Current Affairs Current Affairs - 24 May 2015 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 24 May 2015

BJP has become central pole of Indian politics: Arun Jaitley
  • "Our party has proved its mettle in various states. We hope to win assembly elections in Bihar," Jaitley said.

    Talking about achievement of the NDA government, Jaitley said that "there is clarity of direction and policy paralysis has been fought down".

    "We have restored credibility, dignity and stature of the Prime Minister's Office," the FM said. 

    "The BJP will hold 200 big rallies and 5,000 public meetings to publicize NDA government's works," Union minister Ananth Kumar said. 

    Jaitley also congratulated Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa and wished her all the best.

Jayalalithaa takes oath as Tamil Nadu CM; BJP leaders, Rajnikanth present at swearing-in ceremony
  • CHENNAI: Ending more than seven months of administrative uncertainty in Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa was sworn in the chief minister at a glittering ceremony in the centenary auditorium of University of Madras on Saturday at 11.05am. In attendance were industry heads and film stars, but what indicated the political resurgence of Jayalalithaa was the presence of BJP leaders Pon Radhakrishnan and L Ganesan, among others.

    Jayalalithaa, 67, now the 29th chief minister of Tamil Nadu, now matches the record with DMK leader M Karunanidhi of being CM five times, though the AIADMK leader did it twice after she was forced to resign from the post following court verdicts that disqualified her.

    The ministers, for the first time in the history of the state, took oath as a chorus.

    The historic auditorium was swelling with over 3,500 special invitees. Seated on the first row, among senior AIADMK leaders and special invitees was Sasikalaa who, like Jayalalithaa, was clad in a green saree. Superstar Rajnikanth sat next to actor and All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi leader Sarath Kumar. Representing the industry were India Cements managing director N Srinivasan and A C Muthaiah of SPIC.

    Hundreds of party men from far off places thronged the venue since morning to get a glimpse of the leader, who is returning to the state government after eight months. Hundreds waited outside Jayalalithaa's Poes Garden residence since early morning. When she came out at 10.30am, women offered 'aarti' and showered flower petals on her vehicle. Party functionaries bowed, some prostrated on the road as her cavalcade passed.

    Actor Rajinikanth, who lives in the neighbourhood, had left for the venue ahead of Jayalalithaa. Thespian Sivaji Ganesan's sons Prabhu and Ramkumar were among the special invities.

    The acquittal of AIADMK chief by Karnataka High Court in the disproportionate wealth case on May 11, had AIADMK MLAs electing Jayalalithaa as the leader of the legislature party on Friday.

    Panneerselvam submitted his resignation to Governor thereafter, paving way for his party general secretary to take over the reins. He will continue to hold his previous portfolios of finance and public works department.

    Huge banners hailing the AIADMK supremo dotted Wallajah Road and Kamarajar Salai, causing much inconvenience to the road-users. Not less than three giant screens have been installed in and around the campus for the cadres not to go disappointed. The ceremony saw the presence of a galaxy of national and state political leaders, film stars and industrialists, and also conspicuous absence of the opposition parties like DMK.

    The venue is guarded by huge posse of policemen and invitees are allowed after thorough checks at various points.

    Jayalalithaa became chief minister of the state for the fourth time in May 2011, after a resounding victory with 151 seats in the 234-member assembly. On Friday noon, the AIADMK chief called on Governor and staked claim to form the government and submitted a list of council of ministers for appointment. While P Chendur Pandian (who has been hospitalised for prolonged illness) was left out in the cabinet, dropping of forest minister MSM Anandan from the cabinet was not known. Highways minister Palaniswami has been given the additional portfolio of forests.

One-rank, one-pension issue: Rahul Gandhi meets ex-servicemen
  • One-rank, one-pension issue: Rahul Gandhi meets ex-servicemenNEW DELHI: Attacking the government over non-implementation of 'one-rank, one-pension' scheme, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said he will "pressurise" the Centre to act on the issue at the earliest.

