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February 8th - 2012 Current Affairs

International Issues

Maldives' first democratically elected president resigned on Feb 7th after a police mutiny described by his office as an attempted coup, capping three weeks of political upheaval in the holiday paradise.



Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have agreed to name President Mahmoud Abbas as Head of a Unity Government that will oversee preparations for presidential and legislative elections.

As per the agreement Mahmoud Abbas will be the interim Prime Minister until elections are held.



UN chief Ban Ki-moon has appealed to eight countries, including India, to ratify the CTBT to bring the global nuclear test ban into force.

The UN secretary general made the appeal after Indonesia became the 157th country to adopt the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Besides India, China, North Korea, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the US are the other nations in a core group of 44 nuclear countries which did not ratify the treaty.

The 44 nations which must ratify the CTBT to bring it into force all have nuclear weapons or atomic programmes.

This would accelerate the entry of CTBT into force, Ban said after his meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa at the UN headquarters.


National Issues


The opening of the Indian Embassy's $10 million compound, which will be formally presided over by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on February 8th, was delayed by over a year on account of concerns over security.

The building, which was scheduled to open in 2010, had to undergo a half- year-long security review in the wake of concerns expressed by some officials over inadequate security arrangements following the 2009 attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

The building's exteriors were subsequently redesigned, with its walls and gates bolstered to provide greater protection after security officials from New Delhi spent weeks reviewing the structure and combing the compound in several visits to Beijing last year. Concerns over security have cast a shadow over the expansive new embassy compound. Indian officials have also taken precautions to ensure greater information security, amid growing concerns over cyber intrusions by China-based hackers and repeated hacking attacks faced by diplomats in the old Ritan Park embassy compound.



The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Chief Nandan Nilekani on February 7th  said Aadhaar numbers will be used for streamlining the Public Distribution System (PDS) and plugging leakages in it. 



Union Minister for Defence, A.K. Antony inaugurated the Joint Naval Fleet Exercises,”TROPEX 2012” at sea in Bay of Bengal, off Visakhapatnam coast. AIR Correspondent reports, the major annual exercise is aimed at testing the Navy’s preparedness in dealing with contingencies. 



Government decided to allow airlines to directly import jet fuel to enable them save on high incidence of tax. It also allowed national carrier Air India to raise 7,400 crore rupees by issuing bonds or other means. The decision was taken by a Group of Ministers, GoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The GoM was also apprised of the decision to allow foreign airlines pick up 49 per cent stake in Indian carriers.

Bilateral Issues

Iran has agreed to accept 45 per cent of the payment for its crude imports in rupees through three Indian banks to beat the effect of western sanctions.

Under the agreement, 45 per cent of the payment would be made in rupees through three Indian banks and Iran could utilise this for buying Indian machinery, metal products, iron, steel, minerals, clothes, fibre, sugar, tea, wood and automobile spare parts. Indian companies can also invest in projects in Iran like developing its oil and gas fields, extraction of iron ore and building roads and railways.

Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Indian Oil hold 80 per cent stake in the block and Oil India the remaining 20 per cent. 


Science and Technology


Punjab University archaeologists claim to have unearthed a seal of Indus Valley Civilisation vintage from the Cholistan desert of South Punjab that borders Rajasthan.

According to a report in The Dawn newspaper, the seal in steatite material with the carved figure of ibex and two pictographs was discovered during a survey of different sites near the Derawar Fort along the ancient bed of the Hakra river. The seal is more or less square-shaped and slightly broken from the right side but the image of the ibex is intact.

The seal is said to date back to 2500-2000 B.C. and, according to the chairman of Punjab University's Archaeology Department, Farzand Masih, is different from Harappan seals. This, according to him, could be reflective of a regional influence and possibly even a separate identity in the Harappan domain.

The seal was discovered during the Sui-Vihar Excavations and Archaeological Reconnaissance of Southern Punjab — a project funded by UNESCO to explore sites along the Hakra river. The project aimed at learning more about Buddhist influence in this region which has its own distinctive features as opposed to the Gandhara school of art further north. The team also conducted excavations at Sui-Vihar which is billed as the only existing example of Sankhya doctrines in Pakistan.



