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2012    August 27 to 31      Current Affairs


International Affairs

  • The Vienna based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the international agency for the monitoring of nuclear energy, on 29 August 2012 set up a special Task Force to handle inspections and other issues related to the Iran's disputed nuclear programme. IAEA is aiming at handling the sensitive Iran issue by deploying the experts and other resources under one unit. IAEA, which regularly inspects Iran's nuclear sites, has voiced growing concern over the lran's nuclear program. Tehran, however, has argued that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and there is no military dimension to it. Iran has been targeting of western nations for carrying out its nuclear plan. Iran has been facing tough economic sanctions imposed by US and European Union. However, Iran has been dubbed the allegations made by US and its allies as ridiculous and maintained that the country has no military ambition behind its nuclear programme.
  • French prosecutors have opened a murder enquiry into Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s 2004 death near Paris, sources close to the matter told on 28 August. The probe comes after Arafat’s family launched legal action in France last month over claims the veteran Palestinian leader died of radioactive polonium poisoning. Arafat’s widow Suha and his daughter Zawra lodged a murder complaint on July 31 in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. Arafat died at a military hospital near Paris in 2004. Allegations that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was poisoned were resurrected last month after Al-Jazeera news channel broadcast an investigation in which experts said they found high levels of polonium on his personal effects. At the time of his death, Palestinian officials alleged he had been poisoned by long-time foe Israel, but an inconclusive Palestinian investigation in 2005 ruled out poisoning, as well as cancer and AIDS. Israel has consistently denied the allegations, accusing Suha Arafat and Palestinian officials of covering up the real reasons for the former leader’s death.
  • A 7.6 earthquake struck off the Philippine coast on 31 August, triggering a small tsunami that hit the eastern part of the archipelago. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a depth of 34 km and hit at 8:47 pm (1247 GMT), 139 kilometers east of the city of Sulangan on Samar island. A 16-centimetre tsunami hit the eastern Philippines about two hours later, raising fears that bigger waves were imminent. But the U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center shortly afterwards lifted its tsunami warnings for the Philippines and Indonesia. Warnings had also been raised for Japan, Taiwan and several Pacific islands, but they were almost immediately lifted.
  • The 16th NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) summit was held at Tehran, Iran on 30-31 August 2012.The theme of the summit was “Lasting Peace through Joint Global Governance”. At the Tehran Summit, the Chairmanship of NAM was passed on from Egypt to Iran. The NAM meeting in Tehran was held in three phases: preparatory senior officials meeting on 26-27 August, ministerial level meeting on 28-29 August, and the summit on 30-31 August.
  • Venezuela was selected the host for the 17th NAM Summit in 2015 and two nations, namely Azerbaijan Republic and Fiji, were accepted as the new members of the organization. The NAM was founded in the former Yugoslavia in 1961. It represents almost two-thirds of the UN members and about 55 percent of the world population.
  • A commission of enquiry has concluded on 30 August, that the former Maldivian President, Mohamed Nasheed, was not ousted in a coup. The Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) was set up by the Maldivian government to probe if the events of February 7 constituted a coup. On that day, President Mohamed Nasheed had stepped down and Vice-President Mohamed Waheed assumed office as per the Constitution. The commission, in a report released on 30 August, concluded that “there was no illegal coercion or intimidation nor any coup d’état. The Commission has received no evidence supporting or to substantiate these allegations”. The commission, co-chaired by a Singapore judge and which included two international observers, said: “A coup d’etat required a positive action against President Nasheed. Non-action and inaction cannot constitute a coup d’état. Moreover, the Constitution does not call for loyalty of anyone to the President. It calls for loyalty to the Constitution.
  • Iran, India and Afghanistan discussed options for investment in the Chabahar Port, located in southeast Iran. In a crucial trilateral meeting held on 26 August 2012 ahead of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, the three nations agreed to set up a joint working group to spur trade and transit through the Iranian port of Chabahar. Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai held dialogues with deputy foreign ministers of Iran and Afghanistan in Tehran to explore ways to expand trade and transit cooperation, including investment, among the three countries, starting with the Chabahar Port. In a joint statement released after trilateral dialogue the three countries committed to meet within next three months at Chabahar to take the discussions forward. In another significant development Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna held bilateral dialogues with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehion 27 August 2012. The two leaders discussed issues related to trade and economy during the meeting. The two nations hoped to take their economic ties to a new level through increased cooperation in the economic sector. Iran is hosting the 16th Nan-Aligned Movement Summit in capital Tehran from 26 August to 31 August 2012.Both the nations agreed to set up an Indian cultural centre in Tehran. India also discussed the issue of global governance confronting the developing world.

National Affairs
  • The Madras High Court on 31 August cleared the decks for the commissioning of Units I and II of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), holding that there was no impediment to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd to proceed with the project. However, it made it clear that the regulatory authorities should periodically oversee the compliance and maintenance of standards of pollution. In its nearly 300-page order, the Bench said Tirunelveli District Collector should conduct offshore drill periodically in all villages. The Tamil Nadu government should initiate the developmental schemes contemplated by it for the villages around the plant immediately. The court concurred with former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s suggestion to establish a multispecialty hospital with all facilities in the area, apart from establishing various schools with the CBSE and State government syllabus with hostel facilities. Infrastructural facilities should be provided for fishermen for repair of mechanised boats in and around Kudankulam. After going through the records, the specially constituted Bench held that there was no violation of environmental safeguards. Various safety and other aspects of the KKNPP were being monitored continuously by the authorities. As and when required, they could always give suitable directions for maintaining ecological balance. An expert committee appointed by the State government had categorically stated that historically there had never been a big earthquake or tsunami in the Kudankulam area.
  • Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 27 August attacked the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report on the coal blocks allocation during 2004-09, saying any allegation of impropriety was without basis and unsupported by facts.
  • The Union government on 27 August told the Supreme Court that the Cabinet had cleared the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012. On August 24, the court pulled up the government for its callousness in not enacting a law to ban manual scavenging despite repeated assurances that it would come out with law to eliminate this heinous practice. Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal said to the court that as per Article 117(1), the Bill had to be introduced in Parliament on the President’s recommendation.
  • Supreme Court of India on 29 August 2012 upheld the death sentence of Mumbai terror attack convict Ajmal Amir Kasab. Upholding the death sentence of Kasab the Supreme Court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice CK Prasad held that waging war against the country was the primary and foremost offence committed by the Pakistani terrorist. Kasab was awarded the death sentence by a special anti-terror court on 6 May 2010 on charges of criminal conspiracy, waging war against the nation and various other provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. As the Supreme Court confirmed his death sentence, became the 309th prisoner on death row in India. If executed, he will be the 52nd person to be hanged after India got independence.
  • The Union Government on 28 August 2012 cleared a proposal to put a complete ban on employment of children up to the age of 14 both in hazardous and non-hazardous work by amending an anti-child labour Act. The Union Cabinet approved bringing amendment to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, which has also penal provisions for non compliance. As per the existing Act, children below 14 years of age are allowed to work in industries not considered to be hazardous.
  • The Supreme Court of India on 17 August 2012 ruled that it would not allow resumption of mining activities of iron ore in Karnataka unless there is a statutory compliance and full implementation of reclamation and rehabilitation measures. A special forest bench comprised of Justice Aftab Alam, K.S. Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar accepted all recommendations of August 16 report of the apex court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC). The Supreme Court was hearing to a petition filed by an NGO Samaj Parivartana Samudaya against the illegal mining and encroachment of forest areas in the state. Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared for NGO. An alleged 35 lakh metric tons of iron ore have been illegally exported by private firms in Karnataka. Accepting the recommendations of CEC, the Supreme Court on 13 April 2012 had suspended new mining leases in Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka unless rehabilitation plans for the existing leases were executed.
  • A special court on 29 August 2012 convicted 32 people, including former Gujarat Minister Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riots case. The communal riot in Naroda Patiya in Gujarat had claimed the lives of 97 people from the minority community. Kodnani, a three-time BJP MLA from Naroda area and Bajrangi were held guilty under sections 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of IPC in the post-Godhra riots case. The court acquitted 29 other accused in the same case as it didn’t find any solid evidence against them. The court will award the punishment to all the convicts on 31 August 2012. The trial in the case began in August 2009 and charges were framed against 62 accused. The massacre in the Naroda Patiya area had taken place a day after the Godhra train burning incident of 27 February 2002. On February 28, 2002 when a bandh call was given by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a large crowd gathered in the Naroda Patiya area and attacked people belonging to minority community that resulted in the death of 97 people while 33 others were injured in the violence.

Bilateral Relations
  • India and China, on 27 August agreed to set up a joint working group (JWG) to look into not only trade-related issues but also investments. The working group is expected to come out with a report within 90 days. The decision to set up the JWG was taken at the meeting of India-China Joint Group on Economic Relations, Trade, Science and Technology in New Delhi on 27 August 2012 .The working group is set up even as India has expressed serious concerns over the widening trade deficit with its neighbour and sought a correction. On its part, China expressed serious concern over the imposition of duty on import of power equipment by New Delhi. Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said after the meeting, both countries had also agreed to work on a five-year plan on economic cooperation. His China’s counterpart, Mr. Chen Deming said, in times of global economic crisis, there was a need for strengthening India-China economic relationship. He also expressed the hope that bilateral trade would hit the target of $100 billion by 2015. The total bilateral trade between India and China for 2011-12, stood at 75457.42 million dollar as compared with 59000.36 million dollar in 2010-11. During 2011-12, the exports were 17902.98 million dollar while the imports stood at 57554.44 million dollar. The provisional trade deficit for 2011-12 was 39651.46 million dollar. The Joint Group on Economic Relations, Trade, Science & Technology was formed in 1988 when then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Beijing.

Economic Affairs
  • The Supreme Court on 31 August, held that the economic offences committed by Saharas must be dealt with by an iron hand and directed the Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd. (SIRECL) and the Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd. (SHICL) to refund over Rs. 24,400 crore collected from 2.21 crore depositors through the optimally fully convertible debentures (OFCDs) by way of bonds. A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and J.S. Khehar said they should refund the amounts collected through Red Herring Prospectus (RHPs) dated March 13, 2008 (Rs. 17,400 crore) and October 16, 2009 (over Rs. 7,000 crore), along with 15 per cent interest to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) from the date of receipt of the subscription amount till the date of repayment, within three months. The sum should be deposited in a nationalised bank bearing the maximum rate of interest. In its common order, the Bench directed Saharas to furnish the SEBI, in 10 days, with all documents in their custody, especially the application forms submitted by subscribers, the approval and allotment of bonds, to enable it to ascertain the genuineness of the subscribers as well as the amounts deposited. The court appointed the retired Supreme Court judge, B.N. Agrawal, “to oversee whether directions issued by this court are properly and effectively complied with by the SEBI (WTM) from the date of this order. Mr. Justice B.N. Agarwal would also oversee the entire steps adopted by the SEBI (WTM) and other officials for the effective and proper implementation of the directions issued by this court.”
  • GAIL (India) and GDF SUEZ of France, on 27 August, announced that they had entered into a medium-term LNG supply agreement for supply of 12 cargoes from 2013 to 2014, representing a total of 0.8 million tones. This agreement will contribute to supply the Indian gas market, which is expected to grow from 58 billion cubic meters in 2012 to 220 cubic meters in 2020, representing a CAGR of over 18 per cent. The agreement was signed in Paris. B.C. Tripathi, chairman and managing director, GAIL said that, this agreement with GDF SUEZ is yet another step by GAIL to bridge the demand-supply deficit of the Indian market in the medium-term. This is in addition to other initiatives of GAIL towards LNG sourcing, creating LNG re-gasification infrastructure and augmenting transmission capacity significantly during the next two to three years.
  • The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) held the eleventh Energy Efficient Summit in HICC, Novotel Hyderabad. The summit was held between 22 August 2012 to 25 August 2012. The objective of the summit was to facilitate the Indian industry to improve energy efficiency on a continuous basis and help them in achieving the target set as part of Perform Achieve and Trade under the National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency. The other objective was also to disseminate information on the latest trends and energy efficient technologies and facilitate sharing of best practices amongst the Industries. In addition, while the summit was going on, The Swedish Energy Agency, CII and the Cleantech Scandinavia entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) of understanding for cooperation in the energy sector.
  • The government of India on 29 August 2012 approved a 14000 crore rupees fund to spur the production of hybrid and electrical vehicles in the country. According to a new policy approved, Automobile companies and the government plan to put six million electric vehicles on road by 2020. The government under the new policy will fund research and development, infrastructure and subsidies. With an aim at reducing the burden on fossil fuels, the Union government in national budget 2011 had proposed a plan to develop electric and hybrid vehicles. Later, the government set up a National Council for Electric Mobility led by heavy industries minister Praful Patel, and a National Board for Electric Mobility to ensure uniform rules in all the states. The government has long been contemplating a policy to reduce its dependence on oil which make up a substantial part of India’s huge import basket. The hybrid and electric vehicles have emerged as a better alternative of traditional oil-based vehicles over the years.
  • India’s market regulator Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on 28 August 2012 allowed partial flexibility in the conversion of Indian Depository Receipts (IDRs) into equity shares by investors. The SEBI move is aimed at retaining domestic liquidity besides; it is also expected to attract foreign entities to enroll their IDRs on India stock exchanges. In another circular released by the RBI, the central bank put an overall cap of 5 billion dollar for raising of capital through IDRs by foreign companies in Indian markets. The RBI measure will help Indian investors to convert their depository receipts into equity shares of the issuer company and vice versa.
  • Supreme Court of India on 27 August 2012 extended the deadline for 2G spectrum auction and instructed the union government to carry out the auction by 11 January 2013. The court also allowed the mobile companies whose licenses are set to be annulled to operate until 18 January 2013. In its first, the union government is set to conduct an open auction of 2G mobile radio airwaves, after the apex court scrapped all 2G licenses awarded to mobile companies, citing massive irregularity in the license distribution as the reason. The court had earlier ordered the government to carry out the radio wave auction by the end of August 2012and had ruled that the affected companies can operate on their existing licenses until 7 September 2012. The government later urged the court to extend the deadline until 12 November 2012 to begin the auction and 40 days from the completion of auction to allocate frequencies. The government has said that it requires around two months to complete the entire auction process.

Science and Technology
  • Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) on 27 August 2012 signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a Joint Venture with M/s Rosoboron export, Russia and M/s Splav “SPA”, Russia to manufacture five versions of Smerch Rockets based on the technology received from Russia. The MoU was signed in New Delhi. The Smerch Rockets are technologically superior having a range of 70-80- kms. With formation of this Joint Venture, the Indo-Russian Friendship will be strengthened. After indigenizing the technology of Smerch Rockets, OFB will attain new heights in manufacturing of advanced Rocket.
  • Identifying TNT explosives present at a very low concentration, has become possible with a nanostructure-sized sensor developed by T. Pradeep of the Department of Chemistry, IIT Madras .There is a complete change in luminescence from red to green when TNT is added to the sensor. All that is required to detect the change in luminescence is a fluorescence microscope. The results can be double checked by Raman spectroscopy. Raman spectrum specific to TNT gets enhanced and hence identifying the signature becomes easy. Prof. Pradeep said it is possible to make one billion sensors with one gram of gold. So it is not worth reusing the sensors after cleaning them. A device based on this principle is under development.
  • Scientists on 31 August, have reconstructed the entire genetic makeup of a girl who lived and died in a Siberian cave more than 50,000 years ago. The young woman belonged to a long extinct group of humans called Denisovans — their existence known only from meagre fossil remains uncovered at the Denisova cave in the Altai Mountains in 2008. They are thought to have occupied much of Asia tens of thousands of years ago. Previous tests on the remains found they were more closely related to Neanderthals than modern humans. Writing in the journal Science , researchers in the U.S. and Germany describe how they sequenced the girl’s genome with an accuracy once considered impossible with such ancient specimens. The final sequence matched the quality of modern genetic tests on living people. They sequenced single strands of DNA taken from a little finger bone found at the scene. The bone fragments, and two fossilised teeth, are the only remains of the Denisovan. Svante Paabo, at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, said there was now “no difference in what we can learn genetically about a person that lived 50,000 years ago and from a person today, provided that we have well-enough preserved bones”. The team from Leipzig and Harvard Medical School in Boston compared the Denisovan genome with similar sequences from Neanderthals and 11 modern humans from around the world.

Awards
  • Aditi Mukherjee, a Delhi based scientist, won the prestigious Norman Borlaug Award in Field Research and Application. Mukherjee was picked for the award for her work in transforming access to water for thousands of farmers in West Bengal. The award will be formally presented to Mukherji on 17 October 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa, US. Mukherji, 37, is a senior researcher at the Delhi office of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). The international award is conferred by the World Food Prize Foundation, which was started by Norman Borlogue, the father of Green Revolution in India. The award carries 10000 dollar cash prize. The Borlaug Award is restricted to scientists under 40.
  • The Castrol awards for cricketing excellence honoured the players, as Ajit Wadekar, who bagged the lifetime achievement award, and Unmukt Chand, who topped the ‘Junior cricketer’ category. The other awards are- Indian cricketer of the year — M.S. Dhoni, special award for- Yuvraj Singh. Test-cricketer-of-the-year award - Rahul Dravid , while the limited-over category honours went to Suresh Raina and Sachin Tendulkar took the batsman-of-the-year trophy and the best bowler award - R. Ashwin. Other awards: Performance in the World Cup: Yuvraj Singh; 100th hundred: Tendulkar; Extraordinary double century in ODIs: Virender Sehwag; Performance under pressure: Gautam Gambhir (World Cup final); Stand-out performance under pressure: Virat Kohli.

Sports
  • India defeated host and defending champion Australia to win ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup. In the final match played at Townsville in Australia on 26 August 2012, the Indian under -19 squad led by Unmukt Chand beat Australian side by 6 wickets. Skipper Unmukt Chand scored unbeaten 111 runs leading his team to a glorious victory.William Bosisto, the Australian skipper received the Man of the Tournament award. Anamul Haque of Bangladesh scored 365 runs, highest in the tournament. Reece Topley of England claimed 19 wickets and remained the leading wicket taker of the tournament. This victory marked third under-19 world cup title for India after Mohammad Kaif in 2000 and Virat Kohli in 2008 had led the team to the tournament victory. Meanwhile in Mumbai, the BCCI announced a cash prize of Rs. 20 lakh each for members of the team.
  • Queen Elizabeth officially opened the London Paralympic games, on 29 August 2012. Britain's first Paralympic Games gold medallist, Margaret Maughan hit the cauldron.The opening ceremony signalled the start of 11 days of competition by 4200 athletes from 164 countries.
  • Delhi won the 23rd Federation Cup Throw Ball Championship-2012 in both the male and female categories. The Championship which was held on 23-25 August 2012, in Srinagar. Delhi beat Tamil Nadu in the women’s final while, in the men’s final, Delhi beat Andhra Pradesh.
  • England’s test team captain Andrew Strauss announced his retirement from international cricket on 29 August 2012. Under Strauss’ captaincy the England team witnessed back-to-back Ashes wins over Australia and reached to the top of the test rankings. A left-hand batsman, Strauss made his first class debut in year 1998 and one-day international debut in 2003 against Sri Lanka. Strauss made his test debut against New Zealand at Lord’s in 2004, where he scored 112 and 83 runs in two innings and received Man of the Match award. In a nine-year long international career, Strauss played 100 tests and 127 one-day internationals. Strauss has to his credit 7037 and 4205 runs in test and ODIs respectively.

Persons
  • P.M. NAIR- The Ministry of Home Affairs on 27 August 2012 appointed P M Nair as the Director General, National Disaster Response Force & Civil Defence (NDRF & CD). A 1978-batch Indian Police Service Officer of Bihar cadre, Nair is presently working as Special Director General, Central Reserve Police Force.
  • ADMIRAL DEVENDRA KUMAR JOSHI (DK JOSHI)-D.K.Joshi took over as the new Indian Navy chief on 31 August 2012. He is the 21st Chief of Naval Staff of Independent India and the 19th Indian to command the Indian Navy. He succeeded Admiral Nirmal Verma.DK Joshi has commanded several naval ships which includes aircraft carrier INS Virat. He was also the chief of Eastern Fleet. He specializes in anti-submarine warfare. During his tenure, the Navy will start 13000 crore rupees phase II expansion of Project Seabird, the naval harbour under construction near Goa.
  • RAGHU RAM RAJAN- Former chief economist of International Monetary Fund (IMF) took over as the Chief Economic Advisor in the Finance Ministry on 29 August 2012. The Appointments Committee of Cabinet had cleared the appointment of Rajan as the new CEA on 10 August 2012. The position was lying vacant since Kaushik Basu demitted the office on 31 July 2012.Raghuram Rajan has already been serving as the ‘Honorary Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister’, the position he was given in November 2008. He also headed High Level Committee on Financial Sector Reforms in 2007.
  • A.K.HANGAL(97)-Veteran actor Avatar Krishan Hangal, popularly called AK Hangal, passed away in Mumbai on 26 August 2012 after prolonged illness. In a career spanning nearly 40 years Hangal worked in around 225 films. A devoted artist, he also worked in numerous theatre plays and TV Series. He was born in Sialkot, now in Pakistan, on 1 February 1917.Some of his memorable works came in the movies like Namak Haraam, Shaukeen , Sholay .Considering his immense contribution to the Indian film industry the government of India awarded him with the Padma Bhushan in 2006.
  • Neil Alden Armstrong(82)- The US Astronaut, who got his name written in the history of mankind after he became the first person on the Earth to walk on the surface of moon, passed away on 25 August 2012. At the age of 38, Armstrong, as the commander of the Apollo 11 mission, became the first human to land on the moon on 20 July 1969. Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon along with Collins and Aldrin, the Congressional Space Medal of Honour by President Jimmy Carter in 1978.Apollo 11 was the space flight which landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, two humans for the first time on the surface on moon. 
  • Republican Mitt Romney is all set to challenge incumbent Barack Obama after the party nominated the former Massachusetts governor as its candidate for the US presidential elections in November this year. Romney won the nomination as he crossed the support of necessary 1,144 delegates during the ongoing Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. The convention also approved Congressman Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate.

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