Current Affairs - 06 February 2014

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 06 February 2014

Joint bloc in the Parliament

  • On a day when senior BJP leaders, including the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, and the Aam Aadmi Party dismissed the prospects of a third front, leaders of 11 parties came together to form a bloc for a joint floor strategy in Parliament.
  • The 11 parties are the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United), AIADMK, Asom Gana Parishad, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, Janata Dal (Secular), Biju Janata Dal and the four Left parties.
  • The presence of the SP that gives outside support to the UPA is considered significant. Party leader Ramgopal Yadav said their backing of the government was only issue-based.
  • The leaders of the 11 parties, who met in Parliament House, indicated that the idea of a secular, democratic front was taking concrete shape.
  • Outside Parliament, the leaders would try and evolve a common strategy and programme. They have already indicated that individual parties can go in for seat arrangements in their respective states.

Parliament Adjourned

  • The first day of the extended winter session of the Lok Sabha ended less than 15 minutes after it began, with no business transacted other than passing a unanimous resolution condemning the killing of Nido Tania, an Arunachal Pradesh student, in New Delhi last week.
  • The adjournment comes amid mounting criticism of the 15th Lok Sabha, which has passed fewer laws than any of the previous ones which had completed the full term.
  • Two flagship pieces of anti-corruption legislation — the Right of Citizens for Time-Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011, and the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials of Public International Organisations Bill, 2011 — had been scheduled to be passed. The Bills were among the 39 the United Progressive Alliance government had prioritised for the winter session.
  • However, MPs from Andhra Pradesh forced Parliament to adjourn, mounting protests on the Telangana issue.

Latest evidence in Union Carbide case

  • Plaintiffs in the case brought against the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) for the 1984 poison gas disaster in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, released new evidence that was said to demonstrate the company’s “direct role in designing and building the pesticide plant” in question.
  • The Bhopal gas tragedy, considered India’s worst industrial disaster, occurred on December 2 1984 at the UCIL pesticide plant and in its wake, many thousands of people were injured from exposure to methyl isocyanate gas and other chemicals and several thousands were killed.
  • Evidence was submitted to the court in January in Sahu II v. UCC, a federal class-action lawsuit filed by residents of Bhopal whose land and water remain contaminated by waste from the chemical plant.
  • This evidence demonstrates that Union Carbide was intimately involved in every aspect of designing and building the Bhopal plant, including the waste disposal systems.

Nepal Prime Minister poll

  • With the political parties failing to agree on a consensus Prime Minister by the deadline set by the President, a House committee recommended election for the post on February 10.
  • A statement by Parliament Secretariat announced the election schedule following recommendation by the Business Advisory Committee of the Parliament. The nominations for the election would be filed on February 8 and 9, with the final list of the candidates announced a day before the election.
  • So far, only Sushil Koirala, president of the Nepali Congress and its Parliamentary Party leader, has announced his candidacy. He and his party have sought the support of other political parties to this end.
  • Of the 575 in the 601 seats that were decided by direct and proportional representation (PR) electoral system, the NC got 196 seats, emerging as the largest party. Although some smaller parties have pledged their support to Mr. Koirala’s candidacy, the NC is banking on the CPN-UML to support its prime ministerial candidate.
  • President Ram Baran Yadav, who had set a deadline of February 2 for a consensus Prime Minister as per Article 38(1) of the Interim Constitution, asked the political parties to elect the Prime Minister by majority vote as per Article 38(2) of the statute within a week.
  • The election for the Constituent Assembly-cum-Parliament was held on November 19 last year. The parties pledged to draft the new Constitution within a year of the first sitting of the Constituent Assembly which met for the first time on January 22. The previous CA, elected in 2008, failed to deliver the Constitution.

US visa reform

  • India has warned the United States of consequences for its companies if lawmakers tighten visa rules on high-tech firms as part of an immigration overhaul.
  • India would see a decision to restrict certain temporary visas for skilled workers as a sign that the US economy is becoming less open for business.
  • The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives recently laid out general principles for an overhaul of immigration — whose main goal would be to give legal status to the estimated 11 million undocumented foreigners in the United States.
  • The Senate bill, while increasing the overall number of H-1B visas available, would hike fees and restrict additional H-1B visas for companies considered dependent on such foreign workers. The move came after complaints by US companies and labor groups that Indian tech firms bring in their own, lower-paid employees rather than hiring Americans.

FIIs, NRIs to invest in insurance

  • The government has allowed 26 percent foreign investment in activities related to insurance, like broking, third party administrators and surveyors, and permitted FIIs and NRIs to also invest in insurers within the stipulated cap.
  • Under the norms notified, 26 percent foreign investment, including foreign direct investment (FDI), Foreign Institutional Investors (FII) and Non-Resident Indians (NRI) will be allowed under the automatic route in insurance companies, insurance brokers, Third Party Administrators (TPAs), surveyors and loss assessees.
  • The decision will come into force with immediate effect, the note added. Insurance brokers are entities which, for remuneration, arrange insurance contracts with insurers or reinsurers on behalf of their clients. TPAs help in facilitating health insurance on behalf of insurers.
  • All these entities are required to obtain a licence from the IRDA for undertaking specific activities. The relaxation falls short of the demand of insurance industry which has been pleading for hiking the FDI cap in the sector to 49 per cent, from 26 per cent at present. The Insurance Laws Amendment Bill, which seeks to raise the cap, has been pending in Parliament since 2008 and is unlikely to be taken up in the ongoing session due to lack of political consensus.

Dipika Pallikal returns to top 10

  • India's top squash player Dipika Pallikal has returned to the top 10 of the world rankings for the first time since December 2012.
  • The 22-year-old moved two places to be no.10 in the latest Women's Squash Association (WSA) rankings despite enduring a tough start to the year.
  • Dipika's improvement in the rankings can be attributed to her performance towards the end of 2013 when she won the $35,000 Macau Open and reached the quarterfinals of the $50,000 China Open in Shanghai.
  • The Chennai-born player, who was recently honoured with the Padma Shri, opened her 2014 campaign at the Tournament of Champions in New York where she lost in the qualifiers to Annie Au of Hong Kong.

Exhibition match to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Lord's

  • Cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne are slated to lead the two teams in an exhibition match to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Lord's, the original Mecca of the sport.
  • Tendulkar will lead the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the owners of the north-west London venue, while the Aussie spin magician headlines a Rest of the World side in a 50-overs per side exhibition match on July 5.
  • Tendulkar, who was presented with an MCC Honorary Life Membership in 2010, also said that it will be a privilege to play at the 'home of cricket' once again, while Warne, who took 19 wickets in four Tests at Lord's, said that he is sure that the match will be a lot of fun.
  • MCC, founded in 1787, moved to its present site in the north-west London suburb of St John's Wood in 1814, with the ground owned by entrepreneur Thomas Lord - hence its name.
  • Although it is more than 40 years since MCC ceased to run English cricket, it retains worldwide responsibility for the game's 'Laws', as cricket's rules are known.

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