Weekly Current Affairs Update for IAS Exam

image_pdfimage_print

27th January 2014 TO 2nd February 2014

 

NOBEL PRIZE

  • On 27 November 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, giving the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace – the Nobel Prizes. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden’s central bank) established The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

FEW FACTS ABOUT NOBEL PRIZE:

  • 851 Laureates and 25 organizations have been awarded the Nobel Prize between 1901 and 2013. Of them, 74 are Laureates in Economic Sciences.
  • Since the start, in 1901, there are some years when the Nobel Prizes have not been awarded. The total number of times are 50. Most of them during World War I (1914-1918) and II (1939-1945).
  • Between 1901 and 2013 the Nobel Prize and Prize in Economic Sciences have been awarded 45 times to women.
  • The average age of all Nobel Laureates in all prize categories between 1901 and 2013 is 59 years.
  • Linus Pauling is the only person to have been awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes – the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize.
  • The Curies(Marie, Pierre and Irene) were a very successful ‘Nobel Prize family’. Marie Curie herself was awarded two Nobel Prizes.
  • At the Nobel Prize Award Ceremonies on 10 December the Nobel Laureates receive three things: a Nobel Diploma, a Nobel Medal and a document confirming the Nobel Prize amount. Each Nobel Diploma is a unique work of art, created by foremost Swedish and Norwegian artists and calligraphers. The Nobel Medals are handmade with careful precision and in 18 carat green gold plated with 24 carat gold. 
    (source: www.nobelprize.org)

A GLINT OF INDIA

Nobel Laureates from India

  • Amartya Sen (b- 1933) : Prof. Amartya Sen is the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Economics for the year 1998, becoming the first Asian to have been honoured with the award. The Santiniketanborn economist who is a pioneer in Welfare Economics has to his credit several books and papers on aspects of welfare and development. An economist with a difference, Prof. Sen is a humanist. He has distinguished himself with his outstanding writings on famine, poverty, democracy, gender and social issues. The ‘impossibility theorem’ suggested earlier by Kenneth Arrow states that it was not possible to aggregate individual choices into a satisfactory choice for society as a whole. Prof. Sen showed mathematically that societies could find ways to alleviate such a poor outcome.
  • Subramanian Chandrashekhar (1910-1995): The Nobel Prize for Physics in 1983 was awarded to Dr S. Chandrashekhar, an Indian-born astrophysicist. Educated in Presidency College, Chennai, Dr Chandrashekhar happened to be the nephew of his Nobel forbear, Sir C.V. Raman. He later migrated to the United States where he authored several books on Astrophysics and Stellar Dynamics. He developed a theory on white dwarf stars which posts a limit of mass of dwarf stars known also as Chandrashekhar Limit. His theory explains the final stages of stellar evolution.
(Courtesy: http://india.gov.in)

Ministry of External affairs

Moscow’s World Hindi Day Celebrations

  • World Hindi Day (Vishwa Hindi Diwas) celebrations were held at the Embassy of India, Moscow on 31 January 2014. Ambassador of India to the Russian Federation H.E. Mr. P.S. Raghavan and Mrs. Barbara Raghavan were the Guests of Honor on the occasion.
  • Ambassador of Mauritius to the Russian Federation H.E Mrs Indira Savitree Thacoor-Sidaya and Hindi Teacher at School No. 19 in Moscow Dr. Safarmo Tolibi were among the guests who attended the celebrations.
  • In his speech, Ambassador Raghavan noted that Hindi language is taught in all the leading Russian institutions and promised support of the Embassy in further promoting Hindi in Russia.
  • Hindi students of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre (JNCC), students of School no.19 in Moscow and others presented a cultural program of poems/skits/songs in Hindi language under the guidance of JNCC Hindi Teacher Dr. Gulab Singh. Ambassador Raghavan presented gifts to the participants of the cultural program followed by a reception hosted by the Embassy.
  • World Hindi Day is celebrated every year in the month of January after the First World Hindi Conference held on 10 January 1975 in Nagpur, India.
(Courtesy: http://www.mea.gov.in)

Planning Commission of India

Rural Development

  • 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 & 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.

NATIONAL EVENTS

Aadhaar

  • Right-wing and left, opponents to the Aadhaar project appear bunched together in two distinct formations as they separately seek to scuttle a project that aims at providing every citizen a unique identity number for targeted benefits from the government.
  • Six groups have filed cases in the Supreme Court against UIDAI, the unique identification authority. These have been filed during the last one year; the UPA-II government had set up UIDAI in 2009 and issued the first Aadhaar numbers in September 2010.
  • Several of the arguments overlap but what sets two petitions apart from the remaining four is that the former’s objections are based on right-wing principles and the latter’s on left-wing ones.
  • A petition by Justice (retired) Puttaswamy and Parvesh Khanna, and another by Maj. Gen. (retired) S G Vombatkere and Bezwada Wilson, both raise an objection identical to what the the BJP has been raising — that the project has no preventive to block illegal immigrants or non-citizens from getting an Aadhaar number.

India’s first cantilever bridge

  • A long-time resident of Rameswaram and former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam inaugurated the centenary celebrations of the Pamban railway bridge — India’s first cantilever bridge, connecting the pilgrim-island of Rameswaram with the mainland.
  • Mr. Kalam unveiled a plaque and released a book Marvels of South Indian Railway, marking the inauguration of the nearly month-long celebrations.
  • The 65.23-metre-long rolling central lift span (the bridge is 2.06 km long), named after Scherzer, German engineer who designed and built the span, has been given a fresh coat of paint and decorated with lights. It opens up like a pair of scissors to allow vessels to pass through under the bridge.
  • Mr. Kalam had played a vital role in preserving the bridge. After the Railways announced its uni-gauge policy in 2006, and almost gave up gauge conversion at the bridge, he brought in IIT-Madras expertise to thrash out an engineering solution.
  • The bridge was put to test for the first time in December 1964, when a severe cyclonic storm hit this part of the area. All girders, both RCC and steel, were washed away.

Verdict on criminalised gay sex to stay

  • The Supreme Court has refused to relook into its verdict that criminalised gay sex in India.
  • A bench of Justices H L Dattu and S J Mukhopadhaya, in inchamber proceedings, dismissed a bunch of petitions filed by the Centre and gay rights activists against its December 2013 verdict declaring gay sex an offence punishable up to life imprisonment.
  • In a big setback to the LGBT community, the Supreme Court had on December 11 set aside the Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising gay sex and thrown the ball into Parliament’s court for amending the law.
  • The judgement revived the penal provision making gay sex an offence punishable with life imprisonment in a setback to people fighting a battle for recognition of their sexual preferences.
  • Seeking a stay on the operation of the judgement, gay rights activists, including NGO Naz Foundation, had said thousands from the LGBT community became open about their sexual identity during the past four years after the high court decriminalised gay sex and they are now facing the threat of being prosecuted.
  • They had submitted that criminalizing gay sex amounts to violation of fundamental rights of the LGBT community.
  • Challenging the verdict, Naz Foundation had said in its review plea that the verdict is contrary to the well-settled legal principles of the Constitution and proscribing certain sexual acts between consenting adults.

INTERNATIONAL

Iran n-talks

  • Iran and the six global powers are set to hold fresh nuclear talks on February 18 that promise to encourage further lifting of sanctions and unlock foreign investment flows into the country.
  • Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the dialogue will be held in Vienna, the Austrian capital, following a meeting with the European Union (EU) foreign policy chief, Catharine Ashton on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich.
  • A decision on the new round of talks is part of cycle of steps that could end sanctions against Iran, after it was verifiably confirmed that Tehran is not pursuing development of atomic weapons. Iran and the five Security Council members–United States, Russia, China, Britain and France–along with Germany signed a nuclear deal in Geneva on November 24.
  • On January 20, Iran’s negotiating partners confirmed that Tehran had halted production of uranium enriched to 20 per cent level, paving the way for a partial lifting of sanctions.
  • The smooth conduct of inspections by experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), of some Iran’s major nuclear facilities, is further building up the momentum of confidence building between the two sides.

Anti-protest laws repealed in Ukraine

  • Mykola Azarov, prime minister of Ukraine, resigned, hours before a planned vote of no confidence by Parliament that could have stripped him of his powers.
  • The resignation came shortly after the pro-government Party of Regions joined with opposition lawmakers to repeal most of the laws in a package of legislation restricting freedom of speech and assembly that was enacted recently.
  • Together, the resignation and repeals were significant concessions by Ukraine’s embattled president, Viktor F Yanukovych, as well as clear signs of the building momentum of opposition to his rule.
  • Yanukovych has promised other concessions as well, including an amnesty for arrested protesters and a revision of the Constitution to weaken presidential powers.
  • Azarov had been a staunch ally of Yanukovych through the two months of protests roiling Ukraine. But neither his resignation nor the repeal of the restrictive legislation, which the opposition calls the “dictatorship laws”, were seen as likely to appease the protesters.

INDIA AND THE WORLD

Resettlement issues between India- Sri Lanka

  • Foreign Ministers of India and Sri Lanka discussed proposals to eliminate maltreatment of fishermen, operationalise a trilateral maritime security pact in which the Maldives is a third partner, and review the pace of Indian-assisted resettlement work in the Tamil-dominated Northern Province.
  • Officials from both sides were tight-lipped on whether External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris dwelt on the U.S. threat to call for international investigation into Sri Lanka’s human rights record at the upcoming meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March.
  • But there were indications from official sources that the issue was deliberated upon. Issues of common interest that are likely to figure in forthcoming international meetings, of which India and Sri Lanka are both members, were also discussed.
  • The Indian armed forces had entered Sri Lanka as part of Operation Pawan in 1987 to disarm all Tamil militant groups but got bogged down in counter-insurgency operations, leading to charges of human rights abuses against them.

ECONOMY

Restrictions on gold imports

  • The restrictions on gold imports will be reviewed by March-end, according to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram .
  • To contain the rising gold imports, the government had increased customs duty on the yellow metal three times in 2013. The levy currently stands at 10 per cent.
  • Mr. Chidambaram said there has been about 1-3 tonnes of gold smuggled into the country every month following the restrictions imposed on shipment in 2013.
  • Gold smuggling has increased, but the restrictions on gold import were absolutely necessary because it is these restrictions, which have brought down gold import, which in April and May had crossed 300 tonnes.

RBI hikes repo rate and keeps CRR unchanged

  • In an unexpected move, the Reserve Bank of India RBI raised the repo rate—its key lending rate—by 0.25 percentage points to 8%, raising fears of yet another rise in home loan EMIs.
  • The surprise hike in the benchmark lending rate came in despite lower inflation rates in December. The central bank cut its growth forecast to less than 5% for 2013-14, but placed its bets firmly on the turnaround in the broader economy in the next financial year.
  • The central bank, however, made it clear that any action on interest rate movements will be determined by future price data.
  • Equity markets reacted sharply with the benchmark Sensex falling by over 100 points shortly after the RBI’s rate hike announcement.
  • Higher borrowing costs will likely hit consumers squeezed by high prices, flat salary hikes and costly mortgage financing rates.
  • The RBI’s latest move, however, will likely draw strong reactions from business leaders who have been clamouring for an interest rate cut arguing that costly borrowing and high raw material costs have crimped expansion and hiring plans.
  • India’s wholesale inflation rate eased to a five-month low of 6.16% in December on plunging vegetable prices, giving some reason to smile for the UPA government battling to help the economy fight through a period of low growth and high prices ahead of national elections.

SCIENCE AND TECH

Stethoscope faces threat

  • The humble stethoscope — the most recognisable symbol of the medical profession for nearly 200 years — may be on its way out, according to researchers.
  • The world of medicine could be experiencing its final days of the stethoscope due to the rapid advent of point-of-care ultrasound devices that are becoming increasingly accurate, smaller to the point of being hand-held and less expensive as the years pass, they said.
  • In an editorial in the journal Global Heart, a brief history of the stethoscope and ultrasound is given, with the authors suggesting that the stethoscope could soon be exiled to the archives of medical history.
  • The editorial highlights that nowadays, more than 20 medical specialities include use of point-of-care ultrasound as a core skill, and that mounting evidence suggests that compared with the stethoscope ultrasound technology can reduce complications, assist in emergency procedures and improve diagnostic accuracy.

SPORTS

Olympic torch lit

  • The Olympic torch was lit at Russia’s highest point with less than a week to go before the opening of the winter Games in Sochi.
  • Two experienced mountain climbers lit the flame 5,642 metres above sea level on the western peak of Mount Elbrus, completing the last of four special projects in the biggest torch relay in Olympic history.
  • Alpinists Abdul-Khalim Elmezov and Karina Mezova had climbed the western peak of the mountain in the northern Caucasus at the end of October carrying the flame in a special lantern.
  • The Elbrus part of the relay had been planned separately to ensure the best possible weather conditions for the climb.

World badminton ranking

  • The victory at the Syed Modi International tournament in Lucknow helped London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal to surge two places to reach the seventh position in the latest world badminton ranking, released in Kuala Lumpur recently.
  • The 23-year-old, who broke a 15-month title drought in Lucknow after winning the Grand Prix Gold event, bagged 7,000 ranking points and now has 59,680 points from 14 tournaments.
  • P.V.Sindhu, who finished runners-up at that tournament after losing the final to Saina, also broke back into the top 10 with 55,752 ranking points. She gathered 5950 points from her second-place finish at Syed Modi International tournament.
  • Rising men’s singles player, K.Srikanth, who also finished runners-up at Lucknow, made a massive jump of 10 places to break into the top-20. He is currently the second highest ranked men’s shuttler behind Parupalli Kashyap, who is at 18th spot.

ENVIRONMENT

Assam elephant corridor

  • National Green Tribunal sought a response from the Centre and Assam government on a petition alleging that work of some state-owned companies in and around the Dehing-Patkai wildlife sanctuary in Tinsukia district was affecting the environment.
  • Based on the petition, the tribunal also issued notices and sought responses of Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, Oil India Ltd, National Highways Authority of India, Coal India Ltd and various state authorities. The petition alleged that their activities was also affecting the two elephant corridors of Golai and Bogapani.
  • The petition, filed by wildlife biologist Kashmira Kakati, has alleged the state government allowed Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) to construct an oil dispatch terminal in the Golai elephant corridor in violation of environment laws.
  • Seeking protection of the elephant habitats, the petition also opposed the government’s decision to allow NHAI to build the NH-38 bypass through the Bagopani corridor and prayed for directions that no permanent construction be allowed to come up in Golai corridor.

IN THE NEWS (PERSONS)

Janet Yellen

  • Janet Yellen, the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve in its 100-year history, took over the reins of the US central bank.
  • She succeeded Chairman Ben Bernanke, and was sworn in by Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo,
  • Yellen is one of a handful of women heading central banks globally. Her main task will be to navigate the US central bank’s way out of its extraordinary stimulus, beginning with a further dialing down of its massive bond-buying program, and deciding when to raise rates.

Harish Rawat

  • Union Water Resources Minister Harish Rawat sworn in as the eighth Chief Minister of Uttarakhand
  • Mr Rawat succeeded Congress leader Vijay Bahuguna who stepped down from his position of Uttarakhand’s Chief Minister after 22 months of holding the office.
  • The 11 Cabinet Ministers, who were a part of the Bahuguna government, were also sworn in.
  • This decision of the Congress to make Mr Rawat the Chief Minister of the State comes ahead of the Lok Sabha elections to strengthen the chances of the Congress in the Lok Sabha where the State has five seats.
  • Mr. Bahuguna’s performance during and after the June disaster last year raised questions over his leadership. The slow rehabilitation work after the disaster proved to be detrimental for his tenure.

Silverine Swer

  • Meghalaya’s oldest voter and the first Padma Shri awardee from the State, Silverine Swer, passed away at the age of 103 at her residence after a brief illness.
  • Also affectionately called ,Kong Sil, saw four wars — the two World Wars, the Sino-Indian War and the Bangladesh Liberation War involving India — Kong Sil was born on November 12, 1910, a few years after the 1897 earthquake rocked Shillong.

Selected Editorials of Importance

Decoding the President’s address

In his address to the nation on the eve of Republic Day, President Pranab Mukherjee seemed intent on tempering hope with caution and idealism with pragmatism. But what caught everyone’s attention was the political undertone of what he himself noted was his last address before the next government takes office. For someone who made a smooth transition from being a Cabinet Minister to becoming the President, Mr. Mukherjee was surprisingly forthright in his warning to the political class. Justifying people’s anger at the weakening of democratic institutions, he said: “If we hear sometimes an anthem of despair from the street, it is because people feel that a sacred trust is being violated.” For those looking for a warning to the Congress, Mr. Mukherjee had more than a few words on corruption. If Indians are enraged, he said, it is because they are witnessing corruption and waste of national resources. “If governments do not remove these flaws, voters will remove governments.” But the veiled attack on the Aam Aadmi Party, the reference to “populist anarchy”, now associated with its leader Arvind Kejriwal, captured more mind space. Arguing that populist anarchy cannot be a substitute for governance, the President said: “False promises lead to disillusionment, which gives birth to rage, and that rage has one legitimate target: those in power.” If the reference to communal forces is taken as thumbs down to the Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr. Mukherjee appears to have spared none in his address.
Whether read as notes of caution to the Congress, or as articulation of dissatisfaction with the ways of the AAP or the BJP, these remarks assume added importance in the current political context. President Mukherjee clearly wants it to be known that he is on the side of the people and democratic institutions, not blindly supportive of governments and certainly not sympathetic to those in power. Curiously, Mr. Mukherjee also wanted the people to vote in a stable government. True, as he noted, a fractured government, “hostage to whimsical opportunists,” would be an unhappy electoral outcome. But to ask the people to vote for a stable government can mean little more than to ask them to vote for a party widely seen as the front-runner. Whether this could be taken as an endorsement of the BJP in the current context is debatable, but it could lend itself to interpretation. So far, Mr. Mukherjee has played by the book in what he has done and what he has not, as President. The political sub-text of his lines and their varying interpretations notwithstanding, the address provides no indication that he is about to change his approach as the President of the Republic.
(Courtesy: THE HINDU)

MCQs

Q1.

i) Disability Rights Bill is a watered-down version of what the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had put up on its website in October 2012.
ii) Indian Museum, Kolkata, is the India’s oldest museum .

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) A vote-on account is a statement ,where the government presents an estimate of a sum required to meet the expenditure that it incurs during the first three to four months of an election financial year until a new government is in place, to keep the machinery running.
ii) Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi are not in the list of The Aam Adam Party’s list of alleged ‘tainted’ politicians .

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

Q3.

i) Japan established its ADIZ (Air Defence Identification Zone) in 1969.
ii) Polling ended recently in Thailand, where the general elections were boycotted by the opposition and disrupted by protesters seeking to prevent the re-election of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

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
Please follow and like us: