Monthly Archives: October 2013

Insights Secure-2014: Questions on Current Events Day-

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Questions From The Hindu 23/10/2013

1. What is the root cause of border dispute between India and China? Discuss the important measures taken by both countries so far to maintain peace at the border. (200 Words)

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2. Cheyyur Ultra Mega Power Project and Udangudi thermal power project (50 Words)

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3. Briefly explain the functioning of Voda Voda Energo Reactor. (150 Words)

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4. What measures does government usually take to tame rising food inflation? Explain (200 Words)

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5.  Do you agree with the view that giving more powers to Gram Sabha hinders economic growth in the tribal regions? Comment. (150 Words)

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6. Throw light on Tagore’s thoughts on nationalism. (200 Words)

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7. What are the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power generation? Is the fear of nuclear disaster post-Fukushima disaster justified? Comment. (250 Words)

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8. Is Russia forging strong relationships with only Shia majority countries in the Gulf region? Comment. (200 Words)

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9. Why Turkey is keen on joining EU? Explain (150 Words)

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10. Write a note on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS)  project (100 Words)

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11. “Introducing species to areas outside their historical range is a controversial strategy.” Explain why. (150 Words)

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12. What are the advantages of converting adult cells into stem cells, an invented process which won 2012 Nobel prize for Medicine? (150 Words)

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13. “The passage of the long-pending Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill confers several benefits to the organised pension sector.” Critically examine. (250 Words)

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14. “The right to life and dignity are the most important of all human rights … and this must be demonstrated by the state in everything it does, including the way it punishes criminals.” Do you agree with this view? Comment. (200 Words)

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15. ” While the response of Brazil, post revelation of NSA espionage activities on foreign governments, is vehement and vocal, and that of India is muted.”  Comment. (200 Words)

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16. Why the search for the presence of methane on Mars is so important for scientists? What contribution from India’s Mars exploration mission, if it succeeds, is expected? (200 Words)

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Insights Daily Current Events October 23, 2013

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NATIONAL

Southern grid gets first flow from Kudankulam

  • The first 1,000-MWe unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) was synchronised with the southern regional grid. The first reactor generated 75MWe and gradually notched up 160 MWe. Subsequently, it was successfully transmitted to the southern grid.

  • The power will be further raised to 500 MWe, 750 MWe and 1,000 MWe in stages. At every stage, various tests are conducted and the technical parameters verified. Based on the results of the tests at each stage and with AERB [Atomic Energy Regulatory Board] clearances, subsequent stages are reached

  • The KNPP was conceived in 1988 through the Rajiv-Gorbachev agreement, which paved the way for the export of two 1,000-MWe VVER (Voda Voda Energo Reactor, or, pressurised light water reactor). Actual work on the project started only on March, 2002.

  • Though anti-KKNPP agitation gained momentum in neighbouring Idinthakarai, which temporarily impeded the project’s progress, the AERB gave its nod for initial fuel-loading on August 2012, and subsequently granted clearance for the “first approach to criticality” on July, 2013.

  • Once the KKNPP’s first unit of 1,000-MWe capacity is commissioned, the nuclear power contribution in the country will be raised to 5,780 MWe.

Centre alone can suspend screening of films certified by Censor Board: panel

  • In the recent instances of films like Aarakshan , Vishwaroopam and Madras Café running into trouble in some States- demanding a ban by the ‘vested groups’, the Empowered Committee on film certification has mandated that no State government can order the suspension of a film.

  • The draft Cinematograph Bill, 2013 has suggested a change in the 1952 legislation according to which only the Central government can suspend the screening of a film after it has been certified by the Censor Board.

  • Only after a show-cause notice has been given in writing to the film-maker, with the grounds for proposing such a move and giving him/her reasonable opportunity to respond can the Central government invoke this clause.

  • Even Entry 60 of List I of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution places law-making power relating to sanction of film for exhibition in the jurisdiction of the Central government

  • The Committee has also sought to shift from the current practice of ‘U’, ‘U/A’ and ‘A’ certification to the internationally prevalent practice of age-related classifications and certifications.It has proposed to break-up ‘U/A’ by age to ‘12+’ and ‘15+’ while retaining ‘U’ and ‘A’. The ‘S’ classification for restricted circulation has been retained.

  • The Cinematograph Act, 1952 will now include songs and its lyrics to the definition of a ‘film’; earlier it was confined to the “moving picture content of the film”. This has been done, in particular, to address the issue of ‘item songs’ as the ‘sexual overtone and teasing references’ have drawn considerable ire.

INTERNATIONAL

Firing continues along LoC as DGMOs discourse

  • On the backdrop of continued violation of the ceasefire by Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB), the Directors-General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan had a telephonic conversation over the hotline.

  • In the existing arrangement, the two DGMOs talk over the hotline every Tuesday.

  • Ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the LoC and IB have increased and this year (2013) alone as many as 204 such incidents occurred in Jammu and Kashmir.

  • The DGMO-level meeting is yet to be held. This proposal was the outcome of the first bilateral interaction between PM Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in October, 2013.

India – China Bilateral relationship

  • The PM Manmohan Singh’s three-day visit kicked-off on 22nd October, 2013.

  • The following are the issues that would be discussed in the meet between India and China.

  1. Border issues - An agreement to put in place more confidence building measures (CBM) to keep peace on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

  • The Border Defence Co-operation Agreement (BDCA), which was first suggested by the China in 2012, and for which negotiations began in March, 2013 comprises a new set of CBM for border management. This will provide an additional mechanism that would further consolidate on the 1993 Peace and Tranquility Agreement.

  • Face-offs at the LAC could never be ruled out as long as the boundary issue remained unresolved, but the key here was the ability to manage them. The Depsang incident saw the status quo being restored within three weeks compared to a six-year face off in 1986-93 because there was a mechanism in place to do so.

  • India has also reiterated that LAC is “the most peaceful border [where] not a shot has been fired since 1975.”

  1. Visa liberalisation agreement

  • Improving on the balance of trade – Though trade between India and China slowed down last year, it is around $ 66 billion, and is tilted heavily against India.

  • India wants to push for greater market access in certain sectors such as pharmaceuticals and Information Technology. Whereas the China is interested in setting up a manufacturing and Special economic Zone (SEZ) in India.

  • Apart from the strategic economic dialogue, there is a CEOs’ forum which is also looking at improving the trade balance.

  1. Hydro-electric projects or dams being constructed on the Brahmaputra river.

Drawbacks:

  • However, the visit is unlikely to have landmark agreements such as the move in 2003, during the former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s China visit, to set up the Special Representatives mechanism to negotiate on the boundary question; or the agreement on political parameters and guiding principles announced in 2005 when former Premier Wen Jiabao visited India.

  • Since that agreement, the wide perception is that boundary talks have remained deadlocked. The 2005 agreement marked the conclusion of the first of three stages. The second stage, to decide a framework to settle the dispute in all sectors, has proved to be the most difficult.

  • Also the Chinese projects in the PoK would most unlikely be discussed.

Russia steps in to improve military ties with Iran

  • After consolidating in Syria, Russia is set to expand military ties with Iran, as part of its bid to re-emerge as a major player in the Levant and Gulf.

  • The common military agenda would be to deter air strikes against Iran, and to ward off the possibility of “regime change” through armed external intervention.

  • Russia focused on air defence tactics as there were apprehensions from the Iran side of a potent threat of massive air strikes by Israel and the U.S. against its atomic infrastructure, apparently to undermine its perceived nuclear weapon ambitions.

  • Both the sides are working to overcome the S-300 hurdle. S-300 is an air-defence missile which can down high-speed incoming missiles and aircraft; Russia had to stop supplying this missile following the U.N. sanctions against Iran.

  • But with the geopolitical situation transforming rapidly following attempts at regime change in Syria by prominent Gulf States and western powers, the Iranians are more willing to reinforce their military bonds with Russia.

  • The Russians have offered Iran Tor air defence systems as an alternative to the S-300 missiles. But Iran would be more inclined to consider acquisitions of the Antei-2500 missiles as these weapons are used to protect mobile ground troops from aerial attack. This is more appealing to Iran, as it would depend on large deployment of land forces in any future combat.

  • Both the sides are committed to the prevention of regime-change in Syria, since this would eventually expose energy-rich Iran, situated on the crossroads of the Gulf, Central Asia, Europe and Caucasia, to a dangerous level of subversion.

  • With Syria, Russia had brokered a deal, wherein Syria has committed to chemical disarmament. In return Syria has obtained security guarantees that would allow Russia for a deep rooted military relationship with Damascus (Syria).

  • Russia has also steadily expanded ties with the Lebanese Hizbollah, a top ally of Syria and Iran.

Courtesy -Wikipedia and Basrsoft ORION-ME

More about Levant region

  • The Levant, also known as the Eastern Mediterranean, is a geographic and cultural region consisting of the “eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt”. The Levant consists today of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus, the Palestinian territories, and parts of southern Turkey (Aleppo Vilayet).

  • The Levant has been described as the “crossroads of western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean and northeast Africa”.

Resumption of EU’s talks with Turkey

  • The European Union (EU) has agreed to restart membership talks with Turkey in Novemeber, 2013 ending a three-year freeze despite Turkey’s crackdown on protests this year.

  • EU had given ‘in-principle’ agreement in June, 2013 but, but then postponed the process in protest over Turkey’s spring crackdown.

  • The November negotiations will focus on regional development, one of 35 chapters or sets of EU rules and standards that candidate states must satisfy before becoming a member of the EU.

Background:

  • Turkey had begun accession talks with the EU in 2005 itself, the same time as Croatia (which this year became the bloc’s 28th member). But the talks have broken down because of Turkey’s long-standing territorial dispute with Cyprus, a member of the bloc since 2004, as well as opposition from major powers France and Germany.

To become a EU members:

  • A country needs to successfully close negotiations on all 35 chapters before joining the EU.

  • So far Turkey has closed only one chapter i.e., chapter 25 on science and research. And Cyprus has blocked eight chapters because of Turkey’s refusal to open sea and air ports to Cyprus.

What are the benefits of joining EU?

  • Trade Benefits: The Single Market of the EU means that companies going about their business in EU member states have been forced to lower the prices of their products to become more competitive.

  • People movement: European citizens have the freedom to live, work, study, and travel in any other EU country. Since 1995 alone, about 100,000 young Britons have spent time studying in another European country.

  • Problems addressed amicably: By working together in the EU member countries can ensure their concerns are heard and taken more seriously, on the international fora. For Example, Greece being bailed out during its crisis.

ECONOMICS

Mandatory cover for public deposits proposed

  • In the backdrop of the Sahara case, the government has proposed mandatory insurance cover for public deposits garnered by companies and hefty penalty of up to 18 % annual interest for defaulters, to safeguard investors from fraudulent money-collection schemes.

  • The premium of the deposit insurance cover would need to be paid by companies themselves and a penalty of 15% annual interest would be slapped on those which do not provide deposit insurance to their depositors.

  • The proposed measures, which are part of the draft rules for the new Companies Act, also bars the companies from promising huge returns and hefty agent commissions in excess of the prevailing rates prescribed by the RBI for such deposits.

  • Besides, any violating company and each of its officers and other persons, who could be in default, would be fined Rs.10,000, with a further fine for continuing default of Rs.1,000 for every day of contravention.

  • Under the deposit insurance scheme, the companies would need to enter into a contract to insure the total principal amount as also the promised interest component for the depositors. However, premium to be paid for such insurance can not be recovered from the depositor and the money has to be paid by the company itself.

  • All deposit-taking companies would need to maintain a Deposit Repayment Reserve Account with a scheduled bank and this account would need to have at least 15% of the total amount of deposits.

  • The government also proposed strict disclosure norms and other eligibility criteria before offering any deposit scheme. Every company inviting deposits should provide for security by way of a charge on its assets, excluding intangible assets, for an amount equivalent to the deposits collected.

  • Also, amount secured by way of charge on assets should not exceed the market value of such assets. As per the draft norms, deposit taking companies should appoint one or more independent trustees to ensure security for deposit amounts.

Courtesy Hindu newspaper

What is the Sahara case all about?

  • Between 2008 and 2011, two unlisted Sahara group companies (SCSCL and SHICL) raised around Rs 18,000 Cr issuing OFCDs (Optionally Fully Convertible Debentures) to roughly 30 million shareholders. In 2011, SEBI ordered the group to refund this money to investors with 15% annual interest. This order was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Why did SEBI ask Sahara to refund the money?

  • SEBI asked Sahara to refund investors because it felt Sahara was raising money in violation of capital raising norms and certain sections of the Companies Act. SEBI found that under the garb of an OFCD the company was running an extensive parabanking activity without conforming to regulatory disclosures and investor protection norms pertaining to public issues.

Courtesy – Business Standard

Special RBI measures help attract $9.6 b in forex

  • India has received over $9 billion from two foreign schemes, which were announced in September, 2013 to attract foreign funds, and help the country bridge the widening current account deficit (CAD).

  • Banks have taken advantage of RBI’s liberalisation of FCNRB and Tier I capital schemes. So far, under the two schemes put together, banks have brought in $9.6 billion

  • Earlier in September, 2013 the RBI Governor  Raghuram Rajan had announced opening of a swap window facility to encourage banks to lure NRI funds. Also, the Governor had relaxed norms for banks, and allowed them to raise capital abroad to the tune of 100% of their Tier I (equity) capital.

  • The schemes will remain valid till November 30.

What is FCNR (B)?

  • FCNR is an account that can be opened with an Indian bank by a Non Resident Indian (NRI) or a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) in foreign currency of one’s choice. (B)- represents bank.

  • The foreign currencies can be US dollar (USD), Pound sterling (GBP), Japanese Yen (JPY), Euro, Australian Dollar (AUD) & Canadian Dollar (CAD).

The major advantage of this account is

  • The investment can be made in foreign currency itself (as compared to NRO/NRE (Non-Resident external) Accounts wherein investments are to be made in Indian currency only) and the interest earned as prevalent in India.

  • This reduces the Exchange rate fluctuations.

Cyber frauds cost India $4 billion

  • According to a report released by Internet security solutions provider Symantec, the growing incidents of cybercrimes such as ransomware, identity theft, and phishing have cost the country $4 billion during August, 2012-July, 2013.

  • The report added that, the average cost per cyber crime victim in India grew 8%( from $192 to $207 during the period)

  • The report, which is one of the largest global studies investigating the impact of cyber crime on consumers, is based on responses from 13,022 adults across 24 countries, including 1,000 from India.

  • Today’s cyber criminals are using more sophisticated attacks such as ransomware and spear-phishing, which yield them more money per attack than ever before. With 66 % of Indian consumers using their personal mobile device for work and play, this creates entirely new security risks for enterprises as cyber criminals have the potential to access even more valuable information.

  • In the last 1 year, 56 % of cybercrime victims in India have experienced online bullying, online stalking, online hate crime or other forms of online harassment. India appears to be the ransomware capital of Asia Pacific with 11 % victims of this form of virtual extortion.

  • This year’s report further reveals that as consumers become more mobile and connected, these conveniences often come at a cost to them and their security.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Scientists discover DNA body clock

  • A U.S. scientist has discovered an internal body clock based on DNA that measures the biological age of human tissues and organs.

  • The clock shows that while many healthy tissues age at the same rate as the body as a whole, some of them age much faster or slower. The age of diseased organs varied hugely, with some many tens of years “older” than healthy tissue in the same person, according to the clock.

  • According to the Researchers, the mechanisms behind the clock will help them understand the ageing process and hopefully lead to drugs and other interventions that slow it down.

  • For instance, the female breast tissue aged faster than the rest of the body, on average appearing two years older. Diseased tissues also aged at different rates, with cancers speeding up the clock by an average of 36 years.

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Geography – Daily Answer Writing Challenge Day – 4

QUESTIONS: 23/10/2013 

  1. How do slums develop? Give concrete suggestion for their development. (300 Words)
  2. Discus the geographical control of rural settlement patterns in India. (300 Words)
  3. Bring out the trends in the development of fertilizer industry in India. (300 Words)

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S&T, Environment- Daily Answer Writing Challenge

QUESTIONS:23/10/2013 (TopicsSpace; Biotechnology)

  1. “The dark energy and dark matter has proved to be elusive for physicist around the world”. Comment. (200 Words)

  2. Highlight the issues associated with the increased patenting in the biological domain especially in the light of recent controversies and verdicts? Do you think patenting biological forms is desirable? Substantiate.  (250 Words)

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REFERENCES

Question 1

Question – 2

Short Note Questions

Write about the followings in not more than 50 words

  1. Probiotics

  2. Square Kilometer Array

  3. Anti-Doping Administration and Management System(ADAMS)

  4. Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System(CCTNS)

  5. Near Field Communication(NFC)

 

  Write about the following in not more than 20 words

  1. Beema Bamboo

  2. Open Source Drug  Discovery(OSDD)

  3. Bharat Broad Band Project

  4. Green Nylon

  5. Insight Mission

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GS – Daily Answer Writing Challenge Day – 86

QUESTIONS: 23/10/2013 (Topics - Freedom Struggle; Vulnerable sections; Parliament; Poverty and Hunger)

  1. Do you think Mahatma Gandhi’s support to Khilafat Movement had diluted his secular credentials? Give your argument based on the assessment of events. (200 Words)
  2. What are the implications of gender disparities in India? (200 Words)
  3. On what grounds can a member be disqualified from either House of Parliament? (200 Words)
  4. Discuss the causes and ramifications of hunger in Africa. (250 Words)

GUIDELINES

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REFERENCES

Question 1

  • Chapter – 15 – Bipan Chandra

Question 4

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Philosophy – Daily Answer Writing Challenge Day-1

QUESTIONS: 23/10/2013 (Paper-I – Topic: Indian Philosophy :Charvaka)
  1. Charvaka’s Views on Nature of Soul. (2007/200 Words)
  2. Discuss the theory of knowledge, according to Charvaka philosophy. (2006/200 Words)

Reference:

Question 1

  1. An Introduction to Indian Philosophy By S.Chatterjee &  D.Dutta

Question 2

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Political Science – Daily Answer Writing Challenge Day – 3

QUESTIONS: 23/10/2013 (Paper-I: Topics - Political Theory; Theories of State)

  1. Discuss the Marxist Approach to the study of politics with particular reference to the development of Political Science  as a discipline in recent years. (300 Words)
  2. Discuss the feminist perspective on the State. (300 Words)

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Public Administration – Daily Answer Writing Challenge

QUESTIONS: 23/10/2013 [Paper I - Administrative thought]

  1. The ‘Neo’ approach in classical and behavioral theories have brought classist and behaviorist very close to each other. Critically comment. (200 words)
  2.  Weber’s theories were essentially an attempt to ensure social acceptance of  bureaucracy. Do you agree? Discuss. (200 words)

