Thursday, March 31, 2011

National Mission for Electric Mobility

The Union Cabinet March 31st approved a proposal to set up a National Mission for Electric Mobility (NCEM) to promote electric mobility and manufacturing of electric vehicles in India.

The Cabinet also approved the setting up of a National Board for Electric Mobility (NBEM) by the Department of Heavy Industry. The NCEM will be the apex body in the Government of India for making recommendations in these matters.

The National Automotive Board (NAB), after its formation will be the technical advisor and secretariat for both the NCEM and NBEM.

The present proposal does not involve any financial implication.

Background :

In wake of the fast dwindling petroleum resources, growing concerns on the impact of vehicles on the environment and climate change; the automobile industry worldwide is gradually shifting to more efficient drive technologies and alternative fuels including electric vehicles. Accordingly, world over major investments, incentives and policies are being introduced to propagate the development, adoption of electric vehicles (EV) and their manufacturing.

At present, the barriers to greater adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs) include higher cost of EVs, challenges in battery technology, limited range of EVs, lack of infrastructure, consumer mindset and inadequate government support. In order to resolve these barriers and for electric mobility to take off it is essential that continued government intervention/support, high level ownership, adoption of mission mode approach for fast decision making, collaboration amongst various stakeholders, long term commitment with clearly defined short term and long term objectives and a synergized - holistic approach is essential. Accordingly, the promotion and manufacturing of electric vehicles is being taken up on a mission mode approach as "National Mission for Electric Mobility".

Further, as a first step an enabling, empowered, fast decision and policy making structure at the apex level in the form of National Council for Electric Mobility (NCEM) and the National Board for Electric Mobility (NBEM) is being set up. The Council will comprise of Ministers from the key Central Ministries/Departments, eminent representatives from the industry and academia and will be chaired by the Minister (Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises).

The Council will be aided by a 25 member National Board for Electric Mobility comprising of secretaries of stakeholder Central Ministries/ Departments with representation from industry and academia. The National Council and the Board will be serviced by NATRiP Implementation Society (NATIS) for the time being and in future by the National Automotive Board (NAB), which is being created.

Provisional Population Totals for Census 2011

India now has a population of 1.21 billion according to the latest Census figures released by the Home Secretary and the Registrar General of India on March 31. This is an increase of 181 million people since the last Census - nearly equivalent to the population of Brazil.

India's population is now bigger than the combined population of USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan and Bangladesh, says the Census report. Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state and the combined population of UP and Maharashtra is bigger than USA.

Of the total population, 623.7 million are males and 586.5 million are females.

However, the population grew at a rate of 17.64 percent which is the sharpest reduction in growth rate ever.

While Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Puducherry has the highest population growth rate of about 55 percent, Nagaland has the lowest.

The density of population is highest in Delhi, followed by Chandigarh.

The 2011 Census report also shows that India now has a child sex ratio of 914 female against 1,000 male - the lowest since Independence.

This is the 15th Census conducted since 1872. It was carried out in two phases, covering 640 districts and 5924 sub-districts. The cost of the counting exercise is 22,000 million.








(per sq. km.)


(females per 1000 males)



Percentage to



Literacy rate




Wednesday, March 30, 2011

India among the most corrupt nations surveyed by PERC

India finds itself bracketed with countries like Philippines and Cambodia, rated as the fourth most corrupt nation among 16 countries of the Asia Pacific region surveyed by leading Hong Kong-based business consultancy firm PERC.

The Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd (PERC) rated India at 8.67 on a scale of zero to 10 with the high end being the worst case of corruption scenario and ahead of the Philippines (8.9 points), Indonesia (9.25 points) and Cambodia (9.27 points).

Among the 16 countries reviewed in its latest report, Thailand was rated at 11 with a scale of 7.55, followed by China (7.93) and Vietnam (8.3).

Comparatively, Singapore was given a clean sheet with a score of 0.37, followed by Hong Kong (1.10), Australia (1.39), Japan (1.90) and USA (2.39), putting them in the top five.

In India, according to the report, civil and other local-level political leaders were found more corrupt than the national-level political leaders, with the former given a score of 9.25 and the latter slightly better at 8.97.

Indian civil servants at the city level too were rated at 8.18, worst than the civil servants at the national level (7.76).

“The issue of corruption has grown and overshadowed the second term in office of the Congress-led coalition headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” said PERC in its Asian Intelligence report on Asian business and politics.

The government has been wracked by a series of scandals involving the sale of telecom licenses, preparations for the Commonwealth Games, a land scam involving high level military officers, and improper property loans made by State-owned financial institutions, it pointed out.

Though investigations were underway to be followed by court trials, Indians were still questioning whether or not the prime minister has the political muscle to fight graft and whether the actions now being taken were more for show than proof that the government was really cracking down on business practices that were common but corrupt, it said.

Prime Minister Singh has been put in such a defensive position that most of his recent statements have been to stress how he has not personally been involved with corruption, even though it appears that almost everyone around him was, observed PERC.

First unit of Koteshwar power project commissioned

The Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) has commissioned the first 100 MW unit of the 400 MW Koteshwar Hydro Power project synchronising it with the Northern Grid.

The THDC has been able to achieve this feet despite all odds it faced as the project power house had got submerged in September 2010 due to floods. However, the Corporation overcame the crisis and was able to commission the first unit so fast.

An official statement issued here said the mechanical spinning of unit-1 got accomplished in January this year. Then subsequently the testing and commissioning works machine of unit-I was synchronised with the Northern grid.

Koteshwar Hydro-Electric Project is located 22 Km downstream of Tehri Dam on river Bhagirathi. Koteshwar Project is one of the constituents of Tehri. Other constituents of Tehri Power Complex (2400 MW) are Tehri Dam (1000 MW) and PSP (1000 MW).

Tehri is already in operation and Tehri PSP is under implementation. It will facilitate the functioning of Tehri Power complex as a major peaking station in Northern Grid. It is run-off the river scheme and will generate 1234 MU of energy annually. The reservoir created by Koteshwar Dam has live storage capacity of 35.0 MCM and will also function as lower (balancing) reservoir of Tehri PSP.

This project will also regulate water releases from Tehri Reservoir for irrigation purposes. The other three units will also be completed within the 11th plan. The Koteshwar dam is being built with a revised cost estimate of Rs. 2,466.9 crore.

Lalit Bhasin new chief of Film Certification Tribunal

Noted lawyer Lalit Bhasin has been appointed Chairperson of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal. “The appointment is for a period of three years.”

Mr. Bhasin is also the Vice-President of the Bar Association of India and the Chairman of the Services Export Promotion Council established by the Ministry of Commerce and a member of the ICC International Court of Arbitration. He is also a Member of the Task Force on Arbitration set up by ICC.

He has received several awards, which include the Gandhi National Unity Award, 1991, the Plaque of Honour given by the Prime Minister for his outstanding contribution to the Rule of Law in 2002 and the National Law Day Award given by the President of India in 2007.

Deepa Dixit and Gurjeet Singh Behl have been appointed members of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal for a period of three years.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

India’s latest tiger census

India’s latest tiger census has estimated 1,706 wild tigers, 226 higher than a similar count four years ago, but government officials and wildlife scientists have cautioned against complacency amid disturbing losses and disputes over counting.

The estimates for 2010 released by the Union environment and forests ministry suggest a 16 per cent increase in the number of tigers — from 1,410 to 1,636 — in all tiger landscapes except the Sunderbans where no assessment had been done in 2006.

But a conservation scientist said the 16 per cent increase would suggest a reversal of the previous decline of tigers. “Since the various threats faced by tigers do not appear to have diminished in the last four years, it is difficult to explain the claimed reversal of the decline of tigers,” said Ulhas Karanth, director of the Centre for Wildlife Studies in Bangalore, who specialises in tiger conservation.

The 2010 count for Sunderbans, described as the first-ever-scientific assessment of the iconic inhabitant of Bengal’s mangrove and tidal zone, is 70. But Sunderbans forest officials believe the census has underestimated the tiger population there.

The analysis has shown that India’s tiger territory — the area across the country where tigers roam — has reduced from 93,600sqkm to about 72,800sqkm over the past four years, although tigers appear well protected within core tiger reserve areas.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The world’s first artificial leaf created

Scientists have created the world’s first practical artificial leaf that can turn sunlight and water into energy, which they claim could pave the way for a cheaper source of power in developing countries like India.

A team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology says that the artificial leaf from silicon, electronics and various catalysts which spur chemical reactions within the device, can use sunlight to break water into hydrogen and oxygen which can then be used to create electricity in a separate fuel cell.

“A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades. We believe we have done it. And placed in a gallon of water and left in sun, these artificial leaves could provide a home in the developing world with basic electricity for a day,” Daniel Nocera, who led the team, said.

He added: “Our goal is to make each home its own power station. One can envision villages in India and Africa not long from now purchasing an affordable basic power system based on this technology.”

For their research, the scientists identified a set of inexpensive, common catalysts including nickel and cobalt that get the job done with far less expense. And, in the laboratory their playing-card-sized leaves have worked continuously for 45 straight hours without a drop in output.

Though in laboratory, an artificial leaf prototype could operate continuously for at least 45 hours without a drop in activity, the scientists say that they will next try to boost both efficiency and lifespan of their photosynthetic material.

The findings were presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Coast Guard Ships C-150 and C-151 Commissioned

Indian Coast Guard Ships C-150 and C-151 were commissioned by Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, Director General Coast Guard at an impressive ceremony in Kochi at March 28.

The two ships are the 8th and 9th of the 11 Interceptor Boat (IB) class, designed and built indigenously by M/s ABG Shipyard, Surat. They are fitted with ultra modern navigational and communication equipment, and will be deployed for enhancing the close coast surveillance capability of Indian Coast Guard.

The 28 metre ships displace 90 tons each, and have an endurance of 500 nautical miles with an economical speed of 25 knots. They can achieve a maximum speed of 45 knots for responding to urgent calls at sea, and are equipped with advanced navigational and communication equipment. In addition to small arms, the IBs are fitted with 12.7 mm ‘Prahari’ Heavy Machine Gun (HMG).

C-150 and C-151 are commanded by Commandant Ashok Kumar and Commandant RK Sinha, and will be based at Vizhinjam and Kakinada respectively. The commissioning ceremony was attended by Inspector General SPS Basra, Commander Coast Guard Region (West), senior officers from the Navy and Central and State Governments.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Brain Storming Session on Green India Mission

The brainstorming session on the Green India Mission (GIM) is organized . The session will focus on the action plan for the year 2011-12, perspective plans for the next 5 to10 years and state level action plans of the Green India Mission. Senior Forest Officers of the Country, Civil Society, members of Joint Forest Management committee (JFMC) and officials of the Ministry would participate in it.

The National Mission for a Green India is one of the eight Missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). The Mission recognizes that climate change phenomena will seriously affect and alter the distribution, type and quality of natural resources of the country and the associated livelihoods of the people. GIM acknowledges the influences that the forestry sector has on environmental amelioration though climate mitigation, food security, water security, biodiversity conservation and livelihood security of forest dependent communities. The Key Innovations are the focus on quality of forests, ecosystem services, democratic decentralization, creating a new cadre of Community Youth as Foresters, Adoption of Landscape-based Approach and Reform Agenda as conditionality.

The Draft Green India Mission document was put on website for comments on 23rd May 2010. 7 Regional Consultations were organized over a month and a half from 10th June to 15th July in Guwahati, Dehradun, Pune, Bhopal, Jaipur, Vizag and Mysore. Over 1450 people participated in the consultations and thousands of mails were received from Panchayats, community groups, academia, researchers, schools, government agencies, private sector, media and concerned citizens. The revised document was approved by the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change with certain observations. The Mission will be implemented in the twelfth and thirteen five year plans and the year 2011-12 would be the preparatory year.

Whale shark tagged with satellite collar off Gujarat coast

For the first time in India, a whale shark has been tagged with a ‘satellite collar’ to track the migration routes, behaviour and ecological preferences of this member of the largest fish species in the world.

The satellite tag was put on the fish last week by a team of researchers from the Whale Shark Conservation Project, a joint venture of the Gujarat Forest Department and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI).

According to WTI Assistant Field Officer, Manoj Matwal, another whale shark will be tagged by mid-May.

“The first set of data received indicated that the tagged whale shark, a 6.5 m long male rescued off the Gujarat coast, had reached the coast of Maharashtra moving southward.”

“For the second tagging, we are exploring the sea near Veraval and Sutrapada in Junagadh district where the spotting (of whale shark) has been good.”

Satellite-tagging is the latest initiative under the Whale Shark Conservation Project. Earlier there have been efforts to do photo-identification, genetic analysis and visual tagging of whale sharks in India.

“The satellite tag, which is a marine equivalent of a satellite collar, was attached to the caudal fin of the fish.

“This tag is expected to last for about six months and give us data related to movement of the fish, its preference in water temperature, diurnal and nocturnal activities and swimming patterns between different layers of water.”

The success of tagging was confirmed after receiving the first signal 68 hours after the tag was fixed.

“The signal was received 250 km off the coast of Mumbai, revealing that it had travelled southward,” Mr. Matwal said.

Over the coming months, researchers would be closely following the movement patterns of the whale shark.

During the tagging operation, WTI also collected a tissue sample of the fish for genetic analysis.

The whale shark was listed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act in 2001, according it the highest level of protection.

Whale shark is the largest fish species in the world with a flattened head, and a wide mouth positioned at the tip of the snout that stretches almost as wide as the body. The creatures are greyish, bluish or brownish above, with an upper surface pattern of creamy white spots between pale, vertical and horizontal stripes.

Whale sharks were once hunted off the Gujarat coast for its liver oil, which was used to water-proof boats. But after initiation of Whale Shark Conservation Project in 2008, the local fishermen have been made aware of the importance of the fish, and they now participate in conservation activities.

Shortest Budget session in recent years ends

The shortest Budget Session of Parliament in recent years came to a close on March 25 after acrimony over diverse issues ranging from the CVC controversy to the cash-for-votes scam.

A highlight of the month-long session having 23 sittings was the setting up of the Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G spectrum scam, an issue that had washed out the entire Winter Session.

The session witnessed uproar over many issues and the Lok Sabha lost over 25 hours due to interruptions followed by adjournments. However, the members made up for the lost time by sitting late for more than 26 hours.

In the Rajya Sabha 20 hours were lost due to interruptions and members partly compensated the loss by sitting late for over 12 hours.

In view of the “unfortunate logjam” in the previous session, Speaker Meira Kumar expressed satisfaction over the “successful” transaction of the business during this session.

After 2006, the Budget Session this year saw the completion of the Budgetary exercise before the end of the current financial year.

The second phase of the Budget Session, which was earlier scheduled to start in April, was dispensed with in view of assembly elections in five states.

A highpoint of the session was the confrontation between the government and the Opposition over the cash-for-votes scam in the wake of a WikiLeaks report, first accessed by The Hindu daily, which spoke of members being bribed to win the July 2008 trust vote.

With elections scheduled in West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, the rival sides utilised the session to score points against each other.

The BJP found itself isolated when it made Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal a target over the issue of allotment of kiosks in Chandigarh.

The evacuation of Indians from troubled Libya, radio collaring of Indian students in an American university, the Income Tax notice to Gujarat Government and attacks on Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan navy also figured prominently in Parliament.

Tata Motors become first Indian company to make 1 lakh CVs

Leading automobile company Tata Motors on March 25 said it has become the first Indian company to have produced one lakh commercial vehicles in a financial year from a single production unit.

“It is really a proud moment for the company as Tata Motors has become the country’s first automobile company to produce one lakh commercial vehicles in a financial year from a single plant,” Ravi Pisharody, President, Commercial Vehicle Business Unit (CVBU), Tata Motors, said.

Mr. Pisharody said he hopes the growth rate of commercial vehicle sector would depend on the interest rate though it has not affected the sector as yet.

The interest rate has to be maintained to achieve the growth rate, which was registered at 20 to 22 per cent this fiscal, he said adding that the growth rate in the next fiscal is likely to be 10 to 15 per cent.

On the performance of the Tata Motors World Truck, the company official said the sale has been increasing significantly in the last few months.

The response for the world truck, which had started its production in the first quarter of the current fiscal, was good and would further improve in view of the increasing demand as well as the improving road condition in the country.

Presently, we are producing two models of the world truck at Jamshedpur plant and likely to introduce two more models soon, he said, adding, the company was expecting to produce around 6-8 models by the next fiscal-end.

Mr. Pisharody expressed confidence that the company would utilise the maximum capacity of the world truck (55,000 per annum) in next five years in view of its increasing demand.

Comet-hunting spacecraft shuts down after 12 years

NASA ordered its comet-hunting Stardust probe to burn its remaining fuel on March 24, setting off a sequence that shut down the spacecraft after a 12-year career.

Stardust had finished its main mission in 2006, sending particles from a comet to Earth. It took on another job last month, photographing a crater on an asteroid.

It accomplished one last experiment on Thursday, firing its thrusters until its last hydrazine fuel was gone. The length of that burn, a little under 2 1/2 minutes, will tell engineers exactly how much fuel was left so they can see how accurate their calculations were.

That in turn will help with the design and operation of future probes.

Spacecraft don’t carry fuel gauges because they don’t work in zero gravity.

It will take a few days to analyze the fuel data, said Jim Neuman, a mission operations manager for Lockheed Martin, which built and operated the probe at its complex south of Denver.

Training Programme at the Panchayat level for Rural Development

Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) has prepared a “National Capability Building Framework (NCBF)”, which provides a blueprint for regular and sustained training of elected representatives, officials and other stakeholders of Panchayati Raj. The aspects of training included in the Framework cover an overview of Panchayati Raj, internal housekeeping including understanding accounts, social audit, right to information, panchayat revenues, functional literacy, functions of panchayats in the sectoral programmes and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills. Panchayati Raj being a State subject, this Framework is being implemented by the States including Bihar for which MoPR provides supplementary financial assistance under the schemes of the Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) and Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Yojana (RGSY).

The percentage of Panchayats in various States and UTs is as under:

Sl. No.


No. of Panchayats

% to Total Panchayats


Andaman and Nicobar islands




Andhra Pradesh




Arunachal Pradesh




















Dadra and Nagar Haveli




Daman and Diu
















Himachal Pradesh








Jammu & Kashmir
















Madhya Pradesh
































Tamil Nadu








Uttar Pradesh








West Bengal