Weekly Current Affairs Update for IAS Exam VOL. - 99 (22nd October 2015 TO 29th October 2015)

Weekly Current Affairs Update for IAS Exam

VOL. - 99 (22nd October 2015 TO 29th October 2015)

Issue : VOL. - 99 (22nd October 2015 TO 29th October 2015)


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:: News from PIB & Various Sources ::

First-ever Hindi Atlas book on Mars Mission released 

The Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh released the first-ever Hindi Atlas Book on “Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) in New Delhi today. He released this book on the occasion of the first meeting of reconstituted “Joint Hindi Salahkar Samiti” of the Department of Space and Department of Atomic Energy. 

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Jitendra Singh said that during the last 18 months, as a result of active impetus and encouragement from Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, India’s Space Programme has registered some of the unprecedented and landmark achievements which have placed India as a frontline nation in the world. Incidentally however, he said, even though India’s achievements in Space missions are being appreciated the world over, Hindi language can serve as a medium for spreading further awareness within the country about recent Space missions, particularly the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM. MOM is totally indigenous, living up to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” initiative and has also, at the same time, provided useful information which is being shared by even the most advanced nations of the world. 

Dr. Jitendra Singh appreciated the efforts of both the Department of Space as well as Department of Atomic Energy for coming up with literature including periodicals and booklets in Hindi for popularizing various projects and programmes undertaken by them. He suggested that in future, the Hindi scholars, who are non-official members of “Hindi Salahkar Samiti”, will be more closely associated with the day to day activities of both the departments, so that use of Hindi becomes a natural style of working in these departments. 

In the years to come, Dr. Jitendra Singh said, as India’s Space technology and Atomic Energy programmes attract more and more scientific researchers from other parts of the world, the use of Hindi language among the native scientists will also become a motivation for foreign scientists to pick up working Hindi for easier communication with their Indian counterparts. In addition, he said, promotion of Hindi as a medium of instruction in scientific departments like Space technology and Atomic Energy, will also provide the best of the young scientific minds in India, an opportunity to contribute their talent even if they do not possess the knowledge of English language. 

Shri A.S. Kiran Kumar, Secretary, Department of Space and Chairman, Space Commission and Chairman, ISRO and Dr Sekhar Basu, Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy and Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission and senior scientists from both the departments and learned scholars of Hindi were also present on the occasion. 

Increase of Financial Assistance under the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN) 

To further ease access to financial assistance under Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN), the Government has decided to enhance the financial powers delegated to designated Central Government hospitals/institutes from Rs. 2 lakh to Rs. 5 lakh for providing financial assistance in cases where emergency surgery is to be conducted. 

The RAN was set up in 1997 to provide financial assistance to patients, living below poverty line prescribed from time to time and who are suffering from major life threatening diseases related to heart, liver, kidney and cancer cases, etc., to receive medical treatment at any of the super specialty Government hospitals / institutes or other Government hospitals. Revolving Funds have been set up in 12 Central Government hospitals/institutes and amount up to Rs. 50 lakh is placed at their disposal for providing financial assistance. Details are available in the website of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Accordingly only cases for financial assistance beyond Rs. 5 lakh would now be required to be referred to Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. 

For patients suffering from life threatening diseases, where time is a premium, this would facilitate commencement of treatment of poor patients found prima facie eligible for assistance under the Scheme by these hospitals/institutions. This would also enable to curtail the procedural delay for treatment, which would bring relief to thousands of patients annually. 

The Government also provides financial assistance through the Health Minister’s Cancer Patient Fund (HMCPF) set up for providing financial assistance to the poor patients suffering from cancer having treatment in 27 Regional Cancer Centres (RCC). Financial assistance is also available under the Health Minister’s Discretionary Grant (HMDG) to patients having family annual income up to Rs.1,00,000/- and below to defray a part of the expenditure on hospitalization/treatment in Government Hospitals, in cases where free medical facilities are not available. 

BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa Science and Technology Ministers Meet in Russia for Strengthening Mutual Cooperation 

The Minister for Science, Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan is leading an Indian delegation to the 3rd BRICS Ministerial Meeting on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) being held at Moscow, Russia on 27-28 October, 2015. 

The Conference will discuss sharing and exchange of information on STI polices & strategies. Issues relating to formulation of joint long term problem- focused programmes and central modalities for cooperation will come up during the two day meeting. 

BRICS R&D priorities, Innovation cooperation within BRICS, a Work Plan for next three years (2015-2018) on Science, Technology and Innovation for cooperation among BRICS countries were discussed today. Discussions also took place on Moscow Ministerial Declaration to be made at the meeting. 

Earlier the five (5) BRICS countries have identified thematic areas and leadership to be taken by each of these countries in an area as: (i) climate change and natural disaster mitigation led by Brazil; (b) water resources and pollution led by Russia; (iii) geospatial technologies and its applications lead by India; (iv) new and renewable energy and energy efficiency led by China; and (v) astronomy led by South Africa. 

Each country has given a brief report on activities on these five thematic leadership areas at the meeting today. 

India’s proposal on geospatial technologies envisages development of Geo-spatial Technologies and Applications for operationalising, maintaining and utilising National Level Geographical Information Systems. Potential areas of collaboration could be National Mapping and National GIS Applications, Earth Observation Applications, Land Information System, Institutional Mechanism and Capacity Building, and Industry Engagements. Further, it aims at leveraging BRICS countries competencies such as China’s Cloud Computing expertise in data sharing during disaster management, Russia’s Spatial data processing and standardization capability; Brazil Model of Regional SDI platform for data sharing among South American countries. 

Under their thematic leadership Brazil has organized a BRICS Workshop on Climate Change Prediction, and mitigation of Natural Disasters on May 7-8, 2014 and provided a statement of recommendations in the field. 
China organised the Solid State Lighting workshop and the SSL- Working Group meeting on Nov 8-9, 2014 in Guangzhou, China. India participated in the meeting where the BRICS countries shared the status of Solid State Lighting (SSL) in their countries and India showed interest to be part of the SSL project. 

Earlier, a BRICS MoU on STI Cooperation was also signed during the 2nd BRICS STI Ministerial Meeting at Brasilia, Brazil during March 2015. The MoU seeks to institutionalize the BRICS STI cooperation and to (i) Strengthen cooperation in STI, (ii) address common global and regional socio-economic challenges utilizing shared experiences and complementarities (iii) co-generate new knowledge and products, services and processes utilizing appropriate funding and investment instruments and (iv) promote joint BRICS partnership with other strategic actors in the developing world. 

A new initiative ‘A BRICS Young Scientists Forum’ has also been conceived to create a platform for young bright talented students of science and engineering. India will host 1st BRICS Young Scientist Conclave in 2016 and it made a presentation on this issue today. 

:: National News ::

Sedition charge Arun Jaitley for slamming SC’s NJAC ruling

  • A UP court has slapped sedition charges on finance minister Arun Jaitley for criticizing the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) for selection of judges to the higher judiciary. 

  • Taking suo motu cognizance of Jaitley’s criticism of the verdict, civil judge of Mahoba in Jhansi district Ankit Goel summoned him to be present before him on November 19.

  • Goel had earlier issued summons against SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav for his purported comment that allegations of gang rape could often be fabricated. 

  • The judge in his order said the finance minister’s blog ‘Indian democracy cannot be a tyranny of the unelected’ prima facie amounted to sedition under Section 124A as well as causing public mischief under Section 505 of Indian Penal Code.

  • The court said under Section 190 of Criminal Procedure Code, it was entitled to take cognizance of the statements which were published in various newspapers. 

  • Several people, including constitutional experts, have criticized the verdict of the apex court which on October 16 quashed the NJAC Act and revived the two-decade-old collegium system for appointment of judges.  The finance minister, writing in his personal capacity, had held that the SC’s verdict striking down the 99th constitutional amendment to turn the appointment of judges into an exclusive prerogative of judiciary was tantamount to rewriting the Constitution. 

Andhra Pradesh’s new capital Amaravati

  • The foundation stone laying ceremony for the new Amaravati city, the greenfield capital of Andhra Pradesh, was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with AP chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and other dignitaries.

  • Uddandararayunipalem of Thullur mandal in Guntur district is the home of Navyandhrapradesh, built across a green belt which is claimed to be the largest fertile land in the country.

  • Union ministers M Venkaiah Naidu, Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Nirmala Sitaraman, AP and Telangana Governor ESL Narasimhan and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao were among those present on the occasion.

  • The Singapore government has prepared the master plans for the three-layered capital – seed capital, capital city and capital region.

  • Modi also promised support for the development of new state as promised in the AP Reorganisation Act which includes special assistance.

  • The city boasts a 17-km-long waterfront and is strategically placed between Guntur and Vijayawada.

  • The village is located about 40 kms from Vijayawada which is the commercial hub of the state.

  • Amidst mixed feelings of ownership and wailings by farmers who gave up their land for the capital formation, Amaravati is expected to have over 3.5 million jobs for 11 million people by 2035.

  • The greenfield capital region is expected to cater to population of about 14 million by 2050. In the next one decade, the new capital is expected to host over four million population and 1.8 million jobs.

  • It is expected to become a  smart, green city on about 54,000 acres of 217.23 sqkm of land assembled, which is also a first time in the country such a large extent of land is pooled in a span of 60 days.

