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Current Affairs - 29 May 2015

Centre vs Delhi govt: AAP challenges MHA notification in HC, Centre moves SC
  • Centre vs Delhi govt: AAP challenges MHA notification in HC, Centre moves SCNEW DELHI: The tussle for power between Delhi lieutenant general Najeeb Jung and the Arvind Kejriwal government will now play out in the courts. 

    Both sides on Thursday knocked the doors of the courts. 

    While the Kejriwal government challenged Centre's notification giving lieutenant governor absolute powers in appointing bureaucrats in Delhi high court, the Centre moved Supreme Court against an earlier Delhi high court order calling its notification 'suspect'. 

    The two petitions will be heard on Friday. 

    Throwing its weight behind Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung in his tussle with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Centre had unambiguously declared that the LG was not obliged to heed the AAP government on bureaucratic postings and transfers. 

    The Centre issued a notification emphasizing that in matters concerning central services; that is, IAS, IPS, DANICS and DANIPS, the LG's discretion is paramount, thus rebuffing Kejriwal's contention that Jung could not act independently of the state government in matters concerning transfers and postings of central officers deputed to Delhi government. 

    The Centre's notification also made it clear that the jurisdiction of Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) police station of Delhi government was restricted only to employees and officers of the Delhi government and did not extend to "officers, employees and functionaries of the central government", thus eliminating the room for any possible action by the Kejriwal-backed department against anyone who is not part of the state government. 

    However, Delhi high court in a ruling on the issue backed the AAP government's stand and called the Centre's notification a 'suspect'.

    The Centre today challenged this order in Supreme Court. 

    Appearing before a bench of Justices A K Sikri and UU Lalit, additional solicitor general Maninder Singh said that the HC order had brought complete uncertainty in the national capital. 

    Singh contended that the high court had erred in adjudication the issue regarding the competence of ACB without issuing notice and hearing the stand of Centre.

CBSE Class 10 results declared
  • CBSE Class 10 results declared
    NEW DELHI/ MUMBAI: Central Board of Secondary Education on Thursday declared the Class 10 results. The announcement was made by the CBSE on its website

    The success rate went down to 97.32% from last year's 98.87%. According to the results, girls have outshined boys — 97.82% of candidates have qualified while among the boys, the percentage is 96.98%.

    The highest percentage of candidates qualifying for higher classes is from the Thiruvananthapuram region — 99.77%. ​Chennai region of which, Maharashtra is a part registered a success rate of 99.03%.

    The announcement came after much confusion over the date of declaration of results.

    More than 13 lakh students appeared for the CBSE Class 10th exams this year which concluded on March 26.

    Students can check their results on the official website.

    The board's post-result counselling at 1800-11-8004, would begin from today and continue till June 8.

Hospitals overwhelmed as heatwave deaths near 1,500
  • Hospitals overwhelmed as heatwave deaths near 1,500NEW DELHI: Hospitals were struggling on Thursday to cope with an influx of victims of a blistering heatwave that has claimed nearly 1,500 lives in just over a week.

    Hundreds of people, mainly from the poorest sections of society, die at the height of summer every year in India, but this year's figures are unusually high.

    In Andhra Pradesh - by far the worst-hit state - 1,020 people have died since May 18, more than double the number of heat-related deaths for the whole of last year.

    In neighbouring Telangana, where temperatures hit 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit) over the weekend, 340 people have died from the heat recently compared to 31 in the whole of last year.

    "Heatwave conditions in 2015 so far have been of a shorter duration, yet with a higher death toll," said Arjuna Srinidhi, programme manager for climate change at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) research group.

    "This could be due to the sudden change in temperatures after a prolonged wet February and March that had kept the temperatures cool."

    Hospitals in New Delhi, where top temperatures have soared to 45 degrees Celsius, were struggling to cope with the fallout.

    "Hospitals are overflowing with heatstroke victims," said Ajay Lekhi, president of the Delhi Medical Association.