    After meeting a delegation from the ex-servicemen cell of the party, Gandhi said the UPA government had made provisions for the scheme and had even allocated money but the Narendra Modi government failed to implement the scheme. 

    "One year has passed of the NDA government, of the Modi government and it has not proceeded ahead with the issue. They (ex servicemen) had knocked the doors of the government, but nothing materialised. Army, Navy, Air Force take care of the nation, secure our borders, their demands should be met. 

    "We had allotted money and also taken a decision. One year has passed and this should happen at the earliest. We will pressurise the government and ask them to take a decision at the earliest," Gandhi told reporters after the meeting with the delegation at the AICC headquarters here.
    Former minister of state for defence and Congress leader Jitendra Singh accused the government of being anti-soldier. He said the UPA government first took an initiative on the issue in 2006, then in 2009 and 2013. 

    Singh said the party fears that the government was "diluting" some of the provisions. 

    "There were some discrepancies of about 10-20 per cent in the OROP scheme. We even cleared that in 2014. We also ensured that handicap persons and widows would get benefit. 

    "But it has been a year now and the government has still not implemented OROP. This government is anti-soldiers (sainink virodhi). We had sat on a dharna at Jantar Mantar on February 1 this year. We were given an assurance by the government that the problem will be solved in seven days, but nothing has happened yet. 

    OROP, a long standing demand of ex-servicemen's associations, relates to payment of uniform pension to defence forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement. 

    Col (retd) B C Lagwal, head of the party's ex-servicemen cell in Himachal Pradesh, demanded that the government expedite the process.

Modiversary: This PM drives babus hard, leaves them weary and wary
  • Modiversary: This PM drives babus hard, leaves them weary and wary
    For government officers, a central deputation usually meant five years in one ministry even if the work allocated changed. That too was not very frequent.

    But since the Narendra Modi government launched the "midnight massacre" last September, some officers got into the habit of checking the personnel department website after dinner.

    At times, even ministers have learnt about senior officers being transferred from newspaper reports. The result: Several officers who spent their lifetime in economic ministries are now grappling with social sector issues, while a section has opted to go back to their cadres before the end of their term.

    Critics also point out that the Modi administration is slow in making appointments. In the initial days, several departments had to do without full-time secretaries. Even now there is no chief information commissioner or CVC. Some large state-run banks are working without full-time chiefs for several months but there has been a clean-up in the way in which some of the board appointments at PSUs are made.

    Clearly, the rules of the game have changed for babus — be it clocking in at 9am through a biometric attendance system or ensuring offices are clean. Of course, some of the toning up has come at a cost as several senior officers now even work on Saturdays, resulting in junior staff often holding a grudge. In any case, the insistence on office actually starting at 9am has caused a lot of heartburn, which some believe resulted in babus voting for AAP in the Delhi elections.

    Yet, there is the comfort factor, especially in the economic ministries, as officers don't have to deal with ministers who insist that decisions be taken only in a certain way, which may benefit a company or an individual. With Modi himself interacting with secretaries thrice since he took charge a year ago, there is a perception that the PM can be reached. Some of the secretaries have, in fact, written to Modi directly if they have disagreed with the policy being pushed by their ministers or even the PMO.

    The flip side is that some secretaries rush to the PMO at the slightest chance, hoping that their efficient ways would be rewarded with a better assignment.

Heat wave continues in Nagpur, Chanda highest at 47.6 degrees
  • NAGPUR: Even as the heat wave continued to lash Vidarbha, Wardha and Chandrapur recorded the highest temperatures in the region on Friday. At 47.6 degree Celsius, Chandrapur recorded highest of the season as well as highest in region this season so far.

    Mercury continued to soar in Chandrapur in last three days from 46.8 degree Celsius on Tuesday to 47.2 degrees on Wednesday followed by a little dip on Thursday at 46.2. But again on Friday the temperature rose to 47.6 degrees.

    Wardha crossed 47 degrees on Tuesday when it recorded 47.5, however has seen a fall in the temperature thereafter. On Wednesday it recorded 47.2 degrees but came back to 47.5 on Thursday. On Friday the mercury dropped to 46.9 degrees.

