Current Affairs February 2015 - Vikalp Education

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Current Affairs - 23 February 2015

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Corporate espionage: Files were leaked before reaching PM, claim cops
  • NEW DELHI: The thousands of documents seized by the crime branch from corporate spies, consultants and agents reveal that almost everything the government was planning or deciding on was being copied and leaked to interested parties.

    "There are hundreds of documents in front of us which are highly classified and have signatures of senior officers — under-secretaries, joint secretaries, secretaries and even ministers or committees formed by Parliament. It seems private companies knew everything about these proposals, right from daily communications of the government and meeting details to legal papers and even audit reports," said a source.

    Documents studied so far by investigators include a CAG report on hydrocarbon production, cabinet note on open licensing policy for oil companies, notes on approvals by cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA), reports of public accounts committee (PAC), file notings and documents related to coal block auctions, government decisions on several national and international projects, correspondence between the minister and his officials, and even communiques of investigating agencies and autonomous bodies.

    Individual project documents recovered from the accused persons include a feasibility report of setting up an oil refinery near Tiruvannamalai (Tamil Nadu), a report on natural gas production, maps of an under-consideration gas pipeline project from Ahmedabad to Surat, and several others.

    A senior officer said the documents found in the hands of private persons may have compromised national security and the future of several projects. The crime branch had said in court, "National interest was taken for a ride in the case. Documents relating to national security have also been recovered. This might attract charges under the Official Secrets Act."

    Crime Branch officials claim they have several jute bags filled with documents recovered from Asharam, his sons Rakesh Kumar and Lalta Prasad, Ishwar Singh, Raj Kumar Chaubey, former newspaper reporter Santanu Saikia, energy consultant Prayas Jain and five executives of private energy majors.

    These five executives — Shailesh Saxena, manager (corporate affairs) Reliance Industries Limited; Vinay Kumar, DGM at Essar; K K Naik, Cairns India GM; senior Jubilant Energy executive Subhash Chandra and Rishi Anand, DGM, Reliance ADAG — are still being questioned by Crime Branch officers.

    Investigators have also recovered about five computers and laptops, hard disks and other electronic devices in which they claim are thousands of documents. These are being opened and analysed with the help of experts.

    Sources say sleuths are examining the official and personal email accounts of the arrested persons to find out more about documents scanned and sent to senior executives in private companies.

World Cup 2015: After Virat win over Pakistan, India scale Shikhar against South Africa
  • MELBOURNE: If a week is a long time in politics, then a fortnight must surely be an eternity in cricket. When the World Cup began barely 10 days ago, only die-hard Indian fans believed their team had a chance. The bookies pointed to India's toothless attack and out-of-form batsmen and placed them in the middle rung. Two matches on, the defending champs have emerged as serious contenders, following up their triumph over Pakistan with a scarcely believable 130-run walloping of South Africa.

    The Proteas are considered among the frontrunners to win the trophy, but by captain AB de Villiers' own admission, they were left licking their wounds after suffering their heaviest loss ever in a World Cup match. Meanwhile, the Men in Blue — and millions of their fans — were celebrating India's first win over South Africa in four attempts at the World Cup.

    Nobody symbolizes the turnaround in India's fortunes better than Shikhar Dhawan. The explosive left-hander had totalled just 216 runs in 10 innings before the World Cup. But in two innings in the Cup, he has scored 210 runs and is on top of the run-scoring list. Apparently, team director Ravi Shastri has been spending a lot of time with him in the nets. Before the Cup began, Dhawan was encouraged by the team management to take his mind off the game, which seems to have helped.

    Somebody quipped that Dhawan was probably feeling at home as Melbourne is the home of his wife, Ayesha. If that didn't help, the overwhelming Indian presence in the MCG stands certainly must have. There was the odd South African flag visible, but for all practical purposes, India might as well have been playing at home. As Greg Baum put it, "the MCG... added to the ever growing impression that cricket in any outpost is essentially a branch office of India".

    After Dhawan built the platform, it was Ajinkya Rahane who provided the impetus, slamming 79 from just 60 balls as India powered to 307.