By-Aditya Jha

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Management Daily Answer Writing Challenge Day-1

QUESTIONS: 23/10/2013 (Chapter -1.7.   Management of Innovation)

  1. Write an Analytical note on ‘Innovation management in Organisations. (150 words)
  2. Do you think whether management, as it is currently practiced, contributes much to creativity and innovation. What changes will allow managers, particularly in larger organizations, to add value to the creative process? (150 words)

By - Ashish Bhakuni

REFERENCES

Question 1

Question 2

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Sociology – Daily Answer Writing Challenge Day – 3

QUESTIONS:22/10/2013 (Paper-II)

  1. Critically assess the forms in which untouchability continues to be practised. (300 Words)
  2. Discuss the interrelationships between caste, class and power (300 Words)

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Psychology – Daily Answer Writing Challenge Day – 8

QUESTIONS:22/10/2013 (Paper-II)

  1. ‘Pituitary gland is the master gland’. What are the functions of pituitary gland?  Examine Wirth respect of given statement.  (200 Words)
  2. How far is meditation useful today for  therapeutic purpose? Comment.  (200 Words)

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Insights Daily Current Events – October 22, 2013

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NATIONAL

India holds ground on the G-33 plan to pay farmers inflation-linked price

  • The government is going to place a fresh G-33 proposal before the parliament seeking to enable developing economies to meet the challenges of food security for their large populations.

What is the issue all about?

  • From the Developing countries perspective: As per the proposal, that is to be discussed at the December(2013) WTO meet in Bali, developing nations must be allowed to consider higher inflation rate occurring in their economies to justify higher procurement prices offered to farmers.
  • At present, the reference price (or the base price) for procurement is linked to what was decided in 1986-88 when the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) was negotiated under the World Trade Organisation.
  • India, which has had over 500 per cent inflation (compounded) since 1988, has called for full inflation allowance which will help the government procure grain from farmers. The proposal of the G-33 countries is in line with India’s position but the West will resist this change.
  • Developed countries perspective: However, the U.S and the EU are of the view that the AoA does not commit full allowance for inflation and have proposed a “peace clause” which would defer this matter by three years during which period the developing countries can continue to procure grain as they are doing now even if it is violative of the AoA.
  • India is cautious over the ‘acceptability of the peace clause’ as this may violate AoA. It, therefore, wants to stand its ground and push for the G-33 proposal seeking full allowance for excess inflation.
  • Clause 18.4 of the AoA mentions that developing economies shall receive “due allowance for inflation” in determining procurement prices.
  • For India, the WTO meet at Bali meet is critical because its food security law will involve procuring over 60 million tonnes of foodgrains to feed 70 % of the population.
  • India is the largest public procurer of grain and next comes Indonesia which has a strong food procurement policy. Pakistan too delivers subsidised food through direct cash transfer.

SC orders Centre to conduct five clinical trials

  • The Supreme Court has allowed the Centre to conduct five clinical trials that were approved this year (2013) after ensuring proper mechanism and procedure to ensure the safety of patients along with audio-visual recording of participants maintaining the principle of confidentiality and preservation of documentation.
  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and representative of the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) admitted that the 157 trials were approved by the DCGI only on the recommendation of the New Drug Advisory Committee (NDAC) and without the approval of the Apex and Technical Committees formed after the order of the  Supreme court(on January,2013)
  • In the pretext of this admission, the SC has ordered the Centre to re-examine 157 clinical trials of Global Clinical Trial (GCT), including New Chemical Entities (NCEs) by the Apex and Technical Committees.
  • It is said that that evaluation would be done on the 157 trials with emphasis on assessment of risk vs. benefits for patients, innovations to existing therapeutic options and benefits to medical needs of the country. Only after the assessment of the committees, the 157 trials would be considered.
  • It was also noted that, there were no checks and balances in the framework, where investigators were paid by sponsors, and ethics committees were part of hospital with the absence of proper mechanisms to ensure patients’ safety.

INTERNATIONAL

India Russia on further consolidation of Strategic Relationship

  • The 14th Annual Summit kicked off from 21st October, 2013. There were wide range of issues discussed and agreements signed at the annual summit held in Russia. Below are the issues discussed:
  • Kudankulam, Nuclear reactor was the high point of India-Russia ties. PM Manmohan Singh had conveyed India’s commitment to “fully implement the road map on civil nuclear co-operation” signed by the two countries in 2010.The agreement envisages Russia supplying 15 to 18 nuclear reactors in locations across India.
  • This was in reference to the 2010 nuclear liability law that has been a stumbling block in finalizing an agreement for Units 3 and 4 at the project in Tamil Nadu.

On the Economic front:

  • The bilateral trade is only $ 11 billion, and there were talks on further increasing the trade. Despite an adverse global situation, the trade between the two countries had risen by 25 % in 2012.
  • The emphasis was on the “quality” of trade as it included machinery and equipment.
  • There was an agreement between the two sides to study the possibility of an overland gas pipeline. India and Russia are also working on increasing ONGC Videsh Limited’s involvement in oil and gas exploration in Russia, where the company already has its largest investments.
  • In order to give economic ties a boost, India has also sought Russian support for concluding a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the customs union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

From the Defence Perspective:

  • Both India and Russia have resolved to enhance cooperation in the fields of rocket, missile and naval technologies and weapon systems
  • As a key defence partner, India would be involved in joint design, development and production of key defence platforms
  • Both the sides have agreed to extend indefinitely their 15-year-old partnership for producing the BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missile and to develop a still more potent hypersonic version of the missile.
  • The joint statement welcomed the completion of trials of the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, the delivery this year of the Trikant frigate, the sixth stealth frigate Russia has built for the Indian Navy, as well as licensed production of the Su-30MKI fighter plane and T-90S tanks. Progress in the construction of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft and multi-role transport aircraft was also in the list.
  • Plans for further cooperation in aviation technologies (helicopters and aircraft) and shipbuilding would be discussed next month (November, 2013) during the defence minister’s visit.
  • India and Russia have also agreed to enhance cooperation in space technologies.
  • India is the only country to which Russia has agreed to give access to Glonass (Russia’s equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS)) military-grade signals, which will enable the Indian military to greatly improve the accuracy of its weapon systems.

On the International issues:

  • Both have rejected military solution in the crisis-ridden Middle East country (Syria) as there is a strong belief that the crisis should not be resolved by force, and could be settled only through political means
  • Declaring “no tolerance for sheltering, arming, training or financing of terrorists,” the two sides condemned terrorist acts as “attacks on the freedom and democratic values” and “aimed at undermining the territorial integrity” of India and Russia.
  • According to a joint statement issued at the summit “Russia would welcome India’s participation in Geneva-2” international conference on Syria, being held jointly by Russia and the United States.
  • Russia has reiterated its “strong support’ to India for a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) and for full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
  • Russia has also agreed on giving ‘due consideration’ to India’s bid to join the Missile Technology Control Regime(MTCR) and to support its full membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
  • The two sides have affirmed their commitment to further intensify political interactions in the Russia-India-China triangular format (RIC).Both the sides have stressed the importance of next month’s(November) meeting of the RIC Foreign Ministers in India,  as it is essential to continue consultations concerning regional security at the level of High Representatives of China, India and Russia.

India agrees for FTA with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia

  • To further strengthen the economic ties, India has agreed to initiate free trade agreement (FTA) with the customs union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia (RBK)
  • India and Russia have agreed to work towards the creation of a Joint Study Group for studying the possibility of signing a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between India and the Customs Union of RBK.
  • The joint statement was issued after the 14th India-Russia annual summit meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

More about the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia (RBK)

  • The Customs Union of RBK came into existence on January 1, 2010 between the states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia.
  • The Customs Union was launched as a first step towards forming a broader European Union-type economic alliance of former Soviet states.
  • The member states are planning to continue with economic integration and were set to remove all customs borders between each other after July 2011.
  • On November 2011, the member states put together a joint commission on fostering closer economic ties, planning to create a Eurasian Union by 2015.
  • Since January 1, 2012, the three states are a single economic space.
  • The United States is opposed to the Customs Union, seeing it as an attempt to reestablish a Russian dominated USSR-type union amongst the Post-Soviet states

Courtesy – Wikipedia

Significance of CECA

  • The three countries took their economic integration to a new level with the implementation of the common economic space, which provides for free movement of goods, services and people.
  • Under the CECA, two sides would significantly reduce duties on the maximum number of tradable goods, liberalise norms for service and investments; facilitate movement of professionals.

France, Mexico join the list of critics on U.S. NSA spying

  • After a series of criticisms across the globe over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) -mass surveillance and global spying activities, France and Mexico have joined the list of critics. Just recently did Brazil announce a plan to host a global meeting on Internet governance.
  • Ever since Edward Snowden disclosed in June, 2013 that the NSA had been spying not just on U.S. enemies but its closest allies as well, several countries have lodged formal complaints with U.S. However, there is no adequate reasoning given by the U.S government.
  • It has been reported that the U.S. has monitored over 70 million phone calls, e-mails and internet traffic over 30 days and that the spying included industrial espionage and listening-in to top level government conversations.
  • The NSA’s hacking of the e-mail account of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon drew strong criticism from its Foreign Ministry, and made Mexico the latest in the growing list of nations, which includes India, that were targets of covert U.S. surveillance.

