2013 – April

Current Affairs for April, 2013

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01 Apr – Supreme Court rejects Novartis AG’s plea to preserve patent for cancer drug Glivec

The Supreme Court of India has rejected Swiss drug maker Novartis AG’s plea to preserve patent for its cancer drug Glivec, ending fears among patients of a 15-fold price increase of the drug if Novartis won the patent. Glivec, invented in 1991, is a miracle cure for a type of fatal blood cancer called chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and has produced results of over 95% survival rate among affected patients. India has an estimated 3 lakh CML patients, with 20,000 added every year. Glivec is sold by Novartis for about Rs 1.2 lakh per month whereas Indian manufacturers sell the same drug at a monthly cost of only Rs 8,000. The Supreme Court’s judgement means that Indian companies like Natco and Cipla can continue making and selling Glivec to India and most third world countries. The Indian pharma market is $11 billion, growing at 13 – 14% annually and
Indian companies sell over $26 billion worth of cheap non-patent drugs to most of the poor and still developing countries.

Glivec was first commercially sold in India in 2001 and the new patent law came into force in 2005. The patent tribunal rejected Novartis’s claim for a patent in 2006 as it dated from an earlier time when a different patent law prevailed. After going through various appeals, Novartis appealed in the apex court pleading that a crucial section 3 (d) of the new patent law was not applicable to Glivec. This section says that just discovering a new form of a substance is not enough to grant a patent, if it does not enhance its “known efficacy”. Novartis was arguing that a new “beta crystalline” form of Glivec is more effective and hence qualifies as a new invention, and hence should get patent protection. The Supreme Court said that the beta crystalline form was nothing new. It has always existed in the original amorphous form and hence could not be patented.

01 Apr – Shuffling in BJP, Modi appointed to Parliamentary Board

Parliamentary Board:
The BJP has appointed Narendra Modi to the party’s Parliamentary Board, the party’s top decision making body as well as to its main election committee. BJP President Rajnath Singh backed Modi’s appointment saying that Modi deserved to be on the Parliamentary Board because of his stature as the only BJP chief minister to have won three consecutive assembly elections as well as by virtue of being the party’s most popular face. The decision is significant since Rajnath has thwarted opposition to Modi within the party to appoint him to the two committees taking key decisions in the run up to the 2014 elections. Rajnath also inducted a lot of fresh faces in his team and tried to reconcile the demands from all lobbies within the party.
General Secretaries: Modi confidant and former Gujarat minister of state for home, Amit Shah and Pilibhit MP Varun Gandhi have been appointed as general Secretaries. Vice Presidents: Smriti Irani, Uma Bharti and S S Ahluwalia have been made vice-presidents
Omissions: senior BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh, who had previously voiced their discontent with Modi, have been dropped from the committee. Najma Heptulla, Hema Malini and Shanta Kumar have been removed from their posts as vice-presidents.

02 Apr – Reliance Industries signs Rs. 1,200 crore deal with Reliance Communications

The telecommunication unit of Mukesh Ambani owned Reliance Industries has signed a 1200 crore deal to use Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications fibre optic network to roll out its 4G services. This is the first ever deal since the two brothers split their father’s business enterprise 8 years ago. As part of the deal, Reliance Jio Infocomm, the telecom arm of RIL, which is the only company to have 4G airwaves for all of India’s 22 service areas, will get access to Reliance Communications’ national and international optic fibre. The deal is supposed to be the first in a comprehensive framework of intended business cooperation and will benefit the debt-laden Reliance Communications.

03 Apr – New anti-rape law comes into force

Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 brought in the President aftermath of the Delhi gang rape case which provides for life term and even death sentence for rape convicts besides stringent punishment for offences like acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism. The law was passed by Lok Sabha on March 19 and by Rajya Sabha on March 21.With an aim to prevent heinous crimes such as rape, the new law states that an offender can be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life, meaning imprisonment for the remainder of the convict’s natural life and with a fine. It has provisions for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted earlier for such crimes. The law, for the first time, defines stalking and voyeurism as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time.

04 Apr – Deep seabed mining of polymetallic nodules to become a reality

Polymetallic Nodules will mine polymetallic nodules in a 58,000 sq. km. U.K. firm Lockheed Martin, for the first time in the world, area in the Pacific Ocean. This venture could add 40 billion pounds to the U.K. economy over the next 30 years. India, which has been a pioneer to invest in research of polymetallic nodules in the deep seabed, has been allocated 150,000 sq. km in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for pursuing mining of nodules. The Indian Ocean has a vast area of 10-18 million sq.km covered by polymetallic nodules. Of this, the mass of polymetallic nodules in the area allocated to India (Indian Pioneer area) is estimated to be 380 million metric tonnes (mmt). Of the total amount, manganese may account for about 92.60 mmt whereas metals like cobalt, nickel and copper account for 0.56 mmt, 4.70 mmt and 4.30 mmt
respectively. The mining of these metals is of extreme importance to India which does not have a terrestrial source of these metals. However technology for this is still at a nascent stage and the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chennai is developing the technology for mining polymetallic nodules found at a depth of 6000 metres on the Indian Ocean.

08 Apr – Pakistan allowed US drone strikes in secret deal by insisting drones should avoid mountains camps where Kashmiri militants were trained

An article from the book “The Way of the Knife: The C.I.A., a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth,” to be published by Penguin Press reveals a covert deal between the United States’ C.I.A and Pakistani’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to engage in drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. In a secret deal, the C.I.A. had agreed to kill Nek Muhammad, a Pakistani ally of the Taliban who led a tribal rebellion and was marked by Pakistan as an enemy of the state, in exchange for access to airspace it had long sought so it could use drones to hunt down its own enemies. Muhammad’s rise to power ultimately forced Pakistani authorities to allow US drones into Pakistani airspace. Ultimately, Muhammad was killed by a drone strike in June2004 which the Pakistani military claimed was its own handiwork. The terms of the negotiations were stunning. ISI agreed to allow armed drone flights over the tribal areas but insisted that US drones couldn’t venture where Pakistan’s nuclear facilities were situated or the mountain camps where Kashmiri militants were trained for attacks on India. ISI also asserted that each drone strike would be approved by them giving them complete control on the selection of targets.
The C.I.A. has since conducted drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed a huge number of militants and civilians alike and which is the subject of a major debate in the United States. Pakistan seemed to have become the testing ground for targeted killing operations that have come to define a new American way of fighting, ignoring the normal mechanisms by which the United States goes to war.

09 Apr – Supreme Court cuts down austerity measures in Portugal, government warns of Portugal Recession woes severe economic

Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho has warned that his government would be forced to introduce more spending cuts and people would face more difficulties in everyday life after Portugal’s constitutional court struck down four of nine contested austerity measures that the government had introduced last year as part of a 2013 budget that included about 5 billion of tax increases and spending cuts. The court ruled as unconstitutional and discriminatory the government’s plans to cut holiday bonuses for civil servants and pensioners, as well as to reduce sick leave and unemployment benefits. The ruling left the government short of about 1.4 billion of expected revenue, or more than one-fifth of the 2013 austerity package. In May 2011,
Portugal became the third Eurozone country, after Greece and Ireland, to negotiate an international bailout. Portugal had received 78 billion from the International Monetary Fund and European creditors in return for introducing spending cuts and tax increases. However, it has failed to meet its economic goals and plunged further into one of the most prolonged and deepest economic recessions in the Eurozone, prompting street demonstrations and labour strikes.

09 Apr – Notices to Vodafone, Essar, HSBC for Rs. 35000 crore under-reporting;Adani, Tata, Essar, JSW face Rs. 2500 crore import duty evasion charges

Tax authorities in Mumbai circle have issued notices to four Essar group firms, Vodafone India Services, HSBC Securities & Capital Markets and Bharti Telecom for under-reporting revenues amounting to Rs 35,000 crore because of lower valuation of transactions. A sizeable portion of this amount is on account of the difference in valuation of shares between the companies and the government’s transfer pricing department. Transfer pricing is the price at which related companies or associated enterprises transact with each other. In another case, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has accused Adani Power, Tata Power, Essar Power and JSW Energy and other companies of evading import duty amounting to Rs. 2500 crore on coal imports worth about Rs. 28,000 crore. The companies had allegedly imported bituminous coal by labeling it as steam coal to lower their duty outgo. But the power ministry has disputed DRI’s claim and supported the cause of producers who argued that there was ambiguity in a finance ministry directive that allowed a lower duty regime for steam coal.

11 Apr – Mukesh Ambani to take on lease 50,000 towers owned by Anil Ambani’s Reliance Infratel

Mukesh Ambani owned Reliance Jio Infocomm will take on lease 50,000 towers owned by Anil Ambani’s Reliance Infratel to launch his 4G mobile services business. This is a part of intended business collaborations between the two brothers. A few days ago, Reliance Jio Infocomm had struck a Rs 1,200-crore deal to share fibre optic network of Reliance Communications. The telecom infrastructure deal will provide a ready platform for Mukesh to launch his 4G business and provide a steady flow of revenues to Anil to manage his debt.

12 Apr – SFI activists heckle Mamata Banerjee to protest SFI leader Sudipto Gupta’s death; in retaliation Trinamool vandalize Presidency University

Left supporters heckled West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Finance Minister Amit Mitra outside the Planning Commission Office in New Delhi to protest the death of SFI leader Sudipto Gupta in police custody. Sudipto Gupta, an SFI leader, was allegedly killed in police custody on April 2nd after he was thrashed brutally by the police while leading a peace protest March in Kolkata. Mamata maintained that Sudipto’s head hit a lamp post when he put his head out while being taken in a police van whereas according to the police, Sudipto fell from the bus carrying SFI supporters and died. The incident has outraged a large number of students and incited protests from all quarters. The Left has demanded a judicial probe into the cause of death. Mamata faced strong criticism from the Left after she termed the incident a ‘petty’ matter. In protests against the heckling of party leaders, Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad members vandalized and ransacked the physics department of Presidency University on April 13th and assaulted students, including women. The Trinamool Congress termed the incident trivial and blamed the media for giving more importance to the vandalism than the heckling of Banerjee.

12 Apr – Infosys misses its annual revenue guidance and forecasts slow revenue growth for 2013-14

Infosys missed its full-year revenue guidance by 0.97 per cent in rupee terms and 0.6 per cent in dollar terms despite an 18.1 percent increase in revenues in the third quarter ending March 31st. Infosys also announced that its revenue growth forecast for 2013-14 would be 6 to 10 percent which is much lower than the industry average of 12 to 14 percent projected by NASSCOM. This prompted Infosys’ shares to dip by over 20 percent. Infosys reported revenues of Rs. 40,352 crore for 2012-13, up by 19.6 per cent compared to the previous financial year. However, on a sequential basis, revenues grew by a mere 0.3 per cent. Infosys cited the volatile business environment as the reason for the low revenue guidance for 2013-14.

15 Apr – 3 killed and more than 140 wounded at Boston Marathon Bomb blasts

Two powerful bombs exploded at the popular Boston Marathon killing 3 and critically injuring over 140 people. The two blasts occurred within seconds on a sidewalk along the 42-kilometre route of the Boston Marathon, where thousands of people had lined up to cheer on the marathoners. Although no militant outfit has claimed responsibility for the blasts, White House is approaching it as an act of terror. FBI has revealed that bombing was carried out with kitchen pressure-cookers packed with explosives, nails and other lethal shrapnel.

15 Apr – Gold prices drop 9 percent, biggest one-day fall in 30 years

Gold prices plunged $140.30 to $1,361.10 an ounce on Monday, 15th April, a decline of 9% and its biggest one-day drop since 1983. In the last two trading days, the price of Gold has dropped $200 an ounce i.e. nearly a drop of 13 percent. After the sharp drop in gold prices, worried traders hurried to sell their shares and move out of the market. Gold is often seen as a safe investment and investors tend to invest in gold when they are fearful of rising prices and sell it when they see inflation receding. A proposal to Cyprus to help its banks by selling off some of its gold reserves led investors to a selling frenzy as they worried that Spain, Italy and other weak European countries might also sell their gold reserves, at a time when the demand for the metal is

15 Apr – BJP must name Prime Ministerial candidate by year end, rule out Narendra Modi; demands Nitish Kumar

A rift in the National Democratic Alliance seems apparent after the BJP rejected JD (U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s demand that the BJP rule out Narendra Modi as the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate in 2014. Kumar also demanded that the BJP name its Prime Ministerial candidate by the year-end to avoid bringing in Modi suddenly, either in the immediate run-up to the polls or afterwards. In a hard-hitting speech, Kumar, without taking names, rejected Modi’s candidature for the PM’s post by citing lack of secular credentials and a growth model which cannot address the issue of malnutrition or drinking water. The BJP responded by saying that it rejected all unfounded inferences against Narendra Modi and reprimanded Nitish
for losing focus of removing the UPA coalition.

16 Apr – Massive Earthquake strikes Iran, 40 feared dead; tremors felt in North India too

A powerful earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck the border regions between Iran and Pakistan. The quake happened at 10.44am and tremors were felt across the Gulf region, across Pakistan and parts of North-West India. The epicenter of the earthquake was 50miles to the remote town of Khash in South East Iran. 40 people were feared to be dead as communications were cut off from the affected regions in Iran and Pakistan.

19 Apr – Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf arrested

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has been arrested for not cooperating with police officials investigating a case registered against him for imposing an emergency in 2007 and detaining over 60 members of the superior judiciary, including chief justice Iftikhar Choudhry. The police want Musharraf to be placed in judicial custody and don’t want to keep him in jail because of threats to his life. Musharraf has been disqualified for the May 11 parliamentary election because of the criminal charges. In a related development, a Pakistani anti-terrorism court, conducting the trial of suspects charged with involvement in the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, has ordered that former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf be included in the investigation process. Investigators said that Musharraf, despite being aware of the danger to Ms. Bhutto’s life, did not take the adequate security measures to prevent her assassination.

20 Apr – Gold prices increase by Rs. 500 /10 gram on retail sales

Gold prices increased by Rs. 500 in Delhi to reach 27,000 per 10 gram, on 20th April, after the recent meltdown in global bullion prices. The gold in New York climbed 1.4 per cent to 1,412.40 dollar an ounce and spurted one per cent to Rs. 26,069 per 10 gram on the MCX. The recovery of gold prices was backed by retailers buying it at attractive low levels. The increase was further fuelled on speculators covering their short positions created in the bear markets and a rise in futures trade on the Multi Commodity Exchange. However, buying activity was mostly confined to gold as silver continued to fall for the sixth straight day on April 20th by losing Rs. 100 to Rs. 45,300 per kg. Despite the recent crash in Gold prices, the RBI’s gold stock of about 400 tonnes, currently valued at $25.7 billion, has appreciated 41% since it bought 200 tonnes in October-November 2009 from the International Monetary Fund. During the same period, returns from alternative liquid assets were just one- fourth of gold. The share of gold in its $295-billion foreign exchange reserves is 8.7%, up from less than 5% at the time of the purchase from IMF and its value is substantially higher than the returns from other currencies in its reserves.

22 Apr – Sahara India amongst top defaulters, owes Rs. 3,341.67 lakh to the Employees’ Provident Fund Organization

Sahara India faces fresh allegations of owing Rs. 3,341.67 lakh as dues and is amongst the top defaulters of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO). Five of the group firms are part of the top 50 companies in the country that have defaulted on depositing contributions to the Employees’ Pension Fund on behalf of its employees. It is a criminal offence for an employer to deduct but not deposit employees’ provident fund and related contributions. In such cases, the EPFO can also seize property of the defaulter to recover dues and can be charged under the Indian Penal code. Currently, Sahara India is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) for not refunding Rs. 24,000 crore, collected from over 3 crore investors.

23 Apr – Standing Committee on Coal and Steel says all coal blocks awarded after 1993 illegal

The standing committee on Coal and Steel has said that all coal blocks distributed between 1993 and 2008 were done in an unauthorized manner and allotment of all mines where production is yet to start should be cancelled. The committee has also recommended that all personnel directly or indirectly involved in the allocation should be investigated. The committee’s report is in line with the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report of August 17, 2013, which says that the government extended windfall benefit of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore to private entities by distributing blocks without bidding. The allegations have put the UPA government in a bad light with the opposition demanding its removal.

23 Apr – Bengal Chit Fund boss Sudipta Sen held in Jammu and Kashmir

Sudipta Sen, the alleged kingpin of West Bengal’s multi-crore chit fund scam has been arrested along with Saradha group executive director Debjani Mukherjee and a senior official of Saradha’s Jharkhand Operations, Arvind Chauhan, at a hotel of Sonamarg on the Shrinagar-Leh highway. On 10th April, Sen fled to Ranchi, where he changed his car and drove through a 2500 km road stretch before finally checking into the posh hotel of Sonmarg. SEBI has barred Saradha Reality from the Securities Market and ordered it to close all its collective schemes and refund the money collected from investors within three months. The West Bengal government has frozen about 35 bank accounts, while 36 cars and four office buildings belonging to Saradha Chairman Sudipta Sen and his company have been seized. Lakhs of investors of the chit fund group have hit the roads alleging they have been duped of over Rs 30,000 crore. An agent of the company tried to commit suicide and a woman who had deposited 30,000 with the company set herself on fire.

Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress is facing accusations of being in close links with the fraud company. Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh headed Saradha’s media interests whereas another Trinamool MP, Shatabdi Roy, featured in Saradha’s promotional material. The opposition also alleged that Mamata Banerjee had inaugurated two Saradha publications. Trinamool has denied the allegations and accused the previous Left government for allowing chit funds to flourish in Bengal since the 1980s. On April 6, Sen couriered letters to several agencies, including CBI, the finance ministry and SEBI,listing politicians, including Trinamool leaders and a minister in Assam who had allegedly taken money from Saradha. The content, if true, could reveal a nexus
between politicians and fraud chit funds.

Saradha had mopped up about Rs. 1200 crore through its chit funds. About 2.5 to 3.5 lakh agents worked for Saradha group, many of who also invested their own money. These agents got a commission ranging from 15 to 40 per cent. The schemes were simple and attractive. An investor could invest as little as 100 rupees and there was no upper limit. Saradha promised huge returns of 15 per cent to 50 per cent. It also promised land and fancy holidays, always with the assurance that if it failed to deliver, it would give cash. In reality, it merely gave money collected from one depositor to pay off another. There is speculation that the chit fund scam bust after a crackdown by the SEBI and the Reserve Bank of India. Also, many policies held by depositors were beginning to mature and Saradha simply did not have the cash to pay up.

