Friday, September 30, 2011

Conference on National Population Register

A Conference of Chief Secretaries, State Coordinators and Directors of Census Operations on the creation of National Population Register (NPR) was held New Delhi on September 30. The Minister of State for Home, Shri Jitendra Singh delivered the key note address to the delegates and the meeting was Chaired by the Union Home Secretary,  R.K.Singh.

In his inaugural address, the Union Home Secretary informed the participants that creation of National Population Register is a vital scheme of the Government, being created under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and Citizenship Rules, 2003. The Government has to compulsorily register every citizen in the country and creation of NPR is the first step towards the creation of the citizens register. He informed that more than 14 crore records have been digitised and more than 50 lakh biometrics have been captured so far under the NPR. A target for completing the exercise by December, 2012 was set by the Home Secretary.

In his key note address to the delegates, the MOS (Home) emphasised the importance of this national flagship scheme of the Government and stated that this is a mandatory exercise. He expressed the hope that with the unstinting cooperation from the State/UT Governments, the work will be completed within the timelines set. Shri Singh congratulated the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, for completing the stupendous task of counting more than a 121 crore persons, scanning more than 26 crore NPR schedules, undertaking data entry and capture of biometrics. Shri Singh reiterated the timelines set by the Government for completing the works by December, 2012 and urged all State/UT Governments to work towards achieving the target in a planned way.

The Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India, Dr. C. Chandramouli made a brief presentation to the delegates on the legal framework in place for creation of NPR.

CAG of India Appointed External Auditor OF IAEA and WIPO

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has been appointed as the external auditor of two major UN organizations - the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Geneva. Both these organizations have traditionally been the stronghold of the developed world and it is for the first time that a Supreme Audit Institution from outside Europe has been appointed to these prestigious positions. These appointments were made in the face of competition from other developed countries like United Kingdom, Spain and Norway.

These appointments for organizations such as IAEA and WIPO, which are specialized agencies, is a recognition of the professional capabilities of the CAG`s auditing talent pool. The international community has acknowledged that public auditors of the Indian Audit and Accounts Department have high professional competence. In particular, their knowledge, expertise and domain experience in conducting performance audits has been highly acclaimed. It is in recognition of such expertise that in the face of competition from Auditors` General of developed countries such as UK and Norway, the CAG of India has been preferred. The tenure of these audits could extend up to six years.

The CAG of India is on the Panel of External Auditors of the United Nations and its Agencies. He is the chair of the Knowledge Sharing and Knowledge Services Committee of the International Organization of the Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), the global body of Auditors` General which has a membership of 184. He also chairs the INTOSAI Working Group on IT Audit. The CAG of India is also on the Governing Board of the Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI) and is poised to take over as its Chairman for a term of three years from March 2012.

The institution of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) is recognized as one of the most professionally accomplished Supreme Audit Institutions in the world. The CAG occupies a pre-eminent position in the international community of public auditors and is a prominent member of INTOSAI. The recognition of the capabilities of the CAG of India has in the past manifested in his appointment on the Board of Auditors of the United Nations and as external auditor to a number of other major UN agencies like Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) etc.

National Frequency Allocation Plan

The National Frequency Allocation Plan-2011 (NAFP) was released September 30 by  Kapil Sibal, the Union Minister of Communications and Information Technology to ensure its efficient and effective management. Speaking on the occasion, Shri Sibal said that in today’s society, radio spectrum is becoming increasingly important for all walks of life and needs to be managed rationally. While spectrum management has always been important, the complexity of the task has been compounded by the proliferation of both traditional and entirely new radio spectrum frequency-using services in recent years.

The Minister underlined that it is essential that these scarce resources be used rationally, optimally, efficiently and economically so that equitable access could be available to a large variety of radio communication network in an interference free radio environment. Therefore planning of frequency bands for various services/applications for their coexistence without constraining the existing assignments is essential. The growing demand for information rich content, faster access speeds and mobility by both commercial and captive users is increasingly being met by broadband wireless application, Shri Sibal added.

NFAP-2011 is a policy document which contains spectrum allocation for various radio communication services/applications in different frequency bands. This document provides the basis for development, manufacturing and spectrum utilization activities in the country, both for government and private sectors.

NFAP-2011 will come into effect from October 1, 2011. It contains International and National frequency allocation table, footnotes to international table of frequency allocations, India remark and channeling plan in different frequency bands.

The salient features of NFAP-2011 are:
• It is in line with the Radio Regulations of International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
• It has been developed to cater to the needs of newly emerging technologies such as Ultra Wide Band (UWB), Intelligent Transport System (ITS), Short Range Devices, etc.
• It has enabled provisions in few frequency bands for indigenous development and manufacturing.
• The NFAP-2011 has taken due care to ensure protection of existing services.
• It has kept in view the requirement projected by all stakeholders.

India test-fires nuclear-capable Agni-II missile

India's nuclear-capable, surface-to-surface Agni-II ballistic missile, with a strike range of 2000 kms, was on Friday test-fired as part of user trial by the army from the Wheeler Island off Orissa coast.

The indigenously developed missile was fired by personnel of the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the army from Launch Complex-IV of the Integrated Test Range (ITR)at about 0930 hours, defence sources said.
Agni-II, developed as one of the key weapon systems of countrys nuclear deterrence programme, is already under production and has been inducted in the Indian Armed Forces.
The two-stage solid fuel propelled Agni-II missile, developed by Advanced System Laboratory (ASL) and other DRDO laboratories, has a length of 20 metres, diameter of one metre and weighs around 17 tonnes, they said.
It is equipped with a special navigation system to achieve high degree of accuracy. The system is also equipped with anti-ballistic defence counter measures. It can be transported both by rail and road, they said.
The last trial scheduled on August 29 this year was aborted due to some technical problem, the sources said.
A user trial of the missile conducted on May 17 last year from the same base was successful.

NHRC to complete 18 years

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will complete 18 years of its existence next month but many states and union territories are still to set up state panels or fill up vacancies of members and chairpersons.

Fifteen states and union territories, including Delhi, have not set up State Human Rights Commissions while the panels existing in nine states have no full time chairpersons or members, according to NHRC documents.
Worse is the case of Himachal Pradesh which the NHRC says is "non-functional" since 16th July 2005 due to non-filling of posts of chairperson and members.
Under Section 21 of The Protection of Human Rights Act of 1993, State Human Rights Commissions are required to be constituted by state governments.
According to a senior NHRC official, five of nine state commissions have no full time chairpersons. Out of the nine, five states -- Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur and Rajasthan -- do not even have acting chairpersons.
The northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura do not have SHRCs.
The other three states which do not have SHRCs are Goa, Haryana and Uttarakhand.
Noting that the NHRC can only "persuade" and "not force" state governments, the official said, "We have SHRCs in 20 states but only 11 have full time chairpersons. We feel that the spirit of the Act has to be replicated in all states."
In an Action Taken Report submitted by the Home Ministry in Parliament in the recent Monsoon session of Parliament, it said the NHRC is keen that every state sets up SHRCs.
Citing an example, the Home Ministry said there were 5,433 complaints of human rights violations from Delhi to the NHRC in 2008-09 and all these were filed with NHRC only.
"The NCT of Delhi did not have any SHRC during the period reported upon," it said.
According to the NHRC official, this burden of the Commission could have lessened if there was a state-level body in Delhi.
"We have disposed of 5,406 cases during that period. 27 cases are still pending," the official said.
NHRC statistics says that 2,525 complaints were received at the Commission from Delhi in the past six months since April.
"Of these, 534 cases are yet to be disposed off. We are dealing with all the cases," the official said.
In 2010-11, the Commission received 5,929 cases out of which 232 are still pending and the figures for 2009-10 were were 5,228 and 54.
"These statistics show the scope of state-level bodies," the official said.
There is a provision in the Act for setting up of human rights courts for the purpose of providing speedy trial of offences arising out of violation of human rights.
Uttar Pradesh had earlier set up such a court but it was not functioning now, he said.
Noting that many cases are now being forwarded to state commissions, the official said the disposal of cases in SHRCs were affected as they do not have the required infrastructure.
The NHRC also views strong and active SHRCs as a deterrent to "unscrupulous" NGOs cashing in on human rights issues and minting money.

Japan lifts some nuclear evacuation advisories

Japan lifted some evacuation advisories around the tsunami-devastated Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant on Friday to reassure tens of thousands of residents who fled the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl that it is safe to return home.
A 20-kilometer no-go zone remains in place around the plant, which was badly damaged by the March 11 tsunami that left nearly 20,000 people dead or missing across Japan's northeast coast.
But officials said the advisories for five municipalities 20-30 kilometers away were lifted because the plant had been restored to a relatively stable condition and radiation levels were within safety standards.
Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, the government's top nuclear crisis official, said the decision was a major step toward restoring normalcy to the region and boosting ongoing efforts to resettle the largely deserted towns.
Local officials, however, said they did not expect residents to come flooding back right away.
Motohoshi Yamada, the mayor of one of the affected towns, said in a statement today that further radiation monitoring and infrastructure repairs must be carried out before the town will be ready to function again.
"We are doing all we can to assure that our townspeople will be able to return as soon as possible," said Yamada, whose town, Hirono, is right on the edge of the no-go zone.
"As soon as we believe residents can return safely and securely, we will let them know."
The advisories were issued April 22 and affected about 59,000 people.
The government did not order residents outside the 12-mile zone to leave.
Instead, it cautioned them to be prepared to remain indoors or evacuate at any time in the event of a further crisis at the plant.
Many fearing radioactive contamination and cut off from public services left anyway.
Tens of thousands remain in voluntary exile.
The five towns have begun efforts to decontaminate buildings and restart public services so that residents can return.
A government panel is also compiling guidelines to address concerns from residents and support their resettlement process.
Experts say it could take decades for some of the areas nearest the plant to be safe for habitation.
The disaster is the worst since Chernobyl in 1986.

UP gets three new districts

In Uttar Pradesh, three new districts including Prabuddha Nagar, Panchsheel Nagar and Bhim Nagar were set up on Wednesday in the western region of the state. With these new districts, the total number of districts has gone up to 75 in the state. Chief Minister Mayawati announced on Wednesday 28 September, 2011 the formation of new districts during her one-day visit to the western districts of the state.

The new district of Prabuddha Nagar has been carved out of Muzaffar Nagar district. Shamli and Kairana tehsils from Muzaffar Nagar are being included in the new district whose headquarter will be at Shamli. New district Panchsheel Nagar has been set up carving out from Ghaziabad. Garh Mukteshwar, Hapur and newly set up Daulana tehsils of Ghaziabad will be included in the new district and Hapur will be its headquarter. Bhim Nagar will be the 75th district of the state. It has been carved out from Moradabad and Badaun districts. Chandausi and Sambhal tehsils of Moradabad and Gunnaur from Badaun are being included in new district. Sambhal has been announced as it’s headquarter.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

China's space module launch

A spokesperson for China's manned space programme said on September28 that fuel had been injected into the Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket in preparation for launching the Tiangong-1 space module on September 29 as planned.

The Long March-2FT1 is the latest modified model of the Long March-2 rocket series and features a more powerful thrust force, said spokeswoman Wu Ping at a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

The Long March-2FT1, given more than 170 improvements, is 52-metre long with a payload to low Earth orbit of 8.6 tonnes,said Mr. Wu.

The modifications came after an unsuccessful launch in August when a Long March-2C rocket failed to send an experimental satellite into orbit. Engineers conducted comprehensive technical evaluations and made modifications to Tiangong-1's Long March-2F carrier rocket, which shares most of its components with the failed Long March-2C.

To contain the Tiangong-1 module, which is larger than China's Shenzhou manned spacecraft, the Long March-2FT1 has a larger nose fairing, according to Jing Muchun, chief designer of the Tiangong mission's carrier rocket system.

The shape of the rocket's boosters has also been modified to allow for greater fuel volume than the Long March-2F model, resulting in an increase in its thrust power, said the chief designer.

Compared with carrier rockets that the United States and Russia have used to launch Moon-landing vehicles and space station components, China's Long March rocket series is much less powerful.

For example, a carrier rocket must have a payload capacity of at least 20 tonnes to send one single part of the International Space Station into low Earth orbit. “China's manned space programme aims at building up a space station, so we need a more powerful carrier rocket,” Jing told Xinhua at the launch center.

“Research and development on a new, bigger carrier rocket that burns more environmentally-friendly liquid-oxygen-kerosene fuels is in progress,” he said.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

World's first desert geopark opens in China

The world's first desert geopark opened has opened in China, authorities said. The geopark was opened Monday in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, reported Xinhua. Geoparks are places where rare geological landforms are preserved in an undisturbed state and where low impact recreation, scientific research, and educational activities can be pursued.