U.S. against raising emission reduction targets in 2015 pact

  • The United States has strongly recommended the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to ensure that voluntary emission reduction targets would not be reviewed in case public consultations showed that they cumulatively fell short of maintaining the global target temperature of below 2 degrees Celsius.

What are the U.S demands?

  • Outlining its demands for the new climate change agreement to be signed in 2015, the U.S. has said that the pact would concentrate only on the “core provisions” – on mitigation and transparency. Whereas the other key elements of climate talks — “adaptation, finance and technology” should be addressed among a less cumbersome set of decisions at the annual negotiations of the convention.
  • According to the U.S. the participation will be maximised only if each country must put forth ‘emission-reduction’ commitment it deems fair and fitting to its circumstances. That means U.S is calling for a ‘voluntary commitment’.
  • However, in the case of pressure, it should be countries choice to revise the emission target upwards.
  • The U.S. has also stressed on a single transparency regime for all countries instead of a different one for developing countries and another for developed ones.

U.N. warns of fresh military buildup in DR Congo

  • U.N. envoys have warned of a new military buildup by government forces and rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as peace talks have stalled.
  • Negotiations in Kampala between the DRC government and M-23 mutineers have been suspended. U.N. officials who had mediated over the talks, has appealed for new efforts by the two sides but raised fears of new conflict and that M-23 was forcing young men among refugee families returning from neighbouring countries to train for fighting.

ECONOMICS

Inclusion of liquor, petroleum products under GST opposed

  • In the revised draft of the Constitution Amendment Bill (to implement GST), circulated to the States on September 18, 2013 the Centre had proposed inclusion of petroleum and liquor under the GST.
  • But several States have opposed inclusion of petroleum products and liquor under the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime as the move would severely affect their revenues. Some States also expressed their reservation to inclusion of ‘entry tax’ under the GST ambit.

What is GST? Its significance? It’s Demerits?

  • The Kelkar Task Force on implementation of the FRBM Act, 2003 had pointed out that although the indirect tax policy in India has been steadily progressing in the direction of VAT principle since 1986, the existing system of taxation of goods and services still suffers from many problems and had suggested a comprehensive GST based on VAT principle.
  • GST system is targeted to be a simple, transparent and efficient system of indirect taxation as has been adopted by over 130 countries around the world.
  • GST involves taxation of goods and services in an integrated manner as the blurring of line of demarcation between goods and services has made separate taxation of goods and services untenable.
  • Introduction of GST to replace the existing multiple tax structures of Centre and State taxes is not only desirable but imperative in the emerging economic environment. Increasingly, services are used or consumed in production and distribution of goods and vice versa.
  • Separate taxation of goods and services often requires splitting of transactions value into value of goods and services for taxation, which leads to greater complexities, administration and compliances costs. Integration of various Central and State taxes into a GST system would make it possible to give full credit for inputs taxes collected.
  • GST, being a destination-based consumption tax based on VAT principle, would also greatly help in removing economic distortions caused by present complex tax structure and will help in development of a common national market.
  • The primary benefit of GST, when introduced, would be the removal of cascading effect of taxes which acts like a hidden cost and makes goods and services uncompetitive both in domestic and international markets.
  • GST would check leakage of revenue and the States should be able to realize tax revenues commensurate to consumption of goods and services within their territory.
  • It would provide a stable source of tax revenue and would play a very vital role in sewing India together into one common market.
  • For the consumer, the biggest advantage of the GST would be its transparent character as well as the reduction in the overall tax burden on goods which is currently in the range of about 25-30%.

Courtesy- Ministry of Finance (GoI), PIB

For further reading, you can follow the below link

http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-08-13/news/41374977_1_services-tax-state-gst-goods-and-services

http://www.hindustantimes.com/business-news/WorldEconomy/Q-and-A-What-is-GST-tax/Article1-676174.aspx

Tax Reform Commission: Measures to strengthen financial sector

  • The Tax Administration Reform Commission (TARC), set up by the Finance Ministry to suggest measures to prevent economic offences among other things, is expected to submit its report in six months.

What is TARC?

  • TARC is an advisory body to the Ministry of Finance. The term of the 7-member TARC is 18 months. The Chairman Parthasarathi Shome.

Functions of TARC

  • The terms of reference of the Commission include a review of the existing mechanism of dispute resolution and methods to widen tax base.
  • The TARC will also recommend measures to strengthen inter-agency information sharing between Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the Central Board of Excise and Custom (CBEC), the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the Enforcement Directorate, and also with banking as well as financial sectors.
  • It will be provided information and quantitative data of CBDT and CBEC to do statistical analysis for making recommendations.
  • It will review the existing mechanism and recommend measures to enhance predictive analysis to detect and prevent tax and economic offences.
  • It will recommend a system to enforce better tax mechanism by size, segment and nature of taxes and taxpayers that should cover methods to encourage voluntary tax compliance.
  • TARC is in line with Finance Ministers proposal that, ‘an emerging economy must have a tax system that reflects best global practises. TARC would be setup to review the application of tax policies and tax laws and submit periodic reports that can be implemented to strengthen the capacity of Indian tax system’.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

‘Gaia’ to detect killer asteroids

  • The powerful Gaia space telescope designed to create a 3D map of stars in the Milky Way will also detect killer asteroids on its collision course with Earth.
  • It will be launched in November, 2013.