    Nagpur recorded the highest temperature of 47 degrees on Wednesday and Thursday. However, on Friday city saw a marginal fall as it recorded 46.5 degrees.

    The other cities in Vidarbha on Friday were relatively less hot as the temperature didn't cross 45 at most places except Brahmapuri which recorded 45.8 degrees.

75% of 2-wheelers have no insurance
  • NEW DELHI: If you get hit by a two-wheeler, there is little chance of getting compensation. That's because nearly 75% of two-wheelers in India run without insurance, putting vulnerable road-users like pedestrians and cyclists at risk. 

    The revelation, made by Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA), has prompted a Supreme Court-appointed committee on road safety to ask the agency and the transport ministry to work out a protocol for identifying such vehicles within three months and submit a report. 

    "IRDA representatives told us early this month that most two wheelers either have no insurance or their insurance has lapsed. Most of the owners don't renew them since there is little enforcement," said committee chairman Justice (retd) K S Radhakrishnan. 

    According to rough estimates, two-wheelers have a formidable presence on roads, constituting 70% of all vehicles in the country. 

    Around 82% of vehicles in India are privately owned and a majority of these are two-wheelers. In recent years, the number of two-wheelers has grown exponentially in rural areas where insurance papers are seldom checked by the enforcement agencies. 

    "Running an uninsured vehicle should be treated as a criminal act and there should be harshest of punishment since such people cannot play with the lives of others. The vehicle owner has the liability to pay the compensation for any accident. But in case he doesn't have the capacity to pay compensation, the victim becomes helpless," said S P Singh of IFTRT, a Delhi-based transport think tank. 

    A road transport ministry official said they had flagged this issue to IRDA about two years back and had asked it to integrate data of vehicles without third party insurance. "A couple of months back, we asked National Informatics Centre (NIC) to populate the state-wise data of such vehicles. Once it's prepared, we will send them to states so that their law enforcement agencies can take action against such offenders," he said. 

    Moreover, to put check on such offenders, the Road Safety and Transport Bill proposes very high penalty- impounding of uninsured vehicle and imprisonment of its owner. 

    Giving details of directions that the SC-appointed panel has issued to state governments, Justice Radhakrishnan said they have been asked to ban sale of alcohol along the national and state highways. "There should not even be a signage on the highway indicating location of such shops. We have asked them to take concrete action on dozens of issues by June-end. If they fail to comply, we will submit the details to SC," he said. 

ISIS claims it could buy its first nuclear weapon from Pakistan within 12 months
  • ISIS claims it could buy its first nuclear weapon from Pakistan within 12 monthsLONDON: ISIS has used the latest issue of its propaganda magazine Dabiq to suggest the group is expanding so rapidly it could buy its first nuclear weapon within a year. 

    The hyperbolic article, which the group attributes to the British hostage John Cantlie, claims ISIS has transcended its roots as "the most explosive Islamic 'group' in the modern world" to evolve into "the most explosive Islamic movement the modern world has ever seen" in less than twelve months. 

    Photojournalist Cantlie is regularly used in the terror group's propaganda and has appeared in a number of videos, including a YouTube series called "Lend Me Your Ears". He has been held a hostage by ISIS for more than two years. 

    The piece, entitled "The Perfect Storm", describes militant Islamist groups such as Boko Haram, which recently pledged allegiance to ISIS, uniting across the Middle East, Africa and Asia to create one global movement. 

    The article claims this alignment of groups has happened at the sane time as ISIS militants have seized "tanks, rocket launchers, missile systems, anti-aircraft systems," from the US and Iran before turning to the subject of more extreme weapons the group is not in possession of — such as nuclear weapons. 

    "Let me throw a hypothetical operation onto the table," the article continues. "The Islamic State has billions of dollars in the bank, so they call on their wilayah in Pakistan to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials in the region." 

    It admits that such a scenario is "far-fetched" but warns: "It's the sum of all fears for Western intelligence agencies and it's infinitely more possible today than it was just one year ago. 