23 Apr – Reliance Jio inks agreement with Bharti to share Telco Infra, Airtel acquires Warid Telecom Uganda

Reliance Jio, the telecommunications unit of Reliance Industries owned by Mukesh Ambani had joined hands with arch rival Bharti Airtel to use the latter’s i2i submarine cables for its 4G launch. A joint statement said that the two companies will continue to build on this strategic framework and consider other mutual areas of cooperation to leverage their respective assets towards offering customers a much richer experience. The deal is significant, especially for reliance Jio because it can utilize the dedicated fibre pair on Bharti’s i2i submarine cable that connects India and Singapore as well as get direct access and ultra-fast connectivity to major hubs across Asia-Pacific. The deal between the two major competitor companies has surprised industry insiders. Meanwhile, Airtel has acquired rival Warid Telecom Uganda, giving it a combined market share of almost 40% in Uganda. Bharti is said to have closed the deal at about $ 100 million, though the financial details of the transaction have not been disclosed. At present, Airtel is present across 17 African countries through its $ 10.7 billion acquisition of Zain’s continental unit in 2010.

24 Apr – Banks invoke letters of credit worth more than 4000 crore to Mumbai-based Winsome Jewellers

Standard Bank of South Africa, Standard Chartered London and Scotiabank from whom Winsome imported the bullion and a dozen banks in India have invoked letters of credit (LCs) worth more than 4,000 crore after the company, formerly Su-Raj Diamonds, failed to cough up a smaller amount. The overseas banks invoked the letters of credit following the devolvement of LCs worth about 500 crore. Of the LCs, many are yet to reach the due date. But the bullion banks are unwilling to take chances with the price of gold falling sharply. Banks have the right to invoke LCs before maturity if they fear the buyer may default. The company, having contracted imports at a higher price, is backing out with gold falling unexpectedly. Winsome has moved the Bombay High Court to stay the invocation of LCs by Standard Bank. In 2012, Su-Raj, came under the glare of US investigative
agencies following allegations of undisclosed sale of synthetic diamonds. In the same year, the listed entity rechristened itself Winsome. Crisil has downgraded Winsome’s rating to ‘A4’ and the company continues to remain on the rating agency’s ‘Watch Negative’ list. Letters of credit are issued by the banks of the buyers to comfort sellers that they will be paid as long as the
terms of trade are fulfilled.

25 Apr – Jet to sell 24% stake to Etihad Airways for Rs 2,058 crore, Etihad extends $300 million soft loan to Jet

Jet Airways would sell 24 per cent equity to Etihad Airways for about Rs 2,058 crore, as part of a strategic alliance that would lead to a major expansion in their global network. The 24 percent equity would comprise 27.26 million shares in a preferential offer to Etihad at Rs 754.74 apiece. The market value of the carrier climbed Rs 628 crore to Rs 5,582 crore. Substantial ownership and effective control will remain with Indian nationals with Goyal as non-executive chairman holding 51% of the company. The deal will give Etihad a bigger foothold in the fast growing market in India and provide Jet with cash to repay debt and give it a partner with global expertise.
Etihad has extended a $ 300 million soft loan to Jet Airways at a rate of only 3 percent. Jet will use the money to partially replace its high-cost loans. Jet Airways had a debt of $ 2.1 billion at the end of December 2012 and is paying an annual interest of about Rs. 1000 crore. The soft loan will help Jet save $30 million (Rs. 162.75 crores) annually on interest alone.

26 Apr – China denies crossing LAC, says it’ll resolve standoff amicably

China denied that its forces have crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) but at the same time said that its forces are in talks with the Indian side to resolve the latest standoff issue. Indian troops might increase troops in the LAC if the Chinese army does not back out from the present location. The Chinese soldiers have pitched one more tent near the face-off site in Despang valley after 3 failed flag meetings between the two armies. This has diminished the Indian government’s assessment that there was no need of diplomatic-level talks and that the issue can be resolved through dialogue between the local commanders.

Chinese troops set up a post inside Indian Territory, about 10 km from the LAC, the de-facto border between India and China, and have been staying there since April 15th. Indian border forces, too, have stationed a matching contingent just opposite the Chinese post.

27 Apr – Chit fund scam accused blames Nalini Chidambaram and prominent Trinamool Congress MPs in letter to CBI

The alleged kingpin of the West Bengal Chit Fund scam Mr. Sudipta Sen had written a letter to the CBI on April 6th which has sprouted fresh political controversy of national proportions. Sen said that he met prominent Trinamool leaders, Kunal Ghosh and Srinjay Bose, as representatives of Bengali newspaper Protidin and agreed to pay Protidin 60 lakhs per month and made Ghosh the CEO of his company Channel 10 at a salary of Rs. 15 lakhs per month. The Trinamool MPs, in turn, assured Sen that they had close links with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and promised that they would protect Sen’s business from the Central and State governments. He also alleged that Nalini Chidambaram, wife of Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who was Union Home Minister at the time, sought his help for the establishment of a television channel in North-East India. The letter accuses other businesspersons and politicians of putting pressure on the fund to lend money for various projects.
The Congress has dismissed allegations against Nalini and has demanded, along with the CPI (M), a CBI enquiry into the murky affairs of the Chit Fund. The West Bengal government will set up a 500-crore relief fund to help out those depositors, recommended by the Inquiry commission, who have lost everything in the Saradha Group’s collective investment schemes. Ms.
Banerjee announced an additional 10 per cent tax on tobacco and tobacco products to raise money for the fund. In addition, seized property and assets of the Saradha group will be auctioned off to repay investors.

28 Apr – Govt hikes import tariff value of gold to $472/10 grams

Government has raised the tariff value of gold to $472 per 10 grams on account of a volatile price trend in global markets. Tariff value is the base price on which the customs duty is determined to prevent under-invoicing. It was only 10 days back that tariff value of gold was changed bringing it down to $449 per 10 grams due to weak global prices. The government has cut the import tariff value of gold as international prices of the precious metal have started firming up after witnessing a sudden fall in last few weeks. Last week in Delhi, Gold rates were firm at Rs 28,100 per 10 grams.

29 Apr – More than 350 dead as building housing textile factories collapses in Bangladesh

More than 350 people have died and more than 800 people have been badly wounded after an 8-storey building that housed several readymade garment factories collapsed in Savar, in the outskirts of Dhaka. The dead were mostly low-paid garment workers from the factories. Police say they ordered an evacuation of the building on the previous day after cracks in the building were found. But textile factories forced their workers to come to work. The disaster is the worst ever for the country’s booming and powerful garment industry, surpassing a fire five months ago that killed 112 people and brought widespread pledges to improve worker-safety standards. The police have arrested five people including the owner of the building.

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02 Apr – Bombay High Court rejects UB Holdings’ plea to restrain banks from selling shares

The Bombay High Court has rejected UB Group’s plea to restrain banks from selling shares of United Spirits pledged as security against loans to Kingfisher Airlines. UB moved court after the SBI sold USL shares valued at Rs. 100 crore last week. The action by the banks, with SBI as the lead lender is likely to hamper Vijay Mallya’s plans to revive Kingfisher as well as sell a majority stake in United Spirits Ltd. (USL) to London based drinks major Diageo, announced last November for over Rs 11,000 crore. The banks have lent close to 7500 crore to Kingfisher Airlines till now and the Bombay High Court ruling means that the consortium of 17 banks would be free to sell shares of the subsidiary companies of the UB Group which had been pledged with the lenders under an agreement in 2010.

02 Apr – Sterlite Industries fined Rs. 100 crore

Sterlite Industries has imposed a fine of Rs. 100 crore (Rs. 1 billion) on Sterlite Industries for flouting green The Supreme Court norms at its Tuticorin plant in Tamil Nadu. Despite the fine, the Supreme Court overruled the Madras High Court’s directive in 2010 to shut down its Tuticorin plant over long standing environmental concerns. However, the Supreme Court’s ruling will have no bearing on the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board’s 30 March directive to close the smelter till further orders after allegations of a harmful gas leak from the factory. The Tuticorin plant is the largest copper smelter in India, capable of producing 300,000 tonnes a year.

05 Apr – India’s most traded 50 large-cap companies may report worst aggregate top growth in line50 Companies two years

India’s 50 most frequently traded large-cap companies are likely to report the worst aggregate top line growth in two years in the quarter to March on lower spending by consumers, although operating margins have improved. Companies which constitute the Nifty 50 index expected to grow by 4% from a year ago while net profit will rise by 5%. Sales are likely to grow at the slowest pace in nine quarters. In the previous quarter, at 9.4%, revenue growth fell below 10% for the first time in two years. The trend of slower sales growth is likely to continue in the medium term. Overall demand has fallen and corporates are hesitant to make major investments because of policy uncertainty, governance and execution issues. The only positive can be that at 19.8%, operating margins will be 150 basis points better than a year ago. Apart from cost control and lower raw material expenses, higher operating profits of select companies, including Asian Paints, Cairn India, Gail, Reliance Infrastructure and Tata Power will likely boost aggregate margin.

09 Apr – Tata Consultancy Services to buy French Enterprise Solutions Provider Alti SA for about 533 crore

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) will acquire France – based Enterprise Solutions Provider Alti SA for 75 million Euro (about Rs 533 crore) in an all-cash deal. Alti SA is a leading French technology services firm with expertise in IT services including Enterprise Solutions, Assurance and CRM solutions. TCS said that the acquisition would help to increase its foothold and presence in France, the third-largest IT services market in Europe, and better service its clients in France and Europe more comprehensively with an expanded set of services and solutions.

09 Apr – Wipro dips 11% after hiving off non-IT business into unlisted entity

IT major Wipro’s shares plunged over 11% in early trade after it demerged its non-IT business into an unlisted entity Wipro Enterprises (WEL) to comply with SEBI’s minimum public holding for all listed non-PSU companies. SEBI’s norm mandates a 25 per cent minimum public holding by June. Wipro said that the demerger would help to focus on its growth strategy in the IT products and services sector and increase its competitiveness in the market. Wipro’s non-IT businesses comprise consumer care and lighting, medical equipment and infrastructure engineering.

09 Apr – BMW to manufacture sub-500cc motorcycles for the first time in collaboration with TVS

BMW Motorrad, the motorcycle division of BMW and Chennai based TVS Motors have entered into a long term technical agreement to jointly manufacture a range of sub-500cc motorcycles. The new premium motorcycle range will come in two distinct varieties — one badged BMW to be sold by BMW in India and globally and the other badged TVS to be sold in India and any global market that TVS wants. BMW is venturing into the sub-500 cc motorcycle segment for the first time. The tie-up will also feature TVS in the 250cc segment where it isn’t present right now and a technological rub-off across its manufacturing line-up. The new motorcycles are expected to roll out in 2015.

09 Apr – Supreme Court allows Bharti to continue 3G services, Sunil Mittal’s case to be decided next week

The Supreme Court has issued a status quo order in the 3G roaming case, allowing Bharti to continue offering high-end data services till April 11, the next date of hearing for the case. The Telecom department had earlier declared as illegal the 3G roaming pacts that enabled these companies to offer pan-India data services and imposed stiff penalties on them.
In a different case in which Mittal had appealed to the Supreme Court to quash the summons issued against him by a lower Court in the 2G spectrum allocation case, the Supreme Court has said that it would decide on the validity of the summons by April 15 and has asked the CBI special court not to deal with the issue till April 16.

11 Apr – Toyota, Honda, Nissan to recall 3.4 million vehicles worldwide

Toyota, Honda and Nissan are recalling more than 2 million vehicles globally for an identical problem with air bags on the passenger side whose inflator may burst, sending plastic pieces flying. No injuries have been reported relating to the problem. The auto makers recalled the vehicles after airbag manufacturer Japan’s Takota Corporation recalled them. Toyota Motor Corp. is recalling 1.7 million vehicles whereas Honda Motor Co. is recalling 1.1 million vehicles worldwide. Toyota’s affected models include the Corolla, Tundra, Lexus SC, produced between November 2000 and March 2004 whereas Honda has recalled its Civic and Odyssey models.

17 Apr – Iconix Lifestyle enrolls Kapsons to launch 80-year old American Fashion Brand London Fog in India

Iconix Lifestyle India, a joint venture between Iconix Brand Group and Reliance Brands, has enlisted North India-based retailer Kapsons to roll out the 80-year old American fashion brand London Fog in India. Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Brands controls the India rights for more than 20 international fashion brands of Iconix as part of an equal joint venture deal struck last year. London Fog is famous for manufacturing coats and jackets for a niche market. Chandigarh-based retailer Kapsons is the pan-India licensee for brands like Nike Action, Jordan kids and Levis kids along with retailing brands like Nautica, Tommy Hilfiger, Gant, Fcuk, Gas, Benetton and Calvin Klein Jeans, among others.

28 Apr – Tata Steel to shut down two UK Research facilities, job cuts expected

Tata Steel plans to shut down two research and development facilities in the UK and shift them overseas to the Netherlands and India, resulting in 300-400 job cuts. This move is seen as a major blow to Britain’s already struggling industrial base. The European steel operations of Tata, which started by acquiring Corus back in 2007 for an estimated 6.7 billion pounds, is believed to be operating with towering debts of 3.4 billion pounds hit by high energy costs, falling demand and plummeting steel prices. Tata Steel employs around 19,000 workers in Britain and controls 46 per cent of the domestic market.

30 Apr – Aircel lenders contemplate merger or infusion of additional equity for fear of default

Lenders to Aircel cellular company, led by SBI, are exploring a possible merger with Tata Teleservices as well as infusion of addition equity from Maxis, which owns 74% of Aircel, to prevent their loans, amounting to Rs. 23,000 crore, from turning into a non-performing asset. Aircel had taken loans from State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and Punjab National Bank among a clutch of 15 banks. Aircel needs $ 4 billion of investment, through issue of new shares and from selling Broadband Wireless Access spectrum (BWA) won by the company in 2010 and fresh debt. However, Aircel faces major regulatory issues in India following a CBI complaint by Sivasankaran that he was forced to sell his stake to Maxis in 2006 because of pressure from Dayanidhi Maran, the telecom minister at the time, and Kalanithi Maran, Dayanidhi’s brother and the owner of Sun TV. The talks
with Tata Teleservices might not fructify into a deal and banks might be apprehensive to lend money because of Maxis’s difficulties with the Indian authorities, following which Aircel might find it difficult to run smoothly.

[tabby title=”Economy”]

19 Apr – RBI issues strict orders to curb money laundering, banks to ask customers to resubmit ids

The RBI has issued orders asking banks to tell their customers to resubmit ids to prevent wrong documentation that allowed people to open false accounts and launder money. The RBI, in its probe following the cobrapost.com sting operation on staff of private banks, found several aberrations which suggest that staff at ICICI, HDFC and Axis banks might have flouted KYC norms and helped clients evade taxes. RBI has also asked banks to provide information on negative news and scam-related statements which they have issued to print media and social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and suggested tightening employees’ incentive structure to prevent them from going overboard in selling financial products. In March, 2013, a sting operation conducted by theCobrapost.com alleged that some bank officials of Axis, ICICI and HDFC banks had offered to launder unaccounted money by investing in insurance schemes.

19 Apr – World Bank welcomes decision to establish the BRICS bank

The World Bank has said that it alone cannot meet the huge infrastructure needs of the emerging nations and has welcomed the decision of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to establish the BRICS Bank. Jim Yong Kim, the president of World Bank said that countries such as India had an infrastructure deficit of USD 1 trillion, half of which can be met by public resources whereas the other half cannot be financed by World Bank alone. The BRICS bank would help in a major way in such investments in infrastructure in the emerging nations.

[tabby title=”India”]

01 Apr – Police reveal Olympic medalist Vijender Singh took heroin 12 times

Punjab Police have revealed that Olympic bronze medalist boxer Vijender Singh and his boxing partner Ram Singh had taken heroin 12 and 5 times respectively for personal consumption between December 2012 and February 2013. However, neither of them could be arrested at this time as they had not conspired or actively aided the smugglers in their activities and nothing had been recovered from them. The police in its investigation report have mentioned the 56 call logs between drug kingpin Kahlon and Vijender, GPS location of Vijender’s cellphone and an SUV registered in Vijender’s wife’s name recovered near Kahlon’s flat. There had been controversery surrounding the police claims and Vijender said that the police had planted the SUV to frame him in the case. The Union Sports Ministry on Monday, 1st of April, directed the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) to carry out heroin tests on Vijender. However, NADA has has expressed its inability to test him for heroin citing World Anti-Doping Agency’s protocol.

On March 3, police recovered 26 kg Heroin worth over Rs. 130 crore from a flat in the Zirakpur area of Mohali district, following which Kahlon alias Ruby and his associate Rocky were arrested. Vijender Singh’s name was dragged into the case while questioning Kahlon and Ram Singh.

08 Apr – Ajit Pawar apologizes for making objectionable comment on Maharashtra drought

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has tendered an apology, hours after making objectionable comments on the drought situation in Maharashtra. Addressing a rally in Pune’s Indapur, Pawar reportedly said: “What can we do if there is no water in the dams in Maharashtra? Should we urinate?” Pawar’s remarks were first highlighted by the Aam Admi Party (AAP) and went on to create a political uproar in Maharashtra, with opposition parties demanding Powar be removed from the cabinet.

17 Apr – Blast near BJP office in Bangalore

A blast took place in the Malleshwaram area of Bangalore, a crowded residential neighbourhood, at around 10:30 am injuring 8 policemen and 8 civilians. Several vehicles in the area were damaged in the blasts. The policemen, who were injured, were on duty near the BJP office because of the upcoming Karnataka elections on May 5. A team from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has inspected the site.

23 Apr – China Troops refuse to retreat from the Indian side of the LAC in Ladakh

On April 15, a set of around 30 Chinese troops entered the Indian side of the LAC at Raki Nala, around 10 km into what India perceives as the line of Actual control in Depsang plains along the Sino-Indian border in Ladakh, with no signs of retreat till now. The ITBP tents were set up after consultation with the Indian Army and the Ministry of defence. The ITBP personnel manning the nearest Burtse Border outpost didn’t find the intrusion unusual as there had been nearly 400 such incursions by Chinese troops in 2012 and around 100 since January 1 this year. With different perceptions of the LAC on either side, the Chinese say that they are stationed 1 km into their side of the LAC. However, unlike normal times when the Chinese troops retreat almost immediately, this time, inspite of a flag meeting on April 18 between the local commanders, the Chinese Army stayed put.
India is pursuing the matter at the highest diplomatic level with Beijing and the Indian government has said that the incident should not mar Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India in May which is considered crucial to progress of relations between the two countries.

[tabby title=”Others”]

25 Apr – Sudden rise in cases of depression among IT workers

Psychiatric and counselling centres across the country are reporting increasing cases of depression, wherein more and more IT executives are coming in with problems of acute depression, insecurity, low confidence, dejection, aversion to social life and panic. Earlier, fewer people came with mostly stress-related issues such as anxiety and lack of appetite. The IT industry which was once known for its fat salaries and swanky offices is in the face of a serious slowdown. This year, the IT industry will hire 50,000 people less than last year. It is enforcing a zero-tolerance policy for laggards and small differences in performance ratings make a large impact on take-home salary. Financial pressures can easily crack someone who lacks nurturing emotional relationships and even a hint of a negative communication causes heightened fear and anxiety. About 80% of India’s tech
workforce is under 40 years of age. They are at the peak of their earning careers and have taken on significant loan repayment commitments. All these things have contributed to the heightened cases of depression among techies.

[tabby title=”Politics”]

16 Apr – Non-partisan independent review concludes that US engaged in torture during interrogation post 9/11

A non-partisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US, conducted by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the US’s highest officials were responsible for it. The study found that there was no firm evidence that the torturous interrogation techniques produced valuable information which could not have been obtained by other means. The review concludes that there was no justification for the torture employed and it reduced US capacity to deliver moral censure and increased the danger to US military
personnel taken captive. Although the task force didn’t have access to classified documents, this was the most detailed study of interrogation and detention programmes till date.

23 Apr – Malabar royals to claim Rs. 5000 crore from the Saudi government Rs. 5000 Crore Claim

Forty-five descendants of the Arakkal family, erstwhile rulers of the Malabar Coast, will jointly stake a claim for Rs 5,000 crore due to them as compensation from the sultanate of Saudi Arabia. In 1971, the Saudi Government had demolished a bungalow built in 1848 by Mayin Kutty Keyi, married to Arakkal Beevi of the Arakkal family; to provide shelter to Hajis from Kerala. The Saudi government, at that time, had fixed 1.4 million Saudi riyal as compensation but the amount was not released because of the row between the Keyi and Arakkal families claiming to be Keyi’s real heirs. However, the Arrakal family pointed it out that the Shariah follows only the marumakkathaya (matriarchal) system and according to it they were the true heirs. Later, the Keyi family withdrew its claim. A list of all 45 successors of Arakkal Beevi will be submitted to the Saudi government through a representative to be appointed with the help of the Indian consulate.

27 Apr – Sarabjit Singh, death row convict, attacked in Pakistani Jail

Sarabjit Singh, a prisoner on death row in Pakistan, has been attacked by inmates armed with bricks in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail. Singh is in intensive care with severe injuries on his head, abdomen, jaws and other body parts, and has been put on ventilator. Two prisoners have been charged with attempted murder. Pakistan has granted visas for four family members to visit Sarabjit. His family made a plea to allow them to take him to India for treatment. Indians throughout the country have protested the attack on Sarabjit and the incident has incited strong reaction from the government.
Sarabjit Singh was convicted of spying for India and involvement in a series of bomb blasts in 1990 in Pakistan in which 14 people died. His family says he is innocent and merely strayed across the border in Punjab by accident.

28 Apr – Greek parliament approves 15,000 civil service job cuts

Greece parliament has passed a bill which will see 15,000 state employees lose their jobs by the end of next year. The new law will overturn the constitutional guarantee for civil servants of a job for life. Some 2,000 civil servants will lose their jobs by the end of June, another 2,000 by the end of the year, and a further 11,000 by the end of 2014. State workers who have broken rules will be targeted for dismissal, but many are expected to be replaced by younger employees in key sectors such as health. The new law is a condition for Greece to receive loans worth 8.8bn Euros and is part of continuing moves by the centre-right government to cut costs and ensure more bailout money from international creditors. The new law was vehemently opposed by
protestors outside Parliament.

28 Apr – Center-right parties return to power in Iceland

Iceland’s center-left government that restored the country to solvency after the 2008 financial crisis has been surprisingly voted out of power paving the way for the two largest center-right parties, the Independence Party and the Progressive Party to return to power. The center-right parties, which many people blamed for causing the crisis, have won at least 38 of the 63 seats in Parliament, enough to form a coalition government with a comfortable majority. The center-right government led by the Social Democrats lost even though Iceland’s economy has grown last year, unemployment rate now is 5 percent down from 10 percent and inflation is down to 4 percent a year from a peak of 17 percent. Although the government cut spending and raised taxes to tackle the personal debt problem, it failed to appease the voters who took out loans in foreign countries. The government’s two big initiatives, rewriting Iceland’s Constitution and applying to join the European Union, also failed to seize the popular imagination.

29 Apr – Syrian Government campaigns to persuade United States to change sides, Syrian Prime Minister escapes bomb attack

Syrian Prime Minister Bashar-al Assad is waging an active campaign to persuade the United States that it is on the wrong side of the Civil War by pointing out the growing number of Islamists in the ranks of the Syrian rebels. The captured rebels are projected as vicious Islamic extremists who came from all over the world to wage Jihad in Syria and the government is unofficially relying on a Syrian-American businessman, Khaled Mahjoub, to tap into the U.S. fears of groups like Al-Qaeda. The Syrian Prime-Minister has even said that the US and Syria are partners in fighting terrorism. Although the US administration has backed the demand for Assad’s removal and increased non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, it has expressed a growing discomfort with the increase of radical Islamists in the Syrian rebel opposition and remains unwilling to provide armed help to the rebels and step in more forcefully. Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi on Monday, 28th April, escaped an assassination attempt when a bomb went off near his convoy in Damascus. One of al-Halqi’s bodyguards was killed and one of his drivers is in a critical condition. The blast exposed the government’s vulnerability in the very seat of President Assad’s powerbase.

[tabby title=”Science”]

08 Apr – India has world’s highest number of Dengue cases: study

A multinational study conducted by a team of Oxford researchers and published by Nature has estimated that as many as 390 million people across the globe could be affected by Dengue, a rapidly spreading mosquito-borne viral disease, every year. The study estimated that India had the largest number of dengue cases, with about 33 million apparent infections, where the disease was severe enough to disrupt an individual’s regular routine, and another 100 million asymptomatic infections occurring annually. Asia bore 70 percent of the apparent infections that took place since Asia has large number of densely populated areas suitable for disease transmission. The study’s estimate of 390 million infections was much larger than WHO’s estimate of 50
million infections. The model used in the study could provide a framework to estimate the burden of disease.

11 Apr – Scientists make brains transparent, enable viewing of neurons

Scientists at Stanford University have made a whole mouse brain, and part of a human brain, transparent so that networks of neurons that receive and send information can be highlighted in stunning color and viewed in all their three-dimensional complexity without slicing up the organ. Unlike earlier methods, this new process, called Clarity by its inventors, preserves the biochemistry of the brain so well that researchers can test it over and over again with chemicals that highlight specific structures and provide clues to past activity. This new method might help reveal the foundations of serious mental disorders like schizophrenia, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder and others. The brain is put in a soapy substance called hydrogel and an electric current is applied, which drives the solution through the brain, washing out the lipids. The brain then becomes
transparent, so it may be infused with chemicals, that also have a dye attached, that show fine details of its structure and previous activity.

