19 MAR 14
INDIAN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT SURVEY
- According to a survey conducted by the National Council for Applied Economic Research, four out of ten women in India still have no say in their marriage, eight out of ten need permission to visit a doctor, six out of ten practise some form of head covering, and the average Indian household gives over Rs. 30,000 in dowry.
- The National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) conducts the India Human Development Survey (IHDS), the largest household survey in India after the government's Nation Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) surveys, and the NCAER is the only independent body that conducts such large-sample panel surveys.
- The data shows that India has made progress in child marriage, with 48% of women over 25 reporting in 2011-12 that they were married before the age of 18 as opposed to 60% in 2004-5. The average number of children that women (over 40) reported they had had has also come down slightly to 3.55, indicating that fertility is falling. The practice of marrying a cousin or relative – more common in the south than the north – is becoming less common, but over 20% in Andhra Pradesh and Karnata still marry relatives.
- However, women's autonomy remains severely constrained. 41% of women had no say in their marriage and just 18% knew their husbands before marriage, a statistic that has not improved. Women's say in marriage rose with their level of education, with income and with level of urbanisation and the southern states did better.
- The average Indian family gives over Rs. 30,000 in cash as dowry and 40% admitted to giving large items like TVs and cars as dowry. The practise of giving large items as dowry was most common among forward caste Hindus and lowest among Muslims. Wedding expenses ranged from nearly Rs 1 lakh in the poorest village to Rs 1.7 lakh in small cities, a big jump over the 2004-5 survey. Kerala and Delhi had the most expensive weddings.
Western Ghats Ecologically Sensitive Area
- The draft notification of Western Ghats Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) covering about 56,825 sq. km has been put in public domain by the Union Environment and Forests Ministry. The notification has left the demarcation of the ESA in Kerala to the State authorities by banking on their evaluation of the Western Ghats boundaries.
- This is slated to be the largest ESA declared under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 in the country. The draft notification signalled the penultimate round of a long lasting debate kicked off by the Union government when in 2010, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh set up the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil. The panel’s report created a stir in some of the six States, especially Kerala, and forced the Union government to set up a second high level panel to review the Gadgil report, this one under Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan.
- Unlike the Gadgil report, the Kasturirangan panel took pains to delineate densely inhabited areas from forested patches and take a relative middle-path to balancing demands of development and maintaining the integrity of the biodiversity hotspot.
- Jayanthi Natarajan, Environment Minister in 2013, passed orders implementing the panel’s report after the National Green Tribunal stepped in to pursue the case.
- Under pressure, the UPA government at the Centre relented and permitted the State to redraw the boundaries of the eco-sensitive zone with the third Environment Minister grappling with the issue in UPA2, Veerappa Moily accepting the new demarcation days before the election model code of conduct coming into force.
Nuclear fuel complex
- Following the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security, the country's second nuclear fuel complex will come up at Kota in Rajasthan. The Rs. 2,400-crore complex, next to the Rawatbhata nuclear plant, will have the facility to reprocess atomic fuel.
- The Department of Atomic Energy has made the new arrangement, keeping in mind the growing demand for fuel required for nuclear plants. The complex will serve atomic plants which are proposed to be developed in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh; Haryana; Jaitapur in Maharashtra and Mithi Virdhi in Gujarat.
- India's first nuclear fuel complex, developed at Hyderabad, does not have the capacity to meet the growing demands from reactors which will come up by the next decade. Also, under the 12th Plan, India aims to increase its nuclear energy generation capacity to over 17,300 MWe, from over 5,500 MWe now.
Accession pact signed
- Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty on Crimea’s accession to Russia after delivering a defiant speech defending his move and blasting the West for pursuing “containment” of Russia and flouting international law.
- The treaty was also signed by the Crimean leaders who attended a special joint session of the Russian Parliament in the Kremlin. Mr. Putin said he was confident the Russian Parliament would ratify the pact.
- Western accusations that Russia had invaded Crimea was denied. Russian “reinforcements” were in line with a treaty with Ukraine that allows Russia to have up to 25,000 troops at its Black Sea Fleet base in Crimea. Mr. Putin dismissed concerns that Russia could seize other regions in Ukraine.
India and China’s MOU on IT
- India and China, signed a memorandum of understanding on IT cooperation, which,was a ‘formal recognition’ from the Chinese government to promote Indian software companies, which have largely struggled to obtain contracts from Chinese state-run companies. Both countries held their third Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) recently.
- India also sought Chinese support in substantially raising the speed on three rail corridors and in developing modern stations.
- China has rapidly modernised its rail network, which only three decades ago lagged behind India’s. The country has also built the world’s biggest high-speed rail network, where trains run at 350 kilometres per hour on 13,000 kilometres of newly-laid track, running entirely separately from the older rail network. India has sought assistance in raising speeds on three lines, between New Delhi and Agra, Kanpur and Chandigarh.
- India has, however, asked Japan for assistance in carrying out a project report considering the possibility of building a high speed rail line between Mumbai and Vadodara. At the SED, both sides signed an MoU to push IT cooperation.
- India has asked China to expand market access for software and pharmaceutical companies, and to take steps to narrow the record $35 billion trade deficit.
Indian shares upgraded
Goldman Sachs upgraded Indian shares to "overweight" from "marketweight" and raised its target on Nifty to 7,600, citing reduced external vulnerabilities, including a narrowing current account deficit, and potential for gains ahead of elections that conclude in May.
The investment bank added it favours cyclicals over defensives because of expectations of an improving economy and a bottoming out of earnings, according to a report .It also recommended investors to focus on potential election beneficiaries in these markets.
It upgraded auto stocks to "overweight", while retaining the same rating on IT and energy stocks.
Goldman said Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC.NS), Coal India (COAL.NS), NTPC (NTPC.NS) and Bharat Petroleum Corp (BPCL.NS) as public sector companies that could be key election beneficiaries.
Among private sector shares, ICICI Bank (ICBK.NS), Larsen and Toubro (LART.NS), UltraTech Cement (ULTC.NS), JSW Steel (JSTL.NS), Indusind Bank and Voltas (VOLT.NS) were seen by Goldman as gaining from elections.
Among private sector shares, ICICI Bank (ICBK.NS), Larsen and Toubro (LART.NS), UltraTech Cement (ULTC.NS), JSW Steel (JSTL.NS), Indusind Bank and Voltas (VOLT.NS) were seen by Goldman as gaining from elections.
Ice loss in Greenland
- According to a study , sea levels will probably rise more now that the last remaining stable portion of Greenland's ice sheet -- the world's second-largest -- is unstable.
- Scientists have known Greenland's ice sheet has been thinning for decades, but for the first time, they've found that's even occurring in its northeast region that had been stable for 25 years. Since 2003, the northeast's ice loss has nearly tripled.
- The decline of Greenland's ice sheet, which is second in size only to Antarctica's and covers 80% of Greenland's surface, has been a major contributor to global sea level rise over the past 20 years.
Restraining order against Zee
- In a temporary relief to the Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the High Court of Madras has directed two private television news channels not to telecast for a fortnight any news connecting him to the Indian Premier League (ILP) betting and fixing scandal.
- The interim order was given on a petition Dhoni moved , which also sought Rs 100 crore from the television channels, Zee Group and News Nation, for damaging his reputation by airing malicious reports that linked him to the match-fixing and betting controversy, which had erupted after an IPS officer’s deposition to the inquiry committee became public.
20 MAR 14
INDIA IS AGAINST SANCTIONS
With its major defence and nuclear interests tied up with Eurasia, India has made it clear that it will not support sanctions sought to be imposed on Russia by a select group of countries led by the U.S.
This is in line with India’s policy of implementing sanctions approved only by the United Nations. . Though India has supported sanctions against Fiji and economically blockaded Nepal twice in the past, it has spoken of late against “unilateral” sanctions.
The government’s stand emerged a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin called up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to explain the situation that led to the annexation of Crimea. The Prime Minister dwelt on India’s position on the unity and territorial integrity of countries and suggested that “all concerned” strive for a diplomatic solution.
Nuclear reactor to yield plutonium
- Iran and world powers locked horns over the future of a planned Iranian nuclear reactor that could yield plutonium for bombs as the United States warned "hard work" will be needed to overcome differences when the sides reconvene in April.
- Tehran's foreign minister voiced optimism that a July 20 deadline for settling a long-running dispute about the scope of Iran's nuclear programme was within reach.
- The meeting in Vienna was the second in a series that the six nations - the United States,China, Russia, Germany, France, Britain - hope will produce a verifiable settlement, ensuring Iran's nuclear programme is oriented to peaceful ends only, and put to rest the risk of a new Middle East war.
- Western nations want to ensure that the Arak reactor is modified sufficiently to ensure it poses no bomb proliferation threat. Iran insists that the desert complex be free to operate under any accord as it would be designed solely to produce radio-isotopes for medical treatments.
'National icon' in 2014 Lok Sabha polls
- The Election Commission has signed up leading Bollywood actor Aamir Khan as its 'national icon' in the run-up to 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
- Aamir will be part of the EC's voter awareness initiatives.
- His main task would be to encourage more and more people to vote in the General Elections.
- Aamir joins the league of four other 'national icons' – Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, boxer MC Mary Kom, badminton ace Saina Nehwal and former president APJ Abdul Kalam.
EC approval for new gas price regime
- The Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry is awaiting a nod from the Election Commission to go ahead with notifying a new gas price regime that will almost double the cost of natural gas to $8 to 8.5 per mmBtu from the present $4.2 per mmBtu .
- Petroleum Secretary Saurabh Chandra met Chief Election Commissioner V. S. Sampath last week and submitted the necessary documents on the issue. He also sought formal approval from the EC for hiking gas prices from April 1 The Cabinet had, last December, given its nod for shifting to the new gas pricing regime under the Rangarajan Committee formula . The new pricing formula would be applicable for a period of five years from April 1, 2014.
- The new rates will change every quarter based on 12-month average of global rates and LNG import price with a lag of one quarter.
- The price for April to June 2014 will be calculated based on the averages for the 12 months ended 31 December 2013 and it is expected that the rate in April will be around $8 per mBtu.
- Fossil India, a subsidiary of American luxury brand Fossil Inc, which recently opened its first single brand retail store after being cleared by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board last year, is ‘bullish on manufacturing’ in India.
- Among the first four companies to be allowed to set up wholly-owned ventures, after the government allowed 100 per cent FDI in 2012, Fossil India plans to ramp up its manufacturing facility in Himachal Pradesh to produce at least five lakh watches by the end of the year (both for exports and domestic sales).
- Sea anemones are classified as animals, but a surprising new research has found that these water-dwelling predatory creatures are technically half plant and half animal.
- It was discovered that sea anemones display a genomic landscape with a complexity of regulatory elements similar to that of fruit flies or other animal model systems.
- This suggests, that this principle of gene regulation is already 600 million years old and dates back to the common ancestor of human, fly and sea anemone.
- On the other hand, sea anemones are more similar to plants rather to vertebrates or insects in their regulation of gene expression by short regulatory RNAs called microRNAs.
Eighth seed at India Open
- Saina Nehwal is the only Indian to have been seeded at the $250,000 India Open Super Series to be held in Delhi from April 1-6.
- World No.1 Li Xuerui of China is the top seed while defending champion and world No.4 Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand has been seeded fourth.
- Saina’s compatriot P.V. Sindhu will take on second seed Shixian Wang of China in the opener.
- The other Indians in the women’s singles main draw are Tanvi Lad, Trupti Murgunde, P.C. Thulasi, Saili Rane and Arundhati Pantawane.
21 MAR 14
New Green Tribunal direction
• The National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the Assam government not to permit traffic on six sections along the 54-km stretch of National Highway 37 passing through the Kaziranga landscape.
• These are used by the animals as corridors from/to the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape during peak animal activity hours from 5-7 a.m. and 4-7 p.m.
• The NGT also directed the government to install cameras in all the six sections to ensure that vehicles passing through the area did not exceed the speed limit of 40 kph.
• The Tribunal said no overloaded vehicles should be allowed to ply on the highway and proper records maintained on the number of vehicles that passed through the sector everyday.
Thailand general election
• Thailand’s Constitutional Court annulled the February 2 general election for failing to hold nationwide voting in every constituency on the same day.
• The court’s judges voted 6 to 3 to void the election, which was boycotted by the opposition Democrat Party and could not be held in 28 of 375 constituencies nationwide.
