Current Affairs India - 9 January 2014

1. India has been ranked 23rd out of 25 countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials, as per the 2014 Nuclear Threat Initiative-s Nuclear Materials Security Index released yesterday. India received 41 out of 100 points, which is improvement by one point from the 2012 score. With this ranking, India has been ranked below its two nuclear-armed neighbours, Pakistan and China as China was ranked at 20th place with 64 points and Pakistan was ranked at 22nd place with 46 points. For comparison, India and these countries are included in the list of 25 countries with one kilogram or more of these materials, which also includes all other nuclear-armed states.

In comparing both countries, India scored higher than China on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 related to nuclear security issues. China scored higher in a number of areas, including: the existence of an independent regulatory agency; having invited a peer review of its nuclear security arrangements; and having strong regulations for control and accounting of materials.

2. The high-level Vijay Kelkar Committee has favoured the current production sharing regime for high-risk deep sea oil and gas exploration over the revenue-sharing model that is being considered for the next round of auction in its two-part report on a road map to enhance domestic oil and gas output to Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily this week. While the first part of the report deals with -Quick Fixes- such as shifting to an open acreage regime, setting up a data repository, administering signed contracts and strengthening the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH), the second part covers pricing and taxation. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had earlier criticised this approach on grounds that it encourages companies to increase capital expenditure and delay the government-s share.

3. Union Cabinet has approved the new National Youth Policy-2014 to empower the youth across the country to use their full potential. The new Policy focuses on developing the youth into a productive work force, by providing them the right education and skills and promoting entrepreneurship.

Cabinet also approved comprehensive regulatory framework in the form of guidelines for Television Rating Agencies in India. These guidelines cover detailed procedures for registration of rating agencies, eligibility norms, terms and conditions of registration, cross-holdings and methodology for audience measurement. He said it also covers a complaint redressal mechanism, sale and use of ratings, audit, disclosure, reporting requirements and action on non-compliance of guidelines.

4. Former BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa, whose tenure as Chief Minister was marked by charges of corruption and nepotism, rejoined BJP merging his Karnataka Janata Paksha with it today, a year after his exit from the parent party. It will boost BJP-s confidence before the Lok Sabha election this year as the party seeks to revive its fortunes in Lok Sabha polls with his pan state image combined with his appeal as Lingayat strongman. Earlier, Indicted by Lokayukta over illegal mining issue, BJP top brass had forced a reluctant Yeddyurappa to quit as Chief Minister in July 2011.

5. In a significant breather for non-banking finance companies, especially gold loan companies, the Reserve Bank of India has allowed them to give higher amount of loan against gold jewellery pledged by borrowers with immediate effect. As per latest RBI guidelines, NBFCs can now give up to 75% of the value of the gold jewellery pledged as loan compared to earlier 60%.  In March 2012, the RBI had directed NBFCs not to give more than 60% of the value of gold jewellery pledged in view of the rapid pace of their business growth and the nature of their business model, which has inherent concentration risk and is exposed to adverse movement of gold prices.

6. The Chennai-based poet and activist Meena Kandasamy won the Mayilamma Award named after the `Plachimada Heroine- who had campaigned against the Coca-Cola company at Kerala-s Plachimada village. Meena won the award for her social activism and efforts for the empowerment of women. The Rs. 15,555-award, set up by the Mayillamma Foundation, will be presented in March at a ceremony at Palakkad.

Mayilamma, a former worker at the Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Ltd bottling plant at Plachimada, found that the company had caused the drying up of 64 open wells and caused the contamination of the ground water in the area. She founded the Plachimada Anti-Coca Cola Struggle Committee that campaigned for several years and sat in dharna near the plant for more than three years to get the factory shut down.

7. Annual car sales in India declined for the first time in 11 years in 2013, after posting a 9.59% drop, as the auto industry continues to face lower demand due to the economic slowdown, higher interest and higher fuel prices, as per the Industry body the Society of Indian Automobile Industry (SIAM). Domestic car sales last year dropped to 18,07,011 units in 2013 from 19,98,703 units in the previous year.

8. Global social networking giant Facebook acquired India-based Little Eye Labs, a startup that builds performance analysis and monitoring tools for mobile Android apps, for nearly USD 15 million. This is Facebook-s first ever India-based acquisition. The Bangalore based startup company, Little Eye Labs, was co- founded by a group of experts who call themselves "ions" in 2012. As part of the Facebook acquisition, Little Eye Labs will relocate to Menlo Park, California, the home of Facebook's headquarters. The Little Eye Labs technology will help Facebook to continue improving our Android codebase to make more efficient, higher-performing apps.