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Insights Daily Current Events Day-1 (October 11, 2013)

From today we are starting a current events section. For the next five days it will run as a trial to receive your suggestions, criticisms, new ideas and any feedback so that it can be improved for he benefit all the aspirants. 

There is some issue with text formatting. It will be corrected from tomorrow onward.

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Supreme Court (SC) on Capital Punishment

  • In a recent case, the Madhya Pradesh High Court had awarded death sentence to  a person in a ‘triple murder case’. The accused had killed his nephew, his daughter-in-law and five-year-old grandson.

  • But the SC has commuted death sentence into life imprisonment, citing that this does not fall under the “rarest of rare case”. According to the SC ‘Brutality cannot be the only criterion for awarding death” and it has also cautioned other courts to act with utmost responsibility.

  • There needs to be a balance between the brutality of the crime and punishment. Due regard must be given to the ‘nature of the crime’ such that the punishment is not disproportionate nor inadequate since in either case it would not do justice to the society.

  • The 3 bench Judge have stated that, “In a civilised society a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye ought not to be the criterion to clothe a case with ‘rarest of the rare’ jacket and the courts must not be propelled by such notions in a haste resorting to capital punishment”.

  • The SC has held that number of deaths or that the whole family being wiped off cannot be the sole criteria for determining whether the case falls into the category of ‘rarest of rare.’

A call for increase in Pentavalent vaccine

  • The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) has recommended the scale-up of the pentavalent vaccine across the country, along with activities to check for potential adverse effects.

  • Earlier the Supreme Court (SC) had issued a notice on the same to the Centre based on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) alleging that the vaccine had serious adverse effects on children.

What is pentavalent vaccine? Its significance?

  • The pentavalent vaccine simultaneously provides protection against the five life threatening diseases — Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Hepatitis B and Hib (Haemophilus influenza type b).

  • The DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus) and Hepatitis B are already part of the national routine immunisation programme. Protection against Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib), which causes severe pneumonia, meningitis and other life-threatening conditions in children less than five years of age, is a new addition.

  • The pentavalent vaccine was recommended by NTAGI in 2008 to be added to the universal immunisation programme. This vaccine was introduced in a phased manner since 2011 in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Puducherry, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir and Delhi.

The pentavalent vaccine, which is being used in 188 countries, is an important tool to reduce under-five mortality in India.

Safety issues:

  • The pentavalent vaccine in Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Vietnam was briefly suspended to investigate concerns over a few deaths, but has since been re-introduced in all of these countries.

  • In India, the National AEFI (Adverse Events Following Immunization) Committee has submitted a report that the recent deaths in Kerala following pentavalent vaccine administration were not a side effect of the pentavalent vaccine.

  • Even private practitioners have been using the pentavalent vaccine and there are no adverse effects reported.

  • With the proposed national scale-up and the report from the national AEFI committee (stating its safety & effectiveness), the poor families will be the most benefited because of its outreach and easy affordability.

Restriction on Antibiotics sale

  • India has taken necessary steps to curb ‘over the counter’ sale of antibiotics and anti-tuberculosis drugs to keep a tab on ‘drug resistance’.

  • U.K. hails this move saying that it will protect the integrity of life-saving treatments.

Legal backing:

  • As per the Chennai Declaration ‘restricted sale of antibiotics’ was one of the main recommendations. The government recently added a new provision in the Drugs and Cosmetic Act 1940 that will seek to ensure antibiotics and anti-tuberculosis drugs will not be sold over the counter from March 1, 2014.

  • According to the law, a mandatory warning will be displayed on the antibiotic packaging and the antibiotic can be sold only on production of prescription. It will be the duty of the Chemists to keep a record of the patients and the prescriptionists.

Why such a move?

  • Drug resistance has become the latest threat world-wide. Recently one can recollect the issue on ‘NDM1’; the infection caused by these drug resisting bacteria is difficult to treat.

  • Hence a holistic approach needs to be taken by the respective government’s in order to put an end to the threat on public health.

Use of Technology in Tiger Census

  • The Periyar Tiger Reserve will be the first tiger reserve in the country to use technology for identifying and tagging each tiger for more effective conservation.

