Weekly Current Affairs Update for IAS Exam VOL - 7 (13th January 2014 TO 19th January 2014)


Weekly Current Affairs Update for IAS Exam

VOL - 7 (13th January 2014 TO 19th January 2014)


Issue : VOL - 7 (13th January 2014 TO 19th January 2014)

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Covered Topics:


NATIONAL PORTAL OF INDIA

A GLINT OF INDIA

WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN INDIA

In 1972, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted a resolution with overwhelming enthusiasm creating thereby a 'Convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage'.

The main objectives were to define the World Heritage in both cultural and natural aspects; to enlist Sites and Monuments from the member countries which are of exceptional interest and universal value, the protection of which is the concern of all mankind; and to promote co-operation among all Nations and people to contribute for the protection of these universal treasures intact for future generations.

The List of recorded sites on the World Heritage now stands at 981 which include both cultural and natural wonders, and endowment that is shared by all mankind and the protection of which is the concern of the entire mankind. These include 759 cultural, 193 natural and 29 mixed properties in 137 state parties. India is an active member State on the World Heritage from 1977 and has been working in close co-operation with other International agencies like ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites), IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) and ICCROM (International Centre for the study of Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property).

There are 30 World Heritage Properties in India out of which 24 are Cultural Properties and 6 are Natural Properties.

Cultural Sites

  • Agra - Fort
  • Ajanta Caves
  • Ellora Caves
  • Agra - Taj Mahal
  • Group of Monuments Mahabalipuram
  • Konark - Sun Temple
  • Churches and Convents of Goa
  • Fatehpur Sikri
  • Group of Monuments at Hampi
  • Khajuraho Group of Monuments
  • Elephanta Caves

(Courtesy: NATIONAL PORTAL OF INDIA)

Ministry of External affairs

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit: pinnacle of India-Japan relations

  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be the chief guest at the Republic Day Parade this year, the first ever Japanese dignitary to grace the occasion.

  • New Delhi and Tokyo view Abe's visit to India, which comes a bit over a month and a half after the historic first ever visit to India of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, as pinnacle of India-Japan bilateral relations.

  • Cooperation between Asia's number two and three economies have never been as close across as wide a gamut of areas. These include trade, technology, energy and now increasingly even defence. Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera visited New Delhi earlier this month to discuss deepening of defence cooperation between India and Japan.

  • The visits of the Emperor and Empress, Japanese defence minister Onodera and the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Abe come at a juncture when Tokyo finds itself reviewing its approach to be more in tune with its current geo-strategic challenges. Abe has for long been a votary of strong India-Japan strategic ties.(Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the ceremonial reception at Rashtrapathi Bhawan during their visit to India in November-December 2013)

  • Japan continues to be the largest bilateral donor to India. The ODA (Official Development Assistance) has supported several infrastructure projects in India. Japan had cumulatively committed until March 2013 ODA of US $ 40 billion. Over 60 projects are being implemented under this assistance as of February 2013. These are in the power sector, transportation, shipping, railways, renewable energy, etc.

  • The recent visit of the Emperor and Empress was another historic moment in India-Japan relations. The couple reprised their visit to India made over five decades back. Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko's 1960 visit had acknowledged the strong hand of friendship that a newly independent India had extended towards Japan, already an economic powerhouse but recovering from the damage that World War II had wreaked on its economic and social life.

(Courtesy: Ministry of External affairs)

Planning Commission of India

Functions of Planning Commission

The 1950 resolution setting up the Planning Commission outlined its functions as to:

  • Make an assessment of the material, capital and human resources of the country, including technical personnel, and investigate the possibilities of augmenting such of these resources as are found to be deficient in relation to the nation’s requirement;

  • Formulate a Plan for the most effective and balanced utilization of country's resources;

  • On a determination of priorities, define the stages in which the Plan should be carried out and propose the allocation of resources for the due completion of each stage;

  • Indicate the factors which are tending to retard economic development, and determine the conditions which, in view of the current social and political situation, should be established for the successful execution of the Plan;

  • Determine the nature of the machinery which will be necessary for securing the successful implementation of each stage of the Plan in all its aspects;

  • Appraise from time to time the progress achieved in the execution of each stage of the Plan and recommend the adjustments of policy and measures that such appraisal may show to be necessary; and

  • Make such interim or ancillary recommendations as appear to it to be appropriate either for facilitating the discharge of the duties assigned to it, or on a consideration of prevailing economic conditions, current policies, measures and development programmes or on an examination of such specific problems as may be referred to it for advice by Central or State Governments.