    India was looking good for 325 at one stage but again faltered at the death, going from 261/2 in the 44th over to 307/7 after 50 overs. The batting in the last overs is just about India's only worry right now. Also, it remains to be seen how India will fare if asked to chase instead of putting runs on the board. But for now, the team has two big wins from its first two matches — and the rest of the field is surely taking notice.

India now puts aircraft carrier plan on fast track
  • NEW DELHI: India is trying to fast-track finalization of its long-pending ambitious plan to launch indigenous construction of its largest-ever aircraft carrier. Though the propulsion system for the proposed 65,000-tonne warship is yet to be decided, the plan is veering towards nuclear power for greater operational endurance.

    The ongoing "detailed" naval study for this indigenous aircraft carrier-II (IAC-II) project has gained urgency since the ageing 56-year-old INS Viraat -- quite toothless now with just 11 Sea Harrier jump-jets left to operate from its deck -- will be retired next year.

    India has to plan ahead since it will take at least 10-12 years to construct IAC-II, which will be christened INS Vishal, if it wants to systematically build military capabilities to counter China's expanding long-range naval deployments in the Indian Ocean Region, say officials.

    China, after inducting its first 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier Liaoning in September 2012, already has a second one under construction and two more are in the pipeline to further bolster its expanding maritime power. Aircraft carriers, with their accompanying warships and aircraft, after all, are the ultimate symbols of military power projection around the globe.

    "INS Viraat will be decommissioned after the International Fleet Review in Vizag in February 2016. It will not be cost-effective to go in for another major refit of INS Viraat, which was inducted from the UK in May 1987," said an officer.

    This will leave the Navy with just one aircraft carrier, the 44,400-tonne INS Vikramaditya, the refurbished Admiral Gorshkov inducted from Russia at a cost of $2.33 billion in November 2013. The 40,000-tonne IAC-I or INS Vikrant being built at Cochin Shipyard will be ready for induction only by 2018-2019 after a long delay.

    The construction of INS Vishal will also not be an easy task. It will take a few more months to "finalize the exact tonnage and the type of propulsion, aircraft and other parameters" for IAC-II. "The government will then have to take the final call," said another officer.

Govt yet to take action on security breach in printing of bank notes
  • NEW DELHI: At a time when the Narendra Modi government is probing espionage in oil and coal ministries, it is yet to take action on a grave security breach in the printing of currency notes.

    An internal inquiry report by a former CBI director recently indicted top officials of the Security Printing & Minting Corporation of India Limited (SPMCIL), a government company, for lapses that led to bank notes using an imported security thread with Arabic inscriptions in 2012 in its Hoshangabad-based mill.

    The security thread is the key distinguishing feature in a currency note that helps prevent counterfeiting.

    Now, the matter has also come under the scanner of the Delhi high court which earlier this month admitted a PIL and issued a notice to the Centre, SPMCIL and its director M S Rana. The PIL also questions Rana's eligibility for the position of CMD, claiming he was appointed without the requisite clearance from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). The court has issued a notice to CVC, seeking answers to the allegations.

    Rana has been blamed in the inquiry report for suppressing the incident at Hoshangabad and not putting the facts on record. "Such a grave incident having implications on national security should have been brought on record and handled with greater sensitivity," the report by IPS officer P C Sharma says, referring to the role of the CMD and the corporate office of the company.

    The report highlights how despite such a clear breach in security of Indian bank notes, senior officials of SPMCIL and the finance ministry sat on it for months together even as they went into damage control mode.

8 months on, Taliban release Indian priest in Afghanistan
  • NEW DELHI: Less than a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to Christians and resolved to protect them from groups inciting hatred, his government pulled off a diplomatic coup by securing the release of a senior Jesuit priest abducted by the Taliban in Herat, Afghanistan, last year.

    Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who hails from Tamil Nadu's Sivaganga district, had served as country director of international NGO Jesuit Refugee Service in Afghanistan for four years before he was abducted on June 2, 2014.

    Announcing the release, Modi tweeted, "Delighted at securing the release of Indian Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar from captivity in Afghanistan. Have spoken to Father Alexis Prem Kumar. Informed happy family of Father Alexis Prem Kumar of his safe return after 8 months in captivity."

    The priest has returned to India and will be reunited with his family, which had approached the Modi government last year to secure his release. Father Alexis has thanked the Modi government for negotiating his freedom, according to a PTI report.

    Father Alexis's release is a culmination of the Centre's long-drawn diplomatic efforts, personally supervised by national security adviser Ajit Kumar Doval, to carry out Modi's written assurance to AIADMK chief J Jayalalitha and MDMK leader Vaiko that his government would spare no effort to have him freed by constantly engaging Afghanistan on that score.

    Both Jayalalitha and Vaiko had separately sought the PM's "personal intervention to secure the safe and early release" of Father Alexis. The latter's family and friends also met foreign Sushma Swaraj and Doval on July 24 and 25 last year, who assured them the government was pursuing his case with the Afghan government and would keep them updated on the status of negotiations as well as his safety.

Indian envoys get a strategic overview of Modi govt’s world vision
  • NEW DELHI: MEA is undergoing a slow and quiet restructuring. A long-time adherent to tradition, the foreign office is waking up to live and work very differently in the Modi government. 

    For the first time, the Indian government has presented a strategic evaluation of the world to its diplomats and ambassadors. It is the first authoritative detailed assessment approved at the highest level of the political leadership, covering every region and international issues. 

    Ambassadors from Japan to Norway, Russia to New Zealand will now be on the same page, giving them clear direction in terms of where New Delhi stands. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking a deep interest in foreign policy, MEA is learning how to do things differently. 

    For long, Indian ambassadors had complained of apathy and non-responsiveness of New Delhi. While the evaluation is expected to assist diplomats in pushing India's interests in different parts of the world, it will also be used to assess the output of Indian envoys. They will have to work out their annual action plans and will henceforth be assessed on achievement of their targets.

    That the Indian foreign service has to wake up and smell the coffee was made amply clear during the recent conference of heads of missions. Modi has been clear in his pre-election messages that he expects a new kind of diplomacy. Last week, Indian diplomats listened to top business leaders from infrastructure, manufacturing and software sectors, who told them how embassies could up their game while pushing Indian business interests. 

    Within South Block, MEA hands expect more changes in the weeks and months ahead. First, there is expected to be a reversal in the unstated adversarial relationship between PMO and MEA, especially since foreign policy is such an essential part of this government. 

On eve of budget session, Naidu meets Sonia for help
  • NEW DELHI: The government reached out to the opposition a day before Parliament opens for the crucial budget session on Monday with parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu driving down to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's house to seek the main opposition party's cooperation. 

    With six ordinances waiting to be converted into bills, including contentious ones on land acquisition and FDI in insurance sector, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too appealed to the opposition parties for cooperation at an all-party meeting. 

    "It is the collective responsibility of leaders of all parties to ensure that this session runs smoothly so that the House can fulfill aspirations of people... Hope we can collectively work for the benefit of common man," Modi said. 

    Referring to various issues that the opposition is waiting to raise, he told leaders attending the meeting, "I can assure you that all the issues you have referred to will be discussed adequately and appropriately in order of their priority and importance." He later joined the leaders for lunch. 

    Even as the government got some assurances on the smooth running of the House, whether it was at the meeting with Sonia or at the all-party meeting, there was no consensus on the land acquisition legislation. While that could force the government towards a joint session, sources said it was not being considered for now. 

    The six ordinances include those for citizenship of overseas Indians, e-rickshaws, allocation of coal blocks and non-coal mines for open bidding, apart from FDI in insurance and land aqcuisition. 

Navy submarine INS Sindhughosh collides with fishing boat, suffers periscope damage
  • NEW DELHI: In yet another accident in the Navy, a Russian-origin Kilo-class submarine INS Sindhughosh suffered some damage when a fishing boat hit its periscope during a special operation off the western coast late on Thursday night.

    The 3,000-tonne submarine INS Sindhughosh, which was participating in the major naval exercise Tropex (Theatre Readiness Operational Level Exercise) in the Arabian Sea, was at "periscope depth" when the incident took place in the intervening night of Thursday-Friday.

    "The submarine was practicing 'special boat section' operation during which divers swim out of its torpedo tubes with a Gemini boat to carry out a covert land operation on land. It was pitch-dark when the operation was being carried out close to the coastline, south of Mumbai," said an official.

    "The fishing boat hit the submarine's periscope without any warning. The submarine surfaced and then made its way to the naval dockyard at Mumbai, where its damaged periscope will be repaired. It's an occupational hazard but such exercises have to be carried out," he added.

    While this seems to be more of an inadvertent mishap, around 40 naval officers are in the dock — most of them facing court martial — for the string of warship mishaps in just the last couple of years, as reported earlier by TOI.

    The captain of another Kilo-class submarine INS Sindhuratna, for instance, is now facing a general court martial (GCM) for the mishap on board his submarine, which killed two officers, injured several sailors and proved to be the final trigger for Admiral DK Joshi to resign as Navy chief in February last year.

    While INS Sindhuratna Commander Sandeep Sinha will undergo disciplinary action, six other officers have been awarded "severe displeasure" — a black-mark in their records preventing any promotion, foreign posting, course and the like for them for two years. They include Commodore commanding submarines of Western Naval Command, SR Kapoor, and two of his officers.

    They were on board INS Sindhuratna for "Task-II trials" to clear the 26-year-old submarine for operational deployment — after a refit for Rs 200 crore at Mumbai naval dockyard — when disaster struck on February 26. The probe showed a cable fire over the battery pit in the submarine's third compartment led to the thick toxic smoke on board the vessel, as was first reported by TOI.

    Defence minister Manohar Parrikar also wants accountability to be firmly fixed for submarine INS Sindhurakshak's sinking at the Mumbai dockyard after internal explosions in August 2013, which killed three officers and 15 sailors. But the Navy is yet to finalize the inquiry report into this accident.

    The INS Sindhuratna case brings out how several factors are increasingly coming together to create a crisis in the blue-water force, tasked with guarding India's huge strategic interests in the region stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Strait.

    Politico-bureaucratic apathy in clearing new projects and emergency purchases, for instance, is making the Navy flog ageing warships well beyond their operational lives. Submarines, for instance, have a design life of only 25 years.

    India is down to just 13 ageing diesel-electric submarines, only half of them being operational at any given time. The four Shishumar-class submarines of German-origin were inducted between 1986 and 1994. The nine Kilo-class submarines of Russian origin, in turn, were inducted between 1986 and 1991.

history of indian national flag
  • Every free nation of the world has its own flag. It is a symbol of a free country. The National Flag of India was designed by Pingali Venkayyaand and adopted in its present form during the meeting of Constituent Assembly held on the 22 July 1947, a few days before India's independence from the British on 15 August, 1947. It served as the national flag of the Dominion of India between 15 August 1947 and 26 January 1950 and that of the Republic of India thereafter. In India, the term "tricolour" refers to the Indian national flag.
    The National flag of India is a horizontal tricolor of deep saffron (kesari) at the top, white in the middle and dark green at the bottom in equal proportion. The ratio of width of the flag to its length is two to three. In the centre of the white band is a navy blue wheel which represents the chakra. Its design is that of the wheel which appears on the abacus of the Sarnath Lion Capital of Ashoka. Its diameter approximates to the width of the white band and it has 24 spokes.

Evolution of the Tricolour

  • It is really amazing to see the various changes that our National Flag went through since its first inception. It was discovered or recognised during our national struggle for freedom. The evolution of the Indian National Flag sailed through many vicissitudes to arrive at what it is today. In one way it reflects the political developments in the nation. Some of the historical milestones in the evolution of our National Flag involve the following:
    The first national flag in India is said to have been hoisted on August 7, 1906, in the Parsee Bagan Square (Green Park) in Calcutta now Kolkata. The flag was composed of three horizontal strips of red, yellow and green.
    The second flag was hoisted in Paris by Madame Cama and her band of exiled revolutionaries in 1907. This was very similar to the first flag except that the top strip had only one lotus but seven stars denoting the Saptarishi. This flag was also exhibited at a socialist conference in Berlin.
    The third flag went up in 1917 when our political struggle had taken a definite turn. Dr. Annie Besant and Lokmanya Tilak hoisted it during the Home rule movement. This flag had five red and four green horizontal strips arranged alternately, with seven stars in the saptarishi configuration super-imposed on them. In the left-hand top corner (the pole end) was the Union Jack. There was also a white crescent and star in one corner.
    During the session of the All India Congress Committee which met at Bezwada in 1921 (now Vijayawada) an Andhra youth prepared a flag and took it to Gandhiji. It was made up of two colours-red and green-representing the two major communities i.e. Hindus and Muslims. Gandhiji suggested the addition of a white strip to represent the remaining communities of India and the spinning wheel to symbolise progress of the Nation.
    The year 1931 was a landmark in the history of the flag. A resolution was passed adopting a tricolor flag as our national flag. This flag, the forbear of the present one, was saffron, white and green with Mahatma Gandhi's spinning wheel at the center. It was, however, clearly stated that it bore no communal significance and was to be interpreted thus.
    On July 22, 1947, the Constituent Assembly adopted it as Free India National Flag. After the advent of Independence, the colours and their significance remained the same. Only the Dharma Charkha of Emperor Asoka was adopted in place of the spinning wheel as the emblem on the flag. Thus, the tricolour flag of the Congress Party eventually became the tricolour flag of Independent India.

Colours of the Flag:

  • In the national flag of India the top band is of Saffron colour, indicating the strength and courage of the country. The white middle band indicates peace and truth with Dharma Chakra. The last band is green in colour shows the fertility, growth and auspiciousness of the land.

The Chakra:

  • This Dharma Chakra depicted the "wheel of the law" in the Sarnath Lion Capital made by the 3rd-century BC Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. The chakra intends to show that there is life in movement and death in stagnation.

Flag Code

  • On 26th January 2002, the Indian flag code was modified and after several years of independence, the citizens of India were finally allowed to hoist the Indian flag over their homes, offices and factories on any day and not just National days as was the case earlier. Now Indians can proudly display the national flag any where and any time, as long as the provisions of the Flag Code are strictly followed to avoid any disrespect to the tricolour. For the sake of convenience, Flag Code of India, 2002, has been divided into three parts. Part I of the Code contains general description of the National Flag. Part II of the Code is devoted to the display of the National Flag by members of public, private organizations, educational institutions, etc. Part III of the Code relates to display of the National Flag by Central and State governments and their organisations and agencies.
    There are some rules and regulations upon how to fly the flag, based on the 26 January 2002 legislation. These include the following:

The Do's:

    • The National Flag may be hoisted in educational institutions (schools, colleges, sports camps, scout camps, etc.) to inspire respect for the Flag. An oath of allegiance has been included in the flag hoisting in schools.
    • A member of public, a private organization or an educational institution may hoist/display the National Flag on all days and occasions, ceremonial or otherwise consistent with the dignity and honour of the National Flag.
    • Section 2 of the new code accepts the right of all private citizens to fly the flag on their premises.

The Don'ts

    • The flag cannot be used for communal gains, drapery, or clothes. As far as possible, it should be flown from sunrise to sunset, irrespective of the weather.
    • The flag cannot be intentionally allowed to touch the ground or the floor or trail in water. It cannot be draped over the hood, top, and sides or back of vehicles, trains, boats or aircraft.
    • No other flag or bunting can be placed higher than the flag. Also, no object, including flowers or garlands or emblems can be placed on or above the flag. The tricolour cannot be used as a festoon, rosette or bunting.
    The Indian National Flag represents the hopes and aspirations of the people of India. It is the symbol of our national pride. Over the last five decades, several people including members of armed forces have ungrudgingly laid down their lives to keep the tricolour flying in its full glory.

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