  • The tigers are being numbered so that there will be a transparent way of finding out if any of the tiger goes missing. Nearly 30 tigers had been tagged in the reserve and given identification numbers.

  • The tiger stripes are unique, just like the thumb-impression of each human-being is different. The new software program identifies these stripes.

What Next?

  • The data collected from the census would be used to solve issues related to habitat conservation. The tiger’s presence or absence in its natural habitat is related to biological aspects, prey availability.


South Africa (SA) calls for legally binding protocol on climate change

  • On contrary to the united stand taken by the BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India, China), SA has submitted a report to U.N demanding that the new agreement on climate change to be in the form of a protocol with targets, commitments and actions for all parties.

  • Earlier, at the Durban conference of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2010, it was decided that the legal form of the new agreement would not be decided until the content of the new deal was well known.

  • Henceforth, the BASIC group had decided to keep the options open on the legal form of the new agreement which would be in the lines of ‘a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with a legal force’, to be signed by 2015 and made operational from 2020.

  • This legally binding protocol would also subsume the Kyoto Protocol in the post-2020 regime. The nature of commitments from different countries would be based on equity and the principle of “common but different responsibilities” as well as respective capabilities.

What is the main concern?

  • The main concern was how one could decide on the legal form before knowing the content of the agreement. This could be premature, since the nature of commitments that countries are forced to take upon under the new regime are presumed beforehand.

  • The differences among the BASIC group and other emerging economies are also based on the current emission levels. That is, the countries that are nearing or almost at the same levels of developed countries would most likely take a different stand compared to the countries which have a very low per capita emission levels.

Importance of the BASIC group

  • The BASIC group not only represents their own concerns but also provides voice to the developing countries on issues of equity, climate change, and their specific developmental needs among others.

  • The BASIC group was formed in 2009. The 14th meeting of BASIC group was held in February in India to discuss climate change related issues and also on further steps to be taken on Doha Climate change conference. The group meets 4 times a year, once in each of the BASIC countries by rotation.

  • The next BASIC meet will be held in China.

China rules out outside intervention in South China Sea dispute

  • In order to prevent the tension over the South China Sea (SCS)further escalating to a conflict, the ASEAN group has agreed on the development of a Code of Conduct (CoC) to intensify official consultations between China and four members of ASEAN— Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

  • Stressing the need to uphold peace and stability in East Asia, Chinese premier Li Keqiang sought to rule out outside intervention in settling the maritime issues. According to Li, “Territorial and maritime disputes between relevant countries in this region should be resolved by countries concerned through friendly consultation. Countries should work constructively as partners to jointly manage and control tensions and differences”.

  • This statement has sent a strong message to the U.S’. “rebalance to Asia” policy and has added concerns over the U.S – China competition being played out in these waters.

Egypt criticises U.S. aid cut

  • Egypt has been engulfed in violent turmoil that has killed over 1,000 since July, 2013. It has been fighting a growing militant insurgency ever since there was a military coup, overthrowing former president Mohammed Morsi, following a huge protest against his rule.

  • The surge in militant activity in the region has raised international concerns, as it borders major U.S. ally Israel, and strands the Suez Canal, a vital global waterway between Asia and Europe.

  • Recently, the U.S. has suspended some military (has temporarily stopped deliveries of tanks, F-16 aircraft and missiles as well as $260 million in cash) and economic aid to the army-backed government in the wake of a crackdown on protesters by the Egyptian regime. This move has been strongly criticized by Egypt.

  • Egypt has been the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel.

  • This has raised serious questions about U.S. willingness to provide stable strategic support to Egyptian security programmes amid threats and terrorism challenges it has been facing.

  • Egypt has asserted that the country will not surrender to American pressure and will manage its own security needs.

  • However, the U.S. will assist Egypt in countering terrorism activities.

Cuts in U.N. food assistance set off outcry in Gaza

  • According to a U.N. report a third of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were “food insecure” in 2012, a significant increase from the previous year.

  • Earlier U.N. had cancelled a cash-assistance program that provided 21,000 families with $4 million per year, $10 per person every three months. That cut prompted days of violent protests that led U.N to suspend its food-assistance program entirely for five days.

  • Now, with a cut in food assistance program, hundreds of women and children have protested against it, the latest in a growing backlash by Palestinian refugees against the agency that for decades has provided them with nutrition, education and health services.