• No balloting was held in 28 constituencies, all of them in southern provinces that are the traditional power base of the Democrat Party, because no candidates had been registered amid anti—government protests.
• The ruling Pheu Thai party effectively ran unchallenged for the other seats because of a boycott by the opposition, which accused the government of corruption and vote-buying.
UN Water for Life award, 2014
• India and Singapore won the 2014 edition of the UN-Water “Water for Life” Best Practices Award for their sustainable practices of water resources .
• The award was announced by the United Nations Office during an official ceremony to mark World Water Day 2014 .
• The prize is awarded yearly for “best water management practices” and “best participatory, communication, awareness-raising and education practices”.
• This year’s “best water management practices” went to the International Water Management Institute (IWMI)-Tata Water Policy Programme, a project based on water scarce across India.
• Singapore-based “NEWater programme”, which can meet 30 per cent of Singapore’s daily water needs, won the “best participatory, communication, awareness-raising and education practices” for its strong social component and enduring partnerships in its manifold and remarkable water management practices.
Revised intermediaries fee by Sebi
• The board of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) decided to revise the fee it charges from various intermediaries in a bid to fund its programme in investor awareness, education and protection in FY15.
• Laying down the agenda for FY15, the board of Sebi decided to stress on investor awareness and education and enhance the regulator’s reach to potential investors.
• While Sebi will revise the fee charged for various services in a bid to fund its planned objectives, it has clarified that they will have minimal impact on the investors. The changes in fee structures will be notified by the regulator through circulars going forward.
• It is expected that Sebi will revise the registration fee and other fee for stock exchanges, mutual funds, brokers and other intermediaries.
Largest retailer in India
• Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Retail is expected to emerge as the largest player in India’s organised retail sector this year, overtaking erstwhile market leader Future Retail.
• It posted a turnover of Rs. 10,857 crore for the nine months ended December 31, 2013. Future group chairman Kishore Biyani had said in January that his group would clock revenues of about Rs. 11,000 crore for the full year. Reliance has already reached that figure in the first nine months of the year and so, is likely to be comfortably ahead by March 31, 2014.
• Parent company Reliance Industries, which is sitting on a cash pile of Rs. 90,000 crore, has lined up massive expansion plans for the retail business. The target: a turnover of Rs. 50,000 crore from this segment by 2016-17.
• The company expects the bulk of this growth to come from the value and digital segments, where it can leverage its deep pockets, world class backend and well-oiled logistics chain to provide competitive prices.
Parupalli Kashyap is world number 24
• India`s Parupalli Kashyap arrested his slide in the latest Badminton World Federation rankings, by rising a place to No.24 in men`s singles.
• Kashyap, who reached a career high of World No.6 last year, had been out of form for quite some time until his semifinal performance last week at the Swiss Open which helped him gain vital points.
• Meanwhile, first round exits at both All England Open and Swiss Open have led Kidambi Srikanth to drop two places to 22nd.
• Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu, however, have retained 8th and 9th positions in the women’s singles rankings.
• No Indian figures in the top-25 of men`s, women`s and mixed doubles rankings.
2014 : 'Year of the sparrow'
• The common sparrow has not remained so common these days, with the bird attaining the fourth rank in the list of rare birds. This is what prompted NGO WARD (Wild life Conservation and Agro-Rural Development) Foundation to declare the current year as the 'year of the sparrow'.
• On World Sparrow Day on 20th of March , the NGO pledged to take efforts to conserve and protect sparrows along with increasing awareness about it.
22 Mar 14
GM FOOD CROP FIELD TRIALS
- Field trials for ten varieties of GM (genetically modified) food and other crops were revalidated by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the statutory appraisal arm of the Environment Ministry. These included field trials for rice, wheat, maize, cotton and sorghum.
- Companies applied for revalidation after their earlier permits lapsed following opposition from States. The revalidations would have to be first approved by the Union Environment and Forests Minister and then the promoter companies would have to go back to the States for a final nod as agriculture is a State subject under constitutional provisions.
- There are nearly 50 applications pending before the GEAC for first-time appraisal of GM crops, including several food crops.
- The move to go ahead with GM technology — especially food crops — has been a subject of hot debate among the scientific community and evoked concerns among civil society groups. It had also created divisions in the government — the Agriculture Ministry, the department of Biotechnology and the PMO on one side and the Environment Ministry on the other.
Biggest tunnel in Gaza
- The Israeli military has uncovered another tunnel the biggest so far dug from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, stretching into Israel and intended for militant attacks or abducting soldiers and civilians.
- The tunnel was found by Israeli intelligence and the military. The structure was lined with concrete and describing it as very sophisticated, resembling a subway tunnel.
- In 2013, Israel announced finding three such tunnels, including one that was over a kilometer and a half (mile) long and 18 meters (yards) deep.
- Last week, Gaza militants fired the heaviest rocket barrage at Israeli communities since 2012, and Israel responded with air strike on militant targets.
- Earlier this month, Israeli special forces captured a ship in the Red Sea carrying rockets and other weapons that Israel said were supplied by Iran and destined for militants in Gaza.
Maldives parliamentary elections
- Voting in Maldives parliamentary elections has opened under the close watch of local and international election observers and a tight security cover.
- An estimated 240,000 voters were registered to vote.
- The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party led by former president Mohamed Nasheed is challenging the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives led by incumbent President Abdulla Yameen.
- It is the first parliamentary election since Mr. Yameen took office in 2013.
No 1 employer in Europe: TCS
- India's largest software services firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which has over 2.9 lakh employees globally, has been named as the top employer in Europe by the Top Employers Institute for the second consecutive year.
- Tata Consultancy Services was ranked first among the 20 companies that were eligible for the award. The company was recognised as an exceptional performer across six core Human Resources (HR) areas; primary conditions, secondary benefits, working conditions, training, career development and company culture.
- The Top Employers certification is only awarded to the best employers around the world, organisations that demonstrate the highest standards of employee offerings.
- TCS was certified in eight separate markets in 2014, including the UK – where the company secured the certification for the fourth year in a row – and Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, where it was certified for the second consecutive year.
- This year also saw TCS certified in France, Sweden and Denmark for the first time.
Exports up for gold
- India’s export of gold jewellery rose 1.04 per cent in February, rising for the first time in fiscal 2013-14.
- Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) said that cumulative gold jewellery exports from April 2013 to February 2014 fell 45.6 per cent to $6.352 billion.
- Exports of gold jewellery have taken a beating in 2013-14 with the government imposing restrictions on the import of gold in a bid to control the current account deficit (CAD) resulting in very limited gold supplies. The measures included higher import duty of 10 per cent on gold and an 80:20 scheme which made it mandatory for gold importers to export a fifth of the gold imported.
- India’s total gem and jewellery exports during February 2014 fell 8.2 per cent to $3.143 billion ($3.437 billion) while for the 11-month period ending February 2014, it fell 9.9 per cent to $30.828 billion.
Zebra pattern in Earth's inner radiation belt
- Scientists, using data from the twin NASA Van Allen Probes, have discovered a new, persistent pattern in Earth's inner radiation belt.
- The probes, which launched on August 30, 2012 as the Radiation Belt Storm Probes, were re-named in honour of physicist James Van Allen who, in 1958, discovered the radiation belts encircling our planet.
- The Van Allen Probes mission goal is to shed light on how and why radiation levels in the belts change with time.
- The radiation belts are dynamic, doughnut-shaped regions around our planet, extending high above the atmosphere, made up of high-energy particles trapped by Earth's magnetic field.
- Radiation levels across the belts are affected by solar activity, such as solar storms, and can ebb and flow.
- During active conditions, radiation levels can dramatically increase, which can create hazardous space weather conditions that harm orbiting spacecraft and endanger humans in space.
Limb bone marrow’s earliest evidence
- Scientists have found the earliest fossil evidence for the presence of bone marrow in the fin of a 370 million-year-old fish.
- Long bones, which are found in the limb of tetrapods, are not only important for locomotion and supporting the weight of the body, but also host the bone marrow.
- The latter plays a major role in haematopoiesis, the formation of blood cells. In a healthy adult human, about a hundred billion to one trillion new blood cells are produced every day to maintain the stable blood circulation.
- It was discovered that Eusthenopteron, a Devonian (370-million-year-old) lobe-finned fish from Miguasha in Canada that is closely related to the first tetrapods, exhibited typical marrow processes inside its humerus (upper arm bone).
- These processes are longitudinal, larger than blood vessel canals, and connect to the shoulder and elbow joint surfaces of the humerus.
23 MAR 14
World Poetry Day
- The head of Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) marked World Poetry Day by extolling the virtues of one of the highest forms of linguistic and cultural expression and calling for support to those who give it life.
- Unesco proclaimed March 21 as World Poetry Day in 1999, with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity through poetic expression and offering endangered languages the opportunity to be heard.
Coalition in Maldives
- Maldives President Abdulla Yameen’s party, with the help of its coalition partners, has attained majority in parliament in elections that was held recently.
- Vote counting gave the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), led by former president Mohammad Nasheed, who was controversially ousted from power in 2012, a slim lead initially but it was soon overtaken by Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
- Of the 85 constituencies, 34 seats were won by PPM while its coalition partners Jumhoory Party (JP) bagged 15 seats and the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) five seats. Nasheed’s MDP secured only 24 seats and lost its majority in parliament.
Myanmar’s anti-dam march
- Recently, dozens of protesters went on a 2,400-km march to northern Myanmar, calling for the cancellation of a Chinese-backed hydroelectric dam project over environmental concerns.
- The $3.6 billion dam along the Irrawaddy River, which was supposed to export 90 per cent of its power to China, was suspended in 2011.
- Waving banners were called for permanent cancellation of the Myitsone dam, in a suburb of the main city of Yangon.
- It is a disturbing fact that the vast majority of Burmese do not have access to electricity.
Chris Gayle’s 100th Test
- Chris Gayle is set to play his 100th Test at his home ground in Jamaica when New Zealand tours the Caribbean in June.
- The WICB has announced a three-match Test series and two Twenty20 Internationals between the two teams.
- West Indies will then host Bangladesh for two Tests, three ODIs and a one-off T20I.
Debris of MH370 spotted by French satellites
- French satellites had captured new images of debris in the southern Indian Ocean, adding further weight to recent leads suggesting that the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 had crashed into waters around 2,500 km west of Australia.
- The French images had captured a 22 metre-long and 13-metre wide floating object.
- Chinese and Australian satellites picked up images of debris in the vicinity, with the region in question lying deep in the southern Indian Ocean, rarely traversed by ships.
- Four days of searches by aircraft from Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. have, as yet, failed to locate the debris spotted in the images, with efforts hampered by adverse weather conditions.
- Malaysian officials said two modern reconnaissance aircraft from India — a P8-I Poseidon and a C-130 Hercules — left Subang airport to join search operations, along with two P3 Orions from Japan.
- Residents of Mumbai can now buy water from an ‘ATM’, that too at an affordable price of Rs 1 per litre.
- In a first-of-its-kind for Mumbaikars, non-profit group Vandana Foundation had started ‘AQUATM’, a water vending machine. It can be operated through prepaid cards.
- The ATM can vend up to 1,000 litres per day.
- The vending machine has been set up at Mankhurd where there are water contamination problems.
- A survey conducted by the Assam Forest Department in the Manas National Park (MNP) has detected an estimated 21 nests of the critically-endangered pygmy hog (Porcula salvania).
- The nests of pygmy hog — the smallest and rarest wild pig — were found in three separate locations. The survey also found pellets of the Hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus) in almost all of 17 camp site locations.
- Manas is known to be the last remaining wild habitat of the pygmy hog in the world.
- During the rapid survey, direct evidence was also obtained for other grassland species such as hog deer (Hyelaphus porcinus), swamp deer (Rucervus duvaucelii), and Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis).
Bitcoins outnumber real currencies
- The world now has a larger number of virtual currencies than a total 180 recognised currencies in different parts of the globe, notwithstanding issues like bankruptcies and growing regulatory unease about bitcoin and its other digital peers.
- Within an ear shot of the 200-member mark, a total of 193 virtual currencies are currently being traded across the internet, although none of them carry an official stamp from the government or banking regulator from any of the countries.
- While bitcoin and other such currencies began coming into existence about four years ago, a frenzied proliferation has more than doubled their count, shows an analysis of data available with various online marketplaces for such currencies.
- Apart from bitcoins, ripple, litecoin, auroracoin, peercoin and dogcoin have seen steady pickup in volume as well market value. The latest additions include teacoin, aliencoin, magic internet money and heisenberg.
- However, India’s laxmicoin is yet to start as its promoters are keen on understanding the Reserve Bank of India views on this venture. The RBI has issued a public advisory, warning that such currencies are risky and not part of the traditional banking system.
24 Mar 14
EC’s intervention in gas price hike
• After the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) sought the Election Commission’s intervention in stalling the gas price hike from April 1, the poll panel has sought details from the government on the proposed increase.
• Earlier, the Commission had said that it has taken note of AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal’s complaint that on a proposal by Reliance Industries, the Petroleum Ministry is going to hike gas prices from April 1.
• Mr. Kejriwal had in a letter to EC termed the gas price hike as violation of the model code of conduct and alleged that the decision was aimed at providing windfall gains to Reliance Industries.
• However, petroleum minister Veerappa Moily has made it clear that the government will not go back on its decision to hike rates from April 1.
Approval to reduce subsidy on potash nutrient
• Following the go ahead by the Election Commission, the Fertilizer Ministry is gearing to move the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) seeking approval to reduce subsidy on potash nutrient for 2014-15 fiscal, a move aimed at reducing the subsidy component by Rs. 900 crore.
• The Ministry is looking forward to putting up the Cabinet note before the next meeting of the CCEA to fix subsidy of P&K (Phosphatic and Potassic) fertilisers for next fiscal.
• There has been a constant fall in the global prices of potash over the past few months resulting in availability at $320 per tonne instead of $430 per tonne a year ago.
• The subsidy on other major complex fertilizer phosphate has been kept at last year's level of Rs.12,350 per tonne as the global prices are stationary.
• Potash is normally sold in Indian markets at Rs. 16,000 per tonne, while phosphate is available at about Rs. 22,500 per tonne. In the past one year, the total demand of both potash and phosphate was more than 10 million tonnes.
Death sentence for 529 Muslim Brotherhood members
• A court in southern Egyptian convicted 529 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsy, sentencing them to death on charges of murdering a policeman and attacking police.
• Those convicted are part of a group of 545 defendants on trial for the killing of a police officer, attempted killing of two others, attacking a police station and other acts of violence.
• More than 150 suspects stood trial, the others were tried in absentia. Sixteen were acquitted.
• The defendants were arrested after violent demonstrations that were a backlash for the police crackdown in August on pro-Morsy sit-ins in Cairo that killed hundreds of people.
Syrian warplane shot down by Syria
• Turkish armed forces shot down a Syrian military jet which had violated its airspace. An F-16 fighter jet, which was on duty in the region, fired against the Syrian MIG-23 warplane due to rules of engagement.
• When two Syrian MIG-23 warplanes approached, the Turkish air forces warned them four times that they have approached 10 sea miles to the Turkish border.
• The incident reportedly took place in the northern border region, near an area where Syrian rebels and government forces are fighting for control of a border crossing.
• Hundreds of thousands have fled Syria for Turkey to escape the three-year uprising against President Assad.
Smaller particles than Higgs Boson
• Until 2012, nobody was certain it existed till the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced they had found the God Particle.
• Scientists now say that it is more likely than ever now that there must be particles smaller than Higgs particle
• According to the Standard Model, everything, from flowers and people to stars and planets, consists of just a few building blocks: matter particles. These particles are governed by forces mediated by force particles that make sure everything works as it should.
• The entire Standard Model also rests on the existence of a special kind of particle: the Higgs particle.
• CERN's particle collider, LHC (Large Hadron Collider), is probably the largest and the most complex machine ever constructed by humans.
• Last year, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics to Peter Higgs after whom the particle is named.
• If techni-quarks exist they will form a natural extension of the Standard Model which includes three generations of quarks and leptons.
• These particles together with the fundamental forces form the basis of the observed matter in the universe.
Odisha’s ‘special category status’
• Bahujan Samaj Party, if voted to power, will accord special category status to Odisha.
• Addressing Bahujan Samaj Party’s first ever State-level election rally here, Ms. Mayawati lambasted Congress and other parties, who were in power at Centre, saying these parties were responsible for the backwardness prevailing in the country.
• The Bahujan Samaj Party further said the regions that lag behind in different development parameters will be given attention on priority basis.