Ministry
said, We disagree with their rationale that such arms transfers help combat terrorism.
The record of the last many years in this regard speaks for itself.
India believes the sale will only strengthen Pakistans ability to threaten India.
The U.S. move is a setback to Indias hopes that given the mounting evidence of
Pakistani agencies continuing support to anti-India groups, the U.S. would rethink
its arms sales to that country.
In the past week, many in the government had hoped the details of the deposition in
aMumbai court by the 26/11 planner David Headley would remind the U.S. of the
links of Pakistans ISI with these groups.

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16 Current Affairs

The U.S. announcement has come at an inconvenient time, when India is hoping to
extract action from Pakistan on the Pathankot terror attacks.

Make in India week started in Mumbai


Showcasing India as a land of immense opportunities, Prime Minister Narendra
Modi told representatives from 68 countries participating in the Make in India Week
that India was blessed with Democracy, Demography, and Demand.
His government had added Deregulation making it a four-dimensional India waiting
for foreign investment and manufacturing companies.
Spelling out the potential of the market before foreign investors, Mr. Modi said, 50
of our cities are ready for setting up metro rail systems.
We have to build 50 million houses. The requirement of road, rail, waterways is
enormous. There is no time for incremental changes. We want a quantum jump.
The Prime Minister said helaid great emphasis on zero defect and zero effect
manufacturing.
India place high emphasis on energy efficiency, water re- cycling, waste to energy,
clean India and river cleaning.
These initiatives are directed at improving quality of life in cities and villages. These
initiatives provide youadditional avenues for investment in technologies, services
and human resources.

Government to initiate a nation-wide consultation


process for S&T policy
President Pranab Mukherjee said that the government would soon initiate a
nationwide consultation process for framing Indias first publicly accessible Science
and Technology policy and emphasised the need for consistent encouragement for
youth to pursue research and innovations in their chosen fields.
The new science and technology policy, called Vision S&T 2020, would articulate the
countrys future towards technological independence and self-reliance in the 21st
Century.
The President said, indicating that it would supercede the Science, Technology and
Innovation Policy initiated by the government in 2013.
Committing to continue investment in basic sciences, Mr. Mukherjee said science
must be used to transform our society, citing the example of technological
advancements that could help reach banking.
Stressing that science and technology was a priority for India from the early days of
Independence.

Srikanth Srinivasan set to become Judge of US Supreme


Court
The death of a serving judge of the U.S. Supreme Court has set of acrimonious
exchanges between the Democrats and the Republicans on whether President Barack
Obama should nominate a new judge in the last year of his presidency.
Mr. Obama has declared that he would nominate a replacement for Antonin Scalia

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Current Affairs 17
who died on Saturday at 79, ending a controversial tenure through which he steered
the court towards the right with a series of pronouncements.
Srikanth Srinivasan whose family came to the U.S. from a village in Tirunelveli in
Tamil Nadu figures as the most probable choice to succeed Scalia.
Mr. Srinivasan, 49, is now U.S Circuit Judge of the U.S Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia, which served as a stepping stone for at least three judges of the
Supreme Court.

Major revamp to rehabilitation scheme proposed


To liberate crores of children, transgenders and others trapped in human trafficking,
beggary or any such forms of forced labour, the Union government has proposed a
major revamp of the rehabilitation scheme for rescued bonded workers, raising aid
from the present Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 3 lakh.
The government has finalised a proposal to institute a three-tier rehabilitation fund-
ing scheme, under which a rescued transgender or disabled person will get Rs. 3
lakh, women or children Rs. 2 lakh and adult men Rs. 1 lakh.
Now, Rs. 20,000 goes towards rehabilitation of a bonded labourer with an equal
contribution from both the Centre and theStates.
It is estimated that 1.4 crore workers in the country are bonded labourers, one of the
highest in the world, according to the Global Slavery Index of 2014 released by the
Australia- based Walk Free Foundation.
However, official estimates show the State governments had rehabilitated 2.80 lakh
workers till March 2015.
A person becomes a bonded labourer when his or her labour is demanded as a means
of repayment of a loan.
To ensure a sustainable flow of money, a significant chunk of the rehabilitation sum
will be credited to the bank accounts of the res- cued persons in the form of fixed
monthly deposits.

Barsimalugiri of Assam became first smart village in


North-east
A remote nondescript, insurgency-ravaged village in Assam along Indo- Bhutan
border has earned the distinction of being the areas first smart village.
Barsimaluguri, about 11 km from the Indo-Bhutan border, in Baksa district has been
turned into a model smart village with 100 per cent toilets, solar power and pure
drinking water, following an initiative taken by a few individuals under the aegis of
Nanda Talukdar Foundation (NTF).
There are more than 20,000 villages in Assam with government schemes being
implemented, but none has been transformed into a smart village till now.

Government ready with major banking sector reforms


When most of the public sector banks are bleeding, and their com- bined market
capitalisation has fallen below private sector peer HDFC Bank, Union Finance
Minister is set to announce a series of reforms in the banking sector, including reducing
the governments holding in these banks to 51 per cent.

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18 Current Affairs

Mr. Jaitley also said: I dont think India has reached a state where India can pull out
of the banking all together.
In the last 3-4 decades, state-ownedbanks have played an important role as they
reached out to areas where there was no banking.
Mr. Jaitley said Just 20 months ago, when this government took over, we still had a
situation in which only 58 per cent of India was connected to banks and 42 per cent
of Indians had no bank accounts.
Therefore, these banks have an important role to play in financial inclusion and
geographical reach.

After HC Judge stays his transfer, Supreme Court freezes


his functions
The judicial hierarchy turned turtle when Justice C. S. Karnan of the Madras High
Court stayed the Chief Justice of Indias proposal to transfer him to the Calcutta
High Court.
It forced the Supreme Court to authorise a freeze on his functions as a judge.
In an unprecedented development which threatened institutional esteem, a Bench of
Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice R. Banumathi was informed by the Madras High Court
that its sitting judge, Justice Karnan, has passed a suomotu judicial order staying
the Chief Justice ofIndias recommendation to transfer him.
The High Court judge stayed any move to transfer him to Kolkata, asking the CJI not
to interfere in my jurisdiction, as I am in the process of finalising an order on merits.
He even suggests to Chief Justice Thakur to look up the Second Judges case law of
1993 delivered by a nine-judge Constitution Bench.
The 1993 case law had said that judges should be transferred only in public interest
i.e. for promoting better administration of justice throughout the country.

Supreme Court wants Parliament to decide the legality


of passive euthanasia
The Supreme Court said Parliament or the people's court should be the final judge
to decide the legality of passive euthanasia and Living Will.
The Centre agreed with the apex court and illustrated the complexity of medically
taking a person's life by pointing at how Formula One legend Michael Schumacher
is being kept alive for years on the hope he will wake up from his coma oneday.
A Constitution Bench, said it will wait till July 20 with the unwritten hope that the
government or Parliament will finalise a law on passive euthanasia.
The act of withdrawing medical treatment with deliberate intention of causing the
death of a terminally-ill patient.
On legalising the Living Will an advance directive to physicians for end-of-life
medical care the Bench asked whether the concept was fundamentally against
aperson's instinctive urge to live.
It asked whether such a person should be given every minute chance to recover
without alien intervention.

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Current Affairs 19

Mysuru gets top position in Swachh Bharat Ranking


Mysuru city in Karnataka retained the top position in Swachh Bharat Rankings for
2015 that were released by the Ministry of Urban Development.
Compared to the 2014 rankings, Chandigarh has replaced Tiruchirapalli of Tamil
Nadu in the second rank while Dhanbad of Jharkhand is reeling at the 73rd slot, the
lowest rank.
Urban development minister said that the survey was more participatory and
evidence based as all the featured cities were informed two months in advance
about the methodology.
In a year-long survey, the researchers studied 476 first-tier cities with two parameters:
one, how minimal opendefecation was in the city; two, how robust the municipalities
were with the solid waste management system.
Launched in October 2014 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Swachh Bharat
Mission is the flagship sanitation programme of the National Democratic Alliance
government, which aims to bridge the gap between sewerage and solid waste
management and construct several million toilets in the urban centres.
With a Central funding of Rs.14,623 crore, the government aims to build 1.4 crore
household toilets, 2.5 lakh community toilets and 2.6 lakh public toilets by 2019.

The oldest operational aircraft carrier INS Viraat to be


decommissioned
In what is probably her last port of call, INS Viraat, the oldest operational aircraft
carrier in the world, dropped anchor in Chennai.
Commissioned as HMS Hermes as part of the Royal Navy, she was in the thick of
action during the Falklands campaign in 1982.
After serving the United Kingdom for almost 28 years since 1959, the carrier was
inducted into the Indian Navyas INS Viraat in 1987.

Supreme Court dismisses plea for bringing pending


cases under RTI
Fifteen years after its verdict that the confidence of litigants would be shaken if
judgments were kept pending for years, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea to
maintain the data on its pending judgments and make the information public under
the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The courts refusal to be made accountable under the RTI Act is despite the decision
of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to disclose the number of pend- ing or
reserved judgments.
The Commissions decision was upheld by a single judge of the Delhi High Court in
a case in which the Supreme Court itself was an opposing party.
The CIC had directed the Supreme Court to maintain its record in such a manner
that RTI applicants could beinformed of the number of its reserved judgments.
We are of the view that the total number of such cases in which orders are reserved
should be duly intimated to the public. Said CIC.

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20 Current Affairs

Now that the benefit of computerisation is available, placing such data in the public
domain should not be particularly difficult, the CIC had said.

Vodafone gets tax notice


Tax authorities have issued a reminder to Vodafone Group Plc asking the company
to pay Rs. 14,200 crore of tax dues that the U.K.-based firm has referred to
international arbitration or risk having its assets seized.
The government stated in 2014 that exist- ing tax disputes, including vodafones,
would be resolved through existing judicial process.
The notice, dated February 4, to Vodafone International Holdings BV pertains to its
2007 acquisition of Hutchisons 67 per cent stake in a telecom venture in India for $11
billion.
The deal was executed through companies that are not based in India.
The arbitration process does not stop the Tax Department from going ahead and
seeking dues that it feels are legitimate tax demands, said a tax consultant.

Supreme Court directed Central Bank to give list of


defaulter companies
The Supreme Court has directed the RBI to submit a list of companies which have
defaulted on bank loans of over Rs. 500 crore.
The court also asked it to submit in six weeks the list of restructured loans.
Directing that the list be placed on record in a sealed cover, the court asked how
State-owned banks and financial institutions were advancing huge loans without
proper guidelines and whether there was adequate mechanism to recover them.

Employees provident fund organisation recommends


interest rate of 8.8 percent
The board oftrustees of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has
recommended an 8.80 per cent rate of return on Rs. 10 lakh crore of retirement savings
for 2015-16.
The Finance and Investment panel of the EPFO board had earlier recommended a
higher interest of 8.95 per cent on EPF savings.
There are as many as 8.5 crore EPF accounts.

Aamir likely to become brand ambassador of Jalyukta


Shivar Abhiyan
Faced with an increased risk of seasonal drought and subsequent suicide by thousands
of farmers every year, the Maharashtra government has roped in actor Aamir Khan
to promote its flagship schemes in the sector of water and scarcity.
The actor is likely to be associated with the governments Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan,
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis flagship scheme, to make Maharashtra a drought-
free State by 2019.
The programme aims to make 5,000 villages free of water scarcity every year. Mr.
Fadnavis is likely to make an announcement in the regard along with the actor.

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Current Affairs 21
The actor would be asked to promote use of micro-irrigation system for efficient use
of water, thereby increasing the irrigated area in the drought- prone regions.
The government has allocated Rs 1,000 crore for the scheme.

Referendum in Britain for European Union membership


British Prime Minister David Cameron called a June 23 referendum on member-
ship of the European Union as he sought to rally his divided Conservative Party
behind a deal which he said would guarantee Britains prosperity and security in
the bloc.
After spelling out details of the deal -- clinched at an EU summit in Brussels -- to his
senior Ministers, Mr. Cameron said he had secured the Cabinets backing to
recommend to voters that Britain stay in the bloc it joined in 1973.
The agreement granted Britain an explicit exemption from the founding goal of an
ever closer union, offered concessions on the welfare rights of migrant workers
andsafeguards for the City of London.

Matribhasha Diwas to be observed on March 3 by


Universities and colleges
Universities and colleges across the country will now have to mark March 3 on their
calendars.
While educational institutions thought they do not have to conduct any activities on
Matribhasha Diwas on February 21 as it happens to be a Sunday, the University
Grants Commission (UGC) has asked them to observe the day on March 3 instead.
Matribhasha Diwas is otherwise observed as International Mother Language Day
across the world.
The theme for 2016 is Quality education, language(s) of instruction and learning
outcomes.
According to an earlier letter by the UGC to education institutions, they are expected
to organise elocution, debating, singing, essay writing competitions, painting
competitions, music and drama performances, exhibitions, online resources and
activities.

Noble laureate Satyarthi wants more budgetary


allocation to Children
Though children below 18 years of age constitute 41 per cent of the countrys
population, the budgetary allocation for them remains dismal, child rights campaigner
and Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi said.
He said: India is proud of being the youngest society in the world We all talk
about demographic dividend but when it comes to investment on children, on their
health, education and protection, it is dismal I would say. This is only four per cent
or less of the budget on children health edu- cation and protection.
Mr. Satyarthi also said no country could accomplish inclusivity and sustain
development, along with social developmentand peace, unless it gave priority to the
health and education of its children.

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22 Current Affairs

Speaking on the proposed amendments to the existing law on child labour, he ex-
pressed the hope that Parliament would pass a progressive law.
While the existing law identified 83 hazardous occupations prohibiting children from
working, Mr. Satyarthi said the proposed amendment reduced the number of
hazardous occupations only to three.

Govt decided to give other backward class status to Jats


The Jat agitation in Haryana claimed one more life, taking the death toll to 11, as the
State remained on edge even as the government decided to bring a Bill to grant other
backward class (OBC) status to Jats.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the Home Minister, the National Security
Adviser, the Army chief and the Delhi Police Commissioner with Jat leaders.
BJP leader, told reporters that the Jat community would get reservation in jobs, and
a Billwould be brought in the next session of the Haryana Assembly.
Fresh incidents of violence and arson were reported in the State as the agitation
enteredthe ninth day. Rohtak, Bhiwani, Jhajjar, Jind, Hisar, Hansi, Sonipat and Gohana
continue to be under curfew.

Integrated Child Health Record will map childs health


records digital
With Indias first ever digital platform, Integrated Child Health Record (ICHR), you
can now have your childs health records made available at the click of a button.
Supported by cloud computing and mobile technology, ICHR offers to map a childs
health and track vaccination.
ICHR is supported by a mobile application to address the pressing concern of parents
who are keen to track their childs growth and vaccination.
The mobile interface will be available for both an- droid and iOS users.
ICHR provides and auto- mates long-term surveillance of a childs growth.
It also offers benefits including helping in early detection of obesity and malnutrition
in urban and rural population respectively.
It also addresses the dire need of maintaining the data centrally for research purposes.

Rurban mission launched by PM


Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that he has successfully brought the
government to the people of the country from the corridors of New Delhi.
Launching Rurban Mission in Dongargad, a town in Rajnandgaon district, he said:
Previous governments had the habit of doing everything by sitting in Delhi. They
would invite 200 to 400 people to the Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi and light some candles
[at the launch of pro- grammes]. Some media friends also used to help them. But I
have brought the government out of Delhi and among the people.
His government is for the Dalits, the tribals and the poor, Mr. Modi said.
Praising Kovarbai, a 104- year-old woman from the State, for selling her goats to
build a toilet in her home, Mr. Modi called her a symbol of new development.

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Current Affairs 23

Unemployment rate stable in rural areas


The unemployment rate in urban areas reduced from 4.5 per cent in 2004-05 to 3.4
per cent in 2011-12, new data from the National Sample Survey office show.
In rural areas, the rate has been stable at around 1.7 per cent during this period.
According to the survey, which was conducted in 2011- 12 and released, the
unemployment rate across all the religious groups in rural areas was on the lower
side than those in urban areas for both males and females.
Un- employment rate is defined as the number of persons unemployed as a proportion
of the labour force (persons who are either working or seeking or available for
work), not the total population.
Christians have the highest rate of unemployment in both rural (4.5 per cent) and
urban (5.9 per cent) areas in 2011-12.
The rate in urban areas for Christians stood at 8.6 per cent in 2004-05 while the rural
rate stays constant.
Self-employment is the major source of income for almost half the households, across
all religious groups, in rural areas, followed by casual labour.
In urban areas, the proportion of households deriving major income from regular
wage or salary earnings is the highest.
Half the Muslim households in urban areas have self-employment as major source
of income, the highest among all religions, while regular wage or salary earnings
was the highest for Christians with 45.8 per cent households.

Jat protest turns ugly


Even after the Centres assurance on reservation for the Jats, the agitation in Haryana
doesnt seem to die down.
Three more persons were killed in police firing during protests in Sonipat district,
even as the State government said the situation was returning to normality.
The death toll in the State has gone up to 16 and 183 persons have been injured. So
far, 320 cases have been filed and 102 persons have been arrested.
The State Cabinet meeting, chaired by the Chief Minister, is reported to have witnessed
a heated exchange of words between some Ministers.
The Cabinet decided to give full compensation for the damage to private property,
both residential and commercial.
The Cabinet also decided to introduce a Bill for reservation in the coming session of
the Assembly.

Three of the finest soldiers died in Kashmir


The Army lost three of its finest soldiers, two young oicers and a jawan from the
Para Special Forces in the deadliest fidayeen at- tack in the Srinagar area in many
years. It was not an iso- lated incident, but part of a disturbing trend of the Army
losing some of its finest soldiers as the Kashmir violence flares up yet again.
While statistics may hide much of it, the reality is that the Army has lost many of its
most experienced counter- insurgency operatives in recent months because of a host

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24 Current Affairs

of actors, including the return of fidayeen attacks.


Among the possible reasons being discussed in intelligence circles is the role of
dubious sources planting wrong information on Army units operating in the Valley.
Earlier this month, two jawans were killed in a 22-hour gunfight in the Chowkibal
forest in Kupwara.
Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami, another para commando who was awarded
Ashok Chakra this Republic Day, was killed in September last year along with another
commando. A month later, four more soldiers were killed in the district.
In November last, Colonel Santosh Mahadik, commanding officer of 41 Rashtriya
Rifles, was grievously injured in Kupwara, not very far from where the earlier
casualties occurred, and died later.
A police officer of the Special Operations Group was also killed in the operations.

Global banking giants HSBC gets tax evasion notice


Armed with sufficient evidence, Indian tax authorities have issued notices to the
global banking giant HSBC, warning of prosecution against its Swiss and Dubai
arms for allegedly abetting tax evasion by four Indians and their families.
The U.K.-based HSBC, which also disclosed ongoing probes by tax authorities from
various countries in connection with alleged abetment of tax evasion and money
laundering through its Geneva branch, said it was cooperating with the authorities
concerned and cautioned of significant financial impact as a result of these
investigations.
HSBC has been under the scanner ever since a leaked list of hundreds of Indian
clients of its Geneva branch found its way to the Indian tax authorities.
Similar lists made their way to tax authorities in various other countries, prompting
probes.
The Indian government has stepped up its fightagainst black money, allegedly stashed
away in Switzerland, in recent years and there have been apprehensions that the so-
called illicit wealth might have got shifted to other places such as Dubai.
Without disclosing the names of the Indians who indulged in the alleged tax evasion
through its Swiss or Dubai units.
HSBC said while announcing its annual results that it had first received summons in
February 2015 from Indian tax authorities, while fresh notices were issued in August
and then in November.

JNU students accused of anti-national slogans


surrendered
Jawaharlal Nehru University students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, facing
sedition charge, surrendered to the police late night after the Delhi High Court
directed them to give themselves in earlier in the day.
The students left the campus in a university vehicle escorted by guards around 11-45
p.m. and were taken into custody by a police team waiting outside one of the exit
gates of the varsity.
They were joined by a large number of students who went right up to the west gate
of the university. Four teachers and a lawyer also accompanied the two.

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Current Affairs 25
Five students -- Ashutosh Kumar, Anant Prakash, Rama Naga, besides Umar and
Anirban are wanted by the police in a sedition case.

Presidents asks for debate with out disruption


Anticipating a stormy Budget session of Parliament, President Pranab Mukherjee on
Tuesday exhorted all MPs to discharge their responsibility in a spirit of cooperation
and mutual accommodation.
Addressing the joint sitting of both Houses, President Mukherjee said, Democratic
temper calls for debate and discussion, and not disruption or obstruction.
He also said let noble thoughts come from all directions should be the spirit behind
debate in this temple of democracy.
Being a member of this great institution bestows great honour as well as important
responsibilities.
The President also told the MPs that we owe a great debt to our freedom fighters.It
is time to repay that debt, by building the country that they envisioned and fought
for.

Amnesty International says civil liberties in India are


not up to International standard
Criticising the government for using archaic laws to suppress dissent, Amnesty
International, in its report for 2015-16, has included India among countries that have
failed to match up to the international standard of freedom of expression and civil
liberties.
The report especially noted that over the past year, crackdown on freedom of
expression by majoritarian groups linked to the government had intensified.
Report said, Censorship and attacks on freedom of expression by hardline Hindu
groups grew. Scores of artists, writers and scientists returned national honours in
protest against what they said was a climate of growing intolerance.
It criticised India for a negative gender justice environment, and for violating
international legal obligations for the recent modifications in the juvenile justice
system which allows children aged 16 to 18 to be treated as adults in cases of serious
crimes.
The report also made a special mention of Tripura, which was the first State to
withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Presidents address to Joint sitting of Houses focuses


on Fasal Beema Yojana
In his address to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament, President Pranab
Mukherjee dwelt on the governments programmes, especially those aimed at
financial inclusion and the agricultural sector, including the recently launched
Pradhan MantriFasalBeema Yojana.
My government has recently launched the farmer- friendly Pradhan
MantriFasalBeema Yojana, with the biggest-ever governments contribution to crop
insurance, and with the lowest- ever premium rates for farmers.

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26 Current Affairs

It has many firsts to its credit like national coverage of post-harvest losses due to
inundation and unseasonal rains, no capping on subsidyand use of technology for
early and accurate settlement of claims.
Assistanceto farmers affected by natural calamities has been increased by 50 per
cent and eligibility norms have been relaxed.
The President said amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act to make it more
stringent were on the anvil.

Supreme Court says agitations can't hold the nation to


ransom
Agitations cannot hold the nation to ransom and be a reason to vandalise pub- lic
property, the Supreme Court said. Organisers of such agitations will have to pay the
cost.
The courts resolve hit home after the widespread Jat quota agitation saw killings,
burning and looting of shops, and mobs destroying canals supplying water to the
National Capital.
The Haryana government reeled under losses worth several thousands of crores and
the Army was brought in to protect public property.
The apex court had on January 14 asked the AG to assist it on the approach to be
adopted in dealing with cases where public property was damaged on a large scale.
Hardik has claimed that the charges had been wrongly been invoked against him.

Karnataka High court lifted the stay on enforcement of


bigger pictorial warnings
The Karnataka High Court lifted the stay on enforcement of new rules which enhanced
the area for displaying health warning to 85 per cent from 50 per cent of the principal
area on the packs of tobacco products.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recently filed an application requesting
the Court to vacate the stay by pointing out the direction issued by the Apex Court in
2009.
Ministry asked the High Courts not to interfere in the implementation of Cigarette
and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, 2008, and the matter is
still pending before the Supreme Court.
Justice Malimath pointed out that the legal issue related to the Rules of 2014 is also
pending with the apex court as a litigant had sought a direction for the enforcement
of the amended rules of 2014 by questioning the notification, which indefinitely
deferred display of health warning on the packages of tobacco products.

Astronaut Sunita Williams will visit India on a two day


visit
Captain Sunita Williams, Astronaut with the National Aeronautic and Space
Administration (NASA) of the U.S., will be in India on a two-day visit.
In Delhi, Capt. Williams has a series of engagements addressing students on her
journey as an astronaut and womens empowerment through Science, Technology,
Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education.

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Current Affairs 27
Capt. Williams is an American astronaut and United States Navy oicer of Indian-
Slovenian origin.
Coinciding with the visit a NASA team lead by the Deputy Administrator Dava
Newman is at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) headquarters in
Bengaluru for the third face-to-face meeting of the ISRO-NASA Mars Working Group.

Suresh Prabhu presented customer oriented budget


Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu effected no hike in passenger fares, indicated a cut
in freight tariffs.
He admitted that the global economic slowdown is hurting Indias core sectors and
pointed out that the looming impact of the Seventh Pay Commission made it one of
the toughest times to formulate a Budget.
Yet, Mr. Prabhu, in his second Rail Budget, unveiled a bouquet of new train services,
innumerable new initiatives to make life easier for passengers and proposed an
ambitious capital outlay of Rs. 1.21 lakh crore for 2016-17, a jump of 21 per cent over
this year.
While the Railway Minister didnt refer to a sharp 50 crore shortfall in his passenger
traffic estimates for 2015- 16 the Railways is expected to carry just 810 crore
passengers down from 860crore that he had projected in the last budget.
He sought to win back passengers by offering some air-plane-type features like on-
board entertainment and travel insurance options at the time of booking.
Railways is looking at bringing down its freight rates for the first time in the coming
year, in a bid to increase revenues through higher volumes.
Minister also said With an optimistic outlook for the economy, we hope to generate
revenues of the order of Rs. 1,84,820 crore next year, 10.1 per cent higher than the
revised target for 2015-16.
The Railways will increase the senior citizen quota per coach by 50 per cent, resulting
in almost 120 lower berths per train for senior citizens.
All stations will be made disabled-friendly and at least one disabled-friendly toilet
in all platforms in A1 Class stations will be built in the next financial year.
One-time registration for the persons with disabilities for availing concessions while
booking tickets online was also announced along with online booking of wheelchairs
& Braille-enabled new coaches.
As a pilot, the Railways will make available childrens menu items on trains along
with baby foods, hot milk, hot water and changing boards for babies in train toilets.
The Budget suggests sale of tickets through hand-held terminals on suburban or
short distance travel and sale of platform tickets through ticket vending machines
with credit/debit cards as accepted payment modes besides cash.
Further, the e-ticketing facility will be extended to foreign debit/credit cards for
foreign tourists and NRIs.
For cancelling a ticket, it is proposed that a customer can simply call the 139 helpline
in- stead of going to a booking window to avail the refund.
The Ministry is working with insurance companies to offer optional travel insurance
for rail journeys at the time of booking.

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Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced four new categories of trains one for
unreserved passengers and three for reserved passengers.
Antyodaya Express, a long-distance, fully unreserved, superfast train service, for
the common man, to be operated on dense routes.
Govt. will also add two to four DeenDayalu coaches to some long-distance trains for
unreserved travel to enhance our carrying capacity for the masses.
Minister also announced a fully third AC train, called Humsafar. The Tejas category
of trains will run at 130 km an hour, with entertainment, local cuisine, Wi-Fi and
other amenities on board.
The final category is UDAY (Utkrisht Double- Decker Air-conditioned Yatri), which
will be overnight trains plying on the busiest routes to increase capacity by 40 per
cent.

NGT wants real estate developers to be punished for


the dust
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked civic bodies and public authorities in
Delhi-NCR to check air pollution caused by dust emanating from construction sites
and initiate action against real estate developers violating environmental norms.
The green panel has also asked municipal corporations to strictly impose a fine of
Rs. 50,000 on builders who violate the Environment Ministry's 2010 guidelines on
constructions.
The announcement of the fine was made by the Tribunal last year.
NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said that allcorporations and public
authorities must concentrate on builders who raised huge constructions and did not
follow pollution norms.
It also directed the municipal corporations to file a list of builders involved in
violations.

UB group chairman Vijay Mallya resigned


UB Group Chairman Vijay Mallya has resigned as the non-executive chairman of
United Spirits Limited (USL) with immediate effect.
Recently, there have been allegations and uncertainties over Mr. Mallyas relationship
with British alcoholic beverages company Diageo, the majority stakeholder in the
USL.
Ever since Diageo purchased a majority stake of about 54 per cent in the USL in July
2014, tussles between Mr. Mallya and the firm have been reported.
After the acquisition of majority stake in the USL, Diageopushed for the exit of Mr.
Mallya, which he refused.

Electronic tourist visa extended to 37 more countries


Electronic tourist visas (e-TVs) will be extended to citizens of 37 more countries
from Friday, taking the total number to 150.
The new additions are Albania, Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei,
Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Comoros, Cote dlvoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark,

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Current Affairs 29
Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, etc.
TVoA (tourist visa on arrival), enabled by electronic travel authorisation, popularly
known as the e-tourist visa scheme, was launched on November 27, 2014.
Since then, more than 7.5 lakh such visas have been issued. At present, on an average,
3,500 e-TVs are granted daily.

Survey calls for reforms and welfare schemes


Shunning last years over-optimism, Economic Survey 2015-16 projects that the
real GDP growth for the current financial year and for 2016-17 will be in the range of
7-7.75 per cent.
The Central Statistics office estimates that growth this year will be 7.6 per cent, lower
than the 8.1- 8.5 per cent projected in the last Survey.
There is anxiety that the economy is not realising its full growth potential, which in
the long run is still around 8-10 per cent, says the survey.
Improved investments in education and health, where India fares the worst among
BRICS nations, the survey says, and adequate attentionto agriculture could realise
the potential.
The medium-term potential can be realised over the next two to five years, if the
retrievable setbacks andthe unfinished agenda are undertaken.
In the unfinished agenda, he listed the Goods and Services Tax, strategic
disinvestment, de-stressing of the balance sheet of both banks and private companies,
and the rationalisation of subsidies.
Stretched corporateand bank balance sheets are affecting prospects for reviving private
investments, and so the underlying stressed assets must be sold or rehabilitated.
The survey makes a case for unpopular reforms, such as bringing agricultural incomes
in the tax net, rationalisation of fertiliser subsidies estimated at Rs. 75,000 crore
(excluding arrears) and the withdrawal of tax benefits which, he argued, benefit
mainly the rich.

President called for revision of Indian penal code


President Pranab Mukherjee has called for a thorough revision of the Indian Penal
Code (IPC) for meet- ing the changing needs of the 21st century.
Mr. Mukherjee pointed out that the IPC has undergone very few changes in the last
155 years. Very few crimes have been added to the initial list and declared punishable.
Even now, here are offences in the code which were en- acted by the British to meet
their colonial needs.
Mr. Mukeherjee said the century witnessed the proliferation of technology in wider
spaces of human interaction and transaction.
It has resulted in greater conveniences but, at the same time, has led to the occurrences
of newer types of offences.

Survey says private sector help necessary to tackle


climate change
The Economic Survey finds that India will find it hard to meet its variety of obligations

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30 Current Affairs

to tackle climate change without substantial help from the private sector.
Successful implementation of the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development
Goals (SDGs) and the ambitious targets set out in the Intended Nationally Determined
Contributions (INDCs) will require huge financial resources which cannot be met
through budgetary sources alone.
Leveraging private finance along with public fi- nance, both international and
national, will be critical.
The SDGs set by the United Nations last September lay the onus on countries to
make significant progress on a wide range of goals including end- ing poverty and
hunger and combating climate change.
The INDCs are plans by governments communicated to the United Nations climate
change council regarding the steps they will take to address climate change
domestically.
As part of its domestic climate commitments, India has said it would source nearly
60,000MW of its energy by wind- power and 1,00,000 MW mega- watts via solar
power by 2022.
The latter is extremely ambitious considering that as of to- day only 5% of this
proposed solar capacity has been in- stalled.
The Survey also notes that a mission on Climate Change and Health mooted since
early 2015 is being developed and a National Expert Group on Climate Change
and Health has been constituted.

Supreme Court asks centre to ban Child porn


An anguished Supreme Court told the Centre to take steps and frame rules to stop
access to websites featuring child pornography, classifying them as obscene and a
threat to social morality.
The court said technical glitches and jurisdictional niggles were not excuses forthe
Centres inaction in this regard.
Innocent children cant be made prey to this kind of situations and a nation cannot
afford to carry on any kind of experiment with its children in the name of liberty.
The court directed the Centre to file an affidavit on ways and means to curb free
access to child pornography on the Internet and asked the government to reply
whether there could be a ban on watching porn of any form in pub- lic places.

PM says govt blocked all routes to corruption


Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a scathing attack on the Opposition, saying
they were criticising him as he had blocked all routes of corruption and the
hungama over petty issues stemmed from this.
PM said his government had stopped chor bazaar (black market) in many sectors,
citing the fertilizer manufacturing and distribution as an example.
PM also said The chor bazaarwale are angry and all these hungama over petty issues
is because of it.

Parliamentary standing committee on defence wants


higher allocation to defence

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Current Affairs 31
Parliaments Standing Committee on Defence has expressed dismay over the
governments reluctance to commit to a minimum percentage of its expenses for the
armed forces, despite its recommendations.
The committee desires that declining ratio should be arrested in the next financial
year itself, so that the services are provided adequate funds, and hence they are not
deprived of essential equipmentand ammunition.
The committee had then told the government that it should consider fixing a
minimum benchmark for this percentage, which should be adhered to, in every case.
Though the defence budget is increasing numerically annually, as a proportion of
the Central budget, it has consistently been declining.
In 2009- 10, the defence expenditure of Rs. 1,41,781 crore was 13.84 per cent of the
total expenditure.
In 2010-11, the budget increased in absolute terms, but in percentage terms, it came
down to 12.87 per cent.
In 2011-12, the defence expenditure rose to Rs. 1,70,913 crore, but in percentage terms,
it was merely 13.1 per cent of the governments expenditure. Since then, it has been
sliding continuously.
In 2012-13, the defence expenditure was pegged at Rs. 1,81,776, which was 12.89 per
cent of the governments expenditure. However, it further came down to 12.81 per
cent under the revised budget.

Govt. may leverage assets under LIC, EPFO


The government is exploring the possibility for leveraging the assets under
management of Life Insurance Corporation, Employees Provident Fund Organisation
and the National Pension Scheme.
They will be used as part of the plans for recapitalising the public sector banks that
have stressed balance sheets and are saddled with bad loans.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley could also make a small reference to the road map
being planned.
The Economic Survey recommends that the assets of the RBI and other regulatory
institutions be similarly used. Cross-holdings among banks could be considered later.

PM urges state governments to give priority to farm


sector
Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the State governments to give priority to
agriculture even as he pledged to double the income of farmers by 2022, to mark
Indias 75 years of independence.
To attain that goal, Mr. Modi said the Centre had adopted a scientific approach to
farming and urged farmers to utilise the various agricultural initiatives introduced
by his government.
Fleshing out a formula for productive agriculture, Mr. Modi stressed the need to
divide farming practices into three sectors, traditional farming, tree or timber
plantation (along the periphery and borders of fields) and livestock rearing.
The Prime Minister praised the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government for its

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32 Current Affairs

irrigation and farming schemes for the turnaround in the agriculture sector.
Listing the Centres steps to get better prices for farmers, Mr. Modi hit out at the
State governments for misusing funds allocated for the Mahatma Gandhi National
Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
He appealed to the States to use MGNREGS funds to support agriculture.

PMs Mann ki Baat focused upon students who have


board exams
Prime Minister Narendra Modis monthly radio address, Mann Ki Baat reached out
to students preparing to sit for their school-leaving Board exams, many of whom
are likely to enter universities.
He had roped in cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, chess grandmaster
Vishwanathan Anand and scientist C.N.R. Rao in this pep talk to students on the eve
of the exams.
Mr. Tendulkar emphasised the need to have a positive attitude and to compete with
oneself. I will only say that you set your targets and dont come under pressure of
expectations of others.
Vishwanathan Anand said Work hard but set a realistic, achievable target and try to
achieve it.

Army uniform sale banned in Punjab


The Punjab government on Sunday imposed a ban on the sale of Army uniforms
across the State.
Punjab had witnessed terror attacks in Pathankot and Gurdaspur in the recent past
where militants had disguised themselves in the Army fatigues.
Any person who wants to buy the uniform would have to submit a self-attested
copy of his identity card and phone number with the shopkeeper and this record
would be maintained along with date of sale in the record register of the shop- keeper.
The State has also banned use of red and blue coloured stickers used by police on
vehicles.

Vinod Rai would be first chairman of Bank Board Bureau


Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the setting up of the Bank Board Bureau
with former Comptroller and Auditor-General of India Vinod Rai as its first Chairman.
The Bureau is mandated to play a critical role in reforming the troubled public sector
banks by recommending appointments to leadership positions and boards in those
banks and advise them on ways to raise funds and how to go ahead with mergers
and acquisitions.
The bureau will recommend for selection the heads of public sector banks and
financial institutions and help banks in developing strategies and capital raising
plans.
The bureau was announced last August as part of the seven-point Indradhanush
plan to revamp these banks.
It will constantly engage with the boards of all 22 public sector banks to formulate

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Current Affairs 33
appropriate strategies for their growth and development.
The non-performing assets of public sector banks are estimated at almost Rs. 4 lakh
crore, and they need to raise capital of Rs. 2.4 lakh crore by 2018 to conform to Basel-
III capital requirement norms, according to the government.

Eleven years after NDMA Centre looks after disaster


victims
Eleven years after the National Disaster Management Act (NDMA) became law in
2005, centre have said that much is to be done in States across the country to ensure
that disaster victims access even minimum standards of relief.
A letter written by the Joint Secretary, Policy and Plan, National Disaster Management
Authority, on February 25 to the Chief Secretaries of all States has called for immediate
action to frame a road map to provide Minimum Standards of Relief mandated
under Section 12 of the NDMA in disaster-hit areas.
A Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra on Friday ordered the Chief Secretaries to complete
the framing of guidelines while remarking that providing minimum standards of
relief under the NDMA is a fundamental duty of the State.

Biggest military helicopter manufacturing complex


inaugurated in Tumakuru, Karnataka
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the 610- acre military helicopter manufacturing
complex that would come up here would be big leap towards achieving self-reliance
in the defence sector.
Mr.. Modi said it was expected to produce 600 helicopters over the next 15 years for
the armed forces.
The small village would have a role in keeping the nation secure. Defence public
enterprise HAL plans to manufacture its Light Utility Helicopter for reconnaissance
and surveillance; the Light Combat Helicopter for battlefield offence; and
subsequently add a range of heavier and advanced rotary products.
The Rs. 5,000-crore copter complex easily the biggest investment in this backward
region would boost the government's Make in India agenda. It would also provide
4,000 jobs.

World Bank help for Nai-Manzil scheme


The Union government and the World Bank signed a $50-million credit agreement
for a project aimed at helping young people from minority communities complete
their education and improve their employment opportunities.
The Nai Manzil Scheme is designed as an integrated education and training
programme that provides youth from minority communities skills needed for
different tasks in a rapidly changing world.
Interventions under this project will support the Nai Manzil Scheme in improving
the employability and performance of minority youth in the labour market.
Around 20 per cent of those between 17 and 35 years of age from minority groups
such as Muslims, Parsees, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, and Sikhs are out of the labour
force, according to the World Bank.

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SC appointed Justice Lodha committee for reforms in


BCCI is ready with report
Giving final touches to the Supreme Court-appointed committees report on reforms
in the BCCI and the Indian cricket administration, the former Chief Justice of India,
R.M. Lodha, said the theme of the report remains the purity of the game.
Justice Lodha, the chairperson of the three- member committee, said the report would
be first filed in the Supreme Court Registry on January 4.
The report may change the destiny of the game and its administration for the better.
The report culminates the panels exhaustive investigations into how the game is
run in the country and what could be done to ensure that transparency and
accountability is the rule and not the exception in the administration of cricket in
India.

Senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka promoted to principal


secretary
Senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka who had cancelled the mutation of a land deal
between a firm owned by Sonia Gandhis son-in-law Robert Vadra and realty major
DLF, was among six officers promoted to the rank of Financial Commissioner and
Principal Secretary by the Haryana government.
The other five IAS officers of 1991 batch who have been promoted to the rank of
Financial Commissioner and Principal Secretary are Abhilaksh Likhi, Vineet Garg,
Anil Malik, AK Singh and Shrikant Walgad.

After PM visit to Pak, terrorist attack in Punjab


A group of four terrorists stormed the Pathankot Air Force base early morning, killing
six services personnel and injuring 18 after a fierce gun battle through the day, before
being shot dead.
The attack raised the spectre of cross-border terror yet again challenging peace efforts
between India and Pakistan.
One Garud commando of the Air Force and two Defence Security Corps personnel
were among those dead.
The attack was the culmination of several dramatic hours that began on December
30-31 night, when the terrorists are suspected to have sneaked into India from
Pakistan.
Sometime around early Friday morning they intercepted a Superintendent of Police,
Salwinder Singh, and two other men near Dinanagar.
The terrorists thrashed them, dumped the SP on the road a few kilometres away and
slashed another person.

Terrorist operations still going on in Pathankot


Centres eagerness to claim credit for what it said was a successful coordinated
response to the terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase lay in tatters on Sunday
morning with the discovery of two more terrorists in action, death of a seasoned
NSG commando and injury to many of his colleagues.

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Current Affairs 35
Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in the national capital on Sunday evening,
and directly went into a huddle with senior officials including National Security
Adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and others to discuss the terror
strike.
The morning began peacefully in Pathankot airbase, and there was no inkling of the
dramatic events that were to unfold over the next several hours.
Around 10 a.m., Lieutenant Colonel Niranjan Kumar and his team from the National
Security Guard were examining the body of a terrorist killed the previous evening,
and probably trying to defuse an explosive attached to it, when the device detonated,
killing him and injuring the others.

Pathankot operation still continue after three days


Counter-terror operations at the Pathankot air- base stretched into the third evening,
the government was weighing its options on whether to go ahead with the Foreign
Secretary level talks scheduled for next week.
By dusk on Monday, senior military officials in Pathankot announced that they had
killed a total of five terrorists, while sources in Delhi said the sixth one may have
been blown to pieces in a controlled explosion carried out by the security forces
around noon in the airbase.
By then, it had been more than 60 hours since the terrorists and security forces be-
gan exchanging fire.
The long-drawn-out terrorist attack revived memories of the Mumbai attacks of 2008,
when 10 terrorists held the city to ransom for three days.
However, given the fact that there was specific intelligence and the attack was in a
very limited area, questions continued to linger over the way the entire Pathankot
operation was coordinated and conducted.

North east jolted by earthquake in Manipur


Nine persons were killed and over 120 seriously injured as an earthquake measuring
6.7 on the Richter scale hit Manipur early on Monday, damaging several buildings,
including government offices, schools and hospitals.
The epicentre of the quake which struck at 4.30 a.m., was at KabuiKjulen, 10 km
from Noney sub-division of Manipurs Tamenglong district.
People were jolted by the quake across the northeastern and eastern States including
Assam, Tripura, West Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand.
While seven persons, including a teenaged girl, were killed in Manipur, one person
each died in Bihar and West Bengal.
Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were deployed in
Manipur and rapid action squads of the State Health Department were despatched
to the affected areas. Another NDRF team was sent to Assam.

Terrorists in Pathankot attack received training in


Pakistan
After initially refraining from blaming the country, government said that the terrorists
behind the Pathankot airbase attack appeared to have received training from a

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36 Current Affairs

professional armed force in Pakistan.


The fidayeen (suicide) squad was more lethal and better trained than the 26/11
Mumbai attackers.
They had enough arms and ammunition, including under barrel grenade launchers,
for a sustained operation of more than 60 hours against a professional army.
Establishing the identity of the terrorists would be a challenge because Pakistan
would certainly not own them up. Security forces inside the air base have found
bodies of five terrorists.
A sixth one was blown to pieces when the building he had taken refuge in was
brought down with explosives on Monday. DNA samples would be preserved.
After the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Pakistan had refused to accept the bodies of nine
Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists killed by the security forces. The tenth terrorist, Ajmal
Kasab, the only one to have been captured alive, was hanged in a Pune prison in
2013 and his body was buried on the premises.
The UJC, an alliance of more than a dozen pro-Pakistan militant groups based in
Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, had claimed responsibility for the air base attack.
The attack is a message by Mujahideen [militants] that no sensitive installation of
India is out of our reach, UJC spokesman Syed Sadaqat Hussain said in a statement.
Security agencies believe there were six terrorists and they were divided into two
groups one of 4 and the otherwith 2 members.
It is suspected that two terrorists might have entered the Pathankot air base before
the Superintendent of Punjab Police Salwinder Singh, his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma
and cook Madan Gopal were abducted by the other four, and much before an alert
was sounded about their presence in the area.

India will come up with its own model for global


warming
India will have its own climate change models to project the impact of global warming
over the decades and these will form part of the forthcoming Sixth Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change Reports that is expected to be available in 2020.
The IPCC reports there have been five so far since 1988 are coordinated by the
United Nations and bring together the scientific consensus on the causes and impact
of climate change.
They also assess the extent to which the globe is expected to warm up over the medium
and long term.
The IPCCs fifth report in 2014, was critical in shaping the resolution at the recently
concluded climate talks in Paris that all countries developed and developing
had to, over time, do their bit to contain their greenhouse gas emissions to keep
ensure that mean global temperatures did not rise beyond 1.5 to 2 degree of
temperature in the 19th century.
As per the Paris Agreement, which will come into effect in 2020, India and several
other countries will have report their emissions as well as detailed plans to curb
them.
The climate models, being developed by the Earth Sciences Ministry, will be prepared

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Current Affairs 37
by the Pune-based Centre for Climate Change Research.
These are so-called dynamic models that rely on super-computers to compute the
weather on a given day and simulate how it would evolve over days, months and
even years.
These models, developed in the United States, have over few years been customised
to Indian conditions.

FM says more public expenditure on infrastructure


projects this year
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Committed himself to increasing allocations for
infrastructure projects such as rural roads, highways and the railways during 2016-
17.
He also said that public investments must lead the way during a global slowdown
and India had an opportunity to spend more on infrastructure because of low oil,
commodities and mineral prices.
He mentioned that there would be no easy day in a world economy passing through
a phase of volatility.
Worldwide, the experience has been that when the going is tough, state institutions
have to take the lead. When the going is good, the private sector has an important
role to play.
FM said funding infrastructure projects remained a big challenge, and the government
was hopeful of partnering sovereign wealth funds and pension funds that evinced
interest in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund.
Foreign direct investment has been allowed and announced by GE and Alstom in
two large manufacturing projects in Bihar. The Ministry will soon come out with
bids for redeveloping 400 stations.

Last rites were given to security personnel died in


Pathankot attack
Some heldtheir tears, while others were inconsolable as coins of security personnel
killed in the Pathankot terror strike reached home for the last rites, which were
performed with full military honours.
Amid the pall of gloom that descended on the remote village of Elambulassery, near
Mannarkkad, in Palakkad, hundreds bade a tearful adieu to Lt. Col. E.K. Niranjan.
A long way from there, at Garnala, near Ambala, in Haryana, slogans of Bharat
Mataki Jai rent the air as the body of Garud commando Gursewak Singh, draped in
the Tricolour, reached the village.
In Gurdaspur, Punjab, scores of mourners gathered at the house of Subedar Fateh
Singh, 51, a shooter who had won Commonwealth medals. Singhs daughter Madhu
joined the soldiers in carrying the body for cremation.

38th Chief Justice of India passes away


Sarosh Homi Kapadia, the 38th Chief Justice of India, bid farewell to the world in
Mumbai with his integrity, which he considered his only asset, intact. He was 68.

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38 Current Affairs

Shortly after his appointment as the first Parsi Chief Justice of India on May 12, 2010,
Justice Kapadia replied to Justice V.R. Krishna Iyers congratulatory message.
In this, he spoke of how he had started as a Class IV employee and described integrity
as his only asset.
A strict disciplinarian with interests ranging from Theoretical Physics to Buddhist
Philosophy, Justice Kapadia was best known for his statistical acumen.

North Korea detonated its first hydrogen bomb


North Korea declared that it had detonated its first hydrogen bomb.
The assertion, if true, would dramatically escalate the nuclear challenge from one of
the worlds most isolated states.
The Norths announcement came about an hour after detection devices around the
world had picked up a 5.1 seismic event along the countrys northeast coast.
It may be weeks or longerbefore detectors sent aloft by the U.S. and other powers
can determine what kind of test was conducted.
In a strongly worded statement, Indias Ministry of External Affairs said: It is a
matter of deep concern that DPRK [Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea] has again
acted in violation of its international commitments in thisregard. We call upon DPRK
to refrain from such actions which adversely impact on peace and stability in the
region. Our concerns about proliferation links between North East Asia and our
neighbourhood are well-known.

New Delhi Government scraps management quota


Terming it the biggest scandal in the education sector, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind
Kejriwal asked schools to scrap management quota and all other quotas except
EWS for nursery admission.
He also ordered schools to scrap discriminatory and arbitrary criterion for nursery
admission. The move has been approved by the Cabinet as well.
The move will benefit parents struggling with the admissions of their wards and
comes in the wake of schools reserving a large number of seats under management,
sibling or other quotas.
In some schools, the quotas stretched upto 40 percent, other than EWS, leaving al-
most no room for the general category.
In a similar move, the government has also asked schools to scrap arbitrary and
discriminatory criterion for nursery admission.
The government has given a list of 62 such criterion to the schoolsand asked them to
remove it from the list. The government has asked schools to come up with fair
and non-discriminatory criteria.

Witness compensation scheme in U.P.from republic day


The Prosecution Directorate of Uttar Pradesh will announce a witness compensation
scheme on January 26 for those who may have suffered attacks during a trial.
The witnesses injured during the trial will be compensated financially or other means
suitable to them.
45 witnesses from across the State, on whose statements many accused were awarded

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Current Affairs 39
death penalty, will be felicitated. The victims should be called at the committee once
in a month and his problem heard and resolved.
The police station head of that particular area and prosecution officer should head
the committee meetings.

Union cabinet approved closure of iconic HMT


The Union Cabinet approved the closure of the iconic HMT Watches and offered a
voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) to its employees as per the 2007 pay scales.
Two other unviable units of the public sector company, HMT Chinar Watches and
HMT Bearings, are also to be shut down.
The movable and immovable assets of these companies will be disposed of as per
the government policy
After the decision was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic
Affairs (CCEA) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Cabinet also gave its nod to the closure formalities of five public sector units
(PSUs) under the Heavy Industries Ministry.
These include units of the Tungabhadra Steel and Hindustan Cables for shutting
down which the government had earlier given an in-principle approval.

More than 4000 crore worth black money recovered


under new law
The Union government has received 644 declarations for black money worth Rs.
4,164 crore under one-time, come-clean compliance window provided to evaders
under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of
Tax Act, 2015, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).
In his Independence Day address in August 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi
had said Rs. 6,500 crore had been disclosed under the window.
The final CBDT figure falls short of the figure Mr. Modihad cited. The government
has also earned Rs 2,428.4 crore by way tax and penalty on the declared sums.
The last date for making declarations under the three- month window was September
30, 2015. The declarants were liable to pay tax at the rate of 30 per cent.
The stage is now set for the provisions of the new law to be invoked against offenders
who failed to make use of the compliance window.

India identified handlers of Pathankot attack in Pakistan


India has identified the four handlers of Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-
Mohammad (JeM), who were in touch with the six terrorists.
India has shared the telephone numbers and the identity of the handlers with Pakistan
and has asked it to act on these individuals.
Those identified by the Indian agencies are JeM founder Maulana Masood Azhar,
his brother Abdul Rauf Asghar, Ashfaq Ahmed and Kashim Jaan.
While Azhar oversaw the operations, his brother Asghar and two others were in
touch with the terrorists.
India has also given the details of two types of Pakistan- made drugs Neuro

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40 Current Affairs

Bedoxine and Dicloran found on the bodies as evidence.


The government also decided to constitute a high-level committee to study the gaps
in security along the Pakistan border, especially on the Punjab frontier.
Experts of the Indian Institute of Technology-Roorkee have been tasked with finding
solutions to detect intrusions from a riverine route.
India awaits prompt and decisive action from Pakistan against the perpetrators of
the Pathankot attack, the government said, for the first time linking the action to
Foreign Secretary talks between the two countries scheduled for January 15.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad


Sayeed passes away
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed passed away of
multiple organ failure, after a prolonged illness, and was buried with state honours
in his home town of Bijbehara.
In the evening, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders met Governor N.N. Vohra
to assure him about the continuation of the government under the leadership of Mr.
Sayeeds daughter Mehbooba Mufti.
The BJP, the ally of the PDP, said that while no discussion on the succession had
taken place, there was in principle no objection to Ms. Mehboobas name.

Amitabh Kant will become new CEO of NITI Aayog


The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra
Modi has appointed Amitabh Kant as the chief executive oicer of NITI Aayog.
The appointment will take effect after Mr.Kant retires from service in March.
A 1980 batch Kerala cadre IAS officer, Mr.Kant is currently serving as the Secretary
in the Department of Industrial policy and Promotion in the Ministry of Commerce
and Industry.
Mr.Kant, who was earlier the CEO of Indias largest industrial infrastructure project
- the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation has been the
Industry Secretary since March 2014.

Amitabh Bachchan is likely to be new face of Incredible


India campaign
Actor Amitabh Bachchan, brand ambassador of Gujarat tourism, is the governments
first choice as the new face of its Incredible India campaign after actor Aamir Khan
ceased to be its mascot.
Tourism Ministry believes that the veteran actor as a non-controversial figure.
Mr. Khan, whose comments on perceived intolerance in the country had invited flak
from the BJP, ceased to be the mascot for the campaign.
It was the private agency which hired him. Since the contract with the agency is no
more, the arrangement with the actor no longer exists.

PM Modi will visit Pathankot airbase on 9th Jan


Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the Pathankot airbase in Punjab on Saturday,

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Current Affairs 41
exactly a week after a terrorist attack at the site, as formal sanitisation operations
ended there on Friday.
PMO sources confirmed that Mr. Modi will be leaving for Pathankot on Saturday
morning.
PM Modi will do aerial survey of the border area nearby. Punjab has seen two major
terrorist attack in last few months in Gurdaspur and Pathankot.

CFTRI is teaming up with hospitals to conduct human


clinical trials
In what may signal a new approach to verification of the health benefits of food, the
Mysuru- based Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) is teaming up
with hospitals to conduct human clinical trials on an anti-obesity cooking oil it
has developed.
Usually, only new drugs developed internationally but set to be sold in India are
subject to such trials.
The objective is to test if the oil has side- effects and the extent to which it can help
contain obesity.
The four organisations involved in the trial, which is set to begin later this year, are
JSS Medical College, Mysore Medical College and Research Institute,
Adichunchanagiri Institute of Medical Sciences and Manipal University.
The oil has been chemically altered; less of it is stored as fat and more burned of to
provide energy, compared to conventional cooking oils.
Vegetable oils are usually rich in triglycerides, a class of fats that, over the years, has
been associated with heart disease and higher chances of stroke.
The digestive system breaks them down for energy but it reappears again and is
stored in the body as fat.
The oil developed by the institute replaces triglycerides with diglycerides a
chemical cousin that are believed to provide as much energy but is not stored as
fat.

SC asked central govt and banks to provide reservation


in promotion to SC/ST
The Supreme Court asked the Centre and public sector banking authorities to consider
providing reservation to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes employees in
promotion to officers ranks at all levels.
The grievance of the employees belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes category is that there is negligible representation of employees belonging to
their community in the officers category at all levels.
Keeping in view the statistical figures which have been placed on record showing
their representation in officer ranks, it would be open to the authorities, namely, the
state and the banks to consider whether their demand is justified, and it is feasible to
provide reservation to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes category in pro-
motion in the officers category and if so, upto which scale/level
The banks contended that there was no rule for reservation in promotion in Class-A
(Class-I) to the post having a basic salary of more than Rs.5,700 per month.

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42 Current Affairs

They argued that a 1997 office memorandum merely provided for concessions for
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes category staff in promotion.

Unprecedented response to TRAIs consultation paper


on differential pricing
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has received an unprecedented 2.4 million
responses on its consultation paper about differential pricing for data ser- vices by
telecom operators that triggered a shrill debate over Facebooks Free Basics platform
that proposes to offer free access to a bouquet of websites and applications to its
users.
Facebooks effort to drum up support for Free Basics, accompanied by a high- pitched
advertising campaign, has yielded 18.94 lakh responses from its users to the regulator,
but it is not clear if they will be considered for consultation.
While another 5.44 lakh comments emanated from facebookmail.com accounts,just
one of them answered the questions raised by TRAI and a few conveyed that they
did not support Free Basics.
Net neutrality activists, fervently arguing against ser- vices like Free Basics, also sent
4.84 lakh comments through fora such as Save The Internet opposing differential
pricing for data services.
Though those responses are also in template form, most have addressed the questions
asked by TRAI.
Another 2,000 responses have been received from individuals, half of which are
identical in nature.

Pak says the world will see their sincerity in probing


terrorist attack
In view of the growing doubt over the Foreign Secretary-level talks of January 15,
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called up Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
on Saturday to highlight the need to stay the course for dialogue.
Pakistans Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry had reiterated that Pakistan
will not allow terrorists to use its territory to launch attacks on the other countries.
Mr. Sharif also maintained the anti-terror commitment and said: Pakistan is swiftly
carrying out investigations in a transparent manner and will bring out the truth. The
world will see our effectiveness and sincerity in this regard.

Gavi the Vaccine Alliance pledged to spend up to $ 500


million for Indias immunisation
Indias immunisation programme, in dire need of expanding the number of vaccines
on the list, will receive a boost with Gavi the Vaccine Alliance pledging to spend up
to $ 500 million between 2016 and 2021.
In addition to introducing new vaccines into the schedule, the idea is also to reach
the unreached and increase access to vaccines for millions of children in India.
Under the new partnership strategy, Gavi will allocate the $ 500 million in two tranches
$ 100 million to support the countrys current immunisation programmeand

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Current Affairs 43
enhance reach, and $ 400 million for country-wide introduction of new vaccines for
diarrhoea and pneumonia, cervical cancer, and Rubella with measles.
India is due to begin transitioning away from Gavi support from 2017 and is expected
to begin fully self-financing all its vaccine programmes by 2021, according to sources
at Gavi.
India has a huge birth cohort of about 27 million. While historically India has been
slow in introducing new vaccines, over the last few years, we have seen a definite
speeding up of the programmes.

NITI comes up with new land reform


After several State governments resisted the Union governments ordinance and Bill
proposing amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, NITI Aayog has taken up
with the States a proposal for unlocking the value of farmland through leasing.
An expert group, headed by T. Haque, former Chairman of the Commission for
Agricultural Costs and Prices, held consultations with officials from various States
on a model land leasing law that NITI Aayog will prepare for the States to use for
reforming land lease provisions.
Representatives of farmers organisations and non- governmental organisations
attended the meeting.
The organisations and individuals unanimously supported a model law, which should
help the tenant and protect the landowners right.
The majority opinion was that the law should be restricted to agriculture and should
not encourage corporate farming.
A land bank held by a public agency is being considered in which interested lan-
downers could deposit theirland parcels for cultivators to lease land.
Under this system, the public agency acts as an intermediary and transfers rent from
the actual cultivator to owner while charging a small fee to cover its costs.
This is expected to permit the consolidation of operational land- holdings, given the
steadily declining size of and frag- mentation of farmland holdings in the country.

Seed funding provided to start-ups by Indian angel


investors to be scrapped
The government has decided to scrap a tax on seed funding provided to start-ups by
Indian angel investors in the upcoming Union Budget, to help domestic financiers
bankroll new entrepreneurial ventures under its Start Up India campaign.
The tax provision in question treats infusion of funds by domestic angel investorsas
income in the hands of the start-up, making India the only country in the world to
penalise local angel investors in such a manner.
The tax is one of the key reasons that 90 per cent of Indian start-ups are financedby
foreign venture capital and angel funds.

India is not likely to join anti-IS forces in Syria


India is likely to say it has no interest in sending troops to Syria to fight in any of
the anti-IS coalitions, but could indicate it is open for a bigger role in the Syrian
regional reconciliation in West Asia.

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44 Current Affairs

The issue is expected to be discussed when Syrian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign
Minister Walid al Moualem meets National Security Adviser and External Affairs
Minister during a three-day visit to New Delhi.
The visit is significant as it comes just ahead of a series of trips by the government of
Prime Minister Narendra Modi focused on West Asia.
Mr. Moualem could ask India toplay a conciliatory role in reconciling the positions
of all the major players in the region, given Indias standing with them.
U.S.-led coalition of more than 60 countries that are conducting strikes on IS locations
and supporting anti-Assad rebel groups, the Russian forces sent in to support
President Assads Syrian military forces against IS and other groups, and the newly
announced Saudi Arabia-led coalition of 34 Muslim nations, which claims it will
attack IS as well.

BJP leader Subramaniam swamy says Ram Temple


construction will start in 2016
Exuding confidence that the Supreme Court's verdict will come in favour of building
Ram Temple at Ayodhya, BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy said the work on its
construction could start before the end of this year.
Mr. Swamy was speaking on the concluding day of a two-day seminar titled 'Shri
Ram JanmaBhoomi Temple: Emerging Scenario' organised at Delhi University's Arts
Faculty by Arundhati VashishthaAnusandhanPeeth (AVAP), a research organisation
founded by late VHP leader Ashok Singhal.

Telangana introduced compulsory gender education at


the graduate level
Telangana has be- come the first State to introduce compulsory gender edu- cation at
the graduate level; without repeating gender stereotypes in its bilingual textbook
titled, Towards a World of Equals.
The book discusses gender in its composite form without limiting itself to crime
against women.
It also touches upon complex subjects like female-centric history and male-female
relationships.
The book is being taught over 14 weeks in a semester at the rate of two classes per
week.
Credits earned in the end semester examination add up to students GPAs.
A nine-member, all-women, panel which drafted the syllabus and developed its
content has already held four training workshops forgroups of 15 to 40 teachers and
is expected to take up yet another session this week.

India Meteorological Department to come up with


different terminology for droughts
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has officially expunged the word
drought from its vocabulary, months after it struck a contrarian note and correctly
forecast one of Indias severest monsoon deficits last year.

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Current Affairs 45
According to a circular issued by the department, the move is part of a decision to do
away with or redefine terms that are not scientifically precise.
Beginning this season, for instance, if Indias monsoon rainfall were to dip below 10
per cent of the normal and span between 20 and 40 per cent of the countrys area, it
would be called a deficient year instead of an All India Drought Year as the
IMDs older manuals would say.
A more severe instance, where the deficit exceeds 40 per cent and would have been
called an All India Severe Drought Year, will now be a Large Deficient Year
The agency had several definitions of drought: meteorological, hydrological and
agricultural, and it was quite possible for a State to have a meteorological drought
90 per cent shortfall of the average monsoon rainfall but not suffer an agricultural
drought if the shortfall didnt affect more than 20 per cent of the States area.

Punjab police officer question over Pathankot attack


Senior Punjab police officer Salwinder Singh was questioned by the National
Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the terror strike at the Pathankot IAF
base.
The NIA, which took over the case immediately after terrorists struck inside the base
during the intervening night of January 1 and 2, had summoned Mr. Singh as he was
allegedly abducted by the terrorists.
Mr. Singh, who is at present a Superintendent of Police rank officer posted as Assistant
Commandant of the 75th battalion of Punjab Armed Police after he was removed as
SP (headquarters) Gurdaspur, had allegedly given contradictory statements about
his kidnapping and sequences of events preceding and succeeding the hostage event,

SC distinguishes infants and children rape from other


Crimes against children was an indication of the abysmal depths to which society is
falling,
Rape of infants and children below 10 years was nothing but brutal perversion. It
asked Parliament to enact a separate law providing for harsh punishment.
This is the first time the Supreme Court has distinguished infants and children below
10 from the general description of minors given by law to anyone below the age of
18.
A Bench, led by Justice Dipak Misra, said Parliament had to separately define the
word child in terms of rape.
The pain and distress caused to a child who knows nothing about sex and rape is
nothing but brutal perversion. When a society moves this way, it has to be stopped
The court pointed out how Section 376 (2) (f) of the Indian Penal Code only talked of
rape of a woman below 12 years of age. The Code had no specific provision dealing
with punishment for raping a girl below 10 and infants.
The court, however, declined SCWLAs plea to include castration as an additional
punishment, saying the judiciary could not issue a mandamus to create a punishment
for an offense.
The Supreme Courts suggestion to Parliament comes even as new anti-rape laws
have made rape punishable with death penalty.

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Major changes to the Defence Procurement Procedure


(DPP)
Attempting to streamline defence acquisitions and give a big impetus to indigenisation
through the Make in India initiative, the government has approved major changes
to the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP).
The highlights of the new procedure are a new category to promote domestic
manufacturing, including government funding for Research & Development (R&D)
and recognition of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in technology
development.
The DPP 2016 will have a new category, Indigenously Designed, Developed and
Manufactured (IDDM) platforms, which will be the priority route for procurements.
Within this two sub-categories have been created, one with mandatory 40 percent
domestic content for a domestic design and the other mandating 60 percent local
content if the design is not Indian.
The domestic companies eligible under this will have majority Indian control and
operated by Indian nationals the government through the Department of Defence
Production will fund private R&D for which various norms have been stipulated.
Under this projects are eligible for up to 90 percent funding.
Of this 20 percent will be given in advance and the tender issued in 24 months. In
case the tender is not issued the development will be refunded
In another significant change, the contentious issue of offsets has been amended
from the current Rs. 300 crore to Rs. 2000 crore giving flexibility for foreign companies.
Offset clause mandates that a foreign company should invest 30 percent of the contract
value back into the country with a view to bring in technology. Offsets push up cost
of contracts by 14-18 percent

Temple entry restrictions- Sabarimala


Taking a swipe at religious customs and temple entry restrictions violating womens
constitutional rights, the Supreme Court said no temple or governing body could
bar a woman from entering the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala where lakhs of devotees
throng every year.
When the board countered that the prohibition was based on custom followed for
the past half-a-century, Justice Misra asked what proof it had to show that women
did not enter the sanctum sanctorum over 1,500 years ago. The Constitution rejects
discrimination on the basis of age, gender and caste, he orally observed.
According to the dress code formulated by Justice S. Vaidyanathan, men should
wear dhoti or pyjama with upper cloth or formal pants and shirts and women
sari or half sari with blouse or churidhar with upper cloth. Children could come in
any fully-covered dress.
Mr. Justice Ramasubramanian said most of the saints, including Naga Sadhus, spotted
during Kumbh Mela, could not enter temples if the dress code prescribed by the
judge was enforced.

Media reports suggest JeM chief detained in Pak


A decision on Foreign secretary meet had been deferred after an announcement in
Pakistan that security forces carried out a crackdown on the Jaish-e-Mohammad

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Current Affairs 47
(JeM), accused of the Pathankot airbase attack, and that its founder Masood Azhar
had been detained for questioning.
However government sources said, No information has been received from Pakistan
on the arrests, indicating that a decision would be taken on Foreign Secretary talks
only after Pakistan conveyed the nature of action it has taken to the government.
Based on the initial investigations in Pakistan, several officials belonging to the
Jaish-e-Mohammad have been apprehended, a statement from Mr. Sharifs office
said.
It added that the government would send a Special Investigative Team to India to
gather additional evidence.
Finally, Mr. Sharif constituted a team to probe the allegations of alleged involvement
of certain individuals in the Pathankot attack. The six-member team included the
Punjab police counter-terror chief, Rai Tahir, as well as the Director IB in Lahore, and
officials of the Federal Investigation Agency, ISI, and Military Intelligence.
Within a few hours, Pakistani police told local media that they had detained JeM
founder Masood Azhar, the man India believes masterminded the attack, his
operations chief and brother Rauf Azhar and other associates for questioning.
However, the information was not confirmed by the government. However Indian
officials said they felt the news of Azhars arrest could have been a deliberate plant
and had not been confirmed through official channels.

More than 3200 farmers suicide in Maharastra in 2015


The year that had recorded 2,590 suicides until October -- the highest ever since 2001
-- went on to register 610 more deaths in just the last two months.
Maharashtra has recorded 20,504 farmer suicides since 2001. Data obtained from the
government shows Vidarbha, the region Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis hails
from, was the worst hit last year, with around 1,541 farmers from Amaravati and
Nagpur division committing suicides.
As many as 1,130 farmers ended their lives in the Aurangabad division of
Marathwada.
Of the 3,228 suicides, the state has found only 1,841 eligible for government aid,
while 903 were found ineligible. While 484 cases are pending for inquiries, ex-gratia
aid has been extended to 1,818.
Maharashtra had recorded a 75% deficit in rainfall between June and September last
year.
While the CM had announced a Rs 10,512 crore package of farmers in December
2015, he had refrained from announcing any loan waivers.

Govt working to increase the movement of Goods by


waterways
The Union government is working on a strategy to increase the movement of goods
and passengers through waterways by nearly five-fold from a mere 3.5 per cent now
to 15 per cent by 2019.
The passenger and cargo traffic share in the country through water transport will be
increased to at least up to 15 per cent by 2019.

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Currently, the share of passenger and cargo traffic is only 3.5 per cent as against the
average of 30 to 40 per cent in countries such as China, South Korea, United Kingdom,
Germany and France.
Development of waterways would reduce the logistics cost, enabling India to
effectively compete in the international market.
Coastal shipping and inland water transport is a fuel efficient, environment friendly
and cost effective mode, especially for bulk goods.
While the road transportation cost per km is Rs.1.50 and for the Railways it is Re.1,
for waterways, it would be 25 to 30 paise.
To encourage transportation of goods by coastal shipping, service tax has been brought
on par with road and rail transport.
The government has also relaxed cabotage (right to operate transport services within
a particular territory) for specialised vessels like Ro-Ro, Hybrid Ro-Ro, car carriers
and truck carriers for a period of five years.

FS level talks between India and Pak rescheduled


After days of suspense, India and Pakistan agreed on Thursday to put off talks
between the Foreign Secretaries that were due to be held on Friday in Islamabad.
the postponement of talks to a later date is a matter of mutual convenience, but the
announcement at the last hour indicated that India had held out for more action
from Pakistan against the perpetrators of the Pathankot attack before deciding to put
off the talks that had been announced by Pakistan for January 15.
However, despite media reports quoting several police and intelligence officials on
the protective detention and questioning of JeM founder Masood Azhar, there
was no confirmation from the Pakistani government of this.
India had noted the Pakistan governments discussion on sending a Special
Investigation Team comprising a six-man investigation committee including ISI and
Military intelligence officials.

National Science Foundation report says Indian


scientists increasing rapidly in US
Indian-origin scientists and engineers in the U.S. grew 85% between 2003 and 2013,
says a report by the National Science Foundation, a key funder of research in the
United.
The 950,000 scientists and engineers of Indian origin in 2013the latest year for
which the foundation has datasuggest that Indias rise far outstrips that of the
Philippines and China.
Their share of immigrants rose 53% and 34% in the same period and contributed
465,000 and 438,000 workers respectively.
In 2003, Indian-origin researchers were 2.5% of the U.S. research workforce and as of
2013, made up 3.3%.
The most common fields of study for immigrant scientist and engineers in 2013 were
engineering, computer and mathematical sciences and social and related sciences
and over 80 per cent of the immigrant scientists and engineers were employed in
2013, the same percentage as their U.S.-born counterparts.

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Current Affairs 49
The rapid rise in the number of expatriate Indian technologists comes in the decade
when Indiaconcerned about brain-drainhas launched a plethora of schemes to
attract highly-qualified scientists back to India.
According to a report by the U.N., Indians make up the largest diaspora in the world,
with 16 million of them scattered across the world. This is partly due to its sizable
population of 1.2 billion and a large proportion of youth.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been seeking to convince this massive diaspora
to engage more with India as well as invest in the country.

HRD and Dept. of Science Technology partnership to


start startup hubs
The HRD Ministry and the Department of Science and Technology have agreed to
partner in an initiative to set up over 75 startup support hubs in NITs, IIITs, the
Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) and NIPERs.
The number of IIT/IIM graduates looking to start their own ventures has gone from
two per cent a few years ago to nearly 10 per cent now, but we need to take this
movement to our other educational institutions as well.
As per the plan, the HRD Ministry and the Science and Technology Ministry would
share the costs for setting up startup centres in these institutions, which would need
around 5,000 square feet space and cost around Rs. 50 lakh a year.
The Start Up India mission to be unveiled on Saturday envisages technology business
incubators and research parks.
The Science and Technology Ministry would bear 100 per cent cost to set up business
incubators in institutes like NITs. Each incubator would work with 20 budding
ventures, and be spread over 10,000 sq.ft.
The cost of each incubator is expected to be in the range of Rs. 5 crore to Rs. 10 crore.
Separately, research parks like the one at IIT Madras would be set up in a handful of
institutes at a cost of Rs. 70 crore to Rs. 100 crore each.

Start-Up India and Stand-Up India plan unveiled


Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to infuse more energy into Indias start-up
ecosystem with a bouquet of initiatives such as making tax-free the profits of these
fledgling units for three years.
It also promised Rs. 10,000 crore of government funding over four years, no visits by
labour inspectors for three years, and quicker and subsidised patent clearances.
The Start-up India, Stand- up India action plan, unveiled, promises a new mobile
app to enable start-ups to register themselves within a day and apply for clearances
online, and easier exits for failed ventures with a provision for winding them up
within 90 days under a proposed bankruptcy and insolvency law.
Stressing that it was important for start-ups to have ideas and an ability to take risks,
Mr. Modi pointed to Ubers solution for a commuting problem.
Promising easier access to more finance for budding entrepreneurs through a Rs.
2,500-crore fund of funds annually over the next four years.
There will be tax incentives for government-recognised funds and they would be
exempted from capital gains.

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50 Current Affairs

The issue of fair market valuation and tax on investments would also be resolved.
A tax is currently levied on all funding provided by domestic angel and venture
capital funds to start-ups, with income tax authorities having the power to determine
the valuation at which such investments are made on the basis of a fair market
value.

Govt draws strategy to counter IS on social media


Investigating agencies are in the process of producing messages posted by individuals
on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms as evidence in court against
those arrested for supporting or joining the Islamic State (IS) or any other terrorist
outfit.
According to agencies, 25 Indians have so far travelled to Syria or Iraq to fight for the
IS.
The government has developed a blueprint on the social media strategy against the
IS for effective monitoring of the Internet and the dark Web, the hotspot of recruitment
by the terrorist outfit.
Concerned over the growing influence of IS in neighbouring countries, Union Home
ministry will use provisions under Mutual Legal Assistance treaty for information
about IS.
This treatys usefulness came into picture when India received excellent cooperation
from UAE regarding the arrest of Afsha Jabeen.

External affairs minister on Israel and Palestine visit


Beginning the first big diplomatic outreach of 2016, External Affairs Minister Sushma
Swaraj left on a three-day visit covering Israel and Ramallah, the capital of the
Palestinian Authority.
After landing at the Tel Aviv airport, Ms. Swaraj, will engage in talks with the
Palestinian leadership, in the first half of her trip.
She is scheduled to meet Palestinian President MahmoudAbbas over lunch.
However, the more intense part of the visit will take place on January 18 when Ms.
Swaraj will be welcomed officially in Jerusalem by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu.

Australia wants to join Malabar


Underscoring the importance of multilateral cooperation for stability and peace in
the Indian Ocean region, Australian Army Chief says Malabar naval exercises are
among a spate of opportunities in that regard.
Australia, which held its first bilateral naval exercise with the Indian Navy last year,
has been long keen on joining the Malabar exercises along with the U.S. and Japan.
The India-U.S. Malabar naval exercises, which began in 1992, have grown in scope
and complexity, acquiring geopolitical significance in recent times.
The bilateral format gave way to a trilateral one with inclusion of Japan as apermanent
member in 2015.
In 2007, Australia joined the other three in a quadrilateral format for the exercises,
but based severe criticism from China which saw it as a containment strategy.

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Current Affairs 51

The Someswara temple


The Someswara temple is nature's bounty for sure, tucked away in the backwaters of
the Srisailamdam construction on which began in 1960 and 21 longy ears to be opened.
The dam was constructed across the Krishna river onthe border of Mahbubnagarand
Kurnool district and is the second largest capacity, working hydro-electric station in
India.
The temple of Someswara (Lord Shiva), believed to have been originally constructed
in the 7thcentury. But the present temple structure is on a relocated site.
Of the temple per se, was built during the time of the Chalukyas, following the
Vesara style that is considered unique to what is now Telangana.
The main temple, with nine Shiva lingas was practically dismantled and relocated
around the late 70s to a higher location because it faced submersion in the backwaters
The exercise to relocate the massive structure was modelled after the way in which
the Abu Simpel temple was dismantled and re-constructed at a height of 600 to800
metres because it faced submersion following the construction of the Aswandam
across the River Nile in Egypt.
The Abu Simbel temple was originally constructed in 1257 BC around the time of the
Pharoah Ramses in Nubia on the West Bank of the River Nile and re-located once the
dam came in place.

Endosulfan victims await relief promised


All are waiting in vain for the promised help from the State government, which
included a detailed medical survey and a financial package ensuring proper
rehabilitation of affected families but nothing happened so far.
Six years have passed since the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) directed
the State government to conduct a health survey and economically empower the
poor victims of the killer pesticide, once sprayed indiscriminately in the mango
orchards of Muthalamada
The order issued on December 31, 2010, directed the government to pay at least Rs.
5 lakh to the close relatives of those who died because of the aerial spraying of the
banned pesticide.
An equal mount was promised to those who became permanently bedridden and
suffered from severe deformities.
The NHRC also ordered payment of at least Rs. 3 lakh to all those who turned living
victims of the killer pesticide.
Now the families of the living victims are demanding an expert study at
Muthalamada, Elavanchery, Kozhinjampara, Velanthavalam, Vadakarapathi,
Eruthempathy, Nenmara, and Nelliyampathygrama panchayats.

The Most Wanted


In the wake of the Pathankot terror attack, India has again raised its demand for
action against Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad.
The government is planning to formally demand that Azhar be handed over to India.
It intends to deliver to Pakistan another list of most wanted, people accused of

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52 Current Affairs

terror attacks in India, who are currently believed to be living in the neighbouring
country, with Azhar on top of the list.
Azhar, who was one of three men released in exchange for 150Indians during the IC-
814 hijack in 1999, activated his terror groups as soon as he reappeared in Pakistan,
striking in quick succession in 2001 with the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly building
bombing and the Parliament attack.
After the 1993 Mumbai blasts, India handed over a list of six more names, including
Dawood Ibrahim and his associates, that were regularly brought up in India-Pakistan
talks. Indias first fully collated list of 14 most wanted, modelled after the U.S.s
FBI list,was handed over by the thenHome Minister L.K. Advani
However, after the Parliament attack, Mr. Advanis new list hadAzhar on the top.
The next list of 20most wanted was handed over by India after the Mumbai attacks
in 2008.
The handing over of the lists is a good debating point for India. Asking for Masood
Azhar will not change anything, nor will asking for Hafiz Saeed or anyone on the
list.
But it is a good debating point, and shows to the rest of the world how Pakistan has
not been helpful.
In 2011, India proffered a list of 50 names, which was then amended in 2012. The
Multi Agency Centre coordinated the two-week effort, to build the list after consulting
the National Investigation Agency, the CBI, Intelligence Bureau and R&AW.
It was further updated to 60 names by the sameteam when NSA Ajit Dovalwas due
to meet his Pakistan counterpart Sartaj Aziz in Au-gust 2015 but that meeting never
took place
One thing, however, is clear, for the third time in the past decade and a half, Masood
Azhar will no longer be in the background, but right on top of that list, as Indias
most wanted.

Expert committee to revisit National Policy for Farmers


An expert commit-tee will be set up to re-examine the National Policy for Farmers
(NPF) amidst growing number of suicides by farmers, the government has told the
Supreme Court.
There is a need for an integrated approach and re-look at the present policy.
The present government recognises the need for supporting the farmers and has
taken a number of steps for increasing production, productivity, realise remunerative
prices and risk mitigation.
It said that Minimum Support Price for various crops was as per the Commission on
Agricultural Costs and Prices(CACP) to promote de-risk farming and cut losses.

University and Minister under loop after suicide of


scholar in Hyderbad
On a day of high drama following the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula
of the University of Hyderabad (UoH), a case was filed against four persons, including
Union Minister of State for Labour Bandaru Dattatreya and University Vice-
Chancellor P. Appa Rao.

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Current Affairs 53
Tension prevailed on the UoH campus ever since Rohith committed suicide on Sunday
evening. On Monday, police entered the premises and removed his body.
Before he took his life, the 25-year-old Ph.D. scholar and four others, who had been
suspended 14 days earlier, were sleeping in the open after expulsion from their hostels.
The suicide triggered a social media storm forcing the Ministry of Human Resource
Development (MHRD) into action. It has sent a two-member fact-finding team to
Hyderabad.

SC for relooking the criteria of deciding the minority


status
A Supreme Court Constitution Bench decided to examine whether a religious
community should be granted minority status in a State where they are both
numerically strong and suffer no apprehension of being dominated by others.
The case may see the Supreme Court take a re-look at the circumstances in which a
State government declares a community a religious or linguistic minority.
The five-judge Bench led by CJI Tirath Singh Thakur has appointed senior advocate
T.R. Andhyarujina as amicus curiae and asked the Centre to be impleaded in the
case.
The case concerns a challenge by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee
(SGPC) of a Punjab and Haryana High Court judgment of December 2007, stayed
later by the apex court.
A Division Bench of the High Court had quashed notifications issued by the State
government granting minority status to SGPC-run educational institutions.
The notifications had allowed the SGPC to reserve 50 per cent seats in its institutions
for students from the Sikh community.

IMF cuts world growth forecast third time in a year


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its global growth forecasts for the third
time in less than a year, as new figures from Beijing showed that the Chinese economy
grew at its slowest rate in a quarter of a century in 2015.
To back its forecasts, the IMF cited a sharp slowdown in China trade and weak
commodity prices that are hammering Brazil and other emerging markets.
IMF report says Near- term fiscal policy should be more supportive of the recovery,
especially through investments that would augment future productive capital.
The IMF maintained its previous China growth forecasts of 6.3 per cent in 2016 and
6.0 per cent in 2017,which represent sharp slowdowns from 2015.
The IMF projected 7.3 per cent GDP growth for India in 2015-16 and 7.5 per cent in
2016-17, levels unchanged from its outlook released in October. In 2014-15, it estimates,
GDP grew 7.3 per cent.
The Union Finance Ministry last November revised downwards its projection for
the current financial year to 7.5 per cent after estimates from the Central Statistics
office showed that in the first six months, real GDP grew 7.2 per cent, slower than
the 7.5 per cent in the corresponding period last year.
In February 2015, it projected that growth would accelerate to 8.1-8.5 per cent. The
RBIs forecast for growth this year is 7.4 per cent.

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Lancet and London school hygiene to start a campaign


against preventable stillbirths
Concerned over the slow rate at which stillbirths have reduced across the world, the
journal, The Lancet, has launched a series of five papers about ending preventable
still- births and kick-started a campaign along with the London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine.
An estimated 2.6 million third trimester stillbirths occurred in 2015 across the world,
or as one of The Lancet articles in the series says. Most still- births (98 per cent) occur
in low and middle income countries, The Lancet paper shows.
While the estimates for the causes of stillbirths are often frustrated by various
classification systems, in 18 countries with reliable data, congenital abnormalities
account only for a median of 7.4 per cent of still- births.
Many disorders associated with stillbirths are potentially modifiable and often coexist
maternal infections,non-communicable diseases, nutrition, lifestyle factors and
maternal age older than 35 years.
Prolonged pregnancies, when the baby is not born after 42 weeks of gestation,
contribute to 14 per cent of stillbirths.
Causal pathways for stillbirth frequently involve impaired placental function, either
with growth restriction, or preterm labour or both.
The journal points out that less than 5 per cent of neonatal deaths and even fewer
still births are registered.
Notably, it was in 2011, that The Lancet began its first series on stillbirths, highlighting
the rates and causes of still- birth globally, exploring cost-effective interventions to
prevent stillbirths (as well as maternal and neonatal deaths), and setting key actions
to halve stillbirth rates by 2020.
One of the papers notes that some progress has been made in the measurement of
stillbirths since the 2011 The Lancet Still- births Series.
Stillbirths are increasingly counted, which might be partly related to more visible
estimates.
India continues to be at the top of the table in the rank for numbers of still-birth in
2015, recording 5,92,100, followed by Nigeria, Pakistan, China and Ethiopia.
Cultural taboos and superstitions often take the blame in the case of stillbirth in a
recent study, 36 per cent of respondents blamed the mother for her life- style or diet,
29 per cent said the baby was never supposed to live and 25 per cent blamed it on
witchcraft or evil spirits.

National Family Health Survey-4 indicates improvement


in health indicators
After 11 years, the much-awaited data on Indias health indicators were released by
the Health Ministry.
The Phase 1 results from the National Family Health Survey-4 for 2015-16, which
covered 13 States and two Union Territories (UTs), are a reason to smile.
In nearly every State, fewer children are dying in infancy, and across all States, more
mothers are getting access to skilled ante-natal care. The last round of NFHS data

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Current Affairs 55
was released in 2005-06.
Other findings are that while anaemia is widespread, rates have declined. Currently,
over half the children in 10 States and over half the mothers in 11 States continue to
be anaemic.
Consistent with the burden of non-communicable diseases in India, over-nutrition
or obesity among adults has emerged as a major concern.
At least three in 10 women are overweight or obese in the Andaman and Nicobar Is-
lands, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Puducherry, and Tamil Nadu.
A promising trend in the data shows that women are having fewer children.

IRCTC puts checks on ticket booking


The Indian Railways said it had put in various security checks to ensure there is no
misuse of ticket booking facility on the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism
Corporation (IRCTC) website.
Users will now have to wait for at least 35 seconds before he or she can book a ticket
over the IRCTC website to prevent faster booking of tickets through illegal software.
Earlier, theminimum waiting time for booking rail tickets online was kept at 10
seconds which was more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Users need to enter CAPTCHA a series of numbers to distinguish between human
and computers thrice now.
This will be needed at the log-in, reservation and payment stages. With these checks,
it is not possible to book any opening tatkal ticket by any software being sold in the
market earlier than 35 seconds.

Terrorist attack in Bacha Khan University


Armed militants stormed a university in volatile north-western Pakistan, killing at
least 20 people and wounding dozens a little more than a year after the massacre of
134 students at a school in the area.
The violence nevertheless shows militants retain the ability to launch attacks, despite
a nationwide anti-terrorism crackdown and a military campaign against their
strongholds along the lawless border with Afghanistan.
Death toll could rise to 40 at Bacha Khan University in Charsadda. The Army said it
had concluded operations to clear the campus six hours after the attack began, and
that four gunmen were dead.
A spokesman for rescue workers said 19 bodies had been recovered, including those
of students, guards, policemen and at least one teacher, named by the media as
chemistry professor Syed Hamid Husain. Husain reportedly shot back at the gunmen
with a pistol to allow his students to flee.

PSLV C-31 put fifth IRNSS-1E satellite in orbit


In yet another textbook launch, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
launched IRNSS-1E, the fifth of the seven-satellite Indian Regional Navigation Satellite
System (IRNSS) into space.
ISROs workhorse PSLV C-31 rocket lifted the 1,425 kg satellite from the second
launchpad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre and placed it in the intended orbit

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56 Current Affairs

some 19 minutes later. This is ISROs first launch for this year.
IRNSS-1E with a mission life of 12 years was launched into a sub geosynchronous
transfer orbit with a 284 km perigee (nearest point to Earth) and 20,657 km apogee
(farthest point from Earth) with an inclination of 19.2 degree with reference to the
equatorial plane.
IRNSS-1E carried navigation and ranging payloads, including a rubidium atomic
clock, C-band transponder and corner cube retro reflectors for laser ranging.
The signal-in-space of four satellites has already been validated by various agencies
within and outside the country.

TRAI not happy with free basics of Facebook


A war of letters broke out between the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and
Facebook over what the regulator called the social networking giants crude attempt
at turning the consultation over differential pricing of data services into an
orchestrated opinion poll on its Free Basics product.
The social networking site hit back in a statement on Wednesday, stressing that the
expression of support for Free Basics is highly relevant to the debate. Facebook
said it attempted to cooperate with TRAI.
In a strongly worded communiqu uploaded on its website on Tuesday night, the
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) slammed Facebooks approach to the
consultation on differential pricing of data services.
The irrelevance of template submissions from millionsof its users backing Free Basics
and the nature of consent it had obtained from these users.

Second Indigenous Aircraft Carrier by year end


By the end of the year, India expects to freeze the design for the largest battleship
ever built for the Indian Navy. It will also be one of the largest carriers across the
world after the U.S. super carriers, which weigh about 1,00,000 tonnes.
The Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-II) would be of 65,000 tonnes, and will be
capable of carrying over 50 aircraft. In comparison, displacement of INS Viraat is
only 28,500 tonnes and INS Vikramaditya is 45,400 tonnes
both of which are of foreign origin and currently in service with the Indian Navy.
The first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant weighing 40,000 tonnes is currently
under construction at Kochi.
Given that this the first timea ship of such size will be built in India which involves
development of several new technologies, design consultancy will be sought from
foreign companies with expertise in carrier design and construction.
Five countries have been identified for the purpose the U.S., Russia, France, the
U.K. and Italy all of which currently operate carriers.

University revokes the suspension of students


Buckling under pressure from protests and the political backlash after the suicide of
Rohith Vemula, the University of Hyderabad (UoH) administration revoked the
suspension of the four students who have been camping out in the open for the last
18 days.

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Current Affairs 57
The withdrawal of the punishment came on a day when Chief Medical officer Captain
Ravindra Kumar, Controller of Examinations Prof. V. Krishna, Chief Warden Dr. G.
Nagaraju and a dozen other faculty members resigned from their administrative
duties
They took exception to Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Iranis
comments on the suicide of the 26-year old research scholar.

To gauge the market trend better govt to make changes


in job data
The government could soon launch a first of its kind annual employment sur- vey,
with the ability to generate quarterly reports on job market trends in certain segments
like urban India.
The plan is to release such employment data soon after the surveys, unlike other
official data, by using modern technology so as to enable policymakers to react faster
to labour market movements and track job creation goals.
An estimated million people are joining Indias workforce every month, thanks to its
demographic dividend of a high number of youth in the population.
As of now, the only employment data in India is available through quinquennial
(once every five years) surveys by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).
A limited ad-hoc survey of employment in a few sectors that was initiated by the
Labour Bureau after the global financial crisis in 2008 and the Annual Survey of
Industries (which only captures the employees of the registered factories).
By contrast, developed markets have quarterly official data on employment, if not
monthly reports, that help them assess the state of the economy better.
The NSSO has readied the design, modalities and mechanisms for conducting the
survey and could start as soon as the nod comes for the formal proposal of the Statistics
Ministry.

SC fixes Feb 1st as the date for Arunachal Pradesh


hearing
The Supreme Court directed the Centre and Arunachal Pradesh Governor J.P.
Rajkhowa to furnish relevant material backing their claim of break-down in the
constitutional machinery of the sensitive border State, leading to the proclamation
of emergency by President Pranab Mukherjee on Republic Day.
A five-judge Constitution Bench led by J.S. Khehar issued notice to the Centre and
the Governor on a petition by Rajesh Tacho, contending that the Governor and the
Centre played fraud on the Constitution and Presidents rule should be quashed.
The petition said Article 356 had been misused to topple the democratically elected
Congress government.
It wanted the Centre and the Governor to furnish records of the events culminating
in the Union Cabinets recommendation on January 24 and the subsequent
proclamation of Presidents rule.
The court directed the Centre and the Governor to file their responses by January 29
and posted the case for hearing on February 1.

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58 Current Affairs

Pakistan court rejects petition to match voice samples


of 26/11 masterminds
In a fresh setback to the Mumbai attack trial, a Pakistani court has dismissed the
governments petition for the voice samples of 26/11 mastermind Zakiur Rehman
Lakhvi and six other suspected handlers.
The prosecution had filed an application in the Islamabad High Court for the voice
samples of the suspects to compare them with the communication intercepted by
Indian intelligence and thenpresent them at the anti-terrorism court as evidenceagainst
the seven suspects inthe Mumbai attack case.
Plea was dismissed saying that no such law exists, which allows to obtain voice
sample of an accused.

Environmentalists alarmed after Maharastra govt gave


go ahead to projects
In its rush to present a business-friendly face, the Maharashtra government is now
betting on the ecologically-rich Konkan coastline, where three projects a port which
will also include a thermal power plant among other industries, the contentious
9,900-MW Jaitapur nuclear power plant and one of the biggest oil refineries in the
world are proposed almost adjacent to each other within a 50-km radius.
With the government firm on going ahead with the projects, environmentalists have
pressed the alarm button, warning the government that the cluster of industries will
do more harm than good.
Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, announcing Indias biggest green
refinery a joint venture with the BharatPetroleum, the Indian Oil and Hindustan
Petroleum Corporation Limited on the Vijaydurg plateau in north Sindhu- durg
district by acquiring over 15,000 hectares of land.
To the north of this pro- posed project lies the Madban plateau, which is being acquired
to set up the 9,900 MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP).
Recently, French firm EDF acquired Areva (another French company), the nuclear
firm that was originally slated to provide technology for this project.
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has reportedly signed an
MoU with EDF to build nuclear reactors here.
While work on the project hasbeen stopped for the last few years due to pendency of
certain techno-commercial agreements, there are no roadblocks to this project.

PM will review ministries performance regularly


Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting of his Council of Ministers on
Wednesday evening to review the implementation of the decisions of at least four
Ministries, and earmarked the second Wednesday of every month for such a review
of selected Ministries.
The next meeting of the whole Council of Ministers is scheduled for February 10.
The Ministries that made presentations included Chemicals and Fertilizers, Food
and Consumer Affairs, Agriculture and Rural Development.
PM also took exception to the complaints and grievances related to the customs and

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Current Affairs 59
excise sector and directed strict action against the officials responsible.
He asked the Secretaries, to set up a system for top-level monitoring of grievances, a
PMO statement said. He was chairing the meeting of PRAGATI (Pro- Active
Governance and Timely Implementation).

Centre releases list of 20 cities for first phase of smart


city plan
A new chapter in Indias urban history has started with the Smart Cities Mission
finally taking some material shape.
Urban Development Minister announced the list of 20 cities that have qualified to
build smart infrastructure with Rs. 200 crore each from the Central governments
first phase of funding.
The Ministry has given top rating to Bhubaneswar for its robust Smart City plan.
Urging the countrys mayors to work hard for the improvement of their
municipalities, Mr. Naidu said the government would soon introduce the credit rating
system for cities so as to attract foreign investors.
Every city should follow credit rating. Otherwise no one will come and invest from
outside.
The government would grant every winning city a sum of Rs. 500 croreas overall
cache of start-up funds and expects the State governments to provide an additional
Rs. 500 crore.
According to mission guidelines, the total State and Central financial assistance for
each smart city would be Rs. 1000 crore.
With an aim to achieve inclusive growth, the mission promotes integrated city
planning, where the governments policies such as Swachh Bharat Mission and Atal
Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation complement each other.
The Central government has created an outside agency named Special Purpose Vehicle
(SPV), which will be head- ed by a CEO, and will be given powers to execute the
proposed developments and projects.

Second volume of President Pranab Mukherjees


memoirs The Turbulent years released
The second volume of President Pranab Mukherjees memoirs The Turbulent Years
(1980-1996) was released, even as the President himself said that some facts are to
be buried with me.
While admitting that there were many things that he had kept confidential in this
volume of his memoirs.
President memoir says, the inability to prevent the demolition of the Babri Masjid
was one of PV Narasimha Raos biggest failures.

Former Judge of Allahabad High court to inquire into


Rohit Vemula suicide
The HRD Ministry appointed Ashok K. Roopanwal, a former judge of the Allahabad
High Court, as the one-man commission of inquiry into the circumstances that led to

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60 Current Affairs

the January 17 suicide of Hyderabad University research scholar Rohit Vemula.


The scholar had taken his life after the universitys executive council expelled him
and four other students from the hostel. His death led to widespread protests by
students nationwide.
The commission has also been asked to fix accountability in the context of the UGC
guidelines, framed in 2012, which addressed discrimination at universities and
colleges.
The UGC (Promotion of Equity in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2012,
were drafted after two suicides in institutes of higher learning.
But the suicide among young students continued, leading to questions about the
implementation of the rules.
In its report submitted on January 22, a two-member fact-finding committee, set up
by the Ministry, faulted the university administration for failing to address the
situation, leading to the suicide.
The students of the university have been on strike since the suicide of Vemula,
demanding the resignation of Vice- Chancellor Appa Rao Podile and Union Minister
Bandaru Dattatreya.
The UGC notification deals with specific acts of discrimination on the basis of caste,
creed, religion, language, ethnicity, gender, and disability.
And the guidelines have spelt out the mechanism to address discrimination on
campuses.

IMD will issue block level forecasts from year end


The India Meteorological Department (IMD) will begin to issue weather forecasts at
the block level later this year.
Through this farmers could be warned, three to five days ahead, of potentially
anomalous weather in their localities that could threaten their crops.
The IMD currently issues such short-term forecasts in 100 districts across States and
so-called agro-climatic zones.
These are contiguous districts that are known to have similar weather conditions.

Retired Allahabad HC Judge Justice Sanjay Misra has


been appointed as UP Lokayukta
Heeding the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Courts objections, the Supreme Court
recalled its order appointing Justice (retired) Virendra Singh as Uttar Pradesh
Lokayukta.
A Bench now appointed another former High Court judge, Sanjay Misra, as the States
anti-corruption ombudsman.
The decision follows a prolonged litigation that saw the Bench, fed up with the lack
of consensus among the States constitutional authorities the Chief Minister, the
Opposition leader and the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court.
SC used the powers vested under Article 142 of the Constitution to appoint Justice
Singh as Lokayukta from a list of five names presented to it by the State government.

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Current Affairs 61

Centre gave response to Arunachal Pradesh Presidents


rule
Recurrent insurgency, Chinese claims over Indian territory, a communal Chief Minister
and a document signed by a majority 34 MLAs urging for Presidents rule in
Arunachal Pradesh are factors listed by the Centre to justify the proclamation of
emergency in the sensitive border State on Republic Day.
These are the highlights of a 316-page counter-affidavit filed by the Ministry of Home
Affairs (MHA) in the Supreme Court.
The Centre said Presidents rule was proclaimed in Arunachal Pradesh in the interest
of the country.
It said political stability is imperative in Arunachal Pradesh as it is a strategically
located State.
The Chief Minister and the Speaker pitted one particular community against the
other tribes and incited, provoked and fund- ed communal politics against the
Governor, referring to his Assamese roots.
The Centre highlighted how the Speaker had locked out the legislators, preventing
them from entering the Assembly Hall between December 15 and 18, in order to
conduct a floor test of the Tuki governments majority.
This was done on the basis of a source information received by the Speaker that
anti-social elements would try to burn down the Assembly building.

Special Technical group formed to monitor the spread


of the Zika virus
On the heels of the World Health Organization's warning on Zika virus, the
government said it hasconstituted a special, technical group to monitor the spread of
the virus in other countries.
Aedes mosquito which transmits dengue also transmits Zika virus. The government
note emphasised an increased focus on prevention to control the spread of the Aedes
mosquito that breeds in clean water.
The Zika virus has been associated with inexplicable spike in Brazil, of babies being
born with unusually-small heads.
The virus has been detected in some people in the U.S. and the U.K. who have said
they had travelled to South America.
There have been no reports of outbreaks of Zika in India though there is concern that
given the ubiquity of air- travel, carriers of the virus may arrive in India.

NSSO data shows massive inequality in Urban India


The average asset holding of the bottom 10 per cent of urban Indian house- holds is
around Rs. 291, new data from the National Sample Survey office (NSSO) show.
Most households reported owning some kind of physical or financial assets, the
survey, conducted in 2012-13, shows.
On an average, rural and urban households own assets worth Rs.10 lakh and Rs.23
lakh respectively. However, the average hides a wide variation in the distribution of
assets.

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62 Current Affairs

The bottom 10 percent (in terms of total assets) of rural households had assets worth
Rs.25,071 on an average, largely as a result of the value of land, while the figure for
their urban counterparts was just Rs.291, implying that the urban poor hardly own
any assets.
On the other hand, the top 10 per cent of the rural and urban population had average
assets worth Rs.57 lakh and Rs.1.5 crore respectively.
Haryana and Punjab had the highest average assets per household in rural areas,
while Maharashtra and Kerala were on top in urban areas.
Odisha lay at the bottom in both rural and urban India.
Land and buildings held the dominant share in asset holdings, as was the case in the
previous decade, comprising more than 90% of all assets in both urban and rural
areas.
Financial assets that include shares in companies and cooperative societies, national
saving certificates, and deposits in companies andbanks, were just two per cent of
total assets in rural areas, compared with five per cent in urban areas.
The share of land as a proportion of total assets has increased with time, possibly
due to the escalation of land prices, says the NSSO report.
The data also show that 31 per cent of the rural households and 22 per cent of the
urban households were under debt.

After years of debate Govt is ready to bring law for


euthanasia
After 14 years of debates and several draft Bills, the government has said it is ready
to frame a law on passive euthanasia, the act of withdrawing medical treatment with
the deliberate intention of causing the death of a terminally ill patient.
The affidavit filed by the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry in the Supreme
Court on January 28, 2016, provides the first clear insight into whether the government
considers euthanasia (which means good death) as manslaughter or an act of mercy.
The Ministry informed the Court that an expert panel had made changes and cleared
the formulation of a law on passive euthanasia after extensive debates from July
2014 to June 2015.
The committee, however, rejected legalising active euthanasia an intentional
act of putting to death a terminally ill patient on the ground that this would lead
to potential misuse and was practised in very few countries worldwide.
The governments perceptions about euthanasia changed in 2011 when the Supreme
Court issued comprehensive guidelines allowing passive euthanasia in the tragic
case of the bed-ridden former Mumbai nurse Aruna Shanbaug.

Inconclusive data of odd-even scheme


No lessons were learned; in fact it is unlikely that any can be learned from the Delhi
Governments odd- even experiment earlier this month as air quality data from the
15-day period has thrown up inconclusive results.
After being pulled up by courts for Delhis abysmal air quality, the government had
announced on December 4, 2015, that it would conduct an experiment to reduce
vehicular traffic, thereby reducing pollution.

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Current Affairs 63
From January 1 to 15, private cars that had registration numbers ending in odd and
even numbers were allowed to ply on odd and even numbered days respectively.
Now that the dust has settled, the governments own report on air quality during the
odd-even experiment shows that particulate matter increased in many locations,
even though fewer vehicles were on the roads.
Mobile monitoring by the the variation of PM levels across the city, with the PM2.5
concentration ranging from 150 to a whopping 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre.
The standard for PM2.5 is 60.
According to sources in the government, the data of ambient air quality collected
during the period will be shared with experts at the Indian Institute of Technology-
Kanpur for analysis.
The IIT-Kanpur has already carried out a study for the Delhi government on the
sources of particulate matter. That report is yet to be released.

Centre hikes excise duty on petrol, diesel yet again


Ahead of the Union Budget, the Modi government increased the excise duty on petrol
by Re. 1 a litre and Rs. 1.50 on diesel, the third increase this month, to mop up over
Rs. 3,200 crore in additional revenue, netting, in all, Rs. 17,000 crore in three months.
The increase will not result in an increase in the retail selling prices of the two fuels
as it would be adjusted against the reduction in the rates that may have been possible
because of the slide in international oil prices.
The basic excise duty on unbranded or normal petrol has been increased from Rs.
8.48 per litre to Rs. 9.48 and the same on unbranded diesel from Rs. 9.83 to Rs. 11.33.

Pakistan & India exchanged list of nuclear facilities


India and Pakistan exchanged the list of their nuclear installations under a bilateral
agreement that bars them from attacking each others atomic facilities. This is the
24th consecutive exchange of such list between the two countries.
India and Pakistan today exchanged, through diplomatic channels simultaneously
at New Delhi and Islamabad, the list of nuclear installations and facilities covered
under the Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear installations, the
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson said.
The agreement, which was signed on December 31, 1988 and entered into force on
January 27, 1991, says that the two countries inform each other of nuclear installations
and facilities to be covered under the Agreement on January 1 every year.

Make in India needs a new materials push says Chander


India has to improve its capability to develop innovative materials for the defence
sector to fuel Prime Minister Narendra Modis Make in India campaign, Avinash
Chander, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister and Director-General of the
Defence Research and Development Organisation, said.
Delivering a lecture on Materials for defence and nation-building at the annual
convention of the Andhra Pradesh Akademi of Science, Mr. Chander said the country
was unable to harness deposits of rare earth metals needed for research in the sector.
China has 89 per cent of the rare earth metals deposits [in the world], and it has

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64 Current Affairs

started to embargo and deny access to them, he said. We have to develop capabilities
to utilise our natural resources. One or two scientific laboratories cant do this. It
should be a combined effort of all academic institutions, laboratories and universities.
He said India had not been able to develop a disruptive technology that would
redefine, change and open new windows of research to develop innovative materials
for the defence sector. Titanium is used in almost all aerospace engines.
We are not able to come up with world-class engines just because we dont have a
good supply of such a material. The bullet-proof jackets used by U.S. forces are eight
to 10 kg heavier and do not suit our forces. We have to reduce the weight of bullet-
proof jackets by at least half, but have not reached there yet, he said.

NITI Aayog a threat to federal structure says Congress


The Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said that replacing the
Planning Commission with NITI Aayog would strike at the very foundation of the
federal structure, and the new body would be an extension of the all-powerful
Prime Ministers Office [PMO].
Briefing presspersons, Congress spokesman Ajoy Kumar said NITI Aayog would, in
effect, become a PMO Commission as all powers in this government were with
one person, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The BJP is an expert in destroying institutions, and the Planning Commission was
another such example.
The CPI(M) Polit Bureau described the creation of NITI Aayog as a regressive step
which would further push the country into a market-driven economy and
privatisation in all spheres at the expense of diluting even the present inadequate
welfare schemes.
Whatever role the Planning Commission had in allocating resources for the public
sector and deploying public investment keeping in mind regional disparities has
now ended, it said.
The Polit Bureau described as spurious the governments claim that the new set-
up would be based on cooperative federalism with the States as stakeholders.

Excavation conducted at Harappan site by ASI reveals


house plan
Excavation conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at the late-
Harappan site of Chandayan in Uttar Pradesh has, for the first time, revealed the
plan of a house on the Ganga-Yamuna doab, with its mud walls, four successive
floor levels and post-holes.
While these were found in the habitation area, trenches laid in the burial area brought
to light 21 Harappan pots, the remains of a skeleton, a broken copper crown placed
on the skull, animal bones and remains of a feast, indicating a funeral ceremony.
It was a salvage excavation meant to know the sites cultural sequence, said A.K.
Pandey, Superintending Archaeologist, Excavation Branch-II, ASI, who led the
excavation at Chandayan in Baraut tehsil of Baghpat district.
He decided to conduct the excavation after labourers digging farmland to collect
clay found the crown placed on the skull, a red-ware bowl and a miniature pot last
August.

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Current Affairs 65
The ASI excavated five trenches in December, each of 10x10 metres, with two trenches
in the habitation locality and three in the burial area. Mr. Pandey estimated that the
late-Harappan site could have existed before 4,000 years.
The excavation in the residential area revealed a mud wall and post-holes in one
trench and four closely laid and successive floors of a house in another trench and
pots. They were found at a depth of 130 cm and upwards from the surface level.
The posts positioned in the holes would have supported the roof of the house. The
habitation area is significant for the floor levels, and mud walls were occurring in
the Ganga-Yamuna doab for the first time, Mr. Pandey said.

ISRO working on aspects of manned mission:


Radhakrishnan
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is working on developing technology
for manned space mission, Dr. K. Radhakrishnan, former head of ISRO, said during
a public interview.
He was interviewed by senior space scientist Pramod Kale at the 102nd Indian Science
Congress inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Mumbai University.
He said ISRO was working on various aspects of a manned mission such as
minimising failure rate, developing an escape system, providing environment and
life support system for the crew.
Meanwhile, as a part of the Indian Science Congress, Union Minister for Science and
Technology Harsh Vardhan inaugurated a mega science and technology exhibition
at the citys MMRDA ground at Bandra-Kurla Complex.
The exhibition named Pride of India Expo showcases the cutting edge technologies,
leading scientific products and services, path-breaking research and development
initiatives, schemes and achievements of Indias leading public and private sectors,
government departments, research labs and educational institutions, a press release
by the Press Information Bureau said.

NITI Aayog will set policy agenda: Modi


On the first day of the New Year, the Modi Government set up NITI Aayog (National
Institution for Transforming India) in place of the Planning Commission. The Prime
Minister will head the new institution tasked with the role of formulating policies
and direction for the Government.
Its Governing Council will comprise State Chief Ministers and Lt. Governors of Union
Territories. The Prime Minister will appoint the Aayogs Vice-Chairperson and CEO.
Asian Development Banks Former Chief Economist Arvind Panagariya is tipped to
be the first Vice Chairperson.
The Government plans to adopt a Bharatiya approach to development, states the
resolution of the Union Cabinet for setting up the Aayog. India needs an
administration paradigm in which the government is an enabler rather than a provider
of first and last resort, it states.
The Aayog will recommend a national agenda, including strategic and technical
advice on elements of policy and economic matters. It will also develop mechanisms
for village-level plans and aggregate these progressively at higher levels of
government.

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66 Current Affairs

The institutions of governance and policy have to adapt to new challenges and must
be built on the founding principles of the Constitution, the resolution states. On the
planning process, it states that there was a need to separate the process from the
strategy of governance.
Transforming India, it further states, would involve changes of two types
consequences of market forces and those that would be planned. The maturing of
our institutions and polity also entails a diminished role for centralised planning,
which itself needs to be redefined.
A state-of-the-art Resource Centre for good governance practices is also proposed.
The original Planning Commission was set up in March, 1950 through a Cabinet
Resolution, which the Modi Government scrapped in August 2014.

Union Cabinet clears 2G auction


The Union Cabinet approved the largest ever telecom spectrum auction that is targeted
to fetch at least Rs.64,840 crore from the sale next month.
The government will sell 380.75 megahertz of second generation (2G) spectrum in
three bands the premium 800 MHz, 900 MHz and 1800 MHz. Spectrum in 2100
MHz may also be put on auction simultaneously after Defence Ministry vacates it.
The Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved a reserve price of
Rs.3,646 crore pan-India per MHz in 800 MHz, Rs.3,980 crore for 900 MHz band
pan-India excluding Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Jammu & Kashmir; Rs.2,191 crore
pan-India (excluding Maharashtra and West Bengal) in 1800 MHz band, an official
statement said here on Monday.

Amend law to protect Hindu wife: panel


Noting it is the supreme duty of a Hindu to protect those dependent on him, the
Law Commission recommended to the government that the law should be amended
entitling a Hindu wife, whose husband is unable to provide for her, to receive
maintenance from his family.
A seven-member committee led by the Law Commission of India Chairperson Justice
A.P. Shah recommended a clause to be inserted in the Hindu Adoption and
Maintenance Act, 1956 to financially protect a Hindu woman, whose husband suffers
from physical or mental disability and has no means to maintain herself.
The same applies to wives of those who have disappeared or chosen renunciation
of the world by entering any religious order or other reasons. The only exception is
when the husband has already got his share in the family property on partition.

FM expects GST to take effect in 2016


Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said he expected the government to implement the
common Goods and Services Tax (GST) across the country in the course of next year.
Mr. Jaitley presented the GST Bill in parliament last year. It needs the support of
two-thirds of its members as well as ratification by State legislatures.
The Bill, which was returned, authorises payment and appropriation of certain
additional sums from and out of the Consolidated Fund of India for 2014-15. It was
passed by Lok Sabha on December 10.
Describing the GST reform as a win-win situation for both the Centre and the

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Current Affairs 67
States, the Finance Minister had said the Bill would not have fear of the unknown
unlike Value Added Tax (VAT).
Investors and manufacturers have long coveted the GST as a game-changer that
would simplify taxes while broadening the tax base, adding as much as 2 percentage
points to the size of Asia's third-largest economy.

Janata Parivar merger to be formalised soon


A day after Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav said the JD(U) and the
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) would merge first in Bihar, he made a U-turn saying the
merger would be formalised with all the six parties coming together in Delhi.
The grand merger will be formalised with all six parties joining it in Delhi, said
RJD chief Lalu Yadav, participating in a social gathering organised by the State party
chief on Makar Sankranti.
Mr. Prasad, who made arrangements for a feast at his residence, however, declared
that the grand merger of all six parties would be officially announced by Mr. Mulayam
Singh soon in Delhi.

SC asks government for update on Ganga clean-up


projects
The Supreme Court asked the NDA government if there was any chance of cleaning
up the Ganga river during its current term in power. Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar
submitted that a consortium of IITs was preparing a road map for cleaning the river.
He said the government was proposing a total of 80 sewage treatment plants (STPs)
which would process, in a day, 368 million litres of water flowing into the river in
the five river basin States.
The court directed the government to present the status of 31 ongoing projects of
STPs and 15 others which were in the bidding stage.
The hearing primarily focused on the domestic sewage flowing into the river. In
October 2014, the Bench had referred to the National Green Tribunal the responsibility
of monitoring and inspecting industrial units along the river and even cut off their
water and power connections if they were found to be polluting.
The Supreme Court has been hearing this petition since the early 1980s. Numerous
orders have been passed by it, directing the authorities to protect the river. The petition
was filed by lawyer M.C. Mehta highlighting the alarming state of the river and its
depletion owing to pollution.

IITs, IIMs to roll out free online courses


Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani announced the launch
of free online courses by premier institutes such as the Indian Institutes of Technology
(IITs) and the Indian Institutes Management (IIMs) from the current year.
Ms. Irani said that as part of the digital initiatives and education reforms launched
by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, consultations on the New Education Policy would
begin on January 26.
A nominal fee would be charged for certification of various online courses. It would
be free for people with special abilities and those belonging to the Scheduled Castes
and Scheduled Tribes.

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68 Current Affairs

Literature Festival to showcase Rajasthans heritage


The rich heritage of Rajasthan is set to come alive as the annual ZEE Jaipur Literature
Festival showcases the vibrant culture of the State to the over 2 lakh visitors expected
for the event.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje will inaugurate the event. Rajasthani
musicians Nathoo Solanki, Chugge Khan and the Jaisalmer Boys will open the worlds
largest free literary festival with the sounds of their traditional music which has
become synonymous with the first day of the festival.
Also on the opening day, musicologist John Napier and Shanti Raman will speak of
the tradition and challenges in archiving the oral history of the Nath Jogis. They will
be joined by jogi performer Kishori Nath who will recite and perform from an ancient
bardic repertoire.

Pahlaj Nihalani is censor board chief


The government put in place an entirely new censor board with producer Pahlaj
Nihalani as its chairperson. Mr. Nihalani, known for the 1990s blockbusters Shola
aur Shabnam and Aankhen , produced Har Ghar Modi-The Power House of India,
a fan-song for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, last year.
The new board also features Dr. Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, best known for his epic
TV serial Chanakya and the critically acclaimed, national award winning Partition
film Pinjar , based on Amrita Pritams novel of the same name.
Other board members include Gujarat Central University Vice-Chancellor Syed Abdul
Bari, besides film and theatre personalities who are either BJP members or have had
close association with the party.
BJP national secretary Vani Tripathy Tikoo, who has acted in films like Chalte Chalte
and Dushman , and Bengali actor George Baker, who joined the BJP last year, were
appointed members of the board.
Mr. Baker contested from the Howrah parliamentary constituency in last years
general elections but lost to Prasun Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress.
Ashoke Pandit, Kashmiri activist and filmmaker, known for films like And the World
Remained Silent and Sheen also found a place on the revamped censor board. Another
new appointee, Ramesh Patange, is a Dalit RSS activist and author of Me, Manu anee
Sangh (I, Manu, and Sangh).
Tamil actor and former AIADMK MLA S.Ve. Shekher and Telugu actor Jeevitha were
also appointed members of the board for three years.

Periyar Tiger Reserve wins NTCA award


The Periyar Tiger Reserve, spread over 925 sq.km. in Kerala, bagged the National
Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) biennial award for encouraging local public
participation in managing the reserve.
There are 75 communities living around the reserve, including tribal people who are
dependent on eco-development programmes.
The community-based eco-tourism activities helped visitors and there were night
scouting programmes with the help of expert trackers as well. Tourism was
supplemented by pepper growing and marketing which was a value addition. Now,

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Current Affairs 69
self-help groups were involved in honey processing and other income-generating
activities.

New Chief Justice for J&K High Court


Justice N. Paul Vasanthakumar, judge of the Madras High Court, has been elevated
as the Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Justice Vasanthakumar, who is from Marthandam in Kanyakumari district on Tamil
Nadu, had been a lawyer for 25 years. He was made an Additional Judge of the
Madras High Court on December 10, 2005, and appointed permanent judge on April
20, 2007.
He disposed of 92,000 petitions as a judge of the Madras High Court and delivered
several landmark judgments.

Jhumpa Lahiri wins DSC Prize for 2015


Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri won the $50,000 DSC Prize for Literature,
one of South Asias top literary awards for her book, The Lowland .
The Prize celebrates writing on the South Asian region from writers across the globe
and is given to the best novel or translations into English of a work on or about the
region.
This is an enormous honour for The Lowland and for me personally. I wish I was
there in person to receive the award, Ms. Lahiri said through a phone conversation
from Rome. Publisher Caroline Newbury accepted the award on her behalf.

List of Padma awardees


Following is the list of 104 persons conferred Padma Awards. They include nine
Padma Vibhushan and 20 Padma Bhushan awardees.

Padma Vibhushan
Name (discipline), State/country: L.K. Advani (Public Affairs), Gujarat; Amitabh
Bachchan (Art), Maharashtra; Prakash Singh Badal (Public Affairs), Punjab; D.
Veerendra Heggade (Social Work), Karnataka; Dilip Kumar (Art), Maharashtra;
Jagadguru Rambhadracharya (Others), Uttar Pradesh; Malur Ramaswamy Srinivasan
(Science and Engg), Tamil Nadu; Kottayan K. Venugopal (Public Affairs), Delhi; and
Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan (Trade and Industry) France/U.K.

Padma Bhushan
Jahnu Barua (Art), Assam; Vijay Bhatkar (Science and Engineering), Maharashtra;
Swapan Dasgupta (Literature and Education), Delhi; Swami Satyamitranand Giri
(Others), Uttar Pradesh; N. Gopalaswami (Civil Service), Tamil Nadu; Subhash C.
Kashyap (Public Affairs), Delhi; Gokulotsavji Maharaj (Art), Madhya Pradesh;
Ambrish Mithal (Medicine), Delhi; Sudha Ragunathan (Art), Tamil Nadu; Harish
Salve (Public Affairs), Delhi; Ashok Seth (Medicine), Delhi; Rajat Sharma (Literature
and Education), Delhi; Satpal (Sports), Delhi; Shivakumara Swami (Others),
Karnataka; Kharag Singh Valdiya (Science and Engg), Karnataka; Manjul Bhargava
(Science and Engg), USA; David Frawley (Others), USA; Bill Gates (Social Work),
USA; Melinda Gates (Social Work), USA; and Saichiro Misumi (Others), Japan.

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70 Current Affairs

Padma Shri
Manjula Anagani (Medicine), Telangana; S. Arunan (Science and Engg), Karnataka;
Kanyakumari Avasarala (Art), Tamil Nadu; Bettina Sharada Baumer (Literature and
Education), J&K; Naresh Bedi (Art), Delhi; Ashok Bhagat (Social Work), Jharkhand;
Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Art), Maharashtra; Lakshmi Nandan Bora (Literature and
Education), Assam; Gyan Chaturvedi (Literature and Education), Madhya Pradesh;
Yogesh Kumar Chawla (Medicine), Chandigarh; Jayakumari Chikkala (Medicine),
Delhi; Bibek Debroy (Literature and Education), Delhi; Sarungbam Bimola Kumari
Devi (Medicine), Manipur; Ashok Gulati (Public Affairs), Delhi; Randeep Guleria
(Medicine), Delhi; K.P. Haridas (Medicine), Kerala; Rahul Jain (Art), Delhi; Ravindra
Jain (Art), Maharashtra; Sunil Jogi (Literature and Education), Delhi; Prasoon Joshi
(Art), Maharashtra; Prafulla Kar (Art), Odisha; Saba Anjum (Sports), Chhattisgarh;
Ushakiran Khan (Literature and Education), Bihar; Rajesh Kotecha (Medicine),
Rajasthan; Alka Kriplani (Medicine), Delhi; Harsh Kumar (Medicine), Delhi;
Narayana Purushothama Mallaya (Literature & Education), Kerala; Lambert
Mascarenhas (Literature and Education), Goa; Janak Palta McGilligan (Social Work),
Madhya Pradesh; Veerendra Raj Mehta (Social Work), Delhi; Tarak Mehta (Art),
Gujarat; Neil Herbert Nongkynrih (Art), Meghalaya; Chewang Norphel (Others),
Jammu and Kashmir; T.V. Mohandas Pai (Trade and Industry), Karnataka; Tejas Patel
(Medicine), Gujarat; Jadav Molai Peyang (Others), Assam; Bimla Poddar (Others),
Uttar Pradesh; N. Prabhakar (Science and Engg), Delhi; Prahalada (Science and Engg),
Maharashtra; Narendra Prasad (Medicine), Bihar; Ram Bahadur Rai (Literature and
Education), Delhi; Mithali Raj (Sports), Telangana; P.V. Rajaraman (Civil Service),
Tamil Nadu; J.S. Rajput (Literature and Education), Uttar Pradesh; Kota Srinivasa
Rao (Art), Andhra Pradesh; Bimal Roy (Literature and Education), West Bengal;
Shekhar Sen (Art), Maharashtra; Gunvant Shah (Literature and Education), Gujarat;
Brahmdev Sharma (Literature and Education), Delhi; Manu Sharma (Literature and
Education), Uttar Pradesh; Yog Raj Sharma (Medicine), Delhi; Vasant Shastri (Science
and Engg), Karnataka; S.K. Shivkumar (Science and Engg), Karnataka; P.V. Sindhu
(Sports), Telangana; Sardara Singh (Sports), Haryana; Arunima Sinha (Sports), Uttar
Pradesh; Mahesh Raj Soni (Art), Rajasthan; Nikhil Tandon (Medicine), Delhi; H
Thegtse Rinpoche (Social Work), Arunachal Pradesh; Hargovind Laxmishanker
Trivedi (Medicine), Gujarat; Huang Baosheng (Others), China; Jacques Blamont
(Science and Engg), France; Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin (Others), Maharashtra
(Posthumous); Jean-Claude Carriere (Literature and Education), France; Nandrajan
Raj Chetty (Literature and Education), France; George L Hart (Others), USA; Jagat
Guru Amrta Suryananda Maha Raja (Others), Portugal; Meetha Lal Mehta (Social
Work), Rajasthan (Posthumous); Tripti Mukherjee (Art), USA; Dattatreyudu Nori
(Medicine), USA; Raghu Rama Pillarisetti (Medicine), USA; Saumitra Rawat
(Medicine), UK; Annette Schmiedchen (Literature and Education), Germany; Pran
Kumar Sharma alias Pran (Art), Delhi (Posthumous); and R. Vasudevan (Civil Service),
Tamil Nadu (Posthumous) .

R K Laxman Passes Away


The messy business of the democracy that was India was unforgettably captured in
the iconic creation, labelled simply The Common Man , of R.K. Laxman, died .
Mr. Laxman, who was awarded the Padma Vibhushan and the Magsaysay Award,
was a complex man, who defined his mtier with an ingenious lightness of touch as
evinced in his autobiography, Tunnel of Time.

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Current Affairs 155

INTERNATIONAL ISSUES

Zika virus is spreading fast across the world


More than 2,100 pregnant Colombian women are infected with the mosquito- borne
Zika virus, the countrys national health institute said, as the disease continues its
spread across the Americas.
The virus has been linked to the devastating birth defect microcephaly, which prevents
foetus brains from developing properly. There is no vaccine.
Zika cases have been confirmed in 23 countries and territories in the Americas and
scientists are racing to develop a vaccine for the virus.
The government has urged women to delay pregnancy for six to eight months to
avoid potential infection. Officials expect up to 700,000 cases.
Brazil is the country hit hardest by the disease. It has reported around 3,700 cases of
microcephaly strongly suspected to be related to Zika.
An Indonesian research institute said it had found one positive Zika case on Sumatra
island.

In a move that is likely to raise ethical issues Britain


granted licence to gene editing
Britain granted its first licence to genetically modify human embryos for research
into infertility and why miscarriages happen, in a move likely to raise ethical concerns.
The decision makes Britain one of the first countries in the world to grant this type of
authorisation for experimentation on human embryos, although similar research has
been carried out in China.
Modification of the embryos would be done using a technique known as CRISPR-
Cas9, which allows scientists to insert, remove and correct DNAwithin a cell.
The embryos will not become children as they must be destroyed within 14 days and
can only be used for basic research.
Research plans to find the genes at play in the first few days of fertilisation when an
embryo develops a coating of cells that later become the placenta.
The embryos to be used in the research are ones that would have been destroyed,
donated by couples receiving In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment who do not need
them.

Negotiations between Britain and European Union


continue
An agreement on a possible re-negotiated membership status for Britain in the
European Union (EU) failed to materialise during talks between European Council
(EC) president Donald Tusk and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
However, negotiations on an acceptable draft text are to continue over the next 24
hours.

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156 Current Affairs

Mr. Tusk had earlier hoped to put up a draft for discussion before the 27 EU heads in
Brussels on Monday. A summit on Brexit (Britains exit from the EU) is scheduled
for February 18 and 19.
State benefits to refugees Britains demand that it be al- lowed to restrict state bene-
fits to EU migrants for the next seven years has emerged as a sticking point.
As per this condition, any migrant arriving in Britain over the next seven years will
have to wait for a period of four years be- fore becoming eligible for any government
benefit that British citizens enjoy.
The European Commission (EC) has instead offered the option of an
emergencybrake a ban on benefits that can be activated only if the country can
prove that its public services are under un- sustainable pressure.
This cannot be invoked by the country concerned but has to be voted on by the EU.

North Korea to launch a satellite


North Korea notified UN agencies that it plans to launch a satellite later this month,
which could advance the isolated countrys development of long- range missile
technology.
Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 in defiance of United Nations
sanctions, and last launched a long-range rocket in 2012, sending an object it described
as a communications satellite into orbit.
Western and Asian experts have said that launch was part of an effort to build an
inter- continental ballistic missile.
North Korea is under UN sanctions for its nuclear and missile programmes, and
countries including the U.S. and South Korea are seeking fresh sanctions after its
nucle- ar test last month.
North Korea is believed to be making preparations for a test launch of a long-range
rocket, U.S. Officials said last week, after activity at its test site was observed by
satellite.
Pyongyang has said it has a sovereign right to pursue a space programme by launch-
ing rockets, although the U.S. and other governments worry that such launches are
missile tests in disguise.
The International Telecommunication Union, another UN agency, said that North
Korea had informed itof plans to launch a satellite with a functional duration of four
years, in a non-geostationary orbit.

China changes military structure for joint operations for


three forces
China has revamped its military command structure, tailoring it for joint operations
of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy a move that may have acquired fresh
urgency on account of the Pivot to Asia doctrine of the U.S. and recent political
changes in Taiwan.
President Xi Jinping, who is also the head of the apex Central Military Commission
(CMC), inaugurated the formation of five- theatre commands, which will be geared
to seamlessly deploy military assets on land, air and sea to win wars.
The Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern and Central theatre commands will focus

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Current Affairs 157
on joint combat. The CMC will exercise overall political, supervisory and ad-
ministrative control over the armed forces.
In the broader context, the President visualises military reforms as a core element of
an ongoing effort to realise the Chinese dream.
Analysts say that acquisition of hard power economic, military, scientific, political
and diplomatic are necessary elements to achieve this goal, though achieving
economic equity and clean air are also part of the mix.
Yet there may be pressing geopolitical considerations that are driving urgent military
reforms.
Observers say the Pivot to Asia doctrine, envisaging bulk concentration of U.S.
forces in the Asia- Pacific, has imparted urgency to Chinas military modernisation.
Notwithstanding a credible nuclear deterrent and missiles that can destroy aircraft
carriers, Chinese military planners acknowledge that the gap between the military
capabilities of China and the U.S. was still too wide.

Zika virus can be transmitted sexually


A person in Texas has been infected with the Zika virus after having sex with an ill
person who had returned from South America.
Its the first case of the virus being transmitted in the U.S. during the current outbreak
of Zika, which has been linked to birth defects in the Americas.
There was report of a Colorado researcher who picked up the virus in Africa and
apparently spread it to his wife back home in 2008, and it was found in one mans
semen in Tahiti.
The CDC has already recommended that pregnant women postpone trips to more
than two dozen countries with Zika outbreaks, mostly in Latin America and the
Caribbean.
In the epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean, the main villain identified so
far is called Aedesaegypti a species of mosquito that spreads other tropical diseases,
including chikungunya and dengue fever.
It is found in the southern United States, though no mosquito-borne transmission
has been reported in the continental United States to date.

India and Thailand for freedom of navigation and


connectivity in Southeast Asian region
Indias Vice-President Hamid Ansari told the leader- ship of Thailand that India-
Thailand collaboration is necessary to ensure freedom of navigation and connectivity
in the Southeast Asian region.
During the ongoing tour of Southeast Asia, the Indian delegation led by Mr. Ansari
hasexpressed Indian concerns about freedom of navigation in the region due to
growing
maritime disputes between China and several other regional countries over
SouthChina Sea.
Thailand has been the country coordinator of ASEAN-China relations and took useful
steps towards solving the dispute.

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158 Current Affairs

India and Thailand recently held a joint task force meeting in Delhi to deepen maritime
and defence cooperation which covers a range of issues, including ocean safety,
disaster management and anti-terror drills.
The delegations also confirmed that India and Thailand will soon hold naval exercises
in the Andaman Seas.

Breakdown in talks for Syria


The U.S. demanded that Russia immediately halt its bombing campaign in Syria
after a bitter breakdown in peace talks ex- posed the deep rift between world powers
aiming to end the five-year conflict.
On the ground, nearly 40,000 people have fled an offensive this week by President
Bashar Al-Assads regime north of the city of Aleppo.
Mr. Assads forces also entered two Shia villages that were under siege by rebels.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Moscow to halt its bombing of the Syrian
op- position in what he said was a robust phone call with Rus- sian counterpart
Sergei Lavrov.
Meanwhile, aconference of donor nations raised $11 billion for Syrian humanitarian
needs over the next four years.
Mr. Cameron told a news conference that donors had pledged $6 billion for this year
alone, and a further $5 billion to be spent by 2020.

United Nations urged countries hit by Zika virus to let


women have access to abortion
The United Nations urged countries hit by the dangerous Zika virus to let women
have access to contraception and abortion.
The UN human rights office said the South American countries now urging women
to hold of getting pregnant over Zika fears had to ofer them the possibility of
controlling their fertility.
An exploding number of cases of Zika virus believed to cause a condition called
microcephaly in which babies are born with abnormally small heads have prompted
several countries and territories in Latin America to warn women to avoid getting
pregnant.
But UN human rights chief UN rights chief ZeidRaad al-Hussein said this warning
meant little in countries that ban or heavily restrict access to reproductive health
services like contraception and abortion.

Srilankas reform process gets support from India


India has expressed support for Sri Lanka on its reconciliation and development
policies. External Affairs Minister SushmaSwaraj, who was here on a two-day visit,
conveyed this to President MaithripalaSirisena.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA)wants India should remain concerned in getting the
issue resolved in a reasonable way and in an amicable manner.
President Sirisena sought Indias assistance for his governments comprehensive
programme to improve the health and education of people living in estates who
were essentially of the recent Indian origin, to which Ms. Swarajfavourably responded.

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Current Affairs 159

Fiscal management a tough job for this budget


The last budget had promised fiscal prudence through gradual reduction in fiscal
deficit to three per cent of GDP by FY 18.
It encouraged FIIs to invest in our debt market. This year the budget has to manage
the conflict of financing additional expenses of Rs.1 lakh crore for implementation of
Seventh Pay Commission recommendations and enhanced allocations to public
investment to keep the economy on a growth path.
The Budget does have the benefit of large savings on fuel subsidy due to lower oil
prices.
The path of raising taxes or borrowing to fund increased expenses will adversely
impact debt, currency and equity market.
Instead smartly monetising assets from land, natural resources and spectrum to
investment in SUUTI will positively impact markets.
Budget can consider following proposals to raise resources to accelerate economic
recovery and reassure investors on fiscal stability.
The Government collects lots of data on many transactions such as buying of
automobiles.
Empower a private company to analyse that data and other publicly available
information like social media to assist tax regulators to improve tax compliance.
Improve asset utilisation over asset hoarding. Incentivise faster conversion from land
to affordable houses by taxing vacant land and unoccupied premises.
Launch a fast track settlement mechanism for disputed taxes to increase revenue
collections. Excess manpower can be deployed from fighting time consuming
litigations to widening of tax base and improved compliance.
Encourage creative destruction by providing incentives to scrap old auto- mobiles
above certain age.
Governments spend on such old vehicles will be far lower than taxes on replacement
demand. The economy will benefit by way of lower pollution, better fuel efficiency
and more jobs in auto sector.

China will not devalue yuan further this term


China will fine tune monetary policy and keep the yuan basically stable while
guarding against systemic financial risks, the countrys central bank said in its fourth-
quarter monetary policy report.
China will also maintain an appropriate level of liquidity and achieve reasonable
growth of money and credit, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) said in the report.
The report comes after China reported economic growth of 6.9 per cent for 2015, its
weakest in 25 years, while depreciation pressure on the yuan adds to the case for the
central bank to take more economic stimulus measures over the near-term.
It also said it would seek to explore mechanisms to enhance management of interest
rates,while increasing the flexibility in both directions of the yuan ex- change rate.
A slew of economic indicators has sent mixed signals to mar- kets at the start of 2016
over the health of Chinas economy.

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160 Current Affairs

Activity in the services sector expanded at its fastest pace in six months in January, a
private survey showed on February 3, while manufacturing activity fell to the lowest
since August 2012.

Despite UN sanctions North Korea launched satellite


Kwangmyongsong-4
North Koreas launch of a long-range rocket was conducted in defiance of UN
sanctions and just weeks after a nuclear bomb test.
The U.S. Strategic Command said it had detected a missile entering space, and South
Koreas military said the rocket had put an object into orbit.
Later in the day, the United Nations Security Council began an emergency meeting
on and diplomats said they expected the 15-nation body to condemn Pyongyang
and redouble efforts to agree on new sanctions.
North Korea said the launch of the satellite Kwangmyongsong-4, named after late
leader Kim Jong- il, was a complete success and it was making a polar orbit of
Earth every 94 minutes.
North Korea had notified UN agencies that it planned to launch a rocket carrying an
Earth observation satellite, triggering opposition from governments that see it as a
long-range missile test. North Koreas launch sparked international anger and plans
for talks on a U.S. missile defence system for the peninsula.
The United Nations labelled the launch deeply deplorable and Japan termed it
absolutely intolerable. Even the isolated states sole major ally China expressed
regret.

China and Russia both against deploying anti-missile


defence shield by US in South Korea
China and Russia have slammed the possible deployment of an American anti-missile
defence shield in South Korea following North Koreas satellite launch.
Chinas said that China is deeply concerned about the decision by the US and the
Republic of Korea to start official negotiations on the deployment of the Terminal
High Altitude Area Defense ( THAAD) system.
The THAAD system comprises advanced U.S. Anti-missile defence batteries.
Analysts say that eachTHAAD missile batterywould cost $1.3 billion andwill be
capable of coveringhalf or two-thirds of SouthKorean airspace.
China said deployment of these weapons would escalate tensions on the Korean
peninsula. In turn, this would undermine regional peace and stability, and set back
efforts to address the current situation.
On the other hand, Washington is of the view that following North Koreas nuclear
test in January, the THAAD system would be required to protect the 27,000 American
troops that have been deployed in South Korea.

United Madhesi Democratic Front ( UMDF) ends five


month old blockade
Days before the visit to India by Nepals Prime Minister, the United Madhesi

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Current Affairs 161
Democratic Front (UMDF) declared an end to the five- month-old blockade which
was started as a protest against the new Constitution of Nepal promulgated.
intense parleys between Indian and Nepali interlocutors have convinced the Madhesi
rebels to stop the blockade which has created a major domestic disturbance in Nepal
and hurt India-Nepal ties.
The Madhesis, however, have threatened to re-launch the blockade in case the key
demand for creating two States for the Madhesi region is not met by the Kathmandu
leadership.
The government of Mr. Oli has promised to implement a series of amendments in
the Nepali Constitution to in- crease Madhesi representation in the government,
politics and society.

Transition process from military to democracy started


in Myanmar
The names ofMyanmars next President and two Vice-Presidents will be revealed on
March 17, setting a clear timeline for the transition of power from a military-con-
trolled government to democracy icon Aung San SuuKyis party.
Positive results could come out on the negotiation for the suspension of the
Constitutions Article 59 (f).The provision which says anyone with a foreign spouse
of children cannot hold the executive office, bars Ms. SuuKyi from becoming President.
Parliament chairman Mann Win KhaingThan announced that the upper house, the
lower House and the military will have to select one candidate each for the three
posts before March 17.
Once the three names are put before the 664-member Parliament, all members will
take a vote.
The person with the largest number of votes will become President, and the other
two will be Vice- Presidents.
The current Presidents term ends March 31 and the successor must take office April
1.

United Nations High commissioner urged Sri-Lanka to


accelerate process of reforms
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ZeidRaad Al Hussein
urged the Sri Lankan military to accelerate the return of land to rightful owners and
reduce its size in the Northern and Eastern provinces.
Mr. Hussein told a press conference at the end of his four-day visit that while some
land has been returned in the Jafna and Trincomalee areas, there are still large tracts
which can and should be swiftly given back.
According to the Sri Lankan government, about 3,000 acres have been returned since
January 2015 and 2,329 families resettled.
The size of the military in the two Provinces could be reduced to a level that is less
intrusive and intimidating, he added.
The government was looking at various options within the limits of its preference.
He acknowledged that the Sri Lankan government had sovereign right to take

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162 Current Affairs

deci- sions on such issues.


At the same time, he also emphasised that international participation could guarantee
an impartial and independent judicial mechanism.
On the present atmosphere of freedom and openness, Mr. Hussein felt the element
of fear has considerably diminished, at least in Colombo and the South. In the North
and the East, it has mutated but, sadly, still exists.

Obama unveiled a new cyber-security national action


plan
President Barack Obama unveiled a new cyber-security national action plan calling
for an overhaul of aging government networks and a high-level commission to boost
security awareness.
The announcement responds to an epidemic of data breaches and cyber attacks on
both government and private networks in recent years, and passage last year of a
cyber-security bill that aims to facilitate better threat sharing.
Mr. Obama asked for $19 billion for cyber-security efforts in his budget request, a 35
per cent increase from current levels, with $3 billion earmarked to help modernise
the patchwork of computer systems used in government agencies.
The moves come after disclosures last year that personal data from some 20 million
federal employees, contractors and others had been leaked in a massive breach at
the office of Personnel Management.
Mr. Obama issued an executive order creating a 12- member cyber-security
commission to make recommendations to both the public and private sectors.

Zika virus reached China


China hasconfirmed its first case of the Zika virus in a man who had recently travelled
to South America, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The virus, which is causing international alarm after spreading through much of the
Americas, was detected in the eastern province of Jiangxi.
Chinese health authorities downplayed the risk of the mosquito-borne virus spreading
because of the winter cold, Xinhua added.
Hong Kongs Port Health office has stepped up inspections at the airport in response
and reinforced training for boundary control inspectors, the statement added.

After US saying only political solution to Syria, Russia


continues military action
For months now the U.S. has insisted there is no military solution to the Syrian civil
war, only a political accord be- tween President Bashar Al- Assad and the fractured,
divided opposition groups that have been trying to topple him.
But after days of intense bombing that could soon put the critical city of Aleppo back
into the hands of Mr. Assads forces, the Russians may be proving the U.S. wrong.
There may be a military solution, one senior U.S. Official conceded, just not our
solution, but that of President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
The Russian military action has changed the shape of a conflict that had efectively

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Current Affairs 163
been stalemated for years.
Suddenly, Mr. Assad and his allies have momentum, and the U.S.-backed rebels are
on the run.
His colleagues in the administration, however, fear that a three-month-long efort to
begin the political process is near collapse.
If it fails, it will force Kerry and President Barack Obama, once again, to consider
their Plan B: a far larger military effort, directed at Mr. Assad.
At the core of the U.S. strategic dilemma is that the Russian military adventure has
been surprisingly effective in helping Mr. Assad reclaim the central cities he needs to
hold power, at least in a rump-state version of Syria.

Ceasefire plan for Syria agreed between U.S. and Russia


Diplomats agreed to work toward a temporary cessation of hostilities in Syrias
civil war within a week, although efforts to secure a lasting ceasefire fell short.\
The deal appeared to be the result of a compromise between the U.S., which had
wanted an immediate ceasefire, and Russia, which had proposed one to start on
March 1.
Although foreign ministers from the International Syria Support Group managed to
seal an agreement to accelerate and expand deliveries of humanitarian aid to
besieged Syrian communities beginning this week, their failure to agree on a ceasefire
leaves the most critical step to resuming peace talks unresolved.
It was not clear from their comments afterward if deep differences regarding the
truce and which groups would be eligible for it could be overcome.

Meet between Roman Catholic pope and Patriarch of


the Russian Orthodox Church
The Roman Catholic Pope and the patriarch of Russian Orthodox Church are meeting
for the first time in a bid to heal the 1000 year old rift between the western and the
eastern branch of Christianity.
The meet between the two religious leaders has been on the cards for some time.
Roman Catholic Church has 1.2 billion members worldwide and Russian Orthodox
Church has around 250 million members.

Pope Francis first pontiff to meet Russian Orthodox


Church
Pope Francis became the first pontiff to ever meet a patriarch of the Russian Orthodox
Church, as the two Christian leaders set aside centuries of division in a historic
encounter.
The meeting was richly symbolic: Pope Francis, lead- er of the worlds 1.2 billion Ro-
man Catholics, stood with Patriarch Kirill, leader of the largest church in the Eastern
Orthodox world, with an estimated 150 million followers.
But it was also about geopolitics, rivalries among Orthodox leaders and, analysts
say, the manoeuvrings of President Vladimir Putin of Russia who is closely aligned
with the conservative Russian church.

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164 Current Affairs

For Pope Francis, the meeting was an ecumenical and diplomatic coup that eluded
his predecessors but that also opened him to criticism that his embrace of the Russian
patriarch would indirectly give a boost to Mr. Putin as hewages a war in Syria and
continues to meddle in Ukraine.

Violence in eastern Ukraine may start new Cold War


Violence in eastern Ukraine is intensifying and Russian-backed rebels have moved
heavy weaponry back to the front line, international monitors warned as Moscow
responded by accusing Kiev of violating a peace deal.
In the latest sign that peace efforts have made scant progress almost two years since
Moscow annexed Crimea, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev described East-
West relations as having fall- en into a new Cold War and said NATO was hostile
and closed towards Russia.
Implementation of a deal agreed in Minsk a year ago, which would allow for the
lifting of sanctions on Russia, and a lull in violence late last year raised hopes that
the conflict that has killed more than 9,000 people could be resolved quickly.

Syrian rebel targets will continue to be bombed by


Russia
The Turkish army shelled Kurdish militia in northern Syria for a second day on
Sunday, while Russia made clear it would continue bombing Syrian rebel targets,
raising doubts that a planned ceasefire would bring much relief.
Major powers agreed on to a limited cessation of hostilities in Syria but the deal does
not take effect until the end of this week and was not signed by any warring parties
the Damascus government and numerous rebel factions fighting it.
Russian bombing raids directed at rebel groups are meanwhile helping the Syrian
army to achieve what could be its biggest victory of the war in the battle for Aleppo,
the countrys largest city and commercial hub before the conflict.
The situation has been complicated by the involvement of Kurdish-backed combatants
in the area north of Aleppo near the Turkish border, which has drawn a swift military
response from artillery in Turkey.

More reforms needed to make dream of Make in India


a reality
Thousands of people and mascots of lions swarmed the weekend opening of a Make
in India drive to attract foreign direct investment, pitched by Prime Minister
NarendraModi as the biggest brand that India has ever created.
But even as the Make in India hype scales new heights, some bosses question Mr.
Modis delivery on promises to make it easier to do business, while marketing experts
caution against creating unrealistic expectations.
More pressingly, key legislation such as a goods and services tax and land acquisition
bill are stuck in parliament, just as global competitors such as Vietnam step up their
own reform efforts.
Make In India has scored major wins, including a pledge by Tai- wansFoxconn to
invest $5 billion in a new electronics manufacturing facility.

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Current Affairs 165
That has helped foreign direct investment to nearly double to $59 billion last year,
the seventh most in the world, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade
and Development.
Yet in critical aspects, India remains far behind its goals. The proportion of
manufacturing to gross domestic product has been stuck at around 17 per cent for
five years, below the governments goal to ramp it up to 25 per cent.
India has only created 4 million manufacturing jobs since 2010, according to Boston
Consulting. At the current rate, India may only create 8 million jobs by 2022, well
below the governments goal of 100 million.

Lot of things are associated to High speed trains


High Speed Rail means different things in different contexts.One widely accepted
definition applies to new lines running at 250 kmph and above, and existing lines
that are able to run at 200 kmph and above.
High speed rail programs have been successful in Japan, China and several European
countries such as France, Germany and Spain.
The benefits include reduced journey times that impact individuals and business,
connectivity benefits to populations and markets, increased passenger comfort, mode
shifts from more polluting air and road transport and consequently, lower road
congestion.
High speed rail can create agglomeration benefits i.e., benefits that accrue from the
clustering together of firms and labour markets, and regeneration benefits for an
area.
The actual construction also provides an opportunity for employment and the
potential for technology transfer.
The high speed lunch, like all other lunches, is not free. Environmental degradation
along the route, dislocation of people, noise pollution, as well as regionally imbalanced
development are potential pitfalls that need to be carefully negotiated.
How the high speed line interacts with existing transport choices is also crucial for
the strength of the overall case.
India has been toying with the idea of high speed trains for fifteen years. The High
Speed Rail Corporation (HSRC) of India was set up by the government in 2012 to de-
sign and implement the countrys high speed projects.
Through this, feasibility studies for various segments of the Diamond Quadrilateral,
a proposed high speed network spanning the country, connecting Delhi, Mumbai,
Chennai and Kolkata, were initiated.
Simultaneously, the government has pushed ahead with plans to develop a Rs.980
billion, 505 km segment be- tween Ahmedabad and Mumbai on which it will run
bullet trains, as high speed trains are often called.
Higher speeds imply higher costs which may then necessitate higher ticket prices.
Tickets will cost approximately Rs.2,800 and the journey will take approximately
two hours.
This bullet train has brought into focus the parameters associated with high speed
rail that need careful consideration.
The United Nations Environment Pro- gram (UNEP) and the Technical University

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166 Current Affairs

of Denmark (DTU) published a study on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai train line last


year.
The report points out that the region in question is highly active economically.
It is also a high density corridor (18 million passengers in 2010); connecting dense
urban areas has been a key success factor for high speed rail in China and Europe.
Travel demand between 2010 and 2050 is expected to increase four-and- a-half times
to 58.2 billion passenger kilometers according to the study.
In the HSR scenario, high speed trains cater to one-fifth of the total travel demand in
2050, and the growth rate of air travel slows, because of competition from high speed
trains.
The HSR solution is also cleaner; CO2 emissions in 2050 are also lower by 0.2 MT
and further emission drops are possible with decarbonisation of electricity, accord-
ing to the UNEP.
In general, per passenger km, high speed rail has lower greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions than road or air transport. It also supports lower emissions over the longer
term as road and air passengers shift to trains.
Increasing the operating speed of existing lines would be one possible way forward
for transforming Indias rail systems.
High speed lines require huge investments and cause long term demographic and
economic impacts.
Their success depends on getting a comprehensive, context-specific optimal solution;
at the very least this means getting speed, pricing, and distance right.

Indian Ocean is core to Maritime Silk Road project


A military base in Djibouti along with major port development projects in Myanmar
and Sri Lanka are defining the contours of Chinas Maritime Silk Roadan oceanic
connectivity project, of which, the Indian Ocean is the core.
Reuters is quoting Ismail Omar Guelleh, Djiboutis President, as saying that Chi- na
will soon commence work on the naval base.
The Horn of Africa nation is strategically located on the junction of the Indian Ocean
and he Red Seaa gateway to the Suez Canal via the Strait of BabAl-Mandab.
Djibouti would become an ideal location for securing sea lanes, in the vicinity, which
radiate from this area towards Africas Indian Ocean coastline and the Arabian Sea.
China has also quietly signed a deal to develop an Industrial Park and a deep water
port in Kyaukphyu in Myanmar.
The facility in the Bay of Bengal amplifies Beijings pitch to deepen its stakes in
Myanmar in order to lower its dependence on the Straits of Malaccaa strategic
commercial channel, dominated by the U.S. sixth fleet.
Xinhua has reported that a consortium led by the China International Trust and In-
vestment Corporation (CITIC), a construction company, has won the bid towards
the end of last year to develop the two projects.
The deep sea enterprise includes development of 10 berths at the Maday Island
Terminal and the Yanbye Island Terminal.
It will be completed in four phases spanning a period of 20 years.

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Current Affairs 167
Maday Island has already emerged as a major pillar of Chinas energy security. Last
year, a pipeline from the island transited oil sourced mainly from West Asia and
Africa to Chinas Yunnan province, thus avoiding the Malacca trap.

Nepal PM on maiden visit to India


Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli said his maiden visit to India this week is
aimed at bringing bilateral ties back on track by clearing misunderstandings even
as he defended the new Constitution, opposed by Madhesis, as inclusive and
democratic.
Mr. Olis much-anticipated visit to India at the invitation of Prime Minister
NarendraModi comes days after agitating Madhesis, largely of Indian-origin, ended
their crippling protests and blockade that had soured the bilateral ties.
The year 2015 remained a landmark in our history as we were able to promulgate
the new Constitution despite the hardship facing the people due to the five-month-
long blockade in the countrys southern border, even after suffering from the
devastating earthquake that hit the country 10 months ago.
The new Constitution promulgated on September 20, 2015 was inclusive and
democratic as it has all the features of a democratic Constitution including guarantee
of human rights, independent judiciary, social justice and equality.

First train arrived from China to Tehran


The first train from Chinas trading hub of Yiwu has arrived in Tehran, signalling
Irans firm integration in the Beijing led- Belt and Road connectivity initiative along
the New Silk Road.
The train ferrying 32 containers completed its 14-day journey, covering over 10,399
km, after passing through the arid landscape of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in
Central Asia.
Iran is currently in desperate need of investment for infrastructure construction.
However, as oil prices are low now, Irans revenue in this sector has seen sharp de-
crease.
At the same time, China is promoting the belt and road initiative. Iran is expected to
become one of the major participants of that initiative.

Obama govt wants congress approval for F-16 under


Foreign military financing scheme
After notifying Congress of its intention to sell eight F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan,
the Obama administration has quickly moved for Congressional approval for
financing the deal under the countrys Foreign Military Financing (FMF) scheme.
U.S. administration proposes to pay the bulk of the $699 mil- lion cost of the deal
while Pakistan is required to pay $200 million.
The administrations request to Congress is for the first tranche of money, though the
exact amount sought was not immediately known.
While the notification itself does not need a positive approval from Congress,
spending by the administration requires legislative approval, which is not going to
come easily.

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168 Current Affairs

China deployed surface to air missile in disputed woody


Island
China has deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system to one of the disputed
islands it controls in the South China Sea, ratcheting up tensions even as U.S. President
Barack Obama urged restraint in the region.
The missile batteries had been set up on Woody Island. The island is part of the
Paracels chain, under Chinese control for more than 40 year but also claimed by
Taiwan and Vietnam.
Images from civilian satellite companyImageSat International show two batteriesof
eight surface-to-airmissile launchers as well as a radar system.]
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in
global trade passes every year, and has been building runways and other
infrastructure on artificial islands to bolster its claims.
Taiwan President-elect Tsai Ing- wen said tensions were now higher in the region.

World Health Organization needs $ 56 million to combat


Zika virus
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that $56 million were needed to combat
the Zika virus until June, including for the fast-tracking of vaccines, diagnostics and
research studies into how it spreads.
The funds, including $25 million for the WHO and its regional office, would also be
used to control the mosquito- borne virus that has spread to 39 countries, including
34 in the Americas.
The WHO expects the funds to come from member states and other donors and said
that in the meantime it has tapped a new emergency contingency fund for $2 mil-
lion to finance its initial operations.

U.S. President will visit Cuba


U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Cuba on March 21-22 and meet with Cuban
President Raul Castro, in the first U.S. presidential trip to the country in nearly 90
years as relations between the for- mer adversaries thaw.
During the trip, Mr. Obama will have the opportunity to meet with Mr. Castro, Ben
Rhodes. Mr. Rhodes noted the ultimate aim is to persuade Con- gress to lift the trade
embargo, Havanas biggest request of the U.S.
Although short-term prospects have seemed un- likely, a Republican congress- man
just back from leading a delegation of lawmakers to Cuba said he believed legislation
ending the embargo could pass Congress by the end of the year
Word of his travel plans drew immediate resistance from opponents of warmer ties
with Cuba including Re- publican presidential candi- dates.

Membership talks between U.K. And E.U. To continue


some more time
A European Union (EU) summit to negotiate new membership terms for Britain was
forced into extra time as Prime Minister David Cameron struggled for a deal he

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Current Affairs 169
could sell to sceptical British voters in a referendum.
A plenary session to review progress was postponed several times and then the 28
leaders were asked to book hotel rooms for an extra night in Brussels.
Mr. Cameron cancelled plans to fly home andchair a Cabinet meeting due to have
approved a deal and set in motion procedures to call a plebiscite expected on June
23.
EU officials said the main outstanding problems involved Britains demands to curtail
welfare benefits for migrant workers from other EU countries, although other snags
remained.

Britains exit from European Union will have far-fetched


repercussions
A British exit from the European Union would rock the Union already shaken by
differences over migration and the future of the euro zone by ripping away its
second-largest economy, one of its top two military powers and by far its richest
financial centre.
Pro-Europeans warn an exit could also trigger the break-up of the United King- dom
by prompting another Scottish independence vote.
The $2.9-trillion British economy would face years of uncertain negotiations over
the terms of a divorce.
Prime Minister David Cameron is due to make a statement to Parliament on Monday,
triggering the start of the campaign for the referendum on EU membership he called
after striking a deal with the Union.
Opponents of EU membership say Britain would pros- per outside what they say is
a doomed Germany-dominated bloc that punches way below its weight on the world
stage.
The issue of Europe has divided the Conservatives for three decades and played a
major part in the downfall of Camerons two Conservative predecessors, Margaret
Thatcher and John Major.

Provisional deal on Syria ceasefire reached


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said that a provisional agreement
has been reached on a cease-fire that could begin in the next few days in Syrias five-
year civil war.
Mr. Kerry declined to go into the details of the agreement, saying it is not yet done.
But he said he hoped President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin
would talk soon and that after that, implementation could begin.
Fighting has intensified in Syria during recent weeks and an earlier deadline to cease
military activities was not observed.
The United States, Russia and other world powers agreed on Feb 12 on a deal calling
for the ceasing of hostilities within a week, the delivery of urgently needed aid to
besieged areas of Syria and a return to peace talks in Geneva.
UN envoy Stafan De Mistura halted the latest Syria talks on February 3, because of
major differences between the two sides, exacerbated by increased aerial bombings
and a wide military offensiveby Syrian troops and their allies under the cover of

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170 Current Affairs

Russian air strikes.


The humanitarian situation has only gotten worse, with an estimated 13.5 million
Syrians in need of aid, including 6 million children.

Shooting came back to haunt U.S.


A man suspected of randomly opening fire in a Michigan town and shooting dead at
least seven people, including a teenager, was arrested.
There were three separate shootings one outside an apartment complex, another
out- side a car dealership, and the third at a chain restaurant.
One of the five people shot at the restaurant was a teenage girl not a child as
initially reported while a father and son were among the dead at the car dealership.
The suspect was armed when he was arrested at a traffic stop, but surrendered
peacefully
The suspect was describedas a white male in his late 50s, who drove a blue station
wagon.

Islamic States is deepening its reach in Africa


The Islamic States branch in Libya is deepening its reach across a wide area of Africa,
attracting new recruits from countries like Senegal that had been largely immune to
the jihadist propaganda and forcing the African authorities and their Western
allies to increase efforts to combat the fast-moving threat.
The U.S. air strikes in northwestern Libya, which demolished an Islamic State training
camp and were aimed at a top Tunisian operative, underscore the problem.
The more than three dozen suspected IS fighters killed in the bombing were recruited
from Tunisia and other African countries, and were believed to be re- hearsing an
attack against Western targets.
Even as U.S. intelligence agencies say the number of IS fighters in Iraq and Syria has
dropped to about 25,000 from a high of about 31,500, partly because of the U.S.-led
air campaign there, the groups ranks in Libya have roughly doubled in the same
period, to about 6,500 fighters.
More than a dozen U.S. and allied officials spoke of their growing concern about the
militant organisations expanding reach from Libya and across Africa on rules of
anonymity because the discussions involved intelligence and military planning.
IS leaders in Syria are telling recruits travelling north from West African nations
such as Senegal and Chad, aswell as others streaming up through Sudan in eastern
Africa, not to press on to West Asia.
The IS in Libya is now the most dangerous of the groups eight affiliates, counter-
terrorism officials say.
About half a dozen senior IS lieutenants have arrived from Syria in re- cent months
to build up the franchise.
New U.S. and allied intelligence assessments say IS commanders in Libya are seizing
territory there, starting to tax its residents and setting up quasi-government
institutions.

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Current Affairs 171

Jamaat men held for killing Hindu priest


Bangladesh Police have detained three people in connection with the attack on a
temple in north Bangladesh where a Hindu priest was killed and a devotee shot at.
Two of the detainees are said to be members of the banned JamaatulMujahideen
Bangladesh (JMB) and the other a Jamaat-e-Islami activist.
The unidentified attackers slit the throat of the 50-yearold JogeswarDasadhikari,
who headed the Santo Gaurio temple, after hacking him with sharp weapons.
The attackers, who arrived on a motorcycle, also shot and injured Gopal Chandra,
the devotee who witnessed the murder.
Meanwhile, the SITE Intelligence Group, the U.S.- based terror monitoring group,
said the Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the temple attack.

The campaign to decide Britains future in began in U.K.


The campaign on Brexit has begun in the U.K., with Prime Minister David Cameron
receiving early backing for his call for the country to remain in the European Union
from opposite ends of British society.
Even as the pound, which had taken a plunge in response to the Brexit uncertainty,
slowly recovered ground, nearly 200 business leaders employing over 1.2 million
people, and U.K.s Trade Union Congress representing six million workers came out
in support of the Stay campaign.
Leave campaigners allege that the business bosses some of them Conservative Party
funders who have signed up to the letter com- prise just a third of the FTSE 100
companies.
Initiated by the Britain Stronger in Europecampaign and the Prime Ministers office,
it includes heads of business houses like Marks and Spencer, British Telecom,
Vodafone, and ASDA, although equally big businesses have not signed.
The political divide over Brexit could not have been more evident in the House of
Commons on Monday, when David Cameron presented hiscase for staying in a
reformed Europe.
It was an un- usual Commons debate not least because the two opposing groups did
not face each other as occupants of Treasury and Opposition benches usually do.

Syrias regime agreed to cease-fire deal


Syrias regime agreed to a ceasefire deal announced by the United States and Russia,
but there were widespread doubts it could take effect by the weekend as hoped.
The agreement, announced, does not apply to jihadists such as the Islamic State group
and the alNusra Front, putting up major hurdles to how it can be implemented on
Syrias complex battlefield.
The deal calls for a cessation of hostilities between forces loyal to PresidentBashar
al-Assad and opposition groups that would take effect overnight Friday-Saturday in
Damascus.
The High Negotiations Committee the leading Syrian opposition group gave
its conditional acceptance to the deal. But after several previous failed attempts, few
had serious expectations for a lasting ceasefire.

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Third straight caucuses win for Trump


Republican presidential aspirant Donald Trump had said a few weeks ago he would
not lose a single vote even if he shot someone dead in full public view.
He is in fact getting more of them as he won a massive victory in the Nevada caucuses,
leading his nearest rival Senator Marco Rubio by at least 22 points.
With three consecutive victories under his belt, Mr. Trump heads into Super Tuesday
on March 1 when 11 States will have their primaries or caucuses.
Going by the outcomes in four states that have voted, Mr. Trumps support is now is
geographically and demographically spread across the U.S.
As Mr. Trump continues with his triumphalism, his main rivals Mr. Rubio and Senator
Ted Cruz, who finished third for a second time, are hoping that the more than 30 per
cent undecided voters in the Super Tuesday states could be mobilised in their favour.
What gives them both hopes is the fact that still a majority of Republican voters
believe, according to opinion polls, that Mr. Trump cannot be a winning candidates
in the general election.

India approves Chabahar port plan


India approved a $150 million project to develop the strategic Iranian port of Chabahar,
which includes a transit route to Afghanistan bypassing neighbouring Pakistan.
New Delhi signed a multi- million-dollar memorandum of understanding with
Tehran last May to develop the port on its southeastern coast, but the deal had been
stuck since.
The approval came at a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister NarendraModi.
The statement said the project would provide opportunities to Indian companies to
penetrate and enhance its footprint in the region,.
Note also added that Cabinet approves provision of credit of $150 million USD to
Islamic Republic of Iran for Chabahar port development.

Seven Indian companies products component ended up


in explosives of IS
Products from at least seven Indian companies figure in a large supply of components
that have ended up in explosives used by Islamic State terrorists, according to a
study released.
The European Union-fund- ed 20-month-long study by the Conflict Armament Re-
search (CAR) states that the seven Indian companies manufactured most of the
detonators, detonating cord, and safety fuses documented by their field investigation
teams.
However, there was no illegality on the part of the Indian companies, the report
says.
The study established that 51 companies from 20 countries produced or sold more
than 700 components used by IS to build improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Companies from other countries such as Turkey, Brazil and the United States also
appeared on the list.

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Current Affairs 173
Solar Industries, India, produced one spool of detonating cord on 27 February 2014
and exported it to the Turkish company lci, Ankara.
On 31 December 2012, Gulf Oil Corporation, India, had produced a spool and
exported it to the Turkish company NitromakDyno Nobel, Ankara.
Solar Industries, India, produced a further two spools, on 21 and 23 October 2012,
and exported them [on an unspecified date] to the Lebanese company Maybel,
headquartered in Beirut.
However, all those Indian products landed up with the IS through some
intermediaries.

Commonwealth Ministerial action group calls for free


and fair election in Maldives
The Common-wealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), at its extraordinary meeting
in London, called upon the Maldives to show progress in many areas, including
political dialogue, to ensure inclusive, free and fair elections in 2018.
During the meeting, ministers expressed their continuing concern regarding
political space available to the opposition and detention or custody of opponents.
Separation of powers, independence of the judiciaryand, the independence and lawful
functioning of democratic institutions were the other areas over which the ministers
had conveyed their opinion.

First election in Iran after lifting of sanctions


Millions of Iranians voted in high-stake elections that could shift the balance of power
within the hardline-controlled Islamic elite by ushering in a reformist comeback or
help conservatives tighten their grip on power.
The contest is seen by some analysts as a make-or-break moment that could shape
the future for the next generation, in a country where nearly 60 per cent of the 80
million population is under 30.
At stake is control of the 290-seat Parliament and the 88-member Assembly of Ex-
perts, the body that has thepower to appoint and dismiss the supreme leader, Irans
most powerful figure.
Both are currently in the hands of hardliners. During its next eight-year term it could
name the successor to Mr. Khamenei, who is 76 and has been in power since 1989.

New development bank will focus on renewable energy


projects
The New Development Bank (NDB) a multi- lateral lender with a focus on the
Global South of the of the (BRICS) grouping is all set to fund more than a dozen
projects this year that will focus on renewable energy.
Lending, which will commence in April, would fund a project each from the five
member grouping. But NDB president K.V.Kamath added that 10-15 projects are in
the pipeline for the remaining part of the year.
The NDB would include market borrowing to raise capital, but stressed that bonds
in local currency, rather than hard currency, would be favoured.

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The NDBs initial capital has been fixed at $50 billion, and the total paid in capital
would be $10 billion.
On the eve of its operational launch, the NDB has bagged a AAA institutional rating
from domestic credit rating agencies in China, where the China Development Bank
and the Bank of China have been appointed as rating advisers.

After five years calm in Syria


A rare calm prevailed across much of Syria as the first major ceasefire of the five-
year war took hold and an international task force prepared to begin monitoring the
landmark truce.
Guns fell silent at midnight in suburbs around the capital and the bomb-scarred
northern city of Aleppo, after a day of intense Russian air strikes on rebel bastions.
The nationwide cessation of hostilities, brokered by Washington and Moscow, is
seen as a crucial but fragile step towards ending a war that has claimed 270,000 lives
and displaced more than half the population.
It faces formidable challenges, including the exclusion of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist
group and Al-Qaedas Syria affiliate Al-Nusra Front, which control large parts of the
country.
United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura said peace talks would resume on March 7
if the truce holds and more aid is delivered a key sticking point in negotiations.
The complexities of a conflict which escalated from anti-government protests into a
full-blown war drawing in rival world powers make brokering a lasting halt to the
fighting a huge challenge.

Iran indicates for a split verdict


The first results from Irans parliamentary election showed a split of seats among
conservatives, reformists and independent candidates, media reports said, after
turnout of around 60 per cent.
Coming just a month after sanctions were lifted under Irans nuclear deal with world
powers, the outcome of vote is being seen as a de-facto referendum on President
Hassan Rouhani.
Out of 27 constituencies less than 10 per cent of the total eight went to
conservatives, four to reformists and eight to independents, with others set to go to
a second round because no candidate won 25 per cent of the vote.
As well as electing 290 MPs the electorate was voting for a new Assembly of Experts
a powerful 88-member committee that will elect the next supreme leader.

Rouhanis allies won all 30 parliamentary seats


Reformist allies of Hassan Rouhani won all 30 parliamentary seats in Iranian capital.
The List of Hope, a pro- Rouhani coalition of moderates and reformists, was on
course to wipe out its conservative rivals in Tehran with 90 per cent of ballots counted.
The clean sweep was a major fillip for the President, signalling overwhelming public
backing in the capital for his landmark nuclear deal with world powers last year
that ended a 13-year stand-off.
The landslide in Tehran came after mixed results for the Presidents supporters in

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Current Affairs 175
the provinces in the first elections since sanctions were lifted last month under the
nuclear agreement.

Chinas counter to U.S. strategy


In the year gone by, China, the worlds second-largest economy, had answers to
everything thrown at it by the U.S. the known global hegemon.
If the Americans focused on their Asia pivot a doctrinal shift, geared toward the
containment of China through the concentration of forces in the western Pacific
the Chinese did not waste any time in building a credible Pacific-centred nuclear
and conventional deterrents in 2015.
This has included reinforcement of its nuclear second-strike capability by mounting
JL-2 missiles, with a range of 7,350 km, on its JIN class submarines.
Russia was a major partner in building the Chinese military deterrent. Beijing
concluded with Moscow a decisive S-400 air defence deal.
The contract nullifies threats by fighter jets or ballistic missiles by the U.S. or Japan if
batteries of the S-400 missiles are deployed on the mainland or Chinas artificial
islands, built atop coral clusters, in the South China Sea.
After protracted negotiations, the Russians are also supplying Su-35 fighter jets to
China. The acquisition of 24 Su-35 planes would greatly extend Chinas reach over
the South China Sea.
The bonding between China and Russia is being reinforced through an extensive
energy relationship. With smog resulting from coal-fired power plants choking Beijing
and its surrounding industrial belt, China is trying to beat the clock by turning to
clean energy in the form of natural gas, nuclear, and renewable energy.
A similar undertaking is expected shortly though the western Altai route, thus making
Moscow Beijings core energy security partner.
Both China and Russia are working together on undermining the hegemony of the
U.S. dollar. The two have already accelerated trading in the Chinese yuan and the
Russian ruble. The currency swap tool has significantly eased pain inflicted upon
Moscow through sanctions imposed after the crisis in Ukraine.
Trading in local currencies, exemplified by the two partners, is now being reinforced
in an institutional manner by two powerful non-western financial entities The
New Development Bank (NDB) of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa
(BRICS) grouping and the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
A $40-billion Silk Road Fund, the AIIB, the NDB of the BRICS, and Chinas own
state-run policy banks will provide the liquidity so that, instead of depending on
the West, new growth engines are established along the New Silk Road.
China has been conscious that its Belt and Road initiative can more easily fly if it has
the cooperation not only of Russia, which will take care of the western flank, but also
of its eastern, South Asian flank, through a simultaneous engagement of India and
Pakistan as well.

After a good year another hitch in relations between


U.S. and Iran
Irans President Has- san Rouhani has denounced possible new U.S. sanctions on his

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176 Current Affairs

country which could jeopardise a hard-won nuclear deal due to be finally


implemented within weeks.
In the five months since the nuclear deal was struck, Iran has conducted two missile
tests, one of which state media reported at the time, on October 11. Iran also recently
aired television footage of an underground missile base.
The actions angered the United States and a United Nations panel found earlier this
month that the tests breached previous resolutions aimed at stopping the Islamic
republic from developing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
But the threat of new sanctions the nuclear deal is due to lift past measures that froze
Iran out of the global financial system and crippled its oil exports brought al- ready
worsening relations to a head.

Saudi Arabia killed 47 people for anti-government


protest
Saudi Arabia executed 47 people on Saturday, including a prominent Shia cleric
behind anti-government protests and Sunnis convicted of involvement in deadly al-
Qaeda attacks.
The 56-year-old cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, was a driving force of the protests that broke
out in 2011 in the Sunni-ruled kingdoms east, where the Shia minority complains of
marginalisation.
But the list does not include Nimrs nephew, Ali al-Nimr, whose arrest at the age of
17 and alleged torture during detention sparked condemnation from human rights
groups and the U.S.
i executions are usually carried out by beheading with a sword. Executions have
soared in the country since King Salman acceded the throne in January 2015, after
the death of king Abdullah.
Last year, Saudi Arabia executed 153 people convicted of various crimes, including
drug- trafficking, after 87 were put to death in 2014.

Crisis between Shia and Sunni deepened in west Asia


Irans Foreign Ministry accused Saudi Arabia of stoking regional tension after the
kingdom broke of diplomatic relations and said Iranian embassy staff must leave.
By severing diplomatic relations, Saudi Arabia is continuing the policy of increasing
tension and clashes in the region.
Saudi Arabia announced its measures after its embassy in Tehran was firebombed
and its interior destroyed by a mob who attacked the building in protest at the
kingdoms execution of a Shia cleric.

Difference between Shia and Sunni


A schism emerged after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. He died without
appointing a successor to lead the Muslim community, and disputes arose over who
should shepherd the new and rapidly growing faith.
Some believed that a new leader should be chosen by consensus; others thought that
only the prophets descendants should become caliph.
The title passed to a trusted aide, Abu Bakr, though some thought it should have

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Current Affairs 177
gone to Ali, the Prophets cousin and son-in-law. Ali eventually did become caliph
after Abu Bakrs two successors were assassinated.
After Ali also was assassinated, with a poison-laced sword at the mosque in Kufa, in
what is now Iraq, his sons Hasan and then Hussein claimed the title. But Hussein
and many of his relatives were massacred in Karbala, Iraq, in 680.
His martyrdom became a central tenet to those who believed that Ali should have
succeeded the Prophet. (It is mourned every year during the month of Muharram).
The followers became known as Shias, a contraction of the phrase Shiat Ali, or
followers of Ali.
The Sunnis, however, regard the first three caliphs before Ali as rightly guided and
themselves as the true adherents to the Sunnah, or the Prophets tradition. Sunni
rulers embarked on sweeping conquests that extended the caliphate into North Africa
and Europe.
The last caliphate ended with the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War-I.
The Sunni and Shia sects encompass a wide spectrum of doctrine, opinion and schools
of thought.
The branches are in agreement on many aspects ofIslam, but there are considerable
disagreements within each. Both branches include worshippers who run the gamut
from secular to fundamentalist.
Shias consider Ali and the leaders who came after him as Imams. Most believe in a
line of 12 Imams, the last of whom, a boy, is believed to have vanished in the ninth
century in Iraq after his father was murdered.
Shias known as Twelvers anticipate his return as the Mahdi, or Messiah. Sunnis
emphasise Gods power in the material world, sometimes including the public and
political realm, while Shias value martyrdom and sacrifice.

U.S. Walking a tight rope in West Asia


As the spiralling tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran threaten to unbalance U.S.s
tightrope walk in the strife-torn West Asian region, Washington has launched a
massive diplomatic outreach to both countries, but would stop short of trying to
mediate.
We want to see these kinds of tensions solved bilaterally, said John Kirby, State
Department spokesperson.
Secretary of State John Kerry and several other officials are in touch with Iranian and
Saudi functionaries to defuse the situation, but Washington would avoid too close
an involvement as it could complicate the matter.
Saudi Arabias Sunni monarchy and Irans Shia theocracy are bitter adversaries in
the region, but are also part of a multilateral process led by the U.S and Russia to
stabilise Syria.
The Saudi action that precipitated a crisis in the region happened despite the U.S
repeatedly cautioning them against the clerics execution.
The current flare-up has its origin in the Saudi monarchys deep resentment against
the U.S-led nuclear deal with Iran that has begun to come into effect with Iran shipping
its specified nuclear material to Russia last week.
Saudis accuse the U.S. of giving legitimacy to Iran before roping them into the Syrian

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178 Current Affairs

process.
The Saudi reservations were mis- placed as Iran continues to be in the U.S. list of
state sponsors of terrorism.

Islamic State (IS) building a research centre


Islamic State (IS) has built a research centre devoted to launching attacks in the West,
using driverless cars and rehabilitated anti-aircraft missiles, new footage from inside
the terror group reveals.
Among the new revelations, which IS did not intend, are efforts to make defunct
surface-to-air missiles operational again by replacing thermal batteries a feat that
has so far been beyond the capabilities of other terror groups.
The footage does not establish that such a goal has been achieved, but it does show
the technological ambitions of a group that has carved out its influence through
more familiar forms of terror, such as car bombs and suicide belts.
Among the eight hours of video, which was seized by the Free Syrian Army and
passed on to Sky News, is a segment showing IS members trying to manoeuvre a
driverless car.
They are also shown busily strapping tape and padding to a mannequin, in the hope
it will give of the same heat signature as a human when it passes by imaging scanners,
which are often used near sensitive buildings.

U.S. and China come close over North Korea


The U.S. said it considered the latest nuclear explosion carried out by North Korea a
matter of national security, and declared that it would stand steadfast in its alliance
commitment to South Korea.
North Korea has repeatedly threatened the U.S. and has described the latest nu-
clear test a response to U.S. aggression.
Mr. Kim, unlike his late father, is not particularly sensitive to Chinese concerns.
However, though its influence over the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is
diminishing, China remains a crucial player which can calm the situation.
The U.S. is also exploring new sanctions and considering strengthening the existing
sanctions against.
The U.S. also said it was open to talking to North Korea in the Six Party format.
The talks, started in 2003 but aborted in 2009, involved China, Japan, South Korea,
North Korea, Russia, and the U.S. Washington wants the talks to restart but with a
predetermined objective of dismantling the nuclear apparatus of North Korea and
also hopes China will take the initiative.
North Korea has been unwilling to accept that. U.S. has ruled out any review of the
U.S. position on this.

Srilanka will start consultation for domestic mechanism


The Sri Lankan government will next week begin consultations on the design of
domestic mechanism that will look into the allegations of human rights violations.
Foreign minister said a special session of Parliament on Saturday would form a
constitutional council, a committee consisting of the entire House, that would begin

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Current Affairs 179
the serious business of consulting people and drafting a new Constitution for Sri
Lanka which will reflect the aspirations of all Lankans.
United Nations Development Programmes Director for Sri Lanka, Joern Soerensen,
and Norwegian Ambassador signed an agreement for the benefit of the recently-
resettled communities in jaffna in Northern Province.
The Norwegian government would support the UNDP in improving access to justice
and providing livelihood opportunities of the communities.
The Sri Lankan Cabinet gave its approval for returning 984 acres of private land in
Jaffna to its original owners. This is expected to benefit about 2,000 displaced families.

Tamil issue still remains a key to politics in SriLanka


Both Mr. Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have, on a number of
occasions in the recent months, spoken of the need for finding a meaningful an-
swer to the question.
Minorities, both Tamils and Muslims, are keen that the government makes substantial
progress during the course of 2016.
Pointing out that enough work has been done on the Tamil question in the last 25
years, R. Sampanthan, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) chief and Leader of Opposition
in Parliament, says I do not want the prob- lem to be dragged end- lessly. I expect
SIRISENAS there must be FIRST YEAR a fair and reasonable Focus on resolution by
September.
In fact, devolution is linked to the larger issue concerning Tamils. Despite the
stipulation in the 13th Amendment, the non-transfer of powers on land and police to
the Provinces has been bothering Tamil groups and parties.
Last month, in a talk, Mr Wickremesinghe too identified devolution as the first issue
to be tackled as part of the Constitution-making process.
While indicating his preference to retain the unitary character of the existing
Constitution, he said the impending task was to identify the additional powers to
be devolved to the Provincial Councils.
As part of the implementation of a resolution of the United Nations Human Rights
Council inOctober last year on reconciliation and accountability, the government
would have to put in place mechanisms to, as Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera
put it the other day, deal with the past.
Judicial and administrative mechanisms are being thought of and the government
has plannedof initiate discussions shortly.

Emotional Obama pitches for gun regulation


The epidemic of gun violence in our country is a crisis. Gun deaths and injuries
constitute one of the greatest threats to public health and to the safety of the American
people.
Every year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns. Suicides,
Domestic violence, Gang shootouts, Accidents.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their
own children.
Were the only advanced nation on earth that sees this kind of mass violence with

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180 Current Affairs

this frequency.
A national crisis like this demands a national response. Reducing gun violence will
be hard.
Its clear that common-sense gun reform wont happen during this Congress. It wont
happen during my presidency.
Still, there are steps we can take now to save lives. And all of us at every level of
government, in the private sector and as citizens have to do our part. We all have
a responsibility.
New steps include making sure that anybody engaged in the business of selling fire-
arms conducts backgroundchecks, expanding access to mental health treatment and
improving gun safety technology.
These actions wont prevent every act of violence, or save every life but if even
one life is spared, they will be well worth the effort.

British website released accounts of Netaji plane crash


A British website, set up to catalogue the last days of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose,
has released what it claims are eyewitness ac- counts of the day he was reportedly
killed in a plane crash in Taiwan on August 18, 1945.
The latest set of documents quote several people who were reportedly involved in
the matter related to the accident as well as two British intelligence reports that
revisited the crash site to establish the facts.
The website, www.bose-files.info, also sheds light on what may have been the freedom
fighters dying words, which reflected his devotion to the cause of Indias freedom.
The documents say that early in the morning on Au- gust 18, 1945, a Japanese Air
Force bomber took of from Tourane in Vietnam with Bose and 12 or 13 other
passengers and crew. The planned flight path was Heito-Taipei-Dairen-Tokyo.

Afghan peace talks


Delegates from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States held talks to
resurrect a stalled Afghan peace process and end nearly 15 years of bloodshed, even
as fighting with Taliban insurgents intensifies.
Senior officials from the four countries are meeting in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad,
to launch a process they hope will lead to negotiations with Taliban insurgents, who
are fighting to reimpose their strict brand of Islamist rule and are not expected at
talks.
Renewed peace efforts come amid spiraling violence in Afghanistan, with last year
one of the bloodiest on record following the withdrawal of most foreign troops at the
end of 2014.
Peace efforts last year stalled after the Taliban announced that their founder,Mullah
Mohammad Omar,had been dead for two years,throwing the militant group into
disarray as rival factions fought for supremacy.
The Taliban, who were ousted in 2001, remain split on whether to take part in talks.
Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour's faction has shown signs of warming to the
idea of eventually joining peace talks, and other groups are considering
negotiating,senior members of the movement

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Current Affairs 181

China revamping its nuclear and conventional missile


forces
The superiority of arch-rival United States in the air and sea may have driven China
to revamp its nuclear and conventional missile forces and bring about sweeping
changes to its military command and control architecture.
A write-up in China Military Online, the website of thePeoples Liberation
Army(PLA), quoting an in-house military expert, points out that the Second
ArtilleryForce (SAF) the institution that had exercised operation-al control over
the countrys nuclear forces had been upgraded as the PLA RocketForce (PRF).
The PRF has now been up-graded into a full-fledged new service on a par with the
Army, Air Force and the Navy.Mr. Song explained that un-like its predecessor, the
SAF,which was an independent arm in Chinas military system, the emergence of a
full-fledged service would imply having several arms and special troops apart
from havingacademies, research institutes and logistic support system
The new service, as it evolves, is expected to deploy its nuclear assets on land, sea
and air. Mr. Song pointed out that after incorporating theNavys strategic nuclear
sub-marine and the Air Forces strategic bomber, the PRF would become the first
independent service with land,sea and air nuclear forces in the world, more integrated
than the nuclear forces in theU.S., Russia, Britain andFrance.
the U.S. and the former Soviet Union had signed an agreement in 1987to cut their
ground-to-ground missiles, with ranges from 500to 5,500 km. As a result, Americas
Pershing II and land-based Tomahawk, and the for-mer Soviet Unions SS-4,SS-12,
SS-20 and SS-23 missiles were all destroyed. TheRussian army has only two types of
short-range tactical missiles.

Golden Globe Awards


The Revenant, a biographical Western film set in 1823 Montana and South Dakota,
bagged three awards best drama film, best actor in a drama for Leonardo Di
Caprio and best director forAlejandro G. Inarritu
In the TV realm, Amazon Studios Mozart in the Jungle won under the category of
best comedy series and best actor in a comedy series for GaelGarcia Bernal. The
series is inspired by the Mozartin the Jungle: Sex, Drugs,and Classical Musicoboist
Blair Tindalls 2005memoir.
The best motion picture comedy or musical award went to The Mar-tian, leaving
behind films like The Big Short, Joy,Spyand Trainwreck.
The award for the best actress in a motion picturedrama was won by BrieLarson
for Room
Actors Jennifer Lawrence and Matt Damon took home the awards for best actress
and best actor in a motion picture comedy for Joy and The Martian.
Actress-singer LadyGaga won her first nomination and victory as best actress in a
limited series or motion picture for her role as the countess inAmerican Horror
Story:Hotel. Sylvester Stallone won the best supporting actor in a motion picture for
Creed; Leonardo Di Caprio bagged the best actor in a drama award for The
Revenant; Kate Winslet fetched the award for best supporting actress in a motion
picture for Steve Jobs.

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U.S. President gave four point agenda for the future


U.S. President Barack Obama has outlined a four-point agenda that he said was
about focusing on the future beyond the next year making the economy work for
everyone, making technology work for everyone, retaining American leadership in
the world without becoming its policeman, and overcoming the current hostility
in U.S. domestic politics.
In his last State of the Union address, Mr. Obama said despite the growth in
manufacturing and employment, the nature of the global
allowed workers less leverage for a raise and encouraged companies to put quarterly
earnings over long-term returns.
Outlining his idea of Americas global leadership in the coming decades, which he
said would be of instability in West Asia, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of
Central America, Africa and Asia, Mr. Obama said: We cant try to take over and
rebuild every country that falls into crisis.
Mr. Obama said, listing the new opening with Cuba, the nuclear deal with Iran, the
Trans Pacific Partnership that would limit China and establish U.S. leadership in
Asia as examples of his internationalism.
Repudiating the anti-immigration, anti-trade and anti-Muslim rhetoric of the
Republican candidates campaign, Mr. Obama wondered: Will we respond to the
changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each
other as a people?
Mr. Obama said for the American leadership to sustain, the country had to fix its
internal politics.

WHO declares end to Ebola


The World Health Organisation declared an end to the deadliest Ebola outbreak
ever after no new cases emerged in Liberia, though health officials warn that it will
be several more months before the world is considered free of the disease that claimed
more than 11,300 lives over two years.
Success comes after a harrowing toll: nearly 23,000 children lost at least one parent
or caregiver.
Some 17,000 survivors are trying to resume their lives though many battle mysterious,
lingering side effects. Studies continue to uncover new information about how long
Ebola can last in bodily fluids.
Liberia, which along with Sierra Leone and Guinea was an epicentre of the latest
outbreak, was first declared free of the disease last May, but new cases emerged two
times forcing officials there to restart the clock.

Tsai Ing-wen elected as president of Taiwan


Taiwans independence-leaning opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen won a convincing
victory in presidential election and pledged to maintain peace with China, which
claims the island as its own, though vowed to firmly defend Taiwans sovereignty.
Ms. Tsai, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will be thrust into one of
Asias toughest and most dangerous jobs, with China pointing hundreds of missiles
at the island, decades after losing Nationalists fled from Mao Zedongs Communists

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Current Affairs 183
to Taiwan in the Chinese civil war.
Support for the DPP has swelled since 2014, when hundreds of students occupied
Taiwans Parliament forweeks protesting against a China trade bill in the largest
display of anti-China sentiment the island had seen in years.
Ms. Tsai will have to balance the superpower interests of China, which is also Taiwans
largest trading partner, and the U.S. with those of her freewheeling, democratic home.

DSC Prize for south Asian literature, 2016 went to


Anuradha Roy
Author Anuradha Roy on Saturday won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature,
2016, for her novel Sleeping on Jupiter, which deals with violence against women.
At the Fairway Galle Literary Festival, about 130 km south of here, Sri Lanka Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe handed Ms. Roy the prize. The award cash prize of
$50,000 and a trophy, according to a release.

U.S. Blizzard take 30 life's


The icy streets of the U.S. capital remained largely deserted on the first work day
after a mammoth blizzard smothered the East Coast, with schools and the federal
government closed as people dug their cars and doorways out from mountains of
snow.
The storm was blamed for at least 30 deaths as it slammed a dozen States from
Friday into early Sunday, many of them people who suffered heart attacks while
shovelling, or killed on icy roads, though several died of carbon monoxide poisoning
trying to keep warm in their cars or homes. More than 56 cm of snow paralysed
Washington, while the 68 cm that fell in New Yorks Central Park was the second-
highest accumulation since records began in 1869.

Maldives Countered charges of change in policy towards


India
The present Maldivian governments China policy does not interfere with or diminish
the countrys special relationship with India, according to the office of President
Abdullah Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
On the observations made by former president Mohamed Nasheed regarding his
country's pro-China tilt, President [Mr. Gayoom] has said: India is our closest
partner in terms of diplomatic and political relations.
Maldives are committed to working together with India to expand the current level
of political and economic cooperation relationship to higher level.
Pointing out that while the President was forging ahead with a highly ambitious
economic agenda that includes developmental and infrastructure undertakings where
China is a partner.
The position of the Maldivian government had been conveyed by Mr. Gayoom in his
discussions with Indian leaders and officials on their visit to the Maldives.
Earlier, the government had expressed its profound disappointment over what it
called the denial of entry to a member of its London High Commission to attend Mr.
Nasheeds London press conference.

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184 Current Affairs

India at 76 number in Transparency International


ranking
India has climbed nine points to rank 76th in this years global corruption index
launched here on Wednesday topped by Denmark, with watchdog Transparency
International calling graft a global blight.
According to Transparency Internationals International Corruption Perceptions Index
2015, India is placed at 76th position along with Thailand, Brazil, Tunisia, Zambia
and Burkina Faso out of 168 countries.
India has improved its past years position of 85 and has a grade index score of 38
out of a possible 100 which indicates the least corrupt, said the re- port topped by
Denmark.
The index was prepared by using data from institutions including the World Bank,
the African Development Bank.
According to Berlin-based Transparency International, 68 per cent of countries
worldwide have a serious corruption problem and half of the G20 are among them.
Not one single country,anywhere in the world, is corruption-free, the report said.
Denmark tops of the index for the second consecutive year as the country perceived
as least corrupt. It scored 91 points, while North Korea and Somalia remained at the
bottom with unchanged scores of 8.
Europe scores high The U.S. rose one spot this year to 16th place with a score of 76,
tying with Austria. The U.K. rose three spots to place 10th, with a score of 81 that tied
it with Germany and Luxembourg.
The other top spots, from second to ninth, were occupied by Finland, Sweden, New
Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore and Canada.
Brazil and Turkey were among nations that tumbled the most. Brazil slid to 76th
place, sharing its position with India, down from 69th last year. Turkey fell two
spots to 66th, continuing its descent from 53rd place in 2013.

Emerging economies gained more influence in IMF


governance architecture
In long-pending reforms that came into effect, emerging economies gained more
influence in the governance architecture of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Indias voting rights increase to 2.6 per cent from the current 2.3 per cent, and Chinas
to six per cent from 3.8. Russia and Brazil are the other two countries that gain from
the reforms.
More than six per cent of the quota shares will shift to emerging and developing
countries from the U.S. and European countries.
The combined quotas or the capital countries contribute doubles to about $659
billion from about $329 billion.
The reforms, which came into effect, were agreed upon by the 188 members of the
IMF in 2010, in the aftermath of the globalfinancial meltdown, and their delayed
implementation has been a major concern for India.
Among the reasons for the delay has been the time it took the U.S Congress to approve
the changes.

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Current Affairs 185
U.S voting share will marginally drop, from 16.7 per cent to 16.5 per cent. TheU.S
Senate had approved the changes in December 2015.

Olympics in danger due to spread of Zika virus


With about 5,00,000 people expected to visit Brazil for the Olympics here this year,
researchers are scrambling to figure how much of a risk the Games might pose in
spreading the Zika virus around the world.
Infectious disease specialists are particularly focused on the potential for Zika to
spread to the United States.
As many as 2,00,000 Americans are expected to travel to Rio de Janeiro for the
Olympics in August.
When they return to the Northern Hemisphere and its summer heat, far more
mosquitoes will be around to potentially transmit the virus in the U.S.
Brazilian researchers say they believe that Zika, which has been linked to severe
birth defects, came to their country during another major sports event the 2014
World Cup when hundreds of thousands of visitorsflowed into Brazil.
Virus trackers here say that the strain raging in Brazil probably came from Polynesia,
where an outbreak was rattling small islands around the Pacific.
As many as 1.5 million people are believed to have contracted the virus in Brazil
since then, and the authorities are now investigating thousands of reported casesof
babies being born recently with brain damage and ab- normally small heads.

Universal health coverage in WHO agenda


The World Health Organization (WHO) announced setting up of a dedicated unit
that will focus on achieving universal health coverage (UHC), which is target 3.8 of
sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The goals within SDGs emphasise the need to achieve UHC by ensuring financial
risk protection and improving access to essential health care services for those
marginalised.
So far, the quality of services has been neglected within the UHC dialogue. We at the
WHO believe that there has been a lack of centre of gravity for quality.
It is with this in mind that a unit is being formed to address UHC & quality.
This special unit will focuson three key aspects: alignment of country engagements
and global framework, health service resilience, and quality and lastly establishing
partnerships to reach these goals.
This year, the prestigious award (in medicine) was conferred upon Professor Morton
Mower from the UnitedStates for invention of the Automatic Implantable Cardio-
verter Defibrillator, a device that helps monitor heart rate and rhythm, and deliver
electrical current when abnormality is detected.

U.S. warship came to disputed South China Sea


A U.S. warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of an island claimed by Beijing in the
South China Seas, in an operation intended to underscore Americas right to access
the disputed waters.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of

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186 Current Affairs

world trade is shipped every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and
Taiwan have rival claims.
Pentagon said the operation was carried out near Triton Island in the Paracel Islands,
to challenge excessive maritime claims of parties that claim the Paracel Islands.
US says that the excessive claims regarding Triton Island are inconsistent with
international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.
This operation was about challenging excessive maritime claims that restrict the rights
and freedoms of the United States and others, not about territorial claims to land
features.

Marshall island brings a suit against India and Pakistan


The tiny Marshall Islands will, in March, seek to persuade the UNs highest court to
take up a lawsuit against India, Pakistan and Britain which they accuse of failing to
halt the nuclear arms race.
The International Court of Justice, founded in 1945 to rule on legal disputes between
nations, announced dates for separate hearings for the three cases between March 7
and 16.
In the cases brought against India and Pakistan, the court will examine whether the
tribunal based in The Hague is competent to hear the lawsuits.
The hearing involving Britain will be devoted to preliminary objections raised by
London.
A decision will be made at a later date as to whether the cases can proceed.
In 2014, the Marshall Islands, a Pacific Ocean territory with 55,000 people, accused
nine countries of not fulfilling their obligations with respect to the cessation of the
nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.
They included China, Britain, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Rus- sia,
and the U.S.

Chinas counter to U.S. strategy


In the year gone by, China, the worlds second-largest economy, had answers to
everything thrown at it by the U.S. the known global hegemon.
If the Americans focused on their Asia pivot a doctrinal shift, geared toward the
containment of China through the concentration of forces in the western Pacific
the Chinese did not waste any time in building a credible Pacific-centred nuclear
and conventional deterrents in 2015.
This has included reinforcement of its nuclear second-strike capability by mounting
JL-2 missiles, with a range of 7,350 km, on its JIN class submarines.
Russia was a major partner in building the Chinese military deterrent. Beijing
concluded with Moscow a decisive S-400 air defence deal.
The contract nullifies threats by fighter jets or ballistic missiles by the U.S. or Japan if
batteries of the S-400 missiles are deployed on the mainland or Chinas artificial
islands, built atop coral clusters, in the South China Sea.
After protracted negotiations, the Russians are also supplying Su-35 fighter jets to
China. The acquisition of 24 Su-35 planes would greatly extend Chinas reach over
the South China Sea.

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Current Affairs 187
The bonding between China and Russia is being reinforced through an extensive
energy relationship. With smog resulting from coal-fired power plants choking Beijing
and its surrounding industrial belt, China is trying to beat the clock by turning to
clean energy in the form of natural gas, nuclear, and renewable energy.
A similar undertaking is expected shortly though the western Altai route, thus making
Moscow Beijings core energy security partner.
Both China and Russia are working together on undermining the hegemony of the
U.S. dollar. The two have already accelerated trading in the Chinese yuan and the
Russian ruble. The currency swap tool has significantly eased pain inflicted upon
Moscow through sanctions imposed after the crisis in Ukraine.
Trading in local currencies, exemplified by the two partners, is now being reinforced
in an institutional manner by two powerful non-western financial entities The
New Development Bank (NDB) of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa
(BRICS) grouping and the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
A $40-billion Silk Road Fund, the AIIB, the NDB of the BRICS, and Chinas own
state-run policy banks will provide the liquidity so that, instead of depending on
the West, new growth engines are established along the New Silk Road.
China has been conscious that its Belt and Road initiative can more easily fly if it has
the cooperation not only of Russia, which will take care of the western flank, but also
of its eastern, South Asian flank, through a simultaneous engagement of India and
Pakistan as well.

After a good year another hitch in relations between


U.S. and Iran
Irans President Has- san Rouhani has denounced possible new U.S. sanctions on his
country which could jeopardise a hard-won nuclear deal due to be finally
implemented within weeks.
In the five months since the nuclear deal was struck, Iran has conducted two missile
tests, one of which state media reported at the time, on October 11. Iran also recently
aired television footage of an underground missile base.
The actions angered the United States and a United Nations panel found earlier this
month that the tests breached previous resolutions aimed at stopping the Islamic
republic from developing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
But the threat of new sanctions the nuclear deal is due to lift past measures that froze
Iran out of the global financial system and crippled its oil exports brought al- ready
worsening relations to a head.

Saudi Arabia killed 47 people for anti-government


protest
Saudi Arabia executed 47 people on Saturday, including a prominent Shia cleric
behind anti-government protests and Sunnis convicted of involvement in deadly al-
Qaeda attacks.
The 56-year-old cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, was a driving force of the protests that broke
out in 2011 in the Sunni-ruled kingdoms east, where the Shia minority complains of
marginalisation.

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188 Current Affairs

But the list does not include Nimrs nephew, Ali al-Nimr, whose arrest at the age of
17 and alleged torture during detention sparked condemnation from human rights
groups and the U.S.
i executions are usually carried out by beheading with a sword. Executions have
soared in the country since King Salman acceded the throne in January 2015, after
the death of king Abdullah.
Last year, Saudi Arabia executed 153 people convicted of various crimes, including
drug- trafficking, after 87 were put to death in 2014.

Crisis between Shia and Sunni deepened in west Asia


Irans Foreign Ministry accused Saudi Arabia of stoking regional tension after the
kingdom broke of diplomatic relations and said Iranian embassy staff must leave.
By severing diplomatic relations, Saudi Arabia is continuing the policy of increasing
tension and clashes in the region.
Saudi Arabia announced its measures after its embassy in Tehran was firebombed
and its interior destroyed by a mob who attacked the building in protest at the
kingdoms execution of a Shia cleric.

Difference between Shia and Sunni


A schism emerged after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. He died without
appointing a successor to lead the Muslim community, and disputes arose over who
should shepherd the new and rapidly growing faith.
Some believed that a new leader should be chosen by consensus; others thought that
only the prophets descendants should become caliph.
The title passed to a trusted aide, Abu Bakr, though some thought it should have
gone to Ali, the Prophets cousin and son-in-law. Ali eventually did become caliph
after Abu Bakrs two successors were assassinated.
After Ali also was assassinated, with a poison-laced sword at the mosque in Kufa, in
what is now Iraq, his sons Hasan and then Hussein claimed the title. But Hussein
and many of his relatives were massacred in Karbala, Iraq, in 680.
His martyrdom became a central tenet to those who believed that Ali should have
succeeded the Prophet. (It is mourned every year during the month of Muharram).
The followers became known as Shias, a contraction of the phrase Shiat Ali, or
followers of Ali.
The Sunnis, however, regard the first three caliphs before Ali as rightly guided and
themselves as the true adherents to the Sunnah, or the Prophets tradition. Sunni
rulers embarked on sweeping conquests that extended the caliphate into North Africa
and Europe.
The last caliphate ended with the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War-I.
The Sunni and Shia sects encompass a wide spectrum of doctrine, opinion and schools
of thought.
The branches are in agreement on many aspects ofIslam, but there are considerable
disagreements within each. Both branches include worshippers who run the gamut
from secular to fundamentalist.
Shias consider Ali and the leaders who came after him as Imams. Most believe in a

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Current Affairs 189
line of 12 Imams, the last of whom, a boy, is believed to have vanished in the ninth
century in Iraq after his father was murdered.
Shias known as Twelvers anticipate his return as the Mahdi, or Messiah. Sunnis
emphasise Gods power in the material world, sometimes including the public and
political realm, while Shias value martyrdom and sacrifice.

U.S. Walking a tight rope in West Asia


As the spiralling tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran threaten to unbalance U.S.s
tightrope walk in the strife-torn West Asian region, Washington has launched a
massive diplomatic outreach to both countries, but would stop short of trying to
mediate.
We want to see these kinds of tensions solved bilaterally, said John Kirby, State
Department spokesperson.
Secretary of State John Kerry and several other officials are in touch with Iranian and
Saudi functionaries to defuse the situation, but Washington would avoid too close
an involvement as it could complicate the matter.
Saudi Arabias Sunni monarchy and Irans Shia theocracy are bitter adversaries in
the region, but are also part of a multilateral process led by the U.S and Russia to
stabilise Syria.
The Saudi action that precipitated a crisis in the region happened despite the U.S
repeatedly cautioning them against the clerics execution.
The current flare-up has its origin in the Saudi monarchys deep resentment against
the U.S-led nuclear deal with Iran that has begun to come into effect with Iran shipping
its specified nuclear material to Russia last week.
Saudis accuse the U.S. of giving legitimacy to Iran before roping them into the Syrian
process.
The Saudi reservations were mis- placed as Iran continues to be in the U.S. list of
state sponsors of terrorism.

Islamic State (IS) building a research centre


Islamic State (IS) has built a research centre devoted to launching attacks in the West,
using driverless cars and rehabilitated anti-aircraft missiles, new footage from inside
the terror group reveals.
Among the new revelations, which IS did not intend, are efforts to make defunct
surface-to-air missiles operational again by replacing thermal batteries a feat that
has so far been beyond the capabilities of other terror groups.
The footage does not establish that such a goal has been achieved, but it does show
the technological ambitions of a group that has carved out its influence through
more familiar forms of terror, such as car bombs and suicide belts.
Among the eight hours of video, which was seized by the Free Syrian Army and
passed on to Sky News, is a segment showing IS members trying to manoeuvre a
driverless car.
They are also shown busily strapping tape and padding to a mannequin, in the hope
it will give of the same heat signature as a human when it passes by imaging scanners,
which are often used near sensitive buildings.

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190 Current Affairs

U.S. and China come close over North Korea


The U.S. said it considered the latest nuclear explosion carried out by North Korea a
matter of national security, and declared that it would stand steadfast in its alliance
commitment to South Korea.
North Korea has repeatedly threatened the U.S. and has described the latest nu-
clear test a response to U.S. aggression.
Mr. Kim, unlike his late father, is not particularly sensitive to Chinese concerns.
However, though its influence over the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is
diminishing, China remains a crucial player which can calm the situation.
The U.S. is also exploring new sanctions and considering strengthening the existing
sanctions against.
The U.S. also said it was open to talking to North Korea in the Six Party format.
The talks, started in 2003 but aborted in 2009, involved China, Japan, South Korea,
North Korea, Russia, and the U.S. Washington wants the talks to restart but with a
predetermined objective of dismantling the nuclear apparatus of North Korea and
also hopes China will take the initiative.
North Korea has been unwilling to accept that. U.S. has ruled out any review of the
U.S. position on this.

Srilanka will start consultation for domestic mechanism


The Sri Lankan government will next week begin consultations on the design of
domestic mechanism that will look into the allegations of human rights violations.
Foreign minister said a special session of Parliament on Saturday would form a
constitutional council, a committee consisting of the entire House, that would begin
the serious business of consulting people and drafting a new Constitution for Sri
Lanka which will reflect the aspirations of all Lankans.
United Nations Development Programmes Director for Sri Lanka, Joern Soerensen,
and Norwegian Ambassador signed an agreement for the benefit of the recently-
resettled communities in jaffna in Northern Province.
The Norwegian government would support the UNDP in improving access to justice
and providing livelihood opportunities of the communities.
The Sri Lankan Cabinet gave its approval for returning 984 acres of private land in
Jaffna to its original owners. This is expected to benefit about 2,000 displaced families.

Tamil issue still remains a key to politics in SriLanka


Both Mr. Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have, on a number of
occasions in the recent months, spoken of the need for finding a meaningful an-
swer to the question.
Minorities, both Tamils and Muslims, are keen that the government makes substantial
progress during the course of 2016.
Pointing out that enough work has been done on the Tamil question in the last 25
years, R. Sampanthan, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) chief and Leader of Opposition
in Parliament, says I do not want the prob- lem to be dragged end- lessly. I expect
SIRISENAS there must be FIRST YEAR a fair and reasonable Focus on resolution by
September.

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Current Affairs 191
In fact, devolution is linked to the larger issue concerning Tamils. Despite the
stipulation in the 13th Amendment, the non-transfer of powers on land and police to
the Provinces has been bothering Tamil groups and parties.
Last month, in a talk, Mr Wickremesinghe too identified devolution as the first issue
to be tackled as part of the Constitution-making process.
While indicating his preference to retain the unitary character of the existing
Constitution, he said the impending task was to identify the additional powers to
be devolved to the Provincial Councils.
As part of the implementation of a resolution of the United Nations Human Rights
Council inOctober last year on reconciliation and accountability, the government
would have to put in place mechanisms to, as Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera
put it the other day, deal with the past.
Judicial and administrative mechanisms are being thought of and the government
has plannedof initiate discussions shortly.

Emotional Obama pitches for gun regulation


The epidemic of gun violence in our country is a crisis. Gun deaths and injuries
constitute one of the greatest threats to public health and to the safety of the American
people.
Every year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns. Suicides,
Domestic violence, Gang shootouts, Accidents.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their
own children.
Were the only advanced nation on earth that sees this kind of mass violence with
this frequency.
A national crisis like this demands a national response. Reducing gun violence will
be hard.
Its clear that common-sense gun reform wont happen during this Congress. It wont
happen during my presidency.
Still, there are steps we can take now to save lives. And all of us at every level of
government, in the private sector and as citizens have to do our part. We all have
a responsibility.
New steps include making sure that anybody engaged in the business of selling fire-
arms conducts backgroundchecks, expanding access to mental health treatment and
improving gun safety technology.
These actions wont prevent every act of violence, or save every life but if even
one life is spared, they will be well worth the effort.

British website released accounts of Netaji plane crash


A British website, set up to catalogue the last days of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose,
has released what it claims are eyewitness ac- counts of the day he was reportedly
killed in a plane crash in Taiwan on August 18, 1945.
The latest set of documents quote several people who were reportedly involved in
the matter related to the accident as well as two British intelligence reports that
revisited the crash site to establish the facts.

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192 Current Affairs

The website, www.bose-files.info, also sheds light on what may have been the freedom
fighters dying words, which reflected his devotion to the cause of Indias freedom.
The documents say that early in the morning on Au- gust 18, 1945, a Japanese Air
Force bomber took of from Tourane in Vietnam with Bose and 12 or 13 other
passengers and crew. The planned flight path was Heito-Taipei-Dairen-Tokyo.

China will become the lynchpin of evolving world


economic structure
New structural linkages between Europe and Asia through three developmental banks
that have emerged outside the post-war Bretton Woods framework are changing the
global geopolitical architecture, with Eurasia at the core.
China is the lynchpin of the evolving world financial architecture. Notwithstanding
the focus on the AIIB a 57-nation lender, in which India and Russia are also major
partners China also quietly became the 67th member of the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
With China on board, the EBRD is rapidly re-defining its role. In 1991, it was formed
to reinforce the unipolar world that had emerged following the Soviet Unions
collapse. Its focal area of interest was Eastern Europe, which was no longer under
Moscows shadow, and had to be rapidly integrated in the western institutional web.
China, which was steering a Eurasian Silk Road connectivity initiative, was now a
major pivot of global economy. Chinas growing economic and political clout had
been accomplished in little over two decades of the Soviet Unions collapse.
Eastern Europe is an example of how the world has changed. Ten years ago, those
countries would have been looking for investors from Western Europe; they are now
widening their portfolio and that includes China.
In recent years because of signs of weakness in the Euro Zone and so on, those
countries in Eastern Europe have been trying to diversify their sources of investment.
They have looked at the Gulf, they have looked at Asia, looked at North America
and China has started investing much more in Eastern Europe.
Analysts point out that the launch of the AIIB is another example of the reinforcement
of economic bonds between Europe and Asia. In fact, the run-up to the formation of
the bank opened cracks within the Atlantic alliance.
Despite U.S. objections, European countries, including Britain, France and Germany,
joined the AIIB. Australia and South Koreatop U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacificalso
decided to participate in the development bank as its founding members.

Syria peace talks may be delayed due to undecided


opposition
The United Nations said it was waiting for regional powers spearheading the Syria
peace process to agree on who will take part in talks starting in just one weeks time
and raised the possibility of a delay.
The peace talks, the first between the Syrian government and the Opposition since
2014, are scheduled to open in Geneva on January 25, but invitations have yet to be
sent to the delegations.
The 17 countries pushing for a peace deal, including the United States, Russia, Saudi

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Current Affairs 193
Arabia and Iran, have been struggling to agree on the list of opposition leaders who
will have a seat at the negotiating table.
Saudi Arabia last month hosted a meeting of armed factions and Oppositiongroups
to agree on a common platform in negotiations with the Damascus regime, but Russia
has said that effort did not include all players.
Moscow wants the moderate Opposition that is closer to President Bashar al-Assad
to take part.

Srilanka ready to come up with new constitution


Even as Sri Lanka is preparing to come up with a new Constitution with devo- lution
as one of the key issues,the 13 th Amendment, which created provincial councils in
the country, is again in the limelight.
While former President MahindaRajapaksa has argued that the proposed scheme of
devolution should not exceed the terms of the amendment, with no to any merger of
provinces and the transfer of land and police powers to provincial councils.
The amendment was an outcome of an agreement re- ached between India and Sri
Lanka in 1987.
Pointing out that Sri Lanka is estimated to have 89,000 war widows, including around
54,000 in the Northern Province, he says lack or absence of livelihood opportunities
is the major problem being faced by the women.

2015 temperature was 0.9 Celsius more than 20th


century margin
Last year was the planets hottest in modern times by the widest margin on record,
setting a troubling new milestone as the climate warms at an in- creasing pace, U.S.
scientists.
During 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was
1.62 [0.90 Celsius] above the 20th century average.
This was the highest among all years in the 1880- 2015 record. This is also the largest
margin by which the annual global temperature record has been broken.
The report, which was confirmed by a separate analysis from NASA scientists, marks
the fourth time a global temperature re- cord has been set this century.
The latest finding adds to a steady rise in heat across land and sea surfaces that have
seen records repeatedly broken over the years.

Rupee slumps worries investors in India


Indias benchmark equity indices fell to their lowest levels in 20 months as concerns
about a global economic slowdown amid slumping commodity prices and a
weakening rupee spurred investors to sell shares.
The rupee breached the 68a-dollar mark for the first time since August 2013. It closed
at a record low of 68.85 a dollar on August 28, 2013, just days before Raghuram Rajan
took charge as RBI Governor.
The fall in the Indian indices was in line with that of the negative trend in the global
markets. Among the leading Asian indices, both Hang Seng and Nikkei lost more
than 3 per cent each.

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194 Current Affairs

India is better placed to recover but will have to wait for an overall upturn. The
markets will consolidate at current levels and then will wait for cues from the budget.
Equity markets globally have been witnessing weakness on account of an economic
slowdown in China. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already cut its global
growth outlook thrice in less than a year.
Crude futures fell below $28 per barrel the lowest level since 2003over concerns
of an oversupply amidst falling demand on account of the bearish economic outlook.
Data as per the National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL) shows that foreign
institutional investors (FIIs) have sold Indian shares worth Rs.7,146 crore.

In order to promote renewable energy new tariff policy


approved by cabinet
The Union Cabinet has approvedseveral amendments to the national power tariff
policy with a viewto promote renewable energy andimprove the ease of doing
businessfor developers in the sector.
In a major shift, power companies are allowed to pass costs on toconsumers arising
out of any changes in taxes, cesses and levies levied on them.
The policy also seeks to create a win-win between the generator,utilities and
consumers by allow-ing power generators to sell theirsurplus power on the power
ex-change and sharing the proceedswith the state government.
The amendments are based on four Eselectricity for all, efficiency that will ensure
affordable tariffs, the environment, and ease of doing business to attract greater
investment in the sector
The amended tariff policy also imposes a renewable energy obligation on new coal
or lignite-based thermal plants, requiring them to establish or purchase renewable
capacity alongside their own generation units.
The new policy also mandates that no inter-state transmission charges will be levied
until a time to be specified by the government.
The costs and business models fordifferent renewable alternatives such as rooftop
solar or grid-connected sources are constantlyevolving so the decision wont be top-
down any longer,
To encourage efficiency, the policy allows power producers to expand up to double
their capacity through the automatic route, at their existing unit locations.
This automatic approval was earlier limited to 50 per cent capacity expansions.
Further, the tariffs for multi-state power projects will be deter-mined by the Central
ElectricityRegulatory Commission, thereby removing a major point of uncertainty
to do with such projects.
The amended policy also said that the power regulator has to come up with a clear
action plan to ensure 24x7 power supply to all consumers by 2021-22 or earlier.
Towards the power for all initiative, the policy enables the creation of micro-grids in
remote villages as yet unconnected to the grid, and also says that these micro-grids
can sell their surplus power to the grid when it reaches those areas.

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Current Affairs 195

Government may surpass solar projects target in FY 16


The government is confident of receiving bids for 3,000 MW of solar projects this
financial year against the set target of 2,000MW.
This financial year, that is up to March 31, it have to commission 2,000 MW of solar
projects and we will actually do 3,000 MW.
Next year onward, the target is 12,000MW, 15,000 MW and 17,000MW for each
subsequent year.
Solar tariff fell to a historic low of Rs.4.34 per kilowatt-hour following the auction of
a 70MW project in Rajasthan, with the winning bid going toFinnish solar power
companyFortum Energy.

India, Australia still hopeful on FTA


Despite missing the deadline set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australias
then-Prime MinisterTony Abbott for December 31,2015, negotiators are still hopeful
that the India-Australia free trade agreement(FTA) or Comprehensive Economic
Cooperation Agreement (CECA) will be cleared.
the talks were stuck due to several outstanding issues re-lated to market access in
services and goods, with an add-ed complication on tariff reduction.
While Australia wanted India to significantly lower or eliminate tariffs on several
agricultural and industrialgoods.
New Delhi asked Canberra to ease rules on temporary movement of skilled
professionals and intra-company transfers.

Commerce ministry backs measures to boost SEZs


The CommerceMinistry is in the process of identifying reasons for the slowdown in
the Special Economic Zones (SEZ).
It has al-so asked the Finance Ministry to consider steps to ensure greater investment
and employment generation in these enclaves to boost exports from SEZs.
The commerce ministry has taken up with the finance ministry issues raised by theSEZ
developers and units including removal or reduction of Minimum Alternate
Tax(MAT) and Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT) on SEZs.
It is also looking into the developers opposition against a proposal considered by
the finance minis-try for abolition of all direct tax benefits for SEZs not operationalised
before April,2017.
Finance ministry has been asked to extend the Sun-set Clause (provision relating to
the expiry of the benefits toSEZs) on SEZs up to 2023.
Opposing the proposal that was being considered by theCentral Board of Direct
Taxes for abolition of all direct tax benefits for SEZs not operationalised before April,
2017,EPCES said it would create uncertainty in the minds of investors and lead to an
in-crease in the number of applications for de-notification of approved SEZs.

Pope Francis said elite should be more sensitive towards


poor
Pope Francis has told members of the worlds wealthy political and economic elite

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196 Current Affairs

that they should not be deaf to the cry of the poor and must consider their own role
in creating inequality.
New technologies such as robotics must also not be al- lowed to replace humans
with soulless machines, he said in a message to the World Economic Forum in
Davos.
The Pope, who wrote a ma- jor encyclical on climate change and protection of the
environment last year, also urged business leaders to see to it that the planet does not
become an empty garden.
The annual Davos meeting brings together many of the worlds wealthiest and most
powerful people to consider issues such as economics, climate change and war, with
an eye to working on solutions to them.
It has been criticised by anti-globalisation activists and others, however, as a forum
for organisations that have been responsible for the problems in the first place.
They are boosted by reports such as one from charity Oxfam estimating that 1 per
cent of the worlds population owns 99 per cent of the wealth.
Pope Francis, who has made the defence of the poor a hallmark of his pa- pacy and
has in the past called money the dung of the devil, said businesses and wealthy
societies must acknowledge their role in creating poverty.

U.S. report says Pakistan nuclear warhead to be in


between 110-130
Pakistans nuclear warheads which are estimated to be between 110-130 are aimed at
deterring India from taking military action against it, a latest Congressional report
has said.
The report also expressed concern that Islamabads full spectrum deterrence
doctrine has increased risk of nuclear conflict between the two South Asian
neighbours.
Pakistans nuclear arsenal probably consists of approximately 110-130 nuclear war-
heads, although it could have more.
Islamabad is producing fissile material, adding to related production facilities,
deploying additional nuclear weapons, and new types of delivery vehicles.
CRS is the independent research wing of the U.S. Congress, which prepares periodic
reports by eminent experts on a wide range of issues so as to help lawmakers take
informed decisions.
Re- ports of CRS are not considered as an official view of the U.S. Congress.
Pakistani and U.S. Officials argue that since the 2004 revelations about a procurement
network run by former Pakistani nuclear official A.Q. Khan Islamabad has taken a
number of steps to improve its nuclear security and to prevent further proliferation
of nuclear-related technologies and materials.

Eastern US faces massive snowfall


A deadly blizzard walloped the eastern United States, paralysing Washington and
other cities under a heavy blanket of snow as officials warned mil- lions of people to
remain indoors until the storm eases up.

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Current Affairs 197
Forecasters said the storm dubbed Snow- zilla would last into Sunday as it
moved menacingly up the coast.
Thousands of motorists were stranded for hours on an ice-coated highway in
Kentucky.
In the capital Washington more than a foot (30 cm) of snow was already on the
ground, with another foot expected by midnight.
A blizzard warning was in effect for a large swath of the eastern United States from
Washington up to New York.
The storm is expected to affect about 85 million Americans about one quarter of
the US population.

Greek Islanders will be nominated for Nobel peace prize


Greek islanders who have been on the frontline of the refugee crisis are to be
nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize with the support of their national government.
Of the 9,00,000 refugees who entered Europe last year, most were received scared,
soaked and travelling in rickety boats by those who live on the Greek islands in
the Aegean Sea.
The islanders, including fishermen who gave up their work to rescue people from
the sea, are in line to be honoured with one of the worlds most esteemed awards.
The nomination deadline is February 1, but those behind the plan have already met
the Greek Minister for Migration, Yiannis Mouzalas, who they say has offered his
governments full support.
A petition on the web- site of the grassroots campaign group, Avaaz, in favour of the
nomination has amassed 2,80,000 signatures.
While the official nomination letter is yet to be finalised, it is understood the
academics, whose identities will be revealed in the coming days, will implore the
Nobel committee members to accept their nomination.

U.S. Blizzard take 30 life's


The icy streets of the U.S. capital remained largely deserted on the first work day
after a mammoth blizzard smothered the East Coast, with schools and the federal
government closed as people dug their cars and doorways out from mountains of
snow. The storm was blamed for at least 30 deaths as it slammed a dozen States
from Friday into early Sunday, many of them people who suffered heart attacks
while shovelling, or killed on icy roads, though several died of carbon monoxide
poisoning trying to keep warm in their cars or homes.
More than 56 cm of snow paralysed Washington, while the 68 cm that fell in New
Yorks Central Park was the second- highest accumulation since records began in
1869.

Maldives Countered charges of change in policy towards


India
The present Maldivian governments China policy does not interfere with or diminish
the countrys special relationship with India, according to the office of President
Abdullah Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

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198 Current Affairs

On the observations made by former president Mohamed Nasheed regarding his


country's pro-China tilt, President [Mr. Gayoom] has said: India is our closest
partner in terms of diplomatic and political relations.
Maldives are committed to working together with India to expand the current level
of political and economic cooperation relationship to higher level.
Pointing out that while the President was forging ahead with a highly ambitious
economic agenda that includes developmental and infrastructure undertakings where
China is a partner.
The position of the Maldivian government had been conveyed by Mr. Gayoom in his
discussions with Indian leaders and officials on their visit to the Maldives.
Earlier, the government had expressed its profound disappointment over what it
called the denial of entry to a member of its London High Commission to attend Mr.
Nasheeds London press conference.

India at 76 number in Transparency International


ranking
India has climbed nine points to rank 76th in this years global corruption index
launched here on Wednesday topped by Denmark, with watchdog Transparency
International calling graft a global blight.
According to Transparency Internationals International Corruption Perceptions Index
2015, India is placed at 76th position along with Thailand, Brazil, Tunisia, Zambia
and Burkina Faso out of 168 countries.
India has improved its past years position of 85 and has a grade index score of 38
out of a possible 100 which indicates the least corrupt, said the re- port topped by
Denmark. The index was prepared by using data from institutions including the
World Bank, the African Development Bank.
According to Berlin-based Transparency International, 68 per cent of countries
worldwide have a serious corruption problem and half of the G20 are among them.
Not one single country,anywhere in the world, is corruption-free, the report said.
Denmark tops of the index for the second consecutive year as the country perceived
as least corrupt. It scored 91 points, while North Korea and Somalia remained at the
bottom with unchanged scores of 8.
Europe scores high The U.S. rose one spot this year to 16th place with a score of 76,
tying with Austria. The U.K. rose three spots to place 10th, with a score of 81 that tied
it with Germany and Luxembourg.
The other top spots, from second to ninth, were occupied by Finland, Sweden, New
Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore and Canada.
Brazil and Turkey were among nations that tumbled the most. Brazil slid to 76th
place, sharing its position with India, down from 69th last year. Turkey fell two
spots to 66th, continuing its descent from 53rd place in 2013.

Emerging economies gained more influence in IMF


governance architecture
In long-pending reforms that came into effect, emerging economies gained more
influence in the governance architecture of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Current Affairs 199
Indias voting rights increase to 2.6 per cent from the current 2.3 per cent, and Chinas
to six per cent from 3.8. Russia and Brazil are the other two countries that gain from
the reforms.
More than six per cent of the quota shares will shift to emerging and developing
countries from the U.S. and European countries.
The combined quotas or the capital countries contribute doubles to about $659
billion from about $329 billion.
The reforms, which came into effect, were agreed upon by the 188 members of the
IMF in 2010, in the aftermath of the globalfinancial meltdown, and their delayed
implementation has been a major concern for India.
Among the reasons for the delay has been the time it took the U.S Congress to approve
the changes.
U.S voting share will marginally drop, from 16.7 per cent to 16.5 per cent. TheU.S
Senate had approved the changes in December 2015.

Universal health coverage in WHO agenda


The World Health Organization (WHO) announced setting up of a dedicated unit
that will focus on achieving universal health coverage (UHC), which is target 3.8 of
sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The goals within SDGs emphasise the need to achieve UHC by ensuring financial
risk protection and improving access to essential health care services for those
marginalised.
So far, the quality of services has been neglected within the UHC dialogue. We at the
WHO believe that there has been a lack of centre of gravity for quality.
It is with this in mind that a unit is being formed to address UHC & quality.
This special unit will focuson three key aspects: alignment of country engagements
and global framework, health service resilience, and quality and lastly establishing
partnerships to reach these goals.
This year, the prestigious award (in medicine) was conferred upon Professor Morton
Mower from the UnitedStates for invention of the Automatic Implantable Cardio-
verter Defibrillator, a device that helps monitor heart rate and rhythm, and deliver
electrical current when abnormality is detected.

U.S. warship came to disputed South China Sea


A U.S. warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of an island claimed by Beijing in the
South China Seas, in an operation intended to underscore Americas right to access
the disputed waters.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of
world trade is shipped every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and
Taiwan have rival claims.
Pentagon said the operation was carried out near Triton Island in the Paracel Islands,
to challenge excessive maritime claims of parties that claim the Paracel Islands.
US says that the excessive claims regarding Triton Island are inconsistent with
international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.

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200 Current Affairs

This operation was about challenging excessive maritime claims that restrict the rights
and freedoms of the United States and others, not about territorial claims to land
features.

Marshall island brings a suit against India and Pakistan


The tiny Marshall Islands will, in March, seek to persuade the UNs highest court to
take up a lawsuit against India, Pakistan and Britain which they accuse of failing to
halt the nuclear arms race.
The International Court of Justice, founded in 1945 to rule on legal disputes between
nations, announced dates for separate hearings for the three cases between March 7
and 16.
In the cases brought against India and Pakistan, the court will examine whether the
tribunal based in The Hague is competent to hear the lawsuits.
The hearing involving Britain will be devoted to preliminary objections raised by
London.
A decision will be made at a later date as to whether the cases can proceed.
In 2014, the Marshall Islands, a Pacific Ocean territory with 55,000 people, accused
nine countries of not fulfilling their obligations with respect to the cessation of the
nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.
They included China, Britain, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Rus- sia,
and the U.S.

Chinas counter to U.S. strategy


In the year gone by, China, the worlds second-largest economy, had answers to
everything thrown at it by the U.S. the known global hegemon.
If the Americans focused on their Asia pivot a doctrinal shift, geared toward the
containment of China through the concentration of forces in the western Pacific
the Chinese did not waste any time in building a credible Pacific-centred nuclear
and conventional deterrents in 2015.
This has included reinforcement of its nuclear second-strike capability by mounting
JL-2 missiles, with a range of 7,350 km, on its JIN class submarines.
Russia was a major partner in building the Chinese military deterrent. Beijing
concluded with Moscow a decisive S-400 air defence deal.
The contract nullifies threats by fighter jets or ballistic missiles by the U.S. or Japan if
batteries of the S-400 missiles are deployed on the mainland or Chinas artificial
islands, built atop coral clusters, in the South China Sea.
After protracted negotiations, the Russians are also supplying Su-35 fighter jets to
China. The acquisition of 24 Su-35 planes would greatly extend Chinas reach over
the South China Sea.
The bonding between China and Russia is being reinforced through an extensive
energy relationship. With smog resulting from coal-fired power plants choking Beijing
and its surrounding industrial belt, China is trying to beat the clock by turning to
clean energy in the form of natural gas, nuclear, and renewable energy.
A similar undertaking is expected shortly though the western Altai route, thus making
Moscow Beijings core energy security partner.

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Current Affairs 201
Both China and Russia are working together on undermining the hegemony of the
U.S. dollar. The two have already accelerated trading in the Chinese yuan and the
Russian ruble. The currency swap tool has significantly eased pain inflicted upon
Moscow through sanctions imposed after the crisis in Ukraine.
Trading in local currencies, exemplified by the two partners, is now being reinforced
in an institutional manner by two powerful non-western financial entities The
New Development Bank (NDB) of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa
(BRICS) grouping and the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
A $40-billion Silk Road Fund, the AIIB, the NDB of the BRICS, and Chinas own
state-run policy banks will provide the liquidity so that, instead of depending on
the West, new growth engines are established along the New Silk Road.
China has been conscious that its Belt and Road initiative can more easily fly if it has
the cooperation not only of Russia, which will take care of the western flank, but also
of its eastern, South Asian flank, through a simultaneous engagement of India and
Pakistan as well.

After a good year another hitch in relations between


U.S. and Iran
Irans President Has- san Rouhani has denounced possible new U.S. sanctions on his
country which could jeopardise a hard-won nuclear deal due to be finally
implemented within weeks.
In the five months since the nuclear deal was struck, Iran has conducted two missile
tests, one of which state media reported at the time, on October 11. Iran also recently
aired television footage of an underground missile base.
The actions angered the United States and a United Nations panel found earlier this
month that the tests breached previous resolutions aimed at stopping the Islamic
republic from developing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
But the threat of new sanctions the nuclear deal is due to lift past measures that froze
Iran out of the global financial system and crippled its oil exports brought al- ready
worsening relations to a head.

Saudi Arabia killed 47 people for anti-government


protest
Saudi Arabia executed 47 people on Saturday, including a prominent Shia cleric
behind anti-government protests and Sunnis convicted of involvement in deadly al-
Qaeda attacks.
The 56-year-old cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, was a driving force of the protests that broke
out in 2011 in the Sunni-ruled kingdoms east, where the Shia minority complains of
marginalisation.
But the list does not include Nimrs nephew, Ali al-Nimr, whose arrest at the age of
17 and alleged torture during detention sparked condemnation from human rights
groups and the U.S.
i executions are usually carried out by beheading with a sword. Executions have
soared in the country since King Salman acceded the throne in January 2015, after
the death of king Abdullah.

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Study Kit for SSC Combined Graduate Level


Examination (Tier- II)

Our Objectives:
Firstly to cover 100% SSC Combined Graduate Level (CGL) Tier - II examination syllabus.
Secondly to compile all the required study materials in one place, so to save the precious time of the
aspirants. Further, in this study kit we have incorporated all available study material in the market,
also we have included material of standard Books meant for SSC CGL preparation. This is in the
interest of candidate so that they need not to study separate material for every section.

Our Strategy:
Content of every section of the syllabus is developed after a thorough research of last year Question
Papers.
Every section and every chapter is covered with overview of chapter along with exercise and practice
set.
The Study Kit is available in English only.

For More Information Click Given below link:


http://sscportal.in/community/study-kit/cgl-tier-2

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202 Current Affairs

Last year, Saudi Arabia executed 153 people convicted of various crimes, including
drug- trafficking, after 87 were put to death in 2014.

Crisis between Shia and Sunni deepened in west Asia


Irans Foreign Ministry accused Saudi Arabia of stoking regional tension after the
kingdom broke of diplomatic relations and said Iranian embassy staff must leave.
By severing diplomatic relations, Saudi Arabia is continuing the policy of increasing
tension and clashes in the region.
Saudi Arabia announced its measures after its embassy in Tehran was firebombed
and its interior destroyed by a mob who attacked the building in protest at the
kingdoms execution of a Shia cleric.

Difference between Shia and Sunni


A schism emerged after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. He died without
appointing a successor to lead the Muslim community, and disputes arose over who
should shepherd the new and rapidly growing faith.
Some believed that a new leader should be chosen by consensus; others thought that
only the prophets descendants should become caliph.
The title passed to a trusted aide, Abu Bakr, though some thought it should have
gone to Ali, the Prophets cousin and son-in-law. Ali eventually did become caliph
after Abu Bakrs two successors were assassinated.
After Ali also was assassinated, with a poison-laced sword at the mosque in Kufa, in
what is now Iraq, his sons Hasan and then Hussein claimed the title. But Hussein
and many of his relatives were massacred in Karbala, Iraq, in 680.
His martyrdom became a central tenet to those who believed that Ali should have
succeeded the Prophet. (It is mourned every year during the month of Muharram).
The followers became known as Shias, a contraction of the phrase Shiat Ali, or
followers of Ali.
The Sunnis, however, regard the first three caliphs before Ali as rightly guided and
themselves as the true adherents to the Sunnah, or the Prophets tradition. Sunni
rulers embarked on sweeping conquests that extended the caliphate into North Africa
and Europe.
The last caliphate ended with the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War-I.
The Sunni and Shia sects encompass a wide spectrum of doctrine, opinion and schools
of thought.
The branches are in agreement on many aspects ofIslam, but there are considerable
disagreements within each. Both branches include worshippers who run the gamut
from secular to fundamentalist.
Shias consider Ali and the leaders who came after him as Imams. Most believe in a
line of 12 Imams, the last of whom, a boy, is believed to have vanished in the ninth
century in Iraq after his father was murdered.
Shias known as Twelvers anticipate his return as the Mahdi, or Messiah. Sunnis
emphasise Gods power in the material world, sometimes including the public and
political realm, while Shias value martyrdom and sacrifice.

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Current Affairs 203

U.S. Walking a tight rope in West Asia


As the spiralling tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran threaten to unbalance U.S.s
tightrope walk in the strife-torn West Asian region, Washington has launched a
massive diplomatic outreach to both countries, but would stop short of trying to
mediate.
We want to see these kinds of tensions solved bilaterally, said John Kirby, State
Department spokesperson.
Secretary of State John Kerry and several other officials are in touch with Iranian and
Saudi functionaries to defuse the situation, but Washington would avoid too close
an involvement as it could complicate the matter.
Saudi Arabias Sunni monarchy and Irans Shia theocracy are bitter adversaries in
the region, but are also part of a multilateral process led by the U.S and Russia to
stabilise Syria.
The Saudi action that precipitated a crisis in the region happened despite the U.S
repeatedly cautioning them against the clerics execution.
The current flare-up has its origin in the Saudi monarchys deep resentment against
the U.S-led nuclear deal with Iran that has begun to come into effect with Iran shipping
its specified nuclear material to Russia last week.
Saudis accuse the U.S. of giving legitimacy to Iran before roping them into the Syrian
process.
The Saudi reservations were mis- placed as Iran continues to be in the U.S. list of
state sponsors of terrorism.

Islamic State (IS) building a research centre


Islamic State (IS) has built a research centre devoted to launching attacks in the West,
using driverless cars and rehabilitated anti-aircraft missiles, new footage from inside
the terror group reveals.
Among the new revelations, which IS did not intend, are efforts to make defunct
surface-to-air missiles operational again by replacing thermal batteries a feat that
has so far been beyond the capabilities of other terror groups.
The footage does not establish that such a goal has been achieved, but it does show
the technological ambitions of a group that has carved out its influence through
more familiar forms of terror, such as car bombs and suicide belts.
Among the eight hours of video, which was seized by the Free Syrian Army and
passed on to Sky News, is a segment showing IS members trying to manoeuvre a
driverless car.
They are also shown busily strapping tape and padding to a mannequin, in the hope
it will give of the same heat signature as a human when it passes by imaging scanners,
which are often used near sensitive buildings.

U.S. and China come close over North Korea


The U.S. said it considered the latest nuclear explosion carried out by North Korea a
matter of national security, and declared that it would stand steadfast in its alliance
commitment to South Korea.

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204 Current Affairs

North Korea has repeatedly threatened the U.S. and has described the latest nu-
clear test a response to U.S. aggression.
Mr. Kim, unlike his late father, is not particularly sensitive to Chinese concerns.
However, though its influence over the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is
diminishing, China remains a crucial player which can calm the situation.
The U.S. is also exploring new sanctions and considering strengthening the existing
sanctions against.
The U.S. also said it was open to talking to North Korea in the Six Party format.
The talks, started in 2003 but aborted in 2009, involved China, Japan, South Korea,
North Korea, Russia, and the U.S. Washington wants the talks to restart but with a
predetermined objective of dismantling the nuclear apparatus of North Korea and
also hopes China will take the initiative.
North Korea has been unwilling to accept that. U.S. has ruled out any review of the
U.S. position on this.

Srilanka will start consultation for domestic mechanism


The Sri Lankan government will next week begin consultations on the design of
domestic mechanism that will look into the allegations of human rights violations.
Foreign minister said a special session of Parliament on Saturday would form a
constitutional council, a committee consisting of the entire House, that would begin
the serious business of consulting people and drafting a new Constitution for Sri
Lanka which will reflect the aspirations of all Lankans.
United Nations Development Programmes Director for Sri Lanka, Joern Soerensen,
and Norwegian Ambassador signed an agreement for the benefit of the recently-
resettled communities in jaffna in Northern Province.
The Norwegian government would support the UNDP in improving access to justice
and providing livelihood opportunities of the communities.
The Sri Lankan Cabinet gave its approval for returning 984 acres of private land in
Jaffna to its original owners. This is expected to benefit about 2,000 displaced families.

Tamil issue still remains a key to politics in SriLanka


Both Mr. Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have, on a number of
occasions in the recent months, spoken of the need for finding a meaningful an-
swer to the question.
Minorities, both Tamils and Muslims, are keen that the government makes substantial
progress during the course of 2016.
Pointing out that enough work has been done on the Tamil question in the last 25
years, R. Sampanthan, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) chief and Leader of Opposition
in Parliament, says I do not want the prob- lem to be dragged end- lessly. I expect
SIRISENAS there must be FIRST YEAR a fair and reasonable Focus on resolution by
September.
In fact, devolution is linked to the larger issue concerning Tamils. Despite the
stipulation in the 13th Amendment, the non-transfer of powers on land and police to
the Provinces has been bothering Tamil groups and parties.
Last month, in a talk, Mr Wickremesinghe too identified devolution as the first issue

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Current Affairs 205
to be tackled as part of the Constitution-making process.
While indicating his preference to retain the unitary character of the existing
Constitution, he said the impending task was to identify the additional powers to
be devolved to the Provincial Councils.
As part of the implementation of a resolution of the United Nations Human Rights
Council inOctober last year on reconciliation and accountability, the government
would have to put in place mechanisms to, as Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera
put it the other day, deal with the past.
Judicial and administrative mechanisms are being thought of and the government
has plannedof initiate discussions shortly.

Emotional Obama pitches for gun regulation


The epidemic of gun violence in our country is a crisis. Gun deaths and injuries
constitute one of the greatest threats to public health and to the safety of the American
people.
Every year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns. Suicides,
Domestic violence, Gang shootouts, Accidents.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their
own children.
Were the only advanced nation on earth that sees this kind of mass violence with
this frequency.
A national crisis like this demands a national response. Reducing gun violence will
be hard.
Its clear that common-sense gun reform wont happen during this Congress. It wont
happen during my presidency.
Still, there are steps we can take now to save lives. And all of us at every level of
government, in the private sector and as citizens have to do our part. We all have
a responsibility.
New steps include making sure that anybody engaged in the business of selling fire-
arms conducts backgroundchecks, expanding access to mental health treatment and
improving gun safety technology.
These actions wont prevent every act of violence, or save every life but if even
one life is spared, they will be well worth the effort.

British website released accounts of Netaji plane crash


A British website, set up to catalogue the last days of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose,
has released what it claims are eyewitness ac- counts of the day he was reportedly
killed in a plane crash in Taiwan on August 18, 1945.
The latest set of documents quote several people who were reportedly involved in
the matter related to the accident as well as two British intelligence reports that
revisited the crash site to establish the facts.
The website, www.bose-files.info, also sheds light on what may have been the freedom
fighters dying words, which reflected his devotion to the cause of Indias freedom.
The documents say that early in the morning on Au- gust 18, 1945, a Japanese Air

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206 Current Affairs

Force bomber took of from Tourane in Vietnam with Bose and 12 or 13 other
passengers and crew. The planned flight path was Heito-Taipei-Dairen-Tokyo.

Afghan peace talks


Delegates from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States held talks to
resurrect a stalled Afghan peace process and end nearly 15 years of bloodshed, even
as fighting with Taliban insurgents intensifies.
Senior officials from the four countries are meeting in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad,
to launch a process they hope will lead to negotiations with Taliban insurgents, who
are fighting to reimpose their strict brand of Islamist rule and are not expected at
talks.
Renewed peace efforts come amid spiraling violence in Afghanistan, with last year
one of the bloodiest on record following the withdrawal of most foreign troops at the
end of 2014.
Peace efforts last year stalled after the Taliban announced that their founder,Mullah
Mohammad Omar,had been dead for two years,throwing the militant group into
disarray as rival factions fought for supremacy.
The Taliban, who were ousted in 2001, remain split on whether to take part in talks.
Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour's faction has shown signs of warming to the
idea of eventually joining peace talks, and other groups are considering
negotiating,senior members of the movement

China revamping its nuclear and conventional missile


forces
The superiority of arch-rival United States in the air and sea may have driven China
to revamp its nuclear and conventional missile forces and bring about sweeping
changes to its military command and control architecture.
A write-up in China Military Online, the website of thePeoples Liberation
Army(PLA), quoting an in-house military expert, points out that the Second
ArtilleryForce (SAF) the institution that had exercised operation-al control over
the countrys nuclear forces had been upgraded as the PLA RocketForce (PRF).
The PRF has now been up-graded into a full-fledged new service on a par with the
Army, Air Force and the Navy.Mr. Song explained that un-like its predecessor, the
SAF,which was an independent arm in Chinas military system, the emergence of a
full-fledged service would imply having several arms and special troops apart
from havingacademies, research institutes and logistic support system
The new service, as it evolves, is expected to deploy its nuclear assets on land, sea
and air. Mr. Song pointed out that after incorporating theNavys strategic nuclear
sub-marine and the Air Forces strategic bomber, the PRF would become the first
independent service with land,sea and air nuclear forces in the world, more integrated
than the nuclear forces in theU.S., Russia, Britain andFrance.
the U.S. and the former Soviet Union had signed an agreement in 1987to cut their
ground-to-ground missiles, with ranges from 500to 5,500 km. As a result, Americas
Pershing II and land-based Tomahawk, and the for-mer Soviet Unions SS-4,SS-12,
SS-20 and SS-23 missiles were all destroyed. TheRussian army has only two types of
short-range tactical missiles.

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Current Affairs 207

Golden Globe Awards


The Revenant, a biographical Western film set in 1823 Montana and South Dakota,
bagged three awards best drama film, best actor in a drama for Leonardo Di
Caprio and best director forAlejandro G. Inarritu
In the TV realm, Amazon Studios Mozart in the Jungle won under the category of
best comedy series and best actor in a comedy series for GaelGarcia Bernal. The
series is inspired by the Mozartin the Jungle: Sex, Drugs,and Classical Musicoboist
Blair Tindalls 2005memoir.
The best motion picture comedy or musical award went to The Mar-tian, leaving
behind films like The Big Short, Joy,Spyand Trainwreck.
The award for the best actress in a motion picturedrama was won by BrieLarson
for Room
Actors Jennifer Lawrence and Matt Damon took home the awards for best actress
and best actor in a motion picture comedy for Joy and The Martian.
Actress-singer LadyGaga won her first nomination and victory as best actress in a
limited series or motion picture for her role as the countess inAmerican Horror
Story:Hotel.
Sylvester Stallone won the best supporting actor in a motion picture for Creed;
Leonardo Di Caprio bagged the best actor in a drama award for The Revenant;
Kate Winslet fetched the award for best supporting actress in a motion picture for
Steve Jobs.

U.S. President gave four point agenda for the future


U.S. President Barack Obama has outlined a four-point agenda that he said was
about focusing on the future beyond the next year making the economy work for
everyone, making technology work for everyone, retaining American leadership in
the world without becoming its policeman, and overcoming the current hostility
in U.S. domestic politics.
In his last State of the Union address, Mr. Obama said despite the growth in
manufacturing and employment, the nature of the global economy allowed workers
less leverage for a raise and encouraged companies to put quarterly earnings over
long-term returns.
Outlining his idea of Americas global leadership in the coming decades, which he
said would be of instability in West Asia, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of
Central America, Africa and Asia, Mr. Obama said: We cant try to take over and
rebuild every country that falls into crisis.
Mr. Obama said, listing the new opening with Cuba, the nuclear deal with Iran, the
Trans Pacific Partnership that would limit China and establish U.S. leadership in
Asia as examples of his internationalism.
Repudiating the anti-immigration, anti-trade and anti-Muslim rhetoric of the
Republican candidates campaign, Mr. Obama wondered: Will we respond to the
changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each
other as a people?
Mr. Obama said for the American leadership to sustain, the country had to fix its
internal politics.

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208 Current Affairs

WHO declares end to Ebola


The World Health Organisation declared an end to the deadliest Ebola outbreak
ever after no new cases emerged in Liberia, though health officials warn that it will
be several more months before the world is considered free of the disease that claimed
more than 11,300 lives over two years.
Success comes after a harrowing toll: nearly 23,000 children lost at least one parent
or caregiver.
Some 17,000 survivors are trying to resume their lives though many battle mysterious,
lingering side effects. Studies continue to uncover new information about how long
Ebola can last in bodily fluids.
Liberia, which along with Sierra Leone and Guinea was an epicentre of the latest
outbreak, was first declared free of the disease last May, but new cases emerged two
times forcing officials there to restart the clock.

Tsai Ing-wen elected as president of Taiwan


Taiwans independence-leaning opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen won a convincing
victory in presidential election and pledged to maintain peace with China, which
claims the island as its own, though vowed to firmly defend Taiwans sovereignty.
Ms. Tsai, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will be thrust into one of
Asias toughest and most dangerous jobs, with China pointing hundreds of missiles
at the island, decades after losing Nationalists fled from Mao Zedongs Communists
to Taiwan in the Chinese civil war.
Support for the DPP has swelled since 2014, when hundreds of students occupied
Taiwans Parliament forweeks protesting against a China trade bill in the largest
display of anti-China sentiment the island had seen in years.
Ms. Tsai will have to balance the superpower interests of China, which is also Taiwans
largest trading partner, and the U.S. with those of her freewheeling, democratic home.

DSC Prize for south Asian literature, 2016 went to


Anuradha Roy
Author Anuradha Roy on Saturday won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature,
2016, for her novel Sleeping on Jupiter, which deals with violence against women.
At the Fairway Galle Literary Festival, about 130 km south of here, Sri Lanka Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe handed Ms. Roy the prize. The award cash prize of
$50,000 and a trophy, according to a release.

After IAEA confirmation sanctions removed from Iran


After IAEA confirmation on nuclear stock, Sanctions were removed from Iran.
Lifting of sanctions allowed Iran to rejoin the international economy. Although Iran
kept it low key because of multiple disappointment and broken promises it has faced
in past few years.
The end to the sanctions is a success for the government of President Hassan Rouhani,
but comes at a cost for Irans ruling system.
Since the deal was signed last July, Iran has had to put into storage more than 12,000

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Current Affairs 209
centrifuges, ship out almost its entire stockpile of enriched uranium and remove the
core of its heavy- water reactor.
Commentators have estimated a windfall of USD 100-150 billion for Tehran due to
removal of sanctions.
The removal of sanctions will tremendously help Indias plans in Iran, which are
many and include the Chabahar port, an Indian Oil petrochemical plant and the
proposed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline.
Indias oil imports from Iran have been restricted by the sanctions and the recent
forward movement on Chabahar port was accommodated within the exemption
granted for projects exclusively serving commerce with Afghanistan.
The U.S. removed a wide range of sanctions against Iran after the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Tehran had met its commitments to roll back
its nuclear programme, under an agreement with China, France, Russia, the U.K.,
the U.S. and Germany on July 14 2015
The U.S. has only removed secondary sanctions that restrict the dealings of other
countries with Iran. Primary sanctions that bar U.S. citizens and companies from
business with Iran will remain
However, the removal of restrictions on its oil, petrochemicals, banking, naturalgas
and port sectors will hugely benefit Iran and allow it to re-enter the global market.
Iran will be able to access the huge amount of cash it has accumulated overseas from
restricted oil sales during the sanctions. Most of this money is sitting in China, India,
Japan, South Korea and Turkey.
Apart from Iranian oil, India will also benefit from theremoval of restrictions
onpayments to Iranian companies that the sanctions had imposed. India reportedly
owes Iran$6.5 billion for crude oil purchases, the payment of which has so far been
held up due to the sanctions.
U.S. allies in the region fear that the U.S. focus onthe nuclear threat distracts theUnited
States from the array ofother threats that Iran poses tothe region.
The U.S. will have to reassure Saudi and UAE andothers that that is not the case
The U.S. had also made itclear that it continued to treat Iran as a state sponsor of
terrorism, and punitive actions prescribed for promoting terrorism, human rights
violations and missile tests would continue.

China will become the lynchpin of evolving world


economic structure
New structural linkages between Europe and Asia through three developmental banks
that have emerged outside the post-war Bretton Woods framework are changing the
global geopolitical architecture, with Eurasia at the core.
China is the lynchpin of the evolving world financial architecture. Notwithstanding
the focus on the AIIB a 57-nation lender, in which India and Russia are also major
partners China also quietly became the 67th member of the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
With China on board, the EBRD is rapidly re-defining its role. In 1991, it was formed
to reinforce the unipolar world that had emerged following the Soviet Unions
collapse. Its focal area of interest was Eastern Europe, which was no longer under

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210 Current Affairs

Moscows shadow, and had to be rapidly integrated in the western institutional web.
China, which was steering a Eurasian Silk Road connectivity initiative, was now a
major pivot of global economy. Chinas growing economic and political clout had
been accomplished in little over two decades of the Soviet Unions collapse.
Eastern Europe is an example of how the world has changed. Ten years ago, those
countries would have been looking for investors from Western Europe; they are now
widening their portfolio and that includes China.
In recent years because of signs of weakness in the Euro Zone and so on, those
countries in Eastern Europe have been trying to diversify their sources of investment.
They have looked at the Gulf, they have looked at Asia, looked at North America
and China has started investing much more in Eastern Europe.
Analysts point out that the launch of the AIIB is another example of the reinforcement
of economic bonds between Europe and Asia. In fact, the run-up to the formation of
the bank opened cracks within the Atlantic alliance.
Despite U.S. objections, European countries, including Britain, France and Germany,
joined the AIIB. Australia and South Koreatop U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacificalso
decided to participate in the development bank as its founding members.

Syria peace talks may be delayed due to undecided


opposition
The United Nations said it was waiting for regional powers spearheading the Syria
peace process to agree on who will take part in talks starting in just one weeks time
and raised the possibility of a delay.
The peace talks, the first between the Syrian government and the Opposition since
2014, are scheduled to open in Geneva on January 25, but invitations have yet to be
sent to the delegations.
The 17 countries pushing for a peace deal, including the United States, Russia, Saudi
Arabia and Iran, have been struggling to agree on the list of opposition leaders who
will have a seat at the negotiating table.
Saudi Arabia last month hosted a meeting of armed factions and Oppositiongroups
to agree on a common platform in negotiations with the Damascus regime, but Russia
has said that effort did not include all players.
Moscow wants the moderate Opposition that is closer to President Bashar al-Assad
to take part.

Srilanka ready to come up with new constitution


Even as Sri Lanka is preparing to come up with a new Constitution with devo- lution
as one of the key issues,the 13 th Amendment, which created provincial councils in
the country, is again in the limelight.
While former President MahindaRajapaksa has argued that the proposed scheme of
devolution should not exceed the terms of the amendment, with no to any merger of
provinces and the transfer of land and police powers to provincial councils.
The amendment was an outcome of an agreement re- ached between India and Sri
Lanka in 1987.

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Current Affairs 211
Pointing out that Sri Lanka is estimated to have 89,000 war widows, including around
54,000 in the Northern Province, he says lack or absence of livelihood opportunities
is the major problem being faced by the women.

2015 temperature was 0.9 Celsius more than 20th


century margin
Last year was the planets hottest in modern times by the widest margin on record,
setting a troubling new milestone as the climate warms at an in- creasing pace, U.S.
scientists.
During 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was
1.62 [0.90 Celsius] above the 20th century average.
This was the highest among all years in the 1880- 2015 record. This is also the largest
margin by which the annual global temperature record has been broken.
The report, which was confirmed by a separate analysis from NASA scientists, marks
the fourth time a global temperature re- cord has been set this century.
The latest finding adds to a steady rise in heat across land and sea surfaces that have
seen records repeatedly broken over the years.

Zoho email difficult to crack for NSA


City-based Zoho Corps email and chat services are one of the handful of services,
which the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has found it difficult to crack under
its mass surveillance programme.
According to a report by German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, NSA has classified the
encryption and security-breaking problems it encountered on a scale of 1 to 5, from
trivial to catastrophic. Facebook chat, for example, was considered trivial. The
report was based on the documents obtained from former NSA contractor and
whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The NSA had major problem at the fourth level with Zoho, an encrypted email service,
the report said. Encryption the use of mathematics to protect communications
from spying is used for electronic transactions of all types, by governments, firms
and private users alike.
This comes as a strong testimonial for Zoho, which competes with Microsoft and
Google in the mail and office suite space. The firm has over 10 million users, and
mainly focuses on small and medium enterprises in the U.S. and other global markets.
Zoho declined to comment on this story.
In an August 2013 blog post, Zohos founder Sridhar Vembu noted that his company
remained the only major email service provider that never displayed any ads. In
fact, there are no ads inside any of our products. We dont have an incentive to look
inside your data ourselves.
While Google has gone on record to say you cant expect privacy from Google itself,
we can assure you that we guarantee your privacy, at least from Zoho itself, if not
from the government, he added in the post.
Der Spiegel report also mentions Tor, the network and software that help users browse
the Internet anonymously, which NSA found it difficult to crack.

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212 Current Affairs

Fiscal deficit at 99 percent of the target for entire year


Reflecting a worrisome financial situation, the governments fiscal deficit at the end
of November touched almost 99 per cent of the target for the entire year.
The fiscal deficitdifference between the governments expenditure and revenue
stood at Rs.5.25 lakh crore, just short of the Rs.5.31 lakh crore targets for the entire
year.
According to data released by the Controller General of Accounts, the fiscal deficit
during April-November was 98.9 per cent of the 2014-15 estimates. The main reason
for the high fiscal deficit was subdued revenue realisation.
Continuing where former finance minister P. Chidambaram left, Finance Minister
Arun Jaitley in his budget speech earlier this year, had set a target of restricting the
fiscal deficit to 4.1 percent of the GDP.
In line with the Vijay Kelkar committee recommended roadmap for reducing fiscal
deficit by 5 per cent annually, the government intends to bring the fiscal deficit down
to 3.6 per cent of GDP by 2015-16 and to 3 per cent by 2016-17.
The Responsibility and Budget Management Act also sets the target of achieving a
fiscal deficit of 3 per cent of the GDP by 2016-17.
According to official data, governments net tax revenue, as on November-end, stood
at Rs.4.13 lakh crore or 42.3 per cent of the Rs.9.77 lakh crore estimated for the entire
fiscal.
The governments plan and non-plan expenditure during the period stood at Rs.2.93
lakh crore and Rs.7.8 lakh crore respectively. The fiscal deficit in 2013-14 was 4.5 per
cent of the GDP, while it stood at 4.9 per cent in 2012-13.

RBI relaxes External Commercial Borrowings norms


The Reserve Bank of India introduced changes in external commercial borrowings
(ECB) norms under which authorised money changing banks had been allowed to
create a charge on securities.
At present, the choice of security to be provided to the overseas lender or the supplier
for securing ECB is left to the borrower.
The decision was taken with a view to liberalising, expanding the options of securities
and consolidating various provisions related to creation of charge over securities for
ECB at one place, the RBI said in a notification.
The relaxations are with immediate effect. It has been decided that AD Category-I
banks may allow creation of charge on immovable assets, movable assets, financial
securities and issue of corporate and/or personal guarantees in favour of overseas
lender/security trustee, to secure the ECB to be raised/raised by the borrower, it
added.
The underlying ECB must be in compliance with extant ECB guidelines, there should
be a security clause in the loan agreement, requiring the ECB borrower to create
charge, and a no objection certificate will have to be obtained from an existing
domestic lender.

At least 12,282 Iraqi civilians killed in 2014 says UN


Violence in Iraq in 2014 killed at least 12,282 civilians, making it the deadliest year

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Current Affairs 213
since the sectarian bloodshed of 2006-07, the United Nations said in a statement.
The majority of the deaths - nearly 8,500 - occurred during the second-half of the
year following the expansion of the Islamic State insurgency in June out of Anbar
province leading to widespread clashes with security forces.
"Yet again, the Iraqi ordinary citizen continues to suffer from violence and terrorism
... This is a very sad state of affairs," said Nickolay Mladenov, head of the U.N.
political mission in Iraq, in a statement released.
Islamic State fighters still control roughly a third of Iraq. The army and Shi'ite and
Kurdish militia continue to battle the insurgents.
The figures show that violence has not abated since 2013 when 7,818 civilians were
killed, the U.N. said. The bloodshed remains below the levels seen in 2006 and 2007
when sectarian Shi'ite-Sunni killings reached their peak.
In December, the body said that a total of 1,101 Iraqis were killed in acts of violence,
including 651 civilians, 29 policemen and a further 421 members of the security forces.

AirAsia tragedy over 30 bodies recovered


Indonesia Rescue officials said that they had recovered 30 bodies and identified three
as the sixth day of search operations for the missing Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501
continued but that stormy seas had prevented them from deploying sophisticated
sonar equipment.
Marsma Supriyadi, director of operations for the National Search and Rescue Agency
in Indonesia, said eight of the bodies that had been recovered were sent to Surabaya,
the capital of East Java.
With luck we will find more, because search operations are continuing, he told
reporters in Pangkalan Bun, close to the site where wreckage from the airliner was
discovered on Tuesday.
The plane, en route to Singapore, crashed into the Java Sea about an hour after leaving
Surabaya. Three bodies were positively identified after extensive forensic
examination, including DNA and dental tests, Mr. Supriyadi said. The three were an
AirAsia flight attendant and two passengers, he said.

Nepal will join Silk Road Economic Belt


China has taken a firm step to extend the Silk Road Economic Belt to South Asia, by
working out a blueprint of connecting Nepal with the Eurasian transport corridor.
Last month, Nepal formally signed a four-point document endorsing the Silk Road
Economic Belt a pet project of President Xi Jinping for connecting Asia with Europe
along a land corridor, with China as its hub. The agreement was signed during a
meeting in Beijing of the Nepal-China Inter-governmental Business and Investment
Coordination.
A local media report in Nepal quoted an embassy official in Beijing as saying that
Nepal and China have agreed to revive the old Silk Road that runs from Lhasa to
Kathmandu to Patna.
Analysts point out that Nepal has joined a project that China has marshalled along
with Russia as its core partner, to counter the Washington-led Asia Pivot doctrine,
which has the containment of a rising China at its heart.

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214 Current Affairs

Under the new Silk Route blueprint, the Chinese want to open up the transportation
channel from the Pacific to the Baltic Sea, from which would radiate rail and road
routes, which would also connect with East Asia, West Asia, and South Asia.
China wants to connect with Nepal and South Asia through an extension of the
Qinghai-Tibet railway. The rail line from Lhasa has already been extended to Shigatse,
Tibets second largest city, 253 km away.
The Chinese plan to build two lines from Shigatse. One would lead to Kerung, the
nearest Chinese town from Nepal, from where it would be extended to Rasuwagadhi
in Nepal. The other line would head to Yadong on the India-Bhutan border.
The website ekantipur.com of Nepal reported that visiting Chinese Foreign Minister
Wang Yi urged his Nepalese hosts last week to conduct a feasibility study so that the
railway could be extended to Kathmandu and beyond.

Chinas 3 Gorges dam breaks record for hydropower


Chinas Three Gorges dam has broken the world record for annual hydroelectric
power production, more than a decade after it became the worlds largest power
plant, its operator said.
The Yangtze river power station generated 98.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity
in 2014, the Three Gorges Dam Corporation said in a statement, topping the 2013
production from the Brazilian-Paraguayan Itaipu dam.
The amount of electricity generated by the Three Gorges plant is roughly equivalent
to burning 49 million tonnes of coal, said thereby preventing 100 million tonnes of
carbon dioxide emissions. But Concerns have been raised about its environmental
and human cost of the huge project.
Campaign groups say it has damaged biodiversity, threatening the critically
endangered Yangtze river dolphin.

Pakistan has reined in LeT & JeM: U.S.


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Pakistan this month, shortly after certifying
the Pakistan governments action against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-
Mohammad (JeM).
The authorisation is likely to spark outrage in India. Mr. Kerry is due to visit the
Vibrant Gujarat summit, which begins in Gandhinagar on January 11, ahead of
President Barack Obamas visit on January 24.
Mr. Kerry will lead the Strategic Dialogue in Islamabad later in January, the Pakistan
Foreign Ministry announced this week.
Despite the fact that both the LeT and JeM have resurfaced visibly in the past year in
Pakistan and the founders of both, Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar, have held public
rallies in Pakistan in 2014, the U.S. Secretary of State has signed off on a certification
that the Pakistan government has prevented al-Qaeda, the Taliban and associated
terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad from operating in
the territory of Pakistan for the year.

Not any change in Afghan draw-down plans


The White House has ruled out any change in its draw-down plan from Afghanistan
asserting that Afghans are now solely responsible for the security of their country.

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Current Affairs 215
What the President has been really clear about is what our strategy in Afghanistan
is; that after the end of the year, we are now in a situation where the combat mission
in Afghanistan for U.S. military personnel has ended.
The Afghans are now solely responsible for the security of their country, White
House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
Mr. Earnest was responding to questions on the statement made by the new Afghan
President, Ashraf Ghani, in which he said that the United States should consider re-
examining its timetable for taking U.S. coalition troops out of Afghanistan.
There is an enduring U.S. military presence and NATO coalition military presence
in Afghanistan to carry out two other missions, Mr. Earnest said. The first is a
counterterrorism mission. We continue to see remnants of al-Qaeda that do have
designs on destabilizing the region and U.S. interests.
We also continue to see a need for U.S. military personnel to play an important role
in training and equipping Afghan security forces to continue to take the fight to
those terrorist elements and to preserve the security situation in the country of
Afghanistan, he said.
Lauding the U.S. and coalition forces, Mr. Earnest said there are a lot of hard-won
gains that have been made in Afghanistan as a result of the bravery of U.S. military
personnel and our coalition partners.
Much of that work many of those accomplishments are due to the effective
coordination between United States military and Afghan security forces, and we
want to see that kind of coordination continue, even as Afghans take sole responsibility
for their security situation, he said.

Americas oldest time capsule opened


Boston residents in the newly-formed United States valued a robust press as much
as their history and currency if the contents of a time capsule dating back to a decade
after the Revolutionary War are any guide.
When conservators at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston gingerly removed items from
the box, they found five tightly-folded newspapers, a medal depicting George
Washington, a silver plaque, two dozen coins, including one dating to 1655, and the
seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
While some of the coins appeared corroded, other items were in good condition and
fingerprints could be seen on the silver plaque.
The capsule was embedded in a cornerstone of the Massachusetts Statehouse when
construction began in 1795. It was placed there by Revolutionary-era luminaries,
including Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, Governor of Massachusetts at the time.
The contents were shifted to what was believed to be a copper box in 1855 and
placed back into the foundation of the Statehouse. The box remained there until it
was rediscovered in 2014 during an ongoing water filtration project at the building.
The oldest coin in the box was a 1652 Pine Tree Schilling, made at a time when the
colony didnt have royal authority to create its own currency.
The newspapers were folded in such a way that the names of the publications werent
always visible, but one might have been a copy of the Boston Evening Traveller, a
newspaper operation that was eventually absorbed into the current Boston Herald.

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216 Current Affairs

A portion of one of the papers that was visible showed a listing of the arrivals of
whaling ships from various ports to Boston. Conservators didnt try to unfold the
papers.
Pam Hatchfield, the head of objects conservation for the museum, removed each
item using a slew of tools, including her grandfathers dental tool. Ms. Hatchfield
said the paper in the box was in amazingly good condition.

Palestine will join ICC on April 1


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Palestine will join the
International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 1, a high stakes move that will enable
the Palestinians to pursue war crimes charges against Israel.
The Palestinians submitted the documents ratifying the Rome Statute that established
the court, the last formal step to becoming a member of the worlds permanent war
crimes tribunal.
In a statement posted on the U.N.s treaty website, Mr. Ban said the statute will
enter into force for the State of Palestine on April 1, 2015. He said he was acting as
the depositary for the documents of ratification.
The Palestinian move has drawn threats of retaliation from Israel and is strongly
opposed by the U.S. as an obstacle to reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

U.S. bullet train project started


Californias high-speed rail project reached a milestone as officials mark the start of
work on the first U.S. bullet train, which is designed to whisk travellers at 200 mph
(320 kmph) between Los Angeles and San Francisco in less than three hours.
The ceremony in Fresno came amid challenges from Central Valley farmers and
communities in the trains path who have sued to block it and from Republican
members of Congress who vow to cut funding for the $68 billion project.

US-China rivalry fuels tensions in South China Sea


China is set to step up investments in off-shore oil-fields, but its nuclear strategy
towards the United States, rather than demand for energy security, maybe at the
heart of its assertion in the South China Sea.
Shanghais National Business Daily is reporting that the state-owned China National
Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has accelerated oil exploration, especially in the
western region of the South China Sea.
The goal is to construct a big off-shore oilfield that would have an output of 10
million tonnes. The focus on off-shore exploration follows the depletion of existing
on-shore oilfields.
By 2020, yearly output from Daqing Chinas largest oilfield is expected to drop
to 32 million tonnes, 8 million tones lower than the current production level. Other
fields are also expected to suffer a similar fate.
Chinas burgeoning energy demand does appear to be a factor fuelling its assertion
in South China Sea, and sharpening its disputes with littoral states, especially Vietnam
and the Philippines, along with Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
China claims a large maritime space, defined by the "nine-dash line" that stretches

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Current Affairs 217
hundreds of kilometers south and east of its southerly Hainan Island, covering the
strategic Paracel and Spratly island chains. China buttresses its claims by citing 2,000
years of history, when the two island chains were regarded as its integral parts.
But Vietnam rejects the Chinese argument, justifying its own claims, on the basis of
written records, which, in its view establish its administration over the area since the
17th century. Beijing and Manila clash on account of their dispute over the jurisdiction
of the Scarborough shoal, which is 160 kilometers from the Philippines.
Signalling its intent to hold on to its claims, China, set sail Sansha I, its latest supply
ship, from Hainan for Yongxing Island (Woody island), the largest of the disputed
Paracel Islands in the South China sea, which is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
Countering the energy argument, several analysts assert that Chinas long term
strategic contest with the United States, based on its nuclear doctrine, rather than a
grab for oil and gas, better explains Beijings maritime assertion in the South China
Sea.
Protection of naval assets, especially a select group nuclear submarines, which give
China its second strike capability and assured deterrence vis--vis the U.S. seem to
be compelling Beijing to keep out rivals from the South China Sea.

Australian govt. warns of terror attacks in India


The Australian government has warned that terrorists were planning attacks in India,
and urged its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution while travelling through
the country.
We continue to receive reports that terrorists are planning attacks in India and assess
that attacks could occur anywhere at any time with little or no warning, including in
locations frequented by Australians, said a statement on smartraveller.gov.au, the
Australian governments travel advisory site.
The advisory asked Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in India.
Australias department of foreign affairs and trade said the warning applied to all
parts of India.
It pointed out that in mid-December 2014 Indian authorities increased security at
Metro stations and other public spaces in New Delhi.
Australian women have been advised to take particular care in all parts of India and
exercise caution even if they were travelling in a group. There are several regions of
India where we advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel, or avoid all
travel, said the statement.

Developing nations need to rebuild their fiscal buffers


says WB
Faced with weaker export prospects, an impending rise in global interest rates, and
fragile financial market sentiment, developing countries like India need to rebuild
fiscal buffers to support economic activity in case of a growth slowdown, the World
Bank has said in its latest edition of Global Economic Prospects.
Many developing countries need to rebuild fiscal space over the medium term, at a
pace tailored to country conditions. These include cyclical conditions and constraints
to monetary policy, including elevated inflation or financial stability risks, the report
said.

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218 Current Affairs

Noting that fiscal policy in developing economies has become increasingly


countercyclical (or less procyclical) during the 2000s, the report said this allowed
developing economies to build fiscal space in the run-up to the Great Recession of
2008-09, which was then successfully used for stimulus.
In countries with elevated domestic debt or inflation, monetary policy options to
deal with a potential slowdown are constrained; the report said adding that in the
foreseeable future, these countries may need to employ fiscal stimulus measures to
support growth.
But many developing countries have less fiscal space now than they did prior to
2008, having used fiscal stimulus during the global financial crisis. And in recent
years, private debt levels have risen substantially in some developing countries, it
added.
A key finding from the analysis in the report is that in countries where debt and
deficits have widened from pre-crisis levels, each fiscal dollar spent on activities
designed to boost consumption and national income will have roughly a third less
impact than it did in the run-up to the global financial crisis.
Because the so-called fiscal multiplier effect is weaker now for many developing
countries, they need to rebuild budgets in the medium-term, at a pace determined to
country-specific conditions.
For a number of oil-importing countries, lower oil prices offer a chance to improve
fiscal positions more quickly than might have been possible before mid-2014, it said.
With oil likely to remain cheap for some time, oil-importing countries should lower
or even eliminate fuel subsidies and rebuild the fiscal space needed to carry out
future stimulus efforts.
On the policy front, both the size and the quality of fiscal deficits matter, as do
spending decisions, said Kaushik Basu, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist
at the World Bank.

U.S. looks forward to working with new Sri Lankan


President
The U.S. looks forward to working with Sri Lankan president-elect Maithripala
Sirisena, Secretary of State John Kerry said, as he commended outgoing President
Mahinda Rajapaksa for accepting the election results.
I look forward to working with President-elect Maithripala Sirisena as his new
government works to implement its campaign platform of a Sri Lanka that is peaceful,
inclusive, democratic, and prosperous, Mr. Kerry said in a statement soon after Mr.
Rajapaksa conceded defeat.
I commend President Rajapaksa for accepting the results of the election in the proud
tradition of peaceful and orderly transfers of power in Sri Lanka. His words about
accepting the verdict of the people and moving forward are important, Mr. Kerry
said.
Mr. Rajapaksa had called the election two years ahead of schedule, hoping to win a
record third six-year term before the defeat of the Tamil Tigers fades in the memory
of the people of the island which saw a three decades war over the demand of a
separate Tamil Eelam.

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Current Affairs 219
There was an unusual high voter turn-out for the elections held. The Sri Lankan
people deserve great credit on the successful conclusion of their elections. They turned
out in great numbers to exercise their democratic rights and every vote was a victory
for Sri Lanka, Mr. Kerry said.
The United States applauds the Sri Lankan Elections Commissioner, the security
forces, Sri Lankan civil society, and the candidates themselves for making sure this
election was not marred by unrest and for ensuring a significant drop in campaign-
related violence. It will be important for that effort to continue in the coming days,
he added.

South Africa & India discuss UNSC reforms


Engaging in diplomacy on the sidelines of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) event,
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had substantive meetings with Donald Ramotar,
President of Guyana; Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations
and Cooperation, South Africa; and Showkutally Soodhun, Vice Prime Minister
Mauritius.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is set to visit South Africa in the first quarter
of this year to pursue opportunities for economic ties particularly in infrastructure
and mining.
India and South Africa discussed the need for UN Security Council reforms especially
when 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the international body, Syed Akbaruddin,
spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs told a press conference.
In his discussion with Mr. Ramotar, Mr. Modi assured a line of credit worth $ 60
million to Guyana for two road and ocean ferry projects in the Caribbean country.
The Centre also decided to include Guyana in the list of countries whose citizens
will get a visa-on-arrival facility. The facility of Electronic Travel Authorization (e-
Visa) has also been introduced to save time.
A deeper engagement with Mauritius is also on the cards with the country inviting
Mr. Modi to pay a visit on March 12. Mr. Modi took a tour of Dandi Kutir a conical
three-storey museum dedicated to Gandhiji constructed in Gandhinagar. Gujarat
Chief Minister Anandiben Patel said it was the biggest exhibition in Asia.
At the occasion, two stamps of Rs. 25 and Rs. 5 and two coins of Rs. 100 and Rs. 10
denominations were released in the memory of Gandhiji. This years PBD will honour
16 NRIs with Samman Awards. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who is among those
awarded this year, will not attending the awards function.

John Kerry heads for India to attend Vibrant Gujarat


Summit
US Secretary of State John Kerry headed for India to attend the Vibrant Gujarat Summit
during which he will address investors to boost economic ties and meet Prime Minister
Narendra Modi to discuss a broad range of bilateral and global issues, including
climate change.
The Secretary would be emphasising the importance and future potential of our
economic partnership with India, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told.
Obviously the discussion would be on everything from continuing to do more
economically and technologically, given that United States and India, we believe,
can reach greater level of prosperity together than we would achieve alone, she

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220 Current Affairs

said.
The three-day Vibrant Gujarat Summit will begin tomorrow in Ahmedabad. He
would also be reiterating throughout the trip, our shared commitment to address
the challenge of climate change, promoting clean energy in the future. Prime Minister
Modi has a strong track record in this regard, she said, adding that the Obama
administration sees this trip as a pivotal point in India-US relationship.
After a brief stopover in Munich to meet the Sultan of Oman, Kerry leading a high-
level US delegation is scheduled to arrive in Ahmedabad. Soon after his arrival, he is
expected to visit the Gandhi Ashram, meet members of the civil society and visit the
Ford plant, which is expected to open shortly. He would address the Vibrant Gujarat
Summit and hold a round table with top Indian CEOs.
Kerry is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Modi and hold another round-table with
American CEOs participating in the summit.
Referring to the multi-fold increase in bilateral trade in the last 10 years, which stands
now at about USD 100 billion, Psaki said the summit is an opportunity to further the
goal that US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Modi have talked about in
terms of increasing trade five-fold to USD 500 billion.

Sri Lankas new government to probe Rajapaksas coup


bid
Sri Lanka's new government accused former President Mahinda Rajapaksa of having
tried to stage a military coup to remain in power following presidential polls, which
saw his chief rival and former minister Maithripala Sirisena elected president.
Mangala Samaraweera, a top aide of President Sirisena, told reporters that the coup
was averted because the army chief did not want to do anything against democracy
at that decisive time.
This, he said, was despite orders from Mr. Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabhaya
Rajapaksa, then the defence secretary to deploy troops to centres where the votes
were being counted late on January 8.
The new cabinet, to be sworn in soon, would initiate an investigation into the pre-
dawn conspiracy as one of its first tasks, he added. The allegations come just days
after sections hailed Mr. Rajapaksa for stepping down gracefully and ensuring a
smooth transition of power .
The truth is it was not a smooth transition of power, said Mr. Samaraweera, who
earlier served as Foreign Minister and is tipped to be a key member of President
Sirisenas cabinet.
When contacted, Army commander Lieutenant General Daya Ratnayake told: I have
not seen those allegations yet, so I cannot respond. Referring to earlier concerns
over the army being deployed in the north and east to allegedly disrupt elections, he
said: You saw that there was no such incident. The transition was very smooth, he
said.
On whether Mr. Rajapaksa or his brother gave him orders to stage a coup, General
Ratnayake said: I cant comment on that, it is very sensitive. You have to check with
the politicians. However, should the government initiate an enquiry, the army would
cooperate in the process, he said.

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Current Affairs 221

Taiwan confirmed the H5N8 strain of bird flu


Taiwans agriculture authority confirmed that the strain of bird flu found in a goose
breeding facility in the Chiayi County was the H5N8, which is not considered to be
highly pathogenic.
This follows the discovery of the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain of the bird flu virus
at a chicken farm in the southern Taiwanese county of Pingtung.
Agriculture council chief, Chen Bao-ji, said that this was the first time that the H5N8
strain has been detected in Taiwan, adding that it was suspected to have been spread
by migratory birds, according to a Xinhua report.
The Chiayi County government began culling more than 1,500 geese at the farm on
Sunday and a ban on the movement of poultry in Pingtung, Tainan and Yunlin
counties was imposed.
The culling of 120,000 chickens on a farm in Pingtung was completed after poultry
was found to be infected with the H5N2 strain. Avian influenza, known informally
as avian flu or bird flu, refers to influenza caused by viruses adapted to birds.
It has caused a global concern because of its possible transmission to humans and
the threat of a pandemic if it mutates to a form that can be easily passed from birds
to humans and then, from human to human.

Emerging economies must help combat climate change:


U.N. Chief
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that while respecting the principle of
common but differentiated responsibilities, emerging economies such as India, China,
South Africa and Brazil should take necessary action to combat climate change.
Interacting with presspersons after visiting a canal-top solar power project, he said
the developed countries had caused much more impact on climate than the developing
nations and they had different capacities to tackle impacts.
India was taking necessary action by projects such as the canal-top power project, a
creative and impressive one which all developing countries should emulate.
To questions, he said climate finance was the most important aspect to make
combating climate change a success. India could play a vital role as one of the fastest
growing economies.
He was catalysing funds into the Green Climate Fund, which had topped $10 billion
last year. He was optimistic about arriving at a new, robust climate treaty in Paris.

India must help foster peace in the region says U.N.


Secretary
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on India to play a leadership
role in ensuring peace in the region. He was speaking at the Sapru House-UN Lecture:
India and the United Nations in a Changing World.
Calling on Indian leaders to take up a proactive role in helping the region, including
Pakistan and Afghanistan that are rocked by violence, to stabilise, the UN Secretary
General said, The world is looking to India to help advance peace, prosperity and
security in the region As the worlds largest democracy India has an important
role.

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222 Current Affairs

He added that India, as well as other countries in the region, need to take a stand on
nuclear disarmament as the growing stockpile of nuclear weapons in the region is a
cause for concern, even as other nuclear states have announced limitations and end
to production of nuclear materials.
It is urgent in our era of rising terrorism, he said. Further, he added that the fruits
of development need to reach all groups in India.
India has lifted millions out of poverty but it must do more, he said, adding that the
other facets of development, such as discrimination against minority groups, such
as religious as well as gender, need to be ensured in the country.
Education is key, he said, adding that schools have to foster equality and harmony
and shouldnt be a battleground of divisive ideologies.
On sustainable development, too, Ban said India has a huge role to play. While lauding
Prime Minister Narendra Modis call for Make in India, he said, I want to add two
words to it. Make it green in India.
Climate action can power growth, increase energy security, deliver better health
and many others, he said. Challenges here mirror global challenges poverty,
gender inequality, discrimination, environmental degradation.

Hopes to start uranium exports to India in 2 years: Rio


Tinto
Australian diversified mining giant Rio Tinto group expects to start shipping the
nuclear fuel (uranium) to India in another year or two.
"The memorandum of understanding for civil nuclear co-operation was signed last
year but there is still work that needs to be done on certain safeguards about the end
use of the uranium.
It is an elaborate process and though both sides are committed, I think it will take
another year or two before we start exporting uranium to India," said Sam Walsh,
group Chief Executive Officer, Rio Tinto.
He said that the group has expressed interest in bidding for coal blocks during
discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Commercial mining of coal is still
some way off, but we are open to opportunities," he added. The group currently has
a two-way trade with India of about $2 billion.
Rio Tinto is still awaiting environment clearances for its $2 billion iron ore project in
Odisha and $500 million diamond mining project in Madhya Pradesh. The Madhya
Pradesh project is an important one.
It has the potential to create 30,000 jobs. We hope that approvals for this and the
Odisha iron ore project will come through soon," said Walsh. He added that over the
three meeting with Modi in the last six months, the issue of pending approvals has
been raised by Rio Tinto.

India-U.S. to jointly fight cancer & Ebola


India and the United States are expected to sign memoranda of understanding on
cancer research and Ebola control when U.S. President Barack Obama arrives later
this month.
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare J.P. Nadda said the two countries had

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Current Affairs 223
agreed to jointly fight Ebola. Under the agreement, Indian health care personnel will
be trained in Ebola control and treatment procedures.
The Indian Council of Medical Research is already working on producing a vaccine
for Ebola. But this MoU will focus on capacity building in areas of Ebola control, a
senior official of the Ministry said.
Though India has had no reported cases of Ebola, the disease has so far claimed over
7,000 lives in the affected countries. A 26 year-old, who had travelled from Liberia to
India and was found carrying the virus in his semen, remains in isolation.
Another MoU is to be signed between the National Cancer Institute, U.S., and the
upcoming National Cancer Institute in Jhajjar, for sharing of treatment plans, expertise
and research.
The NCI in the United States coordinates the National Cancer Programme, which
conducts and supports research, training, health information dissemination, and other
programmes with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of cancer,
rehabilitation and the continuing care of cancer patients and their families.
At the institute in Jhajjar being developed by the AIIMS, cancer research will be the
area of focus apart from patient care and management. India reports 11 lakh new
cases of cancer every year, with a mortality rate of 5.5 lakh per year.
Cancer treatment facilities in India are inadequate, compared to WHO standards,
which requires one radiotherapy machine per million population. India at present
has 0.41 machine per million population.

Leading U.K. papers reproduce survivors issue cover


Newsrooms in publications across the United Kingdom saw fierce debates over
whether to reproduce the cover of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo the survivors
issue as it has been called which went into a record 5 million print run on January
14. The latest issue of the satirical magazine carries a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad
on its cover that is a tearful and forgiving depiction of the founder of Islam.
While some publications have opted to publish the page in their regular reportage
on developments around the weekly magazine that lost six of its editorial
leadership and three others to terrorist bullets last week others have declined to
do so.
The Guardian; Times; Independent; Financial Times and the BBC have published
the cartoon, as have major websites like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and the news
sites of Yahoo and Google.
The magazine sold out in France, and selling at astronomical prices on ebay
will be available in Britain at select outlets. Bookshops and magazine distributers
are cagey about the number of copies that they are likely to receive.
The Muslim Council of Britain has responded to the publication with restraint. A
statement signed by 53 imams of mosques from across Britain, said that although
most Muslims will be hurt, offended and upset by the re-publication of the cartoon,
the best and immediate response is to emulate the enduring patience, tolerance,
gentleness and mercy as was the character of our beloved Prophet.

Japan approves its largest defence budget


Japan approved its largest-ever defence budget for the next fiscal year, as Prime

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Minister Shinzo Abe looks to strengthen surveillance of territorial waters in the face
of a continuing spat with China.
For the year to March 2016, Tokyo will spend 4.98 trillion yen ($41.97 billion), the
government said, rising for the third straight year.
This is the largest budget ever, said a defence ministry official, adding the highest
allocation previously was 4.96 trillion yen earmarked in 2002.
The trend reflects Mr. Abes wish to build a more active military, with an eye on a
possible escalation of tensions with China.

Global economy to expand by 3% in 2015


Noting that the global economy is still struggling to gain momentum while many
developing economies are less dynamic than they were in the past, the World Bank
has projected that it would expand by three per cent this year.
The global economy grew by an estimated 2.6 per cent in 2014, and is projected to
expand by 3.3 per cent in 2016 and 3.2 per cent in 2017, the bank said in a report.
Developing countries grew by 4.4 per cent in 2014 and are expected to edge up to 4.8
per cent in 2015, strengthening to 5.3 and 5.4 per cent in 2016 and 2017, respectively,
it said.
Following another disappointing year in 2014, developing countries should see an
uptick in growth this year, boosted in part by soft oil prices, a stronger US economy,
continued low global interest rates, and receding domestic headwinds in several
large emerging markets, it added.
In this uncertain economic environment, developing countries need to judiciously
deploy their resources to support social programmes with a laserlike focus on the
poor, and undertake structural reforms that invest in people, said World Bank
President Jim Yong Kim.
Its also critical for countries to remove any unnecessary roadblocks for private
sector investment. The private sector is by far the greatest source of jobs and it can
lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, he added.
Underneath the fragile global recovery lie increasingly divergent trends with
significant implications for global growth, the World Bank report said.
Activity in the United States and the United Kingdom is gathering momentum as
labour markets heal and monetary policy remains extremely accommodative. But
recovery has been sputtering in the Euro area and Japan as legacies of the financial
crisis linger.
The oil price collapse will result in winners and losers. Worryingly, the stalled
recovery in some highincome economies and even some middleincome countries
may be a symptom of deeper structural malaise, said Kaushik Basu, World Bank
Chief Economist and Senior Vice President.
As population growth has slowed in many countries, the pool of younger workers
is smaller, putting strains on productivity. But there are some silver linings behind
the clouds.
The lower oil price, which is expected to persist through 2015, is lowering inflation
worldwide and is likely to delay interest rate hikes in rich countries, he said.
This creates a window of opportunity for oilimporting countries, such as China

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Current Affairs 225
and India. What is critical is for nations to use this window to usher in fiscal and
structural reforms, which can boost longrun growth and inclusive development,
Mr. Basu said.

U.S. think tank flags readiness of Pak nuclear weapons


Evidence has emerged this week suggesting that Pakistan may have accelerated its
covert nuclear weapons development programme and rendered operational a nuclear
reactor structure located near a heavy water reactor, in a complex that is likely geared
toward the production of plutonium.
High-resolution satellite imagery dated January 15, 2015, shows that external
construction of the Khushab complexs fourth reactor is complete and it has become
operational.
If, as the evidence suggests, Pakistan is accelerating its nuclear weapons programme,
it may heighten tensions with New Delhi, where the subject is likely to come up
when Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets U.S.

President Barack Obama during Republic Day


celebrations next week.
In a report that included the satellite photographs by Digital Globe, Washington
think-tank Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said that the
assessment of reactor completeness and operation was based on the presence of a
very specific signature: steam is venting from the reactors cooling system.
The Khushab reactor complex was originally constructed and became operational in
the 1990s, at that time comprising primarily of a heavy water production plant and
an estimated 50 megawatt-thermal (MWth) heavy water reactor.
Following the nuclear tests in India and Pakistan in 1998, Islamabad initiated the
construction of a second heavy water reactor between the year 2000 and 2002, ISIS
notes, a third one in 2006, and a fourth one in 2011.
ISIS, which has closely tracked the progress on the construction of the reactor complex,
noted that a January 2011 image showed the building, similar in layout to the second
and third reactors at the same site, early in its construction but by April 2011, the
frame of the reactor building and the main reactor hall were visible.

PIA closure will snap vital link between India, Pakistan


Official Pakistani sources said they were worried that the Enforcement Directorate
notice to the Pakistan International Airlines on its offices in Delhi, had political
overtones.
The move, they feared, would cut off a vital link between both countries. PIA runs
the only flights between India and Pakistan, with two flights a week on the Delhi-
Lahore sector and once a week on the Mumbai-Karachi sector.
Pakistani officials insisted that the PIA service to India which started in 1976, would
not be cancelled, despite all the problems. However, one official said there were
apprehensions that the action came after Foreign Secretary talks were cancelled last
July, and indicated other actions could follow causing a further rift in ties.

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Ordinance makes gender-neutral restrooms


compulsory
West Hollywood has joined the vanguard of places that are taking steps to make
transgender people feel more welcome. Last week, an ordinance took effect that
abolished the traditional designation of men or women on single-stall public
restrooms, a bow to the requests of the sizable community of transgender people,
who do not believe they fall into either category.
Restaurants and other places with public restrooms will not have to make any changes
if the bathrooms have multiple stalls, but all single-stall public restrooms have to be
labelled gender neutral; businesses have 60 days to comply, but can do so by simply
placing a gender-neutral sign on any single-stall restroom.
This sweep of legislation reflects the growing prominence and visibility of transgender
people. Amazon Studios streaming show Transparent has received widespread
critical acclaim, and the lead actor, Jeffrey Tambor, won a Golden Globe last Sunday
for his performance as a man who identifies as a woman.

Germany eager to join Make in India initiative


German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schuble expressed interest in working with
India in the manufacturing sector, especially in the auto and solar energy industries,
at a meeting with business lobby Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) .The German
minister is scheduled to hold talks with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley .
Dr. Schubles positive note on German manufacturing industrys readiness to
participate in the Make in India policy comes close on the heels of U.S. Secretary of
State John Kerrys voicing of the Obama administrations worries over the initiative.
Mr. Modi is scheduled to jointly inaugurate the Hannover trade fair along with
German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his visit to Germany in April 2015.

India is worlds second most trusting nation: survey


Moving up the ranks, India has emerged as the second most trusted country in the
world in terms of faith reposed on its institutions even as globally trust levels have
fallen, says a survey.
As the worlds rich and powerful gather in the Swiss resort of Davos, a study by
public relations firm Edelman has found that general level of trust in institutions
among college-educated people around the globe are at levels not seen since 2009 in
many of the markets it surveyed.
Trust in institutions in India has improved sharply in 2015 with the country moving
up three notches to the second place among 27 nations.
While the number of truster countries are at an all-time low of six in 2015 including
UAE, India, China and Netherlands, the number of distruster countries has grown
significantly to 13 including Japan, Russia, Hong Kong, South Africa and Italy.
Brazil, Malaysia, France and the US are among the 8 neutral nations as per the
trust index, the survey said.
India, which last year saw the BJP-led NDA government storming to power at the
Centre, stands tall.

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Current Affairs 227
According to the report, an alarming evaporation of trust has happened across all
institutions, reaching the lows of the Great Recession in 2009.
Trust in government, business, media and NGOs in the general population is below
50 per cent in two-thirds of countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Germany, it said.
From fifth most trusted in 2014, India has now become the second-most trusted in
2015 with a score of 79 per cent in the barometer. The study has put India Prime
Minister Narendra Modis image on the first page.

Cuba, U.S. open historic talks


The United States and Cuba opened two days of historic talks in Havana to end
decades of Cold War-era animosity and re-establish diplomatic relations.
The meetings in Havana follow the historic decision by U.S. President Barack Obama
and Cuban leader Raul Castro in December to seek normal diplomatic relations.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alex Lee and Cuban Foreign Ministry official
Josefina Vidal sat down for the first day of closed-door talks.
Their opening remarks were not broadcast.
The reopening of mutual embassies, closed since relations broke in 1961, will be at
the centre of Thursdays talks, which will be led on the U.S. side by Roberta Jacobson,
the U.S. Assistant Secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

Kerry issued summons in rights group move against RSS


A U.S. court has issued summons to Secretary of State John Kerry calling for his
response within 60 days to a lawsuit demanding that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh (RSS) be designated a foreign terrorist organisation.
Judge Laura Swain of the District Court of the Southern District of New York said in
her summons that Mr. Kerry was required to answer the declaratory lawsuit filed
by Sikhs for Justice, a human rights group that had earlier filed a case against Prime
Minister Narendra Modi alleging culpability for his role in the 2002 anti-Muslim
pogrom in Gujarat, which occurred when Mr. Modi was the Chief Minister.
This weeks lawsuit, which acquires significance in the context of U.S. President
Barack Obamas visit to India over the weekend to join its Republic Day celebrations,
called for the Foreign Terrorist Organisation tag for the RSS for believing in and
practicing a fascist ideology and for running a passionate, vicious and violent
campaign to turn India into a Hindu nation with a homogeneous religious and
cultural identity.
In its 26-page complaint, SFJ alleged that the crimes of the RSS included the targeting
of religious minorities of India, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, citing incidents of
violence against these groups in Gujarat, Punjab and Orissa, respectively.

Salman is new ruler of Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabias elderly King Abdullah died and was replaced by his half-brother
Salman as the absolute ruler of the worlds top oil exporter and the spiritual home of
Islam.
Global leaders paid tribute to the late monarch, a cautious reformer who led his
kingdom through a turbulent decade in a region shaken by the Arab Spring uprisings
and Islamic extremism.

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228 Current Affairs

Another of the late monarchs half-brothers, Moqren, was named the new crown
prince.
In his first public statement as the new ruler, the 79-year-old King Salman vowed to
maintain a steady course for the conservative kingdom.

Thai ex-Premier Yingluck impeached


Thailands junta-stacked Parliament voted to impeach the former Premier, Yingluck
Shinawatra, hours after prosecutors announced plans to indict her for corruption in
a double blow that risks reigniting the countrys bitter divisions.
The successful impeachment of Ms. Yingluck, the kingdoms first woman Premier
and the sister of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, carries an automatic five-year
ban from politics while the criminal charges could eventually see her jailed for up to
a decade.
Experts say the impeachment and criminal charges are the latest attempt by the
countrys royalist elite, and its army backers, to nullify the political influence of the
Shinawatras, whose parties have won every election since 2001.
But the juntas pursuit of the family could also disturb the uneasy calm that has
descended on Thailand since the military took over.

Consensus on implementing 13th amendment: Ranil


Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe said political parties have agreed
to implement the thirteenth amendment as a solution to end the countrys over three-
decade-old ethnic conflict involving the Tamil minority..

Power to Councils
He further said that all Provincial Councils will have equal powers now that the
Tamil National Alliance has said that they are for a solution within an undivided Sri
Lanka.
Provincial Councils became part of the Sri Lankan statute as a direct result of the
landmark 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka accord, popularly known as the Rajiv-Jayawardane
Accord, after its architects Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Lankan
President J. R. Jayewardene.
Mr. Wickramasinghe also blamed the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa for failing
to resolve the thorny issues concerning the Tamil minority despite having ended the
two-and-a-half decade-old civil war with the LTTE in 2009.
On the U.N.s human rights investigation on Sri Lanka, Mr. Wickramasinghe said it
was the result of Mr. Rajapaksas mishandling of the issue.

Vision statement on Asia-Pacific, Indian Ocean


After meeting for close to five hours, including an extended lunch, tea on the
Hyderabad House lawns, and delegation level talks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi
and President Barack Obama issued three separate documents: a declaration of
friendship with a commitment to regular summits, a joint statement called Shared
Effort, Progress for all, and a joint strategic vision statement for the Asia-Pacific
and the Indian ocean region.
The last document could raise eyebrows in China, when External Affairs minister

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Current Affairs 229
Sushma Swaraj visits Beijing next week, as it elaborates on the clauses in their previous
joint statement for the disputed maritime region, and says, We affirm the importance
of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over
flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea.
Conspicuous by its absence was mention of cross-border terrorism or Indias issues
with Pakistan, although the two sides repeated their September commitment to
disrupt terror groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e- Mohammad, D Company
and the Haqqani Network.

Colombias Paulina is Miss Universe


Colombias Paulina Vega was crowned Miss Universe , beating out contenders from
the United States, Ukraine, Jamaica and the Netherlands among the top-five at the
worlds top beauty pageant in Florida.
The 22-year-old model and business student triumphed over 87 other women from
around the world, becoming only the second beauty queen from her nation to take
home the prize.
The last time Colombia won the crown was in 1958, when Luz Marina Zuluaga took
the title.
A beaming and tearful Vega, wearing a long silver-sequinned gown, accepted her
sash and crown from the reigning Miss Universe, Gabriela Isler, from Venezuela.
She hugged first runner-up, Nia Sanchez, from the United States as the win was
announced.
London-born Vega dedicated her title to Colombia and to all her supporters.

Church of England: first woman Bishop consecrated


The Church of England ended centuries of male-only leadership as Reverend Libby
Lane became its first woman bishop in a ceremony briefly disrupted by a traditionalist
priests protest. Around 100 bishops gathered around the 48-year-old to perform the
traditional laying on of hands at the ceremonys climax in the Gothic splendour of
York Minster, northern England.
The congregation of some 2,000 people broke into applause and cheers and some
shed tears. Highlighting the divisions which dog the Church despite a painstaking
reconciliation process, a lone conservative opposed to women as bishops had earlier
disrupted the ceremony.

WikiLeaks accuses Google of handing over e-mails to


U.S.
Whistleblower site WikiLeaks accused Google of handing over the e-mails and
electronic data of its senior staff to the U.S. authorities without providing notification
until almost three years later.
Google was apparently acting in response to warrants issued by the U.S. Department
of Justice, which is investigating WikiLeaks for publishing hundreds of thousands
of classified military and diplomatic files.
WikiLeaks said that Google could and should have resisted complying with the
warrants, as well as immediately informing those whose data it handed over.
The information was handed over to the U.S. authorities on April 5, 2012, but Google

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230 Current Affairs

did not inform the WikiLeaks staff until December 23, 2014, according to documents
obtained by AFP.

Ajmer, Allahabad can turn into religious tourism hubs


The decision to set up task forces to push plans for the three smart cities was taken at
a meeting between Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and
visiting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.
India and the U.S. had signed three memoranda of understanding (MoUs) for
developing Ajmer, Allahabad and Visakhapatnam.
Mr. Naidu said Ajmer and Allahabad were chosen because they were centres of
religious significance and drew tourists in large numbers.
Visakhapatnam was picked because being a coastal city it had the potential to develop
into a tourist destination.
The Minister said Andhra Pradesh (after the bifurcation) was trying to develop itself,
and the government was keen to offer aid and logistical support to it.
Each of the three task forces would formulate concrete action plans in the next three
months.
Each team would have three representatives each from the Centre and respective
State governments and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA). These
task forces would discuss city-specific features, requirements of the project and how
to raise funds.

Impeached Sri Lankan Chief Justice reinstated


Sri Lankas new President restored the countrys former Chief Justice after she was
controversially impeached by the previous administration led by Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Lawyers welcomed Shirani Bandaranayake with bouquets of flowers at the Supreme
Court in Colombo, although the decision to reinstate her will likely be largely
ceremonial as she is expected to step down on Thursday.
A government official who asked not to be named said President Maithripala Sirisena
had written to Ms. Bandaranayake to say her 2013 impeachment was unconstitutional
and she should return to work.

Annual abortion rate doubles in Pak.


Pakistan recorded 2.25 million abortion cases in 2012, with the rate of annual abortions
doubling in 10 years due to minimal use of contraception in its conservative society,
according to a report.
The report titled Induced Abortions and Unintended Pregnancies in Pakistan was
carried out by Population Council in collaboration with Guttmacher Institute in U.S.

New China-Myanmar oil pipeline bypasses Malacca trap


China has taken a firm step to beef up its energy security by inaugurating a pipeline
that will bring crude oil from a deep water port in Myanmar, along a transit route
that will bypass the strategic Malacca Straits.
The first tanker that will offload 300,000 tons of oil is expected to arrive on Friday at
Maday Island a deep water port developed by China in the Bay of Bengal. From
there, oil, mostly brought from West Asia and Africa, will be pumped into a 2402 km

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Current Affairs 231
long pipeline that will stretch for 771 km in Myanmar and another 1631 km in China.
A gas pipeline, next to the Maday Island terminal, already runs from Myanmars
port of Kyaukpyu. China also finalised plans to establish a rail corridor from
Kyaukpyu to its Yunnan province.
The strategic oil pipeline will service Chinas two major growth centres Kunming
and Chongqing, an industrial hub along the Yangtze River delta. Both cities are pivotal
in the development of Chinas Silk Road Economic Belt, the 21st century Maritime
Silk Road. Kunming is one of the starting points of the Maritime Silk Road, because
it connects with three countries belonging to the Association of South East Asian
Nations (ASEAN) Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos. Landlocked Laos in turn becomes
the gateway to ports in Thailand, and a wider transportation network covering
Malaysia and Singapore as well.
Significantly, the new oil pipeline bypasses the Malacca Straits a narrow channel
that connects the Indian Ocean with the Pacific. The Chinese are concerned that their
access to the Malacca Straits the main channel of their trade and energy supplies
can become compromised on account of Beijings growing rivalry with the United
States, and maritime disputes with neighbours in the South China Sea.
As oil begins to flow, the Chinese are also building a refinery in Kunming that can
process 10 million tons of crude annually.
Part of the shipments received will also be delivered to Myanmar, says the countrys
Vice-President U Nyan Tun. China and Myanmar have jointly funded the project,
including the construction of the Maday oil unloading terminal.
Analysts say that apart from enhancing energy security, the construction of an oil
and gas pipeline from Myanmar is driven by environmental considerations, as China
works to limit carbon emissions resulting from its over-dependence on coal.

Sri Lankas new government to probe Rajapaksas coup


bid
Sri Lankas new government accused former President Mahinda Rajapaksa of having
tried to stage a military coup to remain in power following presidential polls, which
saw his chief rival and former minister Maithripala Sirisena elected president.
Mangala Samaraweera, a top aide of President Sirisena, told reporters that the coup
was averted because the army chief did not want to do anything against democracy
at that decisive time.
This, he said, was despite orders from Mr. Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabhaya
Rajapaksa, then the defence secretary to deploy troops to centres where the votes
were being counted late on January 8.
The new cabinet, to be sworn in soon, would initiate an investigation into the pre-
dawn conspiracy as one of its first tasks, he added. The allegations come just days
after sections hailed Mr. Rajapaksa for stepping down gracefully and ensuring a
smooth transition of power .
The truth is it was not a smooth transition of power, said Mr. Samaraweera, who
earlier served as Foreign Minister and is tipped to be a key member of President
Sirisenas cabinet.
When contacted, Army commander Lieutenant General Daya Ratnayake told: I have
not seen those allegations yet, so I cannot respond. Referring to earlier concerns

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232 Current Affairs

over the army being deployed in the north and east to allegedly disrupt elections, he
said: You saw that there was no such incident. The transition was very smooth, he
said.
On whether Mr. Rajapaksa or his brother gave him orders to stage a coup, General
Ratnayake said: I cant comment on that, it is very sensitive. You have to check with
the politicians. However, should the government initiate an enquiry, the army would
cooperate in the process, he said.

Taiwan confirmed the H5N8 strain of bird flu


Taiwans agriculture authority confirmed that the strain of bird flu found in a goose
breeding facility in the Chiayi County was the H5N8, which is not considered to be
highly pathogenic.
This follows the discovery of the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain of the bird flu virus
at a chicken farm in the southern Taiwanese county of Pingtung.
Agriculture council chief, Chen Bao-ji, said that this was the first time that the H5N8
strain has been detected in Taiwan, adding that it was suspected to have been spread
by migratory birds, according to a Xinhua report.
The Chiayi County government began culling more than 1,500 geese at the farm on
Sunday and a ban on the movement of poultry in Pingtung, Tainan and Yunlin
counties was imposed.
The culling of 120,000 chickens on a farm in Pingtung was completed after poultry
was found to be infected with the H5N2 strain. Avian influenza, known informally
as avian flu or bird flu, refers to influenza caused by viruses adapted to birds.
It has caused a global concern because of its possible transmission to humans and
the threat of a pandemic if it mutates to a form that can be easily passed from birds
to humans and then, from human to human.

Emerging economies must help combat climate change:


U.N. Chief
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that while respecting the principle of
common but differentiated responsibilities, emerging economies such as India, China,
South Africa and Brazil should take necessary action to combat climate change.
Interacting with presspersons after visiting a canal-top solar power project, he said
the developed countries had caused much more impact on climate than the developing
nations and they had different capacities to tackle impacts.
India was taking necessary action by projects such as the canal-top power project, a
creative and impressive one which all developing countries should emulate.
To questions, he said climate finance was the most important aspect to make
combating climate change a success. India could play a vital role as one of the fastest
growing economies.
He was catalysing funds into the Green Climate Fund, which had topped $10 billion
last year. He was optimistic about arriving at a new, robust climate treaty in Paris.

India-U.S. to Jointly fight cancer & Ebola


India and the United States are expected to sign memoranda of understanding on

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Current Affairs 233
cancer research and Ebola control when U.S. President Barack Obama arrives later
this month.
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare J.P. Nadda said the two countries had
agreed to jointly fight Ebola. Under the agreement, Indian health care personnel will
be trained in Ebola control and treatment procedures.
The Indian Council of Medical Research is already working on producing a vaccine
for Ebola. But this MoU will focus on capacity building in areas of Ebola control, a
senior official of the Ministry said.
Though India has had no reported cases of Ebola, the disease has so far claimed over
7,000 lives in the affected countries. A 26 year-old, who had travelled from Liberia to
India and was found carrying the virus in his semen, remains in isolation.
Another MoU is to be signed between the National Cancer Institute, U.S., and the
upcoming National Cancer Institute in Jhajjar, for sharing of treatment plans, expertise
and research.
The NCI in the United States coordinates the National Cancer Programme, which
conducts and supports research, training, health information dissemination, and other
programmes with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of cancer,
rehabilitation and the continuing care of cancer patients and their families.
At the institute in Jhajjar being developed by the AIIMS, cancer research will be the
area of focus apart from patient care and management. India reports 11 lakh new
cases of cancer every year, with a mortality rate of 5.5 lakh per year.
Cancer treatment facilities in India are inadequate, compared to WHO standards,
which requires one radiotherapy machine per million population. India at present
has 0.41 machine per million population.

Leading U.K. papers reproduce survivors issue cover


Newsrooms in publications across the United Kingdom saw fierce debates over
whether to reproduce the cover of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo the survivors
issue as it has been called which went into a record 5 million print run on January
14.
The latest issue of the satirical magazine carries a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad on
its cover that is a tearful and forgiving depiction of the founder of Islam.
While some publications have opted to publish the page in their regular reportage
on developments around the weekly magazine that lost six of its editorial
leadership and three others to terrorist bullets last week others have declined to
do so.
The Guardian; Times; Independent; Financial Times and the BBC have published
the cartoon, as have major websites like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and the news
sites of Yahoo and Google.
The magazine sold out in France, and selling at astronomical prices on ebay
will be available in Britain at select outlets. Bookshops and magazine distributers
are cagey about the number of copies that they are likely to receive.
The Muslim Council of Britain has responded to the publication with restraint. A
statement signed by 53 imams of mosques from across Britain, said that although
most Muslims will be hurt, offended and upset by the re-publication of the cartoon,

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234 Current Affairs

the best and immediate response is to emulate the enduring patience, tolerance,
gentleness and mercy as was the character of our beloved Prophet.

Japan approves its largest defence budget


Japan approved its largest-ever defence budget for the next fiscal year, as Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe looks to strengthen surveillance of territorial waters in the face
of a continuing spat with China.

For the year to March 2016, Tokyo will spend 4.98 trillion yen ($41.97 billion), the
government said, rising for the third straight year.
This is the largest budget ever, said a defence ministry official, adding the highest
allocation previously was 4.96 trillion yen earmarked in 2002.
The trend reflects Mr. Abes wish to build a more active military, with an eye on a
possible escalation of tensions with China.

Global economy to expand by 3% in 2015


Noting that the global economy is still struggling to gain momentum while many
developing economies are less dynamic than they were in the past, the World Bank
has projected that it would expand by three per cent this year.
The global economy grew by an estimated 2.6 per cent in 2014, and is projected to
expand by 3.3 per cent in 2016 and 3.2 per cent in 2017, the bank said in a report.
Developing countries grew by 4.4 per cent in 2014 and are expected to edge up to 4.8
per cent in 2015, strengthening to 5.3 and 5.4 per cent in 2016 and 2017, respectively,
it said.
Following another disappointing year in 2014, developing countries should see an
uptick in growth this year, boosted in part by soft oil prices, a stronger US economy,
continued low global interest rates, and receding domestic headwinds in several
large emerging markets, it added.
In this uncertain economic environment, developing countries need to judiciously
deploy their resources to support social programmes with a laserlike focus on the
poor, and undertake structural reforms that invest in people, said World Bank
President Jim Yong Kim.
Its also critical for countries to remove any unnecessary roadblocks for private
sector investment. The private sector is by far the greatest source of jobs and it can
lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, he added.
Underneath the fragile global recovery lie increasingly divergent trends with
significant implications for global growth, the World Bank report said.
Activity in the United States and the United Kingdom is gathering momentum as
labour markets heal and monetary policy remains extremely accommodative. But
recovery has been sputtering in the Euro area and Japan as legacies of the financial
crisis linger.
The oil price collapse will result in winners and losers. Worryingly, the stalled
recovery in some highincome economies and even some middleincome countries
may be a symptom of deeper structural malaise, said Kaushik Basu, World Bank
Chief Economist and Senior Vice President.

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Current Affairs 235
As population growth has slowed in many countries, the pool of younger workers
is smaller, putting strains on productivity. But there are some silver linings behind
the clouds.
The lower oil price, which is expected to persist through 2015, is lowering inflation
worldwide and is likely to delay interest rate hikes in rich countries, he said.
This creates a window of opportunity for oilimporting countries, such as China
and India. What is critical is for nations to use this window to usher in fiscal and
structural reforms, which can boost longrun growth and inclusive development,
Mr. Basu said.

U.S. think tank flags readiness of Pak nuclear weapons


Evidence has emerged this week suggesting that Pakistan may have accelerated its
covert nuclear weapons development programme and rendered operational a nuclear
reactor structure located near a heavy water reactor, in a complex that is likely geared
toward the production of plutonium.
High-resolution satellite imagery dated January 15, 2015, shows that external
construction of the Khushab complexs fourth reactor is complete and it has become
operational.
If, as the evidence suggests, Pakistan is accelerating its nuclear weapons programme,
it may heighten tensions with New Delhi, where the subject is likely to come up
when Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets U.S.
President Barack Obama during Republic Day celebrations next week.
In a report that included the satellite photographs by Digital Globe, Washington
think-tank Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said that the
assessment of reactor completeness and operation was based on the presence of a
very specific signature: steam is venting from the reactors cooling system.
The Khushab reactor complex was originally constructed and became operational in
the 1990s, at that time comprising primarily of a heavy water production plant and
an estimated 50 megawatt-thermal (MWth) heavy water reactor.
Following the nuclear tests in India and Pakistan in 1998, Islamabad initiated the
construction of a second heavy water reactor between the year 2000 and 2002, ISIS
notes, a third one in 2006, and a fourth one in 2011.
ISIS, which has closely tracked the progress on the construction of the reactor complex,
noted that a January 2011 image showed the building, similar in layout to the second
and third reactors at the same site, early in its construction but by April 2011, the
frame of the reactor building and the main reactor hall were visible.

Ordinance makes gender-neutral restrooms


compulsory
West Hollywood has joined the vanguard of places that are taking steps to make
transgender people feel more welcome. Last week, an ordinance took effect that
abolished the traditional designation of men or women on single-stall public
restrooms, a bow to the requests of the sizable community of transgender people,
who do not believe they fall into either category.
Restaurants and other places with public restrooms will not have to make any changes

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Current Affairs 321

INDIA & THE WORLD

TPP and its effect on India


The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), or the mega-regional free trade pact led by the
U.S. and including 11 other Asia-Pacific countries, is likely to indirectly impact Indias
exports in several industrial sectors.
Sector such as textiles, plastics, leather, clothing, cotton and yarn, besides the countrys
regime on investment, labour standards, intellectual property rights (IPR),
government procurement and State-owned enterprises (SOE) will face problem.
The challenges arising from the TPP which has set very high standards for the
international trading regime could be similar to those experienced by India post
the 1991 economic liberalisation.
The External Affairs Ministry would soon do a study in the context of TPP and in-
form the government what the priorities should be in terms of policy-making in the
next six months.
The TPP agreement (which India is not a part of) was reached in October last year
and the member countries have two years to ratify the pact. In the meantime, the
Indian government will have to consider improving the countrys standards in areas
such as labour laws by holding stakeholder consultations.
The investor-State dispute settlement mechanism adopted by the TPP was also a
concern from Indias point of view.
Some of the TPP standards were higher than that of the WTO norms, including on
IPR and possible ever-greening of patents, which could hurt Indias pharma sector.
The operations and the production methods of Indias public sector units (or SOEs)
could also be constrained due to the TPP.
Several Indian export sectors such as cotton and yarn could be affected as trade may
be diverted to the TPP region due to its benefits of low or nil duties.
Pointing out that the TPP, RCEP and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment
Partnership (a proposed mega- regional between the U.S. and the European Union)
excluded African countries, the Minister said India would also have to focus on
improving its trade with African countries.
Meanwhile, India is also considering engaging with the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation countries to ensure that it did not miss out on the emerging trade
dynamics.

India and Russia forms working group to build


components for nuclear plants in India
In a move that could become a model for countries keen on a share of Indias civil
nuclear energy pie, India and Russia have set up a working group to locally build
components for nuclear power plants of Russian design.
This is based on the Action Programme signed between Rosatom and the Department
of Atomic Energy of India during Prime Minister NarendraModis visit to Moscow
in December 2015.
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322 Current Affairs

Rosatom, as part of its plans for expanding its global footprint, is in the process of
opening its regional office for South Asia office in Mumbai.
The Action Programme includes areas of cooperation in the field of joint machinery
production, especially for nuclear power plants, as well as cooperation in the field of
joint development, mastering and technological support of the implementation of
end-to-end production technologies of products for heavy and power engineering
industries.
The three joint working groups, set up under the Indo-Russian Coordinating
Committee on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy established in
December 2014, are on the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear CM energy and scientific-
technical cooperation.
The localisation plans are part of the governments efforts to build manufacturing in
the country under its ambitions Make in India initiative.
Russia is currently building six reactors in Kudankulam of which the first unit was
commissioned in autumn 2013. It was shut for the first scheduled preventive
maintenance (SPM) and has now successfully restarted power generation.

India ratifies pact on nuclear compensation


Five years after signing the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear
Damage (CSC), India ratified the convention, the IAEAs Office of Public Information
and Communication reported from Vienna.
The CSC is a convention that allows for increasing the compensation amount in the
event of a nuclear incident through public funds pooled in by contracting parties
based on their own installed nuclear capacities.
It entered into force on April 15, 2015.
India had also passed its own domestic nuclear liability law, the Civil Law for Nuclear
Damage (CLND) Act in 2010.
Countries such as the U.S. have said that the Indian laws provisions are violative of
the CSC, but this has been denied by India.

U.S. President assured NarendraModi to Lok into visa


issues
U.S. President Barack Obama has assured Prime Minister NarendraModi that his
administration would soon look into Indias concerns over the recent move to increase
visa fees.
The Act, among other things, increased the fees for certain H1B and L1 applicants.
After the increase, the fees for certain categories of H1B and L1 visas have more than
doubled.
According to Nasscom, the IT/ITeS industry body, the decisions financial impact on
the Indian technology sector would be around $400 million a year.
India (Indian tech firms) will be the most affected by the decision as it is the largest
user of H1B visas (67.4 per cent of the total 161,369 visas issued in FY14 went to
Indians), and is also among the largest users of L1 visas (Indians received 28.2 per
cent of the 71,513 L1 visas issued in FY14).

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Current Affairs 323
The CII, an industry body, had said the visa fee in- crease was discriminatory and
punitive and was aimed at India and Indian-centric technology companies.
Issues related to tightening of the visa and immigration regime and the fear-monger-
ing about American jobs going to foreigners have been part of the political rhetoric
before presidential elections in the U.S.

Indian trucks cross freely into Nepal


Residents and traders in southern Nepal dismantled tents and roadblocks set up by
protesters at a key border crossing, allowing trucks to cross freely from India for the
first time in four months.
More than 50 people have died in an agitation against Nepal's first republican
constitution led by minority Madhesis, who say the charter ignores their demands
for a united homeland and greater say in the running of the Himalayan nation.
A prolonged blockade mounted by southern lowlanders on the Friendship Bridge
linking the Nepali town of Birgunj with Raxaul in Bihar had caused acute fuel
shortages and spurred smuggling along the porous border.
People in Birgunjmadhesis and Raxaul had cleared tents pitched on the bridge by
protesters from the Madhesi minority.
Nepali Prime Minister K.P. Oli has appeared increasingly isolated by the protests
and faced criticism from India over the tough line taken by the authorities against
them . The lifting of the blockade may signal the stand-of is easing.

Nepal confirms PM visit on Feb 19


Within hours of the end of commercial blockade in Birgunj, the biggest trading post
on the Indo-Nepal border, Nepal declared that Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli would
visit India on February 19.
The end of the blockade at Birgunj had persuaded Nepal to finally declare the date
of the visit which had been underdiscussions since Mr.Oli became Prime Minister of
Nepal in October 2015.
The China-Nepal economic agreements, meanwhile, added substance to the reports
that the Nepal Prime Minister might choose to visit Beijing first, instead of Delhi.

In the mutual interest India and Thailand might


exchange prisoners
Worried over the possible proxy use of narcotics and human trafficking networks by
terror operators, India and Thailand have started talks on exchanging prisoners that
are of mutual interest.
One of the first cases that both sides have begun to look into involves a Kindergarten
teacher, MituMandal, who has been in Thai custody since May, 2014, when she was
arrested in Bangkoks Suvarnabhumi Airport with 1.62 kilogram of Ya Ice (meth-
amphetamine).
Ms. Mandal reportedly confessed to Thai authorities that she was used by a narcotics
network covering Thailand, India and Nigeria.
Prisoners exchange is one of the steps being planned in bilateral legal collaboration
following two major extraditions from Thailand since January 2015.

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324 Current Affairs

Troops of India and China held first joint tactical exercise


in Chushul-Moldo
The border troops of India and China held their first joint tactical exercise in the
Chushul-Moldo area along the northern border.
This is part of the ongoing initiatives taken by India and China to ensure greater
interaction between troops stationed along the Line of Actual Control, and thereby
ensure peace and tranquillity along the border.
As previously agreed by both countries, the exercise focussed on actions to be
coordinated to tackle jointly aspects of humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
This exercise complements the Hand-in-Hand series of India-China Joint Exercises
and the recently conducted joint exercise in Sikkim.

India and UAE set to engage in various fields after


Princes visit
India and the Unit- ed Arab Emirates are set to strengthen cyber security mechanism
to track radicalisation of youth in South Asia and West Asian region.
Over the last several months, India-UAE cooperation has prevented several
radicalised youths from joining the ranks of the Islamic State (IS).
Both sides are expected to sign a number of agreements on cyber security and law
enforcement during the February 10-12 visit by Abu Dhabis Crown Prince Sheikh
Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Security collaboration has become the centrepiece of India-UAE cooperation,
especially since Prime Minister NarendraModi visited Dubai in August 2015.
Cyber security experts have point- ed out that the cooperation between the UAE and
India on cyber security has helped in tracking radicalisation in
India as well as inside Pakistan. Agreements on security and cyber security will be
part of a total of 16 agreements that are expected to be signed during the visit which
will also include an agreement on nuclear research and development, and aerospace
collaborations.

UAEs national oil company agreed to give oil to India


free
In a first of its kind deal, UAEs national oil company Adnoc has agreed to store
crude oil in Indias maiden strategic storage and give two-thirds of the oil to it for
free.
India is building underground storages in Visakhapatnam and Mangalore and Padur
in Karnataka to store about 5.33 million tonnes of crude oil to guard against global
price shocks and supply disruptions.
Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) is keen on taking half of the 1.5- million-
tonne Mangalore facility.
It will stock 0.75 million tonnes or 6 million barrels of oil in one compartment of the
Mangalore facility.
Of this, 0.5 million tonnes will belong to India and it can use it in emergencies.
Adnoc will use the facility as a warehouse for trading its oil.

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Current Affairs 325

Counter terrorism operation needs to be viewed with


flexibility
Weeks after Defence Minister ManoharParrikar spoke about sending troops to fight
the IS in Syria, India told the United Nations Special Committee for Peacekeeping
Operations that it recognises the need for flexibility on international anti-terror
operations if they are backed by U.N. authorisation.
Presenting Indias position on the HIPPO (High Level Independent Panel on Peace
Operations) report, which is aimed at countering international terror groups, Syed
Akbaruddin, said: We understand that these issues [response to counter-terrorism
operation with U.N. authorisation] need to be viewed with flexibility in response to
emerging challenges.
The HIPPO report has expanded the scope of counter-terror operations beyond the
traditional U.N. peacekeeping operations by recommending that ad hoc coalitions
authorised by the U.N. Security Council can undertake counter-terror operations
with the intention of peacekeeping and peace-enforcement.

Nepals PM on visit to India


Aiming for Nepals recovery from more than five months of economic blockade,
Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, who arrived on a six-day visit to India on afternoon,
is expected to seal crucial bilateral agreements.
This visit is a confidence- boosting step. Its not just about agreements and accords.
Mr.Olis visit, however, began on a dramatic note when 40 Madhesi students from
Nepal were detained by the Delhi police near the embassy of Nepalwhen they were
trying to reach the public reception organised by the ambassador of Nepal.
Earlier, another group of Madhesi students staged a protest outside the Indira Gandhi
International Airport.

EU-India summit to be held after the gap of four years


Prime Minister NarendraModi will travel to Brussels for the EU-India summit on
March 30, which is being held after a long gap of four years that have also seen the
suspension of talks on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA).
the visit by Mr. Modi, who will stop in Brussels on his way to the U.S. will also see an
announcement on the resumption of talks on the BTIA, as the free trade agreement
(FTA) is known.
there are still some obstacles preventing the resumption of the India-EU FTA talks
that were suspended in 2013 after 16 rounds of negotiation. To begin with, the EU is
learnt to have asked India to substantially bring down the high duties on
automobiles as a pre-condition for resumption of the FTA negotiations.
Indias import duty on cars range from 60-120 per cent as against the EUs 10 per
cent.

India, Nepal sign seven accords


India and Nepal signed seven agreements at a summit meeting of Prime Minister
NarendraModi and his Nepal counterpart K.P. Sharma Oli, even as leaders of the
Madhesi people in Nepal threatened one more blockade.

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326 Current Affairs

Addressing the press after the signing ceremony at the Hyderabad House, Mr.Oli
said that both sides were determined to avoid the disruption of Nepals transit
facilities as experienced over the past five months.
Referring to Nepals dependence on India for receiving essential commodities, Mr.Oli
said without naming Madhesi protesters, Unscrupulous elements should not be
allowed to abuse the open borders between Nepal and India.
Though both the sides tried to address the grievances of the pro-blockade agitators
by agreeing to build a road network in the Madhesregion, the leaders of the Madhesis
are planning more agitation.

Principle of sovereign equality should guide the India-


Nepal relations, said Oli
Asserting Nepals sovereignty, visiting Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli on Monday
said that ties be- tween India and Nepal should be based on the principle of sovereign
equality.
Our cultural connections are deep. Pashupatinath and Bishwanath, Janakpur and
Ayodhya, Lumbini and Bodhgaya and many more are icons of our shared civilization
and our relationship should not be judged on the basis of agreements and treaties,
Mr. Oli said
Mr.Olis comments came a day after he defended Nepals new Constitution, which
he described as a living dynamic document that had emerged out of a long process
of democratic struggle to end discrimination.
His assessment of the constitutional democratic process went against Indias
viewpoint.
Reflecting the Indian concern for the democratic process in Nepal, External Afairs
Minister SushmaSwaraj said India was playing the role of an elder brother.
Indias role of an elder brother is not similar to the Western concept of a Big-Brother.
Mr. Oli asked India to make most of the opportunities provided by Nepal and partner
the new development process.

India will approach UN to include Masood in globally


designed terrorists
In its biggest diplomatic move after the Pathankot attack, India will approach the
United Nations to include the Pakistan-based terror master- mind
MaulanaMasoodAzhar on the list of globally designated terrorists.
India would formally request the 1267 Sanctions Committee, which consists of 15
members, to schedule a discussion on MasoodAzhar on Friday.
The decision is significant since it is the second time in less than a year that India will
attempt to isolate an international terrorist through the anti-terror committee.
In June 2015, India moved the committee in the United Nations, demanding an ex-
planation from Pakistan for its decision to release the 26/ 11 attack plotter
ZakiurRahmanLakhvi from jail.
The attempt to isolate Pakistan, however, failed at the last moment because of Chinas
opposition. this year too, Chinas attitude would be watched.

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Current Affairs 327

Indias plan of acquiring aircraft from Japan facing


problems
Indias plans to acquire amphibious aircraft from Japan, in the first big military deal
between the two countries, is facing serious challenges.
Indicating at a longer wait- ing period for Indias plans to acquire the amphibious
aircraft, US-2, in a deal involving 12-18 aircraft, Japan had no immediate plans for
selling or delivering the capacity-multiplier aircraft to India.
The absence of diplomatic progress on India acquiring the aircraft is significant in
view of the fact that during Prime Minister Shinzo Abes visit to India in December
2015.
The two countries had concluded agreements on Transfer of the Defence Equipment
and Technology, and, Security Measures forthe Protection of Classified Military
Information, aimed at deals such as the one on the US-2.

Turmoil in Maldives is stalling PM Modis visit


Continuing political turmoil in the Maldives is the reason Prime Minister Naren-
draModis visit to Male has had to be put of repeatedly.
The visit that was cancelled at the last moment in March 2015 owing to protests over
former President Nasheeds trial has been due since early January this year, but each
time, actions by the government spark of a new crisis that makes it difficult for Mr.
Modi to travel to the Islands.
When Indias largest new aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, accompanied by two
support ships travelled to the Maldives on February 14 for a goodwill visit, many
in Male fully expected that Mr. Modi would also be on his way.
MEA believes that moment will only come with some political resolution and a more
controlled narrative in Male that seems to be fast spinning out of President Yameens
grip.
India has stayed away from direct criticism of the Yameen government over the past
few months as it tried to rebuild ties with the Maldives.
However, it is a member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG)
that passed a resolution giving the government one months time to start a dialogue
with the Opposition and halt the use of anti-terror laws against political opponents.

sIndia is worlds second most trusting nation: Survey


Moving up the ranks, India has emerged as the second most trusted country in the
world in terms of faith reposed on its institutions even as globally trust levels have
fallen, says a survey.
As the worlds rich and powerful gather in the Swiss resort of Davos, a study by
public relations firm Edelman has found that general level of trust in institutions
among college-educated people around the globe are at levels not seen since 2009 in
many of the markets it surveyed.
Trust in institutions in India has improved sharply in 2015 with the country moving
up three notches to the second place among 27 nations.
While the number of truster countries are at an all-time low of six in 2015 including

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328 Current Affairs

UAE, India, China and Netherlands, the number of distruster countries has grown
significantly to 13 including Japan, Russia, Hong Kong, South Africa and Italy.
Brazil, Malaysia, France and the US are among the 8 neutral nations as per the
trust index, the survey said.
India, which last year saw the BJP-led NDA government storming to power at the
Centre, stands tall.
According to the report, an alarming evaporation of trust has happened across all
institutions, reaching the lows of the Great Recession in 2009.
Trust in government, business, media and NGOs in the general population is below
50 per cent in two-thirds of countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Germany, it said.
From fifth most trusted in 2014, India has now become the second-most trusted in
2015 with a score of 79 per cent in the barometer. The study has put India Prime
Minister Narendra Modis image on the first page.

Vision statement on Asia-Pacific, Indian Ocean


After meeting for close to five hours, including an extended lunch, tea on the
Hyderabad House lawns, and delegation level talks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi
and President Barack Obama issued three separate documents: a declaration of
friendship with a commitment to regular summits, a joint statement called Shared
Effort, Progress for all, and a joint strategic vision statement for the Asia-Pacific
and the Indian ocean region.
The last document could raise eyebrows in China, when External Affairs minister
Sushma Swaraj visits Beijing next week, as it elaborates on the clauses in their previous
joint statement for the disputed maritime region, and says, We affirm the importance
of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over
flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea.
Conspicuous by its absence was mention of cross-border terrorism or Indias issues
with Pakistan, although the two sides repeated their September commitment to
disrupt terror groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e- Mohammad, D Company
and the Haqqani Network.

Germany eager to join Make in India initiative


German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schuble expressed interest in working with
India in the manufacturing sector, especially in the auto and solar energy industries,
at a meeting with business lobby Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) .The German
minister is scheduled to hold talks with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley .
Dr. Schubles positive note on German manufacturing industrys readiness to
participate in the Make in India policy comes close on the heels of U.S. Secretary of
State John Kerrys voicing of the Obama administrations worries over the initiative.
Mr. Modi is scheduled to jointly inaugurate the Hannover trade fair along with
German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his visit to Germany in April 2015.

Obama, Modi at India US CEO Forum


The India-US CEO Forum began with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and
US President Barack Obama present along with top business honchos of both
countries.

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Current Affairs 329

India Inc is led by Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry


The other CEOs who are expected to be present are Mukesh Ambani, chairman and
managing director (CMD), Reliance Industries Ltd; Gautam Adani, chairman, Adani
Group; Sunil Bhari Mittal, chairman and group CEO, Bharti Entreprises; Sashi Ruia,
chairman, Essar Group; Hari S Bhartia, co-chairman and MD, Jubilant Life Sciences;
and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, CMD, Biocon.
Among others are Anand Mahindra, CMD, Mahindra and Mahindra; Deepak Parekh,
chairman, HDFC; Chanda Kochar, CEO and MD, ICICI Bank; Arundhati
Bhattacharya, chairman, State Bank of India; Vishal Sikka, CEO & MD, Infosys; B
Prasada Rao, CMD, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited; Sudhir Mehta, chairman
emeritus, Torrent Pharmaceuticals; Preetha Reddy, executive chairperson, Apollo
Hospitals Entreprises; Anurag Kumar, director, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore;
and D.K. Saraff, CMD, ONGC. Honeywell International Chairman and CEO Dave
Cote was likely to lead the US CEOs team, which was to have Indra Nooyi, chairperson
and CEO, PepsiCo, and Ajay Banga, CEO, Mastercard, among others. US-India
Business Council (USIBC) acting president Diane Farrell told IANS: The Forum
will be focusing on two-way trade. Ease of doing business is something that will be
focused. That will attract more US business to India. Market access issue of both the
countries will be discussed. US companies recognises the importance of both these
programmes of Digital India and Make in India. The US companies will look at the
consistency and predictability of Indian market.

PIA closure will snap vital link between India, Pakistan


Official Pakistani sources said they were worried that the Enforcement Directorate
notice to the Pakistan International Airlines on its offices in Delhi, had political
overtones.
The move, they feared, would cut off a vital link between both countries. PIA runs
the only flights between India and Pakistan, with two flights a week on the Delhi-
Lahore sector and once a week on the Mumbai-Karachi sector.
Pakistani officials insisted that the PIA service to India which started in 1976, would
not be cancelled, despite all the problems. However, one official said there were
apprehensions that the action came after Foreign Secretary talks were cancelled last
July, and indicated other actions could follow causing a further rift in ties.

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330 Current Affairs

ECONOMY

Core sector output recovers,grows 0.9 per cent in Dec.


Core sector output returned to positive territory in December 2015 byregistering a
0.9 per cent growth after shrinking (-) 1.3 per cent in November 2015 but was still
muchlower than 3.2 per cent growth re-corded in December 2014.
The output of eight core industries that comprise almost 38 percent of the weight
of items includedin the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) could record only a
0.9per cent growth in December 2015 due to 4.1 per cent contractionin output of
crude oil (the fourthconsecutive month in the negativeterritory), 6.1 per cent
contractionin natural gas (falling for the thirdsuccessive month) and 4.4 per
centshrinkage in steel (falling for thesixth consecutive month).
During April-December 2015 period this fiscal, the output of theseeight sectors slowed
to a 1.9 per centgrowth from 5.7 per cent growth in the same period last fiscal. In
2014-15, these sectors had grown by 4.4per cent,
The core sector growth had registeredthe steepest fall in over a decade when it
shockingly shrank 1.3 percent in November 2015 compared tothe same month a year
ago
In December, fertiliser output registered double digit growth for the fifth successive
month with 13.1per cent growth while coal production grew by 6.1 per cent (up
from3.5 per cent in November).
Cement output increased by 3.2 per cent (upfrom -1.8 per cent in November).
Electricity production also grew by 2.7 per cent (from flat growth inNovember, and
has been in the positive growth territory this fiscal bar-ring April 2015), while refinery
products grew by 2.1 per cent (up from 2.5 per cent in November.
In December 2014, the growth in output of coal was 7.5 per cent,crude oil (-1.4 per
cent), natural gas(-2.9 per cent), refinery products(6.1 per cent), fertilisers (-1.6
percent), steel (flat growth), cement(3.8 per cent) and electricity (4.8per cent).

TRAI for PPP model for Bharat Net Project


The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) on Monday recommended public
private partnership (PPP) model for the roll out of the Bharat Net project that has
been marred by delays.
Bharat Net seeks to connectall of Indias households, particularly in rural
areas,through broadband by 2017,forming the backbone of the governments
ambitious Digital India programme.
as rural broadband pro-vision is prone to market failures as well as government
failures (as is evident by the slow implementation of National Optical Fibre Network
or NOFN), employing a PPP-based model to expand broad-band coverage is the
only other viable option
At present, a special purpose vehicle, Bharat Broad-band Network Ltd (BBNL),under
the telecom ministry ishandling the roll out of optical fibre network. The project
isbeing executed by BSNL,Railtel and Power Grid.

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Current Affairs 331
APPP model that aligns private incentives with long-term service delivery in the-
vein of the Build-Own-Oper-ateTransfer/Build-Operate-Transfer models of
implementation be the preferred means of implementation,
The regulator has also suggested that contract period should be of 25 years, which
can be further extended in block of 10, 20 or 30 years.
The UPA Government had approved Rs. 20,000 crore for laying optical fibre network-
in 2011.
However, it missed all the deadlines. The new NDAGovernment re-examined the
project status with a deadline of 2016 end. A committee setup by the DoT proposed
in-creasing the scope and scale of the project at an estimated cost of over Rs.70,000crore
and extending the deadline toDecember 2017.

D. J. Pandian named as Chief Investment officer of Asian


Infrastructure Investment Bank
D. J. Pandian, a former bureaucrat known for holding a string of key positions with
the Government of Gujarat, has been appointed as one of the five Vice-Presidents of
the newly-established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Dr. Pandian has been appointed as the Chief Investment officer (CIO) of the lender,
whose role is to focus on infrastructure development in Asia.
The CIO would be leading the planning and supervision of the banks in- frastructure
investment,.

India sought clarity from U.S. On API issue


India has sought clarity from the U.S. government on the ramifications of a recent
adjudication, which gave rise to apprehensions that the medicines procured by the
American government should be only from companies making even the Active
Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) either locally or in certain designated nations such
as European Union (EU) members.
India and China account for about 80 per cent of the U.S.s requirement of API (drug
raw materials). The determination of the U.S. Homeland Security Department
which seemed to imply that the drugs that contained APIs imported from India and
China are ineligible to be sold to the U.S. government is likely to directly and
indirectly hurt Indias API exports to the U.S.
The matter came to the Indian governments attention after Pharmexcil (a lobby group
of the pharmaceutical industry) approached the commerce ministry earlier this month,
asking them to intervene and help resolve the issue.
However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said FDA requirements
that govern the approval of drugs for marketing in the U.S. have not changed.

Mobile phones in India may each 50 crore by 2017


The production of mobile phones in India is likely to touch 500 million units in the
next two years with lead- ing companies setting up manufacturing bases in the
country.
Earlier this year, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had announced that mobile
phone production in India had touched100-million mark.

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The number of phones be- ing manufactured was 10 mil- lion sometime back (which
increased) to 45 million and then to 100 million. The time has come when we will
reach 500 million, may be in two years.
The government wants to reduce imports of electronic products while meeting
domestic requirement through indigenous production.
It has received proposals worth Rs. 1.13 lakh crore in the electronics manufacturing
segment under the modified special incentive package scheme (M-SIPS), which offers
capital subsidies to large investments in electronics manufacturing and system design.

Third quarter growth at 7.3 percent


Economic growth slowed in thethird quarter to 7.3 per cent from arevised 7.7 percent,
the CentralStatistics Office (CSO) reported
The Gross DomesticProduct (GDP) is now estimatedto accelerate to a five-year high
of7.6 per cent for the 12-month period ending March 31.
The higher growth in FY16 willbe possible thanks to robust out put in the services
sector and a revival in industrial production,though concerns remain on theagriculture
front. The 7.6 per centgrowth projection for this fiscalwill be the fastest pace since
8.9per cent recorded inFY11
The 7.3 per centgrowth in Q3 will alsomake India the fastestgrowing economy inthe
world, faster thanChina which witnessed a 6.8 percent growth in the same period.
The growth estimates come at a time when several experts have expressed
concernabout the methodology used tocompute the GDP and asked thegovernment
to look into possiblediscrepancies as they feel it does not seem to accurately
reflectground realities.
This includesweak (global and) domestic demand, exports shrinking for 13straight
months and troubled balance sheets of banks and corporates especially those
operating inthe infrastructure sector.
The government, however, claims the new methodology ofGDP calculation is an
improvement over the previous one as itbetter collates the value additionthat happens
in the entire supplychain of goods and services

Sugar mills want cane policy overhaul


Tamil Nadu, the countrys fourth largest sugarcaneproducing state, needs tooverhaul
its policy and rationalise taxes to ensure them ills are profitable, a top official of
Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) said.
The current policy puts theburden solely on the millswhich is both unreasonableand
unaffordable
The state had four lakhfarmers and 45 sugar mills.Tamil Nadu accounts for seven to
nine per cent of thecountrys total sugar production of 260 lakh tonne.
Currently, the Tamil Nadugovernment has fixed theState Advised Price atRs.2,850
per tonne for 2015-16 sugar season, which was Rs.550 more than the Fair
andRemunerative Price fixed bythe Centre. This was the highest in the country, if
one considered the sugar recovery ratio
According to ISMA, sugarmills in Tamil Nadu were located close to the port andhad
quick access to Sri Lanka.But out of about six lakh tonneof white sugar imported by

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Current Affairs 333
SriLanka, India was able to meetabout 50 per cent. The balance was met by Brazil.
Indiawas unable to take advantageof the situation because ofhigh sugarcane costs.
The stategovernment was urged to develop amodel followed by other states to ensure
that the sugarcane farmers got their payments on time and if required,assist the
mills in the paymentespecially when the revenuerealisation was poor.
There is an urge to removal of fiveper cent VAT on sugar, as it raised the cost of sugar
produced in Tamil Nadu, whichwas already high due to lowsugar recovery. It thus
made itall the more uncompetitive asrevenue loss for mills wasover Rs.200 crore a
year.

Government easing rules to grant construction permits


around airports
The government is easing rules for granting construction permits around airports
and monuments by developing colour-coded maps in a bid to give fillip to urban
growth. Developers have to get permits from Airport Authority of India (AII) in
New Delhi to build projects around the countrys airports.
AII has come out with colour- coded zonal map. The airspaces used by jetliners for
landings and take offs are highlighted in the map. No construction will be allowed
in such spaces.
Construction would be allowed in those areas that fall out of colour coded zones.
Developers dont have to come all the way to Delhi to get building height clearances
among others.
The government will soon empower urban local bodies to follow the colour-coded
zonal maps and authorise real estate development accordingly.
Jaipur International Airport is the first one to develop a colour-coded map.
All the other civilian airports across India, including 28 defence airports that are
being used for civilian purposes, will have their maps ready by December 2016.
The Ministry of Culture in collaboration with ISRO is developing colour-coded maps
for 281 monuments that fall in construction zones.
Ministry of Culture has launched a mobile app that enables online approvals for
construction around monuments in just 72 hours.

New standards for handsets may make Indian fonts


compulsory
Indian fonts may be mandatory for mobile phones sold in the country according to
new standards for handsets being finalised by the government.
The Bureau of Indian Standards is expected to notify the standards that will require
handsets to be able to render Indian font messages as well as allow users to type in
Hindi, Tamil and other Indian languages, by end of April 2016.
The Bureau is working with the Department of Electronics and Information
Technology in the IT ministry and the Indian Cellular Association, which represents
mobile handset and component manufacturing industry, to work out these standards.
The government had initiated a move to promote Indian fonts on digital interfaces
in 2011.

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334 Current Affairs

To decongest traffic government will increase NH length


to 2 lakh km
In a bid to decongest traffic in the country, the government has decided to increase
the length of national highways from 96,000 km, at present, to two lakh km.
As much as 40 per cent of the traffic moves on these 2 per cent national highways
and as a result five lakh accidents take place.
Three lakh people get injured and 1.5 lakh are killed in these accidents. The main
reason is traffic congestion.
Two new highways would be developed in UP.First is east-west highway on which
we are going to spend Rs 1,400 crore.This will reduce Delhis traffic by 50 per cent.
The second one is from Delhi to Dasna, which would be 14 lane, a first time in the
country.

RBI directed banks to accelerate provisioning


requirement
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has directed commercial banks to accelerate
provisioning requirement, from April 1, for the existing stock of restructured loans
that are showing signs of stress.
RBI has identified bank specific accounts in which respective lenders have to make
higher provisioning from April 1.
These accounts were restructured earlier. Banks have provided only 5 per cent for
these restructured loans, but now the central bank has directed them to increase the
provisioning by 2.5 per cent every quarter so that by March 31, 2017, provisioning
reached the 15 per cent level in line with sub-standard accounts.
However, banks are not allowed to classify these accounts as non-perform- ing assets.
The central bank has given four quarter to banks, starting April 1, to make full
provisioning for the identified accounts, so that a bank is not hit in one go.
The central banks move comes in the back drop of RBI Governor RaghuramRajans
drive to clean up banks balance sheets by March 2017.
In February 2014, the central bank issued a set of guidelines on joint lenders forum
and laid out a corrective action plan with the objective of revitalising distressed
assets in the banking system.
In that circular, RBI had said that banks have to face accelerated provisioning if the
borrowers account continues to show weakness.
The step to increase provisioning is seen in line with the accelerated provisioning
requirement.

Govt. plans to set up 2,000 waterports


Government plans to set up 2,000 waterports as well as RoRo services at five
select places to transport goods and vehicles.
Besides, there is a plan to develop 1,300 islands and 280 light houses as major
attractions for tourists.
Not only this we will develop our 1,300 islands as major tourist attraction.

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Current Affairs 335
The government will soon start Ro- Ro (Rollon Rollof) service at five places
including Haldia, Patna, Varanasi and Sahibganj with the World Bank assistance.
Once they are operational, trucks could be transported till the points leading to huge
savings which in turn would boost economy.
He also informed that government is constructing waterways on a 1,620 kilometer
stretch on the Ganga between Varanasi and Haldia and 30 water ports would be
constructed there.

US ranked India in second last position in Intellectual


property Index
India was ranked 37 out of 38 countries, with only Venezuela scoring lower, in the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce-International Intellectual Property Index.
The report, comes at a time when the government is close to finalising a National
Intellectual Property policy to improve the IP regime, increase IP awareness and
strengthen enforcement of rules.
The U.S. was ranked first, followed by the UK, Germany, France and Sweden. Indias
peers in the BRICS grouping were all ranked ahead with Russia ranked 20th, China
(22nd), South Africa (26th) and Brazil (29th).
The 38 economies benchmarked in the 2016 Index accounts for nearly 85 per cent of
the global GDP.
The Index -- produced by the Chambers Global Intellectual Property Center(GIPC)
-- is based on 30 criteria critical to innovation including patent, copyright and
trademark protections, enforcement, and engagement in international treaties etc.
The GIPC report found that among Indias key areas of weakness was the use of
compulsory licensing (CL) for commercial and non- emergency situations, and the
expanded use of CL being considered by the Indian government.

RBI governor says Balance sheet clean up will only have


short term effect
The ongoing clean- up of bank balance sheets will help spur economic growth and
improve the lenders profitability, Re- serve Bank of India (RBI) Governor
RaghuramRajan said..
The RBI had conducted an asset quality review (AQR) of banks and identified specific
accounts, which banks have to identify as non-performing in twoquarters, October-
December and January-March.
As a result, bad loans have hit banks profitability in the third quarter with most of
them posting heavy losses in Q3.
State Bank of India reported 62 per cent drop in its net profit on the back of over Rs.
20,000 crorerise in non-performing loans or bad loans.
Private banks, which are in a much better shape on the asset quality front, saw their
business growing much more than their public sector counterpart.
Non-food credit growth from public sector banks, the more stressed part of the system,
grew at only 6.6 per cent over the calendar year 2015.
In contrast, non- food credit growth in private sectorbanks was 20.2 %, per cent.

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The Indian banking sector is seeing rise in stressed assets over the last three years.
According to RBI data, stressed asset, that is gross NPA plus standard restructured
advances, as a percentage of advances moved up to 11.3 per cent as on September
2015 as compared to 9.2 per cent in March 2013.

In order to align small savings with market Interest


rates might be reduced
Interest rates for small savings schemes, such as Post office Savings Account, Public
Provident Fund and Post office Fixed Deposit Scheme, may be reduced by the
government to align them more.
The new rates would be applicable from April 1, 2016. The rates for the long-term
schemes and those for the girl child and senior citizens will remain unaffected by the
decision.
The Reserve Bank, over the last one year, has reduced interest rates by over a percent-
age point.
At present, the small savings rates are linked to government securities and are
readjusted every year. The decision is to start adjusting the rates on quarterly basis.
The smalls saving schemes include Post office Monthly Income Scheme (MIS), PPF,
Post office Fixed Deposit Scheme, Senior Citizens Savings Scheme, Post office Savings
Account and SukanyaSamriddhi Accounts.
While the rates for the girl child and senior citizen schemes will also be adjusted
every quarter, the spreads they have over the G-Sec rates will be left unaltered.

Industrial activity shrank for the second consecutive


month
Industrial activity shrank 1.3 per cent in December 2015 for the second consecutive
month with the capital goods sector taking the lead.
Consumer price inflation accelerated to 5.7 per cent in January. And the Index of
Industrial Production for December 2015 stood at 183.4, which is 1.3 per cent lower
than its level in December 2014.
The contraction in the IIP in December comes after a 3.4 per cent drop in November
2015.
The manufacturing sector contracted 2.44 per cent for the second straight month,while
mining and electricity sectors grew 2.92 per cent and 3.15 per cent respectively in
December.
The capital goods sector, by usage, contracted by 19.69 per cent in December.
Consumer durables, however, maintained a strong growth showing, registering a
growth of 16.49 per cent in December on the back of 12.5 per cent in November.
Consumer non-durables contracted 3.2 per cent while intermediate good grew
modestly, by 0.94 per cent in December.

NSEL and FTIL would be merged together


The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has ordered the merger of Mumbai- based
National Spot Exchange Ltd. (NSEL), which was embroiled in a Rs.5,600-crore

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Current Affairs 337
settlement scam in July 2013, with Jignesh Shah- promoted Financial Technologies
India Ltd (FTIL).
In an order issued, the government said that the merger will be applicable from
March 31, 2015.
Simply put, all the liabilities of NSEL as on March 31, 2015, would shift on the books
of FTIL. NSEL as a corporate entity would cease to exist post the merger.
This is the first time that the government has ordered a merger between two private
entities under Section 396 of The Companies Act, 1956. The government had issued
a draft merger order on 21st October 2014.

RBI to still guard the inflation


Reserve Bank of India Governor RaghuramRajan may have raised a quiet toast with
his colleagues on Friday evening after retail inflation data showed the central bank
had met its January 2016 target of slowing the price gains to under 6 per cent.
The satisfaction would be understandable given that the RBI had less than a year
ago at the end of February 2015 entered into a historic agreement with the
government on an inflation targeting monetary framework with clear and specified
goals and timelines.
The first target of limiting retail inflation to 6 per cent or below by January 2016 has
now been met, with the government reporting CPI data that showed the headline
number at 5.59 per cent.
While the reading is a 17- month high, it has slowed considerably from the 11.15per
cent recorded in November 2013.
Its the journey ahead to the next milestone of 5 per cent by March 2017 which is
likely to challenge monetary policy makers.
The target agreed by the government and the central bank is for inflation of 4 per
cent, with a band of plus or minus 2 per cent. There are several factorsthat could
contribute to roiling the RBI's inflation targeting plans.

Public and private banks will face serious competition


from mew entrants
Reserve Bank of India Governor RaghuramRajan told public and private sector banks
to prepare for serious competition from new entrants and small banks as he assured
them that the turbulence in the domestic financial market would end sooner than,
later offering tremendous growth opportunities.
Competition was needed for new solutions to emerge and to cut cost of transactions.
However, new products and technology should be used initially in a measured
manner, he said, reiterating that he would cross the river feeling the stones, one
stone at a time.
The Reserve Bank was in the process of strengthening the public sector banks. Oneof
the measures was to strengthen the boards governing the banks. New board members
would be brought in through a transparent process.
Universal banking licences would be reopened soon, he said, but pointed out that
small banks would connect better with those requiring smaller loans where character
banking would merge with new technological tools to aggregate information and

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338 Current Affairs

make decisions on that basis.


The RBI has also initiated three major steps to improve transactions.
These include aunified payment interface which would be facilitated by an e-mail-
like identity of the persons involved; trade receivables exchanges, which would bridge
the gap between payment by a company to a manufacturer.

RBI governor says there is no need for currency


devaluation
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government dont favour undervaluation
of the exchange rate as a means to spur economic growth
There are those who argue that in countries such as China, Japan and Korea business
enterprises grew via an undervalued exchange rate.
However there are a lot of problems with undervaluing the exchange rate and some
of these problems are reflected in the economic condition that these countries find
themselves in today.
sustained undervaluation over a long period of time is not a feasible or desirable
strategy. Which is why the RBIs philosophy of not focusing on the level of exchange
rate and trying to manipulate it up or manipulate it down but trying instead to
minimise situations of extreme volatility and intervening in situations when the
exchange rate becomes extremely volatile in either direction is the right one.
The Indian rupee is one of Asias worst performing currencies against the U.S. dollar
this yearamid renewed concern about the health of the world economy and dwindling
investor confidence
The advantage to Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) should come from
their capabilities, cost-effectiveness and innovative ideas rather than from
undervaluation.
MSMEs can act as a means of social empowerment where disadvantageous sections
of society can be empowered with money and wealth
Lack of infrastructure and logistics, lack of access to marketing, difficulty and the
expense in acquiring land and financing are some of the impediments faced by
MSMEs.
Kerala, with its literacy rate and educational achievements, is quite capable of
triggering a revolution on the MSME front

National capital goods policy introduced


The government introduced a National Capital Goods Policy to spur capital goods
sector and the Make in India initiative.
Heavy Industry and Public Enterprisewas part of the governments commitment to
turn the country into a world class hub for capital goods.
The objective of the policy was to increase production of capital goods from Rs. 2.30
lakh crore in 2014-15 to Rs. 7.50 lakh crore in 2025 and raising direct and indirect
employment from the current 8.4 million to 30 million
The policy envisages making India a net exporter of capital goods and aims at
facilitating improvement in technology across sub-sectors, increasing skill availability,

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Current Affairs 339
ensuring mandatory standards and promoting growth and capacity building of
MSMEs.
Some of the key issues addressed include availability offinance, raw material,
innovation and technology, productivity, quality and environment-friendly
manufacturing practices, promoting exports and creating domestic demand.
The key policy recommendations include strengthen- ing the existing scheme of the
DHI (Department of Heavy Industry) on enhancement of competitiveness of capital
goods sector by increasing budgetary allocation and increasing its scope to further
boost global competitiveness in various sub sectors and enhancing export of Indian
made capital goods through a Heavy Industry Export and Market Development
Assistance Scheme (HIEMDA).
It has also made provision for introducing a Technology Development Fund,
upgrading existing and setting up a new testing and certification facility, making
standards mandatory in order to reduce sub-standard machine imports and at the
same time providing opportunity to local manufacturing units by utilising their
installed capacity and unveiling scheme for skill development for capital goods sector.

Exports shrink for 14th straight month in January


Merchandise exports fell for the 14th consecutive month with shipments in January,
2016 contracting 13.6 per cent year-on-year to $21 billion due to weak overseas
demand as well as fall in major export items such as engineering goods and petroleum
products.
Imports also fell during the month by 11 per cent to $28.7 billion, resulting in the
trade deficit narrowing to an 11- month low of $7.6 billion.
The trade deficit would have been lower had the gold imports not recorded an 85.16
per cent increase in January to $2.91 billion.
The growth in exports have fallen for U.S.A. (-10.51%), European Union (-9.48%)
and China (-7.01%) for November 2015 over the corresponding period previous year
as per WTO statistics
Seventeen of the 30 export sectors recorded a negativegrowth in January. These
included major sectors such as engineering goods (-27.6 per cent to $4.98 billion),
ready- made garments (-6.1 per cent to $1.4 billion) and petroleum products (-35.1
per cent to $1.9 billion). Non-petroleum ex- ports in January 2016 fell 10.55 per cent
to $19.1 billion
Reflecting the fall in global oil prices, oil imports in January 2016 were 39 per cent
low- er year-on-year at $5 billion. However, non-oil imports during January, 2016
were only 1.4 per cent lower at $23.7 billion.
The net export of services for April-December, 2015-16 was estimated at $54.8 billion,
lower than $56.5 billion during April-December 2014-15.
With the Prime Minister's office setting a target to switch at least 90 per cent of all
official transactions to paperless mode by the end of 2016, Finance Minister
ArunJaitley launched a new e-platform for non-tax receipts.
NTPC made the maiden payment on the portal developed by the Controller General
of Accounts, by remitting Rs.989 crore as an interim dividend to the government.
The major sources of non-tax revenue for the government are from dividends paidby

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340 Current Affairs

public sector companies,the Reserve Bank of India, etc.


During his previous year'sBudget speech, Mr.Jaitleyhadsaid that one major way
tocurb black money is to discourage cash transactions infavour of electronic
transactions.

New BOT annuity model to be used by Indian Railways


The Indian Railways has identified the first three projects to be taken up for
development through the new build, operate, transfer (BOT) annuity model at an
estimated cost of around Rs 2,450 crore.
The three targeted projects are developing third line between Nagpur and Wardha
(both in Maharashtra), Kazipet (Telangana) and Balharshah (Maharashtra) and,
Bhadrak and Nergundi (both in Odisha).
The total estimated cost of development of 357 km third line is around Rs 2450 crore.
The Railways has received Rs 14,000 crore worth investment commitments since
2014 after it introduced new models for projects through public-private partnership
(PPP) model.
This is a sharp rise from roughly around Rs 4,000 crore investments generated in
2002-2012.
Under the BOT annuity model for rail projects, the private developer gets a revenue
guarantee of 80 per cent of projected revenue at the time of bidding.
The developer gets a full right to revenue between 80 and 120 per cent and the Indian
Railways do not take any share from it.

Indias most affordable smartphone will cost 251 rupees


Noida-based smart-phone maker Ringing Bells is set to unveil Indias most affordable
smartphone, priced at Rs.251, a move that is set to disrupt the booming Indian mobile
handset market.
The 3G handset, Freedom 251, features a 4-inch display, Qualcomm 1.3-GHz quad-
core processor and 1 GB RAM, according to details shared by the company.
The Android Lollipop-based handset will have an onboard storage of 8 GB with
support for expandable memory of up to 32 GB.
It features a 3.2-MP rear and a 0.3-MP front facing camera and a 1,450-mAh battery.
The mass market device will come with preinstalled apps including Women Safety,
Swachh Bharat, Fisherman, Farmer, Medical, WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube.
Bookings for the Freedom 251 will start on Thursday.

Department of Pharmaceuticals are expected to come


up with bulk drug policy
Department of Pharmaceuticals is expected to come out with a newbulk drug policy
in less than amonth with an objective to grow the Indian pharmaceuticals sector to a
$200 billion industry by2030.
Under this policy, the government wants to build an ecosystem to help
pharmacompaniesto move up in the value chainand develop new moleculesthrough
innovations.

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Current Affairs 341
The industry which grew inthe last 15 years has potential tobe a $200 billion industry
andcan be the worlds largest if itscales up and moves up thevalue-chain.
Until 1970 India was dependent on other countries for
itspharmaceuticalrequirementsand in 20 years time it becameself sufficient to meet
its own requirements.
India has now become a superpower as far as generic drugs are concerned. India can
become a $300 billion industry including medical devices by 2030.
As per this report the countrys pharmaceutical industry has the potential to touch
$200 billion by 2030 from the present $32 billion.
And the medical devices segment can grow from $5 billion now to $100 billion.

Reliance will start oil lifting from Iran


Indias Reliance Industries Ltd, owner of the world's biggest refining complex, is
preparing to lift oil from Iran next month after a gap of about five years,
The Indian conglomerate, con- trolled by billionaire Mukesh Am- bani, stopped
Iranian oil imports in 2010 because it was worried that the threat of U.S. sanctions on
companies doing business with the Islamic republic would com- plicate its eforts to
boost market share for its fuels in the United States.
The shipment will make Reliance Iran's first new Indian oil customer since the lifting
of the sanctions.
Reliance's sophisticated complex at Jamnagar in western Gujarat state can refine
1.24 million bpd of crude as varied as light West African to heavy sour Middle East
and Latin American grades, allowing it to switch to whatever crude is cheapest.

Ministry moots National Social Security Authority


The Labour Ministry has mooted the idea of forming a National Social Security
Authority, chaired by Prime Minister NarendraModi, and a separate Social Security
Department within the ministry to provide social security to the entire population in
a bid to prop up the governments pro-worker credentials.
The functions of the authority should be mainly to formulate the National Policy on
Social Security and to co-ordinate the central and state level programmes and to en-
sure that the objectives of the policy are achieved within the time frame prescribed.
The note proposes a four-tier system to cover the entire population of the country,
including both formal and in- formal sector workers, through a common Social Se-
curity Code.
It said the cur- rent social security programmes and schemes can be strengthened
and universalised.
It said the first tier would include the destitute and people below the poverty line,
the second tier would have workers in the unorga- nised sector who may be cov-
ered under a subsidised scheme and the third tier would cover workers who can,
with the help of employ- er, can make contribution to the schemes.
The fourth tier would include people who are comparatively affluent and can make
their own provisions for meeting contingencies or risks as and when arise.
The note visualised that the social assistance pro- grammes for the first tier shall
be based on tax revenue.

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342 Current Affairs

Historically low solar tariffs could dent operating


margins
Low tariff bids for recent solar projects could prove risky for developers as any slight
changes in costs could dent operating margins.
Developers are banking on the fact that module prices have been falling and so will
fall in the future, then this could work adversely for them since module prices have
already started plateauing.
Solar tariffs hit a historic low of Rs 4.34 per unit in January following the bid for a 70
MW project in Rajasthan by Finnish solar power company Fortum Energy.
At the time, many experts said that the tariffs are moving too low and that they
would dissuade private lenders from giving loans for solar projects.
The key to boosting rooftop solar adoption something that has been sluggish so
faris to make the power distribution companies (discoms) more financially secure.
At a time when the health of the discoms is so poor, they dont particularly favour
people going for rooftop solar and buying less from the grid.
The renewable energy sector in India, though benefiting from the huge push by the
NDA-government, still needs some incentives- both in policy and in the upcoming
Budgetfor the sector to take off.
At the moment, the country has 34 GW of operating wind capacity and 4 GW of
operating solar capacity.
Going by the bid processes in the last year, an additional 2 GW should be under
construction in each of the sectors.

Competitive prices and shorter shipping distances


makes easier to import from OPEC
Indias oil imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq hit the highest in more than a decade
last month as OPECs top producers gained at the expense of Latin American crudes,
a validation of the OPEC policy of maintaining output and fighting for mar- ket
share.
Competitive prices and shorter shipping distances are giving the Middle East
members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) the upper
hand in India, the worlds third-largest crude oil importer.
Saudi Arabia was the top supplier to India in January, with volumes jumping 29 per
cent from the same month a year ago to nearly 9,40,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Just behind was Iraq at 9,30,000 bpd, up 52 per cent from January levels last year.
The daily rates from both were at their highest since at least 2001.
In contrast, total imports from Latin America fell by a quarter in January from a
yearago to 7,06,000 bpd, the data showed.

XIV finance commission members wants Independent


council for budget
Members of the XIV Finance Commission have questioned the governments failure
to act on its recommendation to constitute an Independent Fiscal Council that

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objectively evaluates budget announcements and forecasts, stressing that such an
institution was critical to improve the governments credibility on fiscal management.
The Centre opts for creative accounting, pauses or simply doesnt follow the targets
it has submitted toParliament under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget
Management (FRBM) Act of 2003.
States have constraints in managing their finances as the RBI controls their defi- cit
and cannot float a bond on a states behalf without the Centres approval. Since the
2003 FRBM law came into effect, there have been four pauses in the def- icit targets
enshrined in it and a few occasions where the targets have been flout- ed.
The Commission had recommended a sharp in- crease in allocations to state
governments in its re- port released last February, which the government accepted.
It had also mootedan Independent Fiscal Council as an oversight body over the finance
ministry.
The council would report to the Parliament on how realistic government projections
are, citing similar independent budget and fiscal management monitoring offices in
35 countries.

Christine Lagarde says spillovers are necessary for G20


IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said that G20 finance ministers and central
bank governors should focus on global economic spillovers from their policy decisions
when they meet in Shanghai.
The G20, is going to have to focus on spillovers, on spillbacks and on the combination
of various policies in play at the moment.
Lagarde said that at the moment, the asynchronicity of U.S., Japanese and European
monetary policies needed to be reviewed and practices better coordinated.
She also said that G20 ministers should examine the interactions of their countries'
fiscal policies and structural reform moves.

Banks require holistic cure


Even as mounting bad loans have put Indian banks in a pincer-like situation, the
idea of a government-backed bad bank has kicked of quite a debate.
Bad bank concept allows a government-supported entity to buy bad loans from
stressed banks at a fair price (dis- count). Such an entity will then be responsible for
recovering the debt.
The objective is simple to help banks clean up their books, and use their capital
resources (which are other- wise locked up in making pro- vision for bad loans) for
funding the growth in credit needs.
The current debate also comes close on the heels of Italy and the EU inking an
agreement to allow the Italian banks sell their NPA (non- performing assets) portfolios
to private investors with government guarantee.
Pointing out that these public sector banks are backed by the Government, he has
argued against creating a new entity.
A national asset reconstruction company (ARC) or `bad bank given its size and
expertise - can fetch multiple advantages to stakeholders, and bring about a quicker
resolution to the recovery problems posed by the NPA imbroglio.

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The NPA levels of these banks are over Rs.3 lakh crore. How much of these can be
ab- sorbed by such an ARC or`bad bank? Even allowing for a discounted price for
such purchases, the effort requires quite a funding from the Government.
A resource-constrained Government will have difficulty in providing money for this.
Elsewhere in the globe, national ARCs were funded by issuing long-term
Government-guaranteed bonds.

Commerce Ministry is assessing the impact of China


Indias Commerce Ministry is assessing the implications of the likelihood of China
being granted Market Economy Status (MES) from December this year under the
World Trade Organisation (WTO) norms.
This comes against the backdrop of instances of India's manufacturers in steel,
chemicals, electrical and electronics sectors being severely hurt by unfairly low-
priced imports from China, and the extensive usage of anti-dumping duty by India
to offset the losses caused to the local manufacturers due to dumping.
Of the 535 cases where anti- dumping duties were imposed by India from 1994-
2014, a maximum of 134 has been on goods from China.
Beijing has cited the 2001 agreement on China joining the WTO to say that WTO-
member countries had then decided to deem China as a 'market economy' from
December 2016 while adjudicating anti-dumping cases.
As per the 2001 agreement (Protocol on the accession of China to the WTO), in
calculating the 'normal value' of the exported goods while adjudicating anti-dumping
cases, the WTO member nations could for 15 years ignore selling price and production
costs in China.
Once China is granted MES, it will severely limit India's ability to resort to anti-
dumping as the authorities (DGAD) will have to accept the production costs and
sell- ing price in China as the benchmark, the sources said.
They added that it will in turn mean lesser chances of anti- dumping duties being
imposed or lesser anti-dumping duties even if they are imposed.

Adequacy of foreign exchange reserves and currency


turmoil
The upbeat mood was pervasive, and even infectious. A radiant smile, expanding
into a wide grin was common on the faces of government and RBI officials about 10
years ago when conversations would gravitate towards the topic of foreign exchange
reserves.
Successive years of high and increasing positive overall balance of payments,
occasioned by large portfolio capital inflows and RBIs continuous buying of U.S.
dollars from the local forex market resulted in a very rapid rise in foreign exchange
reserves from about $60 billion in 2002 to a little over $160 billion by mid-2006.
Some were quick to conclude that the reserves then were much in excess of what was
needed to ensure an orderly forex market and for external stability and blamed RBI
for running a faulty forex market intervention policy.
There were still others who saw in this an opportunity to hive of the excess reserves
for setting up a sovereign wealth fund, on the lines of China, Russia etc.

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A few fortune-seekers offered to leverage their relationships and influence to the
benefit of asset managers of the world eager to get a slice of the reserves for fee-
based discretionary management and RBI seemed willing to play ball.
A comparison with China here is instructive in many respects. A similar computation
leads to a range of $3 $4.5 trillion. The current level of reserves at $3.23 trillion
constitutes about 110 per cent of the lower bound.
But there is a catch here. About one third of China's reserves are believed to be locked
in illi- quid assets such as investments in infrastructure.
Even after making allowance for the possibility of overestimation inthis regard, the
usable reserves of China likely lie in the range of $2.8 $3 trillion.
This, coupled with the fact that the re- serves are falling rapidly there explain why
both residents and non-residents alike see the yuan much lower.
They are either taking out capital from China at a ferocious pace or betting hard
against the yuan at offshore locations.

Government wants to bring growth reforms through


budget
The Union Budget for 2016-17 will primarily focus on stimulating growth without
deviating too much from the fiscal deficit target set by the Finance Minister ArunJaitley
in his previous Budget.
Mr. Jaitley had set a fiscal deficit target of 3.9 per cent of GDP for 2015-16, paring it
further to 3.5 per cent for 2016-17 and 3 per cent for 2017-18.
However, with the economic recovery still tentative and private sector investments
remaining elusive, there has been a growing clamour for the government to relax its
deficit targets in order to pump prime the economy via enhanced public investments.
Given the fiscal constraints, it is the governments endeavour to present a budget
which is growth oriented and maintains the momentum of growth and tries to develop
on it.
For Budget 2016-17, the government invited suggestions from citizens through Twitter
for the firsttime, even conducting a series of polls to gauge public priorities and
expectations from the budget.

Government will divest five percent of its stake in NTPC


The government announced it will be divesting five per cent of its stake in NTPC
through the ofer-for-sale route.
The sale is expected to garner Rs.5,029crore at a floor price of Rs.122 per share.
The stake sale is to be spread over two days, with institutional bidders getting to buy
shares and retail investors.
The retail investors have 20 per cent of the shares re- served for them.
The five per cent stake in NTPC works out to 41.22 croreshares.At the floor price of
Rs.122 per share, this could fetch the government Rs.5,029crore.
The government has been struggling to meet the disinvestment target of Rs.69,500crore
for the financial year.
With about 40 days left in the financial year, the government has managed to realise

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346 Current Affairs

only Rs.13,330crore through divestment which is less than20 per cent of the budgeted
target.

Policy on strategic sale of state-owned companies soon


The government will soon come out with a policy on strategic sale of state-owned
companies and the disinvestment will not be confined to loss-making enterprises.
Broadly, the strategic sale is that government is selling the equity of the company
along with the controlling management.
How much stake will be sold, it will vary from place to place and company to
company.
The previous NDA Government led by AtalBihari Vajpayee had from 1999 to 2004
privatised about a dozen state- owned firms and hotels including VideshSanchar
Nigam Ltd. (VSNL), Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd. (BALCO), CMC Ltd. and
Hindustan Zinc (HZL).
But the policy was buried after the UPA came to power and only minority stake sales
was pursued since then.

WTO compliant National Intellectual Property Rights


policy in fortnight
The government is likely to announce its Nation- al Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
Policy within a fortnight.
The policy -- which will be entirely compliant with the World Trade Organisations
agreement on Trade Related aspects of IPRs (TRIPS) -- will, as per Prime Minister
NarendraModi's suggestion, have a special thrust on awareness generation and
effective enforcement of IPRs.
However, the policy will not suggest any changes in the existing Indian IPR laws or
other related policies on the patent-disabling Compulsory Licencing (CL) and the
provision-preventing 'ever-greening' of drug patents (done through minor
modifications of an existing drug).
The move to retain the provisions on CLs (in the National Manufacturing Policy and
Section 84 of India's Patents Act) as well as Section 3(d) of India's Patents Act
(preventing ever-greening of drug patents) comes even as the European Union and
the US have been pressing India to make changes in this regard to boost innovation,
researchand development (R&D) and foreign investment in India.
According to Section 3(d), besides novelty and inventive step, improvement in
therapeutic efficacy is a must for grant of patents when it comes to incremental
inventions.
The EU and U.S. had objected to India's adoption of CL in industrial sectors (in the
National Manufacturing Policy) saying it will discourage investment and innovation.
The policy will also suggest incentives such as tax benefits and fee waivers to
encourage R&D and IP creation to strengthen the Make In India/Start-up/Digital
India initiatives.
To protect 'small inventions' developed especially in the informal / unorganised
sectors, the policy will pro- mote 'utility patents' (with lower compliance burden
and shorter period of protection, when compared to the nor- mal patents) only for

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Current Affairs 347
mechanical innovations.
This 'utility patents' may not be extended to the pharmaceutical sector considering
the sensitivities involved in ensuring the efficacy of the drugs.

FII investment in public sector banks may increase to


49 percent
The government is considering a proposal to in- crease the cap on foreign institutional
investment in public sector banks to 49 per cent from 20 per cent.
The move comes at a time public sector banks need equity capital while their stocks
have taken a hammering after reporting huge losses in the third quarter due to a
sharp rise in non-performing assets.
According to present regulations, a single non-banking institution cannot hold more
than 10 per cent in a bank while one bank can hold maximum 5 per cent stake in an-
other bank.
The public sector banks will need to raise tier-I capital as their capital positions have
depleted due to higher provisioning for bad loans.
While the government has committed Rs.70,000crore capital infusion in four years
(starting from this financial year) that amount may be inadequate, several rating
agencies had pointed out.
Earlier, the government had estimated an amount of Rs.2.8 crore as capital infusion
for the public sector banks by 2018.
Public sector banks are constraint to raise equity capital from the markets as most of
them are trading at a significant discount to their book value.
Most public sector banksreported weak earnings in Q3 after Reserve Bank of India
(RBI), found in its asset quality review (AQR) that certain accounts needs higher
provisioning and asked the lenders to classify those accounts as non-performing
and gave the lenders two quarters Q3 & Q4 to complete the task.
Most banks have classified 50 per cent of the RBI identified accounts in Q3 and
remaining will be identified in Q4, which will result in further rise in NPAs.
The one of the biggest hurdle to increase the foreign shareholding cap in public
sector banks was Reserve Bank of India, which was not in favour of higher limit due
to concerns over stability.

Hurun Global Rich List adds 27 new Indian billionaires


India added 27 new billionaires with MukeshAmbani, Chairman of Reliance
Industries (RIL), emerging at the top with a personal wealth of $26 billion, according
to Hurun Global Rich List 2016.
Cumulative Indian billionaires wealth stood at $308 billion, registering a 25 per cent
growth over last year. Mr. Ambani, who is ranked 21st globally, was followed by
Sun Pharma promoter, DilipShanghvi , with personal wealth of $18 billion.
India is home to 111 billionaires and most of them are from Mumbai, according to
the report.
The rich in China overtook their U.S. counterparts to make Beijing, the `billionaire
capital of the world for the first time, according to Hurun.

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Standing committee on finance recommends to make


names of wilful defaulters public
The Standing Committee on Finance recommended that state-owned banks make
public the names of their respective top 30 stressed accounts involving wilful
defaulters.
This will act as a deterrent and enable banks to with- stand pressure and interference
from various quarters in dealing with the promoters for recoveries or sanctioning
further loans, the committee said in its report tabled in Parliament.
Wilful defaulters owe PSU banks a total of Rs.64,335crore or 21 per cent of total non-
performing assets, (NPA), according to the report.
The sharpest increase in NPAs in the banking industrywas observed in mid size
corporates (Rs.25 croreRs.100 crore exposure to commercial entities) as they rose
to 9.7 per cent in September 2015 from 6.4 per cent in March 2014.

Union cabinet to promote cashless transactions


The Union Cabinet approved several steps to promote cashless transactions, which
include mandatory card-based or electronic payments beyond a prescribed threshold.
Some of the other major steps approved by the Cabinet include the withdrawal of
any additional charge currently imposed on card or digital payments by various
government entities and the introduction of the required infrastructure for digital
payments in all government offices.
The Cabinet also approved the rationalisation of the merchant discount rate (MDR)
on card transactions and telecom service charges for digital financial transactions
topromote mobile banking.
Later in the year, the government also proposed to levy a nominal cash handling
charge on cash transactions above a specified level, though this was not included in
the steps approved by the Cabinet.

Indian industry welcomes railway budget


India Inc, welcoming the railway budget for its focus on various initiatives aimed
atfuelling economic growth.
many initiatives announced in the budget would restore the Indian railways back to
good health.
Bajaj Auto Chairman said many positive steps had been taken in the right direction
but large expenditure on a project like the bullet train should be postponed and the
money utilized for the much required improvement and expansion of the railways.

Railway budget lays emphasis on PPP projects


The Railway Budget has laid emphasis on Public Private Partner- ships (PPP) to
implement initiatives such as rail connectivity for ports, station-redevelopment, rail-
side logistics parks and ware- housing as well as satellite terminals.
A committee appointed for the purpose of revamping the ministrys PPP cell has
submitted its re- port and the initiative is under implementation.
The capital expenditure for the next financial year, pegged at Rs.1.21 lakh crore, calls

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Current Affairs 349
for abandoning the business-as-usual approach and continually innovating to
develop new frameworks for PPP.
Foreign investors from Spain and France were keen on dedicated freight corridors
(DFC) projects provided they were structured properly in terms of financial returns
and risk-allocation and mitigation.
The railway minister said his ministry would take up dedicated freight corridors
and implement it in a time-bound manner through innovative financing mechanisms,
including PPP.
Referring to the Cabinet approval for redevelopment of 400 stations through PPP,
Prabhu said on the basis of a bankable structure for private participation, the
government will undertake a bidding process for a few large and medium stations
during the next financial year.
The government is also considering availing multilateral financial investments for
the development of certain other stations and partnering with states.

Survey says only 5.5% pay taxes


India is far from being a full tax-paying democracy with about 5.5 per cent of the
people who earn paying tax and only 15.5 per cent of the net national income being
reported to the tax authorities, according to the Economic Survey tabled in the
Parliament.
The survey estimated that just four per cent Indias voters are taxpayers, though it
should be closer to 23 per cent, and 85 per cent of the net national income fall outside
the tax net.
The tax to GDP ratio at 16.6%, as a result, is well below that of the emerging market
economies of 21 per cent and OECD average of 34 per cent.
The survey, however, pointed out that the democracies withhigherratiostook a long
timeto strengthen tax capacity.
On the expenditure side, Indias spending on human capital, education and health,
to the GDP ratio is the lowest among BRICS and lower than the OECD and emerging
market economies averages.
To widen the tax net and raise revenue for spending on Indias human capital
development, the survey called for bringing rich farmers into the tax net, raising
property tax rates and phasing out tax exemptions.
If the UPA Government had not raised in the 2012- 13 the threshold level of personal
income tax, the survey calculated that an additional 1.65 crore in- come tax payers
would have got incorporated.
The tax-GDP ratio would have been 0.32% higher as Rs.31,500crore additional tax
revenue would have been collected.
According to the survey fast growing years in the 2000s were in fact associated with
rising inequality at the very top end of the Indian income distribution.

India is getting more and more technological start ups


Within a year, the number of technology start ups in the country has grown by 40 per
cent to over 4,200, making India the third largest base of technology start-ups in the
world, according to the Economic Survey 2015-16.

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350 Current Affairs

This has further helped create about 80,000-85,000 jobs during 2015.
As of January 2016, there were 19,400 technology-enabled start-ups in India, of which
5,000 had been started in 2015 alone.
The survey added no lessthan 2000 of the start-ups have been backed by venture
capital/angel investors since 2010, of which 1005 were created in 2015 alone.

Survey looking for faster labour reforms


The economic survey criticised the slow pace of reforms in labour laws, arguing that
firms negotiate regulatory hurdles imposed to protect employees who get poor
quality jobs as a consequence and suggested easier retrenchment norms and low- er
statutory deductions from salaries to create good jobs.
The slow pace of labour reform has encouraged firms to resort to other strategies to
negotiate regulatory cholesterol.
Noting that contract labour hiring grew faster in states with relatively more rigid
labour laws.
The Industrial DisputesAct 1947 requires firms with more than 100 workers to seek
governments approval before retrenching workers.
The law has encouraged factories to employ contract workers to stay out of the rule
books even though entrepreneurs feelcontractlabour is not the ideal solution for
them.

NDBs president says Bank is an assertion of global south


The formation of the New Development Bank (NDB) of the Brazil-Russia- India-
China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping is an assertion of the Global South and its
significance would be felt beyond the economic domain, says K.V. Kamath.
The New Development Bank was not an economic instrument alone, but an initiative
that also symbolised an assertion of political sovereignty of the five emerging
economies.
Currency reserve arrangement that is in place in the BRICS context, it is a commitment
of another 100 billiondollars.
Mr. Kamath also said that two institutions, NDB and the China-led Asian
Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are complementary rather than competitive.

Survey says More scrutiny on FDI is needed


A close scrutiny of foreign direct investments from Singapore and Mauritius is needed
as both the nations accounted for about 60 per cent of the $30 billion worth of FDI in
India during the first three quarters of the current fiscal year.
A detailed examination is needed to find out if they constitute actual investments or
whether they are diversions from other sources to avail tax benefits under the Double
Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) that India has with these two countries,
according to the Economic Survey.
According to government data, of the $29.5 billion FDI into India during April-
December 2015 in 2015-16, around $11 billion was from Singapore, while $6.1
billionwas from Mauritius.
Most of the FDI coming in- to India through Mauritius, Singapore and Cyprus are

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Current Affairs 351
actually from the U.S. or from India-related investors.
The Mauritius route is used for availing tax benefits and for ensuring anonymity.
FDI from Mauritius is however sector-agnostic unlike FDI from countries like Japan,
Germany and France, which are mostly in manufacturing-related sectors.

G-20 asks to look for policies of growth other than ultra


low interest rates
The world's top economies declared that they need to look beyond ultra-low interest
rates and printing money to shake the global economy out of its torpor, while renewing
their focus on structural reform to spark activity.
A communique from the Group of 20 (G20) finance ministers and central bankers
flagged a series of risks to world growth, including volatile capital flows, a sharp
fall in commodity prices and the potential "shock" of a British exit from the EU.
The global recovery continues, but it remains uneven and falls short of our ambition
for strong, sustainable and balanced growth.
Faltering growth and market turbulence have exacerbated policy frictions between
major economies in recent months, and the statement also noted concerns over
escalating geopolitical tensions and Europe's refugee crisis.
The G20, which spans major industrialised economies such as the United States and
Japan to the emerging giants of China and Brazil and smaller economies such as
Indonesia and Turkey, reiterated in the communique a commitment to refrain from
targeting exchange rates for competitive purposes, including through devaluations.

Controller General of accounts questioned the new


accounting method
The Controller General of Accounts has asked the government to be careful in
adopting the accrual method of accounting considering the costs involved as only a
few of its departments can benefit.
CGA said that There is no such thing as a big-bang approach.
Even if you've heard of some advanced countries that have made this transition, like
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, UK, you must understand that the background
to the introduction of accrual accounting was not that it was an end by itself.
The Fourteenth Finance Commission had strongly recommended the adoption of
the accrual system of accounting.Accrual method is the standard accounting
procedure for most medium and large companies.
The method, according to experts, provides a more accurate picture of the company's
current financial position.
However, it is a more complex accounting system than cash accounting, which the
government uses currently and so is more ex- pensive and time-consuming to
implement.
While cash accounting recognises a transaction only when money changes hands,
accrual accounting recognises the transaction at the time it is made, thereby providing
a more current snapshot.

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Rupee slumps worries investors in India


Indias benchmark equity indices fell to their lowest levels in 20 months as concerns
about a global economic slowdown amid slumping commodity prices and a
weakening rupee spurred investors to sell shares.
The rupee breached the 68a-dollar mark for the first time since August 2013. It closed
at a record low of 68.85 a dollar on August 28, 2013, just days before Raghuram Rajan
took charge as RBI Governor.
The fall in the Indian indices was in line with that of the negative trend in the global
markets. Among the leading Asian indices, both Hang Seng and Nikkei lost more
than 3 per cent each.
India is better placed to recover but will have to wait for an overall upturn. The
markets will consolidate at current levels and then will wait for cues from the budget.
Equity markets globally have been witnessing weakness on account of an economic
slowdown in China. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already cut its global
growth outlook thrice in less than a year.
Crude futures fell below $28 per barrel the lowest level since 2003over concerns
of an oversupply amidst falling demand on account of the bearish economic outlook.
Data as per the National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL) shows that foreign
institutional investors (FIIs) have sold Indian shares worth Rs.7,146 crore.

Government may surpass solar projects target in FY 16


The government is confident of receiving bids for 3,000 MW of solar projects this
financial year against the set target of 2,000MW.
This financial year, that is up to March 31, it have to commission 2,000 MW of solar
projects and we will actually do 3,000 MW.
Next year onward, the target is 12,000MW, 15,000 MW and 17,000MW for each
subsequent year.
Solar tariff fell to a historic low of Rs.4.34 per kilowatt-hour following the auction of
a 70MW project in Rajasthan, with the winning bid going toFinnish solar power
companyFortum Energy.

India, Australia still hopeful on FTA


Despite missing the deadline set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australias
then-Prime MinisterTony Abbott for December 31,2015, negotiators are still hopeful
that the India-Australia free trade agreement(FTA) or Comprehensive Economic
Cooperation Agreement (CECA) will be cleared.
the talks were stuck due to several outstanding issues re-lated to market access in
services and goods, with an add-ed complication on tariff reduction.
While Australia wanted India to significantly lower or eliminate tariffs on several
agricultural and industrialgoods.
New Delhi asked Canberra to ease rules on temporary movement of skilled
professionals and intra-company transfers.

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Current Affairs 353

U.S. report says Pakistan nuclear warhead to be in


between 110-130
Pakistans nuclear warheads which are estimated to be between 110-130 are aimed at
deterring India from taking military action against it, a latest Congressional report
has said.
The report also expressed concern that Islamabads full spectrum deterrence
doctrine has increased risk of nuclear conflict between the two South Asian
neighbours.
Pakistans nuclear arsenal probably consists of approximately 110-130 nuclear war-
heads, although it could have more.
Islamabad is producing fissile material, adding to related production facilities,
deploying additional nuclear weapons, and new types of delivery vehicles.
CRS is the independent research wing of the U.S. Congress, which prepares periodic
reports by eminent experts on a wide range of issues so as to help lawmakers take
informed decisions.
Re- ports of CRS are not considered as an official view of the U.S. Congress.
Pakistani and U.S. Officials argue that since the 2004 revelations about a procurement
network run by former Pakistani nuclear official A.Q. Khan Islamabad has taken a
number of steps to improve its nuclear security and to prevent further proliferation
of nuclear-related technologies and materials.

Repo rate unchanged


The benchmark interest rate, the repo rate, unchanged at 6.75 per cent as expected,
and stressed the central banks policy stance remained accommodative.
The comment signalled that the RBI was prepared to continue with more monetary
easing, if needed, to support an economic recovery.
Consumer price inflation, RBIs main gauge for measuring price gains, quickened to
a four-month-high of 5 per cent in October though the central bank appears on course
to meet its January inflation target of 6 per cent.
Rajan also stressed the need for fiscal consolidation, which is also required for further
monetary easing.
The impact of the seventh pay commissions proposals need to watched. The pay
panels direct effect on aggregate demand is, however, likely to be offset by
appropriate budgetary tightening as the Government stays on the fiscal consolidation
path,

Manufacturing sector growth drops to 25-month low


Indias manufacturing sector grew at its slowest pace in 25 months in November on
sluggish pace of new business orders, data from a monthly survey showed,
strengthening the case for the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to keep the interest rates
low.
This also marks the fourth consecutive month of decline in the rate of Indian
manufacturing output growth, as per the monthly Purchasing Managers Index (PMI)
survey conducted by Markit and Nikkei India.

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354 Current Affairs

he health of Indias manufacturing economy improved for the 25th successive month
in November, although to the least extent in this sequence. The latest PMI data showed
slower increases in incoming new business and output, while subdued demand
growth led firms to keep workforce numbers broadly unchanged

India showing early signs of recovery: Moodys


An increase in public sector expenditure and an upturn in capital replacement cycle
are driving investment in India, and it will take a while for private investment to
show a sustainable revival, according to a report by Moodys Investors Service.
a broad-based and sustainable revival in the private sector capital expenditure cycle
will likely take longer to materialise, given high corporate leverage, asset quality
concerns in the banking sector, and subdued external demand
Indias economy was forecast to grow forecast at 7 per cent for 2015 and 7.5 per cent
for 2016 which take into account a slower investment recovery,
The manufacturing sector in India is unlikely to increase its capital expenditure in
any significant manner in the near-term due to the poor state of global demand,
weak commodity prices and low capacity utilisation.

Government lags in completion of national highways


The government has completed only 26 per cent of the National Highways
construction target, with four months left in this financial year, according to a
statement by the Roads Ministry.
It targeted to complete 10,950 km of National High- ways during 2015-16. Until
October 31,2015 about 2,892 km have been constructed.
The government has allocated Rs.81,114.60 crore through various schemes for the
development of highways during this financial year, Mr. Radhakrishnan said.
The available port capacity was enough to handle the existing traic, he said. The
total capacity of ports both major ports and non-major ports was 1530.23 million
tonnes as on 31.03.201.

Government will monitor the calls


The governments electronic intelligence monitoring system , the Central Monitoring
System (CMS), will become operational by March 2016, Telecom Minister Ravi
Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to Lok Sabha.
Government has decided to set up the Centralised Monitoring System (CMS) to
automate the process of lawful interception and monitoring of telecommunications.
He added that technology development and pilot trials have been completed and
the system is anticipated to be progressively operationalised from the end of the
financial year.
The Cabinet Committee on Security has also approved the CMS project with
government funding of Rs.400 crore.

BRICS Banks Kazbekov welcomes yuans inclusion in


IMF reserve currency basket
Vladimir Kazbekov, the Vice-President of the New Development Bank (NDB) of the

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Current Affairs 355
Brazil-Russia-India-Chi- na-South Africa (BRICS) grouping, has welcomed the
inclusion of the Chinese yuan in the IMF basket of reserve currencies, as it would
benefit the five emerging economies.
IMFs move would further consolidate the value of the yuan, which is also called the
renminbi (RMB).
Analysts say that the stability of the yuan will benefit the BRICS nations. This was
because the NDB was considering raising capital in Yuan-de- nominated bonds as a
first step before it entered the bond markets of the rest of the members of BRICS
grouping.
The NDB was approaching the BRICS bond markets so that a financial mechanism
could be evolved, which would gradually reduce dependence on financial mar- kets
of developed economies and their hard currencies.

Developed world to abandon WTOs Doha Round talks


The government opposed alleged attempts of the developed world toabandon the
14-year-oldDoha Round talks of theWorld Trade Organisation (WTO) at the coming
Nairobi ministerial meeting by citing the slow progress of negotiations to liberalise
world trade
Over 100 member countries including India (out of the total 162 member countries
of WTO) want the DohaRound to be successfully concluded expeditiously, but only
after ensuring that the development dimension of the round is fulfilled in all aspects
The Nairobi ministerial meeting is slated to be held during December 15-18. The
Doha Development Round the ongoing negotiation round of the WTO for a pact to
open up world trade by lowering or eliminating barriers had begun in 2001.
the rich world, was not only stonewalling the Doha Round talks, but also was making
efforts to introduce new issues into the round.These new issues include labour and
environmental standards, e-commerce, glob-al value chains and promotion of supply
chains, environmental and sustainable goods produced using clean and green energy,
transparency in government procurement, state-owned enterprises and designated
monopolies, besides competition and investment provisions.

Coal India to increase focus on its consumers


Coal India, chasing a one billion output target, is aiming to improve the grade of coal
to maintain uniformity and stop the supply of boulders and foreign materials. It is
also taking steps to improve marketing.
in first half of 2015-16, CIL clocked a production growth of 8.9 per cent against a net
sales growth 7.3 per cent and a post-tax profit growth of 1.3per cent
To improve coal grades the company is setting up coal 15 washeries as it reduces ash
content in coal.
Coal is graded according to the gross calorific value system (GCV), which is the
amount of heat generated which burning a specified amount of the commodity
Currently, there are 17 bands and traditionally majority ofIndian coal has high ash
con-tent, which low heat value.Washing improves this.
Surface miners are also be-ing deployed by CIL for selective mining at some of the
open cast mines for producing dust-free regular size coal in order to improve coal
quality, while improving the blast-ing method to prevent mixing coal with overburden

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356 Current Affairs

material is being adopted. Efforts are also being made to iron out the differences
over third party sampling.

RBI to comb bank books to unearth hidden bad loans


The Reserve Bank ofIndia Bank is set to intensify its scrutiny of banks financial
accounts during the annual financial inspection process as the banking regulator
races to achieve the goal of cleaning up bank balance sheets byMarch 2017.
there has been a discrepancy in the non-per-forming asset numbers that banks report
and what the central bank finds during the annual inspections
RBI Governor RaghuramRajan has set March 2017 as the deadline to complete the
clean up exercise. This is be-cause, banks have to make a significant amount of
provisioning, and instead of doing it at one go which could severely impact their
bottom-line they can spread it over six quarters.
The opaque nature of dis-closure by public sector banks has also caught the attention
of investors as most of these banks shares are trad-ing at a discount to their book
value. The subdued valuation has in turn limited their ability to raise capital from
the market.

Rbi Wants To Reduce Volatility Before Fed Decision


Haunted By Memories Of Indias 2013 Markets Crash, The Countrys Central Bank
Is Engaging In A Tricky Balancing Act With Domestic Yields To Keep Volatility Out
Of Its Bond Markets Ahead Of The Federal Reserves Historic Policy Decision This
Month.
The Reserve Bank Of India (Rbi) Is Seeking To Prevent Wild Swings In Bond Markets
By Agreeing To Pay Higher Interest Rates To Investors At Bond Auctions, People
With Knowledge Of The Central Bank's Operations Say, While Also Buying Bonds
In The Open Market To Stop Yields Rising Too Much.
Although India Has Outperformed Many Emerging Mar- Kets This Year, The Country
Has Not Been Immune To Fed Jitters, With Foreign Investors Selling Around $1.7
Billion In Bonds And Shares Last Month.
The People Familiar With Rbi Operations Say It Is Worried Weak Market Participation
At Its Auctions Ahead Of The Feds December 15-16 Meeting Could Trigger A Sell-
Of. In 2013, Fed taper Fears Sent The Rupee To A Record Low.

Vodafone To Resolve Call Drops On A War Footing


Vodafone India, Facing Flak Over Frequent Call Drops On Its Network, Has In-
Vested Rs 500 Crore In The First Eight Months Of The Current Financial Year To
Improve Its Services In Delhi But Expressed Reservations On The Order To
Compensate Users For Dropped Calls.
The Companys Managing Director And Ceo, Sunil Sood, Said They Were Working
On A War Footing To Improve Services.
According To A Survey By Telecom Enforcement, Resource And Monitoring (Term)
Cell Which Operates Under The Department Of Telecommunications (Dot) Call Drop
On Vodafones Net- Work In Delhi Was In The Range Of 0.3-2.97 In October, An
Improvement From 1.53-6.63 In August.
Telecom Regulator Trai Has Set A Benchmark Of 2 Per Cent.

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Current Affairs 357

India may ban imports of 24-carat gold jewellery


India is planning to ban imports of 24-carat gold jewellery in an attempt to curb the
misuse of free trade agreements (FTAs) with Asian countries
The world's second biggest gold consumer raised the import duty on the metal to 10
percent in 2013 to curb demand but that has boosted smuggling and prompted some
importers to use India's FTAs with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to
import 24-carat gold jewellery at just two percent import duty.
The government is now planning to change existing rules to allow imports of only
lower-quality 18 and 22-carat jewellery

OPEC talks fails


Members of OPEC failed to agree an oil production ceiling on Friday at a meeting
that ended in acrimony, after Iran said it would not consider any production curbs
until it restores output scaled back for years under Western sanctions.
Oil prices have more than halved over the past 18 months to a fraction of what most
OPEC members need to balance their budgets. Brent oil futures fell by 1 per cent on
Friday to trade around $43, only a few dollars off a six year low.
Banks such as Goldman Sachs predict they could fall further to as low as $20 per
barrel as the world produces more oil than it consumes and runs out of capacity to
store the excess.
OPEC's secretary general Abdullah al-Badri said OPEC could not agree on any figures
because it could not predict how much oil Iran would add to the market next year, as
sanctions are withdrawn under a deal reached six months ago with world powers
over its nuclear programme.
Iran has made its position clear ahead of the meeting with Zangeneh saying Tehran
would raise supply by at least one million barrels a day or one per cent of global
supply after sanctions are lifted.
The world is already producing up to 2 million bpd more than it consumes.

Solar capacity crosses 5,000 MW


Indias total installed capacity of solar power has crossed the 5-GW-mark. The total
commissioned utility solar capacity in the country stands at about 4.7 GW, while
rooftop capacity is 525 MW, according to Bridge to India, a solar energy consulting
firm
While the central government has laid down the ambitious target of 100 GW by
2022, states have taken the lead over central government schemes in the last year.
Encouraged by falling costs and growing need for green energy, states like Punjab,
Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have all
announced substantial policy initiatives
As of today, the country has a solar project pipeline of 15.7 GW.
Solar Energy Corporation of India is engaged in implementing a number of renewable
energy projects including setting up of 2,750 MW solar power projects under VGF
(viability gap funding) schemes, solar Park schemes, roof-top projects and projects
in association with other organisations.

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358 Current Affairs

Fitch Ratings affirms Indias sovereign rating at BBB-,


outlook stable
Fitch Ratings affirmed Indias sovereign rating at BBB-, the lowest in-vestment grade
and just a notch above junk status, and kept the outlook Stable.
The affirmation balances strong GDP growth outlook and favourable external finances
with the high government debt burden and difficult-but-improving business
environment.
It forecast real GDP growth to accelerate to 7.5 per cent in the current financial year,
followed by 8 per cent in 2016-17.
The pick-up in growth, it said, will be largely driven by sup-port from the
governments beefed-up capex spending and gradual implementation of a broad-
based structural reform agenda.
Real growth averaged 6.7per cent over the past five years, which is considerably
higher than the BBB range median of 3.0 per cent
India moved up four places in the World Banks Ease of Doing Business rankings,
but is still the worst-performing of all BBB range sovereign state 130th out of 189
countries, the rating agency pointed out
It also cautioned that the centre-plus-states debt bur-den could rise to 68.8 per cent
of GDP, one of the highest of BBB range sovereigns and far of the BBB category
median of 42.8 per cent of GDP. The increase largely results from state government
staking part of the power distribution companies debt on-to their own balance sheets,
following the Governments Uday initiative

e-commerce will enter in mutual fund and crowd fundng


Capital markets regulator the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) will
soon put in place norms to help entrepreneurs raise funds through crowdfunding.
While discussions are also underway to allow sale of mutual funds through e-
commerce platforms.
A SEBI-constituted committee, headed by Infosys co-founder N. R. Narayana Murthy,
to suggest ways for raising of funds through crowdfunding is likely to submit its
report in a month.
The markets regulator had earlier come out with a discussion paper for crowdfunding
norms to help young entrepreneurs and small groups of people raise funds.
Crowdfunding typically involves young entrepreneurs and small groups of people
raising funds for their ventures through various online platforms involving
individuals and organisations.
SEBI Chairman also said the regulator was actively working towards making it
possible for mutual funds (MF) to sell their schemes on e-commerce platforms.

Non- tax revenue on the up


The huge increase in non-tax revenue to Rs 1,43,633 crore from Rs.94,704 crore can
mostly be attributed to the Economic Services component of the Other Non-Tax
Revenue segment.
One large component of this economic services segment is revenue earned through

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Current Affairs 359
the energy sector, due to the auctions taking place there, and another is the revenue
the government is earning in stages from the telecom auctions conducted last year
Another area contributing to the increase in non-tax revenue is the dividends and
profits accruing to the government, especially what was transferred from the Reserve
Bank of India (RBI) to the government
The increase in tax revenue can mostly be explained by the fact that indirect tax
collections in the form of customs, excise and service tax have increased significantly
due to revenue-generating measures taken by the government over the last year
such as increasing the excise duty on petrol, diesel and tobacco, and increasing the
service tax rate.

Centre to promote cashless transactions


Income tax rebate is one of the incentives being considered by the government to
encourage people to move away from cash transactions and curb black money flows,
a senior official said on condition of anonymity. The move may eventually use cashless
transaction records to build a credit history for the poor and help them access loans.
While the usage of cards and mobile payment solutions such as PayTM and Eze-ap
is expanding rapidly in ur-ban India, the government is looking at ways to take this
to the hinterland.
Following the expansion of bank accounts coverage under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan
Yojana, the government wants to scale up the infrastructure for making digital
payments so that the same convenience and acceptability as cash can be attained.
The National Payments Corporation of India is building a part of that infrastructure.
one of the ideas being examined is that if an income tax rebate could be offered to
those who make a substantial part of their annual payments in the cashless mode.
Since bank statements are already submitted at the time of filing tax returns, it would
easy to gauge the quantum of cash withdrawals made from their accounts.
Of the many solutions to tame black money, cashless transaction is one of the very
important solutions, PrimeMinister, Narendra Modi, said, stressing that people should
make cashless transactions a habit.. This is a very big opportunity and we should
promote this.

India rejects artificial deadlines for WTO deal


India has said it will neither agree to artificial deadlines to conclude theWorld Trade
Organisations(WTO) Doha Round negotiations aimed at liberalising global trade,
nor concur with rich nations attempts to expand the ambit of the talks by introducing
new issues without completely fulfilling the Rounds development dimension.
The Doha Round talks had begun in 2001 and has since missed several deadlines for
concluding it, due to persist-ing differences between the developed and developing
world on a host of issues related to trade liberalisation and granting market opening
commitments.
Significantly, on the attempts of the developed countries to introduce new issues
citing the sluggish progress of the negotiations on the one hand and the increasing
relevance of these so-called 21st Century issues,it was important to first agree on
issues of importance to the developing and the poor world.
These include the reduction of huge and trade distort-ing agribusiness subsidies in

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360 Current Affairs

developed countries, an effective Special Safeguard Mechanism (a trade remedy


allow-ing developing countries to temporarily hike duties on farm products to counter
sudden import surges and price falls, thereby protecting the interests of poor
farmers),and a permanent solution to the issue of public food stock-holding in
developing countries for the purpose of food security

Industrial output climbs to 5-year high


With 17 of the 22 industry groups in the manufacturing sector showing a posi-tive
growth, the industrial output in October recorded a five-year high of 9.8 per cent
year-on-year.
The higher growth was on account of a favourable base, as October 2014 registered a
negative growth 2.7 per cent, as well as the pre-festive sea-son ramp up in output.
The industrial output in September 2015 was 3.6 per cent. The growth logged be-
tween April and October this year over the corresponding period of the previous
fiscal was 4.8 per cent.
Mining recorded 4.7 per cent year-on-year growth (versus 3 per cent in September),
while manufacturing output was 10.6 per cent for the month (versus 2.6 per cent in
September).
Electricity output was seen at 9 per cent in October (versus 11.4 per cent last month).
The cumulative growth in these three sectors during April-October 2015 over the
corresponding period of 2014 has been 2 per cent, 5.1 per cent and 5.2 per cent
respectively.

Slide in Brent crude oil price continues


Crude oil prices hit fresh seven-year lows as the International Energy Agency (IEA)
warned global oversupply could worsen in the new year.
Brent slipped below $39 a barrel for the first time since December 2008 as the IEA,
which advises developed nations on energy, warned that demand growth was starting
to slow.
Brent crude futures were down 60 cents at $39.13 a bar-rel at 1058 GMT, bouncing
slightly from a session low of $38.90.

To protect steel, anti-dumping duty has been slapped


India on imposed anti-dumping duty of up to 57.39 per cent on import of certain
stainless steel products from China, Korea, the U.S. and EU for five years to save the
domestic industry from cheap shipments.
The anti-dumping duty imposed under this notification shall be levied for a period
of five years.
The duty in the range of 5.39 per cent to 57.39 per cent of the landed value of Cold-
rolled Flat' products of stain-less steel has imposed on the recommendation of
Directorate General of Anti-dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD) in October.
The anti-dumping duty will be 57.39 per cent on the imports from China, 5.39 to
13.44 per cent from South Korea, 15.93 per cent from Chinese Taipei, 9.47 per cent
from the U.S., 29.41 to 52.56 per cent from the European Union, 4.58-5.39 per cent
from Thailand and 12.34 to 36.91 per cent

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Current Affairs 361

Aligning Make in India with FDI


The latest changes to the countrys foreign direct investment or FDI policy could end
up hurting the governments ambition to make India a global manufacturing hub, as
they have introduced an element of uncertainty over manufacturing investments
where none existed before.
The new FDI policy announced by the government ahead of Prime Minister Modis
visit to the United Kingdom and the G20 summit in Turkey last month, entailed
liberalising norms for 15 sectors, including de- fence, construction, civil aviation,
FM radio, single brand retail, private banks and manufacturing.
But the notification to effect these changes issued by the department of industrial
policy and promotion, introduces the definition of what constitutes manufacture
within the purview of the FDI policy which industry experts and representatives say
could be a double whammy for investments.
Defining manufacturing in the FDI policy could end up restricting foreign investments
in some sectors, including the likes of electronics and hardware manufacturing.
At the same time, Indian firms are worried that this could open the door for
competitors to make minor changes to imported goods and still call it manufacture.
Under the new FDI policy, slitting complex films for electronic capacitors, testing,
etching a surface etc. may be declared as not manufacturing, for instance.
These FDI reforms are one more proof of minimum government and maximum
governance.
Opening up the manufacturing sector for wholesale, retail and e-commerce so that
the industries are motivated to Make In India and sell it to the customers here instead
of importing from other countries.

India want a permanent solution on public stockholding


India wanted an agreement on a Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) and on a
permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes.
SSM is a trade remedy which is important for developing countries as it will allow
them to temporarily hike duties to counter sudden import surges and price falls of
farm products due to the heavily subsidised agricultural imports from developed
countries, it said.
India asked the G33 countries to stand united, and collectively send out a message
that the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration should be balanced and cover all the elements
of the Doha Development Agenda.

China urged G-20 member countries to pursue structural


reforms
China, the host for the 2016 G20 meet and holder of the rotating presidency, urged
member countries to pursue structural reforms to spur global economic growth even
as the Asian giants economy slows. Macro-economic expansionary policies such as
monetary easing remain a temporary response to the global financial crisis of 2008.
G20 leaders had met at Antalya last month and resolved to persist with collective
action to lift actual and potential growth of their economies and boost job creation.

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362 Current Affairs

The G20 summit mechanism for economic co-operation had evolved in the aftermath
of the 2008 financial crisis.
Due to growing divergence in economic performance and policy priorities among
major economies, we are seeing increasing difficulties in macro-economic policy co-
ordination. The world economy calls for a new impetus.
China has questioned the significant rise in protectionist measures adopted by
countries in trade and investment and the lack of movement on the World Trade
Organisations (WTO) Doha Development round of talks. G20 nations account for 80
per cent of global trade volumes.
China has proposed a new assessment system that focuses on aggregate impacts of
the structural reform measures undertaken by G20 countries instead of focusing on
the progress of implementation. This, it has argued, would provide a more objective
and effective evaluation of reforms.

Rupee slips past 67 a dollar


Heightened uncertainties over an impending Fed rate hike dragged the Indian rupee
past the 67-mark, a 27-month low against the greenback amid strong overseas
sentiment.
The domestic unit resumed sharply lower at 67.09 a dollar from weekends close of
66.88 at the Interbank Foreign Exchange market on the back of frantic dollar demand
and weakened further to 67.12 in mid-afternoon trade before ending at 67.09, revealing
a fall of 21 paise, or 0.31 per cent.

Asset quality situation of banks assessed


The countrys top bankers met Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor, Raghuram
Rajan, to appraise the RBI about their asset quality situation in the view of the deadline
set by the central bank to clean up the lenders balance sheets.
During the monetary policy meeting, Mr Rajan said by March 2017 the banks balance
sheet will be cleaned up. This means banks will have to make provisioning for bad
loans.
Whenever they fall short RBI inspectors will rigorously comb the bank books to
unearth hidden stress that were yet to be provided. Banks need to set aside capital
for provisioning towards stressed assets.
Stressed assets as a percentage of gross advances moved up to 11.1 per cent as on
March 2015.

Import and Export both on negative territory


Indias exports fell for the twelfth consecutive month in November, virtually shrinking
by a quarter from a year earlier to $20 billion, leading exporters to seek an intervention
from the government as they believe the situation is now worse than what they
faced at the peak of the global financial crisis in 2008-09.
Imports also contracted by a sharp 30 per cent in November, led by a 63 per cent
decline in fertiliser imports, and a 45 per cent dip in oil imports. Pulses, electronics
and fruits and vegetables were the only commodities to see an increase in imports.
The trade deficit for November 2015 was just $9.7 billion, compared with $16.2 billion
in November 2014 and experts said the country was unlikely to face pressure on the

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Current Affairs 363
current account deficit even if there were some foreign capital outflows in response
to an anticipated interest rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Just seven out of Indias top thirty export goods, including carpets, jute products
and tea registered an increase in November, compared to nine goods in October.
The share of Indias trade (exports plus imports) to its gross domestic product (GDP)
referred to as trade openness in economic parlance has fallen drastically from
55.6 per cent at peak in fiscal 2013 to 46 per cent in the second quarter of the current
fiscal.

Government ready to roll out GST


The finance ministry is ready to roll out the new indirect tax regime for goods and
services in 2016, even as an impasse in the Upper House of Parliament has prevented
constitutional amendments to enable the new taxation system.
By January 2016, the ministry expects to finalise a draft model law for state
governments to adopt the Goods and Services tax (GST) system that would replace
multiple excise, sales and octroi duties levied on inter-State and intra-State trade of
products and help make the country a single market, according to the ministry. The
ministry also expects to have the IT network in place next month to manage the
transition to the new regime.
But to get to that stage, the Constitutional Amendment Bill for GST needs to be
passed with a two-thirds majority in the Rajya Sabha and then be ratified by at least
15 state assemblies to become law of the land.
A GST Council with representatives from the Centre and the States would then be
formed, following which states would have to enact their own legislations to enable
the actual switch to the GST regime.
It is going to take at least another month by which we will be able to finalise the draft
law and once that is done we will be putting it up in the public domain and process
of consultation and regional conferences for interaction with trade and industry will
be done.

PAN card required for cash transaction above 2 lakh


The government has made it mandatory to quote PAN (permanent account number)
for all transactions in excess of Rs.2 lakh, regardless of the mode of payment, to curb
black money.
The new rule, effective from January 1, will cover purchases of all goods or services,
such as say gold jewellery or furniture, Revenue Secretary, Hasmukh Adhia told
reporters.
This includes all payments made through cash, cheques or debit or credit cards. In
the case of immovable property, where quoting PAN is currently required for
transactions of Rs.5 lakh, the government has decided to raise the monetary limits to
Rs.10 lakh.
It raised the monetary limit to Rs.50,000 from Rs.25,000 in the case of hotel or restaurant
bills paid at any one time, and for bills on account of overseas travel. The limit is
being raised to Rs.1 lakh from Rs.50,000 for purchase or sale of shares of an unlisted
company.
Opening of a no-frills bank account, such as a Jan Dhan account, will not require

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364 Current Affairs

PAN, he said. Other than that, the requirement of PAN applies to opening of all bank
accounts including the co-operative banks.
Those who do not hold PAN would have to fill a form and furnish any one of a
specified list of documents to establish their identity, according to press statement.
One of the recommendations of the Special Investigation Team on black money was
to make PAN compulsory for all sales and purchases of goods and services above
one lakh.

Public equity investments touch a record high


Private equity investments in India touched a record high of $17.5 billion in 2015
across 685 deals, breaching the previous high of $14.7 billion recorded in 2007, a
PwC report
The silver lining for India is that the rest of the BRICs are not doing too well at the
moment and Indias macros are looking good, with the current account and fiscal
deficit at acceptable levels, relatively stable rupee, inflation at sub 5 per cent and
most importantly in a declining interest rate regime, which should encourage private
investment as demand picks up
The other sectors, which outperformed this year were, financial services and
healthcare, which contributed deals worth $2.4 billion and $1.58 billion, respectively

Ban on diesel cars to hit automakers


The Supreme Courts decision banning registration of diesel vehicles with engines
of 2000 cc and higher capacity in the National Capital Region is unfortunate, as
the move will hit the nascent recovery in the industry
The companies that are likely to be most impacted by the decision are luxury car
manufacturers such as Mercedes Benz and Jaguar Land Rover, besides makers of
sport utility vehicles like Mahindra and Mahindra, Tata Motors and Toyota.
The ban creates an environment of uncertainty and will severely impact our expansion
plans and future investments put in place for the Indian market
Delhi NCR, which is one of the biggest luxury car markets in India, contributes
about 7 per cent of the overall passenger vehicle sales. The contribution of diesel
vehicles is about 2-3 per cent of the overall industry volumes
SIAM said while the decision would certainly hurt some segments of the automotive
industry, it would, however, not bring about any perceptible improvement in the air
quality of Delhi.

Marutis Gujarat plant gets nod for shareholders


Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) minority shareholders have given a go-ahead for the
proposal to let Japanese parent Suzuki Motor Corporation develop and invest in its
upcoming manufacturing plant in Gujarat.
The resolution has passed comfortably with 89.75 per cent of the minority shareholder
who cast their vote voting in favour and 10.25 per cent voting against the proposal
Following the approval, the company will move ahead to transfer assets at the Gujarat
plant, where it has already invested Rs.350 crore, to Suzuki's wholly owned arm
Suzuki Motor Gujarat Pvt. Ltd.

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Current Affairs 365

Stocks surge as investors take Fed rate increase in stride


Investors shrugged-off the U.S. Federal Reserves first interest rate increase in almost
a decade, with stocks surging and the rupee closing at a one-month high.
The Fed raised the benchmark rate by 25 basis points and signalled it was in no rush
to raise rates again.
The increase, which had been factored in by most market participants, ended the
uncertainty over the U.S. central banks timing of its decision and helped the BSE
Sensex climb almost 310 points.
As far as markets are concerned, the major uncertainty has gone and the focus will
now shift to the fundamentals of India. While the emerging market space, as a whole,
may look less attractive versus the U.S. economy, India is likely to stand out.
India is less dependent than several of its peers on commodity exports, and has thus
not been negatively affected by the global rout in commodity price

Growth forecast for this year changed


India lowered its GDP growth projection for the current year to between 7-7.5 per
cent against the earlier forecast of 8.1-8.5 per cent.
The outlook going forward is challenging and, without reforms, GDP growth next
year is unlikely to be significantly greater than this year, according to the government.
The cut in forecast follows GDP growth in the first half of the year (from April to
September) slowing to 7.2 per cent from 7.5 per cent in the corresponding period last
year.
Economic growth was dragged down by the 17.4 per cent decline in exports in the
first half and the adverse impact of deficient monsoons on farm sector output.
Nominal growth during this period also slowed substantially from 13.5 per cent to
7.4 per cent. The sharp and continuing decline is a cause for concern, according to a
mid-year review of the economy that Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley tabled in
the Parliament.
The slowdown will pose a challenge to meeting the fiscal deficit target of 3.9 per cent
of GDP and will also place a stress on tax revenue collections.
Indias debt-to-GDP ratio too will cease to decline, a development with significant
implications for Indias macroeconomic stability and vulnerability to external risks.
The ratio had been declining over the past 10-12 years, benefiting from the nominal
GDP growth exceeding the governments cost of borrowing.

Experts say, Bifurcating top post in PSBs will bring in


transparency
The governments decision to bifurcate the top position at public sector banks will
bring in transparency and accountability, say experts.
On Wednesday, the government initiated management reforms in public sector banks
by splitting the post of Chairman and Managing Director in four banks and appointing
managing directors (MDs)/chief executive officers (CEOs) in Vijaya Bank, Indian
Overseas Bank, United Bank of India and Oriental Bank of Commerce.

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366 Current Affairs

It is an extremely healthy move, and will improve governance. In the U.S., more
than 50 per cent of enterprises follow this and this practice is followed all over the
world, said Shailesh Haribhakti, Chairman, DH Consultants.
Combining the positions of Chairman and Managing Director with one person is
contradictory to the effective functioning of the organisation as the Chairman is the
custodian of governance, while the MD/CEO is the custodian of assets and efficiency
of running of the organisation.
When the same person holds both positions, it leads to confusion and some time
even to sacrifices. These are different roles, and so these positions must be occupied
by different individuals, Mr. Haribhakti added.
The move to separate the posts would bring in more professionalism in their
functioning, said D. S. Rawat, national Secretary-General, Associated Chambers of
Commerce and Industry of India.
It looks as though the government wants to bring in outside experts as chairmen in
some of the banks, which will be a great value addition to the state-owned banks,
said Mr. Rawat.
However, it is time the remuneration of CEOs in PSU banks is enhanced somewhere
near to their peers in the private sector. It cannot be that while we expect the CEO to
give performance under challenging circumstances taking into account the social
obligations of these banks, but we do not pay them the commensurate salaries, he
added.

Deteriorating asset quality would put pressure on bank


finances
The banking sector is faced with downgrading of rating as deteriorating asset quality
would put further pressure on its finances, make international operations and funding
much more difficult during 2015, said the Associated Chambers of Commerce and
Industry of India (Asscoham) in a report Non performing assets: current and expected
scenario.
Considering this, the report said, the banking sector would attract additional
provisioning, which would further put pressure on the profits of banks, which are
already under tremendous stress.
This would reduce the effective internal source of increasing capital which is even
under a lot of pressure on account of the impending Basel-III guidelines and the
capital adequacy ratio is adversely affected, the report said.
As per the report, the gross non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks are expected to
be 4.4 to 4.7 per cent for public sector banks by March, 2015, (as against 4.4 per cent
as on March, 2014) and 4-4.2 per cent for the whole banking sector (as against 3.9 per
cent for March, 2014).
The year 2013-14 saw incremental restructuring of Rs.1.20 lakh crore, and Assocham
believes that the same figure would be maintained for 2014-15.
Weak asset in the banking sector is likely to be 5.7 per cent by March, 2015, as
compared to 5.6 per cent in March, 2014, and 4.3 per cent in March, 2013, bad and
restructured loans are expected to touch the 15 per cent mark by the end of 2014-15,
the report said.
According to the report, standard assets incremental restructuring would continue

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Current Affairs 367
in 2014-15 and not much headway is expected in sale of assets to assert reconstruction
companies after the guidelines have been changed.
For reducing NPAs, Assocham has suggested a four-pronged strategy for early
recognition of stress and remedial action thereafter. The measures are categorised
under preventive and corrective Management, it said.

Tata Motors sales up 10 percent in Dec. 2014


Tata Motors reported 10 per cent increase in total sales at 41,734 units in December,
as against 37,836 units in the same month last year.
Domestic sales of Tata commercial and passenger vehicles grew by 8 per cent at
37,776 units as compared to 35,010 units in December 2013, Tata Motors said in a
statement.
Sales of passenger vehicles in the domestic market in December stood at 12,040 units,
up 30 per cent from 9,272 units in December 2013.
In the commercial vehicles segment, domestic sales remained flat at 25,736 units
during the month, the company said. Exports during the month as stood at 3,958
units as against 2,826 units in the year-ago month, up 40 per cent.

BHEL will use fuel flexible boiler


Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) will use fuel flexible boiler developed in-house
and capable of firing the entire range of coal, from 100 per cent Indian to 100 per cent
imported, at projects it will set up in Telangana.
The central public sector enterprise, with which the Telangana State Power Generation
Corporation Ltd (TSGENCO) has a MoU for thermal plants, has decided on the boiler
to overcome the current uncertainty of coal supply.
BHEL said this on Friday giving details of the Rs.3,810 crore order it has received
from TSGENCO for 800 MW supercritical thermal power project at Kothagudem,
Khammam district, on engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) basis.
The project is to be commissioned in 36 months on fast track basis with BHEL and
TSGENCO setting up teams to expedite clearances and execution of the project, a
release said. The key equipment for the contract will be manufactured at BHELs
Tiruchi, Hyderabad, Haridwar, Bhopal, Ranipet, Bangalore and Jhansi plants.
The companys Power Sector-Western Region will be responsible for civil works
commissioning of the equipment. Chief Minister K.Chandrasekhar Rao recently
handed over a cheque for Rs.350 crore to BHEL.