  • Almost half of the Gaza population received rations of flour, oil, sugar, rice and other staples every three months.

  • Many Gazans have already been suffering financially from Egypt’s shutdown of hundreds of smuggling tunnels under its border with Gaza. These tunnels have for years been a pipeline for cheap fuel, consumer goods and construction materials, and without them, thousands of Gazans have been out of work and facing higher prices for products imported from Israel.

  • There is a call for restoring of cash assistance to 1,500 of Gaza’s poorest families from all quarters in Egypt.


SEBI’s guidelines for the Real Estate sector

  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has come out with draft guidelines for Real estate investment trusts (REIT), a new investment avenue.

The Draft guidelines are stated below:

  • The Real estate trusts must have minimum asset size of Rs.1,000 crore, to ensure that initially only large assets and established players enter the market.

  • It prescribes a minimum initial offer size of Rs.250 crore, and minimum public float of 25 per cent. The objective is to ensure adequate public participation and float in the units.

  • In line with the nature of the REIT to invest primarily in completed revenue-generating properties, the draft has mandated that at least 90 per cent of the value of the REIT assets should be in completed revenue-generating properties. To provide flexibility, it has been allowed to invest the remaining 10 per cent in other assets.

  • To ensure regular income to the investors, it has been mandated to distribute at least 90 per cent of the net distributable income after tax of the REIT to investors.

  • REITs have been allowed to invest in the properties directly or through special purpose vehicles, wherein such special purpose vehicles (SPVs) hold not less than 90 per cent of their assets directly in such properties. However, in such cases, “it has been mandated that REIT shall have control over the SPV so that the interest of investors of the REIT are not jeopardized.

  • The REIT would not be allowed to invest in vacant land or agricultural land or mortgages other than mortgage-backed securities and the REIT shall only invest in assets based in India.

  • Investment up to 100 per cent of the corpus of the REIT has been permitted in one project, subject to the condition that the minimum size of such asset is not less than Rs.1,000 crore.

  • After registration, the REIT would raise funds through an initial offer, and once listed, it could subsequently raise funds through follow-on offers. Listing of units would be mandatory for all REITs.

  • The above guidelines are in line to provide liquidity, transparency and to ensure adequate public participation in the real estate sector.

IFC launches $1 billion bond programme for India

  • The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has announced the launch of a $1 billion offshore rupee bond programme to strengthen India’s capital markets and attract greater foreign investment (FDI & FII).

  • This is said to be the largest offshore rupee market. Under this programme IFC will issue rupee-linked bonds, and use the proceeds to finance private sector investment in the country.

  • The offshore Bond program will help in bringing depth and diversity to the offshore rupee market, and pave the way for an alternative source of funding for Indian companies and would also establish an Indian rupee benchmark in the global markets.

  • India accounted for $4.5 billion of IFC’s committed investment portfolio as of June 2013, more than any other country.


More about IFC

  • IFC is a member of World Bank Group, which was created in the year 1956. It offers investment services, advisory services, asset management services to encourage private sector development in developing countries.

Goal of IFC

  • End poverty by 2030

  • Boost shared prosperity in every developing country

China, EU sign euro currency swap pact

  • China and the European Union signed a 350 billion yuan (euro 45 billion) currency swap agreement, a major step in pushing international use of the Chinese currency yuan.

  • The deal, signed between the People’s Bank of China and the European Central Bank (ECB), aims to support bilateral trade and protect financial stability. The agreement lasts three years and can be extended if both parties agree to it


What is currency swap? What is the advantage of this arrangement?

  • A currency swap is a foreign-exchange agreement which involves exchange of principal and interest of a loan in one currency for the same in another currency. It has the following advantages:

  • To reduce exposure to exchange rate fluctuations

  • To secure cheaper debt (by borrowing at the best available rate regardless of currency and then swapping for debt in desired currency using a back-to-back-loan)


Malala awarded Sakharov prize

  • Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai (16 years old), the teenage activist nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, won the EU’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize (worth $65,000).The award  acknowledges the incredible strength of Malala at the very young age.

M.S. Swaminathan to get Indira award

  • Eminent agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan will be conferred the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration.