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2014 - January 7 and 8 - Current Affairs


International 

The Iraq government has lost control of the strategic city of Fallujah after being captured by Al-Qaeda linked forces. Fallujah was located on the west of Baghdad. Militants now control the south of the city. Fighting erupts after government troops broke up a protest camp by Sunni Arabs in the city of Ramadi on 4 January 2014. They have been accusing the Shia-led government of marginalising the Sunnis. 

The army has surrounded Fallujah, which is just 65km west of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. It is located in the vast Sunni-dominated area and is largely desert province of Anbar. Fallujah borders Syria, where ISIL fighters are also battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad. 

The Prime Minister on 6 January 2014, Nuri al-Maliki appeals to the tribes and people of Fallujah to expel the terrorists from the city in order to spare themselves the risk of armed clashes. The old Al-Qaeda in Iraq has regenerated itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

During the last few months, ISIS has become a magnet for Sunni jihadists around the world. ISIS's victories in Iraq are a sign of the growing strength of ISIS in the region. The move is another sign that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has not been able to maintain control of the country since the United States withdrew its troops in 2011, failing to reach an agreement with the Maliki government to leave behind a residual force.



India on 7 January 2014 launched the third phase of its housing project in Sri Lanka. The project has been expanded its category of beneficiaries and has included the Indian origin Tamils who are settled in the central part of Sri Lanka as plantation laborers. In the third phase of the project, 16000 houses will be built of which a new category of beneficiaries would be the Tamil plantation workers, who were brought in Sri Lanka by the British. 

At present these people live in miserable conditions in shanty-like line houses and mainly live in Uva and Central provinces. In second phase of the project, India constructed 10000 houses in the Northern and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka. The project was executed for the internally displaced people affected by the civil war. 

Indian Housing Project of Sri Lanka

The Indian Housing Project is a housing reconstruction project funded by the Government of India and implemented through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL). 

Four Implementing Agencies (IAs) have been selected for this project, which is being executed in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. UN-Habitat is one of the IAs together with the International Federation for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with Sri Lanka Red Cross, the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) of the Government of Sri Lanka and Habitat for Humanity. 

The project will be implemented in 36 month, which has to be done from mid-2012 until mid-2015. Under the Indian Housing project of Sri Lanka 50000 houses will be constructed and this is the single largest full grant assistance programme of Indian Government anywhere in the world. 

Under the beneficiary driven model 2 lakh 55 thousand rupees are transferred to selected beneficiaries for repairing of the houses and 5.50 lakh rupees for fully reconstruction of the houses. The construction work is done by the internationally chosen agencies, which needs to work under the supervision of the beneficiary themselves. 

The beneficiaries are selected on basis of clearly laid down criteria in consultation with the Government of Sri Lanka. Funds will be released directly by the High Commission of India into bank accounts of beneficiaries based on certification of progress of work. The Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh announced India´s commitment to build 50000 housing units during the State visit of the President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa, to India in June 2010. 

This commitment also formed part of the Joint Declaration issued in New Delhi during the visit. The Housing Project, with a commitment of over 270 million US dollars in grants, is the flagship project of India´s developmental assistance to Sri Lanka.



The world Famous Dhanu Yatra of Bargarh started on 6 January 2014. The yatra is a 11-day long festival, which will continue till 16 January 2014. 

About Dhanu Yatra: During this Dhanu Yatra celebration, Bargarh town is virtually transformed into Mathuranagar, the capital of King Kansa, whereas nearby Ambapalli village across river Jeera becomes into Gopapura, the adobe of Lord Krishna and Jeera river between the two places stands for Yamuna river. Dhanu Yatra of Bargarh is considered as world’s biggest open-air theatre. 

Almost the entire population of Bargarh town takes part in the festival and it is the biggest assembly of actors that a play can ever have. It is a conglomeration of several open-air theatres, with the action taking place simultaneously at different places. 