(Courtesy: Planning Commission of India)

NATIONAL EVENTS

‘Nirbhaya’ card

  • To curb growing incidents of crime against women in trains, North-Central Railway is distributing ’Nirbhaya Card’, which has contacts of Railway Police and other helpline numbers inscribed on it.

  • The ATM-sized card is being distributed to all trains passing through Kanpur station, GRP sources said.

  • The card has numbers of Uttar Pradesh women’s helpline, GRP police control room, GRP Lucknow Control room as well as of police stations under North—Central Railway division.

  • If a woman faces harassment in the train, she can dial the numbers given on the card and lodge her complaint. A team of GRP police in the next station would come to her help.

Bill on quota for disabled

  • The government will table for passage in the upcoming Parliament session a new bill for the disabled persons that provides for five per cent reservation in public sector jobs.

  • Inaugurating ‘Samarth-2014’, a program organized by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment , UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi said the Disability Act of 1995 was being amended to meet the norms of the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

  • The Union Cabinet had approved last month the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill to replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995.

  • The bill covers a variety of issues relating to the disabled persons such as physical, mental and multiple disabilities.

New land policy for major ports

  • The Shipping Ministry unveiled the much-awaited land policy guidelines for 12 major ports in the country that will help them to undertake various development projects on a tender-cum-auction basis.

  • The new policy guidelines provides for a transparent mechanism for leasing and licensing of land in possession of major ports inside the custom bounded areas for short term licenses (from 11 months to five years) and outside the custom bounded areas on long term leases (for a maximum of 30 years).

  • Till recently, major ports were not permitted to allot lands on long term licenses or leases, whereas the minor ports were not having such problems.

  • Currently, the Chennai Port has 200 acres in custom bound area and can be allotted through the new method. Having exhausted the available land, the Ennore Port is in the process of acquiring 735 acres from the Salt department for expansion activities.

  • One of the salient features of the new policy states that the land can be allotted to government agencies, public sector undertakings and statutory authorities on nomination basis. It cannot be given to religious institutions or political institutions. The policy also provides guidelines for mortgages, sub-leases, transfer and right of way permissions.

INTERNATIONAL

Iran to open its nuclear program to daily inspection

  • Iran has agreed to limit uranium enrichment and to open its nuclear program to daily inspection by international experts starting Jan. 20, setting the clock running on a six-month deadline for a final nuclear agreement.

  • In exchange, the Islamic Republic will get a relaxation of the financial sanctions that have been crippling its economy.

  • Under an agreement, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment to 5 per cent the grade commonly used to power reactors. The deal also commits Iran to stop producing 20 per cent enriched uranium which is only a technical step away from weapons-grade material and to neutralize its 20 per cent stockpile over the six months.

  • In exchange, economic sanctions Iran faces would be eased for six months. During that time, the so-called P5+1 world powers Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States would continue negotiations with Iran on a permanent deal.

  • The West fears Iran’s nuclear program could allow it to build a nuclear bomb. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes, such as medical research and power generation.

Indonesian ore ban

  • With just months to go for general elections, Indonesia’s outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has taken one of his tenure’s most significant economic policy decisions, by banning exports of unprocessed mineral ore. The impact of this decision will roil global industries from aluminium to steel manufacturing.

  • Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of nickel ore, refined tin and thermal coal, and home to the fifth-largest copper mine and the top gold mine. Mineral shipments totalled $10.4 billion in 2012 according to the World Bank.

  • The reasoning behind the ban lies in an attempt to boost the domestic processing industries, by mandating that ores are processed locally before being exported. Despite having seen an average of 6 percent growth in recent years, Indonesia’s remains a largely commodities-driven economy and policy-makers are keen to try and kick start more high-value added, local manufacturing.

  • However, the move has been opposed by both domestic and foreign miners resulting in lay-offs and strikes in the mining sector. Officials are also worried that a short-term cut in foreign revenue could widen the current account deficit, which could further put pressure on the already battered, rupiah, the country’s currency.

  • Companies that build local smelters and process the ore domestically will still be allowed to export their products. However, the hundreds of small domestic miners that cannot afford to build a smelter, which can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, will be adversely impacted.

  • However, coal and tin shipments will not be affected. This is good news for India, since Indonesia supplied 75 percent of Indian imports of thermal coal in 2013.

  • Worst hit by the ban will probably be China. China imports close to a quarter of its bauxite – a raw ingredient for the production of aluminium — from Indonesia, and may force China to curtail some of its refining and smelting capacity. Again, halting exports of nickel ore would hurt the Chinese stainless steel industry, which accounts for almost 50% of the global output.

INDIA AND THE WORLD

India and South Korea

  • India and South Korea recently signed nine pacts aimed at imparting forward momentum to their bilateral ties that have seen intensification over the past four years.

  • During a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting South Korean President Park Geun-hye , India assured that work on the multi-billion-dollar Posco steel plant in Odisha would start very soon.

  • Agreement on the Protection of Classified Military Information between the two countries ,would boost defence engagement and take it beyond the purchase of South Korean defence equipment to an area where Seoul is strong — maintaining the sanctity of its land and maritime borders.

  • Another forward looking aspect was exploring the possibility of setting up a Korean Industrial Park in India.

  • The two sides also announced the conclusion of negotiations for revision of the existing Double Taxation Avoidance Convention.

  • On Posco, the Prime Minister also held out the promise of grant of mining concessions which are at an advanced stage of processing.

  • In Science and Technology, both countries will build on the experience of working on many practical projects financed through a $10 million Joint Fund by inking a MoU on Joint Applied Research. They also plan to step up collaboration in the peaceful uses of space science and technology.

  • Dr. Singh conveyed to Ms. Park his Government’s decision to extend a ‘tourist visa on arrival facility’ to South Korean nationals.

MI6 and Operation Bluestar

  • Former Research and Analysis Wing chief Girish Saxena initiated a series of meetings with the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6, in the build-up to Operation Blue Star.

  • The intelligence-sharing meetings, the sources said, were authorized by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and included at least one visit by a mid-ranking officer of the élite Special Air Service commando unit to frame an assault plan which would minimize civilian casualties.

  • The sources were responding to revelations that India and the U.K. cooperated on Operation Bluestar, which have led to a snowballing controversy in both countries.

  • In a February 23, 1984 letter, B.J.P. Fall, private secretary to British Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe, wrote that “Indian authorities recently sought British advice over a plan to remove Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.” “The Foreign Secretary decided to respond favourably to the Indian request and, with the Prime Minister’s agreement, an SAD [SAS] officer has visited India and drawn up a plan which has been approved by Mrs. Gandhi.”

ECONOMY

Inflation Drops in India

  • Indian shares rose after data showed inflation eased to a five-month low in December, raising hopes that the central bank won't raise interest rates at its next monetary policy review later this month.

  • The Bombay Stock Exchange's S&P BSE Sensex index closed 1.2% higher at 21,289.49 points while The National Stock Exchange's 50-share Nifty index closed up 1.3% at 6320.90 points.

  • Government data showed the wholesale price index, the country's main inflation gauge, rose 6.16% on year, slower than November's 7.52% increase. The reading was well below market expectations for a 6.90% increase, according to the median estimate in a poll of 17 economists by The Wall Street Journal.

  • The Reserve Bank of India had surprised markets by leaving interest rates unchanged at its last rate-setting meeting in December despite a sharp rise in inflation. It had said that it expected inflation to ease.

10 percent IOC stake sale

  • A panel of ministers has approved the sale of a 10 percent stake in state refiner Indian Oil Corp (IOC.NS) to two state exploration firms, a move that will help the cash-strapped government raise funds to narrow its budget deficit.

  • Oil and Natural Gas Corp Ltd (ONGC.NS) and Oil India Ltd (OILI.NS) will buy the stake. The deal will be through a block deal on the stock exchanges.

  • The government, which has a 79 percent stake in IOC, expects to garner between 48 billion to 50 billion rupees.

  • India's slowing economy and rising subsidies on food and fuels have pushed the government into a corner, with the fiscal deficit for the April-November period rising to $82.3 billion, or nearly 94 percent of the full-year target.