The Alxa desert geopark has a total planned area of 630.37 square km, a statement said.  The park will function as a museum and a scientific research area, allowing tourists and scientists to examine the formation and evolution of the Alxa desert.

In August 2009, the park was added to the Unesco Global Geoparks Network (GGN), where it was listed as the world's only desert geopark.

India defeated Pakistan 53-38 to lift Asian Kabaddi Title

The Indian kabaddi team lifted its first-ever Circle Style Asian kabaddi title by defeating arch-rivals Pakistan 53-38 at Tabriz in Iran on 27 September 2011.

India and Pakistan were almost on even terms at the half- time score of 24-22, but in the second half India dominated proceedings leeading to a huge 15-point difference.

It is for the first time that the championship was played outside India. Eight nations participated in the championship.

Punjab's Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who popularised the traditional game at international level mentioned that the Asia Cup was a trailor of the second World Cup, to be held in the state of Punjab from 1 November 2011.

Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust awarded Contract for its Fourth Terminal to PSA -ABG Consortium

The Board of trustees of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust on 26 September 2011 decided to award the contract for its fourth container terminal to the consortium of Singapore's PSA and the ABG group in India. The project to cost around Rs 6,700 crore will be the single largest foreign direct investment in the Indian port sector.

The terminal with a designed capacity to handle 4.8 million TEUs annually, on completion will more than double the JN port's capacity. The new terminal, with a berth length of 2km, will be able to accommodate seven ships at a time, compared with 2-3 at other terminals in India. The JN port already has three terminals — two run by private parties and one by the port trust with a design to handle a total of 3.6 million TEUs a year. The port, one of the 13 major ports in the country, handled 4.27 million containers in 2010-11 nearly five per cent more than it did in 2009-10. Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust  is one of the country's 13 major Centre-owned ports.

The consortium of PSA-ABG had emerged as the highest bidder agreeing to offer 50.8 per cent of the revenue to the Government.

The port trust had set up a committee, headed by its Deputy Chairman to study the performance of ABG at Kandla. The committee has presented its report to the board, following which the contract was awarded.

At the fourth terminal at JN port, ABG will be a minority partner holding 26 per cent stake while  PSA will hold the majority.

Government Panel in Favour of More Power to CCI in Allowing M&A in Pharmaceutical Sector

A government panel headed by Planning Commission member Arun Maira in its report presented on 27 September 2011, mentioned there should there should be no restrictions on foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Rs 47000 crore pharmaceuticals sector.

The modification that the committee recommended specifically for the pharmaceutical industry was regarding thresholds for M&A evaluation that come for CCI scrutiny. The panel specified that all mergers and acquisitions in the sector were required to be cleared by the Competition Commission of India (CCI), the country's competition watchdog, as it fears that a spate of M&As in the sector may lead to increase in drug prices.

The committee was in favour of giving more power to the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in allowing mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the pharmaceutical sector and not changing the foreign direct investment (FDI) rules.

CCI will look at the acquisitions of local operations like Ranbaxy, Piramal Healthcare's domestic formulations, certain operations of Wockhardt etc as well as other types of combinations between companies will also be scrutinised by it.

The healthcare sector raised concern over the recommendations of the committee mentioning that Indian companies could get trapped at the lower-end of the value chain. The sector felt that foreign companies cannot be forced to address the critical concerns of India's health needs, specially given the several bi-lateral trade treaties the country is formalising with other countries.

The committee under Maira was created on June 30 by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs to look into the issue of creating an investor-friendly environment for promoting fresh investments in the sector and position India a leading destination for drug research and manufacturing hub.

Pharma Sector in India

The government currently permits 100 per cent FDI via automatic route. However, the ministry of health had raised serious concerns on the impact of the series of takeovers that have been taking place since 2006 on the domestic drugs industry.

The period from 2006 to 2010 saw some significant M&A deals that changed the face of Indian pharma industry. Some of them were the acquisition of Matrix Lab by US-based Mylan Inc in August 2006, Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo acquired Ranbaxy Laboratories in June 2008, France-based Sanofi Aventis took over Shanta Biotech in July 2009 and last year, in May, US-based Abbot Laboratories acquired Piramal Healthcare.

Finance Ministry released Draft National Public Private Partnership for Infrastructure Projects

The finance ministry on 27 September 2011 released the draft national public-private partnership (PPP) policy aimed at creating a framework for implementing infrastructure projects across sectors. The development follows the announcement made by the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the Budget. The draft of PPP policy was released in pursuance of government's commitment to improve the level and quality of economic and social infrastructure service.

The Policy seeks to expand the scope of the PPP scheme. The 26-page draft policy seeks to put in place the broad principles for pursuing a project on PPP basis. it also provides a framework for identifying, structuring, awarding and managing PPP projects.

The policy addresses the issues concerning definition of various terms and also processes so that a clear and consistent position can be adopted by stake holders, including centre, states and private investors.

The policy was designed to ensure that a value-for-money rationale is adopted with optimal risk allocation in project structuring with life cycle approach.

It aims to develop governance structures to facilitate competitiveness, fairness and transparency in procurement and attaining appropriate public oversight and monitoring of PPP projects.

The government aims to bring more transparency in the PPP projects which are mainly undertaken to provide public service by private players. The government is envisaging an investment of USD 1 trillion in infrastructure sector during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17), up from USD 500 million in the current Plan.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

CSIR Young Scientist Awards 2011

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on its Foundation Day celebrated on 26 September 2011 presented the CSIR Young Scientist Awards 2011 that seek to promote in- house excellence in various fields of science and technology.

CSIR Young Scientist Awards were instituted in 1987. CSIR Young Scientist Awards seek to promote in- house excellence in various fields of science and technology. CSIR scientist, below 35 years of age, as reckoned on 26 September (CSIR Fondation Day) of the preceding year, is eligible for the Award.

These awards are given annually in the fields of Biological Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Sciences and Engineering Sciences Physical Sciences (including instrumentation).

Each award consist of a citation, a cash prize of Rs. 50000/- (Rupees fifty thousand only) and a plaque. CSIR Young Scientist Awardees are also entitled to a research grant of Rs. 5.0 Lakhs (Rupees five lakh only) per annum for a period of five years and an honorarium of Rs. 75000/- (Rupees seven thousand and five hundred only) per month till the age of 45 years.

Till 2010, 140 scientists (including 17 women scientists) received the CSIR Yound Scientist Award. For the year 2011, Advisory Committee consisting of eminent scientists recommended seven scientists for the CSIR Young Scientist Awards. For 2011 no one was found suitable in Biological Sciences and Physical Sciences (including instrumentation).

In Chemical Sciences, Dr Bikash Kumar Jena from from CSIR Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology was given the CSIR Young Scientist Award for the year 2011. Dr Dattatraya Hanumant De and Dr Rahul Banerjee also received the CSIR Young Scientist Award for the year 2011 in Chemical Sciences.

The CSIR Young Scientist Award for the Year 2011 in Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Sciences was awarded to Dr Arun Singh of CSIR National Geophysical Research Institute. Dr Rajeev Saraswat of CSIR National Institute of Oceanography also received the award in this category.

The CSIR Young Scientist Award for the year 2011 in Engineering Sciences was awarded to Dr Amol Arvindrao Kulkarni and Dr Kaushik Biswas.

India Post Signed MOU with National Stock Exchange for Financial Awareness

India post signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with National Stock Exchange (NSE) on 26 September 2011 for deploying LCD TV screens in selected post offices across the country. The MOU was signed by Alka Jha, General Manager (BP), India Post and T. Vanket Rao, Vice President of National Stock Exchange. This MOU is aimed at creating financial awareness among the public. To begin with LCD TV screens will be deployed in 50 post offices across the country.  

These LCD TV screens shall be utilized for disseminating financial awareness and awareness on various postal products and services for the common public visiting post offices. This step will bring the financial market place closer to the people considering the importance and footfall at post offices.

Besides publicizing products available in post offices, India Post will use the facility to train the postal staff. Showcasing information about market will help people develop live skills about finances and people will be able to manage their finances better.

Poverty of statistics

The Planning Commission's submission to the Supreme Court, defining the poor to be those with daily spending not exceeding Rs 31 in urban and Rs 25 in the rural areas is politically and economically indefensible. Such a crude cut-off, derived from the Suresh Tendulkar Committee's methodology for estimation of poverty, raises questions over the official poverty ratio of 32 per cent for 2009-10 (which is based on the same methodology). It only confirms how the ‘Great Indian Poverty Debate' has been reduced to a bizarre ‘numbers game', with the World Bank pegging the poor at over 40 per cent in 2005 and another committee under the National Advisory Council member, N.C. Saxena, arriving at a figure of 50 per cent just before the Tendulkar panel released its report in late 2009. In the meantime, the Arjun Sengupta Committee reckoned the poor and ‘vulnerable' at 77 per cent of India's population. All of this may seem a bit comical, but for the fact that the joke is at the expense of the poor. For them, being officially entitled to below-poverty-line (BPL) status can be a matter of life and death, as it promises access to a host of welfare schemes from cheap grains at ration shops to subsidised housing under the Indira Awaas Yojana. 

This leads to the inescapable conclusion that abstract definitions of poverty lines must be done away with and replaced with more specific information reflecting the real living conditions of households. Take the findings of the 2001 Census: that 63.6 per cent of Indian households had no latrines and only 39 per cent had access to drinking water within their premises, or 52 per cent used firewood as cooking fuel and a mere 17.5 per cent LPG. There can be no better measures of backwardness, if not poverty. The 2011 Census numbers on these indicators are not yet out; once they are, we will get a more updated picture. The Rural Development Ministry has, moreover, launched its own country-wide BPL Census exercise, to be completed by 2011-12. This Census, too, employs transparent criteria for exclusion of families from the BPL list — those owning motorised vehicles (including tractors and harvesters), having Kisan Credit Cards with credit limit above Rs 50,000, holding a government job, and so on. 

Given the poor credibility of official poverty estimates — and the attendant risks of excluding even the genuinely needy from the ambit of welfare schemes — there is a case to shelve their usage for public policy purposes. The Government should, instead, wait for the results of both the BPL as well as the general Census. Simultaneously, it must streamline delivery systems, weed out ineffective programmes and prioritise self-selection schemes such as MGNREGA. These can be supplemented with intelligent use of technology, particularly biometric information-based Unique Identification cards, which probably hold the key for the future of social welfare.

India-Latin America pharma meet

A three-day pharma business meet of India, Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) countries will begin at Hyderabad on Secunderabad 27. “The objective of the meeting is to provide business opportunity to Indian pharma exporters, especially Small and Medium Enterprises,” Dr P V Appaji, Executive Director, Phamaceutical Export Promotion Council said.
About 14 important Latin American countries with huge potential for exports from India were identified, he added. During the conference, four business sessions and a conclave of chief executive officers of pharma companies, would be organised.
Over 500 delegates from India, 250 exporters and 76 delegates from the LAC region are likely to participate.

Planning Commission's poverty line not to impact socio-economic census

The ongoing enumeration for a socio-economic census in the country will not be affected by the poverty line cut-off spelled out by the Planning Commission, according to a senior rural development ministry adviser.

The Planning Commission informed the Supreme Court Tuesday that poverty line could be provisionally placed at around Rs.32 a day per capita in urban areas and Rs.26 in rural areas.

Manjula Krishnan, chief economic adviser in the minstry, said the data collection was not "a BPL survey" but an exercise for ranking poor rural households. The ranking would be based on exclusion and inclusion criteria and deprivation indicators, she added.

"We are not identifying Below Poverty Line (BPL)," Krishnan told IANS. "We are only collecting data. It will not be affected by (the Planning Commission's) poverty line cut-off."

The government had carried out "BPL census" in 1992, 1997 and 2002 but decided to go for a socio-economic survey this year in the face of complaints of discrepancies in the earlier lists.

The socio-economic and caste survey (SECC) will also help the government identify beneficiaries for the proposed food security bill.

The socio-economic census started from Tripura in June this year.

Krishnan said rank listing of rural households will be given to state governments and they will use the Planning Commission's estimate of poverty to determine which households will be classified as BPL.

The widespread criticism of the poverty line cut-off, from political parties and civil society groups, has forced a rethink in the panel.

Rural development ministry officials said the Planning Commission may revise its poverty line cut-off by the time state governments classify households as BPL, upon the completion of the socio-economic survey early next year.

"If the poverty cut-off is not revised by the Planning Commission, state governments are expected to take it up with the panel," a ministry official told IANS. "We will also take it up separately."

He hoped the state governments would have completed the exercise of identifying BPL families before the 12th five-year plan begins in March 2012.

Ministry officials said that the socio-economic survey was "going a little behind schedule" as states had to make huge logistic efforts in terms of manpower and equipment.

However, they added, it may still be completed within the original timeline of December in most states.

They said the SECC in Sikkim would be delayed in view of the recent earthquake. Besides, Uttar Pradesh had conveyed that the state would carry out the census in February next year.

Several large states will carry out SECC in the next three months, the officials added.

Ministry officials said care had been taken to ensure accuracy of data and independent agencies will be involved in the task.

The data is being collected on hand-held device to ensure greater accuracy and faster processing.

The socio-economic survey has seven deprivation indicators, apart from automatic inclusion and exclusion criteria.

The deprivation indicators -- each of which has been given equal weightage in calculating inclusion priority -- include households with only one room with "kutcha walls and kutcha roof", households with no adult member between 16 and 59, female-headed households with no adult member between age 16 and 59, households with any disabled member and no able-bodied adult member, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe households, households with no literate adult above 25 years and landless households deriving the major part of their income from manual casual labour.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lagaan on all-time best sports films' list

Lagaan, which won an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category, finds a place in the all-time 25 best sports movies list of Time.
It is in the 14th spot “Even those who know none of cricket's complicated rules will bounce in their seats to A. R. Rahman's irrepressible tunes; here, one can immediately and fully accept the Bollywood music and dance as an expression of life's deepest, most soaring emotions. As a sports film, social document or communal ecstasy, Lagaan is the all-time all-rounder,” Time said.

Typhoon Nesat

Philippine’s main island braces for heavy rains and winds brought by fast-moving Typhoon Nesat. Forecasters say Nesat will make landfall in eastern Aurora province in the next 24 hours and cross Luzon Island north of Manila with winds of up to 215 kilometres per hour. The typhoon bore down on the Philippines exactly two years after nearly 500 people died in the worst flooding in decades in Manila.

Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai dies

Wangari Maathai, the first African woman recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, died after a long struggle with cancer. She was 71.
One of Kenya’s most recognizable women, Maathai won the Nobel in 2004 for combining environmentalism and social activism. She was the founder of the Green Belt Movement, where over 30 years she mobilized poor women to plant 30 million trees.
Edward Wageni, that group’s deputy executive director, said Maathai died in a Nairobi hospital late Sunday. Maathai was in and out of the hospital since the beginning of the year, he said.
In recognizing Maathai, the Nobel committee said that she had stood up to a former oppressive regime in Kenya and that her “unique forms of action have contributed to drawing attention to political oppression.”

Prithvi-II ballistic missile successfully test-fired

India demonstrated the reliability of another surface-to-surface missile by successfully test-firing nuclear-weapons capable Prithvi-II ballistic system for its full range of 350 km on September 26.
The nine-metre tall missile, built indigenously by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), was launched 9.00 hrs from Launch Complex-III of the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, Orissa by the personnel of Strategic Force Command as part of regular user trial.
The missile which was picked up randomly from the production lot met all the mission objectives and closed in onto the pre-designated target in the Bay of Bengal with a high degree of accuracy after a 500-second flight, according to DRDO officials. The Circular Error Probability was (CEP) was a few metres, they added.
A battery of sophisticated radars, electro-optical systems, telemetry stations and a ship located near the target point tracked the entire flight path until its splash down.
The liquid-propelled Prithvi-II is a single stage missile and equipped with sophisticated inertial navigation, control and guidance system. It can carry payload of 500-1,000 kg and has already been inducted into the Armed Forces.
The launch operations were carried out by SFC personnel and supervised by DRDO missile scientists.

2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls go online

Two thousand years after they were written and decades after they were found in desert caves, some of the world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls are available online.
Israel’s national museum and the international web giant Google are behind the project, which put five scrolls online on Monday. The scrolls include the biblical Book of Isaiah.
Google’s technology allows surfers to search the scrolls for specific passages and translate them into English.
The scrolls available online were purchased by Israeli researchers between 1947 and 1967. They were originally found by Bedouin shepherds in the Judean Desert.
They are held at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Google is also working with Israel to make the first comprehensive and searchable database of the broader collection of scrolls.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

SEBI issued Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers Regulations, 2011

Securities and Exchange Boar of India (SEBI) on 23 September 2011 notified the new takeover rule under which an entity buying 25% stake in a listed firm will have to mandatorily make an open offer to buy an additional 26% shares from the public. The notification follows the decision taken at SEBI's board meeting in July 2011.

The new norms mark an increase in the open offer size for public shareholders from 20 per cent currently. The trigger for making such an offer was raised from 15 per cent under the existing regulations.

According to SEBI no acquirer shall acquire shares in a target company which taken together with shares or voting rights held by him entitle them to exercise 25 per cent or more of the voting rights unless the acquirer makes a public announcement of an open offer.

The new regulations, titled as The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) Regulations, 2011 will come into effect from October 2011.

As per the new rules there would be no separate provision for non-compete fees, which allows promoters to higher price than the public shareholders, and all shareholders should be given the exit option at the same price. SEBI, as part of the new code, allowed voluntary offers subject to certain conditions.

Regarding control and offer size, SEBI mentioned that the existing definition of control would be retained and the minimum offer size shall be increased to 26% of the target company.

Accepting the recommendations of a SEBI-appointed panel on the matter, the regulator also decided to abolish the non-compete fees that acquirers generally pay to the sellers in merger and acquisition deals. While the recommendation on trigger was accepted, the suggestion for offer size has been kept lower due to intense opposition from industry and other market participants.

The panel had opined against non-compete fees for promoters which often worked out as high as 25% of the deal value.

A SEBI panel on new takeover regulation had in 2010 recommended an open offer for buying up to 100% in the target company, while suggesting an increase in the trigger limit to 25%.

NHRC Data revealed Maximum Cases of Bonded Labour in UP, Punjab & Haryana

According to data released by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on 23 September 2011, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana are the top three states from where maximum cases of bonded labour have been reported in the past 18 years.

As per the report 1300 cases of human rights violations pertaining to bonded labour were reported from Uttar Pradesh followed by Punjab (465) and Haryana (425). Delhi stood at the ninth position with 45 such cases.
According to the data released by NHRC over 40 per cent of the 2,800 bonded labour cases which were reported to the commission are yet to be solved.

NHRC was of the opinion that the issue of bonded labour was not being addressed adequately by the bureaucracy and the police. It further addded The mindset of government officers and bureaucrats must change.

The Supreme Court had asked the NHRC to look into the cases of bonded labour but it complained of resistance from the government officials in solving the cases.

New species discovered by GBPIHED Scientists

Scientists at GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment & Development have discovered two new species of fish and a rare plant species. The ray-finned fish Glyptothorax dikrongensis is distinguished from all other species of the genus Glyptothorax, except Glyptothorax indicus, Glyptothorax rugimentum and Glyptothorax obliquimaculatus

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Shourya missile launch successful

India’s hypersonic missile, Shourya, was successfully test-fired from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, Orissa, on September 24, in its final configuration. The missile flew at 7.5 Mach, that is, 7.5 times the speed of sound and covered its full range of 700 km in 500 seconds.
This was the third successful launch of Shourya, a surface-to-surface missile and it paves the way for its production and induction into the Navy. It can carry both nuclear and conventional warheads. Shourya is the land-variant of the K-15 underwater missile that is being fitted into India’s nuclear-powered submarine, Arihant. So Shourya can be used by both the Navy and the Army. It can carry both nuclear and conventional warheads.
The missile rose from a canister fixed on the ground “on the dot” at 2.30 p.m., climbed to an altitude of 40 km and traversed 700 km at 7.5 times the speed of sound.
It performed a terminable manoeuvre and closed in on the pre-designated impact point in the Bay of Bengal with a high degree of accuracy. The missile was designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

CERN claims faster-than-light particle measured

A fundamental pillar of physics that nothing can go faster than the speed of light appears to be smashed by an oddball subatomic particle that has apparently made a giant end run around Albert Einstein’s theories.
Scientists at the world’s largest physics lab said Thursday they have clocked neutrinos travelling faster than light. That’s something that according to Einstein’s 1905 special theory of relativity the famous E=mc2 equation just doesn’t happen.
“The feeling that most people have is this can’t be right, this can’t be real,” said James Gillies, a spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, outside the Swiss city of Geneva.
Mr. Gillies told The Associated Press that the readings have so astounded researchers that they are asking others to independently verify the measurements before claiming an actual discovery.
“They are inviting the broader physics community to look at what they’ve done and really scrutinize it in great detail, and ideally for someone elsewhere in the world to repeat the measurements,” he said Thursday.
Scientists at the competing Fermilab in Chicago have promised to start such work immediately.
“It’s a shock,” said Fermilab head theoretician Stephen Parke, who was not part of the research in Geneva. “It’s going to cause us problems, no doubt about that — if it’s true.”
The Chicago team had similar faster-than-light results in 2007, but those came with a giant margin of error that undercut its scientific significance.
Outside scientists expressed scepticism at CERN’s claim that the neutrinos one of the strangest well-known particles in physics were observed smashing past the cosmic speed barrier of 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometrs per second).
University of Maryland physics department chairman Drew Baden called it “a flying carpet,” something that was too fantastic to be believable.
CERN says a neutrino beam fired from a particle accelerator near Geneva to a lab 454 miles (730 kilometres) away in Italy travelled 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light. Scientists calculated the margin of error at just 10 nanoseconds, making the difference statistically significant. But given the enormous implications of the find, they still spent months checking and rechecking their results to make sure there was no flaws in the experiment.
“We have not found any instrumental effect that could explain the result of the measurement,” said Antonio Ereditato, a physicist at the University of Bern, Switzerland, who was involved in the experiment known as OPERA.
The CERN researchers are now looking to the United States and Japan to confirm the results.
A similar neutrino experiment at Fermilab near Chicago would be capable of running the tests, said Stavros Katsanevas, the deputy director of France’s National Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics Research. The institute collaborated with Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory for the experiment at CERN.
Mr. Katsanevas said help could also come from the T2K experiment in Japan, though that is currently on hold after the country’s devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Scientists agree if the results are confirmed, that it would force a fundamental rethink of the laws of nature.
Einstein’s special relativity theory that says energy equals mass times the speed of light squared underlies “pretty much everything in modern physics,” said John Ellis, a theoretical physicist at CERN who was not involved in the experiment. “It has worked perfectly up until now.”
He cautioned that the neutrino researchers would have to explain why similar results weren’t detected before, such as when an exploding star or supernova was observed in 1987. “This would be such a sensational discovery if it were true that one has to treat it extremely carefully,” said Mr. Ellis.

Manmohan calls for U.N. reform to address global crisis

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for changes in the structure of the United Nations to address a deepening global crisis which has generated “great uncertainty and profound change”.
“Till a few years ago”, Dr. Singh said in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday, “the world had taken for granted the benefits of globalisation and global interdependence”. But now, he noted, “we are being called upon to cope with the negative dimensions”.
“Economic, social and political event in different parts of the world”, he said, “have coalesced together and their adverse impact is now being felt across countries and continents”.
There was, the Prime Minister said, a “deficit in global governance” which necessitated “a stronger and more effective United Nations”.
“For this”, he argued, “the United Nations and its principal organs, the General Assembly and the Security Council, must be revitalised and reformed”. The Prime Minister underlined the need for “early reform of the Security Council”.
Dr. Singh said “the development agenda must be brought firmly back to the centre-stage of the United Nation’s priorities”.
In his speech, the Prime Minister provided a broad-brush account of the key drivers of global instability.
He noted that “the traditional engines of the global economy, such as the United States, Europe and Japan, which are also the sources of global economic and financial stability, are faced with continued economic slowdown”.
In addition, he said, there was “unprecedented social and political upheaval” in West Asia and North Africa; food and energy prices “are once again spiralling and introducing fresh instability”; long-standing disputes like the Palestinian question remained unresolved; terrorism remained a major challenge; piracy threatening the Indian Ocean’s shipping lanes was escalating.
Finally, he said, “iniquitous growth, inadequate job and education opportunities and denial of basic human freedoms are leading to growing radicalisation of the youth, intolerance and extremism”.
Dr. Singh devoted a substantial part of his speech to addressing the growing reliance on the use of force by western powers to engage with political conflicts, often legitimised as humanitarian interventions.
He said that global responses to the crisis would only succeed “if our efforts have legitimacy and are pursued not just within the framework of law but also in the spirit of law”.
“The idea that prescriptions have to be imposed from outside is fraught with danger,” the Prime Minister said.