Both actors and viewers keep moving from one place to another as the drama unfolds. The age-old story of Lord Krishna killing the tyrannical King Kansa of Mathura forms the central theme of the play. It is believed that, Dhanu Yatra in its present form started in 1948, post-Independence, as a performance charged with a nationalistic fervour. 

Kansa, the demon king, symbolizes the imperialist British government on its way out and Lord Krishna stands for the nationalistic aspiration of the people.



China destroyed more than six tonnes of smuggled elephant’s ivory in Guangdong province on 6 January 2014. The move signaled that China is willing to play a greater role in protecting dwindling elephant populations. It marked the third significant ivory crush globally over the past six months. In June 2013, the Philippine government crushed more than five tonnes of ivory, and in November 2013 the U.S. government crushed almost six tonnes. 

China’s move was in line with the tentative steps that it had taken towards playing a greater role in protecting wildlife outside its borders. In January 2013, China led an international task force of law-enforcement officers from nine countries aimed at cracking down on wildlife crime syndicates. A month long campaign resulted in the seizure of 6.5 tons of ivory as well as other animal parts. 

At a global conservation conference in March 2013, China co-sponsored with the U.S. measures to increase the level of protection afforded to more than 40 animal species. These 40 animal species are predominantly threatened by Chinese diners. Amongst other steps, China is implementing its comprehensive National Ivory Action Plan in consultation with the CITES Standing Committee. 

Also, China led the first cross-continent wildlife enforcement effort known as Operation Cobra. However, China has been reluctant to move against legal markets for the sale and trade of wild animals in China. State-sanctioned ivory engravers each year receive an allocation that China legally bought from a handful of African nations in 2008. A study by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2012 found that China is the only country in East Asia where demand for ivory is expanding in line with household incomes. 

16th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP16). It was held in Bangkok in March 2013, to address the threats posed to wildlife, to people and their livelihoods through poaching and smuggling, especially with respect to the African elephant. 

The figures released through the CITES programme Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) showed that an estimated 22000 elephants were illegally killed in 2012 in Africa. The data compiled from 42 MIKE sites across 27 African countries, demonstrate that current levels of elephant poaching in Africa remain far too high. It could soon lead to local extinctions if the present killing rates continue. The situation is particularly acute in Central Africa, where the estimated poaching rates are twice the continental average. 

In lieu of this

CITES Parties recognized the need for targeted and time-bound actions to be undertaken along the entire illegal ivory trade chain and to tackle both supply and demand. The ivory trade chain extends from African range States to transit nations and countries that are the final destinations and markets. 

The CITES Standing Committee further reinforced the collective efforts taken by CITES Parties by agreeing with the eight key States in Africa and Asia that are part of the illegal ivory trade chain on the preparation of national ivory action plans. This action plan will contain all the details of the urgent measures the eight key States will undertake to combat illegal trade in ivory.


National 

An environmental information dissemination centre (EIDC) was set up in Chennai Corporation Middle School in Choolai, TamilNadu in 6 January 2014. 

An environmental information dissemination centre (EIDC) is a part of the National Green Crops (NGC). An EIDC is a central resource which will aid students and teachers in learning about environment related topics such as pollution and energy conservation. 

The centre has a resource room with books, multimedia and television and a laboratory where teachers will be trained to use soil, water and air testing kits. The centre will be accessible to Chennai Corporation, government, government –aided and private schools that are members of NGC. 

National Green Crops

• Ministry of Environment and Forest initiated the National Green Crops in 2001. 

• NGC is a major initiative for creating environmental awareness among children. 

• It is a unique partnership between the MoEF, the states government agencies, NGOs who are working in the field of Environment Education.



The Government of India on 7 January 2014 launched the nation’s first comprehensive adolescent health programme named Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) in New Delhi. The programme will include a sharp focus on adolescents' sexual health. 

