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May 24th Current Affairs

International Issues

The World Health Organisation is to declare polio a global health emergency as it battles complacency in an attempt to eradicate the deadly virus forever. 

Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria as there have recently been outbreaks in countries once declared polio free. Even as the world celebrates India's success in stopping active polio virus circulation, the threat of importation is worrying countries across the world.

A UN Human Rights Council Review Report says Bahrain has agreed to consider its recommendations for the release of political prisoners, put an end to the torture and join the International Criminal Court. The other recommendations for Bahrain are to consider abolishing the death penalty, commuting death sentences to prison terms and improving laws that protect freedoms of expression and assembly. 

Bahrain's Human rights minister, Salah bin Ali Mohammed Abdulrahman told the 47-nation council in Geneva that the government is moving quickly to improve its human rights record. The recommendation regarding the release of political prisoners is significant in the wake of hunger strike since February by jailed Bahraini activists like Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. He and others have claimed that they suffered abuses and torture, and demanded their release. Al-Khawaja and seven other activists were sentenced to life in prison last year by a military court.

A two-day Home and Interior Secretaries level talks between India and Pakistan has begun in Islamabad. Terrorism and action against militants responsible for Mumbai terror attacks will be high on the agenda. Issue of fake Indian currency notes and drug trafficking will also figure prominently in the talks apart from humanitarian issues.  

The visit comes in the backdrop of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to India on 8th of last month during which the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh had stressed the need for Pakistan to take firm action to curb terrorism to enable India to make forward movement in the bilateral relationship.

Iran and six major world powers US,UK, France, Russia, China and Germany have resumed talks over Tehran's nuclear program in Baghdad on the second day. The P5+1 Group came forward an incentive package for Iran to halt the uranium enrichment. They have asked Tehran to place a freeze on its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent which is much below the nuclear weapon grade. In exchange they have offered to ship its nuclear material abroad, provide medical isotopes , cooperation in nuclear safety and spare parts for civilian airliners. 

Iran put forward a counter proposal after saying it wants the U.S. and Europe to ease sanctions. However the western nations have ruled out lifting sanctions unless Teheran takes concrete steps in this direction,The West and allies fear Iran's nuclear program could eventually produce atomic weapons. Iran insists its reactors are only for energy and research.

Lebanon has unveiled its first all women police force. A unit of over 200 female officers-in-training showed off their newly-acquired skills during a ceremony in Dbayeh, north of Beirut. 

The drill demonstrated their skills from arresting suspects to shooting and abseiling. These officers are part of a batch of more than 500 officers of the first policewomen’s unit of the country’s Internal Security Forces (ISF).

Saudi Arabia, Gulf and Western nations have pledged more than 4 billion dollars in aid to Yemen. At the Friends of Yemen Conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia pledged 3.25 billion dollars of a total 4 billion dollars in aid. 

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told envoys that it will support all the political initiatives to achieve security, stability and prosperity in Yemen. Britain pledged 44 million dollars over and above its commitments to Yemen.

Russia has successfully test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile capable of piercing defence systems being developed by the U.S.

The Strategic Missile Forces test-launched a new prototype ballistic missile from a mobile launcher at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Arkhangelsk Region, said Defence Ministry spokesman Vadim Koval. He did not identify the weapon. “The dummy warhead reached its target area at the Kura test range on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The set goals of the launch were reached,” he told Russian news wires.

It was the second launch of what is believed to be a deeply modernised Yars missile named Avangard. The first test failed last September when the missile crashed a few kilometres from the launch site.

National Issues

Planning Commission constituted an expert group headed by noted Economist C. Rangarajan to review the Tendulkar Committee methodology for estimating poverty. Minister of State for Planning Ashwani Kumar told reporters that the expert group is expected to give its report in 7-9 months.

Outlining the need for revisiting the methodology for estimating poverty, Ashwani Kumar said, that People's perspective about poverty has changed and there is a need to take a fresh look into the methodology for estimation of poverty in the country.

The Commission's estimates, based on Tendulkar Committee methodology, that people consuming more than Rs 28.65 per daily in cities and Rs 22.42 in rural areas are not poor, had triggered a controversy which even rocked Parliament.

He said that the poverty, based on Tendulkar Committee methodology has come down from 37.2 per cent in 2004-05 to 29.8 per cent in 2009-10 and the number of poor persons in the country has reduced from 40.7 crore in 2004-05 to 35.5 crore in 2009-10.

The Tendulkar Committee, which submitted its Report in 2009, has incorporated adequacy of expenditure from the normative and nutritional viewpoint.

The Minister said that the expert group will also recommend how the estimates of poverty should be linked to eligibility and entitlements for government's social sector schemes and programmes.

