Weekly Current Affairs Update for IAS Exam VOL - 40 (1st September 2014 TO 7th September 2014)


Weekly Current Affairs Update for IAS Exam

VOL - 40 (1st September 2014 TO 7th September 2014)


Issue : VOL - 40 (1st September 2014 TO 7th September 2014)

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:: NATIONAL PORTAL OF INDIA ::

MoU Signed for Development of WAQF Properties

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed here today, between the National Waqf Development Corporation (NAWADCO) and the National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC), for developing the Waqf properties. Dr. Najma Heptulla, the Minister for Minority Affairs and Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu,the Minister for Urban Development were also present.

Speaking on the occasion Dr. Najma Heptulla said NAWADCO has identified several waqf properties including one in Delhi, two in Rajasthan, six in Madhya Pradesh and seven in Karnataka which shall be undertaken for development as institutional and commercial projects. To begin with properties lying vacant will be taken up for easy and early development. She said that two projects in Rajasthan are already under process. One is for a hospital in Jodhpur and another for a school in Ajmer. The Minister clarified that this is a general MoU and project specific agreement will be signed after the completion of basic formalities and processing.

Emphasizing the need for proper utilization of waqf properties to earn proper revenue Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu said that it can contribute immensely for socio economic development of minorities. He said that government views minorities as equal partners in development and nation building.

India has the largest number of Waqf properties in the world. There are more than 4.9 lakh registered Auqaf (waqf properties) and the current annual income from these properties is about Rs.163 crores. Sachar Committee has estimated that such properties, if properly developed, with a minimum return of 10%, would be capable of generating an income of Rs.12000 crore per annum. The total area under waqf properties all over India is estimated at about 6 lakh acres, the market value of which is about Rs.1.20 lakh crores. Many of these properties are on prime land and they have the potential of generating considerable returns, which in turn may be used for socio-economic development of deprived sections of Muslim community.

The Corporation was established as a follow up of Sachchar Committee recommendation in January 2014, with Authorized Share Capital of Rs.500 Crore with a paid up capital of Rs.100 crore. The National Minority Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC) have 49% shares in this Corporation.

NAWADCO facilitates and mobilizes financial resources for the development of Waqf properties for community development purposes in a joint venture with the State / Union Territory Waqf Boards and the Mutawallis. The Waqf Boards and the Muthawallis were not having the financial resources to develop the properties leading to encroachments.

NBCC is a Navratna Central Government public sector enterprise under Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India having wide and varied business experience and expertise, inter alia, in the field of construction and real estate development.

(Courtesy: http://india.gov.in)

:: Ministry of External affairs ::

Joint Statement on the State Visit of Prime Minister of Australia to India

1. The Prime Minister of Australia Mr Tony Abbott paid a State Visit to India from 4-5 September, 2014 at the invitation of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.

2. Prime Minister Abbott was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on 5 September, 2014. He laid a wreath at the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat and also laid a wreath at India Gate.

3. Prime Minister Modi held talks with Prime Minister Abbott on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues. Prime Minister Abbott called on President Shri Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Shri Hamid Ansari and received External Affairs Minister Smt Sushma Swaraj. Prime Minister Abbott also visited Mumbai where he called on Governor Shri C. Vidyasagar Rao. He met with Indian business leaders in Mumbai and Delhi. Four Agreements/Memoranda of Understanding were concluded and significant initiatives launched during the visit.

Bilateral Cooperation

4. The Prime Ministers welcomed the rapid growth in bilateral relations in recent years, anchored in shared values, expanding economic engagement, converging strategic interests and a growing shared agenda in regional and multilateral institutions.

5. The Prime Ministers affirmed their commitment to strengthening the bilateral Strategic Partnership and taking it to a new level of mutual trust.

6. The Prime Ministers welcomed the signing of the bilateral Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement as a concrete symbol of the bilateral partnership. They noted the Agreement would enable the sale of Australian uranium to support India’s growing energy needs and directed the negotiators to conclude the Administrative Arrangements at an early date.

Economic Engagement

7. The Prime Ministers underlined the priority they attached to building the economic partnership, which was a pillar of the relationship. They recommitted both countries to expand trade further for mutual benefit and as a long term and sustainable boost to economic growth in both countries. They agreed there was significant scope to boost investment and collaboration in both directions in infrastructure, resources, agriculture, manufacturing, health, education and other sectors to increase efficiencies, introduce new technologies and develop innovation and skills.

8. Prime Minister Abbott welcomed growing Indian investment in Australia and underlined Australia’s commitment to providing a stable investment environment and streamlined approvals process. Prime Minister Modi too welcomed Australian investments in a range of infrastructure, resources, technology and other projects in India.

9. The Prime Ministers welcomed the progress towards a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) would support a significant expansion of two-way trade and investment. They renewed the commitment of both countries for an early conclusion of an equitable, balanced, comprehensive and high quality agreement.

10. The Prime Ministers noted the expanding bilateral dialogue on economic policy, including in areas such as taxation, competition, financial sector regulation and infrastructure.

11. The Prime Ministers welcomed the delegation of senior Australian business leaders who had accompanied Prime Minister Abbott on his visit. They agreed that economic engagement and business partnerships should be strengthened through a revitalised CEO Forum and encouraged regular exchange of business and trade missions and the convening of an India-Australia Business Summit in Delhi in early 2015.

(Courtesy: http://www.mea.gov.in)

:: Planning Commission of India ::

Rural Development Division

The function of the Rural Development Division is primarily to provide overall policy guidance in formulation of plans and programmes for Rural Development. This is the nodal Division for matters relating to poverty eradication, employment generation in rural areas, development of watershed and degraded land. The following specific activities are undertaken by Division;

  1. To assist in formulation of rural development programmes to be included in Five Year Plans and Annual Plans and to make periodic assessment of progress achieved.

  2. To analyse and prepare comments on the EFC Memoranda and Cabinet Notes paper for Group of Ministers pertaining to rural development programmes.

  3. To maintain liaison with Ministry of Rural Development, National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) and other allied organisations mainly and participating in the meetings.

  4. To collect information from various Divisions of the Planning Commission, State Governments and also from the Central Ministries which are implementing various schemes related to rural development.

  5. To organize Working Group meetings to finalise the Draft Five Year Plan proposals of the State Governments. This involves the preparation of background papers, discussions on inter-se plan priorities, critical examination of plan proposals in relation to plan objectives and approaches, preparation of Working Group Reports giving, inter-alia, outlays and physical targets.

  6. Finalisation of the Five Year Plan outlays of the Ministry of Rural Development. Finalisation of Annual Plans of the Central Ministry of Rural Development and State Governments. This includes assessment of progress both in physical and financial terms, in relation to the approved targets and outlays, scheme-wise examination of proposals and reviewing targets and finalizing allocation for next Annual Plan.

  7. To provide comments, materials etc. for Public representations, VIP references, Parliament Questions and Agenda items for the meetings of Consultative Committee/ Standing Committee for the Planning Commission pertaining to rural development sector are also attended to.

The Rural Development Division looks after the following programmes being implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD):

National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA)

The NREG was launched on February 2, 2006 and the first full year of operation was 2006-07 covering 200 districts. The programme was expanded to 330 districts in 2007-08 and covers the whole country from 1.4.08. The primary objective of the scheme is to provide guaranteed work for 100 days for any household wishing to have such employment. Although all households are eligible, the expectation is that only the poorer sections,

i.e., landless labour and marginal farmers would actually seek work. The secondary objective is to ensure that employment generated is from works that raise land productivity.

(Courtesy: http://planningcommission.nic.in)

:: NATIONAL EVENTS ::

‘Zero tolerance on rhino poaching’

  • Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar announced that a Special Rhino Protection Force of local youth would be raised to check poaching in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and other rhino-populated areas in Assam.

  • “There will be zero tolerance towards rhino poaching and our efforts would be to bring down the number of rhino poaching incidents to zero,” he said.

  • Addressing a press conference after two-day visit to the national park, the Minister announced that his Ministry would request the CBI to expand the scope of its ongoing probe into rhino poaching in the KNP by including more cases and fast-track it.

  • A comprehensive plan would be undertaken to ensure free movement of park animals through the six animal corridors across the National Highway 37 passing through the world heritage site.

Modi offers assistance for PoK flood relief

  • In a humanitarian gesture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on offered all possible assistance to Pakistan for carrying out relief operations in the flood-ravaged Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
  • Making the offer after undertaking a visit to flood-hit Jammu and Kashmir for a first-hand assessment of the situation, Mr. Modi expressed his anguish at the loss that has been caused in PoK.

Home Ministry asks States to fasttrack cases against MPs, MLAs

  • The Home Ministry has asked all State governments to speed up cases against MPs and MLAs facing charges which attract disqualification, directing them to seek day-to-day trial in courts, appoint special public prosecutors and ensure regular monitoring.

  • The direction came in the wake of Supreme Court setting a deadline to complete trial in cases involving lawmakers.

  • The step is also in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s direction on July 24 asking the Home Minister and Law Minister to work out a mechanism to settle cases against politicians within a year to cleanse politics from tainted lawmakers.

  • Any sentence which attracts punishment of two years and above can lead to disqualification from Parliament or state legislature.

  • According to a March 10, 2014 direction of the Supreme Court, cases against MPs and MLAs which attract disqualification under Section 8(1), 8(2) and 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act needed to be completed within one year of framing charges.

Govt to go ahead with key appointments without LoP

  • The Government has decided to go ahead with the appointments to various statutory bodies like CVC, NHRC and Lokpal without the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha as a member of the selection committee choosing them.

  • The move comes following a recent reference from the Lok Sabha secretariat in this regard, official sources said.

  • The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had written to the Lok Sabha seeking information on the LoP. The secretariat has informed the DoPT that there is no recognised LoP in the Lok Sabha, they said.

  • The Government will go ahead with the appointments to various statutory bodies without the LoP, the sources said.

  • Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had rejected the Congress’ demand for LoP status for its nominee.

  • Congress with 44 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha has emerged as the second largest party after BJP’s 282 but fell short by 11 to stake claim for the LoP for which it requires a strength of 55.

  • There is no mandatory requirement of the LoP in the selection committee that recommends persons for Central Vigilance Commissioner, Vigilance Commissioner, chairpersons and members for the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Lokpal, they said.

  • The appointment of a Central Vigilance Commissioner and Vigilance Commissioner is done by the President on the basis of recommendation from a three member selection committee headed by Prime Minister and comprising Minister for Home Affairs and the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People, as per the Central Vigilance Act 2003.

  • The Act further has a provision that when no such leader (LoP) has been recognised then the selection committee can include the leader of the single largest group in opposition in the Lok Sabha.

  • “No appointment of a Central Vigilance Commissioner or a Vigilance Commissioner shall be invalid merely by reason of any vacancy in the Committee,” the Act says.

:: INTERNATIONAL ::

Another American journalist ‘beheaded’

  • An Internet video posted purported to show the beheading of another U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff, by Islamic State, which called it “retribution” for U.S. airstrikes.

U.N. troops’ captors set demands

  • Al-Qaeda-linked Syria rebels who are holding more than 40 United Nations peacekeepers hostage in the Golan Heights are demanding they be expunged from a U.N. terror blacklist, Fiji revealed.
  • The Pacific nation’s Army chief Mosese Tikoitoga said the rebels also wanted humanitarian aid sent to a small town which is an Al-Nusra Front stronghold just outside Damascus. They are also seeking compensation for three of their fighters who were wounded in recent days.