RBI reference rates

  • The Reserve Bank of India fixed the reference rate of rupee against U.S. dollar at 62.3800 and the euro at 85.2945 as against 61.9176 and 85.2692.
  • In a press release issued by RBI, the exchange rates for the pound and yen against the rupee were quoted at 102.1535 and 59.98 per 100 yen, based on reference rates for the dollar and cross-currency quotes.

SCIENCE AND TECH

Dinosaurs footprints in Jaisalmer

  • An International team of 34 scientists spotted the footprints of Dinosaurs at Thaiat village in Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan. At present, the team of scientists from a number of countries is camping in Jaisalmer to study the fossils of Dinosaurs found in sandy desert areas.

  • The research related to fossils is centered on the evolution, extinction and paleo-bio-genography of the dinosaurs. The team of scientists also includes scientists from India. It also includes scientists from France and Germany.

  • The first footprint discovered was only 5 cm long, the shape and name of the species has been called as Grallator (it is a specific name given to the footprint). The second footprint was about 30 cm long, which is three toed (tridactyl footprint) has been named as Eurontes Giganteus.

  • The team of scientists are on a visit to Rajasthan on the sidelines of the 9th International Congress on the Jurassic System, which is held between 6 to 9 January by the Department of Geology of University of Rajasthan.

RoboEarth

  • A world wide web for robots about to learn from each other and share information is being shown off for the very first time.
  • Scientists behind RoboEarth will put it through its paces at Eindhoven University in a mocked-up hospital room.Four robots will use the system to complete a series of tasks, including serving drinks to patients.
  • It is the culmination of a four-year project, funded by the European Union.
  • The cloud-based system will also mean that some of the robot's computing or thinking tasks can be offloaded, meaning that a robot wouldn't need so much onboard computing or battery power.
  • Robot assistants are likely to be available in homes within 10 years, experts believe.It is already possible to buy robot vacuum cleaners, robots that wash the windows and robot lawnmowers.
  • More humanoid robots, able to assist disabled or elderly people, are now being developed.
  • Author James Barrat, who has written extensively about the dangers of robots gaining their own intelligence, thinks there need to be safeguards.

ENVIRONMENT

Beijing air pollution

  • Beijing’s skyscrapers receded into a dense grey smog recently as the capital saw the season’s first wave of extremely dangerous pollution, with the concentration of toxic small particles registering more than two dozen times the level considered safe.

  • The air took on an acrid odor, and many of the city’s commuters wore industrial strength face masks as they hurried to work.

  • The city’s air quality is often poor, especially in winter when stagnant weather patterns combine with an increase in coal-burning to exacerbate other forms of pollution and create periods of heavy smog for days at a time. Particles of PM2.5 pollution marked the first ones of the season above 500 micrograms per cubic meter.

  • In December, dirty air gripped the coastal city of Shanghai and its neighboring provinces for days, with the density of PM 2.5 exceeding 600.

SPORTS

Manchester United to sell Wayne Rooney

  • Chelsea’s coach Jose Mourinho said that Manchester United will sell their ace striker Wayne Rooney this summer only to a club outside the Premier League, to a non-direct rival,
  • Chelsea bid twice for Rooney and there are strong indications that Mourinho still believes he can sign the player, who has just one further season of his contract left to run.
  • Mourinho later clarified that by non-direct rival he meant an overseas club.

Bharat Ratna for Tendulkar on Feb 4

  • Sachin Tendulkar will be conferred with the Bharat Ratna on February 4 at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi by President Pranab Mukherjee.
  • Tendulkar, who retired from international cricket on November 16 after an illustrious career spanning 24 years, is also a Member of Parliament in the Upper House. The Rashtrapati Bhawan announced the award for Tendulkar on the day he retired, making him the first sportsman get the honour.
  • Tendulkar, who called it a day after his historic 200th Test match will receive the award along with eminent scientist Professor CNR Rao. Many believed hockey legend Dhyanchand should have got the Bharat Ratna ahead of any other sportsman but when Tendulkar's name was announced, few disagreed on the historic nomination.
  • The last recipient of the Bharat Ratna was legendary musician Bhimsen Joshi back in 2009.

Serena Williams sets Australian mark

  • Serena Williams registered yet another record with match win No. 61 at the Australian Open as she advanced to the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Daniela Hantuchova.

  • Williams didn’t face any serious danger in her win over No. 31-seeded Hantuchova, whose only win in 10 head-to-head matches came in the corresponding round at the 2006 Australian Open.

  • She equaled Margaret Court’s Australian Open mark of 60 wins with her second-round victory, and beat that in the third round when she also matched Lindsay Davenport’s record of 69 main-draw matches here in the Open era.

IN THE NEWS (PERSONS)

Suchitra Sen

  • Suchitra Sen was in news recently as she breathed her last on 17th of January , 2014.

  • Much like her life after movies, the final journey of legendary actress Suchitra Sen too was a quiet affair with the administration taking measures honoring her wish of keeping her face away from public gaze.

  • The 'Mahanayika' remained virtually invisible to the public during the entire process.

  • Even her house was cordoned off with heavy deployment of security personnel and only a chosen few -- including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and a few of her ministerial colleagues besides the actress's family members -- could pay their last respects.

Sunanda Pushkar

  • Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development (HRD) Shashi Tharoor was found dead in her hotel room on 17th of Jan, 2014.
  • Her body was found in Room number 345 of the Leela Hotel in the capital, and the Delhi Police Commissioner has ordered an inquiry into this matter.
  • Postmortem , confirmed that Sunanda died of 'poisoning'. But whether the poisoning was accidental, suicidal or homicidal was still not clear.

Selected Editorials of Importance

Opportunity lost

Now that the Lok Sabha election is only months away, the UPA is working hard to fulfil an old promise. The minority affairs ministry has moved a cabinet note to put in place an Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), but one that confines itself to the limited concerns of religious minorities. The EOC was indeed born out of a recommendation by the Sachar committee, which mapped the realities of Muslim social and economic deprivation and suggested that a commission be formed to combat discrimination against all disadvantaged groups, to make sure that education, employment, housing and other domains reflected the diversity of our population. The EOC, as conceived by the Sachar committee, was intended as a body to uphold social equality and mobility, to fold together the concerns of anti-discrimination and diversity in a single mechanism, as is the practice in other countries like the US, South Africa, Canada and the EU. It was meant to counter institutional bias, whether on the basis of age, gender, caste, ethnicity, linguistic identity or sexual orientation.

That plan was undercut by ministerial turf wars, with the minority affairs ministry finally taking it over. Then, given that India already has several group-specific commissions for women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, minorities etc, it was feared the EOC would displace these bodies, or overlap with their functions. Of course, this could have been resolved in one of several ways. India could have replicated the UK’s experience in 2007, when existing commissions were merged into the EOC — a route that would call for a constitutional amendment. Or it could have allowed the EOC to work alongside the commissions, with a wider mandate, and work out a system of institutional collaboration. Or existing commissions could have been allowed to fade away after an allotted period, and their functions could be absorbed by the new EOC.

But instead of demarcating their duties and making sure the EOC remained true to its spirit, a group of ministers decided, in 2010, to limit its ambit to religious minorities. Perhaps it was perceived as politically useful to keep aggrieved constituencies separate, and to foreground identity issues, than to serve them all with a competent and focused equality commission. Given that a minorities commission already exists, this new body seems superfluous. The EOC as conceived by the UPA betrays the felt need for an equal opportunities legislation, one that will provide legal deterrence against discrimination for every citizen. It also gives the opposition a handy tool to oppose the very concept, and deny the real systemic injustice experienced by these groups.

(Courtesy: The Indian Express)

MCQs

Q1.

i) World Health Organization (WHO) will certify India as polio-free on February 11 and it has completed three years without reporting any case of polio.
ii) It is the first time in the history that a disease is being eliminated in India through immunization .

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

Q2.

i) India has bypassed Japan to become the world’s third largest Internet user after China and the United States.
ii) The country's first hospital for fish will come up in Tamil Nadu.

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

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

Q3.

i) To curb growing incidents of crime against women in trains, North-Central Railway is distributing ’Nirbhaya Card’, which has contacts of Railway Police and other helpline numbers inscribed on it.
ii) ‘Modi for PM fund’ is a drive for donation launched by Congress .

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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