  • Post bifurcation, Andhra Pradesh has signed memorandum of understandings (MoUs) with industries for over Rs 1.2 lakh crore investments with 1.2 lakh jobs.

  • These include 18 MoUs for investing Rs 79034 crore in all sectors such as oil refinery, electronic, automobile, cements, textile, among other industrial hub.

:: International News ::

Arab proposal over Western Wall stirs new concern

  • Senior U.N. officials have objected to a proposal by some Arab states to classify the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, as part of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, following angry denunciations by Israel and many Jewish-American groups.

  • The proposal is contained in a draft resolution to the executive board of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The agency formally designates cultural treasures around the world.

  • The proposal to UNESCO has emerged at a time when deadly violence between Israelis and Palestinians has been flaring over the holy site, known as the Temple Mount to Jews and Noble Sanctuary to Muslims.

  • New clashes erupted on Tuesday that left at least four Palestinians fatally shot.

  • The UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova, expressed her objection to the resolution on Tuesday in a stern statement, saying it “could be seen to alter the status of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls”.

  • The Western Wall, as part of the Old City of Jerusalem, is a UNESCO World Heritage site adjacent to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, and its protection is central to the UNESCO mandate.

  • A U.N. diplomat said the draft, which is being discussed by UNESCO’s executive board, made up of envoys from 58 countries, had been proposed by six of the agency’s Arab members: Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the UAE.

Russia to station military unit in the Arctic by 2018

  • A Russian military unit will be permanently stationed in the Arctic by 2018, the defense minister said on Thursday.

  • Sergei Shoigu told Russian news agencies on Thursday that the “creation and arming” of the Arctic military unit should be completed by 2018. Shoigu also said Russia is building several new bases in the Arctic as well as rebuilding six Soviet-era air bases there.

  • “We are not hiding this from anyone: we are have practically finished building bases on the Novosibirsk Archipelago and on Kotelny island,” Shoigu said, adding that modern military technology was “necessary for guarding borders” in the Arctic.

  • The Kremlin announced its intentions to bring its military to the Arctic in 2008 but has yet to station troops there.

  • In tandem with the military expansion, Russia is building the Yamal LNG plant in the Ob River estuary in collaboration with the French energy company Total. It will produce gas, liquefy it and ship it to European and Asian markets.

:: India & The World ::

Indo-Canadians win big as Liberals sweep to power

  • Newly elected Canadian MP Chandra Arya is a “newbie” in more ways than one. Not only is he a new MP, this tech-entrepreneur joined politics recently, and moved to Canada only 12 years ago. Mr. Arya has been elected from Ottawa along with 19 other Indo-Canadians in the parliamentary elections, one of 18 Liberal candidates who swept to power on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wave.

  • “My constituency has never elected a south Asian before, and Liberals haven’t won it for years,” he told The Hindu over telephone from Ottawa shortly after his win, adding, “It shows how everyone has a chance here.”

  • When asked if he had ever considered politics while he lived in India, Mr. Arya, who grew up in Bengaluru and was educated at Karnatak University and Bangalore University, before heading several ventures, demurs from answering.

Japan offers soft loan for bullet trains

  • In a bid to surpass competition from China and other countries keen to be part of the first bullet train project, Japan has offered financial support besides technology for India’s ambitious rail project. 
  • Japan has offered to finance Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail corridor estimated to cost about Rs 90,000 crore at an interest rate of less than one per cent, sources in Railway Ministry said. 
  • Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in its report submitted to the Railway Ministry has envisaged a reduction in the travel time on the 505-km long corridor between the two western cities to two hours from the existing period of over seven hours. 
  • The bullet train is expected to run at speeds of around 300-350 km/hour. 
  • Though there are many countries offering the high-speed technology for the bullet train project, it is Japan which is offering both technology and funding together, they said. 

:: Business and Economy ::

Petronet pays hefty demurrage as PSUs refuse costly gas import

  • Petronet LNG Ltd, India’s biggest liquefied natural gas importer, is shelling out Rs 400 crore every quarter in demurrage charges for ships idling because of its PSU buyers refusing to buy expensive imported gas. 

  • The company is taking only 68 per cent of the volumes it agreed to in 25-year contracts with RasGas of Qatar after a slump in global energy prices led to gas being available in spot or current market a roughly half that rate. 

  • State-owned GAIL India Ltd, Indian Oil Corp (IOC) and Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) have committed to buy all of the 7.5 million tonne a year of LNG Petronet is to import from Qatar.

  • But with slump in global prices, they have opted to buy gas from spot market rather than use the long-term LNG, senior officials said. 