    "Patients are complaining of severe headache and dizziness. They are also showing symptoms of delirium," he added, describing a common symptom of severe dehydration.

    Queues outside hospitals

    The surge in demand for electricity from air conditioners led to power cuts in parts of Delhi, exacerbating the misery for residents of the capital.

    Large queues formed outside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, one of Delhi's largest government-run hospitals, where women clutched plastic water bottles and packets of mango juice.

    Others tried to console crying babies, their heads wrapped in handkerchiefs against the blistering sun.

    "Last night there was no electricity for nearly five hours," 31-year-old housewife Seema Sharma told AFP outside the hospital as she waited in line for her four-year-old son to be seen.

    "You can imagine what we must have gone through. He just couldn't sleep and kept on crying. Now he has fever as well," she said.

    Unconfirmed reports said two people had died in Delhi, where tens of thousands sleep on the streets with little protection from the heat.

    State authorities have ordered that air coolers be installed in shelters for homeless people, which are often windowless tin shacks.

    Most are equipped only with small fans, meaning temperatures inside the shelters are often considerably higher than outdoors.

    "When the temperature soars it becomes difficult to sleep inside the tin cabin," 54-year-old Delhi construction worker told the Hindustan Times daily.

    "Sleeping on the road is a much better option."

    Forecasters said there was little hope of any immediate respite from the soaring temperatures in northern India, which have been aggravated by hot, dry winds.

    "We think that these heatwave conditions will take another four to five days to subside," said Brahma Prakash Yadav, director of the Indian Meteorological Department.

    The Press Trust of India news agency reported 43 deaths from the heatwave in the eastern state of Orissa.

    Another 13 succumbed to the heat in neighbouring West Bengal, where unions urged taxi drivers to stay off the roads during the day.

    Two people died in Maharashtra, where authorities said they did not expect conditions to improve until the arrival of monsoon rains in June.

    The monsoon is forecast to hit Kerala towards the end of this month before sweeping across the country, but it will be weeks before the rains reach the arid plains.

‘Maha has deviated from SC order on reforms’
  • Nagpur: Prakash Singh, former director general of police, Uttar Pradesh, and Border Security Force (BSF), was the main architect behind the police reforms. His PIL before the Supreme Court in 1996 paved the way for the latest decision by Maharashtra state director general of police Sanjeev Dayal to separate the wings of investigation and law and order.

    Q. What made you strive for police reforms?

    A. I have served 35 years in the department. During my service, I realized there are numerous hurdles if one aims to achieve something positive. No one wants to see a positive change coming through. There is no appreciation too. My bitter experience forced me to lobby for police reforms after retirement.

    Q. How did it start?

    A. In 1996, I had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the Supreme Court, which had passed an order in 2006. Since then, we were struggling to get the order executed. There is an elaborate history of our struggle on the website for reference.

    Q. Are you happy that Maharashtra has now implemented the order?

    A. I am not happy with the efforts of the Maharashtra government. It has already deviated from the original order and tried to implement in a manner not intended by the court. I have already met Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and handed over a chart showing the deviation.

    Q. Was meeting Fadnavis helpful?

    A. He (Fadnavis) did not commit anything but was courteous and responsive. I requested him to follow the court's guidelines. There are 17 states, including Maharashtra, who have passed laws to bypass the Supreme Court guidelines. We have challenged the mala fide deviations too before the Supreme Court through our counsel Harish Salve around six months ago.

    Q. Do you feel that separating investigation wing from law and order will help?

    A. In big metros, police chiefs are preoccupied with law and order situations. If there is a tense situation, he or she cannot allow it to escalate at any cost. He or she then uses the entire resources to tackle the law and order situation. If there is a dedicated unit for investigation, quality of work would certainly improve.

