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23 June 2014

CurrentAffairs: June 13, 2014

“Garuda-V”: Indo-French Air drill concludes at AFS Jodhpur

The Indo-French Air Drill “Garuda V” which began on June 3, 2014 successfully concluded at Air Force Station (AFS) Jodhpur in Rajasthan. During this exercise both the air forces performed various combat roles including Air to Air re-fuelling. The exercise provided significant mutual learning opportunity to both Air Forces.
The French team participated with 4 Rafales and 1 C-135 French Refueller aircraft while the Indian side exercised 4 Su-30MKI, 4 MiG 21 Bison, 4 MiG 27 (Upg), as well as an IL-78 tanker aircraft and an Airborne Warning and control system IL-76 (AWACS).
Both the sides benefitted from the drill by executing difficult and realistic missions and sharing of know-how and operational lessons.  This is likely to improve the operational capabilities of both the forces as well as consolidate the cooperation between French and Indian Air Forces.

India becomes permanent member of Washington Accord

A long wait for India ended when the country became a permanent member of theWashington Accord, an esteemed international treaty on engineering studies and mobility of engineers across signatory countries including the US, the UK and Australia. Permanent membership reflects on the country’s stature in the technical education space. Until now, India has been just a provisional member since 2007.
The meeting of the International Engineering Alliance of WA member nations met in Wellington, New Zealand and gave India the signatory status to join the select group of nations who are permanent signatories to the Washington Accord (WA). This will ensure highest quality assurance standards to be implemented in our technical and engineering programmes and provide global mobility to our engineering graduates​. It will significantly enhance their employment opportunities around the world.
The Washington Accord:
It is an international accreditation treaty for professional engineering academic degrees, between the bodies responsible for accreditation in its signatory nations. Initially when the Washington Accord came into force in 1989, only 6 developed countries were its members.
As of 2014, the signatories are: Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Hong KongChina, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The accord acknowledges that there is significant uniformity of programs accredited by those signatories. Every signatory countries recognizes the graduates of accredited programs by every other signatory countries as having met the academic requirements for entry to the practice of engineering. Recognition of accredited programs is not retroactive but takes effect only from the date of admission of the country to signatory status.
The treaty covers undergraduate engineering degrees under Outcome-based education approach. The accord doesn’t take into account engineering technology and postgraduate programs, although some engineering technology programs are covered under the Sydney Accord and the Dublin Accord. Only qualifications granted after the signatory country or region became part of the Washington Accord are recognized. The pact is not directly responsible for the licensing or registration of Professional Engineers and Chartered Engineers, but it does cover the academic prerequisites that are part of the licensing processes in countries party to the accord.

RBI mulling over Payment bank as recommended by Nachiket Mor Panel

The Reserve Bank of India will soon come up with India’s first payments bank, which will offer deposit and payment services but not provide loans. 
This idea is in line with the recommendations made by the Nachiket Morcommittee. The central bank sees huge potential for financial inclusion with focus on remittances by involving payment system product.
As per the RBI, while full-service banks require an entry capital of Rs.500 crore, payments banks can start operations with a capital of just Rs.50 crore since all their money will be invested in safe government securities.
They will be required to comply with all RBI guidelines for commercial banks.
According to the recommendations of Nachiket Mor committee:
  • Permission should be given to existing banks to create subsidiaries to operate payments banks.
  • Payments banks may be created by converting prepaid payment issuers (PPIs). These companies provide cards that customers can use to make payments with the money stored in them. There are 27 PPIs in the country, including Itz Cash Card Ltd, Oxigen Services (India) Pvt. Ltd and Airtel M Commerce Services Ltd.
Entry of payments banks made easier:
In order to expedite the process, the RBI will soon start its differentiated bankinglicence regime, where the central bank issues licences to new banks to undertake specific banking operations.The apex bank will also issue licences on a continuous basis to qualified aspirants instead of opening the licensing window after long intervals.The payments bank route is important for India Post, which failed to secure a banking licence. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said that India Post could begin as a payments bank. All these efforts are being made to promote financial inclusion in India, where more than half of the adult population still does not have access to banking services.
The RBI first introduced a 3-year financial inclusion programme in April 2010 to promote financial inclusion that witnessed banks opening outlets in 200,000 villages. Subsequently, it launched the phase II of the programme for 2013-2016.

UNGA elects Ugandan Foreign Minister as President of 69th session

Uganda’s foreign minister Sam Kahamba Kutesa has been unanimously elected as the President of the 193-membered United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).  He was in news recently for defending the Ugandan government’s stringent anti-homosexuality law which President Yoweri Museveni signed in February 2014.
The members of the UNGA elect its president annually with a different regional grouping providing a candidate or candidates. Since it was Africa’s turn to nominate a President, Mr. Kutesa was chosen unanimously by the African Unionas the only candidate for the presidency of the upcoming 69th Session.  However, Western nations and human rights advocates have expressed concerns over the Uganda’s widely criticized anti-homosexuality legislation.

Gujarat gets NCA approval to raise height of Narmada Dam

The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has given nod to raise the height of theSardar Sarovar Dam by 17 metres to 138.62 metres, which, on its completion, would allow Gujarat to get three times more water for irrigation. The new height would make it the second highest dam in the world after Grand Coulee in the US.
A higher dam will improve the efficiency of hydro-power generation and water supply capacity of this project, and is likely to benefit not just Gujarat but also adjacent states of Rajashthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Gujarat has been waiting for this decision for last 8 years.
Activist Medha Patkar, who drew attention to the dislocation of thousands of people as a result of this move, is protesting the decision and has called the move undemocratic.
As per Patkar, the dam with its current height has 2 lakh people in its affected region. If the height is increased by 17 metres, the thickly populated villages in Nimad area of Madhya Pradesh with houses, farms, shops, temples, mosques and standing crops would be submerged. The centre will allow Gujarat to raise the height of the dam from existing 121.91m to 138.7m
Benefits of Project:
  • Irrigation water to 1.8 million hectares to benefit one million farmers.
  • Drinking water for 9,633 villages and 131 towns
Who gets what:
  • WATER: Rajasthan (1.79%), Maharashtra (0.89%), Gujarat (32.14%), Madhya Pradesh (65.18%)
  • POWER: Maharashtra (27%), Gujarat (16%), Madhya Pradesh (57%)

Internet not responsible for newspaper decline: Study

As per a research conducted by Professor Matthew Gentzkow of University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Internet may actually not be responsible for the sharp decline of the traditional newspaper industry as most of us believe. Researchers have found that the web may actually not have prompted this fall. Majority accepts the fact that the Internet did have a role in killing newspapers. As per the common belief, the newspaper business was growing before the mid-90s with quality journalism and pages of ads. Then, the general population started drifting towards the Internet, and the popularity of print started declining. However, as per Gentzkow, the assumptions about journalism are based on three false grounds. These are:
  1. The online advertising revenues are naturally lower than print revenues, so that traditional media needs to adopt a less profitable business model that can’t support paying real reports.
  2. The web has made the advertising market more competitive which has driven down rates and revenues.
  3. The Internet is responsible for the newspaper’s demise.
Evidence given by the research discarding the above beliefs: 
  • Several previous researches have shown that people spend an order of magnitude more time reading than the average monthly visitor online, which makes looking at these rates as analogous false.
  • On comparing the amount of time people actually see an ad, it was found that the price of attention for similar consumers is actually higher online.
  • The popularity of newspapers had already significantly reduced between 1980 and 1995, well before the Internet revolution, and has decreased at roughly the same rate since then.

Delhi government gives nod to Rapid Rail corridors to Alwar, Meerut, Panipat

The Delhi government has approved the alignments of the three Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) corridors. These corridors will link the Delhi withPanipat, Meerut and Alwar. These three alignments were recommended by theNational Capital Regional Planning Board (NCRPB). To start work on the project a similar approval is required from other state governments for the same.
The total length of the three corridors is 349 km, as the Delhi-Alwar corridor will terminate at Delhi-Gurgaon border. The Delhi-Meerut corridor will be via Anand Vihar and Sarai Kale Khan and would be supported by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). The Delhi-Panipat corridor would go up to Kashmere Gate.
National Capital Region Transport Corporation Limited (NCRTC) will function as the implementing agency for RRTS projects in the NCR.
It will be responsible for designing, developing, implementing, financing, operating and maintaining RRTS on a pattern similar to the Delhi Metro.

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