Need to rethink strategy for PSU banks says Hasmukh


Adhia
There is a need to rethink strategies for public sector banks in the country and the
efforts for their consolidation would not be limited to merger and acquisitions, a
senior Finance Ministry official said.
Financial Services Secretary Hasmukh Adhia also said that it was absolutely essential
to implement banking reforms and making the banks stronger was necessary for the
economic growth.
Speaking to reporters at a pre-event briefing on two-day financial sector retreat Gyan

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368 Current Affairs

Sangam, Mr. Adhia also said that asset quality was a problem for many PSU banks,
while low credit offtake was also an area of concern.
He said there is a need for a rethink on strategies for public sector banks. Gyan
Sangm was scheduled to start later this afternoon and would be addressed by Prime
Minister Narendra Modi.
Others expected at the event include Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and RBI Governor
Raghuram Rajan, along with a host of PSU bank chiefs and top executives of insurance
companies.
Among other issues, Prime Ministers Jan Dhan Yojana would also be discussed at
the event and Mr. Adhia said that 10.3 crore accounts have been opened so far under
this programme for giving bank accounts to all.

Public sector banks need more autonomy says FM


India needs to conceive several reforms in the banking sector, Union Finance
Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters on the sidelines of a two-day banking retreat.
Mr. Jaitley added that there is a need to give greater autonomy to banks and that
non-performing loans in some cases was unacceptable. There is a need to get the
best talent into the system. There is a need for far greater autonomy being given to
them (Public Sector Banks), Mr. Jaitley told reporters in Pune.
PSBs recorded the highest level of stressed loans at 12.9 per cent of their total advances
in September 2014, while the same ratio for private sector banks was at 4.4 per cent,
according to RBI data.
India's top bankers have gathered in Pune to discuss long-pending reforms vital to
improving the health of ailing public sector banks in Asias third-largest economy.

WB to woo investors at Global Business summit


Projecting itself as an ideal investment destination, the Government of West Bengal
is organising Bengal Global Business Summit Bengal Leads 2015 on January 7
and 8 to attract investment from foreign and domestic companies.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Union Minister of Road Transport and
Highways Nitin Gadkari are expected to attend. Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee
will speak on the occasion besides interacting with investors.
The State is seeking investment in sectors such as urban infrastructure and housing,
IT software and hardware, food processing, horticulture and floriculture, MSME
and textiles, health care, education and skills development, manufacturing, energy
and infrastructure, hospitality and tourism and business of entertainment and
financial services.
This business summit will ride on growth achieved in the past three years. Since
formation of our government, radical fiscal reforms have been done and massive
capital formation is underway, said West Bengal Finance and Industry Minister
Amit Mitra.

Transport Ministry to launch e-approval for heavy


vehicles
In a move heralding digitalization in the heavy transport industry in India, the Surface
Transport Ministry is ready with a web portal for online approval of heavy transport

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Current Affairs 369
vehicles movement.
Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari will launch the web portal, allowing e-
approval for movement Over Dimensional (OD) and Over Weight Cargo (OWC).
The move is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modis key focus areas of Make
in India and Digital India. The launch will be accompanied by a day-long seminar
on Heavy Transport in India: Entering a New Era through Digitalization.
Several industry stakeholders including heavy equipment manufacturers, project
owners, Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) companies, along with
various research and academic institutions from across the country, will come together
and discuss a roadmap for future plans in the transport and road infrastructure
development sector, an official release said.

India to see good growth in future: experts


Indias growth prospects and the chances that it will pick up pace against China
formed a point of discussion at a three-day conference on Management Challenges
in Uncertain Environment began at the Indian Institute of Management-Kozhikode
(IIM-K).
The conference is organised jointly by Association of Indian Management Scholars
(AIMS) International and the IIMK. Around 150 delegates from India as well as from
abroad are participating in the programme.
In his inaugural address, C. Balagopal, founder of Terumo Penpol, the largest blood
bag manufacturing facility in the world, highlighted that uncertainty was the
keyword of the moment when industries and businesses across the world were facing
challenges in appropriate decision makings.
He expressed hope that there would soon be clarity from where the demand for
products and services was going to come from. Looking at the Indian conditions,
there was already the growth of power generation, highways, ports, and the rest of
the infrastructure that were needed to sustain high growth.
He stressed that China was the best example of this phenomenon, and India would
soon be there too. As China slowed, Indian growth would pick up, and sustain the
demand for commodities including steel, building materials, capital equipment, and
consumer products.
In his keynote address, Prof. Kulbhushan Balooni, Director, IIM-K underlined the
dire need of scholarly research in the field of business and management by Indian
institutions, and highlighted the research initiatives and programmes that were
carried out by the IIM-K.
He then shared with the delegates an analysis of Management knowledge
development scenario in India.
He underscored the point that, knowledge creation was a point of recognition among
the peers, and its benchmarking was done by the number of citations by peers of a
research article.

Need to clean up bad debts in banks within a year says


RBI Governor
Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan, made a strong case for cleaning

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370 Current Affairs

up bad debts of banks and restructure other possible non-performing assets (NPAs)
within a year to put the economy back on track.
He also favoured channelising full savings of the households into the financial
system so that the requisite resources for growth were made available.
In the short-term (up to 12 months), there is need to clean up the NPAs and then
restructure other stressed loans so as to put the economy back on the track, Dr.
Rajan said at the two-day Gyan Sangam.
Total gross NPAs of public sector banks stood at over Rs.2.43 lakh crore as on
September 30, 2014. The top 30 NPAs accounted for Rs.87,368 crore or 35.9 per cent
of total gross NPAs of PSBs.
Dr. Rajan said the bona fide mistakes made by the bankers while taking commercial
decisions should be protected by the government.
If the officers are hauled up for such decisions, this would to lead to delay in good
decisions because of avoidance of risk, he said.
The Governor also stated that there was a need for internationalisation of the banking
system in the current global environment.
The capital base of the banks may need to be enhanced, Dr. Rajan said while
emphasising on the need for consolidation in ownership, improvement in governance,
and enhancement of management capability.
With the licensing of the small banks and the payments banks, there would be new
players in the industry and competition among the PSBs will also grow to meet
these challenges. Accordingly, PSBs have to develop differentiated products, Dr.
Rajan said.

Xiaomi doubled its revenue to $12 billion in 2014


The chairman of Chinese smartphone brand Xiaomi says its sales more than doubled
last year to $12.2 billion.
In a posting on his company blog, Jun Lei said the 5-year-old company sold 61.1
million handsets, a 227 per cent increase over 2013. Revenue rose 135 per cent to 74.3
billion yuan ($12.2 billion).
Xiaomi overtook South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics Co. in the second
quarter of last year to become Chinas biggest selling smartphone brand by number
of handsets sold.
Founder Lei Jun said Xiaomi plans to expand further abroad after selling 1 million
handsets last year in India, its biggest foreign market.
An Indian court blocked some sales in December after Swedens Ericsson complained
Xiaomi violated its patents. Mr. Lei called the case a rite of passage for a young
company.

Unorganized sector workers to get Smart cards soon


Every worker in the unorganised sector may soon be issued a smart card with a
unique identification number for accessing social schemes and benefits. The portable
benefits card will be issued under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act,
2008.
On December 25, the Gujarat Chief Minister launched such a card, U-WIN, in the
State, and announced that benefits under various social security schemes would be

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Current Affairs 417

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Zika is fit case for WHO to declare public health


emergency
The World Health Organization faced ?ak for its delay by two months in 2014 in
declaring the Ebola epidemic as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern
(PHEIC).
This might not happen in the case of Zika virus when the WHO will convene an
emergency committee on February 1 (Monday) to help determine the level of the
international response to the outbreak.
It is alleged that WHO declared Ebola as a PHEIC only after a U.S. health care person
was infected with the virus.
Likewise, is it because the risk to the U.S. is very high in the case of Zika virus that
WHO has convened the Committee meeting on Monday.
But in the ?rst place why should the Zika virus outbreaks be declared a Public Health
Emergency of International Concern?
The term PHEIC is de?ned as an extraordinary event which is determined if both
these conditions are met constitute a public health risk to other States through the
international spread of disease, and potentially requires a coordinated international
response.
According to the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR) agreement, this
de?nition implies a situation that is: serious, unusual or unexpected, carries
implications for public health beyond the affected States national border, and may
require immediate international action.
The Zika outbreak in 23 countries meets these conditions. Given the rapidly
spreading Zika epidemic, WHO should declare an emergency and use all their powers
under the International Health Regulations.
Since its outbreak in Brazil in May 2015, there have been nearly 4,000 suspected
cases of microcephaly a foetal deformation where infants are born with abnormally
small heads.
Officials are still investigating whether Zika causes microcephaly in newborns, but
the link is strongly suspected, ac- cording to the WHO.
The Zika virus infection usually is asymptomatic in nearly 80 per cent of the cases.
As a result, many cases of Zika go undetected, making it difficult to estimate the true
scale of the outbreak in the Americas.
One in four people infected with Zika develop symptoms mild illness, such as
fever, rash, muscle/joint pain, and conjunctivitis.

Travancore bush frog reappeared in western ghats


Travancore Bush Frog (Raorchestestravancorius), a rare and endemic frog species
reported from Western Ghats, which was once recorded as extinct, has been located
from eight new locations within the Periyar Tiger Reserve.

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418 Current Affairs

Incidentally, the species, according to researchers, was wrongly classi?ed as extinct


in the Red data book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature despite
spotting a live individual some 12 years ago.
Though the classi?cation as extinct lasted till June last year, it was subsequently
reassessed as Endangered based on its area of occupancy.

Indias sun mission Aditya-L1 will be launched in 2019


Aditya-L1, the Indian sun mission due after three years, may turn out to be a unique
formation of not one but two spacecraft looking at the sun from two stable orbital
points.
Aditya is the nations third big extra-terrestrial outing after moon and Mars, all
conceived and designed by AD- COS, the multi-faculty body of the Indian Space
Research Organisation.
ISRO has started activities to send a 400-kg spacecraft to look at the sun from a
special stable orbital slot called L1 around 2019-20. L1 or Lagrangian point # 1 is
about 1.5 million km from Earth towards the sun.
There are four more Lagrangian points L2 to L5 for sun and Earth where space objects
can resist the pulls ofboth the celestial bodies and stay relatively stable in that orbit.
According to ADCOS Chairman, and former ISRO chief and cosmic ray scientist
U.R. Rao, a second spacecraft can be sent to Point L5, about 1.3 million km away and
at a 30-degree angle to L1, for a fuller picture of the sun. It could follow L1 a few
months or a year apart.
ADCOS has designed the 2008 Chandrayaan-1; its future sequel; the 2013 Mars Orbiter
Mission and is weighing the pros of either a second Mars mission or a Venus trip
the last of which is attracting other space agencies as potential partners.
The first task is to build a few ultra-sensitive instruments to accurately measure
minute details about the sun.
Dr. Rao said the bigger challenge is to create an all-aluminium 20-metre-high magnetic
test facility near Bengaluru to specially assemble and test the spacecraft and
instruments in a magnetically clean manner with not one electric material, not even
a car, being nearby.

India will come up with its own version of LIGO


With the discovery of gravitational waves by the U.S.-based LIGO (Laser
Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory), Prime Minister NarendraModi may
have tweeted his support for a similar detector in India but such a project is at least
eight years away.
This is not counting the time it will take the Central government to clear the proposal,
estimated to cost around Rs. 1,200 crore, and is further premised on the project not
running into environmental or State-level hurdles.
Another ambitious mega-science project, the Indian Neutrino Observatory (INO)
project a proposed, underground observatory inTamil Nadu to detect ephemeral
particles called neutrinos had been cleared by the Union government in 2015.
Scientists associated with the India-LIGO project (called INDIGO) say that they have,
since 2009, done considerable work in identifying suitable sites in India and met
officials in several States.

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Current Affairs 419
INDIGO will be a replica of the two LIGO detectors and many of its components
have already been built and are ready to be shipped from the United States.
The project was initially tobe located in Australia but, since 2011, scheduled to be
located in India. At least 25 sites were considered for the detector that will, most
saliently, have two L-shaped four- kilometre-long arms.
Other than the benefit of having a third detector, which will likely improve the chances
of spotting gravitational waves, an India detector would improve the chances of
novel, exciting discoveries being made out of India and being made by Indians.

Scientists finding ways to reduce coral bleach


Oceanographers are diving deep into the aquamarine seas of Lakshadweep to unravel
the mysteries of marine life that thrive and wither deep down there around the
colourful corals.
A group of researchers from Kerala are looking at the science behind the defence
mechanism of corals to resist coral bleaching, the biggest threat to their beautiful
submarine world.
Coral bleaching is considered as a stress response of corals to a few biotic and abiotic
factors. Increased solar irradiance (photosynthetically active radiation and ultraviolet
band light) is an important factor.
Exposure to UV radiation when combined with thermal stress could be lethal for
corals. It could lead to the loss of algal symbionts from coral tissue and coral
bleaching.
Mycosporinelike Amino Acids (MAA)are small secondary metabolites produced by
organisms that live in environments with high volumes of sunlight.
Besides protecting cells from mutation due to UV radiation, they also boost cellular
tolerance to desiccation and salt and heat stress.
The coral reefs are highly sensitive ecosystems facing the threat of extinction. They
are often compared to tropical rainforests considering the ecosystem services they
deliver.
Coral reefs are considered valuable source of pharmaceutical compounds from which
drugs for the treatment of cancer, HIV, cardiovascular diseases, ulcers, and other
ailments are extracted, highlighting the medicinal value of corals, the researchers
noted.

Antarctica in?uencing weather in tropics


Scientists are coming to grips with how weather in Antarctica is in?uencing climate
as far away as the tropics.
For example, researchers at Ohio State's Byrd Polar Research Center have discovered
an in?uence of atmospheric circulation in the Wilkes Land and Ross Sea regions of
Antarctica on precipitation from the East Asian monsoon.
In this context, the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement West Antarctic Radiation
Experiment (AWARE) project gains importance as it studies the skies above Antarctica
for answers to questions such as how climate change and associated atmospheric
physics are affecting Antarctica and how the ripple effects of these phenomena are
being felt thousands of miles away in the mid latitudes and the tropics.

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The temperature gradient between the equator and the poles essentially drives the
atmospheric circulation in the southern hemisphere in the form of three north- south
systems: the polar cell, the mid-latitude Ferrelcell and the tropical Hadley cell. These
cells are dynamically linked together.
The AWARE project by the United States located at McMurdo station in Antarctica
will observe how climate change affects the polar region as it has been determined
that when the polar region warms, the lo- cation of the boundary be- tween the polar
and Ferrel cells will change, along with the strength of circulation in both cells.
Antarctica acts as a global heat sink. Near the equator the Sun is highest in the sky
and insolation (solar radiation reaching the surface) is larger than thermal radiation
loss to space.
At the South Pole during winter there is no insolation and the Antarctic continent
loses energy to space.
Energy and warmth transported over the Antarctic continent by global circulation
patterns is lost to space by radiative cooling.
Another wind system is the circumpolar westerlies which prevents warm air from
the northern latitudes of the southern ocean from reaching the interior of eastern
Antarctica which remains a cold, isolated desolate region, losing energy to space.

Experiment proves acidification diminishes the coral-


reef growth
A ?rst-of-its kind, ?eld-controlled experiment carried out for 22 days in a natural
coral-reef community has allowed scientists to unequivocally show the detrimental
effects of ocean acidi?cation on coral reefs across the world.
Coral reefs, which provide marine ecosystems comparable to tropical rain forests,
are most vulnerable to ocean acidi?cation.
Ocean acidi?cation arises when nearly 25 per cent of carbon dioxide released in- to
the atmosphere and absorbed by the oceans reacts with water to form carbonic acid.
The carbonic acid thus produced leads to ocean acidi?cation by decreasing the pH of
the ocean, reducing the concentration of carbonate ion.
oceans are already 30 per cent more acidic than they were before the Industrial
Revolution.
Increasing the pH of the ocean to make it more alkaline than acidic will provide an
ideal condition for coral reefs to grow.
Global warming has not only increased the acidity of the oceans but has also elevated
the sea surface temperature.
While a warming ocean would have initially favoured coral reefs and led to more
growth, the continued increase has proved harmful.
Hence, coral reefs suffer from the combined onslaught of both acidi?cation and
elevated sea surface temperature.

Climate-driven reduction in sea-level rise


The rate of rise of sea level globally has lessened by 20 per cent during the last
decade, according to a new study.

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This is because of 3.2 trillion tons of excess liquid water storage on land in aquifers,
lakes and other water bodies.
Though glaciers and ice bergs have been steadily melting, the earth has been behaving
like a sponge and absorbing the water which should otherwise have ?owed back to
the oceans from the land, thus closing the hydrological cycle.
While increase in sea level can be attributed to glacier and ice-sheet melting and
transfer of water from aquifers to ocean from humandriven pumping, the reason
for the slowing down of the sea level rise has not been accurately attributed until
this study, which states that climate driven hydrology has a major role.
Human-induced changes in land water storage include the direct effects of
groundwater extraction, irrigation, impoundment in reservoirs, wetland drainage,
and deforestation.
Several studies of large aquifers suggest that trends in regional and global land-
water storage are now strongly in?uenced by the effects of groundwater withdrawal.

Smart-phone based 3-D printer will become a reality


Researchers in Taiwan have developed a next generation smartphone-based 3D
printer that may cost just over $100.
The printer employs a photopolymer that uses visible light emitted from a smartphone
to cure the resin instead of the traditional method of using ultraviolet (UV) light or
lasers.
The machine starts by placing a coated vat of the speciality resin on top of a
smartphone, which cures the resin onto a metal print-bed as the photopolymer
material is released.
The machine uses a z-axis platform to shape the design, and the phone to cure the
material as it builds the object in layers, Digital Trends reported.
This custom app makes it easy to load and print 3D models because the printer and
the print management tool are housed within the same device.
Prof. Jeng hopes to add a scanning feature in the future that would allow users to
scan a 3D object by inserting the phone into the 3D printer and printing up the
model with minimal effort.

A green world in Keralas laterite hills


Under their barren look, the laterite hills in northern Kerala conceal patches of
biodiversity-rich small groves, known as Kanam in local parlance.
With ecological significance of these hills remaining unknown, Kanams are re-corded
as waste lands in revenue records and often assigned to development projects. Mining
too is damaging this system.
As the lateritehills are recorded as wasteland since it is not productivefor agriculture
there is thetendency to allot these areas to large-scale projects, whichleads to the
destruction of theunique ecosystem
The floral diversity of four Kanams (Kanayi, Vannathi,Easwaran, and Vattappoyil)in
the Kavvayi River Basincaught the researchers by surprise. They were able
todocument 452 plant species in these four Kanams.
Of these, 56 were endemic to thearea and 35 were endemic toWestern Ghats. They

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also re-ported that two endemic species recorded from theseareas were classified as
endangered and five as vulnerable to extinction in the RedList of the
InternationalUnion for Conservation ofNature.

Crab Pulsar
Scientists have discovered the most energetic light ever detected in the universe from
the centre of a supernova known as Crab pulsar which is situated 6,500 light years
away from Earth.
The Crab pulsar is the corpse left over when the star that created the Crab nebula
exploded as a supernova.
It has a mass of 1.5 times the mass of the Sun, concentrated in about a 10 km diameter
object, rotating 30 times per second.
It is surrounded by a region of intense magnetic field 10 thousand billion times
stronger than that of the Sun.
The pulses were found by researchers working with the Major Atmospheric Gamma-
ray Imaging Cherenkov (Magic) observatory in the Canary Islands, Spain.
The Crab pulsar, created in a supernova explosion that occurred in 1054 A.D., is
located at the centre of a magnetised nebula visible in the Taurus constellation.
The Crab is the most powerful pulsar in our galaxy and it is one of only a few pulsars
detected across all wavelengths, from radio up to gamma rays.
In its rotating magnetic field, electrons and positrons are accelerated up to relativistic
energies and emit radiation that arrives to our telescopes in the form of pulses every
33 millisecond, each time the neutron star rotates and meets our telescopic sight.

Antartica may be a place for largest canyon in the world


The worlds largest canyon over 1,000 km long and in places as much as one km
deep, may lie under the Antarctic ice sheet, a team of scientists, including Indian
researchers, has revealed.
The canyon system is made up of a chain of winding and linear features buried
under several kilometres of ice in one of the least unexplored regions of the Earths
land surface Princess Elizabeth Land (PEL) in East Antarctica.
Very few measurements of the ice thickness have been carried out in this particular
area of the Antarctic, which has led to scientists dubbing it one of Antarcticas two
Poles of Ignorance.

Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) contribute 8 Mln


for anti-microbial resistance
The U.S. governments Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), launched two years
ago to contain the spread of new and emergent infections following the Ebola
outbreak, has pumped in a whopping $ 8 million to map the rising anti-microbial
resistance in India and build capacities to tackle it better.
The rising anti-microbial resistance is a serious health concern in India, and also
figured in Prime Minister Narendra Modis meeting with U.S. President Barack
Obama in September last year.
While Indian hospitals acknowledge a rise in drug-resistant infections, there is no

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Current Affairs 423
centralised documentation of the infection rates, with hospitals shying away from
reporting this data fearing loss of business.
This project is aiming, rather ambitiously, at the creation of a national network where
hospitals will pool in their data on infection rates, which would then be in the public
domain for patients to make an informed choice when they have to select a hospital
to undergo treatment.
Titled Capacity Building and strengthening of hospital infection control to detect
and prevent anti-microbial resistance in India, the project will be jointly executed
by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the All India Institute of Medical
Sciences (AIIMS) and the India office of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC).
The project will start with surveillance, followed by data analysis. Systems will then
be put in place to first check infections and eventually bring down resistance rates.

Ice found at the surface of comet 67P


Researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have identified two large patches of
water ice on the surface of comet 67P, perhaps the most studied comet in history.
The elusive ice was detected, using data collected by the European Space Agencys
Rosetta spacecraft, on the bottom part of the main lobe of the dumbbell-shaped comet,
in a region called Imhotep.
It appeared as noticeably bright patches in visible light and was located on cliff
walls and debris falls.
Data collected by Rosettas Visible Infrared and Thermal Imaging Spectrometer
(VIRTIS) showed that the water ice grains in the Imhotep region came in different
sizes.
Some of the grains were tiny, just tens of micrometres across, which were probably
formed as a result of the comets 12-hour rotation.

PSLV-C31 launch in two days


The 48-hour countdown to the launch of PSLV-C31 rocket carrying IRNSS-1E satellite
commenced at Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.
IRNSS-1E is the fifth of the seven-series Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System
(IRNSS), which India is hoping to put in place by the end of this year.
The regional navigation satellite system is aimed at providing accurate position
information service to users in India as well as the region extending up to 1500 km
from its boundary.

New drugs of TB
For the first time, child-friendly TB drugs for first-line medication in a fixed-dose
combination was launched by TB Alliance, UNITAID and WHO at the 46th Union
World Conference on Lung Health. These drugs, which meet the WHOs revised
dosage guidelines of 2010, are meant for children weighing less than 25 kg.
The fixed-dose drugs are already available and countries can place an order, which
can take 2-3 months for delivery.
The Mumbai-based Macleods Pharmaceuticals is the only company manufacturing

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the child-friendly drugs. The medicines will cost $15.54 for the six-month course of
treatment.
The availability of child-friendly TB drugs of correct dosages will increase drug
adherence and thereby reduce acquired drug resistance. According to the WHO,
each year, at least 1 million children become ill with TB.

PSLV C-29 launch on Dec 16


Space scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) are all set to launch
the PSLV C-29 rocket from the Sriharikota space centre in Nellore district here on
December 16 at 6 p.m
Through this launch, ISRO will be sending six satellites belonging to Singapore. Of
these, the TeLEOS-1 will be the main satellite which weighs 400 kg and it is meant
for remote sensing applications for commercial purposes

Use of Colistin has raised


Five years after an antibiotic resistant superbug was traced to India, the mar-ket size
of colistin , the last antibiotic that can work on resistant infections ,has more than
doubled in the country.
Usage of the last-resort drug has shot up in hospitals 91 lakh units (one unit is one
injection vial), estimated at Rs. 80 crore, was sold in 2015, up from units valued at Rs.
30 crore three years ago.

New system of Desalinisation developed


With desalination that involves converting saline sea water to potable water being
out of reach currently for the shallow pockets of the government, researchers of Indian
Institute of Science (IISc) have hit upon the idea of utilising copious solar energy in
the South to reduce the costs of the process.
The Department of Electronic Systems Engineering at IISc, have developed a solar
hybrid desalination system that works for saline and brackish water

Helixsafe to come to rescue


A wearable device that aims at automatically providing relief and summoning medical
help for victims who are left unattended after serious automobile accidents has been
developed by a student in Uttar Pradesh.
Seventeen-year-old Akshat Prakash, named his invention HelixSafe and presented
it at the Taiwan International Science Fair, 2015.
The device uses heartbeat variance as the key indicator to auto-detect grave injury
during automobile accidents and auto- injects medicine to prolong the victims
survival while informing the nearest medical facility for help. It provides life-
prolonging support to accident victims as they wait for help to reach them.
Akshat has won Indias First Whiz Kid award for Best Innovation, 2013, for the
device. The award is given by Nurture Talent & Computer Society of India.

Supernova spotted by Hubble Space Telescope


The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the image of the first-ever predicted
supernova explosion offering a unique opportunity for astronomers to test how mass

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Current Affairs 425
is distributed within a galaxy cluster.

Chhattisgarh using high zinc rice for better nutritional


content
In a bid to mitigate malnutrition in tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh, the seeds of high
zinc enriched variety of rice were distributed to farmers here for commercial
production.
Chief Minister Raman Singh launched the seeds of new species of paddy,
Chhattisgarh Zinc Rice-1 to farmers at the National Farmers Fair which began in
Jora village on the outskirts of the capital.

This variety of seeds are also very high yielding.


Various schemes run by agriculture department in co- ordination with Indira Gand-
hi Agriculture University have also accelerated growth of agro-sector.

Seaweed capsules may do away with insulin injections


Seaweed capsules may lead to an injection-free life for diabetic patients, say
researchers who have developed a novel method to overcome major challenges in
pancreatic islet transplantation.
Pancreatic islet transplantation is an effective treatment to dramatically reduce daily
insulin doses or even eliminate dependence on external insulin.
A group of researchers developed a novel cryopreservation method that not only
helps to protect pancreatic islets from ice damage but also facilitates real-time
assessments of cell viability. Moreover, this method may reduce transplant rejection
and, in turn, decrease use of immunosuppressant drugs, which can be harmful to
patient health.
The novel technique employs a droplet microfluidic device to encapsulate pancreatic
islets in hydrogel made of alginate, a natural polymer extracted from seaweed. These
capsules have a unique microstructure: a porous network and considerable amount
of non-freezable water.
Hydrogel capsules with large amounts of non-freezable bound water protect the
cells from the ice damage and reduce the need for cryoprotectants special
substances that minimise or prevent freezing damage and can be toxic in high
concentrations
Islet encapsulation reduces the risk of rejection of transplanted cells by the recipient.
The hydrogel capsule allows small molecules to pass through the membrane easily
but prevents direct contact between implanted islets and host cells.
Encapsulation also may prevent an attack on transplants by the autoimmune response
that destroy the patients own islets in the first place.

Barak-8 missile to be tested


The Navy will carry out the maiden test of the long-range Barak-8 surface-to-air
missile from INS Kolkata.
The Barak-8 missile is being developed jointly by India and Israel. While two tests
have been successfully conducted from Israeli ships, this is the first time that the test
would be held onboard an Indian one.

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The missile has been designed to defend against a variety of short-to-long-range


airborne threats, including fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, drones and projectiles.

Barak NG test fired from Indian warship


One of Indias most ambitious and costly efforts to develop a surface-to-air missile
system, in collaboration with Israel, achieved a significant milestone over the last
two days with its successful firings from an Indian naval warship.
The long-range surface-to- air missile (LRSAM) land version is medium-range
SAM or MRSAM is the product of a joint development project of India and Israel.
It is said to be a very advanced SAM that can track and shoot down incoming missiles
and other flying objects with high-level accuracy.
While the LRSAM is for the Navy, the Air Force has an order for the MRSAM and the
Army variant has been recently approved.
Also called Barak NG (next generation), the LRSAM can intercept aerial targets up
to arange of 80 km.
It is being codeveloped by the Defence Research and Development Organisation
(DRDO) from India and the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) of Israel, and will be
manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Ltd. (BDL).

ACRI develops new cluster beans variety


A new variety of cluster beans, which is rich in fibre and vegetable protein, has been
developed by the Agricultural College and Research Institute (ACRI).
The new variety, MDU-1, will be formally released in Coimbatore on January 6 after
clearance from the State Variety Release Committee. V. Swaminathan, Head,
Department of Horticulture, said the new variety was a result of five years of intensive
research and field trials.
Fibre-rich food is recommended for people these days to fight cancer. Our variety
takes care of that aspect and, moreover, it has vegetable protein which will not block
the coronary blood vessels. Animal protein is risky for blood vessels since the chances
of development of blocks are more, he told.
Dr Swaminathan said that the ACRI had made arrangements with two seed companies
to undertake mass production of cluster bean seeds for distribution to farmers. Locally,
the production had already started to popularise MDU-1 among the horticultural
community.
This will be the seventh variety release by our department. Earlier, we had developed
new varieties of brinjal, snakegourd, bittergourd and onion, he added.
ACRI Dean C. Chinnusamy said that a decision had been taken to tap solar energy in
a big way to meet the power requirements of the campus. A proposal for Rs 1.56
crore to set up a solar plant and solar panels had been submitted to the State
government for approval.

Big Bang to be probed using Antarctica telescopes


A set of six telescopes collectively known as Spider Sub-orbital Polarimeter for
Inflation, Dust and the Epoch of Re-ionization will circle Antarctica in a bid to
observe a haze of faint, radio microwaves that envelops space.
Such waves are thought to be the fading remnants of the primordial fireball in which

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Current Affairs 427
it all started 13.8 billion years ago and the exercise would help scientists understand
the phenomenon of the Big Bang, the most plausible theory explaining the origin of
universe.
The telescopes are designed to detect faint curlicues (a decorative curl or design of
an object) in microwaves.
Spider will observe the microwaves in two wavelengths that would allow them to
distinguish dust from primordial space-time ripples, said William Jones from the
Princeton University in the U.S. Mr. Jones is also the leader of the Spider experiment.
The theory propounds that such curls would have been caused by violent disruptions
of the space-time continuum when the universe began expanding.
Spider is the sister experiment to a California Institute of Technology-based project
known as Bicep, whose investigators made headlines last spring when they
announced that they had recorded curlicues in a patch of the sky from a telescope at
the South Pole.

NASA report, Tropical forests absorb far more CO2 than


thought
Tropical forests may be absorbing far more carbon dioxide in response to its rising
atmospheric levels than many scientists thought, a new NASA-led study says.
Tropical forests absorb 1.4 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide out of a total global
absorption of 2.5 billion - more than what is absorbed by forests in Canada, Siberia
and other northern regions, called boreal forests.
This is good news because uptake in boreal forests is already slowing, while tropical
forests may continue to take up carbon for many years, said David Schimel of NASAs
Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Forests and other land vegetation currently remove up to 30 percent of human carbon
dioxide emissions from the atmosphere during photosynthesis.
In case the rate of absorption slows down, the rate of global warming would speed
up. The study is the first to devise a way to make comparisons of carbon dioxide
estimates from many sources at different scales.
Researchers made use of atmospheric models, satellite images and data from
experimental forest plots.
Until our analysis, no one had successfully completed a global reconciliation of
information about carbon dioxide effects from the atmospheric, forestry and
modelling communities, said Joshua Fisher of JPL and co-author.
As human-caused emissions add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, forests
across the globe are using it to grow faster, reducing the amount that stays airborne.
This effect is called carbon fertilisation.
All else being equal, the effect is stronger at higher temperatures, meaning it will be
higher in the tropics than in the boreal forests, Schimel pointed out.

Rare plant species found in Kerala


Scientists at the Centre for Medicinal Plants Research, Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal,
have reported the discovery of a rare plant species from the Dhoni hills in Palakkad
district.

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It was during an expedition to study the floristic diversity of the high mountains in
the southern regions of the Western Ghats that the researchers led by scientist K.M.
Prabhu Kumar and director Indira Balachandran came across the new species in the
grasslands of the Palamala hills in the Dhoni mountain range.
The plant belonging to the genus Chlorophytum of the Asparagaceae family was
later reported from the Elival hills of Muthikulam in Palakkad by a team comprising
scientists from the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi.
Named Chlorophytum palghatense, after the place of discovery, the plant is a
perennial herb endemic to the grassland ecosystem of the Dhoni and Muthikulam
forests at a height above 6,000 feet. It flowers and fruits from September to November.
The finding has been published in Phytotaxa, an international journal on botanical
taxonomy.
Distributed throughout Africa and India, the Chlorophytum genus is represented
by 17 species in India, of which 15 occur in the Western Ghats.
Detailed taxonomic studies carried out at Shivaji University, Kolhapur, revealed that
the new species was distinct from C.sharmae endemic to Munnar. Mr. Kumar said
C.Palghatense was named thus to highlight the rich biodiversity of Palakkad district,
especially as a reservoir of rare plants endemic to the Western Ghats.

Scientists says, Bt cotton not to blame for farm distress


Farmer suicides in Maharashtras Vidarbha area and other parts of the country have
nothing to do with Bt cotton, scientists said at the Indian Science Congress.
There is a lot of negative public perception about Bt crops Even a paper in Nature
says linking these two [Bt. Cotton and farmer suicides] is our imagination, said Dr.
Anupam Verma, INSA [Indian National Science Academy] Senior Scientist at the
Indian Agriculture Research Institute, speaking on GM crops use of modern
technology in agriculture.
Some scientists said there were interesting research prospects in the field of
biotechnology. We could be extracting oil from leaves, instead of seeds. Imagine
what it would mean for us, when our government is spending over Rs. 60,000 crore
on oil import, Dr. Deepak Pental, former Vice-Chancellor of the Delhi University,
said. We can produce oil indigenously if we use Bt.
But unfortunately, it is caught up in a debate taken up by the Left and now supported
by the neo-right. Dr. Pental is an award-winning genetic scientist who has been
credited with major breakthroughs in hybrid seed science.
In the recent past, there had been a sharp increase in the acreage of GM crops in the
country, and over 90 per cent of the cotton cultivated was GM crop, scientists said.
They refuted arguments about monopolisation and said there were over 1000 Bt
Cotton hybrids available in the country.
Dr. Verma referred to Project Sunshine in Gujarat and explained how Bt Cotton had
powered the growth in agriculture in Gujarat. He said GM Maize had taken nutrition
to Adivasi farmers.

ISRO is gearing up to launch IRNSS 1D


After completing an eventful year, ISRO is gearing up for some satellite launches
this year, with the IRNSS 1D being the first, which would put in place Indias own

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Current Affairs 429
navigation system on par with the Global Positioning System of the U.S.
The launch campaign for IRNSS 1D has come, which starts on January 16. Within
two months, all components from other ISRO labs have to reach Sriharikota. The
launch is likely after March 15, a senior ISRO official told PTI.
IRNSS 1D is the fourth in the series of seven satellites, the national space agency is
planning to launch to put in place the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System
(IRNSS).
While four satellites would be sufficient to start operations of the system, the
remaining three satellites would make it more accurate and efficient. The other
launches also relate to the IRNSS series with the IRNSS1E and IRNSS1-F satellites to
be launched before the year end, he said.
The first three satellites in the IRNSS series were launched from Sriharikota on July
1, 2013, April 4 and October 16 last year respectively.
The fully deployed IRNSS would consist of three and four satellites in GEO stationary
and in inclined geosynchronous orbits respectively, about 36,000 km above the Earth.
The system would provide two types of services Standard Positioning Service,
which is provided to all the users and Restricted Service, which is an encrypted
service provided only to the authorised users.
The IRNSS system was targeted to be completed by this year at a total cost of Rs.
1420 crore. IRNSS is designed to provide accurate position information service to
users in the country as well as the region extending up to 1,500 km from its boundary,
which is its primary service area.

Eight new planets found in Goldilocks zone


Astronomers with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) have
discovered eight new planets within the so-called Goldilocks or habitable zone
of their stars.
To be considered habitable, exoplanets must orbit within a distance of their stars in
which liquid water can exist on the planets surface, receiving about as much sunlight
as Earth.
Most of these planets have a good chance of being rocky, like Earth, lead author
Guillermo Torres of the CfA said in a release. The discoveries of Kepler-438b and
Kepler-442b are the latest in several advancements scientists have made to find signs
of possible life in the universe.
At a panel held last summer at NASA headquarters in Washington, astronomers
said they were very close in terms of technology and science to actually finding the
other Earth.
Thats due in part to the Kepler Space Telescope. The planet-hunting Kepler probe,
launched in 2009, finds planets by looking for dips in the brightness of a star as a
planet transits, or crosses, in front of that star.
Christine Pulliam of CfA said the team of scientists monitored data from more than
160,000 stars, which led them to the eight new planets. The couple most likes Earth,
Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b, both orbit red dwarf stars, which are cooler and smaller
than the Earths sun.
Kepler438bs diameter is 12 per cent bigger than Earth and has a 70 per cent chance
of being rocky, which means the surface of the planet appears to be like Earths.

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Kepler442b is about one-third larger than Earth with a 60 per cent chance of being
rocky. Scientists give it a 97 per cent chance of being in the habitable zone, but caution
that the estimations arent certain.

Government approves Neutrino Project


Union cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved setting up of
India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) in Bodi West Hills, Tamil Nadu.
The INO Project Director, and Senior Professor at Tata Institute of Fundamental
Research, Mumbai, Naba Mondal, in an email, said, the the cabinet has approved
the project "at an estimated cost of Rs. 1500 crore.
The project will be jointly supported by the Department of Atomic Energy and the
Department of Science and Technology. The infrastructural support will be given by
the Government of Tamil Nadu as the project is located in the State.
Prof. Mondal said, This underground laboratory will be set up near Pottipuram
village in the Bodi West Hills of Theni district, Tamil Nadu to study the properties of
the neutrino.
An Inter-Institutional Centre for High Energy Physics (IICHEP) will also be
established in Madurai, which is about 110 km from the proposed site of the neutrino
observatory.
Along with the setting up of the underground laboratory and the IICHEP, the
Government of India has also approved the construction of a 50,000 tonne magnetised
iron calorimeter detector (ICAL) to study the properties of the neutrino, in particular
the mass hierarchy among different types of neutrino.
A press release from the organisation also said that the INO laboratory will host
other experiments such as the neutrino-less double beta decay and the search for
dark matter.

SpaceX calls off its flights to space station


SpaceX has called off its flight to the International Space Station. The unmanned
Falcon rocket was supposed to blast off before sunrise.
But the countdown was halted with just one minute remaining. The soonest SpaceX
can try again is Friday. No reason was immediately given for the launch abort.
The Dragon capsule aboard the rocket contains more than 5,000 pounds (2,200
kilograms) of supplies and experiments ordered by NASA. Thats the primary
objective for SpaceX.
But the Californiabased company plans to attempt an even more extraordinary
feat- flying the booster rocket to a platform in the Atlantic. No one has ever pulled
off such a touchdown.

NASAs Kepler space telescope marks 1,000th exoplanet


discovery
NASAs Kepler Space Telescope to date has offered scientists an assortment of more
than 4,000 candidate planets for further study the 1,000th of which was recently
verified. Thisn was achieved by continuously monitoring more than 150,000 stars
beyond our solar system.

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The range of distances from the host star where liquid water might exist on the
surface of an orbiting planet are known as the habitable zones. Three of the newly-
validated planets are located in their distant suns habitable zone. Of the three, two
are likely made of rock, like Earth.
Two of the newly validated planets are named Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b. Kepler-
438b, 475 light-years away, is 12 per cent bigger than Earth and orbits its star once
every 35.2 days. Kepler-442b, 1,100 light-years away, is 33 per cent bigger than Earth
and orbits its star once every 112 days.
They both are less than 1.5 times the diameter of Earth orbiting stars smaller and
cooler than our Sun, making the habitable zone closer to their parent star, in the
direction of the constellation Lyra.
Each result from the planet-hunting Kepler missions treasure trove of data takes us
another step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the universe,
said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASAs Science Mission Directorate.
The Kepler team has raised the candidate count to 4,175 with the detection of 554
more planet candidates from Kepler observations conducted May 2009 to April 2013.
Eight of these new candidates are between one to two times the size of Earth, and
orbit in their suns habitable zone.
Of these eight, six orbit stars that are similar to our Sun in size and temperature. All
candidates require follow-up observations and analysis to verify they are actual
planets. Kepler collected data for four years long enough that we can now tease
out the Earth-size candidates in one Earth-year orbits, said Fergal Mullally, Kepler
scientist who led the analysis of a new candidate catalogue.
Scientists are also working on the next catalogue release of Keplers four-year data
set. The analysis will include the final month of data collected by the mission and
will be conducted using software that is more sensitive to the tiny telltale signatures
of small Earth-size planets than software used in the past.

Hubble telescope captures images of Eagle Nebula's


'Pillars of Creation'
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revisited the famous Eagle Nebula's
Pillars of Creation and has captured high-definition images.
The telescope had earlier captured the three impressive towers of gas and dust in
1995, which revealed never-before-seen details in the giant columns and now the
telescope is kickstarting its 25th year in orbit with an even clearer, and more stunning,
image of these beautiful structures.
The captured image is part of the Eagle Nebula, otherwise known as Messier 16 and
although such features are not uncommon in star-forming regions, the Messier 16
structures are by far the most photogenic and evocative ever captured.
The recent images show the famous pillars, capturing the multi-coloured glow of
gas clouds, wispy tendrils of dark cosmic dust, and the rust-coloured elephants'
trunks with the newer Wide Field Camera 3, installed in 2009.
In addition to this new visible-light image, Hubble has also produced a bonus image,
which is taken in infrared light, penetrating much of the obscuring dust and gas and
unveils a more unfamiliar view of the pillars, transforming them into wispy silhouettes
set against a background peppered with stars.

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Although the original image was dubbed the "Pillars of Creation", this new image
hints that they are also pillars of destruction. The dust and gas in these pillars is
seared by intense radiation from the young stars forming within them, and eroded
by strong winds from massive nearby stars.
The ghostly bluish haze around the dense edges of the pillars in the visible-light
view is material that is being heated by bright young stars and evaporating away.
The infrared image shows that the reason the pillars exist is because the very ends of
them are dense, and they shadow the gas below them, creating the long, pillar-like
structures and the gas in between the pillars has long since been blown away by the
winds from a nearby star cluster.

U.S. Scientists find promising new antibiotic


Using a novel technique to culture soil bacteria that previously could not be grown
in the laboratory, a team of U.S. scientists has isolated a promising new antibiotic to
which resistance may not develop easily.
The research, published this week in Nature, comes at a time when there is growing
alarm both at the spread of antibiotic-resistant microbes and the failure to find new
classes of antibiotics in recent decades.
During the golden age of antibiotics from about 1940 to around 1960, scientists
were able to find a number of new drugs by carefully screening soil bacteria, looking
for anti-microbial activity.
However, they were able to examine only bacteria that could be grown in the
laboratory and more than 99 per cent of the bacterial species in the soil resisted such
efforts, with the result that such leads eventually petered out.
Dr. Kim Lewis, director of the Antimicrobial Discovery Center at the Northeastern
University in the U.S., and colleagues used an isolation chip (iChip) developed at
the university to culture previously uncultivable soil bacteria.
This chip has a larger number of tiny chambers to hold individual bacterial cells.
Covered with semi-permeable membranes, the chip could be then placed in the soil,
allowing vital nutrients and growth factors to diffuse into its chambers.
With the iChip, the scientists could grow 10,000 bacterial strains. The extract from
one such bacterium, provisionally named Eleftheria terrae, yielded an entirely new
sort of antibiotic, teixobactin.
Laboratory tests showed that this molecule was effective against many human
pathogens, including drug-resistant ones, that come in the category of gram-positive
bacteria.
The drug was exquisitely active against a number of hard-to-deal-with bugs, said
Dr. Lewis during a press briefing. It might also offer a single-drug therapy for
tuberculosis, which currently required prolonged treatment with a multi-drug
combination.

4th navigation satellite launch in March 2015


The fourth navigation satellite of the country is getting ready for launch in March,
and it will be another step forward for India in evolving its own navigation satellite
system and not depend on the Geographical Positioning System (GPS) service of the
U.S.

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Cryogenic propulsion systems on board PSLV-C27 rocket that will launch the satellite
are being developed by scientists of the ISRO Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri
in Tirunelveli district.
S. Ingersol, group director of the complex, told, Totally, seven satellites are required
to be launched to complete the configuration under the Indian Regional Navigation
Satellite System (IRNSS) and already three had been launched.
Dr. Ingersol said launch of the remaining four satellites would be completed in one
year and after that Indias dependency on the U.S. for GPS service would be
significantly reduced. This will trigger the much-needed development in geographic
information systems.
The Mahendragiri complex was developing the second and fourth liquid stages
needed for the launch vehicle. Advance research by ISRO scientists has made India
go for launching heavier satellites of three to four tonnes from our own soil, he
said.

Deficient southwest monsoon hits Rabi sowing


A delayed and deficient southwest monsoon has shrunk rabi sowing from last years
level. If sowing was taken up on 597.15 lakh hectares of land last year, the figure this
time was 566.18 lakh hectares.
What is worrisome is the gap of 30.97 lakh hectares between the areas sown in the
previous week and its corresponding week last year, higher than the deficit of 26.82
lakh hectares when making such a comparison for the week earlier.
The southwest monsoon was 12 per cent lower than the long period average in the
country and 21 per cent in northwest India, hitting kharif crop production by 2-3 per
cent. The rain deficit is affecting rabi sowing now.
A meeting in the Agriculture Ministry to review the crop and weather situation noted
that wheat has been sown in 4.92 lakh hectares less this year because of lower moisture
in the soil. Although the area under wheat will be made up in the next few weeks,
the harvest will depend on the weather conditions.
Of particular concern is the lower acreage of pulses. The area under gram is lower
this year by 14.8 lakh hectares from last years because of the lower minimum support
price. Farmers have turned away from sowing gram as the price is low, sources said.
The area under coarse cereals is lower by 4.57 lakh hectares mainly because of reduced
sowing of maize and jowar in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

Facebook the leader of social media says a new Survey


Facebook is the leader of social media, says a new survey, adding that the social
networking site has also made inroads into becoming the popular choice among the
elderly.
The findings of a survey by a US-based global think tank Pew Research Centre that
involved 1,597 internet users revealed that 71 per cent of US adults were hooked to
Facebook in 2014 - up significantly from 63 percent in 2013, Forbes magazine reported.
It also showed that 56 per cent of Facebook users are in the age bracket of 65 years
and older. The social media websites LinkedIn and Pinterest had 28 percent adult
users.

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For micro-blogging site Twitter, the percentage of users logging in daily decreased
from 46 percent in 2013 to 36 percent last year. 53 percent of internet-users, between
the ages 18-29, use Instagram, also owned by Facebook.
The survey also found that 45 percent of internet users log in to Facebook several
times a day. Of the respondents, 52 percent use more than one social media website
- an increase compared with 42 percent in 2013.

Researchers identified Mutations causing abnormal


heart muscle protein
An international team of researchers have sought to identify genetic mutations that
produce abnormal forms of a key heart muscle protein. As a result of the mutations,
the heart muscles weaken and produce a condition known as dilated
cardiomyopathy.
The increased strain that is then put on the heart can lead to heart failure where the
organ is unable to pump the requisite quantities of blood.
Changes to titin, a protein that is part of the mechanism muscles use to contract and
relax, have been implicated as a cause for dilated cardiomyopathy.
Titin is the largest human protein and is produced by a gene whose genetic
information exists as 364 separate segments, known as exons. Variations in how the
genetic data from these exons are assembled mean that the protein can exist in a
variety of forms.
A 2012 study carried out in severe and familial cases of dilated cardiomyopathy
found that disruptive mutations in the gene, resulting in truncated titin variants
being produced, were the commonest genetic cause for the ailment.
Researchers who carried out that study have gone on to examine titin gene sequences
from over 5,200 individuals, with and without the condition, as well as scrutinising
150 heart tissue samples collected from patients who underwent heart surgery.

Indias Mars Orbiter team wins award


Indias Mars Orbiter programme team has won the 2015 Space Pioneer Award in the
science and engineering category from the US based National Space Society (NSS),
the society said.
In a statement issued in Washington, the NSS said its 2015 Space Pioneer Award in
the science and engineering category has been won by the Indian Space Research
Organisation (ISRO) Mars Orbiter Programme team.
This award will be presented to an ISRO representative during the National Space
Societys 2015 International Space Development Conference, the 34th ISDC, to be
held in Toronto, Canada, the statement said.
The conference will run form May 20-24. According to the NSS, Indias Mars Orbiter
launched on Nov 5, 2013 that went into Mars orbit on Sep 24, 2014 achieved two
significant mission firsts in terms of an Indian spacecraft that has gone into orbit
around Mars on the very first try and that no other country has ever done this.
Secondly, the spacecraft is in an elliptical orbit with a high apoapsis, and has a high
resolution camera which is taking full-disk colour imagery of Mars.
Very few full disk images have ever been taken in the past, mostly on approach to
the planet, as most imaging is done looking straight down in mapping mode.

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Current Affairs 435
These images will aid planetary scientists. The Mars Orbiter programme team located
in Bangalore is headed by Mylswamy Annadurai, the statement said.

Britain's "Beagle 2" spacecraft found on Mars


Britain's infamous "Beagle 2" spacecraft, once dubbed "a heroic failure" by the nation's
Astronomer Royal, has been found on Mars -- 11 years after it went missing searching
for extraterrestrial life.
Beagle 2, part of the European Space Agency's Mars Express mission, had been due
to land on Mars on Christmas Day 2003, but went missing on December 19, 2003.
Until now, nothing had been heard from it since then.
But in an announcement made to a packed news conference at London's Royal Society
scientific institution, space experts said the tiny Mars lander has been found on the
surface of the red planet.
"Beagle 2 is no longer lost," said David Parker, chief executive of the UK Space Agency.
He said scientists now had "good evidence" that the spacecraft successfully landed
on Mars on the date it was due -- December 25, 2003 -- but had only partially deployed.
"This find shows that the entry, descent and landing sequence for Beagle 2 worked
and the lander did successfully touch down on Mars on Christmas Day 2003," the
UK space agency said in a statement.
Beagle 2 -- which measures less than 2 metres across -- was named after the ship
Charles Darwin sailed when he formulated his theory of evolution. It was built by
British scientists for about 50 million pounds ($85 million)
The plan was for it to report back from the Mars' surface using instruments designed
to help search for signs of life, but nothing was heard after it was dropped off to
make its landing.

2014 Earth's hottest year on record: scientists


2014 was Earth's hottest on record in new evidence that people are disrupting the
climate by burning fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases into the air, two U.S.
government agencies said.
The White House said the studies, by the U.S. space agency NASA and the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showed climate change was
happening now and that action was needed to cut rising world greenhouse gas
emissions.
The 10 warmest years since records began in the 19th century have all been since
1997, the data showed. Last year was the warmest, ahead of 2010, undermining claims
by some skeptics that global warming has stopped in recent years.
Record temperatures in 2014 were spread around the globe, including most of Europe
stretching into northern Africa, the western United States, far eastern Russia into
western Alaska, parts of interior South America, parts of eastern and western coastal
Australia and elsewhere, NASA and NOAA said.
"While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns,
the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are
dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases," said Gavin Schmidt, director
of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York.

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436 Current Affairs

"The data shows quite clearly that it's the greenhouse gas trends that are responsible
for the majority of the trends," he told reporters. Emissions were still rising "so we
may anticipate further record highs in the years to come."
U.N. studies show there already are more extremes of heat and rainfall and project
ever more disruptions to food and water supplies. Sea levels are rising, threatening
millions of people living near coasts, as ice melts from Greenland to Antarctica.

Agni-V missile to be test-fired on January 31


India's strategic missile, Agni-V, will test-fired from the Wheeler Island, off the Odisha
coast, on January 31.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which has developed
the missile, will launch it from a canister mounted on a road-mobile launcher, which
is a TATRA truck.
A gas generator at the bottom of the canister will push the 17-metre long, 50-tonne
Agni-V out of the canister.
The missile, which can take out targets situated more than 5,000 km away, can carry
a nuclear warhead weighing 1.1 tonnes. In the launch on January 31, 2015, it will
carry a dummy payload.
The missile was earlier scheduled to be test-fired in the second week of January but
was postponed to the last week of January or the first week of February due to non-
technical reasons.

Novo Nordisk launches Ryzodeg in India


Denmark based pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk on Monday launched its
combination diabetic drug Ryzodeg, priced at Rs.1,595 for 300 units, for people with
Type-II diabetes in India.
Apart from India, Ryzodeg has been approved for marketing in Aruba, Brazil, Chile,
Costa Rica, El Salvador, EU, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan,
Macedonia, Mexico, Norway, Russia, South Korea and Switzerland, Novo Nordisk
said.
As Ryzodeg is a combination product, it requires fewer daily injections than
administering basal and mealtime insulin in separate injections.

Major cause of blindness identified


Microscopic spheres of calcium phosphate have been linked to the development of
age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a major cause of blindness. AMD affects 1
in 5 people over 75, causing their vision to slowly deteriorate.

Agni-V to be test-fired from canister today


Agni-V, Indias most powerful strategic missile, developed by the Defence Research
and Development Organisation (DRDO) will lift off from a canister mounted on a
TATRA truck stationed on the Wheeler Island off Odisha.
This is the third launch, but the first from a canister, a method that will allow the
missile to be fired even from roads. Avinash Chander, Scientific Adviser to the Defence
Minister and DRDO Director-General, has called Agni-V a game changer. Mr.
Chander, the architect of the Agni series, will be present at the launch scheduled for

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Current Affairs 437
8 a.m. Agni-V can carry a 1.1-tonne nuclear warhead over 5,000 km.

Countrys highest zoo attempts to save high altitude


herbivores
The initiative taken by Darjeelings Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
(PNHZP) in conserving high altitude herbivores that have been on the path of
extinction, has served to stem the rapid decline in their numbers.
Some of the animals that have been included in the conservation programme of
PNHZP, the countries highest altitude zoo located at over 7,000 ft, are the Blue Sheep,
the Himalayan Tahr, the Himalayan Goral and the Markhor.
All the four herbivores have been placed in the Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection
Act, 1972, which denotes that the species are threatened. The conservation of these
animals is also crucial for the Himalayan ecosystem.
All the four herbivores are the main prey of the much endangered Snow leopard. A
decrease in their numbers will naturally affect the existence of the elusive mountain
cat, Upashna Rai, the biologist in the PNHZP told.
Conserving these herbivores serves the dual purpose of protecting the snow leopard
as well. The PNHZP is also involved in the global conservation and breeding
programme of the snow leopard.
The Darjeeling Zoo has taken the initiative of breeding these high altitude herbivores
and is also involving the other high altitude zoos in breeding and conservation of
the species.
It has provided to each of the main zoos of Sikkim and Nainital one pair of the Blue
Sheep and the Himalayan Goral as a part of an exchange programme.

4th navigation satellite launch in March 2015


The fourth navigation satellite of the country is getting ready for launch in March,
and it will be another step forward for India in evolving its own navigation satellite
system and not depend on the Geographical Positioning System (GPS) service of the
U.S.
Cryogenic propulsion systems on board PSLV-C27 rocket that will launch the satellite
are being developed by scientists of the ISRO Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri
in Tirunelveli district.
S. Ingersol, group director of the complex, told, Totally, seven satellites are required
to be launched to complete the configuration under the Indian Regional Navigation
Satellite System (IRNSS) and already three had been launched.
Dr. Ingersol said launch of the remaining four satellites would be completed in one
year and after that Indias dependency on the U.S. for GPS service would be
significantly reduced. This will trigger the much-needed development in geographic
information systems.
The Mahendragiri complex was developing the second and fourth liquid stages
needed for the launch vehicle. Advance research by ISRO scientists has made India
go for launching heavier satellites of three to four tonnes from our own soil, he
said.

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438 Current Affairs

TB rate going down, but not fast enough to meet WHO


target
India is unlikely to reach the WHO target of elimination of tuberculosis (TB) by 2050
going by the rate at which incidence of the disease is declining in the country.
Incidence of TB in India is declining at the rate of about 2 per cent per year. However,
in order to reach the TB elimination target by 2050, the rate should be 19 to 20 per
cent per year, WHO Representative to India Nata Menabde told.
She, however, said that on using available strategies and technologies effectively,
along with universal health coverage and social protection, the country could achieve
a reduction of TB incidence rate of 10 per cent per year by 2025.
To hasten the decline of TB incidence beyond that would require new tools such as
new effective vaccines, new points of care, effective diagnostics and new effective
shortened treatment regimens, she suggested.
Additionally, social determinants of TB such as under-nutrition, overcrowding and
poor ventilation in slums and clinical risk factors such as diabetes mellitus, smoking
etc should be addressed simultaneously, she added.
Citing the WHO Global TB Report 2014, Ms. Menabde said that India has already
met the Million Development Goals (MDG) target of 50 per cent reduction in the
prevalence of TB by 2015 compared to 1990. India is also well on track for reducing
TB death by 50 per cent by 2015, she stated.
Ms. Menabde, however, said there was a need to improve the quality of care provided
to TB patients at private clinics and hospitals as most approached such facilities for
treatment, especially in urban areas.
At least one-half of the TB patients in India, especially in urban areas, approach
private sector for TB care. But the quality of care in the private sector in most situations
is not satisfactory.
There is a need for wider dissemination of standards for TB care to the private
sector, targeted approaches to engagement with them and more stringent
implementation of mandatory notification of TB cases.

Deficient southwest monsoon hits Rabi sowing


A delayed and deficient southwest monsoon has shrunk rabi sowing from last years
level. If sowing was taken up on 597.15 lakh hectares of land last year, the figure this
time was 566.18 lakh hectares.
What is worrisome is the gap of 30.97 lakh hectares between the areas sown in the
previous week and its corresponding week last year, higher than the deficit of 26.82
lakh hectares when making such a comparison for the week earlier.
The southwest monsoon was 12 per cent lower than the long period average in the
country and 21 per cent in northwest India, hitting kharif crop production by 2-3 per
cent. The rain deficit is affecting rabi sowing now.
A meeting in the Agriculture Ministry to review the crop and weather situation noted
that wheat has been sown in 4.92 lakh hectares less this year because of lower moisture
in the soil. Although the area under wheat will be made up in the next few weeks,
the harvest will depend on the weather conditions.
Of particular concern is the lower acreage of pulses. The area under gram is lower

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Current Affairs 439
this year by 14.8 lakh hectares from last years because of the lower minimum support
price. Farmers have turned away from sowing gram as the price is low, sources said.
The area under coarse cereals is lower by 4.57 lakh hectares mainly because of reduced
sowing of maize and jowar in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

Almonds could Reduce belly fat, Study Found


Snacking on almonds instead of carbs could reduce belly fat and lower the risk of
heart disease, a new study has claimed.
The study found that a daily snack of 1.5 ounces of almonds instead of a high-
carbohydrate muffin, eaten as part of an overall healthy diet, improved a number of
heart disease risk factors in study participants.
In addition to significantly improving LDL and total cholesterol, snacking on almonds
instead of muffins also reduced central adiposity (belly fat), a well-established heart
disease risk factor.
Reducing abdominal fat is particularly beneficial given its connection to metabolic
syndrome and increased risk for heart disease. The twelve-week, randomised,
controlled clinical study, led by researchers at Penn State University, was conducted
in 52 overweight, middle-aged adults who had high total and LDL cholesterol but
were otherwise healthy.
Participants ate cholesterol-lowering diets that were identical except that one group
was given a daily snack of 1.5 ounces (42g) of whole natural almonds, while the
other group was given a banana muffin that provided the same number of calories.
Participants were provided all meals and snacks in amounts based on their calorie
needs to maintain body weight, and followed each diet for six weeks. The diet
containing the almond snack, compared to the muffin snack, decreased total
cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol non-HDL-cholesterol and remnant lipoproteins.
In addition, the diet with the muffin snack reduced HDL (good) cholesterol more
than the almond diet. Despite no differences in body weight or total fat mass, the
almond diet significantly reduced abdominal fat mass, waist circumference and leg
fat mass compared to the diet with the muffin snack.

Common factors in divergent habitats of migratory birds,


Studies found
To understand the diverse habitats of migratory birds and make comparison studies,
the bird watchers team of Nature Society of Tirupur, that has been studying the
arrival-departure patterns of such species in western region, travelled across the
State where migratory birds flock in large numbers.
The assessment helped find the common factors that prompt certain bird species to
visit areas such as Nanjarayan tank in Tirupur and the coastal lines of the State,
though outwardly it looks as a divergent environment.
Disclosing the patterns of migrations and common factors that make respective species
to seek abodes in different parts of the State, K. Ravindran, secretary of the Society,
told that many of the species that flock the Nanjarayan irrigation tank area in Tirupur
and its hinterland were also seen in coastal areas of the State, especially in
Nagapattinam district.

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The team found species like the Sandpipers, which come from Western Europe, the
Northern Pintails, that migrates from Northern Europe and North America, and the
Black-tailed Godwits, a bird species coming from Iceland area in Europe, among
few others, which comes to western region of the State during winter season, in
coastal areas too with some of them even noticed in smaller numbers around irrigation
tanks in sanctuaries like Koonthankulam near Tirunelveli.

Indian vaccine Meningitis will protect infants


A meningitis A vaccine (MenAfriVac) manufactured by Serum Institute of India,
Pune was approved by WHO a few days ago for use in infants in sub-Saharan African
populations. The vaccine will be introduced as part of the routine immunisation
programme.
In the four years since its introduction in Africa, MenAfriVac has had an immediate
and dramatic impact in breaking the cycle of meningitis A epidemics, a WHO release
said. The vaccine has already been used in those aged 1-29 years.
But with the WHOs approval, the vaccine can be given to infants thereby protecting
million more children at risk of the deadly disease. About 200,000 people suffer
from meningitis every year in the region.
The disease kills 20,000 to 25,000 people in the region every year. Like in the case of
measles, not many meningitis cases are seen in children younger than one year,
said Dr. Suresh Jadhav, Executive Director of Serum Institute.
A mother, who has had meningitis, transmits the meningitis antibodies to newborns
and these antibodies protect them for one year.
Every individual living in the meningitis belt (which stretches from Senegal in the
west to Ethiopia in the east) gets infected with meningitis before the age of 29 years
and hence mothers invariably carry antibodies against the disease.
The WHO has approved the use of a 5 microgram dose of the vaccine for children,
which will be administered when theyare nine months old.
Immunisation at nine months will help achieve sustainable disease control following
mass campaigns that target people belonging to the 1-29 age group.
Explaining the rationale for choosing to immunise at ninth month, Dr. Jadhav said:
Its one opportunity to treat both measles and meningitis, he said. Measles
vaccination is also given to children at nine months of age.
A booster dose will be given when the child is 12-18 months old. According to Dr.
Jadhav, the first meningitis dose will protect a child for five years and a booster dose
will confer lifelong protection.
Though a single campaign has been carried outto cover a large population in 15
countries, those born after the campaign have not received the MenAfriVac vaccine
and are hence vulnerable to meningitis infection. But with the introduction of the
vaccine as part of the immunisation schedule, these children will also be protected.

New dolphin-like creature identified near Scotland:


scientists
A new dolphin-like species that lived around 170 million years ago has been identified
from fossils found on the Isle of Skye off Scotland.

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Current Affairs 441
The 14-feet long marine creature has been named Dearcmhara shawcrossi in honour
of an amateur enthusiast, Brian Shawcross, who recovered the creatures fossils from
the islands Bearreraig Bay in 1959.
It is a member of a group called ichthyosaurs that were among the dominant marine
reptiles when dinosaurs ruled the land. The dolphin-like creatures were as long as
14 feet from snout to tail, and inhabited warm, shallow seas around Scotland during
the Jurassic Period, Scientist reported.
Dearcmhara, a moderate-sized ichthyosaur, swam in warm, shallow seas during the
Jurassic Period, preyed on fish and other reptiles.

Playing music benefits the brain: research


More than a decade ago, there was great buzz in the press and media on something
that was tantalizingly referred to as The Mozart Effect. Some researchers claimed
that school students performed better in tests as they were listening to music by the
great European classical music composer Mozart.
Compared to them, another set of students (control group, same age, same background
and so forth) who took the same tests, but with no Mozart in the background, did
less well.
This news spread like wildfire and parents began playing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
to their children with the hope of elevating their performance, and hopefully IQ
values as well.
Several questions were raised about this Mozart effect, both in the professional and
popular press. Is it reproducible (not always, low sample size)? Does listening to
music only calm the mind and focus it to the task on hand? Why Mozart, why not
Beethoven, Bach or Beatles? Why only western music, and not Carnatic, Hindustani,
Japanese or even soothing chants? Is the effect temporary or long-lasting? Do lullabies
make infants smarter, besides sleep-inducing?
Many of these questions were attempted to be answered by a variety of experiments
amateur and professional and the overall consensus appears to be that music is
good for you, but as far as the Mozart Effect goes, the jury is still out.
A more scientifically challenging question here is whether music makes noticeable
change in your cognitive abilities, and affect and alter the brain in perceptible ways.
Is listening to music as a passive recipient sufficient, or should one actively engage
in music singing solo or in groups, playing an instrument, and improvising more
effectively? Note that in the latter case, you are actually exerting and exercising your
brain. In other words, listening to Mozart, or to play Mozart which would be a
better or true Mozart Effect?

Researchers identified Mutations causing abnormal


heart muscle protein
An international team of researchers have sought to identify genetic mutations that
produce abnormal forms of a key heart muscle protein. As a result of the mutations,
the heart muscles weaken and produce a condition known as dilated
cardiomyopathy.
The increased strain that is then put on the heart can lead to heart failure where the
organ is unable to pump the requisite quantities of blood.

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Changes to titin, a protein that is part of the mechanism muscles use to contract and
relax, have been implicated as a cause for dilated cardiomyopathy.
Titin is the largest human protein and is produced by a gene whose genetic
information exists as 364 separate segments, known as exons. Variations in how the
genetic data from these exons are assembled mean that the protein can exist in a
variety of forms.
A 2012 study carried out in severe and familial cases of dilated cardiomyopathy
found that disruptive mutations in the gene, resulting in truncated titin variants
being produced, were the commonest genetic cause for the ailment.
Researchers who carried out that study have gone on to examine titin gene sequences
from over 5,200 individuals, with and without the condition, as well as scrutinising
150 heart tissue samples collected from patients who underwent heart surgery.

Polar bear clusters migrate to Northwest Passages for


longer lasting ice
Some polar bear clusters have slowly moved to islands situated in north of Canadas
mainland that are retaining the Arctic ice for longer says a new scientific study.
According to the study the migration is linked to climate change and would continue.
The study published earlier this month in the journal PLOS ONE was based on DNA
taken from nearly 2,800 polar bears in countries where the animals live - the United
States, Russia, Canada, Greenland and Norway.
Bear clusters from Canadas eastern Arctic area and a marine area off eastern
Greenland and Siberia are journeying to the Canadian Archipelago, also known as
the Arctic Archipelago, where ice is more abundant, the study found.
The channels through the islands, known as the Northwest Passages, have come to
be seen as a potentially valuable shipping route as Arctic ice melts.
The region that has attracted a larger number of polar bears sits north of the Canadian
mainland, close to Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. It is comprised of more
than 36,000 islands and covers more than 550,000 square miles (1.4 million square
km).
The migration has occurred during the last one to three generations of the predators,
or between 15 and 45 years, U.S. Geological Survey researcher Elizabeth Peacock,
the studys lead author, said in a statement.
The bears choose this area because that is where the sea is more resilient to summer
melt due to circulation patterns, complex geography and cooler northern latitudes,
Peacock said.
The Canadian Archipelago could serve as a future refuge for polar bears, who rely
on Arctic ice to cross between land masses, to forage and to mate, according to the
researchers.

Indias Mars Orbiter team wins award


Indias Mars Orbiter programme team has won the 2015 Space Pioneer Award in the
science and engineering category from the US based National Space Society (NSS),
the society said.
In a statement issued in Washington, the NSS said its 2015 Space Pioneer Award in

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Current Affairs 443
the science and engineering category has been won by the Indian Space Research
Organisation (ISRO) Mars Orbiter Programme team.
This award will be presented to an ISRO representative during the National Space
Societys 2015 International Space Development Conference, the 34th ISDC, to be
held in Toronto, Canada, the statement said.
The conference will run form May 20-24. According to the NSS, Indias Mars Orbiter
launched on Nov 5, 2013 that went into Mars orbit on Sep 24, 2014 achieved two
significant mission firsts in terms of an Indian spacecraft that has gone into orbit
around Mars on the very first try and that no other country has ever done this.
Secondly, the spacecraft is in an elliptical orbit with a high apoapsis, and has a high
resolution camera which is taking full-disk colour imagery of Mars.
Very few full disk images have ever been taken in the past, mostly on approach to
the planet, as most imaging is done looking straight down in mapping mode.
These images will aid planetary scientists. The Mars Orbiter programme team located
in Bangalore is headed by Mylswamy Annadurai, the statement said.

Playing music benefits the brain: research


More than a decade ago, there was great buzz in the press and media on something
that was tantalizingly referred to as The Mozart Effect. Some researchers claimed
that school students performed better in tests as they were listening to music by the
great European classical music composer Mozart.
Compared to them, another set of students (control group, same age, same background
and so forth) who took the same tests, but with no Mozart in the background, did
less well.
This news spread like wildfire and parents began playing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
to their children with the hope of elevating their performance, and hopefully IQ
values as well.
Several questions were raised about this Mozart effect, both in the professional and
popular press. Is it reproducible (not always, low sample size)? Does listening to
music only calm the mind and focus it to the task on hand? Why Mozart, why not
Beethoven, Bach or Beatles? Why only western music, and not Carnatic, Hindustani,
Japanese or even soothing chants? Is the effect temporary or long-lasting? Do lullabies
make infants smarter, besides sleep-inducing?
Many of these questions were attempted to be answered by a variety of experiments
amateur and professional and the overall consensus appears to be that music is
good for you, but as far as the Mozart Effect goes, the jury is still out.
A more scientifically challenging question here is whether music makes noticeable
change in your cognitive abilities, and affect and alter the brain in perceptible ways.
Is listening to music as a passive recipient sufficient, or should one actively engage
in music singing solo or in groups, playing an instrument, and improvising more
effectively? Note that in the latter case, you are actually exerting and exercising your
brain. In other words, listening to Mozart, or to play Mozart which would be a
better or true Mozart Effect?

Britains Beagle 2 spacecraft found on Mars


Britains infamous Beagle 2 spacecraft, once dubbed a heroic failure by the

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444 Current Affairs

nations Astronomer Royal, has been found on Mars 11 years after it went missing
searching for extraterrestrial life.
Beagle 2, part of the European Space Agencys Mars Express mission, had been due
to land on Mars on Christmas Day 2003, but went missing on December 19, 2003.
Until now, nothing had been heard from it since then.
But in an announcement made to a packed news conference at Londons Royal Society
scientific institution, space experts said the tiny Mars lander has been found on the
surface of the red planet.
Beagle 2 is no longer lost, said David Parker, chief executive of the UK Space
Agency. He said scientists now had good evidence that the spacecraft successfully
landed on Mars on the date it was due December 25, 2003 but had only partially
deployed.
This find shows that the entry, descent and landing sequence for Beagle 2 worked
and the lander did successfully touch down on Mars on Christmas Day 2003, the
UK space agency said in a statement.
Beagle 2 which measures less than 2 metres across was named after the ship
Charles Darwin sailed when he formulated his theory of evolution. It was built by
British scientists for about 50 million pounds ($85 million)
The plan was for it to report back from the Mars surface using instruments designed
to help search for signs of life, but nothing was heard after it was dropped off to
make its landing.

2014 Earths hottest year on record: scientists


2014 was Earths hottest on record in new evidence that people are disrupting the
climate by burning fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases into the air, two U.S.
government agencies said.
The White House said the studies, by the U.S. space agency NASA and the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showed climate change was
happening now and that action was needed to cut rising world greenhouse gas
emissions.
The 10 warmest years since records began in the 19th century have all been since
1997, the data showed. Last year was the warmest, ahead of 2010, undermining claims
by some skeptics that global warming has stopped in recent years.
Record temperatures in 2014 were spread around the globe, including most of Europe
stretching into northern Africa, the western United States, far eastern Russia into
western Alaska, parts of interior South America, parts of eastern and western coastal
Australia and elsewhere, NASA and NOAA said.
While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns,
the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are
dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases, said Gavin Schmidt, director
of NASAs Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York.
The data shows quite clearly that its the greenhouse gas trends that are responsible
for the majority of the trends, he told reporters. Emissions were still rising so we
may anticipate further record highs in the years to come.
U.N. studies show there already are more extremes of heat and rainfall and project
ever more disruptions to food and water supplies. Sea levels are rising, threatening

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Current Affairs 445
millions of people living near coasts, as ice melts from Greenland to Antarctica.

Parrikar hands over LCA SP-1 to Air Force


Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar handed over the first series-production version
of the Light Combat Aircraft to the Indian Air Force.
Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, received its technical documents
from the Minister in the presence of R.K.Tyagi, Chairman of its manufacturer,
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
At Bharat Electronics Ltd, the Minister laid the foundation stone for a training
academy. He rolled out the 750{+t}{+h}metro car made by BEML Ltd for Delhi Metro,
the defence companies said.
The IAF looks set to get the final battle-ready version of the Light Combat Aircraft
only around December this year, according to top officials involved in its
development.
That means a further six-month delay in the 25-year-old aircraft project, which was
expected to be achieved in June this year.

Agni-V missile to be test-fired on January 31


Indias strategic missile, Agni-V, will test-fired from the Wheeler Island, off the Odisha
coast, on January 31.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which has developed
the missile, will launch it from a canister mounted on a road-mobile launcher, which
is a TATRA truck.
A gas generator at the bottom of the canister will push the 17-metre long, 50-tonne
Agni-V out of the canister.
The missile, which can take out targets situated more than 5,000 km away, can carry
a nuclear warhead weighing 1.1 tonnes. In the launch on January 31, 2015, it will
carry a dummy payload.
The missile was earlier scheduled to be test-fired in the second week of January but
was postponed to the last week of January or the first week of February due to non-
technical reasons.

Changing face of tech spending and Indian IT


Last week, Indias big three IT firms TCS, Infosys and Wipro exuded optimism
on the demand environment and IT spending even as research firm Gartner cut its
global tech spending forecast for calendar year 2015.
Gartner pegs 2015 spending to grow 2.4 per cent to $3.8 trillion (tempered from its
previous forecast of 3.9 per cent). Within the overall pie, IT services are expected to
rise by 2.5 per cent to $981 billion, which is lower than 4.1 per cent projection the
firm made in the last quarter.
The firm expects a subdued demand for software support services through 2018 in
the backdrop of lower growth rate for enterprise software.
A slowdown in enterprise software means that the over $100 billion Indian IT services
industry, which has thrived from traditional bread-and-butter business like
application development and maintenance and infrastructure management, will now

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446 Current Affairs

have to look at newer avenues for growth as clients move towards digital technologies
to cut cost.

GPS tracking devices to monitor Obama convoy


Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking devices and satellite images would be
used by intelligence and security agencies to keep a constant watch on the movements
of U.S. President Barack Obamas convoy during his visit.
It is learnt that a dedicated joint control room consisting of senior Indian and U.S.
security officials has been set up to monitor the security arrangements for Mr. Obama.
A part of ITC Maurya, where the U.S. President will stay, has been converted into a
control room.
As a precautionary measure, agencies may block public access to online GPS maps
of about a dozen places in Delhi, which Mr. Obama is scheduled to visit. GPS maps
of all venues have been designed to keep track of his movement. However, no drones
will be deployed for aerial surveillance.
U.S. sleuths have brought along anti-sabotage scanners to sanitise the venues in
coordination with their Indian counterparts.
Cyber security experts have been engaged for surveillance of suspicious online
activity. Mr. Obama will use his own vehicle The Beast. His will be a larger cavalcade
with over two dozen vehicles, .
Following several rounds of meetings, it has been decided that on Republic Day, Mr.
Obama will not accompany President Pranab Mukherjee to the parade venue, but
will arrive in his 18-foot long Presidential car with Mr. Mukherjees cavalcade.
In 2007, as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade, the then Russian President
Vladimir Putin had also used his own vehicle, said the official. The entire city will
be turned into a no-fly zone, allowing only the flypast of Indian Air Force aircraft.
The Beast is an explosion-proof heavily armoured vehicle fitted with a night vision
system. It is a virtual shield capable of withstanding biochemical attacks and has its
own oxygen supply mechanism. The seven-seater vehicle functions as a control room
for the U.S. President to remain in touch with the Pentagon and senior U.S.
government functionaries through video-conferencing or encrypted satellite phone
communications. It is fitted with emergency medical equipment and has a bank of
his blood type. The vehicles fuel tank, with a special foam coating, is armour-plated
and its doors have eight-inch-thick armour plating. The cars five-inch-thick windows
are bulletproof. Its driver undergoes special week-long training at a secret service
academy.

Major cause of blindness identified


Microscopic spheres of calcium phosphate have been linked to the development of
age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a major cause of blindness. AMD affects 1
in 5 people over 75, causing their vision to slowly deteriorate.

Valmik Thapar moots PPP route to save tigers


Author Valmik Thapar feels experts, scientists, and non-governmental organisations
should be involved in tiger conservation.
Though the recent tiger census, which has shown a 30 per cent increase in the number
of tigers, is a remarkable achievement, the country should be able to sustain it,
environmentalist and wildlife expert Valmik Thapar said . Mr Thapar made a strong

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Current Affairs 447
pitch for public-private partnership in tiger conservation programmes in the country.
The latest Tiger Census in the country puts the number at 2,226, indicating a 30 per
cent jump from the previous census. India now accounts for 70 per cent of the worlds
wild tigers.
Speaking at a session on Tigers in Red Weather at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival
here, Mr. Thapar warned that the tiger population could go up as sharply as it could
come down.

TRAI issues draft rules for full mobile number portability


The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued draft regulations to
facilitate full mobile number portability, which is set to start from May 3.
The full or nationwide mobile number portability (MNP) will allow consumers to
change the service provider in any part of the country while retaining their existing
number.
At present, mobile number portability allows consumers to change their service
provider within a telecom circle, which, in most cases, is limited to a State.
In view of implementation of full MNP, some changes will be required in the MNP
Regulations, 2009 (as amended).
Accordingly, a draft amendment to the Telecommunication Mobile Number
Portability Regulation, 2009, has been prepared, TRAI said in a statement.
The Department of Telecom on November 3, 2014, issued amendment to the MNP
Licence Agreement, and asked telecom operators to implement full MNP within six
months from the date of amendment to the licences.
In the new amendment, TRAI wants to introduce a clause to safeguard the interest of
post-paid mobile service users who face disconnection in new network even after
clearing all their dues of their old service provider.
The regulator has fixed timeline on the old or donor service provider and new or
recipient service provider for clear communication about dues cleared by the
subscriber to ensure continuity of service.
TRAI has sought public comments on the subject by February 6.

India, U.S. to extend Defence cooperation pact


Aiming for a transformative defence partnership, India and the U.S. agreed to extend
the Defence Cooperation Agreement and identified four projects under the Defence
Technology Trade Initiative (DTTI) for joint production and development and
exploring cooperation for jet engines and aircraft carrier systems.
Mr. Modi said this would help upgrade the countrys domestic defence industry
and expand the manufacturing sector in India.
Mr. Obama said the agreement would guide the bilateral defence cooperation for
the next 10 years.
In another significant step, the two countries agreed to set up a working group to
explore aircraft carrier technology and design and develop jet engine technology in
India.
The projects identified under the DTTI include next-generation Raven mini-
unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), roll-on, roll-off intelligence kits for C-130 transport

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482 Current Affairs

SPORTS

Djokovic wins another Australian open


Novak Djokovic crushed Andy Murray 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(3) at Melbourne Park on Sunday
to match Roy Emersons record of six Australian Open titles.
The defending champion was at his ruthless best under the lights at Rod Laver Arena,
mauling Murray in the base- line duels and closing out the match in two hours and
53 minutes.
Murray succumbed to his fifth loss in five Australian Open finals, and fourth against
the World No.1 Serbian, who claimed his 11th Grand Slam title to draw level with
Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg.

South Asian games started at Guwahati and Shillong


The 12th South Asian Games will be launched with pomp and grandeur at the Indira
Gandhi stadium, Sarurasajai, Guwahati.
Originally scheduled to be back in 2012, the prestigious multi-discipline event
encompassing competitions in 23 disciplines and 241 events well be held across two
cities Shillong and Guwahati.
From a historical perspective, the South Asian Games were established as a movement
to foster peace and friendship through regular sporting contact between athletes
from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and
current host India.
The first edition was held in Kathmandu in 1984.
This is the third time India will host the Games, after Kolkata in 1987 and Chennai in
1995,and it will have hopes of continuing with its overall dominance across venues
for a twelfth straight time.

IPL 2016 auction will happen today


The latest auction will witness 351 players going under the hammer and that includes
230 Indian and 121 overseas players.
With a majority of the teams having retained their core players, attention will be
riveted on the strategy adopted by the two new entrants Rising Pune Supergiants
and Gujarat Lions as they try to beef up their respective units led by M.S. Dhoni
and Suresh Raina respectively.
Including the caption, both the Pune and Rajkot-based outfits have picked five players
each and should do the lions share of the bidding.
Delhi Daredevils too can be an active player, flush as it is with the highest available
purse of Rs. 37.15 crore.
Missing from the auction will be the two suspended teams Chennai Super Kings
and Rajasthan Royals which in the previous auctions used to follow a set pattern.
CSK preferred continuity and Royals plumped for value-buys.

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Current Affairs 483

India performing well in south Asian games


Host India enjoyed a field day on the opening day of the weightlifting competitions
of the 12th South Asian Games, picking three of the four gold medals.
Indias No. 1 womens ace archer DeepikaKumari,, maintained her focus in tough
weather conditions to beat SonamDeki (Bhutan) 6-2 in the quarterfinals and Beauty
Ray of Bangladesh 6-0 in the last-four to enter the final.
The Indian mens badminton team reached the semifinals with 3-0 wins over Maldives
and Bangladesh in Group A, without losing a game.
India made a clean sweep of the gold medals on of- fer on the opening day of the
wrestling competition.

India in south Asian games


Indias 27-year-old SandeepSejwal who took the gold in the mens 100m and200m
breaststroke, proved unbeatable once again as he clinched his third gold medal of
the 12th South Asian Games.
Sri Lanka picked up three of thefour remaining golds which weredecided this evening,
while Bangladesh took the other through MahfuzaKhatun who won the womens50m
breaststroke her second inas many days.
Sri Lankas KomikoRaheemwontwogolds in a little over an hour the womens 100m
backstroke andthe 50m freestyle, the second one atthe expense of elder sister Machiko.
India completed its dominance, winning five of the six titles, on the concluding day
of the wrestling events
Pakistan picked up the mensheavyweight gold to prevent aclean sweep by the host,
whichfinished with 14 out of the total 16gold medals.
India walked away with all the gold medals on ofer in badminton and archery at the
South Asian Games
India steamrollered Sri Lanka3-0 in both the mens and womens sections to win the
badminton crown. The host dominatedthe archery events as well clinching all the
five titles at stake:compound team mens andwomens, individual mens andwomens
and mixed.

India enters under-19 World Cup final


India entered the ICC Under-19 World Cup final for a fifth time with a 97-run win
over Sri Lanka in the semifinals.
India did well to reach 267 for nine after a shaky start before dismissing Sri Lanka
for 170 in 42.4 overs.
India now awaits either West Indies or Bangladesh in the fi- nal to be played on
February 14.

India beats Pakistan in Kabaddi


India edged Pakistan by a solitary point in the concluding round-robin match of
mens kabaddi here at the R.G. Barua Sports Complex.
The slender win helped India top the league standings for a place in the semifinals,
where it will take on Bangladesh.

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The Indian men had earlier dominated Bangladesh beating them by 30-17 margin.
The other semifinal will feature Pakistan against Sri Lanka.

India going firm in South Asian Games


The Indian victories in both the categories came in contrasting fashion as the men
had to put their best foot forward against Pakistan, before winning the close encounter
at 9-7, while the womens team hardly had to break sweat en route to an easy 36-11
victory over Bangladesh.
India, made a clean sweep in the mens boxing event bagging all the seven gold
medalson offer
Nepal made a fine comeback in the second half to beat host India 2-1 in the final of
the mens football at the Indira Gandhi Stadium. The win saw Nepal reclaiming the
South Asian Games gold after 23 years.
Kamala found her touch in the crucial match by scoring a brace as India scripted a
convincing 4-0 win over Nepal in the womens football final.

South Asian games ended with full flare


The closing ceremony at the India Gandhi Stadium brought the curtain down on the
12th South Asian Games.
Twelve days of competition saw action in 22 disciplines 15 in Guwahati and seven
in Shillong and the awarding of 789 medals to athletes representing the eight
participating nations.
Nepal was introduced as the host of the 13th edition of the Games in 2018.
India finished its tally of medals at 308, with 188 golds, 90 silver and 30 bronze
medals.
Sri Lanka and Pakistan took second and third position respectively.

BrendomMcCullum quit international cricket


New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum insisted the time was right to quit
international cricket despite hitting one of his best innings just days earlier.
It was not the way the 34- year-old wanted to retire, as Australia completed a 2-0
series sweep by winning the second Test by seven wickets.
But McCullum did mark his swansong in trademark fashion, setting records for the
fas- test century and most sixes in Test history (107).

Gianni Infantino becomes FIFA chief


Swiss football executive Gianni Infantino vowed to lead FIFA, the sports world
governing body, out of years of corruption and scandal after being elected president
to succeed SeppBlatter.
He now inherits a very different job from that inhabited by his compatriot Blatter,
who toured the world like a head of state for 17 years.
Before the election, the Congress had overwhelmingly passing a set of reforms
intended to make it more transparent, professional and accountable.

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Current Affairs 485

AIFF issues show cause notice to FC Goa


All India Football Federation (AIFF) Disciplinary Committee has served a show cause
notice to FC Goa under the AIFF Disciplinary Code and ISL Regulations for team
mis- conduct, ofensive behavior, threat to match officials, bringing disrepute to
the game and public criticism of match officials..
The issue pertains to the incidents which followed the final whistle at Indian Super
League final between FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC.
FC Goa had in fact boycotted the presentation ceremony and the post-match press
conference.
The club has been asked to respond to the notice within seven days or by January 8,
2016.

India faces Afghanistan in SAFF cup football


championship
Stephen Constantines young Indian team faces its biggest hurdle Afghanistan, the
defending champion, in the final of the SAFF Suzuki Cup football championship at
the Greenfield stadium.
The Indian team has blown hot and cold during the course of the tournament
sometimes to the point of being mediocre. If the semifinal match against Maldives is
taken as a template for Indias campaign so far, it had all the ingredients that pointed
to general sloppiness.
India allowed Maldives to score two goals and coach Constantine had pointed to the
lack of concentration of his players in the second half. Similar errors in defence against
Afghan- istan will be a disaster.

India wins SAFF Suzuki cup


Sunil Chetri scored one of the most important goals of his career when his 101st-
minute strike snatched an unlikely win for India in the final of the SAFF Suzuki Cup
football tournament against Afghanistan.
The Indian skipper cashed in on some poor defending by the Afghans to squeeze the
ball into the net past goalkeeper Azizi in the 11th minute of extra-time.
The Indians then withstood a barrage of attacks to lift the trophy for the seventh
time, and after a gap of four years.

Lodha panel submits its report on cricket reform


Living up to its promise of regaining the purity of the game and restoring the
dignity of the players, the Lodha Committee has suggested sweeping reforms in the
structuring and governance of cricket in the country.
One of the most significant suggestions the panel makes is the formation of separate
governing bodies for the Indian Premier League and the Board of Control for Cricket
in India.
Also recommended is the setting up of a Players Association to safeguard the interests
of the cricketers.
Suggesting a uniform constitution for the Board and its affiliates, the panel aims to

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reduce the number of members in the all-powerful Working Commit- tee to nine
from 14, with the president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and joint-secretary.
As a result, there will only be one vice-president instead of five.
The strength of the IPL Governing Council, it is recommended, should be reduced to
nine and include two representatives from the franchisees, nominees of the Players
Association and the Comptroller & Auditor Generals office.
The Players Association, to be constituted by the Board, should include former Union
Home Secretary G.K. Pillai as the chairman, former India players Mohinder
Amarnath, Anil Kumble and Diana Edulji as members of the Steering Committee.
The PA would not act like a union, and all the costs of running the association would
be met by the BCCI, Justice Lodha announced at a press conference after releasing
the report.
Former first-class players, five years after retirement, would become part of the
association.
In 2005-06, Kumble was the principal negotiator for the players in a fight for an
enhanced share in the profitsearned by the Board.
He had then drafted the terms for player contracts, and was instrumental in securing
the players a share of the profits in the International Cricket Council conducted events.
During his term as president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association, he took
steps to make every decision transparent. These initiatives did not escape the notice
of the Lodha Committee.
The panel, in a significant departure from the past, suggests that one individual
hold only one post in cricket administration. The office-bearers would have to choose
between positions in respective state associations and the parent body.
In a move that was evidently pushed by the players, the senior selection committee,
the report recommends, should comprise only three members, instead of five at
present.
The Lodha Committee also calls for dividing the governance into two parts: cricketing
and non-cricketing.
The non-cricketing management will be handled by six professional managers headed
by a CEO, and the cricket matters like selection, coaching and performance
evaluation should be left to the players.
Another key recommendation tackled the fact that three units from one state now
enjoy the power to vote. For example, Maharashtra and Gujarat have three full
members each. But Bihar has no representation at all in the Board.
The Committee recommended that one association should represent an entire state.
The Lodha Committee comprising retired judges, Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Ashok
Bhan and Justice R.V. Raveendran was formed by the Supreme Court in January
last year.

Read Madrid sacked Rafael Benitez


Real Madrid sacked coach Rafael Benitez after just seven months in charge on Monday
with club legend Zinedine Zidane replacing the Spaniard.
Benitezs unhappy reign came to an end after a2-2 draw away to Valencia.

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Zidane scored a sensational winning goal to hand Madrid the 2002 Champions League
as a player, but is short on managerial experience having only ever taken charge of
Madrids feeder team Castilla.

Pranav Dhanawade made world record


The boundaries, especially square of the wicket, were short.
The opponents were half his height, if not age. Still, Pranav Dhanawade deserves all
the accolades for having become the first cricketer to score 1,000 runs in an innings
in a competitive match.
The Class 10 student from the KC Gandhi School in Kalyan, an eastern suburb
approximately 60 kilometres from south Mumbai, achieved the milestone in the Thane
district inter-school tournament for the HT Bhandari Shield.
The 15-year-olds 1,009 not out of 323 balls obliterated a 117-year-old record for the
highest number of runs scored in one innings which stood in the name of Arthur
Collinss previous record total of 628 in England in 1899.

Indian shooter Apuri Chandela broke the world record


Indian shooter Apuri Chandela broke the world record on way to winning gold in
the womens 10 metre air rifle event at the Swedish Cup Grand Prix.
Chandela shot 211.2 in the event held on Tuesday to surpass the feat of Chinese
Olympic gold medallist Yi Siling, who held the record with 211.
The result marked a positive start for Chandela, who has al-ready qualified for the
Rio Olympics.
The silver and bronze went to Swedish shooters Astrid Stefensen (207.6) and Stine
Nielsen (185.0).

Sania-Hingis duo won their first title of 2016


The worlds top women tennis pair of Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis started the
New Year on a brilliant note by clinching the womens doubles Brisbane International
title..
The top-seeded pair took just an hour and 10 minutes to beat German wild card pair
of Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic7-5, 6-1.
This is the Indo-Swiss pairs 26th win in a row and thefirst title of 2016.

Messi got record fifth Ballon dor


Barcelona forward Lionel Messi won his fifth world player of the year crown at
theFIFA Ballon dOr ceremony
He pipped current holder and three time winner Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as his
Barcelona teammate Neymar, to the award.
Messi and Ronaldo, 30, have hogged the Ballon dOr between them since 2008.
Barcas Luis Enrique won the coach of the year award at the Ballon dOr ceremony
in Zurich

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Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis equaled record for


longest winning streak in doubles
Sania Mirza and her Swiss partner Martina Hingis have equalled the record for the
longest womens doubles winning streak by advancing to the WTA Sydney
International semifinals with a straight-set win.
The top seeds got the better of Chinas Chen Liang and Shuai Peng 6-2, 6-3 in less
than an hour and remain on course for a second successive title this year.
With Wednesdays result, Mirza and Hingis won their 28th consecutive match to
equal the record set by Puerto Rican Gigi Fernandez and Belarus Natasha Zvereva
in 1994.

Sania- Hingis won second trophy of the season


Sania Mirza and Martina Hingiss awe-inspiring run continued unabated as they
lifted their second trophy of the season with the WTA Apia International title, after
clinching their 30th win in a row.
It was the 11th title for the In- do-Swiss pair, continuing the good show from 2015.

Delhi won premier badminton league final


Delhi Acers calculated gamble paid of as its British- import Rajiv Ouseph pulled of
his trump match against a des- perate R.M.V. Gurusaidutt of Mumbai Rockets in
the tie-decider of the Premier Badminton League final.
The 4-3 triumph for Delhi was worth Rs. 3 crore. Mumbai settled for Rs. 2 crore out
of the total prize fund of approximately Rs. 6.5 crore.

India might consider conditional use of DRS


India may consider conditional use of the Decision Review System after consultation
with the team management on its return from Australia.
BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur said that India was not convinced the system was
foolproof but it might be inclined to consider its use if leg-before decisions were left
out of the ambit of the DRS.
The ICC, meanwhile, reaffirmed its commitment to the Spirit of Cricket and bringing
about positive social change through the sport, by launching Cricket for Good, its
CSR programme, in association with UNICEF.

Nadal out of Australian open in First round


Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep went out of the Australian open in the first round.
Nadal was sent packing by fellow spaniard Fernando Verdasco in a five set thriller.
Women no. 2 Halep was defeated by the Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai.

Federer gets 300th grand slam win


Novak Djokovic underlined his supremacy in mens tennis on Friday as he marched
unstoppably into the Australian Open fourth round along with Serena Williams,
who raced through in just 44 minutes.
As Roger Federer reached a landmark 300th Grand Slam win, Djokovic still looked

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Current Affairs 489
like the man to beat as he weathered a strong challenge from Andreas Seppi to reach
the first weekend without dropping a set.
Maria Sharapova also weathered a fightback when she beat pint-sized American
Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-0, helped by a strategic break and change of dress, for her
600th career win.

Indian shuttler P.V.Sindhu won Malaysia masters


Indian shuttler P.V. Sindhu continued her rampaging run to clinch the Malaysia
Masters Grand Prix Gold title with a straight-game win over Scotlands Kristy
Gilmour, making a resounding start to the new season.
The third-seeded Indian prevailed 21-15, 21-9 in a 32-minute clash to clinch her fifth
Grand Prix Gold title to avenge a 2013 loss to the Scot, their only previous encounter
before this match.
This is also Sindhus second Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold title, having won it
in 2013 as well. She also completed a hat-trick at the Macau Open Grand Prix Gold in
November last year.
The Indian had reached her maiden finals of a Super Series premier event at the
Denmark Super Series Premier.

India won T20 Blind cricket Asia cup


World champion India held its nerve impressively on Sunday, defeated Pakistan by
45 runs and lifted the first T20 Asia Cup for the Blind at the Nehru Stadium.
Despite its big star Prakash Jayaramaiah considered one of the worlds best batsmen
in this version falling for a duck and the consistent Ketan Patel not scoring big.
India still managed to make 206, thanks to some late fireworks from cap- tain Ajay
Kumar Reddy who made an unbeaten 34 from 16 balls (1x6, 1x4).

Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza reached Australian open


final
Sania Mirza and her Swiss partner Martina Hingis stormed into the final of the
womens doubles event of the Australian Open after notching up a comfortable
straight-set win.
However, Rohan Bopannas campaign ended with a shock defeat in the mixed doubles
quarterfinals with partner Yung-Jan Chan of Chinese Taipei.
Sania and Hingis, who are on a record winning streak, continued their run as they
brushed aside Julia Goerges and KarolinaPliskova, the 13th seeds, 6-1, 6-0 in just 54
minutes at Rod Laver Arena to enter their third successive doubles Grand Slam final.

Santina win Australian Open


In a perfect climax to their stupendous run, Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis were
crowned the Australian Open womens doubles champions after they tamed the
spirited Czech duo of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 7-6(1), 6-3 for their
36th win in a row.
It was the third consecutive Grand Slam title for Sania and Hingis, having won the
Wimbledon and US Open in the 2015 season.

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In an incredible feat, Sania and Martina have now extended their unbeaten run to 36
matches, winning eight titles in a row.

Kerber wins Australian open


On a night when steffi Graf loomed large over Rod Laver Arena, an inspired Angelique
Kerber stunned Serena Williams in a three-set classic to win the Australian Open
and become Germanys first Grand Slam champion in 17 years.
In the ultimate tribute to her childhood hero, Kerber foiled Serenas bid to match the
German greats tally of Grand Slam titles, closing out a magnificent 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win
in her first major final.
The seventh seeds triumph secured her nations first Grand Slam win since Graf
raised her 22nd and final trophy at the 1999 French Open.

Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar make it to Ballon dOr


shortlist
Barcelonas Lionel Messi and Neymar were on named on the shortlist for FIFAs
prestigious Ballon dOr along with double reigning title holder, Cristiano Ronaldo
of Real Madrid. While Ronaldo has triumphed over the last two seasons, Messi has
previously won the coveted award four times while Neymar makes the shortlist for
the first time.

Djokovic tops ATP world rankings


Novak Djokovic has finished the year on top of the ATP world rankings, according
to the final list of 2015. The Serb, who also topped the rankings at the end of 2011,
2012 and 2014, finished more than 7,500 points ahead of his closest rival and world
No. 2 Andy Murray.
He won the ATP Tour Finals title for a record fourth successive year.
Djokovic is the first player in the tournaments 46-year history to take home the
trophy four years in a row and he joins Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl on five victories
at the season ending event.

Mary Kom Enters Semifinals


Competing For The First Time In Over A Year, Olym-pic Bronze-medallist M.C. Ma-
Ry Kom (51kg) Assured Herself And India Of At Least A Bronze Medal By Advancing
To The Semifinals Of The International Boxing Associations (Aiba) Olympic Test
Event In Rio De Janeiro.
The Indian Defeated Venezuelas Karlha Magliocco 3-0 In The Quarterfinal Bout Of
The Event, Where Boxers Have Been Individually Invited By The World Body And
The Rio Olympics Organising Committee.

Shahzar Rizvi wins air pistol gold


Shahzar Rizvi of the Indian Air Force (IAF) beat Olympic silver medallist Vijay Kumar
to the gold in mens air pistol in the 59th National shooting championship at the Dr.
Karni Singh Range, Tughlakabad

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India- SA series
The host remained invictus to win the Freedom Series, conceptualised as a tribute
to Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, with a 3-0 verdict.
It also pushed India to second place in the ICC rankings.

Premier Badminton league auction


Saina Nehwal and Lee Chong Wei earned a whopping $1,00,000 each in a closed
door bid at the auctions for the Premier Badminton League.
World No. 2 Saina and World No. 4 Lee were picked by Awadhe Warriors and
Hyderabad Hunters respectively for the league.
P.V. Sindhu generated a huge interest among Delhi Acers, Chennai Smashers and
Bengaluru Top Guns and it was finally Chennai which bagged the young Indian star
for $95,000.

Football academy of BRICS came in Delhi


With hopes of catching young talent and providing professional support for the
development of football, Delhi Dynamos FC, on Tuesday, announced the launch of
the Delhi Dynamos BRICS Football Academy in India.
The academy, catering to players above five years of age, will focus on exposure to
international coaches and players, and providing 360-degree support, including
education, in world-class facilities.
DDFC will also represent host India in the BRICS Under-17 Football Cup 2016, and
participate in all grassroots and CSR-related activities of BRICS.

59th National shooting championship


Gurpreet Singh won the mens 25-metre standard pistol gold with a score of 573 in
the 59th National shooting championship
The 27-year-old Gurpreet, a rapid fire specialist who has won the Olympic quota
place in air pistol, had 195 in the 150-second series and 189 each in the20-second and
10-second series.

Imran Hasan is new shooting champion


Imran Hasan Khan made a strong statement as he beat World Championship and
Olympic medallist Gagan Narang to the mens air rifle gold in the 59th National
shooting championship.
Imran, the 32-year-old Army shooter, tallied 207.6 points over 20 shots in a lively
atmosphere that had a strong crowd whistling to the beats of dhol specially arranged
for a dramatic climax.
He beat Gagan, who is slowly getting his grip over air rifle, with a 4.1 point margin.

Nadal and Federer played in Delhi


Roger Federer and Rafael Nadals rivalry is so special that any contest between the
two is likely to attract a decent crowd even in a remote corner of the globe.
No wonder, ecstatic fans thronged the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium as the two

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492 Current Affairs

legends came face to face in the second edition of the International Premier Tennis
League (IPTL) here on Saturday.
Nadal won the contest 6-5(4), leaving a bigger impression than Aces 30-19 triumph
on the day. Earlier, Nadal and Rohan Bopanna beat Federer and Marin Cilic 6-4 to
seal it for the host.

Lahiri wins Asian Tour Order of Merit title


Anirban Lahiri on Monday become the fourth Indian to win the Asian Tour Order of
Merit title.
He was declared the new Asia No. 1 for 2015, as his lead on the money list has
swollen to over $600,000 with one event remaining in the season.

Sports Illustrated sportsperson


Serena Williams, who owned the tennis world this year even as she battled illness
and injury, was named sportsperson of 2015 by Sports Illustrated on Monday.
The magazine said it was honouring the 34-year-old icon both for her positively
stunning numbers and her pluck in achieving what it called one of the greatest late-
career runs in the history of any sport.
Serena won three Majors, and was ranked No. 1 for every week of the season for the
second straight year.
And for six weeks this season, she had twice as many ranking points as the world
No. 2. The magazine said this was a first in the 40-year history of the WTA rankings.

Players of banned IPL teams auctioned


Mahendra Singh Dhoni will wear a non-Chennai Super Kings jersey in the Indian
Premier League for the first time when he turns up for the new Pune franchise,
owned by Sanjeev Goenkas New Rising, in the next two editions.
The Pune franchise, which had the right to start picking players, chose Dhoni, Ajinkya
Rahane, R. Ashwin, Steve Smith and Faf du Plessis.
The IPL chairman, Rajeev Shukla, after consulting with Ratnakar Shetty (BCCI general
manager, game development), who has been handed the additional charge of the
IPL as well, clarified that the actual fees of the players will continue to be the same,
irrespective of the auction purse tag.

Manoj Prabhakar selected as Afghanistan bowling coach


Former India all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar will assist the Afghanistan team as a
bowling coach. His appointment runs until theT20 World Cup to be held in India
next year.

Djokovic and Serena top 2015


Djokovic ended 2015 with 11 titles, 82 wins and just six defeats in a haul which
included three of the four Majors the Australian and US Opens and Wimbledon.
Djokovic won six of the nine Masters and topped it off with a fourth successive end-
of-season World Tour Finals triumph in London.
Djokovic won six of the nine Masters and topped it off with a fourth successive end-
of-season World Tour Finals triumph in London.

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Serena Williams was the standout player of 2015, winning five titles in all, including
the Australian and French Open and Wimbledon.
With top-seeded Singapore out of the way, India put up a confident display to outplay
England 3-1 in the mens final of the Avadh 20th Commonwealth table tennis
championships.
The Indian mens team last won the title in 2004 in Kuala Lumpur, with Sharath
Kamal, Soumyadeep Roy and SubhajitSaha forming the core of the team.

Yuvraj and Nehra picked for T20s in Australia


In order to make the best utilisation of the time in the run-up to the World T20
championship in March, the National selectors have chosen to experiment by picking
a few youngsters and recalling some experienced players for Indias five ODIs and
three T20s in Australia in January.
Following the selection committee meeting, the selectors drafted Punjab left-arm
pacer Brainder Singh Sran and Himachal Pradesh all-rounder Rishi Dhawan into
the ODI side, and uncapped medium-fast bowler Hardik Pandya into the T20 squad.

Vijender Singh won his third straight knock out


Vijender Singh notched up his third successive professional knockout triumph
thrashing Samet Hyuseinov in less than two rounds.
Barely 35 seconds into the second round of what was to be his maiden six-round
contest, Vijender cornered Hyuseinov with a combination, forcing the referee into
stopping the bout to give the Indian a win via Technical Knockout.

Suspended FIFA president and UEFA chief banned for


unethical practices
FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA boss Michel Platini were both banned from
football for eight years on Monday for ethics violations, leaving the global game
leaderless as it struggles with a swirl of corruption cases.
Blatter was fined 50,000 Swiss francs and Platini, who boycotted the ethics committee
hearing as unfair, 80,000.
The pair had been suspended in October while an investigation was carried out into
a 2 million Swiss franc ($2.02 million) payment that footballs global governing body
made to Platini in 2011, with Blatters approval.
The decision means that Blatters 17 years at the helm of world football will end in
disgrace.

ITF World champions- Sania & Hingis


Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis was on Tuesday named as womens doubles World
champions by the InternationalTennis Federation (ITF) in recognition of their
stupendous success in season 2015. Hingis is an ITF World champion 15 years after
last being named World champion in singles in 2000.
They won their last 22 matches from the start of the US Open through wins in Asia at
Guangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing and theWTA Finals, ending the year with a 55-7 record.

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Olympian cyclist dead


Olympian cyclist Suprabhat Chakrabarty (86) passed away morning following a heart
attack. He leaves behind his wife, son and daughter.
Five-time National champion Chakrabarty, fondly known as Khaja in cycling circles,
was a key member of the National squad that took part in the first edition of the
Asian Games in 1951 in Delhi, 1952 Olympics in Helsinki and World Peace Race the
same year.

Haryana Hammers and Mumbai Garuda in pro wrestling


league final
Haryana Hammers overcame Punjab Royals 4-3 in the semifinal of the Pro Wrestling
League at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium.
In Sundays final, Haryana meets Mumbai Garuda.
Punjab Royals led 2-0 but Haryana Hammers stayed in the hunt through well-
contested bouts by Andriitesey Valeri and Tatyana Kit, both winning by fall.
Even though Jargalsaikhan Chuluunbat of Mongolia regained the lead for Punjab
Oksana Herhel swung the contest in Haryanas favour.

Mumbai Garuda win pro wrestling league


Revanta Mumbai Ga-ruda kept its blemishless record intact by taming a spirited
Haryana Hammers 7-2 to win the Pro Wrestling League title at the Indira Gandhi
Indoor Stadium.
The league augurs well for Indian wrestling. Though most of wins went to overseas
wrestlers, still in long run it will improve wrestling in India.

First Indian in Harvard soccer team


Sixteen-year-old Vardhin Manoj, a U.S. citizen by birth, has been offered a place in
Harvard University soccer team and has agreed to join the team as soon as he finishes
school.
The 11th grade student of La Costa Canyon High School, California, is the first player
from India to be offered a place in the Harvard University soccer team purely on the
basis of football talent.

How would a banned drug help cricketers


How much does consumption of banned substances help in cricket? The issue is
under sharp focus after Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah was recently suspended
provisionally by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for failing a dope test.
He has tested positive for a diuretic. This is a chemical substance that leads to excessive
flow of urine from the body. In cricket, diuretics do not help in enhancing
performances.
Diuretic are often used to reduce weight. In sports like boxing for example, a boxer
may need to shed weight to compete in a particular category. So he could take a
diuretic to reduce weight by losing fluids in the body to compete. In cricket, there is
no such use for it.
Diuretics are employed to treat hyper tension and high blood pressure. But then,

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Current Affairs 495
diuretics have a big role to play as a masking agent for other drugs including steroids
and any medicines.
Anabolic steroid is a different beast altogether. They help in an athlete getting
explosive power. In cricket, they can lift a fast bowlers performances.
A stimulant can delay fatigue, increase concentration. It is principally used by batsmen
in cricket. Caffeine and ephedrine are some of the popular stimulants. On the other
hand, steroids enhance muscle building, provide additional power.
Amphetamine, which is one of the stimulants. It increases awareness levels, focus,
quickness and gives a sportsperson a feeling of euphoria where he does not feel pain
or stress. Its also taken as a party pill or by some students before examinations

Saina Nehwal disappointed by Padma Award snub


Olympic bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal has been left disappointed after the Sports
Ministry decided to reject her application for the prestigious Padma Bhushan award
this year, citing norms.
Badminton Association of India (BAI) had recommended Sainas name for the award
to the Sports Ministry in August last year but the ministry picked two-time Olympic
medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar as it felt he was a more deserving candidate.
I heard that Sushil Kumars name was sent for Padma award as a special case,
while my name was not sent to Ministry of home affairs by sports ministry.
The ministry guidelines say that there needs to be a gap of five years between two
Padma awards. So if they can send his name, why they didnt recommend my name
as I have completed the five years gap. I felt bad about it, Saina, who was awarded
the Padma Shri in 2010, told PTI.
The 24-year-old claimed that her application was rejected last year also on similar
grounds but this year, the ministry decided to recommend Sushils name even though
he has not completed the fiveyear norm after being bestowed with the Padma Shri
in 2011.
Last year when I had sent my file for the Padma Bhushan award, the ministry said
No Saina you cant apply this year because you have to complete five years for this.
So I again applied this year for the award. So why my name was not recommended
this year?, she asked.

Footballer Gasan Magomedov shot dead


A 20-year-old footballer for Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala has been shot dead
near his home in Russias volatile North Caucasus.
Gasan Magomedov was driving into his home village when his car was sprayed
with machine gun fire and he died from his wounds while being transported to
hospital, Anzhi said in a statement.
No arrests have been made and the motive is unclear, the club said. Magomedov
was a regular in midfield for Anzhis youth and reserve teams.

Saina to be nominated for Padma award as a special


case
In a move that could potentially have far-reaching consequences, the Ministry of

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Youth Affairs and Sports has recommended Saina Nehwal for the Padma Bhushan
award as a special case.
At a media briefing, Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal claimed that the decision
was taken after considering the 24-year-old badminton players commitment,
contribution and achievement.
The minister asserted, however, that this move should not be treated as a precedent.
The Sports Ministry claimed that the Badminton Association of India (BAI) had not
sent the letter of recommendation.
Since Minister Sonowal was away from the city and there was no working day, Sainas
case could not have been considered earlier. It was revealed at the media briefing
that the letter dated August 9, 2014, was received at the Ministers residence.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had invited the nominations for the Padma awards
from May 1 to September 15 last year. According to the Sports Ministry, a letter was
circulated to all National Sports Federations and Sports Control Boards that set August
20 as the last date for receiving nominations.
After considering all cases, wrestler Sushil Kumars name was recommended to the
Home Ministry. Sainas allegation that the Sports Ministry had intimated her that
she could not be considered in 2014 since she had received the Padma Shri in 2010
was quashed too.
Under normal circumstances, theres a five-year period between two Padma awards.
However, according to the ministry, her name had not been recommended by BAI
for the 2014 list, and the discussion with Saina never took place.
Acknowledging the debate around the nomination process, Minister Sonowal claimed
the decision to nominate Saina was impacted by his clear intention to encourage
sportspersons and promote sport.
The Sports Minister also emphasised that he only viewed the nomination from a
sporting angle and did not wish to be involved in petty politics.
Sonowal added that there was a provision that allows a person to apply directly for
the Padma awards to the Home Ministry.

S. Shrikrishna wins maiden title


Tamil Nadus S. Shrikrishna gave ample evidence of his emerging status by winning
his maiden National sub-junior billiards title, upsetting top seed Ishpreet Singh
Chadha of Maharashtra 326-283 in an hour-long final at the BRC.
Shrikrishna, who is competing in all three sections, quietly dominated proceedings
beginning with a break of 54 on his very first visit to the table.
The early onslaught would have unnerved any other player, but not Ishpreet. From
9-104 down, the brave Mumbai lad staged a remarkable recovery to take the lead
193-185, with a break of 52 and many smaller ones.
The second seed came up with a break of 55 just after the halfway mark to consolidate
the early gains to be at 240-193.
The 18-year-old came close to overhauling the free-stroking Shrikrishna (255-251),
but the TN boy produced small but useful breaks of 20, 17 and 24 late in the game to
run away a deserving winner.

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Current Affairs 497

Axar & Jadeja get the nod for ICC World Cup
After obtaining the opinion of its NCA-attached physiotherapist Nitin Patel, the BCCI
has selected all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja in its 15-member team for the ICC World
Cup to be played in Australia and New Zealand in February-March.
The 26-year-old from Saurashtra, who has played 109 One-Day Internationals,
returned home from Australia in the last week of December to remedy the damaged
shoulder of his bowling hand.
He is undergoing rehabilitation at the BCCIs NCA set-up with SRMC, Chennai.
Hes doing wonderfully well. He should be able to hit training after 10 days, said
BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel at the first team announcement press conference in six
years.
Patel also said that fast bowler Ishant Sharma had been laid low by a minor knee
niggle and hence was not included in the XI for the fourth and final Test at Sydney.
Taking into account the heavy workload for the likes of Ishant,
Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami in the four-Test series and Bhuvneshwar Kumar
(hes just recovered from an injury), the BCCI has made available to captain Mahendra
Singh Dhoni two additional seamers for the tri-series in which the third team will be
England.

Ishpreet Singh wins maiden title


Ishpreet Singh Chadha of Maharashtra won his maiden National sub-junior snooker
title at the BRC, outplaying Shobhit Sethi of Punjab 3-0 in a final that lasted a little
over an hour.
After winning a tough first frame, the 18-year old Ishpreet wrapped up the next two
in quick time, winning 46-42, 71-31, 67-04.
I have been trying to win this for the past five years. I have been training under
(former Asian champion) Yasin Merchant for the past one year and this is a good
result for me, said Ishpreet.
The match was devoid of any big break, but it was Ishpreets consistency that proved
decisive. Earlier, top seed S. Shrikrishna of Tamil Nadu who won the billiards
title beating Ishpreet was shocked in the quarterfinals by Rohan Sahani of
Maharashtra.

Indian weight lifters end with 14 medals


Indian weightlifters ended their campaign on a high by bagging a total of 14 medals,
including six gold in the 17th Asian Youth (boys & girls), 22nd Junior Women and
29th Junior Men Asian Weightlifting Championships at Doha, Qatar.
Even those six lifters, who failed to make it to the podium, finished within the top
six positions in their respective body weight categories.
India won a silver on the last day of the competition as Swapna Priya Baruah ended
second in the Junior Women 69kg division.
Ragala Venkat Rahul clinched a gold in Junior Men 85kg with a total lift of 324kg -
143kg in snatch and 181kg clean & jerk. Two Junior Women lifters - S Thasana Chanu
(58kg) and Punam Yadav (63kg) - settled for a bronze each, while Kh Nungshiton
also claimed the third spot in Youth Girls 58kg.

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498 Current Affairs

Sharapova moved into Brisbane International semifinals


Maria Sharapova moved into the Brisbane International semifinals with a 6-1, 6-3
win over Carla Suarez Navarro, weathering a challenging opening few games before
taking the momentum away from her Spanish rival.
Top-seeded Sharapova dropped her opening service game and then needed eight
breakpoints before converting for a 2-1 lead. From there, it was straight-forward
progress.
The reigning French Open champion has dropped just five games across her opening
two matches of the season and next faces Ukraines Elina Svitolina, who came from
a set and a break down to beat third-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany 4-6, 7-5,
6-3.
Third-seeded Milos Raonic moved into the mens quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-4 second-
round win over Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan. Roger Federer was scheduled to
play a night match.

Indian team needs to sort out its bowling combinations


says Srinath
Former India pace spearhead Javagal Srinath has raised doubts about the teams
bowling attack ahead of the upcoming ODI cricket World Cup though he has rated
the defending champions batting line-up as the strongest going into the showpiece
event.
India must sort out its bowling combinations and resources at the earliest. It needs
someone to lead the attack and it needs to zero in on the bowlers who Dhoni and the
team management believe will play in all the matches of the ICC Cricket World Cup
2015, Srinath wrote in an ICC column.
The 45-year-old Karnataka cricketer has played in three 50-over World Cups, from
1992 to the 2003 edition in South Africa. At this point, Bhuvneshwar Kumar seems
the best bet to do that (lead the attack), unless Ishant Sharma finds his line and
length and leads from the front.
Indias bowling form will be thoroughly tested during the tri-series preceding the
ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, Srinath wrote. He added, Midway through this tri-
series, Dhoni should have decided what his first choice bowling attack will be for
the duration of ICCs pinnacle event.
There will be some experimentation early on, but by the time the tri-series is over,
India should have its best 11 in place, the team it believes will take it all the way to
the title.
Among the spinners, Srinath said Ashwin is an automatic choice in the playing XI.
The balance of the team will determine whether if India will play a second spinner
or an additional medium-pacer. He heaped praise on the Indian batting line-up.
Indias batting is well set with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat
Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina, not to mention MS Dhoni himself, Srinath
said.
This is amply reflective of the strength at the top of the batting order, so perhaps the
selectors might have felt that keeping Vijay in the squad was a bit of a luxury they
could not afford.

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Current Affairs 499

Poland wins Hopman Cup


Poland has won its first ever Hopman Cup title, beating the USA 2-1 in the final.
Agnieszka Radwanska showed why she should be considered among the favourites
for the Australian Open later this month by beating the world No. 1 Serena Williams
in the final.
The world No. 5 Radwanska teamed up with Hopman debutant Jerzy Janowicz to
beat the US pairing of Serena Williams and John Isner 2-1.

Avinash emerges champion in National junior snooker


Avinash Kumar continued his giant-killing spree to win his maiden National junior
snooker title at the BRC. The 20-year-old Delhi cueist won all his round-robin semifinal
league games, losing just three frames.
He played spectacular snooker. His extraordinary show has caught the attention of
everyone in this National meet, said former World billiards champion Manoj Kothari.
We will try and get him scholarship from one of the oil companies, he informed.
Avinash, whose parents migrated to Delhi from Patna, did not drop a single frame.
Though I won the second frame I was still not be able to focus well. I got my rhythm
back in the fourth and there was no stopping me. Avinash lost the first frame to S.
Shrikrishna of Tamil Nadu 11-72 in the final league game only to take the next four
in a row.

India have slipped to 7th place in Test rankings


India have slipped a place to be seventh in the latest ICC Test rankings after losing
the four-match away series against Australia 0-2. Indias slide in the rankings come
after the two fighting draws which were not enough to prevent another series loss
overseas.
India captain Virat Kohli however has gained three places to be 12th in the batsmen
standings after amassing 692 runs in the eight innings Down Under. His Australian
counterpart Steven Smith has reached a career-high fourth after piling up 769 runs
in the series at a staggering average of 128.16.
Amongst the bowlers, pacer Mohammed Shami has risen seven places to a career-
high 31st place after taking match figures of six for 145 runs in Sydney, while
Australias Mitchell Starc has moved up nine places to 33rd after returning five wickets
for 142 runs.
Amongst the other bowlers from the Sydney Test are Australia duo Shane Watson
and Josh Hazlewood, up to 38th and a career-high 46th respectively.

Railways teams win in contrasting styles


It was double delight for Railways at the 63rd senior national volleyball championship
as it clinched the mens and womens titles beating Tamil Nadu and Kerala
respectively. While the womens final was a cakewalk, the mens title-round will
probably go down in the history of Indian volleyball as one of the greatest comebacks
in the finals of the national championship.
Railways was down two sets and staring down the barrel before it saved three match
points in the fourth set and went on to turn it around and win the match 19-25, 18-25,
25-23, 26-24, 15-9.

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500 Current Affairs

Defending champion TN had no one to blame but itself for the result letting its
crown slip when it had one hand on it with some poor defence work and unforced
errors in the final three sets.
For Railways, attacker S. Prabagaran was the star performer of the day. He, along
with all-rounder Manu Joseph, kept the visitors in the game with some attacking
play.

Womens hockey camp begins


The Indian womens hockey team began its preparatory camp for a Test series against
Spain at the National Stadium.
Goalkeepers: Yogita Bali, Savita, Rajni Etimarpu.

Brett Lee announced retirement from all forms of cricket


Former Australia fast bowler Brett Lee announced his pending retirement from all
forms of cricket after a 20-year career.
The 38-year-old pacer quit international cricket in July 2012, but had been a Twenty20
regular, both in the Indian Premier League and the domestic competition in Australia.
Lee, who made the announcement at the Sydney Cricket Ground, remains the equal
leading wicket-taker for Australia in ODIs with Glenn McGrath, with 380 in 221
appearances. Lee also took 310 wickets in 76 Tests for Australia.

Advani to meet Sitwala in National billiards final


Six-time champion, Pankaj Advani, will take on PSPB teammate Dhruv Sitwala in
the 82nd National billiards championship final at the BRC.
Advani overcame Siddharth Parikh of Railways 4-2 and Sitwala, looking to win his
maiden crown, registered a thrilling 4-3 victory over B. Bhaskar of Karnataka for the
third entry into the title round.
Advani took three hours to tame Parikh. An unfinished break of 148 gave Advani
the first frame at 150-37 and two small breaks of 50 and 66 ensured 2-0 lead (150-87).
Parikh compiled an unfinished 107 to neutralise Advanis lead of 114 to take the
frame at 114-150. The 12-time world champion hit back with vengeance in the fourth.
A lead of 52 disappeared as Advani showed his cueing prowess with a terrific
unfinished 154 to make it 3-1. It was a close fifth frame when Pankaj missed a fairly
easy canon at 140-138 and Parikh ensured 2-3 in his favour.
The master of green baize, however, proved his class with two good breaks of 70 and
53 to take the frame at 150-45. I am glad that even on a day when I was not at my
best I managed to pull it off, Advani said.
Full credit to Siddharth who has come into top four after ten years. I am happy that
I am through to the final, a relieved Advani said.

Sania wins first title of the season in Sydney Open


doubles
Indias Sania Mirza won her first title of the season and 23rd of her career when she
and Bethanie Mattek-Sands shocked top-seeded Americans Abigail Spears and Raquel
Kops-Jones in the summit clash of the Apia International.

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Current Affairs 501
The unseeded Indo-American combine humbled the top seeds 6-3, 6-3 in just 69
minutes.

India set for tri-series with one eye on World Cup


All set to defend its cricket World Cup crown in less than a month, India will get its
preparations underway with the aim to find the right combination for the marquee
event when it takes on Australia in the ongoing ODI tri-series.
While this tri-series provides the perfect setting for experimentation, the need of the
hour is to get a settled combination going ahead to instil confidence in the side.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will return to international cricket after a little over
two weeks since his Test retirement at the same venue, and he will have some decisions
to make. The first order of business will be to make a firm choice about the opening
combination.
Ahead of Sundays game, the team management has failed to specify whether it will
be Ajinkya Rahane or Rohit Sharma pairing up with Shikhar Dhawan at the top of
the order, or indeed whether a third possibly surprising combination might be thrown
up.
Unlike the teams preparations ahead of any Test match, its net sessions for an ODI
do not throw up any suggestive patterns and it was the same on Saturday as well. In
no particular order then, all batsmen enjoyed a decent hit in the nets including Ambati
Rayudu and Stuart Binny.
Among the bowlers, playing two spinners is definitely par for the course for India,
with R. Ashwin and Axar Patel slated to take up those spots.

IPTL will help in expanding the frontiers of tennis


Former English tennis star Tim Henman feels the newly launched International
Premier Tennis League (IPTL) is the best thing to happen in Asia, where the sport is
yet to pick up.
Henman, who was in the city to conduct tennis clinics for trainees adopted by the
HSBC Road to Wimbledon junior development programme, said the tournament
conceived by Indian star Mahesh Bhupathi will surely help in expanding the
boundaries of the sport.

Starc sets up Australias win


Paceman Mitchell Starc took six for 43 to help Australia to a four-wicket victory over
India, despite a brilliant century by Rohit Sharma.
Rohits 138 at the MCG enabled India post a competitive 267 for eight after electing
to bat.
However, Australian opener Aaron Finch countered Rohits century with a match-
winning knock of his own, making 96 as Australia reached 269 with four wickets in
hand and six balls to spare.
He received great support from Steve Smith (47) as the pair put on 101 for the third
wicket.

IPL media rights: BCCI invites tenders


The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has invited bids for media rights

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502 Current Affairs

relating to the future editions of the Indian Premier League (IPL).


The upcoming Pepsi IPL will be broadcast across the world through every
technological medium available, thus reaching out to an even larger audience, BCCI
secretary Sanjay Patel said in a statement.
Bids should be submitted by February 3, at a meeting of the BCCI Marketing
Committee, at which time it is intended that the bids will be opened, evaluated and
the tender awarded in the presence of bidders.

Panel to decide penalty


The Supreme Court formed a three-member committee to decide on the punishment
against Chennai Super Kings (CSK and Rajasthan Royals (RR) in the Indian Premier
League (IPL) betting scandal involving co-owners of the two teams.
Former Chief Justice India R. M. Lodha will head the committee that includes former
Supreme Court judges Ashok Bhan and R. V. Raveendran.
The committee has been given six months for to further investigate and come to a
decision regarding the allegations against Mr. Kundra and Mr. Meiyappan. The two
teams face the possibility of being scratched from the high profile domestic T20
tournament.
The Board will have to elect its new president in six months time and N. Srinivasan
can contest only if he lets go of his commercial interest in CSK. It is East Zones turn
to have a president. However, BCCI rules allow a candidate from outside the zone to
contest if there is a proposer and seconder a from that zone.
It is compulsory for the candidate to have attended two Annual General Meetings of
the Board apart from being a principal office-bearer.

Undertaking a must to contest BCCI elections


Following the Supreme Courts ruling that BCCI members with commercial interest
in BCCI-organised events including the IPL are not eligible to contest the BCCI
elections, the candidates will have to give an undertaking to that effect to the BCCI.
Elections are to be held for the post of principal office-bearers (president, secretary,
jt. secretary and treasurer) and five vice-presidents.
Apart from the IPL, the BCCI organises tournaments in the senior, junior and womens
categories and also organises the annual awards and the M.A.K. Pataudi Memorial
lecture. Many other committees are also nominated by each zone. Generally BCCI
office-bearers obtain unanimity for selection committees, but there have been
occasions when selectors have been elected.
The BCCI by-laws also specify eligibility rules for members wanting to contest
elections. Past or present office-bearers or vice-presidents, except the president or a
member who has represented his association at two AGMs, can contest for the post
of office-bearer (secretary, jt. Secretary and vice-president).
The president must be a past or present office-bearer or vice-president of the Board
nominated by at least two full members from the zone, whose turn it is as per the
principle of rotation.
He must have attended two AGMs representing a full member.
The BCCIs rules also say that such candidate or candidates (for the post of president)
need not be from the same zone that is exercising its right of nomination by rotation.

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Current Affairs 503
According to the by-laws of the BCCI, the office-bearers and vice-presidents who get
elected at the next AGM will have a tenure of three years.
But the question now though is, will the BCCI be forced to conduct another election
in September 2015, should the Supreme Courts three-member panel recommend
amendments to the eligibility rules for elections.
The Supreme Court has said that the three-member committees deliberations will
not affect the BCCI AGM and elections to be held within six weeks.

Venkaiah Naidu to be chief guest at opening ceremony


The Union Minister for Urban Development, M. Venkaiah Naidu will be the chief
guest at the opening ceremony of the 35th National Games to be held at the new
Greenfield Stadium on January 31.
Disclosing this at a press conference , the Kerala Sports Minister, Thiruvanchoor
Radhakrishnan said the function, starting at 6 p.m., will be presided over by the IOA
president, N. Ramachandran and attended by the Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy,
the Leader of the Opposition, V.S. Achuthanandan and the entire top political brass
of the State besides the Union Minister of State for Sports, Sarbananda Sonowal and
Sachin Tendulkar, the goodwill ambassador of the Games.
The cultural extravaganza at the ceremony to be directed by T.K. Rajeev Kumar will
feature over 5000 artists. The Games flame will be lit jointly by P.T. Usha and Anju
Bobby George after receiving it from Sachin Tendulkar following its entry into the
stadium.
The closing ceremony on February 14 will have the Governor Justice P. Sathasivam
as the chief guest and the IOA president will declare the Games formally closed as
has been the practice for sometime now.
The function is also likely to be attended by the Union Minister for Surface Transport,
Nitin Gadkari.
A slew of inaugurations of the new stadia constructed for the Games will be held
through the next four days. This is to include the new hockey stadium in Kollam
(January 27), the shooting range in Vattiyoorkavu, Games Village and the renovated
Chandrasekharan Nair stadium (January 28) and the Corporation stadium, Kozhikode
(January 29).

Advani bags his seventh National title, Amee is womens


champ
Pankaj Advani won his seventh senior National snooker title beating Varun Madan
by six frames to three in a well-fought final of the BRC Gloster National billiards and
snooker championship at the BRC .
The victory also gave Advani a fourth double, having won the billiards and snooker
crowns in 2007, 08 and 2009 also.
MPs Amee Kamani won her maiden senior snooker title defeating defending
champion Vidya Pillay of Karnataka .

New Zealand wins series


New Zealand wrapped up its one-day series against Sri Lanka with a game to spare
when Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor orchestrated a 120-run win in game six.

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Williamson (97) and Taylor (96) provided the backbone of New Zealand's 315 for
eight in 50 overs and Sri Lanka was all out for 195 in the 41st over.
The win puts New Zealand 4-1 up in the seven-match series with one game washed
out.
Only Kumar Sangakkara looked at ease in Sri Lanka's run chase with 81 off 66
deliveries, but none of the other recognised batsmen were able to get past 30 as New
Zealand all-rounder Corey Anderson stamped his mark on the game.
Anderson smacked 40 from 28 balls to support Williamson and Taylor during New
Zealand's innings and then took four for 52 with the ball as the Sri Lankan batsmen
again showed a lack of fight.

Gilchrist and Ryder to be inducted into Australian Cricket


Hall of Fame
Celebrated wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist and late former captain and
selector Jack Ryder will be inducted into Australian Cricket Hall of Fame at the
annual Allan Border Medal ceremony .
ACHoF chairman David Crow today announced that Gilchrist and Ryder were the
selection committees choice for induction this year.
The ACHoF recently expanded its criteria to include a players impact off the field
following his playing career.
Gilchrist said he was humbled by his nomination alongside many of the greatest
players to represent Australia.
Ryder was Don Bradmans first Test captain but it is their association off the field for
more than two decades as selectors which had a far greater impact on the game.
A tall and aggressive batsman and lively medium pace bowler, Ryder played 20
Tests for Australia and 20 years for Victoria.

Delhi Open tennis from Feb. 16


The cream of Indian tennis, spearheaded by defending champion Somdev
Devvarman, is scheduled to compete in the Delhi Open $100,000 Challenger tennis
tournament to be played at the R.K. Khanna Stadium here from February 16 to 22.
In a release issued , the organisers have stated that Yuki Bhambri, Saketh Myneni
and Ramkumar Ramanathan would also be seen in action, apart from top players
like James Duckworth of Australia and Yuichi Sugita of Japan, ranked 120 and 136
respectively.
Vishnu Vardhan will get a wild card into the main draw by virtue of having won the
Fenesta National championship, while the runner-up Sidharth Rawat will get a wild
card for the qualifying event, along with the national junior champion Vidit Vaghela.
In the concurrently hosted $25,000 ITF womens tournament, Prerna Bhambri will
gain entry as a wild card as the national champion.
Karman Kaur Thandi who had finished runner-up will get a wild card for the
qualifying event. Incidentally, she had also won the junior title in the national
championship.

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Current Affairs 505

Boxing India to introduce new league, ranking system


In order to work in line with International Boxing Association (AIBA)s ambitious
leagues such as AIBA Open Boxing (AOB), AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) and World Series
of Boxing (WSB), Boxing India (BI) has decided to launch the Indian Series of Boxing
(ISB) and a national ranking system in the second half of the year.
The apex body has been making an effort for the synergy of amateur and professional
boxing by allowing pugilists from professional leagues to qualify for the Olympics.
BIs new step will help the Indian boxers be part of the reforms that will bring fresh
value to boxers and boxing in India.

Poland wins Hopman Cup


Poland has won its first ever Hopman Cup title, beating the USA 2-1 in the final.
Agnieszka Radwanska showed why she should be considered among the favourites
for the Australian Open later this month by beating the world No. 1 Serena Williams
in the final.
The world No. 5 Radwanska teamed up with Hopman debutant Jerzy Janowicz to
beat the US pairing of Serena Williams and John Isner 2-1.

Avinash emerges champion in National junior snooker


Avinash Kumar continued his giant-killing spree to win his maiden National junior
snooker title at the BRC. The 20-year-old Delhi cueist won all his round-robin semifinal
league games, losing just three frames.
He played spectacular snooker. His extraordinary show has caught the attention of
everyone in this National meet, said former World billiards champion Manoj Kothari.
We will try and get him scholarship from one of the oil companies, he informed.
Avinash, whose parents migrated to Delhi from Patna, did not drop a single frame.
Playing his second league game against Hritik Jain from Madhya Pradesh, Avinash
was thrashed 1-63 in the opening frame. I came to the venue late and hardly had
time to warm-up, he said.
Though I won the second frame I was still not be able to focus well. I got my rhythm
back in the fourth and there was no stopping me. Avinash lost the first frame to S.
Shrikrishna of Tamil Nadu 11-72 in the final league game only to take the next four
in a row.

India have slipped to 7th place in Test rankings


India have slipped a place to be seventh in the latest ICC Test rankings after losing
the four-match away series against Australia 0-2. Indias slide in the rankings come
after the two fighting draws which were not enough to prevent another series loss
overseas.
India captain Virat Kohli however has gained three places to be 12th in the batsmen
standings after amassing 692 runs in the eight innings Down Under. His Australian
counterpart Steven Smith has reached a career-high fourth after piling up 769 runs
in the series at a staggering average of 128.16.
Amongst the bowlers, pacer Mohammed Shami has risen seven places to a career-
high 31st place after taking match figures of six for 145 runs in Sydney, while

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Australias Mitchell Starc has moved up nine places to 33rd after returning five wickets
for 142 runs.
Amongst the other bowlers from the Sydney Test are Australia duo Shane Watson
and Josh Hazlewood, up to 38th and a career-high 46th respectively.

Railways teams win in contrasting styles


It was double delight for Railways at the 63rd senior national volleyball championship
as it clinched the mens and womens titles beating Tamil Nadu and Kerala
respectively.
While the womens final was a cakewalk, the mens title-round will probably go
down in the history of Indian volleyball as one of the greatest comebacks in the
finals of the national championship.
Railways was down two sets and staring down the barrel before it saved three match
points in the fourth set and went on to turn it around and win the match 19-25, 18-25,
25-23, 26-24, 15-9.
Defending champion TN had no one to blame but itself for the result letting its
crown slip when it had one hand on it with some poor defence work and unforced
errors in the final three sets.
For Railways, attacker S. Prabagaran was the star performer of the day. He, along
with all-rounder Manu Joseph, kept the visitors in the game with some attacking
play.

Womens hockey camp begins


The Indian womens hockey team began its preparatory camp for a Test series against
Spain at the National Stadium.
Goalkeepers: Yogita Bali, Savita, Rajni Etimarpu.

Brett Lee announced retirement from all forms of cricket


Former Australia fast bowler Brett Lee announced his pending retirement from all
forms of cricket after a 20-year career.
The 38-year-old pacer quit international cricket in July 2012, but had been a Twenty20
regular, both in the Indian Premier League and the domestic competition in Australia.
Lee, who made the announcement at the Sydney Cricket Ground, remains the equal
leading wicket-taker for Australia in ODIs with Glenn McGrath, with 380 in 221
appearances. Lee also took 310 wickets in 76 Tests for Australia.

Brett Lee announced retirement from all forms of cricket


Former Australia fast bowler Brett Lee announced his pending retirement from all
forms of cricket after a 20-year career.
The 38-year-old pacer quit international cricket in July 2012, but had been a Twenty20
regular, both in the Indian Premier League and the domestic competition in Australia.
Lee, who made the announcement at the Sydney Cricket Ground, remains the equal
leading wicket-taker for Australia in ODIs with Glenn McGrath, with 380 in 221
appearances. Lee also took 310 wickets in 76 Tests for Australia.

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Current Affairs 507

Advani to meet Sitwala in National billiards final


Six-time champion, Pankaj Advani, will take on PSPB teammate Dhruv Sitwala in
the 82nd National billiards championship final at the BRC.
Advani overcame Siddharth Parikh of Railways 4-2 and Sitwala, looking to win his
maiden crown, registered a thrilling 4-3 victory over B. Bhaskar of Karnataka for the
third entry into the title round.
Advani took three hours to tame Parikh. An unfinished break of 148 gave Advani
the first frame at 150-37 and two small breaks of 50 and 66 ensured 2-0 lead (1