The programme has been launched by Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad. The Health Minister also inaugurated a three-day National Adolescent Health Consultation. 

The RKSK defines an adolescent as a person within 10-19 years of age, in urban and rural areas, includes both girls and boys, married and unmarried, poor and affluent, whether they are in school or out of school. This broad definition helps to address the myriad problems of adolescents across various groups and categories. 

The programme is committed at promotion of adolescent health mission across India and would address to the health needs of 243 million adolescents constituting 21 percent of the total population in the country. RKSK envisions at help adolescents to realize their full potential by making them informed and responsible decisions related to the health and well-being. As per Azad, World Health Organization (WHO) will declare India as a polio free country on 13 January 2014, which is a great milestone for the country. 

Dimensions of Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK)
• Mental health 
• Nutrition 
• Substance misuse 
• Gender based violence 
• Non-communicable diseases.   

The programme introduces community based interventions through peer educators, and is underpinned by collaborations with other Ministries and State governments, knowledge partners and more research. The programme will have a strategic approach to RMNCH+A (Reproductive, Maternal, New born, Child Health + Adolescent) in which `A` denotes adolescents. 

The programme emphasis upon seven Cs: 
• Coverage 
• Content 
• Communication 
• Counseling 
• Clinics 
• Convergence.   

A handbook on the strategy frameworks was also launched by the Health Minister. 

The handbook includes :
• The framework for monitoring, supervision and evaluation of the programme once it is rolled out 
• The handbook on operational framework which will help to translate the programme into action.
• The resource packs for the ANMs, ASHAs, medical officers, LHVs and peer educators.



Union Ministry of Human Resource Development announced Maulana Azad Taleem-e-Baligan scheme along with two other new initiatives on 5 January 2014. It was announced at the annual meeting of the National Monitoring Committee for Minorities Education. Maulana Azad Taleem-e-Baligan aims to achieve higher literacy for the minority Muslim community. 

The scheme will be launched in 61 Muslim-concentrated Sakshar Bharat districts, the Centre's adult literacy programme running in eleven states. The scheme will impart literacy to one crore population in the age group of 15 years and above and the basic education to 2.5 lakh adults and skill development programmes. 

Additional 1000 Adult Education Centers will be set up exclusively for women exceeding 5000 muslim population. The other new scheme is for establishing educational hubs by co-locating KGBV, Girls/Women Hostels, Degree colleges, Polytechnics in few selected towns/Districts which are educationally backward and have substantial Muslim concentration. 

Besides, a new scheme on the lines of HUNAR for skill development among Minority girls has been announced. The scheme will cover 9.20lakhs minority girls at the proposed outlay of Rs.978 crores.



Department of Posts has released India Post 2014 Calendar based on the theme of ‘Wild Flowers of India’ India has a rich and varied heritage of plant diversity exhibiting a wide spectrum from tropical rainforests to alpine vegetation and from temperate forests to the coastal wetlands. 

The flora of India is one of the richest in the world due to its diverse climatic regimes and topology. There is virtually no area in our country without a particular treasure or species of special beauty or interest. 

India Post had issued a sheetlet of stamps and three miniature sheets as a tribute to the pristine beauty of twelve of its rare and beautiful wild flowers. India Post 2014 Calendar is inspired by these postage stamps.



The Government has introduced a programme named “Know India Programme” for young persons of Overseas Indians with a view to provide them an exposure to the country of their origin so that they can understand it better and more intimately. 

Addressing a press conference on the 2nd day of PBD -2014, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Sh. Vayalar Ravi said that under the Programme, 20 young persons of Indian origin in the age group of 18 to 24 from different countries visit India extensively every year, which will provide them an opportunity to have a deeper insight into Indian people and society. 

Sh. Ravi said more than 900 delegates of Overseas Indians from about 50 countries have participated in this PBD and the highest number of 200 delegates are from Malaysia only.


