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2013 - December 12 to 15 - Current Affairs


International

Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians 9th December 2013 signed a historic water-sharing initiative at the World Bank in Washington that could protect the Dead Sea from rising demand for water in the region. The agreement was signed by Israeli Energy Minister Silvan Shalom, Shaddad Attili, Head of the Palestinian water authority, and Hazim el-Naser, Head of the Jordanian water ministry. According to the agreement- a pipeline will be built on the Jordanian side of the Aqaba Gulf to carry brine (sea water) from a desalination plant at the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, while providing drinking water to the region. 

The project is expected to cost 250m-400m Dollars. The Dead Sea is dropping by as much as 1m (3.3ft) a year as the River Jordan is depleted for use in irrigation. The Dead Sea is so rich in salt and other minerals that humans float naturally on the surface. The area around the sea has an established tourism and health industry because of the water's unique properties. But the Dead Sea is losing water rapidly, with some fearing the Dead Sea could dry up entirely by 2050. 

The scheme will pipe water from the Gulf of Aqaba off the Red Sea through a desalination plant in Jordan, sending brine to the southern-most edge of the Dead Sea. The sea water will be used to test the impact of Red Sea water being transported to the Dead Sea. It will involve the construction of a desalination plant in Jordan, projected to yield 80 million-100 million cu m of water annually. A water transfer deal will also see Israel supply water to Jordan and the Palestinian territories. The project also expected to yield hydroelectric power for use in the desalination process.



The European Union (EU) on 12th December, granted Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Plus status to Pakistan with an impressive count of 406 votes, granting Pakistani products a duty free access to the European market. According to media reports, 406 members of the European Parliament expressed their support for Pakistan while 186 lawmakers voted against the status, which has been granted till 2017. 

The GSP Plus status will allow almost 20 per cent of Pakistani exports to enter the EU market at zero tariff and 70 per cent at preferential rates. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif congratulated the nation over the European Union award. The prime minister said: “gaining access to European markets was the top most priority of the government as part of economic development agenda, which has been achieved due to continuous hard work of the ministers and officials from the ministries of finance, commerce and foreign affairs and friends of Pakistan in Europe.” 

This status would enable Pakistan to export more than US $ 1 billion worth of products to the international markets. Only the textile industry would earn profits of more than Rs.1 trillion per year. EU trade concessions will benefit the country’s largest manufacturer and exporter, the textile and clothing industry, the most by enabling its products to compete with those of regional rivals like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which already have duty free access to the bloc’s market.



Scientists and experts of Iran have successfully launched a research rocket that took the second monkey into the space on 14 December 2013. The rocket named Pajohesh (Research) was launched on the first day of the national Research Week of Iran and carried out the second monkey named Fargam and safely it returned to Earth after 15 minutes. 

The liquid fueled rocket was sent to 120 kilometer into the space. This process will help the Iranian Scientists in developing Iran’s Space Research works with necessary information, which would enrich their space technology knowhow. During the 15 mission, the Iranian Scientists were successful in measurement of signals that comes from the rocket including its gas combination and vital signs of the space monkey. 

The first rocket carrying a monkey named Pishgam (Pioneer) in the space was launched by Iran on 28th January 2013.


National

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code making gay sex an offence punishable with up to life imprisonment on 11 December 2013. A bench of justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. 

Mukhopadhaya set aside the Delhi High Court's verdict which had in 2009 decriminalized gay sex among consenting adults in private. The Supreme Court bench allowed the appeals filed by various social and religious organizations challenging the Delhi high court verdict on the ground that gay sex is against the cultural and religious values of the country. The Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional infirmity in section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, IPC which makes gay sex an offence punishable with up to life imprisonment. 

With the apex court verdict, the operation of penal provision against gay sex has come into force. The bench stated Parliament is authorized to delete section 377 of IPC but till the time this penal provision is there, the court cannot legalize this kind of sexual relationship. The Delhi High Court had on 2 July 2009 decriminalized gay sex as provided in Section 377 of the IPC and had ruled that sex between two consenting adults in private would not be an offence.



The President Pranab Mukherjee launched an ‘In-Residence’ Programme for writers, artists and innovation scholars on 11th December at Rashtrapati Bhavan on the occasion of his birthday. He also kicked off a scheme to issue Smart ID Cards to residents of Rashtrapati Bhavan. The ‘In-Residence’ programme open to all Indian nationals, aims at providing writers and artists an opportunity to stay in Rashtrapati Bhavan for one month and be a part of the life of Rashtrapati Bhavan. 

The initiative is an attempt to encourage young and upcoming writers and artists by facilitating them stay close to nature in the picturesque and serene surroundings of Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Programme seeks to provide an environment which will inspire creative thinking and rejuvenate artistic impulses. 

Various activities like reading sessions, exhibitions of works of art and interaction with the residents of Rashtrapati Bhavan, etc. are also to be organized in consultation with the selected writers/artists under the scheme. Persons with an established track record in the field of art and literature can apply. Preference would be given to writers / artists who have won national / state awards. A maximum of four writers / artists would be selected under this scheme every year.



The Supreme Court of India on 10th December 2013 ordered red beacons are allowed to be used only by persons holding Constitutional posts and high dignitaries. The decision came to prevent the misuse of red beacons by local politicians as a symbol of status. 

The Supreme Court bench was headed by Justice G.S. Singhvi has asked the centre to issue a fresh list of people eligible to use red beacons on their vehicles. The apex court has also asked the Government to amend the rule within three months. It has also said that the State Governments cannot enlarge the list of VIPs eligible for the red beacons. 

The Courts order came on a PIL filled by a resident of Uttar Pradesh, Abhay Singh on misuse of the beacons. Earlier, the bench had said that misuse of red beacon and siren, granted by government to VIPs, was a menace to society and it must be stopped.



The Union Cabinet on 12th December 2013 approved the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2011. The Bill is a comprehensive measure that covers a whole spectrum of problems from physical disabilities to mental illness and multiple disabilities. It will replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995. The Bill has been prepared on the basis of recommendations made by Sudha Kaul Committee. 

The Committee was appointed in 2010 by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The bill Provides for 5% reservation in public sector jobs and makes the private sector more accountable for creating a disabled-friendly environment. It provides incentives for the private sector to take such measures. 

To ensure political participation, the Bill says that every person with disability who fulfils eligibility requirements is entitled to be registered as a voter. He/she should not be disqualified from exercising the voting right on the grounds of disability, irrespective of any stipulation to the contrary in any law for the time being in force.


Bilateral 

A Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) between the Government of India and the Government of UAE was formally signed in New Delhi on 12th December. The Agreement was signed by Namo Narain Meena, Minister of State (E&FS), on behalf of Government of India and Mr. Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs of UAE on behalf of Government of UAE. 

The text of the Agreement, which seeks to promote and protect investments from either country in the territory of the other country with the ultimate objective of increasing bilateral investment flow, was finalized on October 30-31, 2013 at Abu Dhabi. 

The Agreement requires each country to encourage and create favourable conditions for investors of the other country to make investment in its territory and to admit investments in accordance with its laws. It is hoped that the Agreement would serve as a catalyst in boosting investment flows between the two countries.


Economy 

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 12th December, has approved a Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) for implementation during the 12th Plan with an outlay of Rs. 16,840 crore, a centrally sponsored scheme. Out of this, State governments will be contributing a sum of Rs. 866 crore in the States where the National Horticulture Mission (NHM) sub-scheme is implemented. 

Implementation of MIDH is expected to achieve a growth rate of 7.2 percent in the horticulture sector during the 12th Plan, besides generating skilled and unskilled employment opportunities in rural and urban areas. The scheme will cover all States and Union Territories (UTs) of India. While the NHM scheme will be focusing on 18 States and UTs, the Horticulture Mission for North East and Himalayan States (HMNEH) scheme will cover all States in the North East and Himalayan region of the country. 

While these schemes will be focusing on small and marginal farmers, National Horticulture Board (NHB) scheme will address developmental issues on commercial horticulture through entrepreneurs involving institutional financing. The National Bamboo Mission (NBM) will address developmental issues on bamboo, whereas the Coconut Development Board (CDB) schemes will focus on development of the coconut sector. 

Implementation of NHM, HMNEH, NHB, CDB and CIH schemes during the 11th Plan has enabled the bringing of an additional area of 23.5 lakh hectares under horticultural crops with supporting infrastructure in term of 2306 nurseries, 78 tissue culture units, 9156 post harvest management units and 221 markets. Horticulture production of 257.3 million MT was achieved by end of the 11th Plan.



The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA)on 12 December has approved the proposal of IDFC Trustee Company Limited to set up the India Infrastructure Fund-II, to be registered as the Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) Category I with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) as recommended by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). 

The Indian Infrastructure Fund-II is aimed at making investment primarily in the sectors of energy utilities, transportation, aviation, telecom infrastructure, other urban infrastructure and public utilities. The fund is targeted to receive contribution from international investors up to Rs.5500 crore.



Software major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has emerged as the biggest wealth creator over the past five years, while Reliance Industries and RCom tops the list of companies where investors lost the most in terms of market capitalisation, says a study 13 December. A wealth creation study conducted by financial services company Motilal Oswal analyzed wealth created by 100 companies between 2008 and 2013 in terms of their market capitalization, after adjusting for mergers, demergers, fresh issuance of capital and buy back of shares. 

The list of the "top 10 wealth destroyers" during 2008-13 are Reliance Industries, Reliance Communications, MMTC, NMDC, DLF, Reliance Power, BHEL, SAIL, Bharti Airtel and NTPC, the study said. TCS pushed ITC to the second slot to occupy the top position. 

The tobacco major was the biggest wealth creator in the last year's report calculated for 2007-12, Motilal Oswal's 18th annual wealth creation study said.Others in the 'Top 10' list of biggest wealth creators are HDFC Bank, Infosys, Sun Pharma, ONGC, HDFC, Tata Motors, HUL and Wipro. 

According to the study, seven out of the top 10 biggest wealth creators during the period are non-cyclical, two consumer goods companies and five are global non-cyclicals. TTK Prestige retained its place as the fastest wealth creator again during the period, as its stock price multiplied 28 times, translating into annualized return of 95 per cent, the study said. 

Nine of the top 10 fastest wealth creators had a market cap of under Rs 5,000 crore in 2008 and seven of the top 10 were below 15 times their price earnings ratio in 2008.The study noted that endurance of the value creator is mainly threatened by disruptive innovation or competition, major regulatory changes and capital misallocation. Agarwal believes that the worst is over for equities and the risk-reward equation is favorable for long-term investing.



Air India is set to join Star Alliance, with the 28-member global airlines' grouping on 13 December, deciding to clear the entry of the national carrier. At a meeting in Vienna, the Star Alliance unanimously decided to lift the earlier suspension of the process for Air India entry into the grouping, Air India officials said at New Delhi. He Alliance had put the proposal for Air India's entry into the grouping on hold since July 2011 on the grounds that the airline had not fulfilled major conditions to join it, a charge the Indian carrier had then denied. 

Once the airline becomes a member, its passengers would enjoy major benefits, including seamless transfers on travel across the world, more frequent flyer mileage points, code- sharing leading to a wider choice of flights and access to over 1,000 lounges at airports worldwide. The Star Alliance network offers 21,900 daily flights to 1,328 airports in 195 countries. 

Its 28 members include top airlines like Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, South African Airways, Austrian, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways. At one stage, Jet Airways was also vying with Air India to join the grouping.



The High Level Committee to Review the SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 1992 constituted under the Chairmanship of Justice N.K. Sodhi on 7th December 2013 submitted its report to SEBI Chairman, UK Sinha at Chandigarh. Justice Sodhi has been the former chief justice of Karnataka and Kerala High Courts and has been the former presiding officer of the Securities Appellate Tribunal. 

The Committee has made many recommendations to the legal framework for prohibition of insider trading in India. It has also focused on making this area of regulation more predictable, precise and clear by suggesting a combination of principles-based regulations and rules that are backed by principles. The Committee has also suggested that each regulatory provision may be backed by a note on legislative intent.


Sports

Waqar Younis, the former captain of Pakistan cricket team was inducted into the ICC Cricket’s Hall of Fame on 11th December 2013 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai Sports City. Waqar received his commemorative cap from International Cricket Council (ICC) Chief Executive David Richardson. With this induction Waqar Younis became the Seventieth male member and fifth Pakistani to be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. The other Pakistani’s, who has been inducted into the Hall of Fame of ICC, are Hanif Mohammad, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram. 

Being one of the best fast bowlers in the world, Waqar have got 373 wickets from 87 tests and 416 scalps from 262 One-Day Internationals. Waqar Yonis had the best strike rate of any bowler with more than 200 wickets in Tests during his playing days – a record, which was beaten recently only by Dale Steyn. He was also the fastest to the milestone of 400 wickets in ODIs. He was a member of the Pakistan team that reached the quarter-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 1996 and the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 1999.



India on 12 December 2013 won the women's Kabaddi World Cup championship for the third time in a row, defeating New Zealand 49-21 in the summit clash in Jalandhar, Punjab. The Indian team got 1 crore rupees. 

Anu Rani was adjudged the best stopper while Ram Bateri was declared the best raider. Both received a Maruti Alto car each. In third place match, Denmark took the third place by 34-33 points, while Pakistan took the fourth place. The 4th Pearls Kabaddi World Cup - 2013 was held from 30 November to 12 December 2013 in the state of Punjab, India. 

The women teams which were participated in the tournament are India and the United States, England, Denmark, Iran, Mexico, Kenya and Pakistan. The Kabaddi world cup 2013 was organized state Government of Punjab. Indian women’s team has won 2011, 2012, and 2013 editions of World cups.



The Indian cricketer Cheteshwar Pujara on 13th December 2013 bagged the Emerging Cricketer of the Year trophy at the ICC Annual awards announced in Dubai. 

This is the first ever ICC Award for Pujara. He became the second fastest Indian to score 1000 Test runs during the course of his double hundred against Australia on March at Hyderabad. He put on the board 370-run record second wicket partnership with Murali Vijay. Pujara, Apart from Pujara, the Captain of Indian cricket team Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the Indian to win ICC Annual award and he got LG People's Choice Award. 

Australian captain Michael Clarke was the winner of the Sir Garfield Sobers trophy for ICC Cricketer of the Year and was also named as the ICC Test Cricketer of the Year. In total, there were eleven individual awards. 

The other winners are: 

  • ICC Test Cricketer of the Year — Michael Clarke (Australia) 
  • ICC Women’s ODI Cricketer of the Year — Suzie Bates (New Zealand) 
  • ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year — Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) 
  • ICC Associate and Affiliate Cricketer of the Year — Kevin O’Brien (Ireland) 
  • ICC Twenty20 International Performance of the Year — Umar Gul (Pakistan) 
  • ICC T20I Women’s Cricketer of the Year — Sarah Taylor (England) 
  • ICC Spirit of Cricket Award — Mahela Jayawardena (Sri Lanka) 
  • ICC Umpire of the Year (winning the David Shepherd Trophy) — Richard Kettleborough



The 27th edition of South East Asian Games is started in Naypyitaw, the new state capital of Myanmar on 11th December 2013. This is the biggest sporting event in South East Asia. The games involve 34 events with participation from 11 Countries. More than 1500 medals are to be given to the winners. The 27th edition of SEA Games is scheduled from 11 to 22 December 2013.Myanmar is hosting the South East Asian Games after 40 years. 

The Theme for this year SEA Game is: Green, Clean and Friendship. The Southeast Asian Games is a biannual multi-sport event involving participants from the current 11 countries of Southeast Asia. The games are under regulation of the Southeast Asian Games Federation with supervision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Olympic Council of Asia. 

In order to participate, all athletes must be entered by their National Olympic Committee. The previous edition- the 26th South East Asian Games were held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2011.The first edition of SEA games were held in Bangkok, Thailand in 1959.


Persons

The former Foreign Secretary of India has taken over as the country’s next High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Mr. Mathai took the office on 9th December. He succeeds Jaimini Bhagwati, who retired recently. Born on May 24, 1952; Mr. Mathai joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1974, after completing Post Graduate studies in Political Science at the University of Poona. He served in Indian Missions in Vienna, Colombo, Washington, Tehran and Brussels. 

As Joint Secretary (BSM) in the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi (January 1995 to February 1998), he headed the Division dealing with India’s relations with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives. He was the Ambassador of India to Israel from February 1998 to June 2001 and to Qatar from August 2001 to July 2005. He next held the post of Deputy High Commissioner of India to the UK in London from August 2005 to January 2007.He served as the Ambassador of India to France with concurrent accreditation to the Principality of Monaco from January 2007 till he assumed the office of Foreign Secretary from August 2011 to July 2013.



Pope Francis was named as the Person of the Year 2013 by Time Magazine’s December edition. He was named the Person of the Year for changing the perception of the Catholic Church within nine months. As per Time magazine, Pope’s dedication to humility and his fight against poverty placed him at the top position of the year. 

Edward Snowden the person who leaked the secret documents about NSA surveillance activities was selected at the second position in the list. Edith Windsor–the gay marriage pioneer, Bashar Al-Assad–President of Syria and Ted Cruz–the US Senator from Texas has placed on the top five slots. 

Time Magazine has chosen a Pope as its Person of the Year for the third time and the others to be honoured with the title were Pope John XXIII in 1962 and Pope John Paul II in 1994. Pope Francis is the first non-European pope in almost 1300 years and first pontiff from the America. He took Francis as his Papal name after Saint Francis of Assisi, who was the reformer of 13th Century. He is a first Pope from Latin America and the first Jesuit.



Science and Technology

The Minister of New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on 9th December said that the Government has set up an autonomous Institute namely “National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE)” under the administrative control of Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) by converting the existing Solar Energy Centre (SEC) with its headquarters and research facilities at Gwalpahari Village, Dist. Gurgaon (Haryana). The NISE has been registered under the Haryana Societies Registration Act on 24th October, 2013. 

The main objective of setting up the National Institute would be to assist the Ministry and function as the apex National Centre for research and technology development and related activities in the area of solar energy technologies in the country. The institute would also perform all related tasks to achieve this objective to coordinate various S&T related tasks under the Mission and other activities as decided by the Government from time to time. Its affairs will be managed by a Governing Council to be headed by Secretary, MNRE and an Executive Committee headed by Director General.


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