    "And if not a nuke, what about a few thousand tons of ammonium nitrate explosive? That's easy enough to make." 

    An attack launched by ISIS against America would ridicule "the attacks of the past". 

    "They'll [ISIS] be looking to do something big, something that would make any past operation look like a squirrel shoot, and the more groups that pledge allegiance the more possible it becomes to pull off something truly epic. 

    "Remember, all of this has happened in less than a year. How more dangerous will be the lines of communication and supply a year on from today?" 

    The capacity of ISIS to acquire such a device is certainly beyond the group at the moment. 

    But ISIS is indeed a well funded group having secured a number of oilfields in Syria and Iraq. The group also sells artefacts looted from historic areas seized during its insurgency, sometimes for six figure sums, as well as imposing taxes on civilians trapped in its self-declared caliphate and other methods of extortion. 

    The finances of the group have been estimated by some to be in the $2billion area, though it is impossible to verify how much money it actually has access to. 

    The threats come against a mixed backdrop of successes and losses in both countries; the group has been driven out of Tikrit in Iraq but has overrun Ramaldi and the Syrian ancient city of Palmyra. 

    A recent call to arms from its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also appeared to suggest it may be overstretched in some areas, with his speech urging supporters from across the world to travel to its territories in the Middle East. 

    In September last year, the home secretary, Theresa May, warned that the militant group could become the world's first "truly terrorist state". 

    "We will see the risk, often prophesied but thank God not yet fulfilled, that with the capability of a state behind them, the terrorists will acquire chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons to attack us," she said.

How to tackle Rahul? BJP perplexed
  • How to tackle Rahul? BJP perplexed
    NEW DELHI: Rahul Gandhi's five interventions in Lok Sabha countered by 12 from the BJP government, all delivered with aggression by top Modi ministers.

    Contrast this bit of statistic with senior minister Nitin Gadkari's trending snub "nobody takes Rahul Gandhi seriously", and the logical counter is "who takes Rahul seriously?"

    It is also the question being hotly debated in the political circles since the Gandhi scion resurfaced in public view after a 56-day sabbatical last month to launch a high-decibel offensive against the Modi government.

    There is a growing belief in the political class that Rahul's seeming success in his new avatar has a lot to do with the disproportionate response from the saffron camp. A study of parliament proceedings after April 20, when Rahul rejoined the duties, shows interesting details.

    Rahul made a 20-minute intervention in Lok Sabha on farm crisis with the "suit boot ki sarkar" jibe. What followed surprised even the BJP camp. Parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu gave a long response, followed by agriculture minister's Radha Mohan Singh's speech directed at the Congress No 2.

    Rahul's "net neutrality" offensive elicited counter from Naidu and telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Ministers Harsimrat Badal, Naidu and Ram Vilas Paswan spoke on Rahul's charge of a grain crisis in Punjab. On Amethi food park, home minister Rajnath Singh gave a quick riposte. Next morning, Badal responded with fury and then issued a detailed statement four days later. Singh also sent Rahul a letter.

    Lastly, Rahul's offensive on land acquisition bill provoked riposte from a BJP MP and rural development minister.

    Estimates state that saffron ministers spoke for double the time to Rahul's roughly 35-minute interventions. Congress protested the "new trend" of ministers responding in "Zero Hour" in Rahul's case while Trinamool Congress challenged it be made a standing practice. Interestingly, two MPs, directly and otherwise, demanded the government accord all members the same importance.

    Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said, "For quite some time now, the defining characteristic of BJP has been 'anti-Rahulism' which proves they do take him very seriously and are insecure because the issues raised by Rahul are having enormous resonance with people."

    BJP leaders say the party is still figuring out the way to deal with the Congress mascot: if he is to be ignored, or junior leaders to engage him or the party should go the full throttle against him.