13 Apr – World’s largest telescope to be built in Hawaii

The University of California system, the California Institute of Technology and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy have received approval from the Hawaii government to build the world’s largest telescope at the summit of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano. The telescope’s segmented primary mirror, which is nearly 30-metre-long (100 feet), will give it nine times the collecting area of the largest optical telescopes in use today. Its images will also be three times sharper. China, India and Japan have signed on to be partners in the project and the University of Hawaii is also involved because it leases the summit land from the State of Hawaii. The project faced opposition from native Hawaiian groups and environmentalists, but has
ultimately got the Hawaiian government’s approval which has imposed a number of conditions including a requirement that employees be trained in culture and natural resources.

14 Apr – Scientists make laboratory engineered kidneys

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have created engineered kidneys and transplanted them into rats where they started to produce urine. The kidney is one of the most complicated organs reproduced in the laboratory. Although the reengineered kidneys were less effective than natural ones, it is a major advancement in the field of regenerative medicine. The researchers’ vision is to take an old kidney and strip it of all its old cells to leave a honeycomb-like scaffold. The kidney would then be rebuilt with cells taken from the patient. Researchers followed the same process for a rat kidney which was regenerated in the laboratory. The engineered kidneys, if successfully created, have two major advantages over current organ transplants.
The tissue would match the patient, so they would not need a lifetime of drugs to suppress the immune system to prevent rejection. It would also vastly increase the number of organs available for transplant, since the rejected organs could be used as templates for new ones.

25 Apr – Scientists engineer quantum biology molecules in lab

For the first time scientists at the University of Chicago have engineered a series of molecules that show quantum effects similar to the efficient mechanism of light transfer happening in plants. Aside from other benefits, this would lead to the production of artificial energy-transfer devices which could use the mechanism efficiently. Although, biological light-harvesting systems are very complex, the model systems engineered by the group are simpler yet manage to capture the physics involved. The discovery of this molecule series and the mechanism of energy transfer may initiate the development of synthetic light harvesters which could lead to highly efficient and green energy manufacturing units in the future.

[tabby title=”World”]

05 Apr – World Health Organization (WHO) confirms 5 deaths from bird flu in China

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that there have been 5 deaths from a new bird-flu virus. There have been 11 laboratory-confirmed cases of the H7N9 Bird flu virus which has been not been seen previously in humans. The WHO has however said that there has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus and tests suggested that it could be treated with anti-influenza drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza. The Chinese government is closely monitoring bird flu cases and has advised people to maintain good personal hygiene including washing hands frequently and avoiding contact with sick or dead animals.

08 Apr – WikiLeaks reveals Rajiv Gandhi may have worked as middle-man in fighter aircraft deal

WikiLeaks in its latest revelation has said that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi may have worked as a middleman for Swedish company Saab-Scania, which had tried to sell its Viggen fighter aircraft to India in the 1970s, much before he became Prime-Minister. However, Saab-Scania could not acquire the deal as it went to British SEPECAT Jaguar. According to the latest bunch of classified cables of the US administration released by WikiLeaks, Rajiv was considered to be a valuable negotiator because of his family connections. The first cable said that former Air Marshal OP Mehra’s son-in-law was the chief negotiator for the Jet fighter deal, but it does not give his name. The Congress has denied WikiLeaks’ claims saying that the last line of the cable says that it couldn’t be confirmed whether Rajiv was a negotiator for the deal.

08 Apr – Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dies at 87

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, aged 87, has died in London following a stroke. Thatcher was suffering from health related problems for the last few years. She was Prime Minister of U.K. from 1979 to 1990 and was the leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. Thatcher was the longest serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century and earned the nickname of ‘Iron Lady’ because of her tough stand on governance and foreign policy issues. She led Britain into war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands in 1982, which Britain won and resulted in her re-election in 1983. Thatcher had led her Conservative Party to three election victories and had initiated several significant changes in Britain’s political scenario.

17 Apr – Rare Indian pink diamond, Princie, sells for more than $ 39 million

One of the largest pink diamonds in the world called the Princie diamond has been purchased by an anonymous bidder from Christie’s auction house in New York for more than $39.3m (£25m). The 34.65 carat diamond, which is supposedly the third largest pink diamond in the world, was found 300 years ago in ancient diamond mines of Golconda in southern India. The diamond was once owned by the Nizam of Hyderabad, who was proclaimed the richest man in the world by Time magazine in 1937. All four of the world’s top pink diamonds have been found at Golconda, which has some of the earliest known diamond mines in the world, producing the stones as early as 800BC.

19 Apr – 7.0 magnitude earthquake strikes Northern Japan and Eastern Russia

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake has struck off far northern Japan and far eastern Russia around midday on Friday, 19th April. The tremor around midday on Friday was in the Pacific Ocean at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). The epicenter was 58 kilometers (160 miles) east-northeast of Kuril’sk, Russia, and 528 kilometers (328 miles) northeast of Nemuro, Japan. Though there might be sea changes, there were no damages.
22 Apr – 185 killed in Nigerian fighting

185 people in a fishing community were killed in a fierce fighting between the military and Boko Haram Islamic insurgents in Nigeria’s northern state of Borno. The military said that the insurgents used human shield and attacked soldiers with rocket propelled grenade and sophisticated machine guns. In similar fights in the past, soldiers had been accused of shooting civilians. Boko Haram has been carrying out attacks in northern Nigeria since 2009.

23 Apr – Boston bombings suspect says older brother was the driving force behind the attack

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has told investigators that his older brother Tamerlan, who was killed in the bombing, was the driving force behind last week’s attack and that no international terrorist groups were behind them. Tsarnaev said that his elder brother wanted to protect Islam from attack. Investigators have said that a lot of investigation was left to confirm that no others were involved in the attack. Tsarnaev has been charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.
25 Apr – Taiwan confirms first H7N9 bird flu case

Taiwan reported the first case of the H7N9 bird flu outside of mainland China. The 53-year-old patient, who had been working in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou, showed symptoms three days after returning to Taiwan via Shanghai and is currently in a critical condition. Tourist arrivals in Taiwan, this season, are expected to be less after the H7N9 virus affected 100 people in the mainland, killing more than 20 of them.

25 Apr – U.N. to establish peacekeeping force for Mali

The United Nations Security Council has voted to establish a peacekeeping force for Mali composed of 11,200 soldiers and 1,440 police officers. The resolution says that the French Troops deployed in January to drive out Islamist Militants out of the north, will intervene, should the peacekeeping troops face an imminent and serious threat. The mandate for the force, called the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, or Minusma, says it will be deployed to help establish stability and, along with a European training mission, to resurrect the Malian armed forces.