Indigenously developed micro-light and pilot-less target aircraft Lakshya-1 was successfully test flown from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur near Balasore on Feb 7th.

'Lakshya-1, fitted with an advanced digitally controlled engine was successfully test flown at about 11.40 AM to check the validity of its engine and duration enhancement.


Awards


The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve (NBR), spread over 5,500 sq km in three states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, has been nominated for the prestigious Michael Batisse Award under the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme of the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Tamil Nadu has a lion's share of NBR with over 2,500 sq km lying within the State boundary. In Tamil Nadu, it largely lies in Coimbatore division, part of Erode district and in the Nilgiris division. The NBR includes tropical moist forests and tropical dry forests. The rainfall here ranges from 500 mm to 7,000 mm per year. The reserve encompasses the South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests, South Western Ghats montane rain forest, semi evergreen moist forest, thorn forest and scrub, montane grassland and high elevation shola forests.

NBR is a home for rich flora, fauna and a well-known bio diversity hot spot. It has rich orchids, 3,238 species of angio perms, 71 species of gymno sperms, 300 species of butterflies, 285 vertebrates endemic to Western Ghats, 100 species of mammals, 350 birds and as many as 1,1680 reptiles and amphibians besides unique shola grass lands and eco systems.



Three IITians are among the eight young scientists who have won the prestigious Scopus award, instituted by the National Academy of Sciences and Elsevier, a leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services.

The winners are Sanjib Senapathi, IIT-Madras; Sagnik Dey, IIT-Delhi; Satyajit Banerjee, IIT-Kanpur; Partha Sarathi Mukherjee, IISc, Bangalore; Prahladh Harsha, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai; Sundergopal Sridhar, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad; Ritesh Agarwal, P.G. Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh; and S.B. Shivachandra, Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.



Manipal University was awarded for having the best hostel facility for students along with BITS Pilani at the India Today Aspire Education Summit 2012 in New Delhi recently.

The best of India's education sector were honoured at the India Today Aspire Education Summit 2012 in New Delhi.



The dominant forces in tennis and football were honored, with Novak Djokovic winning the top individual prize and Barcelona capturing the team trophy at the 2012 Laureus Sports Awards.

The top-ranked Djokovic won sportsman of the year at the ceremony in London, one week after the Serbian triumphed at the Australian Open to become the fifth man in the Open Era to win three Grand Slam titles in a row.



Indian director Shonali Bose and three other filmmakers have won the prestigious 2012 Sundance Institute-Mahindra Global Filmmaking award, which recognises and supports independent talent from around the world.



Indian music maestro A R Rahman has been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 8th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) in Dubai. 

Persons

Science communicator R.D. Sharma (73), who was a senior officer in the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, has passed away.

A former media consultant at the India office of the International Rice Research Institute, he was known for his insightful writings on different aspects of science for the benefit of the common man.

Among other things, he is a winner of the Indian National Science Academy's Indira Gandhi Prize for Popularisation of Science. He has scripted, anchored, directed and produced more than 500 television programmes.


Business


The economic growth is likely to fall to a three-year low of 6.9 per cent in 2011-12, mainly due to sharp slowdown in manufacturing, agriculture and mining sectors, against 8.4 per cent expansion in the last fiscal.

Agriculture and allied activities are likely to grow at 2.5 per cent in 2011-12, compared to a robust growth of 7 per cent in 2010-11, according to the Advanced Estimates released on Feb 7th by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO).



The Indian IT industry in the US has contributed USD 15 billion in taxes alone in the last five years, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said, stressing on the need to eliminate discriminatory actions. 

Mathai, on his first bilateral visit to the US in his capacity as the Foreign Secretary, expressed hope that the economic challenges in the US would not lead to protectionism and concerns of the Indian IT industry will be addressed. 


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