Aap ki sarkar 100 Days — At odds with Centre, police & media, CM hits out
  • Aap ki sarkar 100 Days — At odds with Centre, police & media, CM hits outNEW DELHI: It was on Valentine's Day this year that Arvind Kejriwal took oath with an overwhelming mandate of 67 MLAs in a house of 70. But what should have been a prolonged honeymoon has turned out to be a troubled marriage as his government completes hundred days this Sunday. From dousing the fire within his own party to stoking a confrontation with the Centre (read LG), the CM has followed an agenda that has kept the pot boiling.

    He is the angry young man in the Amitabh mould. He has taken on the BJP-ruled corporations and Delhi Police in asserting his historic mandate and pushing his demand for full statehood. The media, he rages, has got a 'supari' or contract to kill his government. He has, however, taken care to keep his core constituency happy with slashed bills, subsidies and even with questionable decisions like giving the autorickshaws a virtual free run of the city.

    The corrupt have also been reined in somewhat, a hallmark of his previous stint too. The aam aadmi government got cocooned in the secretariat quite early, trying to keep away nosey journalists.Its intolerance of any criticism has put it at odds with the very media which had once championed the party's ioned the party's cause. In fact, the media has been condemned and sentenced. The chief minister, who is without a portfolio and working for "systemic change", stays away from the limelight, leaving his deputy , Manish Sisodia, to field questions. He is, how ever, spotted at the Janata Durbars at his Civil Lines house. Ironically, for a party like AAP or what it had portrayed itself to be, Kejriwal is the high command.

    This is likely to be another flashpoint.

    Kejriwal's political focus is on re-defining Centre-state relations. The battle for full statehood is now full blown with the Centre coming out with a notification that overrules Kejriwal's writ in favour of LG and goes a step ahead to prevent the ACB from acting against any official - from the IAS to DANICS and the cops. This could be the beginning of another confrontation with the Centre.

    AAP's delivery on its 70-point agenda in these 100 days is a matter of process and still waiting outcomes. While there are meetings and plans in process, these are mostly welfare and relief measures like subsidized power and compensations. Even the budget consulta tions with people got a lukewarm response. The middle class is once again feeling disconnected. The city's transport system and roads are in a shambles, no major infrastructure project has been announced, and major decisions, like scrapping the BRT, are forever pending.

    While the promise of bringing down power tariff will have to wait till the CAG audit of discoms is over, a subsidy has been introduced. The government is also giving every home a monthly quota of 700 litres of free water.

    To fight corruption - while the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) is under revamp - Kejriwal armed the common man with a helpline, 1031, on which people can complain about officers taking bribes, give evidence and seek action. However, the issue that became controversial in the 49 days of AAP - Jan Lokpal Bill - is under careful scrutiny this time. The chief minister said recently it will be first sent to the Centre for its views and then table it in the Delhi assembly .

    Kejriwal had taken over on February 14 as CM on a non-confrontationist note, promising "systemic change, good governance and cooperation with the Centre" to all those who felt betrayed by the chaotic protests of those 49 days of AAP . He had made the point even in a preelection interview with TOI. Peace did not prevail for long. The CM, in his first assembly session in February , raised the demand for full statehood and gradually entered into a full-fledged battle, throwing his interpretation of the law at Delhi Police, LG and then the Centre through letters to the union home minister and a letter to prime minister Narendra Modi whom he has repeatedly accused of "trying to run the city directly through LG''.

    The matter finally landed at the doorstep of the President. Now, with the Centre choosing to re ject Kejriwal's interpretation of the Constitution, the issue is far from settled.

'Airtel Zero, against net neutrality'
  • 'Airtel Zero, against net neutrality'NEW DELHI: Airtel's Zero Rating platform and the Facebook-Reliance Communications combine's plan have been found to be against the spirit of net neutrality by a preliminary inquiry conducted by the telecom ministry.

    The findings assume significance as they come at a time when a high-level committee of the ministry is finalizing a regulatory set-up for various issues related to net neutrality. Also, the committee will define how telecom operators are to deal with numerous internet websites, or over-the-top (OTT) players, who ride on their network.

    Top sources in the ministry told TOI that a "strong view" emerging within the government is that 'Airtel Zero' and '' plans are not in consonance with the concepts of net neutrality.

    "This is the view after the initial assessment. However, any final decision regarding the two services will be taken only once the expert committee of the ministry submits its recommendations on the entire gamut of issues related to net neutrality," a top source said.

    The ministry is also waiting for recommendations from telecom regulator Trai on the matter. However, these may take some time now with the retirement of Rahul Khullar from Trai's chairmanship earlier this month. "The new Trai chairman will certainly take some time to have a detailed understanding of the issues, and thus there could be a delay in Trai's recommendations," a source said.

    Telecom operators have denied that their schemes violate the tenets of net neutrality and have argued that these are helping in spreading the reach of internet as they offer many websites free for surfing.

    Introduced in April, the Airtel Zero plan promises preferential treatment for websites that agree to sign up for the marketing platform by paying a fee. Heavy criticism on social media has already seen big catch Flipkart pull out of the scheme.

    On the other hand, Facebook-promoted aims at providing free basic internet services in countries where access may be less affordable. But it has been criticized for going against net neutrality by offering only a chosen few websites for free, thus restricting the access of scores of other websites.

    Ministry sources said a holistic approach is being adopted to arrive at any solution and the government is looking into the views of the telecom operators as well as OTT players. The views of civil society activists and consumer groups are also being studied, especially in view of lakhs of petitions that were sent Trai on its consultation paper on regulating OTT players.

    "The government though is very clear in its belief that there should be non-discriminatory access to internet for all citizens across the country," a source said, pointing out that Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has already stated this in public meetings.

    The government is also looking into how other countries, including the US and those across within the European region, are dealing with the subject. "It is a complex issue and all efforts are being undertaken to ensure that any best practices, if they are in place somewhere, are also considered by us."

    The source said any decision regarding tariffs will be decided by Trai and not by the Ministry.

Europe Continent Countries & Capitals, Currency with Code
  • NameCapitalCurrencyOfficial language
    Åland IslandsMariehamnEuro(EUR)Swedish
    AndorraAndorra la VellaEuro(EUR)Catalan
    BelarusMinskBelarusian ruble(BYR)Belarusian
    Bosnia and HerzegovinaSarajevoConvertible mark(BAM)Bosnian
    Czech RepublicPragueCzech koruna(CZK)Czech
    DenmarkCopenhagenDanish krone(DKK)Danish
    Faroe IslandsTórshavnFaroese króna (DKK)Faroese
    FranceParisEuro (EUR)
    CFP franc (XPF)
    GibraltarGibraltarGibraltar pound (GIP)English
    GuernseySaint Peter PortPound sterlingc (GBP)English
    IcelandReykjavíkIcelandic króna(ISK)Icelandic
    IrelandDublinEuro (EUR)English
    Isle of ManDouglasManx pound (official)
    Pound sterling(also used) (GBP)
    JerseySaint HelierPound sterlingd (GBP)English
    KosovoPristinaEuro (EUR)Albanian
    LiechtensteinVaduzSwiss franc(CHF)German
    MacedoniaSkopjeMacedonian denar(MKD)Macedonian
    MoldovaChişinăuMoldovan leu(MDL)Moldovan
    MontenegroPodgoricaEuro (EUR)Montenegrin
    NetherlandsAmsterdamEuro (EUR)Dutch
    NorwayOsloNorwegian krone(NOK)Norwegian
    PortugalLisbonEuro (EUR)Portuguese
    RomaniaBucharestRomanian leu(RON)Romanian
    San MarinoSan MarinoEuro(EUR)Italian
    SerbiaBelgradeSerbian dinar(RSD)Serbian
    SvalbardLongyearbyenNorwegian krone (NOK)Norwegian
    SwedenStockholmSwedish krona(SEK)Swedish
    SwitzerlandBernSwiss francGerman
    TransnistriaTiraspolTransnistrian rubled(PRB)Russian
    UkraineKievUkrainian hryvnia(UAH)Ukrainian
    United KingdomLondonPound sterling (GBP)English
    Vatican CityVatican CityEuro(EUR)Italian

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