Centre's interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir have favoured setting up a Constitutional Committee to review all Central Acts and Articles of the Constitution of India to the state extended after 1952. The report of the interlocutors Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M M Ansari, which was made public, ruled out a return to the pre-1953 position.

The report, which was handed over to Home Minister P. Chidambaram on October 12 last year, also favoured resumption of the dialogue process between the Centre and Hurriyat Conference at the earliest.On Centre -state relation, the report calls for review of all Central Acts and Articles of the Constitution of India extended to the state after 1952 Delhi agreement.

The report also says that no more central laws and Articles of the Constitution should be extended to the state by Presidential order.It also suggested that Parliament will make no laws applicable to the state unless it relates country's internal and external security and its vital economic interests, especially in the areas of energy and access to water resources.

It also said the state assembly will submit three names to the President to the post of Governor who will be appointed by the President. It also suggested that there should be no change in Article 356 and if the state government is dismissed, elections should be held within three months.

The report recommended that for promotion of the state's economic self-reliance, a fresh financial agreement between the Centre and the state is required. The report also listed several recommendations to harmonise relations between people on both the sides of Line of Control including a hassle-free movement of people and goods across the LoC and a consultative mechanism where elected representatives from both sides can deliberate on issues of common interests like water, economy, tourism and trade.

Haryana would introduce Haryana Right to Play Bill. Chief Minister Mr. Bhupinder Singh Hooda said that access to sports facilities should be the right of every person. Chief Minister has ordered to constitute a 5-member committee under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary to consider various aspects of the Right to Play Bill 2012, before its introduction. 

The other members of the committee would include Financial Commissioners and Principal Secretaries of Sports, Finance, Higher Education and Secondary Education Departments. The proposed Bill has seven chapters and 29 sections.

The government announced to set up a five member expert panel to review methodology of poverty estimates. The panel will be headed by Prime minister's economy advisory council chairman Dr. C Rangarajan. Announcing this in New Delhi, planning and science and technology minister Mr. Ashwani Kumar said the panel will submit their report within nine months. 

Mr. Kumar said the expert panel will comprehensively review the existing methodology of estimation of poverty and examine whether the poverty line should be fixed solely in terms of a consumption basket.

The Minister also informed that the committee, which will submit its report within nine months to recommend how the estimates of poverty should be linked to eligibility and entitlements for schemes and programmes under the central government. Mr. Kumar informed the poverty ratio in the country has reduced from 40.7 crore in 2004-05 to 35.5 crore in 2009-10.

A resolution moved by India to develop a common action plan to address the issue of mental health was approved by member countries and World Health Organisation, at the 65th World Health Assembly. New Delhi had played a leadership role in promoting the global debate on the need for urgent action plan for the promotion of mental health at the ongoing World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The government has been separately working on strengthening interventions in the 12th Plan for the care of people with mental illness, including emphasis on family and community care and training of health and community workers, and short and long stay homes.

Bilateral Issues

Australian High Commissioner to India Peter Varghese called on Minister for Steel Beni Prasad Verma in New Delhi and discussed bilateral issues related to steel business. During the meeting, specific issues related to Steel Authority of India Limited, SAIL, and National Mineral Development Corporationm, NMDC, were also discussed. Mr Verma asked Indian steel companies to explore the possibility of acquisition of cooking coal assets in Australia.

The Steel Minister urged the Australian High Commissioner to look into problems faced by Indian steel companies scouting for raw material resources in Australia. The Australian High Commissioner agreed to provide all necessary support to Indian companies exploring raw material assets in Australia.

Science & Technology

Ingeniously-developed surface-to-surface air 'Akash' missile was successfully test fired from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, about 15 km from Balasore in Odisha coast. 

The user-specific trial, which formed part of the country's routine air defence exercises, was conducted to re-validate the technology and operational efficacy of the missile. 

The missile, which has a strike range of 25 km with a warhead of 60 kgs, was test fired from a mobile launcher from launch complex-III of the ITR at about 11.08 this morning. The missile was aimed at intercepting a floating object during the trial and supported by a pilotless target aircraft, flown from launch complex-II, at a definite altitude over the sea.

Akash, an anti-aircraft defence system, can simultaneously engage several targets with 'Rajendra' radar developed by the Electronics and Radar Development Establishment a DRDO laboratory in Bangalore. Rajendra does the surveillance, tracks the target, acquires it and guides the missile towards it. 

The development of Akash missile took place during 1990s under the country's Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme and after many trials, it was inducted into the armed forces. An air-force version of the Akash missile has also been developed by the DRDO.

Rajendra is 'passive phased array radar'. It is multifunction radar, capable of tracking as many as 64 targets and controlling up to 12 missiles simultaneously. Defence experts have compared Akash missile system with the American MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile system.



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