UNICEF helps Sierra Leone combat Ebola

  • With funds from the World Bank, UNICEF has facilitated the delivery of medicines and other supplies worth over $825,000 for the treatment of people who have contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone.
  • A chartered UN cargo aircraft landed at the Lungi International Airport with the drugs and medical supplies, Ximhua reported.
  • The supplies include latex gloves, intravenous fluids, assorted antibiotics and personal protective equipment, all of which are urgently needed to fight the Ebola epidemic.
  • “The World Bank is committed to improving the health of the people in Sierra Leone and eliminating Ebola,” said Ato Brown, World Bank’s country manager in Sierra Leone.
  • The funding from the World Bank comes from its $200 million pledge last month to help Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to contain the spread of Ebola, help their communities cope with the economic impact of the crisis, and improve public health systems in West Africa.
  • The supplies have been transferred to the Central Medical Store in Freetown for immediate dispatch to different Ebola treatment centres.
  • The Ebola outbreak has claimed over 2,000 lives in West African countries this year.

North Korea test-fires more tactical missiles

  • North Korea test-fired three missiles into the sea , South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
  • The launch occurred at a site in the North’s border town of Wonsan, it said.
  • The missiles were presumed to have landed about 210 kilometres out in the East Sea.
  • “The military is staying vigilant and paying attention to movements of the North Korean military in case of an additional launch,” an officer was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.
  • The officer said it was presumed to be a new type of tactical missile.

Lego is world’s biggest toymaker

  • Danish toy maker Lego has taken the top spot as the world’s biggest maker of toys by sales, overtaking Barbie doll-maker Mattel, its first-half results showed on Thursday. Performance was boosted by the Lego Movie product line.

South Africa ‘refuses’ Dalai Lama visa for Nobel summit

  • South Africa has refused to grant a visa for the Dalai Lama to attend the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Cape Town next month, his representative said.
  • The government “conveyed by phone to me they will not be able to grant the visa for the reason that it would disturb relations between China and South Africa,” Nangsa Choedon told AFP.
  • The refusal could provoke a boycott of the 14th annual peace summit, according to a spokesman for South African laureate and former Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

:: INDIA AND THE WORLD ::

India, Japan should jointly work on heritage cities: Modi

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India and Japan faced a common challenge in preserving and building smart heritage cities.
  • After meeting Kyoto’s Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa, the Prime Minister said that he had learnt how the city was dealing with civic issues.

:: ECONOMY ::

Panel set up to conduct forensic audit of NSEL

  • On a plea made by investors, the Bombay High Court, formed a committee headed by a retired high court judge to conduct a forensic audit of the troubled NSEL and liquidate the assets of its defaulting borrowers in the over Rs.5,500 crore payments scam.
  • The three-member committee, headed by Justice (Retd) V. C. Daga, will also have a solicitor and a chartered accountant, according to Advocate Ameet Naik, who represents NSEL in the case.
  • The committee will ascertain the liability that is outstanding against the defaulting borrowers of NSEL, conduct a forensic audit, and monetise the assets, the court said in its order.
  • The committee will determine where the amount has gone, and is empowered to ascertain the assets of company.
  • It has also been empowered to distribute the assets to the duped investors but distribution of funds will require the court’s permission.

Promotional air fares from IndiGo

  • Budget carrier IndiGo started promotional air fares by offering discounted one-way fares starting at a low of Rs.999 (all inclusive one-way fare), a day after SpiceJet started its offer of Rs.499 one-way charge.
  • According to IndiGo, its Delhi-Jaipur flight is priced at Rs.999 one-way, followed by Rs.1,399 Srinagar-Chandigarh.
  • The fares go all the way up to Rs.4,829 for Bangalore-Delhi. The fares are applicable for booking in 90 days in advance.

China to lay 1,300 km of rail tracks in Tibet by 202

  • The extended railway lines built by China in Tibet — 251 km from Lhasa to Shigatse on the west and 433 km to Nyingchi (still under construction) in the east — will effectively link Tibet to India, Nepal and Bhutan
  • These are part of the Chinese government’s mission 2020 for infrastructure in Tibet.
  • The lines are also seen as a “triangular defence” for China, allowing it to rush troops and military hardware to its sensitive southern borders with India at short notice.

:: SCIENCE AND TECH ::

INS Sumitra to be commissioned tomorrow

  • INS Sumitra , a new-generation naval offshore patrol vessel (NOPV) built by Goa Shipyard Ltd., will be commissioned by the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Robin K. Dhowan, in Chennai.
  • The state-of-the-art warship will join the Eastern Naval Command in Chennai for maritime surveillance and coastal security.
  • This largest offshore patrol vessel of the Navy will be the fourth in its class, built on an in-house design of the shipyard.
  • The ship carries most sophisticated weapons such as guns, heavy-calibre super rapid gun mount, rapid-fire Russian AK630 guns, Kavach chaff launchers and the Sanket electronic warfare system and electronic sensors.

:: SPORTS ::

India end England tour with narrow T20 defeat

  • India’s long tour of England ended on a heartbreaking note as England held their nerves to pull off a thrilling three-run victory in the only T20 International in Birmingham.
  • Chasing a competitive 181 for seven, India needed 17 runs in the final over of the match but captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni could not steer the team home in a contest that went down to the wire at Edbaston.
  • India ended at 177 for five after England posted 180 for seven, thank to captain Eoin Morgan’s 71 runs off 31 balls.

National TSD Rally

  • The Rally of Coimbatore, the fourth round of the third FMSCI Indian National TSD Rally Championship for four wheelers will be held.
  • Organised by the Coimbatore Auto Sports Club, the rally has attracted over 40 competitors.
  • An open TSD event will also be held concurrently with the championship event.
  • It includes a novice and all-ladies class.

Pals Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki to meet in U.S. Open final

  • Serena Williams overwhelmed 17th-seeded Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 6-1, 6-3 in the semifinals to extend her U.S. Open winning streak to 20 matches.
  • If Williams can make that 21 in a row by beating Caroline Wozniacki in Sunday’s final, the 32-year-old American will become the first woman since Chris Evert in the 1970s to win three consecutive titles at the tournament.

:: IN THE NEWS (PERSONS) ::

Gopal Subramanium

  • Former Solicitor-General Gopal Subramanium has withdrawn his letter to the Supreme Court opting out as amicus curiae in the Padmanabha Swamy temple case.

  • Mr. Subramanium has already swung into action and left for Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala to inspect the temple premises and prepare an additional report on the administration of the temple.

  • Supreme Court sources said the case files had been sent back to him and he was expected to appear in the case in November. They said he decided to withdraw his letter after the court asked him to reconsider his decision.

  • Early this month, he had written to Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha, expressing his decision to bow out as amicus curiae. He had also returned the files concerning the case to the Supreme Court Registry.

  • Mr. Subramanium’s report on the condition of the temple and its assets in Thiruvananthapuram had created a storm.

  • The report had complained of corruption and disregard of ethics in the temple’s administration.

Akkineni

  • Legendary actor Akkineni Nageswara Rao will be the first Indian actor to be honoured with a postage stamp by the U.S. Post Service (USPS).
  • The Akkineni Foundation of America (AFA) has said that the stamp will be issued on the birth anniversary of Nageshwara Rao, who died of cancer early this year.
  • A special release ceremony is being planned by AFA on September 20 in Dallas, Texas.
  • The AFA is also planning to release the stamp in India on December 17 at the first International Akkineni Awards Ceremony being planned at ANR College, Gudivada in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh.

:: Selected Editorials of Importance ::

The pendulum of the Islamic State

Only if the social conditions that produced the IS — the inequality and the despair — are altered could it be truly vanquished U.S. air strikes halted the columns of Islamic State (IS). Toyota trucks, armoured personnel carriers and howitzers lay flattened on their march toward the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Irbil. Bombardment just north of Baghdad sent the IS fighters back toward the river Tigris. It allowed the Iraqi Army and Shiite militias (Badr and Salaam Brigades) to reclaim Amerli, a largely Shia town. What they did not do was to destroy or even degrade the legions of the IS.