Economy 

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) selected the Clearing Corporation of India Ltd (CCIL) for issuing globally compatible legal entity identifiers (LEIs) on 6 January 2014. CCIL will act as a local operating unit for issuing globally compatible legal entity identifiers (LEIs )in India. Legal Entity Identifiers (LEI) are a 20-character unique identity code assigned to entities which are parties to a financial transaction. 

Clearing Corporation of India Ltd (CCIL) will issue unique identifier codes to the eligible legal entities participating in financial markets across the globe on a non-profit cost recovery basis. 

CCIL is recognised by the Regulatory Oversight Committee of the global LEI system and the unique identity codes issued by it will be accepted globally. Once the infrastructure is set up, the LEI numbers will be mandatory for Over-the-Counter (OTC) derivative transactions. The implementation of the global LEI system is led by the Financial Stability Board (FSB).The functioning of CCIL as LEI will be under the regulation and oversight of the Reserve Bank of India. 

Clearing Corporation of India Ltd (CCIL)

The Clearing Corporation of India Ltd (CCIL) was set up in 2001 for providing exclusive clearing and settlement for transactions in Money and Foreign Exchange. In 2013 the Reserve Bank designated CCIL as a critical Financial Market Infrastructure (FMI) for oversight. Recently CCIL was granted the status of a Qualified Central Counterparty (QCCP). 

Background: The global financial crisis underscored the lack of a common, accurate and sufficiently comprehensive identification system for parties undertaking financial transactions across the globe. International regulators recognised the importance of the LEI as a key component of necessary improvements in financial data systems. The G20 Summit 2011held at Cannes endorsed FSB for the development and maintenance of a global LEI system. 

FSB also lead the co-ordination of international regulatory work. FSB comprises of a Regulatory Oversight Committee (ROC), Central Operating Unit (COU) and Local Operating Units (LOUs). 

• A Regulatory Oversight Committee has the ultimate responsibility for the governance of the GLEIS. 

• A Central Operating Unit (COU) is the pivotal operational arm of the GLEIS and 

• Local Operating Units (LOUs) will provide the primary interface for entities to register for the LEI system.



China decided to be one of the partners in the proposed National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZ) in Andhra Pradesh on 6 January 2014. Chittor, Medak and Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh will be the centre of the NIMZ. 

China would provide both technical and investment support . Each NIMZ was expected to attract an investment of 30000 crore rupees. The project under NIMZ will be supported by both Central and state government. 

About NIMZ: National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZ) was proposed by Ministry of Commerce and Industry in 2010 in order to increase the overall share of manufacturing in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of India. 

The objective is to increase the share of manufacturing to 25 percent by 2022 in the GDP of India. To increase the rate of job creation so as to create 100 million additional jobs by 2022, to enhance global competitiveness, domestic value addition, technological depth and environmental sustainability of growth. Under NIMZ there would be a provision for the creation of Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV).



The Reserve Bank of India on 6 January 2014 allowed the Indian companies to issue non-convertible or redeemable preference shares or debentures to non-resident shareholders as bonus. This facility will also encompass the depositories that act as the trustees for the American Depository Receipt/Global Depository Receipt – ADR/GDR holders. The decision has been taken by RBI in order to rationalize and to simplify the procedures that the company will issue shares or debentures by way of distribution as bonus from its general reserves. 

As per the notification, has made the preference shares, which excludes non-convertible/redeemable preference shares and convertible debentures, (except optionally convertible or partially convertible debentures) a subject of Foreign Direct Investment Scheme. Earlier, RBI was granting permission for such issuances on a case-to-case basis. 

RBI has simplified the norms following the references of some companies of India for issuing a non-convertible or redeemable bonus preference shares or debentures to non-resident shareholders from their general reserve under a scheme. This has been permitted with an arrangement by a court following the provisions of the Companies Act. 

Apart from this RBI in another notification said that the Maintenance, Repairs and Overhaul (MRO) will be treated as the part of the airport infrastructure, which will facilitate external commercial borrowings for the sector.