  • The reduced offtake by the buyers forced Petronet to cut its purchase from RasGas. This resulted in idling of three cryogenic ships it had chartered hired for ferrying gas in its liquid form at sub-zero temperatures from Qatar to its import terminal at Dahej in Gujarat. 

RBI issues gold deposit norms

  • The Reserve Bank of India on Thursday issued guidelines for the Gold Monetisation Scheme that allow banks to fix their own interest rates on gold deposits.
  • The RBI notification in this regard comes ahead of the formal launch of the scheme by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 5 November.
  • The gold deposit scheme is aimed at mobilising part of an estimated 20,000 tonnes of idle precious metal with households and institutions.
  • As per the guidelines, banks will be free to set interest rate on such deposit, and principal and interest of the deposit will be denominated in gold.
  • The interest will be credited in the deposit accounts on the respective due dates and will be withdrawable periodically or at maturity as per the terms of the deposit, it said.
  • “The designated banks will accept gold deposits under the Short Term (1-3 years) Bank Deposit (STBD) as well as Medium (5-7 years) and Long (12-15 years) Term Government Deposit Schemes.
  • While the former will be accepted by banks on their own account, the latter will be on behalf of Government of India,” it said.
  • The short term bank deposits will attract applicable cash reserve ratio (CRR) and statutory liquidity ratio (SLR), it said.
  • However, it said, the stock of gold mobilised under the scheme by banks will count towards the general SLR requirement, a move that will provide additional capital to banks for lending towards productive sectors.
  • The CRR is the portion of the total deposits, which has to be kept with RBI in cash, while SLR is the portion of deposit compulsorily parked in government securities.

Sensex Poised for Strong Start as ECB Hints At More Stimulus

  • BSE Sensex and Nifty are set for strong start , tracking a global rally after European Central Bank said that it is studying new stimulus measures that could be unveiled as soon as December. The SGX CNX Nifty traded 89 points higher at 8,335.

Here are the latest developments:

1) The European Central Bank on Thursday signalled its readiness to inject more stimulus, spurring a global rally.
2) Analysts say the stimulus measures, if announced, will benefit risk assets like equities and commodities. Emerging markets like India could be a big beneficiary, they add.
3) After European Central Bank’s hint of further stimulus measures the dollar today scaled a fresh two-month peak against the euro.
4) However, the global strength of the dollar could put some pressure on the rupee which closed at 65.12 against the greenback on Wednesday.
5) Asian markets were firm today with Japan’s Nikkei stock index surging over 2 per cent.
6) Wipro’s shares will be in focus after the outsourcer announced in-line Q2 earnings. But its outlook for the third quarter has disappointed the Street.
7) Commodity-based metal and oil & gas stocks are also likely to be in focus after gain in global crude prices.
8) Among Nifty stocks, Cairn India and Idea Cellular will also be in focus after they announced results after market hours on Wednesday.
9) Analysts say that 8,400 levels on the upside remain a strong hurdle for Nifty.
10) Foreign investors have been strong buyers of Indian equities so far this month, supporting sentiments.

  • They have bought Indian shares worth over Rs 4,000 crore (net) in the cash market so far this month. Domestic investors, however, resorted to profit booking and sold shares worth over Rs 2000 crore (net) so far this month.

:: Sports ::

Kohli’s 23rd: A century very different

  • A bitter run out and a 50 in a lost cause, Virat Kohli was not in great ODI space against South Africa with the calendar year 2015 proving to be his leanest year ever.
  • His last century had come eight months back and the criticism that his bat was falling silent was quietly growing on him.
  • On Thursday afternoon, Virat played an uncharacteristic knock, deliberately and decidedly different from many of his specials.
  • His 138 on a sultry afternoon was a knock full of conscious calls, super safe approach and a runner’s delight.
  • Virat exhibited two shades of his batsmanship: one part dealt in playing smart cricket without really being boundary-hungry, the other part in the style he generally exhibits.

Pak may refrain team from participating in ICC World T20 2016 in India,

  • Pakistan cricket chief Shaharyar Khan said today that if India turn down a proposed series in December-January then it would be possible that Islamabad would prevent Pakistan from featuring in next year’s World Twenty20.
  • The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has called on India to honour a Memorandum of Understanding under which the arch-rivals agreed to play six series from 2015-2023 — pending clearance from both governments — the first of which is this year in the United Arab Emirates
  • But the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has yet to give a final response on the series comprising of two Tests, five one-dayers and two Twenty20 internationals.
  • Talks between the two Boards failed to get going on Monday after Shiv Sena activists attacked the BCCI office in Mumbai, protesting any cricket with Pakistan
  • India and Pakistan have not played a full bilateral cricket series since 2007 after New Delhi stalled the ties in the aftermath of terrorists attacks on Mumbai in 2008, blamed on militants based across the border.

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