Current Affairs - 23 -24 February 2014

President’s rule in Andhra Pradesh

  • Two days after Parliament approved the division of Andhra Pradesh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi set in motion internal consultations on the creation of separate party units for Telangana and Seemandhra.
  • After Kiran Kumar Reddy resigned as Chief Minister, the Congress discussed the option of forming a government with a Chief Minister from the Seemandhra region, but at the time of writing, it looked unlikely.
  • The Congress’s top priority is either to persuade the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to merge with it or forge an electoral alliance. Of the 17 seats in Telangana, the Congress currently holds 10 .

Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill

  • A Bill to set up a regular mechanism to encourage persons to disclose information on corruption or wilful misuse of power by public servants, including Ministers, was passed by the Rajya Sabha.
  • The Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill also seeks to provide for “adequate protection to persons reporting corruption or wilful misuse of discretion which causes a demonstrable loss to the government, or commission of a criminal offence by a public servant.”
  • The Bill sets forth the procedure for inquiring into the disclosures and provides for safeguards against victimisation. At the same time, it provides punishment for false or frivolous complaints.
  • The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2011 and was taken up by the Rajya Sabha in 2012. However, it could not be passed because of the death of Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh

Probe in Radia tape

  • The Income Tax department, on directions of the Supreme Court in connection with the 2G spectrum allocation case, has found no instance of tax evasion after going through the entire range of intercepted conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia.
  • The department, according to sources, has placed a detailed report stating these facts to the apex court recently which is expected to take up the case in its hearing on the issue next month.
  • However, a final decision on these findings would only be taken by the top court once it goes through the report submitted by the department.
  • The apex court bench, headed by Justice G.S. Singhvi, had ordered CBI and the I-T department to probe certain issues that were identified by CBI after going through the transcript of the Radia tapes.
  • The department had recorded 180 days of Radia’s conversations — first from August 20, 2008 onwards for 60 days and then from October 19 for another 60 days.

G20’s aim of lifting global GDP

  • The Finance ministers and central bank governors of G20 nations decided to work towards lifting their collective GDP by more than two per cent over the next five years and exhorted the United States to go ahead with the IMF quota reforms.
  • The group of 20 rich and developing nations said they “deeply regret” the stalling of IMF quota reforms with the United States yet to ratify them.
  • The IMF quota reforms, which seek to increase the voting share of emerging economies including India, had hit a roadblock with the US Congress refusing to increase the American contribution to the multilateral body.
  • Emerging economies, including India, have been asking the U.S., which has started gradual withdrawal of its fiscal stimulus, to be more predictable in monetary policy. The U.S. Federal Reserve’s tapering has caused flight of capital out of emerging economies and in turn hammering their currencies.
  • The G20 countries also committed to develop new measures, for maintaining fiscal sustainability and financial sector stability, to significantly raise global growth.

Jade Rabbit

  • China’s first lunar rover Jade Rabbit, which woke up ten days ago after being declared dead, has entered its third “planned dormancy” even as mechanical issues that might cripple the vehicle still unresolved.
  • The rover named Yutu (Jade Rabbit) in Chinese entered its 14-day dormancy, with the mechanical control issues unresolved, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
  • Yutu touched down on the moon’s surface on December 15, some hours after lunar probe Chang’e-3 landed.
  • The rover was designed to roam the lunar surface for at least three months to survey the moon’s geological structure and surface substances and look for natural resources.
  • China is the third country to soft-land on the moon after the United States and the Soviet Union. Chang’e-3 is part of the second phase of China’s lunar program, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to Earth.
  • The country has also sent probes to orbit the moon in 2007 and 2010, the first of which crashed onto the lunar surface at the end of its mission.
  • According to the SASTIND, the Chang’e-2 has become China’s first man-made asteroid, and is currently 70 million km from the Earth.

Delhi Open

  • Devvarman accomplished a 6-3, 6-1 win to lift the ONGC GAIL Delhi Open $100,000 ATP Challenger trophy in front of a significantly large crowd at the DLTA centre court.
  • Devvarman’s reward for a week in which he didn’t drop a set will be 100 ATP points and $14,400. This was his biggest success on the Challenger Tour as his previous two titles were at Lexington ($50,000) and Izmir ($75,000).

Head of Lokpal search committee

  • The former Supreme Court judge, K.T. Thomas, will head the eight-member search committee to select the names for various posts of Lokpal, the anti-corruption ombudsman.
  • Justice Thomas was unanimously chosen on February 20 by the selection committee, comprising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar; Supreme Court Judge H.L. Dattu, who is the nominee of the Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam; Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj; and Jurist P.P. Rao.
  • This committee will scrutinise the more than 300 applications received for the post of chairperson and eight members (four judicial and four non-judicial) and forward the names to the selection committee.
  • The chairperson can be a serving or former Chief Justice of India, a sitting or former judge of the Supreme Court or a person of impeccable integrity and outstanding ability.

    No tough laws against marines

  • The government told Supreme Court that it will not use a severe anti-piracy law when it tries two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in 2012.
  • The Government attorneys told the apex court that the law, which carries the death penalty, will not apply in the case.
  • India has previously ruled out the possibility of a death penalty but said it would still prosecute the marines under the anti-piracy law.
  • The Italian government has strongly protested India’s position and sought U.N. and European Union intervention in easing the deadlock.
  • Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone were providing security aboard a cargo ship in February 2012 when they opened fire on a fishing boat they mistook for a pirate craft and killed two Indian fishermen. The marines are on bail pending trial, and are living and working at the Italian Embassy in New Delhi.

Counter in SC over release of Rajiv Gandhi’s killers

  • The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa asserted that her government would face it legally, responding to the Centre moving the Supreme Court seeking direction to Tamil Nadu not to release four convicts, including Nalini.
  • On February 19, Ms. Jayalalithaa announced in the state assembly her government’s decision to release all the seven convicts, a day after the Supreme Court commuted the death penalty of three of them -- Murugan, Santhan and A G Perarivalan -- to life.
  • However, the decision came in for severe flak from Congress, including its vice-president Rahul Gandhi, whose father Rajiv Gandhi was victim of the LTTE suicide bomb blast on May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur.
  • The Centre filed a petition on February 20 before the Supreme Court challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s decision and the court stayed the release of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan.
  • The Centre recently filed another application seeking stay on release of four other convicts, including Nalini, whose death penalty had already been commuted to life in 2000.

Italy's Prime Minister

  • Matteo Renzi was sworn as Italy's youngest Prime Minister, alongside his new Cabinet of 16 ministers.
  • It's a step many hope will bring much-needed political stability to the country.
  • The former Florence mayor, who won control of the Democratic Party in a primary a couple of months ago, ousted fellow party member Enrico Letta in a party vote .
  • Renzi, 39, is nicknamed il Rottomatore -- or "the demolition man" -- for his pugnacious style of politics.
  • Half of Renzi's ministers are women, the largest proportion in Italian history. Most of the ministers are young by Italian standards, with an average age of 48.
  • Italy, the third largest economy in the eurozone, has had more than its share of political turmoil over recent years.

Anti-gay bill to be signed by Uganda's president

  • Despite appeals from South Africa’s retired Archbishop and Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu and U.S. President Barack Obama, Uganda’s president is expected to sign a controversial anti-gay bill that allows harsh penalties for homosexual offenses.
  • The bill is popular in Uganda, but rights groups have condemned it as draconian in a country where homosexuality is already illegal.
  • The law punishes first-time offenders with 14 years in jail. It also sets life imprisonment as the penalty for acts of “aggravated homosexuality.” The bill originally proposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts, but that was later removed amid international criticism.

FY’15 growth pegged at 5.5%

  • Stating that the forthcoming elections will delay the reform process and hurt growth, international rating agency Moody’s said that it expects growth to pick up to only 5.5 per cent in FY’15.
  • Growth has been below the trend for much of FY’14 and the government’s official estimate pegs it at 4.9 per cent, a bit higher than 4.5 per cent achieved in FY’13. Elections are scheduled for April-May.
  • The agency also gave a negative outlook for non-financial corporates in 2014 on weak economy, political uncertainty and effects of the US Fed’s tapering.
  • It specifically said domestically focused sectors like real estate, cement, automotive, steel, metals and mining, and retail which are dependent on “vagaries of regulation and policy-setting” have negative outlooks.

Somdev’s new ATP rankings

  • Courtesy his Delhi Open triumph, India’s numero uno singles player Somdev Devvarman jumped 18 places to become world number 78 in the latest ATP rankings.
  • He collected 100 ranking points after beating top seed Alerksandr Nedovyesov in the final, and is set to face world number five and 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro in the first round of the ATP 500 Dubai Duty Free championships.
  • Somdev’s career best rank is 62, which he had achieved in July 2011.
  • India’s number two singles player Yuki Bhambri lost three places to end up at 146. The Delhi boy had made a shock first-round exit at the Delhi Open.
  • In the doubles category, Leander Paes continued to be India’s top player at number 10. Rohan Bopanna lost a place to end up 16th while Mahesh Bhupathi, who is set to retire this year, further slipped to 41. Left-handed Divij Sharan was the next best at 65.
  • In the women’s rankings, Sania Mirza (11) dropped out of the top-10. Mirza suffered a shock first-round exit from the Dubai event with partner Cara Black last week.

No comments: