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PART 2 : Current Affairs 2013 ( April )

TABLE OF CONTENT
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE ........................................................................................................... 2
ARMED FORCES TRIBUNAL .............................................................................................................................. 2
INDIA BACKBONE IMPLEMENTATION NETWORK (IBIN) ......................................................................... 2
ECONOMY ............................................................................................................................................ 4
REVISED CONSOLIDATED GUIDELINES ON FDI ............................................................................................ 4
REFORMS FOR SEZ ............................................................................................................................................ 4
FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN G-SEC AND CORPORATE BONDS RATIONALIZED .......................................... 5
SOCIAL ISSUES ................................................................................................................................... 7
ZITA PATENT CASE ........................................................................................................................................ 7
9-POINT ACTION PLAN FOR NAXAL AREAS ................................................................................................... 7
EXPANSION OF DIRECT BENEFITS TRANSFERS (DBT) .............................................................................. 8
MEASURES TO STRENGTHEN SC/ST ACT .................................................................................................... 9
NATIONAL HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATION FRAMEWORK FOR MOBILITY OF STUDENTS IN
HIGHER EDUCATION ........................................................................................................................................ 9
INDIA AND WORLD ........................................................................................................................11
INDIA-GERMANY ............................................................................................................................................ 11
INDIA - CUSTOMS UNION TROIKA ............................................................................................................. 12
NIB INITIATIVE ON WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ........................................................................... 13
VICE-PRESIDENT VISIT TO TAJIKISTAN ....................................................................................................... 13
UNITED NATIONS MISSION IN SOUTH SUDAN (UNMISS) .................................................................... 14
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS...........................................................................................................15
G8 ACCORD ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN CONFLICT ZONES .......................................................................... 15
NEW UN PEACEKEEPING MISSION IN MALI............................................................................................... 15
SCIENCE AND TECH. .......................................................................................................................16
QUANTUM BIOLOGY ....................................................................................................................................... 16
SMARTPHONE SATELLITES .......................................................................................................................... 16
RUSSIA LAUNCHES BIO-SATELLITE ............................................................................................................. 17
ALPHA MAGNETIC SPECTROMETER ........................................................................................................... 17
2-MARKERS.......................................................................................................................................19
PERSONALITIES ............................................................................................................................................. 19
Ravuri Bharadwaja .....................................................................................................................................19
Pran Krishan Sikand ...................................................................................................................................19
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala ................................................................................................................................19
Margaret Thatcher ...................................................................................................................................... 19
Robert Geoffrey Edwards ..........................................................................................................................20
PLACES............................................................................................................................................................. 20
Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve .............................................................................................................20
Tagore Centre for Global Thought .......................................................................................................20

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POLITY AND GOVERNANCE


ARMED FORCES TRIBUNAL

In the face of stiff resistance from the armed forces, the Parliamentary
Committee on Defence has recommended that the Armed Forces Tribunal
(AFT) be given powers of civil contempt as many of its orders are not being
implemented despite its having the status of a High Court.
In another step, aimed at making the AFT a strong and independent
institution, and to avoid conflict of interest, the panel has recommended that
the administrative control of the tribunal should be with the Ministry of Law
and Justice Ministry rather than the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The 18th committee, in its report submitted this month, gave its comments
on the Armed Forces Tribunal (Amendment) Bill 2012, introduced in the
Rajya Sabha last year.
Taking into view the opposition by the defence forces, the committee has
recommended civil contempt powers to the AFT in cases involving retired
defence personnel but refrained from giving such powers with regard to
serving personnel so as to avoid disturbing the high disciplinary standards
of the forces. The forces apprehend that civil contempt would impinge on
operational requirements.
While approving shifting of administrative control of the AFT to the Law
Ministry, the committee noted that eventually it would come under the
Central Tribunal Division proposed to be set up by the Ministry on the advice
of the Supreme Court, for control of all tribunals.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court, in its decision in the public interest
litigation, Maj Navdeep Singh vs. Union of India, has already directed that
the AFT be placed under the Law Ministry, and not the MoD, to ensure its
independence and that keeping in view the separation of powers enshrined
in the Constitution, the government should have a minimal say in its
functioning.

INDIA BACKBONE IMPLEMENTATION NETWORK (IBIN)

The purpose of IBIN is to improve implementation of policies, programs, and


projects, which the 12th Five Year Plan has located as the critical necessity
for accelerating more inclusive and faster growth.
An analysis of projects and schemes has revealed that the major causes of
bottlenecks in implementation are contention amongst stakeholders, and
poor coordination amongst agencies.

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These bottlenecks are at many levels in the system, at the center, in the
states, and in districts and cities too. They cannot be relieved top down by
the Planning Commission. They require collaborative action by stakeholders
and agencies at multiple points.
IBIN has been modeled on the very successful Total Quality Movement in
Japan which in the 1960s and 70s transformed the capability of Japanese
organizations in the private and public sectors to deliver results.

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ECONOMY
REVISED CONSOLIDATED GUIDELINES ON FDI

Seeking to further simplify the foreign investment regime, government came


out with the revised consolidated guidelines on FDI.
The guidelines incorporated changes with regard to inflows in multi brand
retail and allowing Pakistan nationals and companies to invest in the country.
Besides, it has included policy changes in sectors like single brand retail,
asset reconstruction companies (ARCs), power exchanges, civil aviation,
broadcasting and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs).
Last year, the Centre permitted 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail sector.
The government also allowed foreign airlines to pick 49 per cent stake in the
cash-strapped domestic carriers.
Similarly, it has raised FDI cap to 74 per cent in various services of the
broadcasting sector. The foreign investment ceiling in ARCs has also been
increased to 74 per cent from 49 per cent, a move aimed at bringing more
foreign expertise in the segment.
It has said that the total shareholding of an individual FII in an ARC shall not
exceed 10 per cent of the total paid-up capital.
Further, it has incorporated the changes made with regard to FDI from
Pakistan. Now, a Pakistani citizen or an entity can invest in the country
under the government approval route.
With regard to issue price of shares, a new paragraph has been added.Under
this, where a non-residents including NRIs are making investments in an
Indian firm in compliance with the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956, by
way of subscription to its Memorandum of Association, such investments
may be made at face value subject to their eligibility to invest under the FDI
scheme.
The government has permitted foreign investment of up to 49 per cent in the
power trading exchanges in the country.
The policy has also listed as many as eight mandatory conditions and one
optional clause with regard to conversion of a company with FDI into a
Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) firm.

REFORMS FOR SEZ

Ruling out any relief from imposition of Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT), the
Commerce and Industry Minister, announced a set of reforms for Special
Economic Zones (SEZ), including relaxation of land requirement norms,
introduction of graded scale for minimum land criteria, offering an exit

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policy and doing away with minimum land requirement for setting up an
IT/ITeS SEZs.
The package of reforms and changed norms come in the wake of disinterest
shown by corporate India to set up new SEZs. Also, they come at a time when
existing players are either seeking to exit their projects or trying to scale
them down.
Govt has decided to reduce the Minimum Land Area Requirement by half for
different categories of SEZs. For multi-product SEZ, minimum land
requirement has been brought down from 1,000 hectares to 500 hectares,
and for sector-specific SEZs, it has been brought down to 50 hectares.
There would be no minimum land requirement for setting up IT\ITeS SEZs.
The minimum built-up area criteria, too, was eased. It had now been decided
to allow transfer of ownership of SEZ units, including sale.
The 170 functional SEZs export-oriented enclaves have attracted
investment of over Rs.2.36 lakh crore, and exports from them totalled
Rs.4.76 lakh crore in 2012-13, a growth of over 2,000 per cent over the
seven-year period.
The flexibility to set up additional units in a sector-specific SEZ had been
provided by introducing sectoral broad-banding to encompass similar or
related areas under the same sector.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN G-SEC AND CORPORATE BONDS


RATIONALIZED

The Central Government in consultation with Reserve Bank of India (RBI)


and SEBI has been progressively liberalizing/rationalizing the scheme for
foreign investment in G-Secs and Corporate bonds keeping in view the
evolving macroeconomic scenario and financing needs of the economy.
On review, it was observed that the existing framework of various debt sublimits and associated conditions with respect to each sub-limit led to
complexity and inflexibility for investors and hampered investment in debt
securities. Therefore, in order to encourage greater foreign investments in
INR denominated debt instrument, it was decided to simplify the framework
of FII debt limits, the allocation mechanism of these debt limits and also lay
down a perspective plan for enhancement of these debt limits in the future.
The existing debt limits will be merged into following two broad categories:
o Government securities of US$ 25 billion (by merging Government
Securities old and Government Securities long term) and,
o Corporate bonds of US $ 51 billion dollars (by merging US $ one
billion for QFIs, US $ 25 billion dollars for FIIs in corporate bonds
and US $ 25 billion for FIIs in long term infra bonds).
The entire limit in both the Government securities and Corporate bonds
categories will be made available to all eligible classes of foreign investors,
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including FIIs, QFIs, and long term investors such as Sovereign Wealth Funds
(SWFs), Pension Funds, Foreign Central Banks etc.
Out of USD 25 billion limit for Government Securities, a sub limit of US $ 5.5
billion has been provided for investment in short term papers such as
treasury bills.
Similarly in case of USD 51 billion limit for corporate bonds, a sub limit of US
$ 3.5 billion has been provided for investment in short term papers such as
commercial papers.
Because of the room created by unifying categories, the current SEBI auction
mechanism allocating debt limits for corporate bonds will be replaced by the
'on tap system' currently in place for infrastructure bonds.

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SOCIAL ISSUES
ZITA PATENT CASE

The Delhi High Court, refused to grant interim relief on a patent row to U.S.
pharmaceutical major Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), which had sought a
restraint on Glenmark Pharmaceuticals manufacturing and marketing antidiabetes drugs Zita and Zita-Met.
The courts order came on MSDs plea alleging that the Indian pharma
company had violated its intellectual property right (IPR) over its antidiabetes medicines, Januvia and Janumet, by coming in the market with their
own drugs containing the same salts.
The U.S. firm said it had invented the Sitagliptin salt, used in the antidiabetes drugs and has a patent over the molecule.
However, Glenmark said it had used Sitagliptin Phosphate in its antidiabetes drugs, Zita and Zita-Met and the U.S. firm had no patent right over
this salt. Sitagliptin Phosphate has been a distinct product from Sitagliptin
and due to this, the U.S. firm had obtained separate patent for Sitagliptin
Phosphate in the U.S., Glenmark said. MSD first applied for separate patent
for Sitagliptin Phosphate in India and later abandoned it, it said.
The U.S. firm also said anti-diabetes drug Januvia is not costly as it costs
Rs.43 a pill which is roughly 1/5th of its price in the U.S.
The high court, however, kept the main petition of the U.S. firm pending for
filing of evidence and other subsequent legal proceedings before its joint
registrar.

9-POINT ACTION PLAN FOR NAXAL AREAS

Concerned over the extreme left groups penetration into tribal territories
and their ability to win over the hearts and minds of people deprived of basic
necessities of life, the government has drawn-up a nine point action plan to
deal with a host of development challenges.
The government had decided to expedite the recognition of forest rights, as
well as review the definition of backward districts under the Integrated
Action Plan/Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF) as part of the action plan.
According to the document, it was felt that there was a need to advance from
the ad hoc criteria of selecting districts to a more outcome oriented criterion.
Taking note of the gap and requirement of large residential schools, the
Director of School Education and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs are looking to
establish such institutions with a minimum of 1000-2000 students in the
LWE areas.

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To improve the communication infrastructure Bharat Sanchar Nigam


Limited (BSNL) will install 2199 low cost mobile towers in those areas. The
Telecom Commission is also exploring energy efficient alternate fuels such
as solar energy.
A special window, too, has been introduced under the Forest Conservation
Act to expedite the laying of transmission lines under the Rajiv Gandhi
Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojna (RGGVY).
The Ministry of Environment and Forests has given a notification to cover all
the 82 IAP districts granting general approval under the Forest Conservation
Act for diversion of forest land up to 5 acres.
The Ministry of Power will review pending works in 1776 villages to
ascertain the ones which can be cleared with the issuance of the new
notification.
The Mobile Health Units will address the LWE districts endemically affected
by malaria. Additionally, an increase in Mobile Health Units is likely to be
introduced in the 12th Plan.

EXPANSION OF DIRECT BENEFITS TRANSFERS (DBT)

78 more districts, 3 more Pension Schemes under DBT. DBT will now cover
1/5th of the country.
After reviewing the progress in rollout of DBT in Phase - I, many important
decisions were taken to expand the coverage of areas under DBT in Phase II
of the rollout. These are:
DBT will now be expanded to NPR states where biometrics are being
collected under the National Population Register. These include Odisha,
West Bengal, UP, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh.
Additional districts: The next phase of the rollout will begin from 1 July 2013.
A total of 78 districts have been identified for this phase based on the lists
given by UIDAI and Registrar General of India.
Additional schemes: DBT now covers 26 schemes. The three Pension
Schemes managed by MoRD (old age, disability and widows) will now be
covered under DBT in all the covered districts. DBT for pension schemes
would be introduced from 1.7.2013 along with the rollout of Phase-II.
Expanding to Post Offices: DBT will be expanded to include Post Offices and
schemes run through Post Office accounts from 1 October 2013. By this time,
the Post Offices will have the core banking system in 51 districts.
LPG Subsidy through DBT: MoPNG is working on rolling out DBT of LPG
subsidy in a phased manner. The total number of LPG consumers in the
country is 14 crores and as the scheme rolls out, the subsidy amount will be
transferred to consumers directly into their bank accounts. With the subsidy
going directly, there will be only one price at which cylinders will be sold at a

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dealer's shop. This will eliminate all ghost connections and diversion of
cylinders.
Nationwide Database digitisation: Departments will start the process of
digitisation in all districts, irrespective of the rollout of DBT as this is a
critical activity which need not wait and can be done in parallel.
Mission Directorate: A full fledged DBT Mission Directorate consisting of a
Mission Director assisted by other officers is being created to have an
institutionalized administrative arrangement to enable smooth rollout, early
identification of bottlenecks, resolution of bottlenecks and handholding of
Ministries/ departments wherever necessary.

MEASURES TO STRENGTHEN SC/ST ACT

Imposing a social or economic boycott on persons from a reserved caste or


tribe, parading them naked, preventing them from entering a place of
worship or employing them as manual scavengers such offences will now
be dealt with more severely and in a time-bound manner, as the Union
Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has recommended measures to
strengthen the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of
Atrocities) Act, 1989, and Rules 1995.
The Ministry is also keen on having dedicated special courts and a 30-day
trial to deal with complaints.
The Ministry has recommended that the Act include provisions like
appointment of special public prosecutors to try cases exclusively, all cases
be disposed of within three months from the date of filing of charge sheet
and cases under the Act be given priority in appeals.
Offences that are well documented, but not within the ambit of the Act, such
as obstructing the use of common property resources, causing physical harm
or death on the allegation of practising witchcraft or abetment should be
brought within the purview of the Act, the Ministry has said.
Another important recommendation is expanding the scope of presumption
whether the perpetrator had knowledge of the (SC/ST) identity of the victim
while committing the offence. There are numerous cases of the police
refusing to register complaints under the Act unless the complainant could
establish that the identity of the victim was in fact the ground for committing
the offence; in some cases, the police refuse to register a case because the
perpetrator did not overtly use the terms of caste abuse while committing
the offence.

NATIONAL HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATION FRAMEWORK FOR


MOBILITY OF STUDENTS IN HIGHER EDUCATION

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10

The government has proposed a National Higher Education Qualification


Framework (NHEQF) to address the issue of compatibility and seamless
recognition of qualification across all higher education institutions.
With the present system being unique to the country with range of
complexities and divergences across levels, the framework would seek to
provide a comprehensive definition of a single system of levels for all
qualifications offered by a variety of higher educational institutions across
discipline.
The essential purpose of the NHEQF is to provide the broad framework
within which universities and other degree-awarding educational
institutions could develop the syllabi that they consider relevant thereby
using their academic autonomy to the fullest extent in a responsible manner
and without adversely affecting the horizontal and vertical mobility of
students.
Another distinctive feature of the NHEQF is making the programmes of
studies modular, thereby permitting accreditation or certification of a
component, part of the larger qualification. Thus, the NHEQF would serve as
an unequivocal description of higher education qualification at the national
level with the aim that the higher education system of the country is
internationally understood.

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INDIA AND WORLD


INDIA-GERMANY

11

Background
Democratic concerns and values shared by India and Germany had not been
sufficient for a strategic relationship. The Cold War and the perceived Indian
partiality towards East Germany had left their scars on ties. Strategic
engagement came after the liberalisation of the Indian economy and the
discovery by both sides of economic realities and necessities.
For an export-oriented Germany, India, as a major emerging economic
power, became a land of opportunities. Old cultural and educational linkages
helped the process and today, India and Germany have a flourishing bilateral
trade (biggest trading partner in the EU and fifth in the world), investments
in both directions, cooperation in security and disarmament, counter
terrorism and educational exchanges.
The solidarity of the G-4, of which both Germany and India are members, as
the champion of UN Security Council reform, has remained intact, even if its
efforts have not succeeded.
2nd India-Germany Intergovernmental Consultations
Chancellor Angela Merkel defined the relationship as "very deep" and
pointed out how India, with more than a billion people, with its need for
infrastructure and investment, had provided great opportunities for
Germany.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in turn, stressed that economic relations
have been a defining feature of India-Germany ties. They then proceeded to
witness their cabinet colleagues sign a plethora of agreements to enhance
cooperation in higher education, promote German as a foreign language in
India, strengthen civil security research, agriculture and consumer
protection, create quality infrastructure for cooperation in standardisation
and establish green energy corridors.
A tinge of regret, however, was evident in the statements made by the two
leaders on the India-EU BTIA. Singh acknowledged that though much
progress had been made, there were issues that held back the conclusion of
the agreement. As a member of a viable union of independent states,
Germany has the advantage of pursuing its interests bilaterally to gain
ground and to remain adamant within the union to extract concessions in
other areas. Members of the EU have hidden behind their collective positions
on political issues and human rights and, at the same time, remained cordial
with India on the bilateral front.
Germany and the EU, as a whole, tend to go slow with countries that show
signs of an economic downturn. India's dwindling economic growth and the
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infirm Central government, which is compelled to yield to various kinds of


pressures and has to deal with the exposure of corruption and scams, would
be a source of anxiety for the EU.
Indian foreign policy, too, appears to be hedging. With elections in the offing
in India, the EU is likely to wait and watch rather than rush into agreements,
unless the concessions offered by India are too attractive to be missed.
During the meet India and Germany has inked six key MoUs
o Joint Declaration of Intent regarding promotion of German as a
foreign language in India
o Intergovernmental MoU between India & Germany on Cooperation
in the field of Higher Education
o Joint Declaration of Intent in the area of Civil Security Research
o Joint Declaration for cooperation in Agriculture sector
o Joint Declaration of Intent for Cooperation in Standardisation,
Conformity Assessment and Product Safety
o Joint Declaration of Intent for Establishment of Green Energy
Corridors

INDIA - CUSTOMS UNION TROIKA

12

India and the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will hold
talks for a free trade agreement plus in June this year.
The June meeting in St. Petersburg is likely to decide on preliminary
spadework into all the aspects of an FTA plus or Comprehensive Economic
Cooperation Agreement (CECA) that aims to cover trade in goods, service,
investment and movement of labour.
The eventual size of the present Customs Union of three republics of the
former Soviet Union is an issue of much interest to the Indian side as it sets
about getting into serious negotiations with the Russia-led troika.
Kazakhstans neighbour Kyrgyzstan is likely to be the fourth entrant and
Tajikistan could over time be the fifth country to joint the Customs Union.
Ukraine, Armenia and Moldovia would also be moving close to the Customs
Union but for some time they are likely to be the first three countries outside
the core.
The increased trade post-FTA could be routed through the North-South
corridor that would cut down on time and distance to target markets in
Russia and Kazakhstan. Analysts point out that these two countries will be
better served from the Iranian port of Chah-Bahar.

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NIB INITIATIVE ON WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

In a significant development indicating a sub-regional strategic alliance,


Nepal, India and Bangladesh (NIB) have decided to join hands to cooperate
and exploit the hydropower sector and use water resources management for
mutual advantage, including jointly developing and financing projects in the
Ganga river basin.
Indicating its seriousness to give a boost to this initiative, India has already
approved the composition of a working group on water and power that will
coordinate with Bangladesh and Nepal.
According to a note prepared by the Ministries of Power, Water Resources
and External Affairs, the Ganga Basin has tremendous potential for
development of water resources and hydropower. Therefore, the role of the
Ganga in the agriculture, hydro-power, fisheries, navigation, and
environmental sectors and in the economy of the co-basin countries is vital.
The joint initiative will contribute to poverty eradication and better socioeconomic integration.
The note states that the NIB initiative will explore technically and
geographically feasible means for augmentation and equitable distribution
of augmented supply of water and power. There shall be a Committee of
Water Resources and Power Ministries of the NIB which will be the highest
decision-making body, subject to the approval of the respective governments.
Similarly, in order to derive optimum benefits from the Brahmaputra Basin,
Bhutan, India and Bangladesh have agreed to work jointly towards
cooperative development and management of water resources and
hydropower in an integrated and holistic manner. For this, the three
countries have agreed to cooperate on the Bhutan, Bangladesh and India
(BIB) Initiative.

VICE-PRESIDENT VISIT TO TAJIKISTAN

13

Vice-President Hamid Ansari was on a four-day official visit to Tajikistan that


is expected to give an impetus to Indias relations with the Central Asian
neighbour.
It coincided with the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic
ties between the two countries. India had played a key role in developing the
Ayni airbase and continues to cooperate with Tajik authorities in
maintaining it..
India has also unveiled its Connect Central Asia policy, which includes a
proactive multi-pronged diplomatic thrust to expand ties with the energyrich Central Asian nations Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan,
Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.

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Tajikistan with whom India has strategic ties also holds a crucial place for
India, owing to its geo-political position, as it shares borders with China and
Afghanistan. The nearest Tajik point is only 16 km from Pakistan-Occupied
Kashmir (PoK). The two countries also have old and traditional linguistic
and cultural ties.
The low level of trade between India and Tajikistan, which stood at $27
million last year, remains an area of concern for both the nations.
The focus of his visit was to go forward from where India and Tajikistan had
started out in September 2012, when President Rahmon had visited New
Delhi for the fifth time and the special relationship between the two
countries was elevated to the strategic partnership.
During his visit to Tajik Technical University here, India offered to gift a
supercomputer to Tajikistan which would be in place over the next 18
months at a centre of IT excellence and become the seed for developing IT
expertise among young people in the Middle East nation. India also proposes
to set up an Enterprise Development Centre in Tajikistan which will help
create entrepreneurs and job-providers as against job-seekers.
On the existing counter-terrorism measures and joint working group
between India and Tajikistan the cooperation was continuing and
information was being exchanged.

UNITED NATIONS MISSION IN SOUTH SUDAN (UNMISS)

14

Five soldiers of the Indian Army were killed and four injured in an ambush
of their United Nations peacekeeping mission by unidentified assailants in
South Sudan.
A contingent of 2,200 Indian Army personnel are deployed with the United
Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). While one group is based in
Malakkal on the border with Sudan, the other one is deployed in Jonglei.
Elsewhere on the African continent, Indian troops are involved in
peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote
dIvoire.
The peacekeepers did not engage in any combat, but were friendly and
peaceful towards the populace.
Jonglei is the largest and most populous State in South Sudan, a country
carved out its northern neighbour in 2011 after a brutal civil war spanning
many decades. Post-independence, the State has been roiled by inter-ethnic
conflict between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities. The conflict has since
escalated into a full-blown insurgency led by Murle leader David Yauyau
who, the South Sudanese believe, is backed by the government of Sudan.
Sudanese officials have repeatedly denied these allegations.
Apart from providing peacekeepers, India also has significant economic
assets in the two countries. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Videsh Ltd
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(OVL) has a stake in South Sudans oil fields. It has constructed and financed
a 741-km pipeline in the north from the Khartoum refinery to Port Sudan on
the Red Sea.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
G8 ACCORD ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN CONFLICT ZONES

G8 adopted what they described as a historic declaration committing the


international community to tackle sexual violence in conflict zones.
The agreement, reached on the sidelines of discussions on North Korea and
Syria ahead of the summit of G8 leaders in June, was hailed by Foreign
Secretary William Hague as a turning point in the campaign against war
zone rape.
He announced an additional funding of 5 million from the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office to support the campaign, while another 5 million
were committed by the Department for International Development bringing
the total funding by G8 nations to roughly 24 million.

NEW UN PEACEKEEPING MISSION IN MALI

15

The Security Council approved a 12,600-strong United Nations peacekeeping


operation to take over from the African-led mission in Mali and authorized
the blue helmets "to use all necessary means" to carry out security-related
stabilization tasks, protect civilians, UN staff and cultural artefacts, and
create the conditions for the provision of humanitarian aid.
MINUSMA's (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization
Mission in Mali) core task is to support the political process in Mali, in close
coordination with the African Union and the Economic Community of West
African States (ECOWAS).
The mission willhelp the Malian authorities to implement the transitional
roadmap towards the full restoration of constitutional order, democratic
governance and national unity.
This includes the holding of elections in July, confidence building and
facilitation of reconciliation at the national and local levels.

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SCIENCE AND TECH.


QUANTUM BIOLOGY

For the first time scientists have engineered a series of molecules that show
quantum effects similar to that observed in the light-harvesting complexes.
They have been able to both understand as well as mimic the efficient
mechanism of light transfer happening in plants.
Aside from other benefits, this would lead to the production of artificial
energy-transfer devices which could use the mechanism efficiently.
Photosynthetic antennae are arrays of proteins and chlorophyll which
transfer absorbed light energy to the reaction centres where light energy is
converted to chemical energy. This enhances the efficiency of light transfer
compared to the process when light is absorbed directly by the reaction
centres themselves.
The secret of the efficiency of the transfer process lies in quantum electronic
coherence that stretches over some femtoseconds (a femtosecond is a
millionth of a billionth of a second). When there is coherence, energy from
the incoming photon can simultaneously explore every possible cholorophyll
route from the proteins surface to the reaction centre at its core and then
settle for the shortest route.
Compare this with the time and energy wasted if the photon had to
sequentially try out every path before reaching the reaction centre. Thus the
efficiency of the process is increased manifold.
The main actor in this is a dye-like material called fluorescein. The
researchers modified fluorescein and linked parts of these together rigidly to
form a series of compounds.

SMARTPHONE SATELLITES

16

NASA recently successfully completed their PhoneSat mission involving


nanosatellites. The missions goal was to discover if a consumer-grade
smartphone can be utilized as the main flight avionics for a satellite orbiting
far above the earths surface.
The mission began on Sunday, April 21st with the launch of three tiny
satellitesfittingly christened Alexander, Graham and Bell. Each of the
satellites were built using a smartphone (NASA isnt saying which brand) as
the main source of computational power.
The agency wanted to find out if satellites could be constructed from off-theshelf components available to anyone.

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NASAs team of researchers, along with regular citizens, were able to create
what social media-philes would call a planet selfie of the Earth with the
iSatellites.
PhoneSat was a proud collaboration between the government agency and
average stargazers from all across the world.
During the missions relatively short amount of time, the three satellites
were able to take hundreds of photos of our planet.
This exciting project may open up a new age of citizen space exploration,
where building a satellite requires little more than an iPhone.

RUSSIA LAUNCHES BIO-SATELLITE

Russia launched an orbital Noah's Ark to space a bio-satellite packed


with an array of mice and other small creatures to study the effects of long
flights on living organisms.
Russias latest BION-M1 biological research capsule carrying 45 mice, eight
Mongolian gerbils, 15 geckos, snails, fish eggs, micro-organisms and plants
blasted off aboard the modernised Soyuz 2 rocket from the Baikonur launch
pad in Kazakhstan.
During the 30-day flight the crew will take part in more than 70 genetic,
physiological and biological experiments that should help prepare better for
flights to Mars and other planets.
A meteorite-type heat-resistant material with tiny holes carrying various
bacteria and fungi has been attached to the outer skin of the satellite. The
microbes will be exposed to freezing temperatures, space vacuum and reentry heat to see if they can survive travel through space.
Russia has resumed biological satellite launches after a break of 15 years.

ALPHA MAGNETIC SPECTROMETER

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An international experiment aboard the International Space Station (ISS)


reported the observation of an excess of positrons in the cosmic ray flux, the
source of which could be the elusive dark matter.
This forms the most important part of the first results from the experiment,
called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS).
The mysterious dark matter, which is believed to account for a quarter of the
universes mass-energy balance and is distributed isotropically invariant
with respect to direction in the space, can be observed indirectly through
its gravitational interaction with visible matter but is yet to be directly
detected.
The search for dark matter is one of the objectives of this space-borne AMS
even as it is being actively searched for in ground-based experiments such as

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the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and other experiments in deep


underground experiments.
The instrument is basically a giant magnet and an antimatter detector
attached to the outside of the ISS. It is the most powerful and sensitive
particle spectrometer ever deployed in space. It is designed to study the
cosmic ray particles, which are charged high-energy particles that permeate
space, before they have a chance to interact with the Earths atmosphere.

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2-MARKERS
PERSONALITIES
RAVURI BHARADWAJA

The eminent Telugu novelist, short story writer, poet and critic Ravuri
Bharadwaja was selected for the prestigious Jnanpith award for the year
2012 for his contribution to Telugu literature.
Along with the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, Jnanpith award is one of the two
most prestigious literary honours in the country. Any Indian citizen who
writes in any of the official languages of India is eligible for the honour.

PRAN KRISHAN SIKAND

Veteran Bollywood actor Pran Krishan Sikand, who played villain and
character roles in Bollywood movies, has been chosen for the Dada Saheb
Phalke Award, 2013.
The Dadasaheb Phalke Award is India's highest award in cinema given
annually by the Government of India for lifetime contribution to Indian
cinema.

RUTH PRAWER JHABVALA

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the German-born screenwriter and novelist who,


as the writing member of the Merchant Ivory filmmaking team, won two
Academy Awards for adaptations of genteel, class-conscious E. M. Forster
novels, died recently.
She wrote dozen novels and screenplays and eight collections of short
stories and was made a CBE in 1998 and granted a joint fellowship by
BAFTA in 2002 with Ivory and Merchant.
She is the only person to ever have won both a Booker Prize and an Oscar.

MARGARET THATCHER

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Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first woman Prime Minister who led the
Conservative party for more than a decade through one of the most
tumultuous periods in modern British history and became a deeply
divisive political figure, died.
Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation
(particularly of the financial sector)flexible labour markets, the
privatisation of state- owned companies, and reducing the power and
influence of trade unions.
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ROBERT GEOFFREY EDWARDS

He was a British physiologist and pioneer in reproductive medicine and


in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) in particular. Edwards successfully pioneered
conception through IVF, which led to the birth of the first test-tube baby,
Louise Brown.
He was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for the
development of in vitro fertilization".

PLACES
MUKUNDARA HILLS TIGER RESERVE

After Ranthambhore and Sariska, Rajasthan will now be home to a third big
cat habitat-the Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve.
The new tiger reserve, located chiefly in Rajasthan's Hadoti region, was
notified by the state government.

TAGORE CENTRE FOR GLOBAL THOUGHT

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The Tagore Centre for Global Thought at India Institute, Kings College,
London was inaugurated recently.
Set up as part of the Tagore Commemoration celebrating 150th Birth
Anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, this Tagore Centre will
enhance Tagore-related, academic intellectual and philosophic work
globally.
The underlying concept is to promote the study of liberal arts and support
programmes connected with all aspects of Tagores works and showcase
how the Indian thought and intellectual capability was influenced by
Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.

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