Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Current Affairs 28 January 2014

Biannual summit in Brussels

  • The escalating political crisis in Ukraine has cast a deep shadow over Russia’s relations with Europe.
  • In a blunt display of their irritation with Moscow, the European leaders have curtailed their summit with President Vladimir Putin, truncated its agenda and cancelled a traditional dinner for the Russian leader.
  • What was to be a two-day biannual summit in Brussels has been cut to just three hours of talks , with Mr. Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sitting across the table from European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.
  • Russia and the EU have blamed each other for the crisis in Ukraine, triggered by the decision of President Viktor Yanukovych to ditch an EU free trade and association pact last November in favour of building closer ties with Russia.
  • After two months of largely peaceful protests against Ukraine’s U-turn, violent clashes erupted in the capital Kiev last week, leading to the death of at least three protesters and one police officer.


  • 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.

SC to review verdict on homosexuality

  • The Supreme Court is going to take up petitions filed by Centre and rights activists seeking review of its verdict declaring gay sex an offence punishable up to life imprisonment.
  • A bench of justices HL Dattu and SJ Mukhopadhaya will take up the petition in chamber to decide whether the verdict needs to be re-looked or not. Seeking stay on the operation of the judgement, gay rights activists, including NGO Naz Foundation, 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 submitted that criminalizing gay sex amounts to violation of fundamental rights of the LGBT community. The NGO submitted there are a number of "grave errors of law" and "wrong application of law" in the judgement which needs to be corrected.
  • Amid huge outrage against the judgement, the Centre also filed a review petition in the apex court. The Centre sought review to "avoid grave miscarriage of justice to thousands of LGBT" persons who have been aggrieved by the apex court judgement contending it is "unsustainable" as it "suffers from errors". While setting aside the July 2, 2009 judgement of the Delhi High Court, the apex court had held that Section 377 (unnatural sexual offences) of the IPC does not suffer from the vice of unconstitutionality and that the declaration made by the high court is legally unsustainable.

Missile strike by US

  • The US military launched a missile strike in Somalia recently , targeting a suspected Shebab militant leader.
  • The US strike took place just a day after the Shebab, which are linked to Al-Qaeda, called for attacks against foreign forces after arch-enemy Ethiopia joined the African Union force battling the extremists.
  • Hardline Shebab insurgents control large parts of rural southern Somalia, and despite having been driven from a string of towns by the UN-backed mission known as AMISOM, guerrilla units stage regular deadly attacks in the capital Mogadishu.
  • The United States has sent a handful of military advisers to Somalia in recent months to help bolster an African Union force fighting extremist militants there.
  • The deployment marked the first stationing of US troops in the troubled country since 1993, when two Blackhawk helicopters were shot down and 18 Americans were killed in a disastrous operation.
  • Ethiopian troops moved into Somalia in 2006 in a US-backed invasion, but pulled out three years later in the face of stiff opposition. They formally crossed back into Somalia in November 2011, where units have remained ever since.
  • Ethiopia had sent troops into its lawless neighbor in a US-backed invasion in 2006, but the move sparked a bloody uprising and the troops pulled out three years later after failing to restore order

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.

India Inclusive Innovation Fund

  • The National Innovation Council (NInC) and the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises announced the creation of the India Inclusive Innovation Fund.
  • The fund seeks to combine innovation and the dynamism of enterprise to solve the problems of citizens at the bottom of the economic pyramid in India.
  • The fund, launched by Sam Pitroda, head of the NInC, is an autonomous Rs 500-crore fund, with the Union Government contributing 20 per cent. The balance will come from public sector banks, financial institutions, insurance companies, multilateral/bilateral development agencies, Indian & global corporates.
  • The fund’s life is for nine years, extendable by up to two years (subject to approval of contributors) and it will focus on healthcare, food and nutrition, agriculture, education, energy, financial inclusion, environment, technology as an enabler, among others.

Export duty on iron ore pellets

  • Considering the increase in the average speed of packing machines, the government has revised the capacity of production and consequently increased the duty applicable to pan masala and tobacco products including gutka, chewing tobacco, unmanufactured tobacco and filter khaini packed in pouches with the aid of packaging machines etc. under the compounded levy scheme.
  • Beside above, considering the domestic requirement of iron ore pellets, the government has decided to impose an export duty of 5% on iron ore pellets.
  • Iron ore fines and lumps are leviable to an export duty of 30%. Iron ore pellets are however exempt from export duty. In 2012-13, exports of iron ore pellets were negligible.
  • However, in April-November 2013, exports of iron ore pellets have risen sharply, causing an apprehension about shortage of iron ore in the country. Iron ore is a critical raw material required for production of steel.

Lusofonia Games

  • India turned the match on its head in the last two minutes to secure a cherished gold in basketball at the Lusofonia Games 2014.
  • Tied 67-67 against Angola and with just two minutes on the clock, India left the visitors gasping for breath with some inspiring play as they finished 77-70 at the Shyam Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium in Taleigao .
  • India deserved every bit of the gold, the country's first involving teams from outside the sub-continent for as long as anyone can remember. They dominated three quarters of the match, and after being down 50-53 going into the final quarter, the hosts overcame weariness, both physical and mental, to emerge champions.
  • Joginder, India's big-shots player, was the star of the day, accumulating 18 points, 15 of them through three-pointers. Then there was Bhriguvanshi, whose 17 points came at a time when the team needed it the most.
  • In the women's category, Mozambique were in a league of their own as they thumped Angola 73-49 to clinch the gold medal. India, who lost to both Angola and Mozambique in the group stage, had to settle for the bronze medal, finishing just ahead of bottom-placed Macau.

Lee Yong-dae banned

  • South Korea's Olympic badminton gold medallist Lee Yong-dae has been hit with a one-year ban for missing doping tests, said the Badminton World Federation (BWF) .
  • The 25-year-old won mixed doubles gold at the 2008 Games in Beijing and a bronze medal in the men's doubles in London four years later. Another Korean player, Kim Ki-jung, was also banned for one year.
  • The ban was effective until Jan. 23, 2015, the federation said in a statement, meaning the players would miss the Asian Games in Incheon later this year.

Rahul Dravid : to mentor junior Olympic, Paralympic athletes

  • Former Indian cricket captainRahul Dravid announced his association with GoSports Foundation with an aim to contribute towards the development and mentorship of Indian junior Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
  • Dravid will join the Board of Advisors of sports non-profit organisation and will also institute the 'Rahul Dravid Athlete Mentorship Programme'.
  • The mentorship will involve Dravid and his team of experts personally advising select high-potential athletes at key phases in their careers, and also providing them access to scientific expertise, performance and injury management, and allied professional services, so as to provide specific and meaningful support to their young careers.
  • Dravid joins 2008 Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra on the Foundation's Board of Advisors.

    Source : UPSCPORTAL

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