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Insights Daily Current Events – 15 July 2015

Insights Daily Current Events – 15 July 2015

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Iran reaches historic nuclear deal

After arduous talks that spanned 20 months, negotiators have reached a landmark deal aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear program.

  • The agreement, a focal point of U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, appears set to reshape relations between Iran and the West, with its effects likely to ripple across the volatile Middle East.
  • The accord, reached on day 18 of marathon talks in Vienna, is aimed at resolving a 13-year standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions after repeated diplomatic failures and threats of military action.
  • It was hailed by Iran, the U.S., the European Union and others.

Iran nuclear installations

Highlights of the deal:

  • The deal puts strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activities for at least a decade and calls for stringent U.N. oversight, with world powers hoping this will make any dash to make an atomic bomb virtually impossible.
  • In return, Iran will get sanctions relief although the measures can “snap back” into place if there are any violations.
  • The international arms embargo against Iran will remain for five years but deliveries would be possible with special permission of the U.N. Security Council. Iran has accepted allowing the U.N. atomic watchdog tightly-controlled “managed access” to military bases.
  • Iran will slash by around two-thirds the number of centrifuges from around 19,000 to 6,104.
  • The agreement may lead to more cooperation between Tehran and Washington at a particularly explosive time in the Middle East with the emergence last year of the Islamic State group.
  • The deal caps uranium enrichment at 3.67% and limits the stockpile to 300 kg, all for 15 years.
  • Iran will be required to ship spent fuel out of the country forever, as well as allow inspectors from the IAEA inspectors certain access in perpetuity. Heightened inspections, including tracking uranium mining and monitoring the production and storage of centrifuges, will last for up to 20 years.

The accord is expected to face fierce opposition from Republicans in the U.S. Congress, as well as from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longstanding critic of the negotiations.

Sources: The Hindu.

Stagger office hours to cut pollution: NGT

The National Green Tribunal recently mooted the idea of variable working hours for the government and private sector to reduce vehicular pollution in Delhi during peak hours.

What else has the NGT said?

  • It has asked the Centre to discuss the proposal with all stakeholders, saying it needed to take everyone along and come up with an innovative approach to curb pollution. The Bench also suggested including the universities in the proposal.
  • It said that variable working hours could be a solution for increasing pollution. Courts and government offices in Delhi open at 10 a.m. and if there is a gap of one or two hours, it will help in reducing vehicular emissions immensely. Pressure on buses, autos and metro during peak hours could be reduced. Even business establishments’ working hours could be regulated.

The Bench cited a report saying that in 2000 the sale of diesel cars was only 4%, but in 2014 the sale of such cars had gone up to 60% and those of multi-purpose utility vehicles had risen by more than 60%.

National Green Tribunal (NGT):

The National Green Tribunal has been established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.

  • It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
  • The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
  • The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
  • The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.

Members:

  • The sanctioned strength of the tribunal is currently 10 expert members and 10 judicial members although the act allows for up to 20 of each.
  • The Chairman of the tribunal who is the administrative head of the tribunal also serves as a judicial member.
  • Every bench of the tribunal must consist of at least one expert member and one judicial member. The Chairman of the tribunal is required to be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India.
  • Members are chosen by a selection committee (headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India) that reviews their applications and conducts interviews.
  • The Judicial members are chosen from applicants who are serving or retired judges of High Courts. Expert members are chosen from applicants who are either serving or retired bureaucrats not below the rank of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India (not below the rank of Principal Secretary if serving under a state government) with a minimum administrative experience of five years in dealing with environmental matters. Or, the expert members must have a doctorate in a related field.

The Act says that decision taken by majority of members shall be binding and every order of Tribunal shall be final. Any person aggrieved by an award, decision, or order of the Tribunal may appeal to the Supreme Court within 90 days of commencement of award but Supreme Court can entertain appeal even after 90 days if appellant satisfied SC by giving sufficient reasons.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, NGT.

Govt. clears Naval P-8Is and air defence guns for Army

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar recently cleared deals worth about Rs. 30,000 crore for new platforms and several upgrades mostly for the Army and the Navy.

Other approvals:

  • Additional P-8I maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft for the Navy and new air defence guns for the army were the major deals cleared.
  • DAC also extended Acceptance of Necessity (AON) for four large survey ships worth Rs. 2,324 crore in place of the old one which lapsed.
  • Other deals for Navy include replacement of radars on Kora class ships, Gigabit Ethernet Ships Data Network (GbeSDN) on Delhi class ships for high speed data connectivity, 23 Combat Management Systems, BrahMos training facility at INS Valsura in Gujarat and Air Combat Maneuvering systems for Mig-29 fighters and Advanced Jet Trainers.

Indian Navy P-8I

About the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC):

  • It was set up in October 2001 following recommendations from Group of Ministers (GoMs) on ‘Reforming the National Security System.’
  • The need for DAC was felt post-Kargil conflict and this high-level body is chaired by the Defence Minister.
  • Other members include: Minister of State for Defence, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Defence Secretary, Secretary Defence Research & Development, Secretary Defence Production, Chief of Integrated Staff Committees (HQ IDS), Director General (Acquisition) and Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff.
  • The main aim of the DAC is to fast-track procurement process of the armed forces by optimally utilising the available budget.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, PIB.

After refit, Vikramaditya ready to join Navy

Aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya is all set to join the Navy this week.

About INS Vikramaditya:

  • Vikramaditya was acquired from Russia for $2.3 billion.
  • It was commissioned into the Navy in November 2013 without the crucial air-defence systems. They are now being installed during the “guaranteed refit”, in addition to scheduled maintenance, by the original equipment manufacturer.
  • It is a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier. She has been renamed in honour of Vikramaditya, a legendary 1st century BCE emperor of Ujjain, India.
  • The Israeli-supplied Barak-1 point defence missile system and the Russian-origin AK-630 close-in weapon system, borrowed from a to-be-decommissioned Godavari-class ship, are installed on Vikramaditya.

INS_Vikramaditya_during_trials

The carrier was originally scheduled to receive a long-range surface-to-air missile system under joint development with Israel. But delay in its development resulted in the carrier being inducted without its own air-defence cover.

Sources: The Hindu, Google.

Kumbh Mela begins in Nashik

The Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha Kumbh Mela 2015 recently began in Nashik.

  • The mega religious congregation will take place over two months this time.
  • Simhastha Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years in Nashik on the banks of the Godavari.
  • The main features of the festival are the three ‘Shahi Snans’ (royal bathing days) that are scheduled on August 26 (Shravan Purnima), September 13 (Bhadrapad Amavasya) and September 18 (Bhadrapad Shukla Panchami).

Other than its ritual significance, the festival is known worldwide for its elaborate logistics. Over Rs. 2,500 crore has been spent on preparations — new roads have been laid out in Nashik and over 15,000 security personnel, including paramilitary forces, have been deployed. The last edition of the festival in 2003 was marred by a stampede.

Sources: The Hindu.

SO2, CO prominent pollutants in Chennai

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recently released a data, which shows the varying pollution level across the country. Among all 26 monitoring stations for which data is available, the IIT, Chennai, monitoring station has by far the most ‘severe’ air quality days – over 47% of all days in the last six months. Two monitoring stations in Lucknow – Central School and Lalbagh West Lucknow – have the second and fourth highest proportion of severe days, while Anand Vihar in Delhi is third, and Nehru Nagar in Kanpur is fifth.

  • In Delhi, high AQI values are driven primarily by PM 2.5, while in Chennai they are driven by sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. In Bengaluru, ozone is additionally often the prominent pollutant.
  • According to the AQI index, days when the AQI value is between 401 and 500 are ‘severe’ and may cause respiratory impact even on healthy people, and serious health impacts on people with lung/heart disease. The health impacts may be experienced even during light physical activity.”

About the Air Quality Index (AQI):

The government launched the National Air Quality Index (AQI) in April, 2015. It will put out real time data about the level of pollutants in the air and inform people about the possible impacts on health.

  • The AQI is a global standard used to understand air quality.
  • It takes multiple data on pollution already available with the country’s Central Pollution Control Board and presents it as a color coded scale with six levels. Dark green, the first level, indicates good quality air while maroon at the other end indicates severe pollution.
  • For each category, the index identifies associated health impacts. For example when the scale touches maroon, the advisory reads: “May cause respiratory impact even on healthy people, and serious health impacts on people with lung/heart disease. The health impacts may be experienced even during light physical activity.”
  • It gives current as well as 24-hour average data on particulate matter – PM2.5 or very fine particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, and PM 10 which are less than 10 micrometers in diameter – as well as other pollutants including nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide. PM 2.5 levels are commonly used as the best indicator of severe air pollution, while PM 10 particles are also a cause of public health concern, but less lethal.

AQI will initially cover 10 cities — Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad — each of which would have monitoring stations with Air Quality Index display boards.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB.

‘#100Women Initiative’ launched

The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) in collaboration with Facebook has launched the ‘#100Women Initiative’.

Aim of the initiative: it aims to recognize and acknowledge women who are making a difference in their communities, across the country.

Details:

  • The ‘#100Women Initiative’ involves a contest to select 100 women achievers of India through public nominations via social media.
  • Starting from July 15, 2015, people can nominate women who have made an impact and made their community better, by visiting the Ministry’s Facebook Page until September 30, 2015. Voting will begin on November 7, 2015 on the top 200 entries as determined by an esteemed jury. Winners will be invited to join a reception organized by the Ministry around Republic Day.

Sources: PIB.

Centre to set up trade facilitation council to promote exports

The government has decided to set up a trade facilitation council comprising members of the Centre and states to promote India’s overseas shipments.

  • The council will be chaired by the Union Commerce and Industry Minister and secretaries of key ministries and state ministers will be the members.
  • The main objective of the council will be facilitating trade from states in a bid to boost the country’s exports.

Sources: PIB.

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