ABBREVIATIONS APA: Advance Pricing Agreement. DTC: Direct Tax Code. GAAR: General Anti-Avoidance Rules.
AWARDS National Film Awards, 59th Best Feature Film: “Devur” (Marathi) & “Byari” (Kannada) Best Director: Gurvinder Singh, “Anhe Ghorey Da Daan” (Punjabi) Best Actor: Girish Kulkarni, “Deool” Best Actress: Vidya Balan, “The Dirty Picture” Best Supporting Actor: Appu Kutty, “Azhagar Samiyin Kuthirai” (Tamil) Best Supporting Actress: Leishangthem Tonthoingambi Devi, “Phijigee Mani” (Manipuri) Best Child Artist: Partho Gupte, “Stanley Ka Dabba” and “Chillar Party” cast: Irrfan Khan, Sanath Menon, Rohan Grover, Naman Jain, Aarav Khanna, Vishesh Tiwari, Chinmai Chandranshuh, Vedant Desai, Divij Handa, Shriya Sharma Best Film on Social Issues: “Inshallah” (Ashvin Kumar) and “Mindscape” (Arun Chadha) Best Non Feature Film: “And We Play On” Best Debut Film of a Director: “The Silent Poet” (Manipuri) Best Children’s Film: “Chillar Party” Best Music Direction: Neel Dutt, “Ranjana Ami Ar Ashbona” (Bengali) Best Background Score: “Laptop”, Mayookh Bhaumik Best Singer (Female): Rupa Ganguly, for the Bengali film “Abosheyshey” Best Singer (Male): Anand Bhate, for Marathi film “Balgandharva” Best Lyrics: Amitabh Bhattacharya, “I Am” Best Screenplay (Adapted): “Shala”, Avinash Deshpande Best Screenplay (Original): “Chillar Party”, Vikas Behl & Nitish Tiwari Indira Gandhi award for debut film director: Thiagarajan Kumararaja for “Aaranya Kaandam” Best Dialogue: Girish Kulkarni, “Deool” Best Make Up Artist: Vijram Gaekwad, “The Dirty Picture” and “Bal Gandharva” Best Special Effects: “Ra.One” Best Costume Design: Niharika Khan, “The Dirty Picture” and Neeta Lulla, “Bal Gandharva” Best Choreography: Bosco-Caeser for “Senorita...” from “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” Best Editing: Praveen K.L., “Aranyaa Kandam” Best Popular film providing wholesome entertainment: “AzhagarsamiyinKuthirai” (Tamil) Best Hindi Film: “I Am” Directed by Onir. Best Marathi Film: “Shaala” Best Kannada Film: “Kurmavatara” Best Bengali Film: “Ranjana Ami Aar Ashbona” Best Malayalam Film: “Indian Rupee” Best Tamil Film: “Vaagai Sooda Vaa” Best Dogri Film: “Dille Ch Vasya Koi” Best Manipuri Film: “Phijigee Mani” Best Punjabi Film: “Anne Gode Da Daan” Special Mention: Director Shari for “Adi Madhyantam” (Malayalam Film) and Mallika for “Byari” (Kannada Film) Best Film Critic: Manoj P. Pujari Best Book Award: Anirudha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal for “R.D. Burman The Man, The Music” Special Jury Award: Anjan Dutta for “Ranjana Ami Aar Ashbo Na”
Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Media Person, 2012 Tushita Mittal of Tehelka magazine has been selected for her reports on life in interior Bengal, Orissa and Chattisgarh, affected by bloody civil strife, naxal and vigilante violence.
DEFENCE Army operationalises second supersonic BrahMos regiment On March 4, 2012, the Indian Army successfully test fired the 290-km range BrahMos supersonic cruise missile at the Pokharan range to operationalise the second regiment of the weapon system in service.
The Army has so far placed orders for three regiments of the supersonic cruise missile and, with the latest test-firing, two of them have been inducted operationally.
The Defence Ministry has given a go-ahead to the Army to induct a third regiment for being deployed in Arunachal Pradesh, along the China border.
One regiment of the 290-km range BrahMos consists around 65 missiles, five mobile autonomous launchers on Tatra vehicles and two mobile command posts, among other equipment.
ENVIRONMENT World’s five hotspots of biodiversity Here are five of the world’s highest biodiversity ecologies still over 70 percent intact, as identified by the Conservation International. Hotspots require two main criteria: At least 1,500 vascular plant species with over half endemic to the region, or found only there.
Amazon Rain Forest: The Amazon wilderness, which spans nine countries, is home to 40,000 plant species, of which the majority are not found anywhere else. It is also home to more primate species anywhere in the world, possibly more insects as well. The Brazilian government said in December 2011 that deforestation rates in the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, had fallen to the lowest levels since 1988.
Congo Basin: Second only to the Amazon in terms of area, the Congo Basin is home to biologically important species from large mammals - antelopes, elephants, and most famously, gorillas - as well as human communities and old growth forests. With a reach across seven African nations, it is only 11 percent protected—largely through national parks.
New Guinea: Islands often have exceptionally rich biodiversity as does New Guinea—it is the world’s highest and second largest behind Greenland, located in the Southwest Pacific. A total of 1,000 species have been discovered since 1998—from birds, butterflies, coral, dolphins, fish, orchids, reptiles, and sharks.
North American deserts: The Mojave, Colorado, Chihuahua, Sonoran, and Baja California deserts that stretch from the south-western US to Mexico are some of the most biologically diverse in the world, with 6,000 vascular plant species, as well as other special types of animals who have adapted to the climate, from bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, kangaroo rats, jackrabbits, roadrunners, and wild horses.
Southern Africa: The Miombo-Mopane woodlands and savannahs stretch across 10 countries in central southern Africa from Angola to Mozambique. They are home to animal species including the endangered black rhinoceros and almost 80 percent of all African elephants. This wilderness area is threatened by climate change, drought, development and the need to balance the survival needs of the people who live there with conservation efforts.
HEALTH Popcorn is the perfect health snack A new study has claimed that popcorn, the humble cinema snack, is the perfect health food. Researchers at the University of Scranton have found that popcorn—already known for being fibre-packed and relatively low in fat—is packed with more health-boosting antioxidants than fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants are known to reduce one’s risk of cancer, dementia and even heart disease. And, the potent antioxidants, called polyphenols, in popcorn can fight harmful molecules that accumulate in the body and damage cells. They can also help to increase blood flow by relaxing the arteries. The researchers said polyphenols are more concentrated in popcorn, which averages only about 4 per cent water, compared with the 90 per cent that makes up many fruits and vegetables.
In fact, the study revealed that the amount of polyphenols found in popcorn was up to 300 mg a serving, which would provide 13 per cent of an average intake of polyphenols a day.
In another surprising finding, the researchers discovered the hulls of popcorn, the part everyone hates for its tendency to get caught in the teeth, has the highest concentration of polyphenols and fibre.
The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way. But, the researchers have cautioned that the way it is served—cooking it in oil and adding butter, salt or sugar—can put a dent in its health benefits. Air-popped popcorn has lowest number of calories, compared with popping it in oil.
PERSONS Singh, Lt Gen Bikram He has been appointed as the Chief of Army Staff and will take over from May 31, 2012. He becomes the second Sikh General of the Indian army. He is also the first Army chief who was commissioned after the country’s last full-fledged war, in 1971 with Pakistan.
He was commissioned into the Sikh Light Infantry (Sikh LI) regiment on March 31, 1972. During his distinguished career, he has headed the Srinagar-based 15 Corps. He has also served as deputy force commander of a multi-nation UN peace keeping mission in Congo, as also as UN observer in Nicaragua and El Salvador during the early 1990s.
He has studied with distinction at the Defence Services Staff College, the Army War College and the US Army War College, Pennsylvania. He has also done an M.Phil in Defence Management from the Indore University.
His long list of decorations include a Param Vishist Seva Medal (PVSM), a Uttam Yudh Seva Medal (UYSM), an Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM), Sena Medal (SM) and a Vishist Seva Medal (VSM).
RESEARCH World’s first cloned Pashmina goat After becoming the first country to clone the buffalo, scientists in India have made a breakthrough by successfully cloning the first Pashmina goat. The healthy female kid was born on March 9, 2012.
A six-member-team of scientists from Karnal’s National Dairy Research Institute and Jammu’s Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology used somatic cells from the ear of a donor goat to create the clone.
Pashmina is a special breed of goat, indigenous to the high altitudes (above 3,000 mts) of the Himalayas. The sought after Pashmina wool—legendary for its softness and warmth— is made with the fur of these goats.
Each Pashmina fibre is about one-sixth the width of a human hair, and one shawl requires about 24 ounces of wool, the annual output of about four goats.
Unfortunately, the annual Pashmina production in India hardly crosses 40 tonnes—less than 0.5% of the total world production of approximately 10,000 tonnes per annum. Even worse, while the world Pashmina production has almost doubled from 5,000 tonnes in the early nineties, the Indian Pashmina industry has remained static with the Changthang plateau of Ladakh contributing almost 90% of the total production.
Every year, a single goat sheds 100-250 gm of wool compared to 750-1,000 gm per annum in countries like China, Russia and Mongolia.
Scientists say low rates of animal productivity, static population and high disease prevalence is seriously hampering Pashmina production in India.
Successfully cloning the animal will help multiply the number of Pashmina goats drastically. One goat would have given birth to a single offspring every year. Through cloning, we can get surrogate mothers to give birth to 40-50 off-springs annually.
Pashmina wool is the finest in the world, second only to Shahtoosh made from the wool of the Chiru or Tibetan antelope. However, international trade in Shahtoosh shawls has been banned to protect the endangered species. Too delicate for machine driven looms, Pashmina wool is spun and woven by hand.
SPACE RESEARCH Oxygen detected on Saturn’s moon Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists and an international research team have announced discovery of molecular oxygen ions in the upper-most atmosphere of Dione, one of the 62 known moons orbiting the ringed planet. The research appeared recently in Geophysical Research Letters and was made possible via instruments aboard NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which was launched in 1997.
Dione—discovered in 1684 by astronomer Giovanni Cassini (after whom the spacecraft was named)—orbits Saturn at roughly the same distance as our own moon orbits Earth. The tiny moon is a mere 700 miles wide and appears to be a thick, pockmarked layer of water ice surrounding a smaller rock core. As it orbits Saturn every 2.7 days, Dione is bombarded by charged particles (ions) emanating from Saturn’s very strong magnetosphere. These ions slam into the surface of Dione, displacing molecular oxygen ions into Dione’s thin atmosphere through a process called sputtering.
Molecular oxygen ions are then stripped from Dione's exosphere by Saturn’s strong magnetosphere.
A sensor aboard the Cassini spacecraft, called the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS), detected the oxygen ions in Dione’s wake during a flyby of the moon in 2010.
Perhaps even more exciting is the possibility that on a moon with sub-surface water, such as Jupiter’s moon Europa, molecular oxygen could combine with carbon in sub-surface lakes to form the building blocks of life. Future missions to Europa could help unravel questions about that moon’s habitability.
MISCELLANEOUS RuPay—Rival to Visa and Mastercard National Payments Corporation of India—a Reserve Bank of India initiative—is set to replay the ATM revolution in the cards business with the launch of RuPay debit cards, which undercut Visa and Mastercard on processing fees on transactions. Coinciding with the launch, the central bank has also directed banks to cut charges levied on shopkeepers for facilitating debit card payments.
On March 26, 2012, four public sector banks—State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India and Union Bank of India—launched the first set of RuPay cards in India. The RuPay card is meant to be on the lines of China Union Pay—a Chinese government promoted payments and settlement platform for card transactions that broke the Visa-Mastercard stranglehold.
India will be able to save hundreds of crores in foreign exchange by having a domestic payment system, as Visa and Mastercard are paid in foreign currency.