Significance/Importance of the telescope

  • The European Space Agency’s (ESA) 800 million pounds probe will become the Earth’s first early warning system against asteroid impacts — even though it lies centuries ahead.
  • One of the important tasks of the telescope, featuring the most high-powered video camera ever built, is to stare at the space between the Earth and the Sun to plot the tracks of the thousands of asteroids moving there.
  • Astronomers have not been able to spot such asteroids because they orbit between the Earth and the Sun; the sun’s radiation usually blinds the telescopes.  These asteroids are regarded as the most dangerous because their orbits often cross the Earth’s orbit.

TIT-BITS

Malala inspires curriculum for schools and colleges

  • Malala Yousafzai, Human Rights activist- the Pakistani girl targeted by Taliban because she championed education for girls, has inspired the development of a school curriculum.
  • George Washington University has announced that it is creating multimedia curriculum tools to accompany I am Malala, a book recently released by Ms. Yousafzai.
  • Free of charge, the curriculum will focus on themes such as the importance of a woman’s voice and political extremism. The multimedia tools won’t just look at Malala’s story, but also on how the same issues have been reflected elsewhere, such as when girls face child marriage and pressures to leave school.

First Indonesian bank branch

  • Bank Internasional Indonesia (BII), a subsidiary of Southeast Asia’s fourth largest bank Maybank, formally launched its first branch in the country.

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Political Science – Daily Answer Writing Challenge

QUESTIONS: 22/10/2013 (Paper-I: TOPIC:  POLITICAL THEORY)

  1. “Behaviouralism has revolutionised Political Science”. Comment (200 Words)
  2. Traditional Approach and its significance. Comment (200 Words)

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Insights Secure – 2014: Questions On Current Events

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Questions From The Hindu 22/10/2013

1. Is there any alternative to the present policy of procurement and distribution of food grains to ensure food security in India? Examine the negatives of present policy and suggest measures to overcome them. (250 Words)

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2. Do you think the relations between India and Russia is ‘strategic’ in its true sense? Critically examine. (200 Words)

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3. Haryana has one of the lowest sex ratio in the country. What are the factors responsible for this and what implications does low sex ratio has on the society? Critically analyze. (200 Words)

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4. What is the difference between cultural and natural landscapes? How does the implementation of Kasturirangan committee’s recommendations affect both landscapes in the Western Ghat? Examine. (250 Words)

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5. What effect climate change has on the economies of poor and developing countries? Discuss. (250 Words)

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6. Synriam™ and  Plasmodium falciparum  (50 Words)

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7. What role can India possibly play in diffusing crises in the Middle East? Comment.(150 Words)

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8. “Nuclear reactors are more about commerce and less about energy security.” Critically comment. (200 Words)

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9. “Tens of millions of elders have become victims, trapped between governments and families, neither of which have figured out how to protect or provide for them.” Discuss the problems faced by aged people in India and the measures taken by the government to protect them. (250 Words)

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10. Is there a difference between caretaker governments of Bangladesh and India? Why there is a controversy in Bangladesh regarding its future caretaker government? Explain. (250 Words)

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11. Situation Sthlm and iZettle (50 Words)

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12. “In the long term, India’s food security bill does more harm than favour to its poor citizens and farmers.” Do you agree with this view? Critically comment. (250 Words)

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13. “Without sufficient absorptive capacity, allocated resources will be misutilised and States will eventually fail to claim funds contingent on performance.” What do you understand by ‘absorptive capacity’? Do you think that Raghuram Rajan committee’s  Composite Index of States is adequate in allocating funds for the States? Examine. (250 Words)

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15. Critically evaluate the performance of higher education sector in India. (250 Words)

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16. Should India be worried at Maldive’s constitutional crisis? Explain why. (200 Words)

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History – Daily Answer Writing Challenge Day – 4

QUESTIONS: 22/10/2013 (Paper-II, Topics: European business enterprise; Social and Religious Reform movements in Bengal and Other Areas)

  1. “Plantations and mines, jute mills, banking, insurance, shipping and export-import concerns in India were run through a system of interlocking managing agencies.” Critically examine (150 Words)
  2. “The contact of the new Indian middle class with the West proved to be a catalyst. The social and religious movements launched by Rammohan or Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar have to be understood in this context.” Elaborate (300 Words)

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