Ahmedabad gets rival as Surat dons denims
  • AHMEDABAD/SURAT: Gujarat's denim capital is facing competition from the diamond city. With production of over 400 million metres per annum, Ahmedabad is the undisputed leader indenim. However, Surat is catching up fast - four new denim plants with a capacity of about 100 million metres have come up over 18 months. Another half-a-dozen textile makers are expected to set up large denim facilities over the next few years. 

    Companies such as Ultra Denim, R&B Denims, Anubha Industries and Srirajlakshmi Denim have chosen Surat, the country's largest man-made fabric hub meeting over 40% of the fabric demand annually. 

    "We started with 20 million metres annual capacity at Palsana. Expansion is going on for 30 million square metres. Surat is a promising hub for textiles and we intend to start garment manufacturing from denim fabrics in the next couple of years," said Amit Dalmia, director, R&B Denims. 

    Anubha Industires has 10 million metres capacity and plans to increase. Rajasthan-based Sri Rajlakshmi Denim has operationalized a plant at Palsana with planned capacity of 30 million metres. Ultra Denim has invested Rs 100 crore to set up a 30 million metres unit near Surat, which is expected to start operations in two months. 

    Industry says there has always been an opportunity for new players. The capacity addition will continue, they say. "Despite being textile trading hub, denim was missing in Surat. But the business is developing and city-based players are exploring new growth trajectories," said a textile trader from Surat, which has the advantage of being a trading hub for textiles. 

    Internationally, the number of denim-making units in US have come down. This offers a huge opportunity for denim makers in India. "Margins in denim may have shrunk but it is still a profitable business, which has lured many players," added a textile player. 

    Gujarat government's textile policy also promotes weaving and spinning by providing incentives. Also, power subsidy is given to textile players to boost investment in the sector. 

    "Surat is very prosperous for textiles. Surat already has the advantage of weaving and spinning capacities. As a result, Surat-based entrepreneurs do not have to go somewhere else," said DK Nair, secretary, Confederation of Indian Textile Industry. 

Mystery athlete clocks best time, stuns selectors
  • BENGALURU: Call it impersonation or a con job gone awry. The selection trials for Indian men's 4x100m relay squad turned out to be a sham at the Sree Kanteerava stadium on Wednesday. 

    Six athletes, including two reserves, are in the team for the Asian Athletics Championship to be held in Wuhan, China, from June 3 to 7. Last-minute selection trials were held to help the team attain the qualifying mark of 39.18 seconds.
    In a twist to the tale, a seventh athlete who wasn't part of the squad anchored the race and the team came home in 39.11 seconds - well within the qualifying time set by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).

    The trial, conducted under the supervision of AFI secretary CK Valson and national sprints coach Dmitry Vanyaikin of Ukraine, would have gone unnoticed had mediapersons not brought it to the notice of Valson. 
    In fact, the athlete in question made no efforts to hide his identity and was unaware what was ahead as he revealed his name as Manikanda Arumugam. He struck a pose for photographers and celebrated with the team. He was introduced in place of Praveen Muthukumar.
    The trials started after a 90-minute delay with Jyothi Shankar Debnath getting off the block. He was followed by Krishna Kumar Rane, Amiya Kumar Mallick and Arumugam. 
    While Vanyaikin, employed by Sports Authority of India, pumped his fist in the air and celebrated with his team, SAI coach Srinivas, who assists the Ukrainian, identified the fourth runner as Arumugam. He came back a little later to announce there would be another trial, which was shot down by AFI. 
    While the whole drama was unfolding, the result was handed out with the name of the fourth athlete mentioned as Praveen Muthukumar. Only when the media raised questions about the discrepancies, did the cookie crumble. 
    By then, many aspects of the trials weren't adding up. While one of the main runners, Dharambir Singh, did not participate in the trials citing lack of baton-exchange practice, AFI officials or the coaches had no explanation to offer when asked why the reserve runners - Praveen or Abdul Qureshi - were not fielded as replacement. 
    Valson, who was also the observer for the trials, was caught off-guard and admitted he hadn't seen the last leg of the race. When asked about the fate of the team, he said, "It's up to the selection committee to decide whether they want to consider this performance or not. Arumugam is not part of the team. He can't go as of now, but we will try for a late entry. If the selection committee wants a re-trial, it will be conducted. I have also spoken to the coach and will have a discussion with him later."
    According to sources, Vanyaikin defended himself saying he was not aware of the rules in India and thought it was the same as that in many European countries where it was well within rules to field an athlete who is not part of the
    squad. A strange explanation, considering this is his second stint with the Indian team.
    According to SAI sources, Vanyaikin would be questioned before a decision is taken. 