Reserve Bank of India has released the statistical statement of the International Investment Position (IIP) of the quarter ended in September 2013. 

The statement shows following at a point in the time of the value and composition: 

• Financial assets of residents of an economy that are claims on non-residents and gold bullion held as reserve assets 

• Liabilities of residents of an economy to non-residents.  

The difference between an economy's external financial assets and liabilities is its net IIP. Such balance sheet is an analysis of international accounts that will help in understanding sustainability and vulnerability of economy’s external sector. 

Important highlights of the International Investment Position (IIP) are following for the quarter-ended September 2013

Net claims of non-residents on India (as reflected by the net IIP) decreased by US$ 12.8 billion over the previous quarter to 296.2 billion US dollars as at end-September 2013. This change in the net position reflected a US$ 10.6 billion decrease in the value of foreign-owned assets in India vis-√†-vis a US$ 2.2 billion increase in the value of Indian Residents’ financial assets abroad. 

Indian residents’ financial assets abroad stood at 436.7 billion US dollars as at end-September 2013 recording a marginal increase of US$ 2.2 billion over previous quarter mainly due to increase of US$ 6.8 billion in other investment abroad including trade credit, loans and currency and deposits. Reserve assets, decreased by US$ 5.3 billion to US$ 277.2 billion as at end-September 2013. 

Direct investment increased marginally by US$ 0.6 billion. Foreign-owned assets in India have decreased by 10.6 billion US dollars over the previous quarter to US$ 732.9 billion as at end-September 2013. 

The Direct investment in India has been reduced by 2.9 billion US dollars and portfolio investment in India has gone down by 13.3 billion US dollars. Among other investment liabilities, trade credit decreased by 1.9 billion US dollars and loans increased by 2.8 billion US dollars. 

Effects of Rupee Depreciation: Variation in exchange rate of rupee vis-a-vis other currencies influenced change in liabilities, when valued in US dollars terms. 

Though there was a net inflow of US$ 6.6 billion during the period, equity liabilities in US dollars term decreased by 10.2 billion US dollars, from 340.7 billion US dollars in June 2013 to 330.5 billion US dollars in September 2013 due to the stock valuation effect resulting from rupee depreciation.


Persons 

Munish Sharda has been appointed as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of private insurer Future Generali India Life Insurance on 7 January 2014. Before this induction Sharda has worked with Aviva Life at the position of Director – Sales and Distribution for past five years. He has also served Citibank India for 10 years in its mortgages business. 



The US Senate on 6 January 2014 confirmed the name of Janet Yellen as the first woman to lead the US Federal Reserve. With this confirmation, the Senate has elevated an advocate to fight unemployment and a backer of the Central Bank’s efforts to spur the economy with low interest rates and massive bond purchases.


Sports 

India defeated Pakistan to win 2014 Under-19 Asia Cup in the final match played at Sharjah cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on 4 January 2014. The Indian under-19 squad led by Vijay Zol beat Pakistan side by 40 runs. Centuries by Vijay Zol and Sanju Samson leads their team to a glorious victory. 

Batting first the India team scored 314 runs with the loss of 8 wickets. Pakistan have won the toss and have opted to field. Kamran Ghulam scored 102 and tried to keep Pakistan afloat. Pakistan has climbed 274 runs with the loss of 9 wickets. 

The stars of the innings were India skipper Vijay Zol and Rajasthan Royals' IPL star Sanju Samson. Both struck centuries and were involved in a 180-run stand for the third wicket. This is only the third time for India that two batsmen have scored centuries in the same innings of an Under-19 match.  

Pakistan entered the final with a two-wicket victory over Afghanistan. India earned their place in the final with three-wicket win over Sri Lanka. Earlier, in the Asia Cup of 2012, the trophy was shared by both Pakistan and India because the scores were tied on 282. 2012 Asia Cup was held at Kuala Lumpur in Sri Lanka.



