Weekly Current Affairs Update for IAS Exam VOL - 5 (30th December 2013 TO 5th January 2014)

Weekly Current Affairs Update for IAS Exam

VOL - 5 (30th December 2013 TO 5th January 2014)

Issue : VOL - 5 (30th December 2013 TO 5th January 2014)


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Covered Topics:



Achievements of the Ministry of Social Justice& Empowerment during 2013: PIB

The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (Department of Social Justice & Empowerment) is entrusted with the empowerment of the disadvantaged and marginalized sections of the society. The Target groups of the Department are: (i) Scheduled Castes, (ii) Other Backward Classes, (iii) Senior Citizens and (iv) Victims of Substance Abuse.

In 2013, many initiatives were taken to empower these weaker sections. The following are the initiatives:

  • Revision in the Scheme of Post Metric Scholarship for the Scheduled Castes Students
  • Scheme of Top Class Education for Scheduled Caste Students: Inclusion of New Institutions
  • Elimination of Manual Scavenging: New law for prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their rehabilitation
  • The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2012


Ministry of External affairs

The Commonwealth: Old Links, New Ties

  • The Commonwealth has its roots in the colonial paradigm of the 19th Century. The first Conference of British and colonial prime ministers was held in 1887, and periodically thereafter. It later led to the founding of the Imperial Conferences in 1911 and the association was named the British Commonwealth in the 1920s. At the time it was a consultative group of the six 'white' self-governing dominions of the British Empire - the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland. Owing allegiance to the British Crown was a prerequisite for a membership.
  • The late-1940s with colonies like India gaining independence could have led to the demise of the association, or the restriction of its members to the mono-ethnic white only Anglo-Saxon association. At one point in time in 1948 this indeed looked a distinct possibility when British politicians allowed republican Ireland to walk out of the British Commonwealth as the latter demanded a change in the organization's basic tenet regarding allegiance to the crown. The British Commonwealth refused Burma entry after it declared itself a republic. Myanmar is the only former British colony that is still not a member of the Commonwealth.

(Courtesy: Ministry of External affairs)

Planning Commission of India

Science & Technology

  • Since Independence, India has endeavored to bring economic and social change through science and technology. The effort has been both on upgrading the traditional skills to make them relevant and competitive and developing advanced capabilities in frontier areas of science and technology. The visionaries who led the growth of science and technology (S&T) in India were convinced that S&T could play an important role in transforming India in to a modern, industrialized society. Experience and results show that this confidence was well placed. Science, technology, and innovation are even more relevant today. Scientific knowledge and expertise, innovation, high technology, industrial infrastructure and skilled workforce are the currencies of this new era. Science and Technology are important drivers of economic growth and development in the contemporary world. The present juncture is critical for Indian science and major positive steps in this area will help the country to achieve sustained and rapid growth in the future.

  • The Science and Technology Division of the Planning Commission is the nodal division for all matters relating to Science and Technology Plan formulation ( both Five Year Plans and Annual Plans) and appraisal of the S&T programs of six major S&T agencies/Departments, viz.

(Courtesy: Planning Commission of India)


Adarsh scam

  • In a change of stand, the Maharashtra government has now decided to "partially accept" the findings of a judicial commission that probed the Adarsh Housing society scam and indicted four former Congress chief ministers in the state.

  • Last month, the state government had said it would not accept the report that concluded that four former chief ministers - Ashok Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar and Sushil Kumar Shinde (who is now the Union Home Minister) - had endowed Adarsh with illicit "political patronage."

  • Following the rejection, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had said that he disagreed with the decision of the state government headed by his party's Prithviraj Chavan.

  • The Adarsh Housing Society was granted land in 2002 for apartments intended for war widows and veterans. However, politicians, bureaucrats and defence officers colluded to grab flats at cheap prices.

Mobile internet users in India

  • The number of mobile internet users is going to reach 155 million in India by the end of March 2014, and 185 million by June, maintaining a quarter-on-quarter (Q-o-Q) growth of 20 per cent, according to a report released by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and market research firm IMRB International.

  • Urban India will continue to account for a large percentage of the mobile internet users and is expected to reach 126 million by March 2014 and touch 153 million users by June, accounting for over 82 per cent of the total mobile internet users. In comparison, the number of mobile internet users in rural India will register an impressive 50 per cent growth to reach 32 million by June 2014.

  • Interestingly, across both urban and rural India, over 50 per cent of the active internet users are accessing internet on their mobile, apart from other sources, indicating that there has been a huge uptake in consumption of the mobile internet medium.

  • 35 per cent of the mobile internet users are spending between Rs 100 and Rs 500 monthly on their phone expenses. In addition, 9 per cent are spending over Rs 500 and just 6 per cent of the users are spending less than Rs 100 every month.


World's first state-licensed marijuana retailers

  • The world's first state-licensed marijuana retailers legally permitted to sell pot for recreational use opened for business in Colorado with long lines of customers, marking a new chapter in America's drug culture.
  • Roughly three dozen former medical marijuana dispensaries newly cleared by state regulators to sell pot to consumers interested in nothing more than its mind- and mood-altering properties began welcoming customers as early as 8 a.m. MST (1500 GMT).
  • Hundreds of patrons, some from distant states and many huddling outside in the bitter cold and snow for hours, cued up to be among the first buyers.
  • The highly-anticipated New Year's Day opening launched an unprecedented commercial cannabis market that Colorado officials expect will ultimately gross $578 million in annual revenues, including $67 million in tax receipts for the state.
  • Possession, cultivation and private personal consumption of marijuana by adults for the sake of just getting high has already been legal in Colorado for more than a year under a state constitutional amendment approved by voters.
  • Even in the Netherlands, where some coffee shops and nightclubs are widely known to sell cannabis products with the informal consent of authorities, back-end distribution of the drug to those businesses remains illegal.

World record with Dubai New Year fireworks

  • Dubai has ushered in 2014 with more than half a million fireworks spectacle, breaking the world record for the largest such display ever, according to Guinness World records.
  • Ten months in planning, over 500,000 fireworks were used during the display on the New Year’s Eve which lasted around six minutes, with Guinness adjudicators on hand to confirm that a new record had been set.
  • Covering a distance of over 90 km of the city’s seafront, the display incorporated some of Dubai’s top landmarks, including Palm Jumeirah, World Islands, the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab.
  • The spectacle’s final salvo of fireworks created an artificial “sunrise” along the seafront, with the highest fireworks reaching more than one km in height.
  • Organizers had been aiming to beat a record set in 2012 during a display to mark Kuwait’s golden jubilee anniversary which saw a total of 77,282 fireworks launched.


India and South Sudan’s ground assessment

  • India will conduct an on-ground assessment of its interests in South Sudan, especially the well being of its 2,000 soldiers who are part of a United Nations stablisation team. The Indian Army contingent had lost three men after its camp was overrun in the ongoing ethnic strife. In an earlier ambush in April last year, four Indian soldiers and an officer were shot dead in an ambush.

  • The Indian Army contingent had to be evacuated by air and the situation is considered so delicate that New Delhi has sent back a senior army officer to serve an unusual second term as the deputy chief of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) because of his knowledge of the land.


Banks allowed to lend against gold jewellery

  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has allowed banks to sanction loans of up to Rs 1 lakh against pledge of gold ornaments and jewellery.

  • "In response to suggestions from banks and with a view to ensuring a level playing field among various market participants, it has been decided to permit bullet repayment of loans extended against pledge of gold ornaments and jewellery for other than agricultural purposes...," RBI said in a notification.

  • Bullet repayment means a lump sum payment for the entire loan amount paid at the time of maturity.

  • The RBI in May had imposed restrictions on banks and NBFCs for providing loans against gold coins as well as units of gold ETFs and mutual funds.

  • Also banks were asked to ensure that the amount of loan to any customer against gold ornaments, gold jewellery and gold coins (weighing up to 50 grams) should be within the board approved limit.

  • As per today's RBI notification, the period of the loan should not exceed 12 months from the date of sanction.

Discovery-recognition norms

  • Amid disputes over recognition of oil and gas finds, the Oil Ministry has formed a panel headed by the Director General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) to codify globally recognized industry practices for adoption in India.

  • Though Production Sharing Contracts prescribe the adoption of generally accepted international petroleum practices or standards, there have been disputes between the DGH and operators such as Reliance Industries over tests that should be carried out to confirm discoveries.

  • Many gas finds have not been recognized and could not be put into production because the DGH insists on a test that companies such as RIL and BP Plc of UK did not conduct because it is considered unsafe globally and no longer practiced.

  • The Oil Ministry issued an order forming a ’Standing Committee on Petroleum Industry Practices’ under the DGH. The nine—member panel will “identify the areas requiring codification of GIPIP (Good International Petroleum Industry Practices).”


Mangroves in Florida

  • Adding to the growing evidence of climate change-induced poleward migration and/or expansion of many fish and terrestrial plant species, a paper published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal has found a massive expansion of mangroves in Florida. The expansion has been to an extent of more than 3,000 acres over a 28-year period — 1984 to 2011.

  • By default, mangroves are restricted to the tropical areas as they cannot tolerate the extreme cold events that are so very typical of the temperate zone. Therefore, the massive expansion of mangroves in the temperate zone of Florida during

  • While there was an increase in the mangrove coverage north of this latitude, there was “little or small decrease” in the area south of this latitude. The increase in mangrove coverage north of 26.7 degree N was about 4,200 acres; the area south of this latitude had reduced by about 1,164 acres.

  • The region north of 26.75 degree N latitude had registered an increase in coverage as there was a “significant decrease” in the frequency of extreme cold events during the last three decades, they note. Such extreme cold events are “rare or nonexistent” in the region south of this latitude.

  • The impact of extreme cold event (days colder than -4 degree C) has been well documented by the hard-free winter of 1989 to 1990 — the cold event decreased the mangrove area. It took about nine years for the mangroves to reach the pre-1989 levels.

  • Unlike terrestrial plants, a change in the type of vegetation cover would be relatively rapid in the case of mangroves as water is far superior to wind and animals in dispersing plants.


National sports award and it’s new criteria

  • After courting controversy during the selection of sportspersons for the National sports awards last year, the Union Sports Ministry has finalised a new set of criteria to make the selection process more transparent.

  • The Ministry has formulated a points-based system under which 90 per cent weightage will be given to sportspersons who have won medals in various international events in disciplines belonging to the Olympic Games (summer, winter and paralympics), Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.

  • Points to be awarded for performances during the past four years will be calculated as per the following format: World Championship/World Cup [once in four years] (gold: 40 points, silver: 30, bronze: 20); Asian Games (30, 25, 20); Commonwealth Games, World Championship/World Cup [biennial/annual] (25, 20, 15); Asian championship, Commonwealth championship (15, 10, 7).

  • For performances in any other sports event other than the above-mentioned competitions, the selection committee will decide on the points to be awarded to a sportsperson.

  • According to the new criteria, medal winners in the Olympics and Paralympics will automatically be considered for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna or Arjuna awards (depending on the type of medal won).

  • For cricket and indigenous games, which are not included in the Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, the selection committee will recommend the number of awards (not exceeding two).

India to host first Wimbledon tennis event

  • Former Great Britain No.1 Tim Henman will be in India to spearhead a new initiative aimed at boosting the development of junior tennis in the country. India will host the first Wimbledon tennis event outside the UK as 11-time-Tour winner Henman will be in Delhi and Mumbai later this month to launch ‘The Road to Wimbledon’ with a series of coaching clinics and events offering local children the chance to play at Wimbledon next August.

  • The clinics are part of two Under-14 National singles events in Delhi (RK Khanna Tennis Centre) and Mumbai (MSLTA Tennis Centre). The top sixteen boys and girls from these two events are invited to the Wimbledon Foundation Junior Masters in Delhi in April with the two boys and two girls finalists invited to compete in the UK HSBC National Finals on the grass at Wimbledon.

  • Henman, who kick-started his career in India in 1994 with three successive tournament wins on the Indian satellite circuit, will be joined by All England Club Head Coach Dan Bloxham, for the activity in Delhi and Mumbai between January 6-14.


Hand-holding couples' skeletons from Bronze Age

  • Archaeologists have discovered mysterious 3,500-year-old Bronze Age graves in Siberia, where male and female skeletons are buried facing each other and holding hands.
  • Dozens of the ancient burials in Staryi Tartas village, in Novosibirsk region, contain the bones of couples, facing each other, some with their hands held together.
  • Archaeologists hope that modern genetic tools and DNA tests will help shed some light in the next few years.
  • Establishing genetic links between the bodies might help them understand why they were buried together.
  • A number of theories have been fielded about these Andronovo burials. One such theory is that after the man died, his wife was killed and buried with him.
  • Another version suggests that some of the couples were deliberately buried as if in a sexual act, possibly with a young woman sacrificed to play this role in the grave.
  • One more theory is that, between 17th and 14th century BC, couples were probably buried together to emphasise the importance of nuclear families as a unit, even in death, so they demonstrate the importance attached by these ancient people to this form of relationship.


Rakhi Birla

  • At an age when most youngsters struggle to find their feet, 26-year-old Rakhi Birla is not just the youngest minister in Arvind Kejriwal’s cabinet, but also its only woman face.

  • Ms. Birla had emerged as a giant killer after thumping four-time MLA and PWD Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan in the Sheila Dikshit government in Mangolpuri by around 10,500 votes.

  • Before joining AAP, She had worked with a private news channel. She had also been working in collaboration with social organisations for the cause of the Valmiki community.

  • Ms. Birla hails from the Valmiki community and her father was associated with the Congress for a long time but quit the party in 2011 during the Janlokpal movement.

  • When AAP was formed, she joined the party and fought elections from her home turf, where she registered one of the biggest upsets of these elections by thumping Mr. Chauhan who was considered invincible from the reserved constituency.

Arup Raha

  • The new Air chief Arup is an experienced Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI) holding ‘A2’ instructional category and had been commissioned into the Flying Branch in December 1974.
  • Air Chief Marshal Raha said in-depth knowledge, proficiency and professional competence to harness the potential of new equipment would provide the necessary cutting edge in discharging the onerous tasks before the IAF.
  • Mr. Raha, who has clocked nearly 3,400 hours of flying, mainly on fighter aircraft, is an alumnus of Defence Services Staff College and the National Defence College and has held many operational assignments such as Command of a MiG-29 Squadron, Bhatinda in Punjab during ‘OP PARAKRAM’.
  • He had taken over as the Vice Chief of the Air Staff (VCAS) on July 1, 2013.

Selected Editorials of Importance

Overcoming cynicism

India's great churning will continue in the coming year. There is new momentum towards change. The momentum will be most manifest in glimpses of a new institutional order that is coming into being. India's progressive moment is now beginning to find its feet, with a clamour for a governance architecture that is more horizontal, transparent, decentralised, based on public reason and allows for new political formations to emerge. This process will continue. The flotsam of the old order will continue to be visible, and will often disguise the new undercurrents forming. More poison may come out of the system as partisan competition intensifies. But amid all the high-decibel exchanges, a quiet revolution will continue.

But the revolution will be most palpable in a subtle reorientation of attitudes. The most besetting sin of Indian democracy over the last couple of years has been its corrosive cynicism. It was a cynical democracy with much to be cynical about. But the cynicism had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Few believed anything could change, so little changed. There were no texts, there were only subtexts. Virtue was nothing but deception. We converted it into such an art form that there was cynicism about everything that pretended to be anything other than cynicism.

The cynicism was compounded by what Amartya Sen has made India's badge of self-identification: the argumentative Indian. We thought arguing was generally a good thing, since it denoted a kind of freedom and engagement with learning. But we forgot the other side. An argumentative person is someone who goes on arguing, well after the matter has been settled. Much of our public argument had this character. It was not argument in the interest of learning; it was argument in the interest of going on and on. Few who came to the argument were open to being persuaded, few were open to any possibilities other than what they had already committed to.

(Courtesy: Indian express)



i) P. Sathasivam is the first person from Tamil Nadu to have become Chief Justice of Supreme Court post India’s independence in 1947.
ii) The court this year allowed the Election Commission to use Viable Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail in the EVMs in phases to ensure transparency in the voting process.

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

a) only i
b) only ii
c) both i and ii
d) neither i nor ii


i) Nanavati Commission, has been probing the 2002 post-Godhra riots and has been given extension for the twenty-first time till June , 2014 by the Gujarat government.
ii) Dundiakhera “treasure hunt” fiasco took place in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh for which Archaeological Survey of India has been severely criticized till date.

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

a) only i
b) only ii
c) both i and ii
d) neither i nor ii


i) Dubai has ushered in 2014 with more than half a million fireworks spectacle, breaking the world record for the largest such display ever,as per Guinness World records.
ii) Vietnam received a diesel powered submarine named Hanoi from US recently.

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

a) only i
b) only ii
c) both i and ii
d) neither i nor ii

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