US military mistakenly ships live anthrax to labs in 9 American states and air base in South Korea
  • US military mistakenly ships live anthrax to labs in 9 American states and air base in South KoreaWASHINGTON/NEW YORK: The US military mistakenly sent live anthrax bacteria to laboratories in nine US states and a US air base in South Korea, after apparently failing to properly inactivate the bacteria last year, US officials said on Wednesday.

    The Pentagon said there was no known suspected infection or risk to the public. But four US civilians have been started on preventive measures called post-exposure prophylaxis, which usually includes the anthrax vaccine, antibiotics or both.

    Twenty-two personnel at the base in South Korea were also given precautionary medical measures although none have shown sign of exposure, the US military said.

    The four in the United States face "minimal" risk, said Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has begun an investigation of the incident. They had been "doing procedures that sent the agent into the air," he said.

    When anthrax becomes airborne, it can cause a deadly illness called inhalation anthrax. That occurred in 2001, when anthrax sent through the US mail to government and media targets killed five people.

    The anthrax, which was initially sent from a Utah military lab, was meant to be shipped in an inactive state as part of efforts to develop a field-based test to identify biological threats, the Pentagon said.

    "Out of an abundance of caution, (the Defense Department) has stopped the shipment of this material from its labs pending completion of the investigation," said Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren.

    The CDC said it has launched an investigation of the mishap.

    All samples involved in the investigation will be securely transferred to the CDC or affiliated labs for further testing, spokeswoman Kathy Harden said, adding that CDC has sent officials to the labs "to conduct on-site investigations."

    The mishap comes 11 months after the CDC, one of the government's top civilian labs, similarly mishandled anthrax.

    Researchers at a lab designed to handle extremely dangerous pathogens sent what they believed were killed samples of anthrax to another CDC lab, one with fewer safeguards and therefore not authorized to work with live anthrax.

    Scores of CDC employees could have been exposed to the live anthrax, but none became ill.

    That incident and a similar one last spring, in which CDC scientists shipped what they thought was a benign form of bird flu but which was actually a highly virulent strain, led US lawmakers to fault a "dangerous pattern" of safety lapses at government labs.


    In the latest case, the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah reported in March 2014 that gamma irradiation had inactivated the anthrax stock in question, and along with another Army facility, began shipments that continued through April 2015, a US official said.

    The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the suspected live anthrax samples were sent to US federal, private and academic facilities.

    The anthrax was sent to laboratories in Maryland, Texas, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, California and Virginia, officials said.

    The Maryland laboratory alerted the CDC late on Friday that it had a live sample and by midday on Saturday, the laboratories were notified, the US official said.

    The four civilians receiving post-exposure prophylaxis are in Delaware, Texas and Wisconsin. "Workers who were not in the same area at the same time are not at risk," the CDC's McDonald said.

    The sample sent to South Korea was subsequently destroyed, the Pentagon and the US military there said.

    A US emergency team responded to destroy the sample on Wednesday at the US base after what was expected to be an inactive training sample was thought to be live bacteria, the US military in South Korea said.

    Precautionary medical measures were given to 22 personnel who may have been exposed during the training at the base about 35 km (20 miles) south of Seoul and none of them have shown any sign of exposure, it said.

    Experts in biosafety were astonished by the lapse.

    "These events shouldn't happen," said Stephen Morse of Columbia University, a former program manager for biodefense at the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

    Scientists working with the most dangerous pathogens follow a "two-person rule," never handling samples alone. The second pair of eyes is meant to insure scientists take proper precautions during experiments.

    Two people should also vshipments of supposedly killed anthrax. "We can put greater safeguards in place," Morse said.

Production of pulses down 64%, cereals 30% in state
  • Production of pulses down 64%, cereals 30% in state
    MUMBAI: The state's production of pulses during 2014-15 is set to fall by as much as 64% and cereals by 30% on account of the drought and unseasonal rains over the last year which wrecked the kharif crop. Yields for the rabi or winter crop have also plummeted, raising concerns about the impact on prices. 

    Maharashtra produces about 10% of the country's foodgrains. However, sowing over the last year fell by roughly 35% because of the poor rains, according to figures revealed during a review meeting conducted by the state government on Wednesday . 

    Cash crop yields have also been hit. The production of oil-seeds was estimated to have fallen by 54% and cotton by 58% during last year's kharif season. The only crop that did well was sugarcane, which saw a 17% rise. 

    The kharif or monsoon crop is the main crop in the state. However, the rabi crop was also impacted by the constant spells of unseasonal rain. As a result, the yield of rabi pulses is expected to fall by 45% and cereals by 23%, the figures showed. 

    When asked how the government will combat a likely food price spiral, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the state was hopeful of a better crop this year. "The Indian Meteorological Department has predicted that the monsoon will be 93% of the average. A private agency has predicted the monsoon will be 103% of the average. In any case, we are well prepared for the kharif season ahead," he said. 

    Fadnavis said the state's farmers had received Rs 1,600 crore worth of crop insurance.Banks have been instructed to reschedule loans and allow farmers fresh crop loans for the new kharif season this year. The state government also plans to inform farmers about weather forecasts through text messages on their mobile phones so they can plan their crops accordingly . "We provide the service to 10 lakh farmers. We hope to increase this to 50 lakh farmers," said Fadnavis. 

India tipped to overtake China in Modi's first year despite sluggish feel
  • EconomyNEW DELHI: When India releases data on Friday that is expected to show the economy growing faster than China for a second consecutive quarter, scepticcould be forgiven for asking: Why does it feel so slow?

    Celebrating his first year in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has basked in the success of transforming India into the fastest growing major economy.

    "The economy is not as strong as the GDP numbers might suggest," said Shilan Shah, India Economist at Capital Economics. "The numbers should not have any bearing on policies and both the central bank as well as the government should look at other activity indicators."

    The robust headline growth is hard to square with weak industrial activity, grim corporate earnings and an elusive recovery in bank credit.

    The median estimate from a Reuters poll of economists put GDP growth at 7.3 percent in the January-March quarter, slowing from 7.5 percent in the previous quarter.

    For the 2014/15 fiscal year ending in March growth is expected at 7.4 percent, up from 6.9 percent in 2013/14, using the new series.

    That is a startling turnaround from the previous data series that showed the economy was still struggling to gather steam after posting two successive years of growth below 5 percent - the longest spell of such low growth in a quarter century.

    If India was doing so well there might be far less need for the central bank to lower interest rates for a third time this year, as analysts expect it to do at a policy review on Tuesday.

    But, the economy is still suffering from slack. Corporate sales and industrial production are down.

    Merchandise exports have fallen for five months in a row.

    Output of cement and steel, a proxy for construction, has been extremely weak. Growth in bank credit in the fiscal year ending in March was the slowest in two decades.

    Arvind Subramanian, the government's chief economic adviser, this week likened the state of the economy to flying on "one-and-a-half engines".

    "Bad stuff has stopped happening, but the good stuff is still waiting to happen," he said.

    Whereas India's statisticians changed their calculation of GDP to come into line with global practices, it has left economists inside and outside government groping for a clear interpretation of the data.


