Friday, January 31, 2014

Current Affairs for 29 January 2014

India - Pakistan trade deadlock

  • India has once again called on Pakistan not to hold up the trans-Line of Control (LoC) trade and movement of people for the sake of a truck driver.
  • India has also suggested several initiatives that could help break the fortnight-long deadlock after a Pakistani truck driver was arrested following the alleged recovery of drugs from his truck. The incident took place on a day the countries were discussing steps towards normalisation of bilateral trade.
  • India has suggested an immediate meeting of mid-level officials at Kaman Post on the LoC to exchange information about recent narcotic seizures. New Delhi has also sought information about Pakistani investigations to uncover the identity of the persons who had sent the drugs in a consignment of almonds.
  • At a more senior level, India has proposed a meeting of the official-level Joint Working Group on Trans-LoC CBMs in the second week of February. This would help remove ambiguities in the interpretation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
  • India is convinced it had the right to arrest a Pakistani national if he has committed a crime. The MEA drew attention to Clause 9 of the SOP for cross-LoC trade dealing with examination of the goods to verify whether they are covered under the permitted list of items and are as per the declaration made by the exporter.

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.

Three Bills passed by Karnataka Assembly

  • The Legislative Assembly has adopted three Bills, including the Karnataka Private Aided Educational Institutions Employees (Regulation of Pay, Pension and other benefits) Bill 2014, the Karnataka Legislature Salaries, Pensions and Allowances (Amendment) Bill 2014 and the Karnataka Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Bill.
  • Except the Karnataka Private Educational Institutions Employees Bill 2014, the other two had an easy passage.

Indian External Affairs Minister to visit Morocco, Tunisia

  • External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will embark on a week-long trip to Morocco, Tunisia and Sudan. India has substantial economic interests in all the three countries linked to its food and energy security.
  • The visit to the region comes after Indian participation in the Geneva II Conference on Syria and follows the recent visits of Prime Minister of Kuwait, foreign ministers of Egypt and the UAE and the Secretary General of the Arab League to New Delhi.
  • The last foreign office visit to Morocco was by Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed in 2012 but former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited the country 15 years ago while King Mohammad VI visited India 13 years ago.
  • Morocco is an importance source of phosphate imports to India. OCP (office Cherifen des Phosphates) has a phosphate related joint venture with Tata Chemicals and Chambal Chemicals & Fertilisers. It produces four lakh tonnes of phosphoric acid for exports to India.
  • The visit to Tunisia will be the first bilateral visit ever by an Indian Foreign Minister. Tunisia has been a reliable source for phosphates to India for over five decades.
  • In Sudan, the trade relationship cuts both ways — India is the second largest exporter to Sudan, and this year exports could cross the $1-billion mark.

Google Glass

  • Google Glass is getting glasses. Google is adding prescription frames and new styles of detachable sunglasses to its computerised, internet-connected goggles known as Glass.
  • The move comes as Google prepares to make Glass available to the general population later this year. Currently, Glass is available only to the tens of thousands of people who are testing and creating apps for it.
  • Glass hasn't actually had glasses in its frame until now.
  • Glass is basically a small computer, with a camera and a display screen above the wearer's right eye. The device sits roughly at eyebrow level, higher than where eyeglasses would go.
  • It lets wearers surf the web, ask for directions and take photos or videos. Akin to wearing a smartphone without having to hold it in your hands, Glass also lets people read their email, share photos on Twitter and Facebook, translate phrases while travelling or partake in video chats.
  • Users can take the frames to any vision care provider for prescription lenses, though Google says it is working with insurance provider Vision Service Plan to train eye-care providers around the US on how to work with Glass. Google says some insurance plans may cover the cost of the frames.
  • Isabelle Olsson, the lead designer for Google Glass, says the new frames open the spectacles up to a larger audience.

RBI rate hike to check inflation

  • The Reserve Bank's hiking the key lending rate by 0.25 per cent is a reflection of its "strong commitment" to check inflation, according to Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) Chairman C Rangarajan .
  • It is a reflection of the strong commitment of Reserve Bank to the price stability as the chief objective of the monetary policy. The decision also reflects certain change in terms of the indicators being monitoring.
  • While the Wholesale Price Inflation (WPI) remains near the comfort zone, the Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) is not. Therefore the decision to increase the interest rate is once again reflection of the shift in terms of the focus from wholesale price inflation to retail inflation.
  • Retail or CPI inflation in December had moderated to a three month low of 9.87 per cent, while the wholesale or WPI was at 5-month low of 6.16 per cent.

Asia forex bounces

  • The South Korean won led a relief rally among emerging Asian currencies as a huge interest rate hike by Turkey's central bank calmed emerging markets after several days of turmoil.
  • Turkey followed India by tightening policy at a midnight meeting of its central bank, with the massive hike in the overnight lending rate of 425 basis points taking rates all the way to 12 per cent.
  • The won also benefited from stronger-than-expected industrial output growth and a record current account surplus. The won's strength lifted the Taiwan dollar.
  • Malaysia's ringgit advanced on buying by offshore hedge funds and demand against the Singapore dollar.
  • Asian shares also rallied after Turkey's move, reflecting a broad rise in risk-appetite which provided some respite for the battered Turkish lira.
  • Malaysia's central bank is expected to keep its interest rate unchanged at 3.00 percent later in the day.
  • The recent selloff in emerging market assets drove Asian currencies sharply lower as investors fretted over the twin concerns of a cutback in U.S. stimulus and slowing growth in China.
  • The Fed is expected to announce another $10 billion cut in its monthly bond-purchase programme when it concludes a two-day policy meeting later in the day.
  • The won rose as offshore funds scrambled to cover short positions and on demand from exporters such as shipbuilders, traders said.
  • South Korea's industrial output jumped in December and its current account surplus grew to a record last year, suggesting the economy carried strong momentum into 2014 with sufficient buffers to weather the latest global market turmoil.

Series clinched by Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka defeated India by six wickets with seven balls to spare in the third and final women’s Twenty20 match to claim the series 2-1, at the ACA-VDCA stadium.
  • Sri Lanka captain Shashikala Siriwardene played a responsible knock to remain unbeaten on 46 (42b, 4x4, 1x6) to guide the visitors to victory.
  • India, opting to bat, was pushed to a corner early in the match as it lost a wicket each in the first four overs.

Star India and Times Internet to distribute IPL

  • Star India has licensed the digital distribution rights for IPL 2014 from Times Internet, the digital arm of The Times of India Group. Star India will offer streaming and video on demand on, the Star Sports app, and on mobile operator services powered by Star Sports.
  • Times Internet will distribute IPL streaming and video on demand on its cricket destination on web and mobile, powered by a video player. Both companies will market the joint proposition, and Star India will be solely responsible for monetisation, including advertising sales.
  • Last year, IPL online witnessed a 56 per cent growth in unique visitors, with over 200 million video views. This year, India’s two largest media houses will co-distribute IPL, offering unparalleled reach and viewership.
  • Times Internet is the largest Indian online media entity, with over 40 million monthly visitors across its numerous digital destinations. Its portfolio includes news, lifestyle content, entertainment, e-commerce, mobile VAS, music & movie streaming, and local services.

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