The IS retaliation for these air strikes came in two brutal taped executions of U.S. journalists — first James Foley and then Steven Sotloff. The London-accented IS militant announced to U.S. President Barack Obama, “As your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people. We take this opportunity to warn those governments that enter this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone.” Beyond these murders, and more that may follow, it is unlikely that the IS can do any more damage to the U.S. directly.

Swinging into Syria

Like a pendulum, the fighters of the IS swung into Syria. They had no intention to face the U.S. bombers. Instead, their columns rushed through the Great Syrian Desert past their “capital” of Raqqa, across the River Euphrates, to take the Tabqa airbase. A fierce gunfight ended with the retreat of the Syrian government troops. Close to 400 IS fighters died in this battle (they are estimated to have at least 20,000 men in arms). In a grotesque scene, the IS forced marched 150 government troops — young men stripped to their underwear — into the desert and shot them. Based on this massacre and another near Tikrit (Iraq) in June, the United Nations has now accused the IS of crimes against humanity.

Capture of the Tabqa base at the crossroads of northern Syria is significant for many reasons. It had been the eyes and ears of the Syrian regime for the northern belt that includes most of the Turkish border. It is across this border that many of the jihadis have been trafficked from around the planet to join the IS — many crossed over between Kilis and A’zaz (where Sotloff had been abducted). Taking Tabqa allowed the IS control of the roads that lead directly to Aleppo and to Hama. Intense fighting along the belt that links Mhardeh and Houla suggests that IS and its allies (including its fractious cousin, Jabhat al-Nusra) have the ability to threaten the western coastal towns of Tartous and Latakia. The Syrian Army was able to block an al-Nusra and IS advance toward the largely Christian town of Mhardeh. Tension remains high as morale in the IS soars. On the Mediterranean coast, both Lebanon and Israel are threatened as the pendulum of the IS moves toward them. IS beheaded one of the Lebanese soldiers it had captured last month in the Beka’a Valley, and threatened to execute the nine other soldiers that it holds captive. It did not help him that the Lebanese soldier, Ali al-Sayyed, is a Sunni Muslim. Nor did it help Syrian journalist Bassam Raies, also executed by the IS (a death ignored by the world media). Meanwhile, Jabhat al-Nusra took the Quneitra crossing that straddles the disputed Golan Heights claimed by Syria and Israel. Al-Nusra captured 44 Fijian U.N. peacekeepers, while 40 Filipino U.N. peacekeepers escaped with the help of both Syrian and Israeli air cover. Al-Nusra has ambitions to secure this region as a launch pad to Damascus, as the IS makes its move from the northern roadways. Syria’s 90th Brigade and 7th Division sit along the road near Khan Arnabeh, blocking access to Damascus. Things are quiet for now, but perhaps not for long.

Contradictions

Discomfort is palpable in the regional capitals. U.S. air strikes cannot destroy IS. The canny IS prefers to swing across the vast territory that it threatens. A proper ground assault against IS cannot come because of the contradictions of U.S. policy in the region. In Iraq, U.S. air power did not only deliver the advantage to the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga, but also to the Turkish and Syrian Kurdish fighters (the YPG and the PKK). Turkey and the U.S. see the PKK as a terrorist organisation, although it and its Syrian ally the YPG have been fierce in their defence of what they called Western Kurdistan (Rojava or north-eastern Syria). The Shiite militias of Iraq (Badr and Salaam Brigades as well as the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq) and the Shiite militia of Lebanon (Hezbollah) have also been unyielding against the IS — again the U.S. and the Europeans claim Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation and they hold the Badr Brigades, trained by Iran, at arm’s length.

Syrian armed power, degraded by its long civil war and by defections to the Free Syrian Army, is still strong enough to seriously damage the long-term prospects of the IS. But Syria’s regime has restricted its Army to defend its main corridor between Damascus and the coastline. It will not direct its armies to the north. To do so would leave it vulnerable to the rebels’ Southern Front, which continues to be egged on by the West to seize Damascus. The U.S. trains Syrian rebels in the deserts of eastern Jordan. Full Syrian participation against the IS will not happen if the threat to Damascus remains intact. Major U.S. allies in the region, such as Turkey and Jordan also seem in two minds. Jordan has indicated to the U.S. that it will defend its borders, but it does not want to enter the conflict. The King’s advisers fear that al-Nusra and the IS have cells amongst the close to a million Syrian refugees in the country, and amongst Jordan’s home-grown radicals. Turkey’s economy has taken a hit from the emergence of IS – markets in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are no longer easily accessible. Legitimate trade has been eclipsed by smugglers, including those who traffic jihadis and journalists as well as IS- delivered oil from Syria’s Omar oilfields. Despite threats to Turkey, its new Prime Minister Ahmet Davutog˘lu can only bring himself to describe the IS as “a radical organisation with a terrorist-like structure.” Options for Jordan and Turkey remain limited, mainly by their commitments to the overthrow of Assad. Responsibility for the emergence of the IS vests with a number of key actors. The United States’ reckless war on Iraq created the reservoir for jihadis, as money from the Gulf Arabs came to sustain them in an emerging sectarian clash against an ascendant Iran. The narrow and suffocating Assad and al-Maliki regimes – which alienated large sections of Sunnis – propelled the disenfranchised to reckless rebellion. In 2007, the cartoonist Ali Ferzat said of the process called the Damascus Spring (2005), “either reform or le deluge [the flood].” It was the flood. Alienated people who measure their alienation in sectarian terms (Sunni) cannot be only defeated in the battlefield. Political reforms need to be on the cards. So too must an alternative to the economic agenda pursued in both Iraq and Syria since the mid-2000s. Under U.S. pressure, the Assad and al-Maliki governments pursued neo-liberal policies that increased inequality and despair. Absent a politics of class, the platforms against neo-liberal corruption took on a harsh sectarian cast. The IS fed on that alienation for its own diabolical agenda. It can be halted by air strikes and degraded by ground warfare. But only if the social conditions that produced the IS — the inequality and the despair — are altered could it be truly vanquished.

(Courtesy: The Hindu)

:: MCQs ::

1Q.

(i) The worst floods in 60 years devastated Jammu and Kashmir, claiming 100 lives and displacing thousands just ahead of the Assembly polls.
(ii) The Congress, which has shared power with the National Conference in the northern State for the past six years, has demanded that it be declared a ‘national calamity.’

Which of the above statement/statements is/are true ?

(a) Only i
(b) Only ii
(c) Neither i nor ii
(d) Both i and ii

2Q.

(i) Former Solicitor-General Gopal Subramanium has withdrawn his letter to the Supreme Court opting out as amicus curiae in the Padmanabha Swamy temple case.
(ii) Mr. Subramanium’s report on the condition of the temple and its assets in Thiruvananthapuram had created a storm.

Which of the above statement/statements is/are not true ?

(a) Only i
(b) Only ii
(c) Neither i nor ii
(d) Both i and ii

3Q.

(i) India recorded the highest number of suicides in Southeast Asia in 2012, says a report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva
(ii) Suicide by pesticide ingestion is among the most common methods employed globally and is of particular concern in rural areas in Southeast Asia.

Which of the above statement/statements is/are true ?

(a) Only i
(b) Only ii
(c) Neither i nor ii
(d) Both i and ii

4Q.

(i) President Pranab Mukherjee has cleared the appointment of Justice H.L. Dattu, the senior-most judge in the Supreme Court, as the 42nd Chief Justice of India.
(ii) Justice Dattu will become the Chief Justice of India after the retirement of CJI R.M. Lodha on September 27, 2014.

Which of the above statement/statements is/are true ?

(a) Only i
(b) Only ii
(c) Neither i nor ii
(d) Both i and ii

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