Mahesh Mangaokar of India on 6 January 2014 won the Open du Gard squash title, the PSA Challenger 5 event. Mangaokar (19) of Mumbai defeated the top-seeded Scottish player Scot Greg Lobban 9-11, 11-3, 11-4, 11-5 in the final match played at Squash des Arenes in Nimes, France to claim the tour title. Mangaokar from Mumbai defeated Lobban in the IMET Open in December and repeated the same again in the sixth edition of the 5000 dollar PSA Challenger event. 

To qualify for the finals, Mangaonkar defeated the second seeded Ammar Alamimi of Kuwait in the semi-finals. The is the third win of Mangaonkar on the PSA Tour and this also set up a nine-match winning streak for the Indian - the longest of his career.


Defence 

India successfully test-fired its indigenously developed nuclear capable surface to surface Prithvi II missile with a strike range of 350 km from a test range at Chandipur near Balasore on 6 January 2014. Prithvi-II is capable of carrying warheads of 500 kg to 1,000 kg. It is thrusted by liquid propulsion twine engines. It uses advanced inertial guidance system with manoeuvring trajectory. 

The missile was test fired from a mobile launcher in salvo mode from launch complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range. The entire launch activities were carried out by the specially formed Strategic Force Command (SFC) of the defence service. The entire trajectory of missile was tracked by DRDO radars, electro-optical tracking systems and telemetry stations. 

Prithvi II is the first missile which was developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under India's prestigious IGMDP (Integrated Guided Missile Development Program) IGMDP was managed by DRDO, started in early 1980 and ended in 2008.The missiles developed under the program were Prithvi, Agni, Trishul, Akash, Nag. 

Prithvi-II missile is already inducted into the Indian Armed forces. The last trial of Prithvi-II was successfully carried out from the same base on 3 December 2012. The naval operational variant of Prithvi II class missiles are known as Dhanush. It was already inducted into Indian navy.


Science and Technology 

Astronomers in January 2014 discovered a gassy twin of Earth with a mass similar to that of Earth in another solar system 200 light years away. The first Earth-mass planet that transits or crosses in front of its host star was discovered by an international team. KOI-314c is the latest planet to have both its mass and physical size measured. 

Although the planet weighs the same as Earth but its diameter is about 60 percent larger than earth, this means that it has a very thick, gaseous atmosphere. As per David Kipping, the lead author of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics that has discovered the planet, the planet might have the same mass as Earth but it is not like Earth. This is proved that the planet does not have clear diving line between the rocky worlds like Earth and is fluffier planet like water worlds or gas giants. 

The data of the planet’s characteristics has been collected by using the information of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. The planet KOI-314c orbits across a dim red dwarf star that is located approximately 200 light-years away. It completes a circle of its star every 23 days. The Astronomers have calculated that the planet’s temperature about 104 degree Celsius, which is too hot to allow a life to exist as per the knowledge. 

The Astronomers weighed the planet by using a new technique called transit timing variation (TTV), which can be used only in case more than one plant orbits a star. The two planets are tugged each other altering the time they take to cross the star’s face. They calculated the mass of the planet by analyzing the way the wobbles of the planet affects the light that comes from the star. 

The new planet’s discovery was made by the Astronomers, while scouring data of Kepler Space telescope, while looking the evidence of moons instead of the planets. Transit timing helped the Astronomers to make sure that a planet exists in the system and not a moon. They also confirmed that the system also have its second planet and named it as KOI-314b. The second planet is similar to KOI-314c but is denser than it and weighs 4 times as much of the Earth and it orbits the star in 13 days. 

 As per the researchers, might be possible that the planet would have begun life as a mini-Neptune and it lost the gases of its atmosphere over time, which would have boiled off by intense radiation of its star. The discovery of the planet was presented by Kipping at a meeting of the American Astrological Society.


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