    The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has warned the new series is clouding the picture, and reckons growth is still slow in picking up. Still, the economy is in better shape than when Modi took the reins a year ago with the slogan "good days are coming".

    He has been helped by a dramatic slide in global crude prices that has cooled inflation and helped narrow the fiscal and current account deficits, giving the RBI leeway to cut interest rates.

    Modi's drive to make it easier to do business in India has generated optimism, and has led to a marked increase in foreign direct investment.

    A massive increase in the government's planned spending on roads, railways and ports this year is expected to break a persistent investment logjam.

    Yet, businesses complain that too little has changed and are reluctant to ramp up investment, as their balance sheets are already stretched. Banks, saddled with mounting bad debt, are also cautious lenders.

    "So far, not enough has been achieved to suggest that India can fulfil its economic potential over the medium term," said Shah of Capital Economics.

North America Continent Countries & Capitals,Currency with Code
NameCapitalCurrencyOfficial language
AnguillaThe ValleyEast Caribbean dollar(XCD)English
Antigua and BarbudaSt. John’sEast Caribbean dollar (XCD)English
ArubaOranjestadAruban florin (AWG)Papiamento
BahamasNassauBahamian dollar (BSD)English
BarbadosBridgetownBarbadian dollar (BBD)English
BelizeBelmopanBelize dollar (BZD)English
BermudaHamiltonBermudian dollarc (BMD)English
BonaireKralendijkUnited States dollar (USD)Dutch
British Virgin IslandsRoad TownUnited States dollar (USD)English
CanadaOttawaCanadian dollar (CAD)French
Cayman IslandsGeorge TownCayman Islands dollar (KYD)English
Clipperton IslanduninhabitedEuro(EUR)French
Costa RicaSan JoséCosta Rican colón (CRC)Spanish
CubaHavanaPeso (CUP)
Convertible peso (CUC)
CuraçaoWillemstadNetherlands Antillean guilder (ANG)Papiamento
DominicaRoseauEast Caribbean dollar (XCD)English
Dominican RepublicSanto DomingoDominican peso (DOP)Spanish
El SalvadorSan SalvadorUnited States dollara (USD)Spanish
GreenlandNuukDanish krone (DKK)Greenlandic
GrenadaSt. George’sEast Caribbean dollar (XCD)English
GuatemalaGuatemala CityGuatemalan quetzal (GTQ)Spanish
HaitiPort-au-PrinceHaitian gourde (HTG)French
HondurasTegucigalpaHonduran lempira (HNL)Spanish
JamaicaKingstonJamaican Dollar (JMD)English
MexicoMexico CityMexican peso (MXN)Spanish
MontserratPlymouth (official)East Caribbean dollar (XCD)English
Navassa IslandInsular area of the United States of AmericaUnited States Dollar (USD)English
NicaraguaManaguaNicaraguan cordoba (NIO)Spanish
PanamaPanama CityBalboa(PAB),
United States dollar (USD)
Puerto RicoSan JuanUnited States Dollar (USD)English
SabaThe BottomUnited States Dollar (USD)Dutch
Saint BarthélemyGustaviaEuro (EUR)French
Saint Kitts and NevisBasseterreEast Caribbean dollar (XCD)English
Saint LuciaCastriesEast Caribbean dollar (XCD)English
Saint MartinMarigotEuro(EUR)French
Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint-PierreEuro(EUR)French
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesKingstownEast Caribbean dollar (XCD)English
Sint EustatiusOranjestadUnited States Dollar (USD)Dutch
Sint MaartenPhilipsburgNetherlands Antillean guilder (ANG)Dutch
Trinidad and TobagoPort of SpainTrinidad and Tobago dollar (TTD)English
Turks and Caicos IslandsCockburn TownUnited States Dollar (USD)English
United StatesWashington, D.C.United States Dollar (USD)Many,
National language – English
United States Virgin IslandsCharlotte AmalieUnited States Dollar (USD)English

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