India Took over the Presidency of the G-24 Group after a Gap of 28 Years

India on 22 September 2011 took over the presidency of the G-24 group of 24 developing countries after a gap of 28 years.  Indian finance minister Pranab Mukherjee took over the Presidency of the group from South African finance minister Pravin J Gordhan. Egypt was elected the Vice Chair of the group. The last time India held the Presidency of the group was in 1983-84. Interestingly, Pranab Mukherjee was the Finance Minister at the time and thus chaired the G-24.

Members of G-24 group are spread equally over Asia, Africa and Latin America. From Asia, the members include Lebanon, Pakistan, India, Iran, the Philippines, Syria and Sri Lanka. There are eight members each from Africa and Latin America.

G-24 was Established in 1971. It coordinates the position of developing countries on monetary and development issues, particularly issues on the agendas of the IMF and the World Bank. The group was formed to balance the influence of the G-10 economic grouping.

India launches Text-to-speech software

The Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology Sachin Pilot on September 22 released a software Text-To- Speech (TTS) system for differently- abled  persons in New Delhi.
Speaking on the occasion Pilot said that this initiative is a significant step towards digital inclusion of differently - abled people from different linguistic background.
He said, these technologies will go a long way in assisting them to become part of the Information Technology mainstream.
The Minister expressed hope that use of these technologies will provide an impetus towards wider usage of Indian languages for governance and related applications.
He said that it will also augment social inclusiveness and reach out to specially-abled section of the society.
Text-to-Speech is computer software which renders the machine readable text into Human Voice.
It will enable people with visual impairments or low vision disabilities to listen to written works on a computer or a mobile device.
Initially TTS has been released in six Indian languages including Hindi, Marathi, Bangla, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam. The remaining Indian languages will also be covered soon

Friday, September 23, 2011

Central Coordination -Cum- Empowered Committee Reviewed Position of Mineral Concession Regime in the Country

The quarterly meeting of the Central Coordination-cum¬-Empowered Committee (CEC) on monitoring and minimizing delays in grant of approvals for mineral concessions was held under the chairmanship of Shri S. Vijay Kumar, Secretary, Ministry of Mines.
The Committee reviewed the position regarding various important aspects of the mineral concession regime in the country, and took decisions aimed at bringing about more efficiency and transparency in the system. Some of the important issues that came up for discussions and review in the meeting were: action taken to curb illegal mining including use of satellite imagery; improving monitoring of the mineral system through a State Empowered Committee and District level Task Forces; plugging loopholes in the royalty collection system; strengthening governance by gearing up the State Mining Directorates; expediting approval including forest clearance cases to clear long pending mineral concession applications.

Major decisions taken included:

(i) Action Plan to be prepared to increase capacity of State Mining Directorates.

(ii) End-to-end accounting system for mineral transaction to prevent and detect illegal mining through an All Indian Online System.

(iii) Ensuring proper exploration in leasehold areas in a time-bound way to enable execution of Mining Plans in a scientific manner.

Presentations were also made by (i) M/s Ernest & Young on Mining Tenement System; (ii) by M/s E-Connect Solution Pvt. Ltd., Udaipur, on the Online Management System developed by them for the Government of Rajasthan; and (iii) by the Ministry of Environment and Forests on their new software on forest clearance that is proposed to be launched shortly.

Representatives of various Central Ministries/Departments concerned with the subject, viz. Environment and Forests, Defence, Civil Aviation, Steel, Revenue, Railways, Shipping and Fertilizer attended the meeting. The Governments of all mineral-rich States, viz. Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu also participated in the meeting.

Institute of Hotel and Catering Management at Dethali

The project of Institute of Hotel and Catering Management at Dethali in Gujarat has been prioritized for the year 2011-12.

A proposal was received from the Government of Gujarat seeking Central financial assistance for setting up a State Institute of Hotel Management at Dethali (Siddhpur-Patan) under Hemchandracharya North Gujarat University, Patan.

The proposal of the Government of Gujarat could not be considered as the Institute of Hotel Management education policy was under review. Subsequently, it was decided to open new IHM’s as per the targets of the 11th Five year Plan under the existing scheme guidelines.

The Ministry of Tourism undertakes the exercise of prioritizing projects in consultation with the state/UT Administration. The prioritised projects are however, considered for sanction subject to adherence to the scheme guidelines and progress of the projects sanctioned earlier.

Certain clarifications have been recently sought from the State Government regarding adherence to some provisions of the existing scheme guidelines.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Amar Kant, Shrilal Shukla, Kambar win Jnanpith Award

Eminent Hindi authors Amar Kant and Shrilal Shukla were chosen for India’s highest literary honour Jnanpith Award for the year 2009 while renowned Kannada litterateur Chandrasekhar Kambar won it for the year 2010.

The selection board chaired by noted writer and Jnanpith award winner Dr. Sitakant Mahapatra made the selections for the 45th and 46th Jnanpith awards.

86-year-old Kant is a leading author whose famous novel Inhin Hathiyaron Se earned him Sahitya Akademi Award in 2007.

His short stories like Hatiyare, Dopahar ka Bhojan and Diptee Kalaktari have found place in the syllabi of several Indian Universities.

Shukla, born in 1925 in Uttar Pradesh, is an eminent novelist and a satirist whose works threw light on the falling moral values of the Indian society in the post-independence era.

His noted works include Raag Darbari, Makaan, Sooni Ghaati Ka Sooraj, Pehla Padaav, Agyatvas, and Bisrampur Ka Sant. He is winner of several awards which included Sahitya Akademi Award and Vyas Sammaan. In 2008, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan for his contribution to Indian literature and culture.

74-year-old Kambar, who won the Jnanpith for the year 2010, is a novelist and playwright.

His noted works include Takararinavaru, Saavirada Neralu, Chakori (poetries); Jokumaraswamy, Chalesha, Jaisidanayaka, Harakeya Kuri (plays), Karimaayi, and Singarevva mattu Aramane (novels and stories). He is also a recipient of the Sangeet Nataka Academy Award and Sahitya Academy Award.

List of Jnanpith Award Winners

Jnanpith Award is being given for the best creative literary writing by any Indian citizen in any of the languages included in the VIII Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The Award is the brain-child of late Smt. Rama Jain, the first President of and the moving spirit behind the Bharatiya Jnanpith since its inception. It has become the most prestigious literary award of the country. This awards inlude sum of Rs. 5 lakhs including citation.

Year : Name – Works (Language)
1965 :
G. Sankara Kurup – Odakkuzhal [Flute] (Malayalam)
1966 : Tarashankar Bandopadhyaya – Ganadevta (Bengali)
1967 : Kuppali Venkatappagowda Puttappa (Kuvempu) – Sri Ramayana Darshanam (Kannada)
1967 : Umashankar Joshi – Nishitha (Gujarati)
1968 : Sumitranandan Pant – Chidambara (Hindi)
1969 : Firaq Gorakhpuri – Gul-e-Naghma (Urdu)
1970 : Viswanatha Satyanarayana – Ramayana Kalpavrikshamu [A resourceful tree:Ramayana] (Telugu)
1971 : Bishnu Dey Smriti – Satta Bhavishyat (Bengali)
1972 : Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar' – Urvashi (Hindi)
1973 : Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre – Nakutanti [Naku Thanthi (Four Strings)] (Kannada)
1973 : Gopinath Mohanty – Paraja (Oriya)
1974 : Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar – Yayati (Marathi)
1975 : P. V. Akilan – Chitttrappavai (Tamil)
1976 : Ashapurna Devi – Pratham Pratisruti (Bengali)
1977 : K. Shivaram Karanth – Mookajjiya Kanasugalu [Mookajjis dreams] (Kannada)
1978 : Sachchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayan 'Ajneya' – Kitni Navon Men Kitni Bar [How many times in many boats?] (Hindi)
1979 : Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya – Mrityunjay [Immortal] (Assamese)
1980 : S. K. Pottekkatt – Oru Desathinte Katha [Story of a land] (Malayalam)
1981 : Amrita Pritam – Kagaj te Canvas (Punjabi)
1982 : Mahadevi Varma – Yama (Hindi)
1983 : Maasti Venkatesh Ayengar – Chikkaveera Rajendra [Life and struggle of Kodava King Chikkaveera Rajendra] (Kannada)
1984 : Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai – Kayar [Coir] (Malayalam)
1985 : Pannalal Patel – Maanavi Ni Bhavaai (Gujarati)
1986 : Sachidananda Rout Roy (Oriya)
1987 : Vishnu Vaman Shirwadkar (Kusumagraj) – Natsamrat (Marathi)
1988 : Dr.C. Narayana Reddy – Vishwambhara (Telugu)
1989 : Qurratulain Hyder – Akhire Shab Ke Humsafar (Urdu)
1990 : V. K. Gokak (Vinayaka Krishna Gokak) – Bharatha Sindhu Rashmi (Kannada)
1991 : Subhas Mukhopadhyay – Padati (Bengali)
1992 : Naresh Mehta (Hindi)
1993 : Sitakant Mahapatra – "for outstanding contribution to the enrichment of Indian literature, 1973-92" (Oriya)
1994 : U. R. Ananthamurthy – for his contributions to (Kannada) literature (Kannada)
1995 : M. T. Vasudevan Nair – Randamoozham [Second Chance] (Malayalam)
1996 : Mahasweta Devi – Hajar Churashir Ma (Bengali)
1997 : Ali Sardar Jafri (Urdu)
1998 : Girish Karnad – "for his contributions to (Kannada) literature and for contributions to (Kannada) theater (yayati)" (Kannada)
1999 : Nirmal Verma (Hindi)
1999 : Gurdial Singh (Punjabi)
2000 : Indira Goswami (Assamese)
2001 : Rajendra Keshavlal Shah (Gujarati)
2002 : D. Jayakanthan (Tamil)
2003 : Vinda Karandikar – Ashtadarshana (poetry) (Marathi)
2004 : Rahman Rahi – Subhuk Soda, Kalami Rahi and Siyah Rode Jaren Manz (Kashmiri)
2005 : Kunwar Narayan (Hindi)
2006 : Ravindra Kelekar (Konkani)
2006 : Satya Vrat Shastri (Sanskrit)
2007 : O. N. V. Kurup (Malayalam)
2008 : Akhlaq Mohammed Khan 'Shahryar' (Urdu)
2009 : Amar Kant (Hindi)
2009 : Shrilal Shukla (Hindi)
2010 : Chandrashekhara Kambara – for his contributions to Kannada literature (Kannada)

Goa became the First Indian State to Launch Health Insurance Policy Covering all its People

Goa became the first state in India to launch Swarnajayanti Aarogya Bima Yojana providing health insurance cover for the entire resident population of the State. The State Government on 20 September 2011 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ICICI Lombard which is the implementing agency for the new health insurance cover. About 3.2 lakh families in the state would be entitled to be in the purview of the scheme.

The novel and unique cash less health insurance scheme provides for meeting expenses of hospitalization for medical and/or surgical procedure including maternity benefit to the enrolled families upto 60000 rupees per family per year subject to limits in any of the government and private hospitals and nursing homes. The benefit to the family will be on floater basis and a sum insured of 60000 rupees can be availed individually or collectively by members of the family per year. Under the scheme, pre existing conditions/diseases are to be covered from day one. The scheme covers family comprising of household head, spouse and upto three dependents resident of Goa for over five years. A beneficiary will have to pay 100 rupees to the insurance company at the time of enrollment.

Union Government constituted an Inter-ministerial Team to visit Earthquake hit Areas

The Union government on 21 September 2011 constituted an inter-ministerial team to visit the areas affected by the 6.8 magnitude earthquake, the epicenter for which was in Sikkim. The earthquake hit the eastern and north eastern region on 18 September 2011.

The Centre has constituted an inter-ministerial team to visit the affected places in the State and give its recommendations for assistance from the National Disaster Response Fund.

As many as 3200 people were sheltered at Army camps and a camp run by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). A total of 5500 Army personnel and 700 from the ITBP were deployed for rescue and relief operations. As many as 60 villages were physically covered by Army jawans. A total of 700 houses in Sikkim collapsed in the aftermath of the quake.  Food packets were airdropped in the northern part of the North District at Myang.

India and South Africa Agreed to Strengthen Bilateral Cooperation in the MSME

India and South Africa agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the MSME (micro, small and medium enterprise) sector. This was agreed in a bilateral meeting between Jyotiradiya M Scindia, Minister of state Commerce and Industries and Elizabeth Thabethe, Deputy Minister for Trade & Industry, government of South Africa. South Africa houses many prominent centres of learning and excellence. The MSME sector accounts for a large share of industrial output, employment and exports in both countries. There are immense opportunities of cooperation and strategic alliances in MSME sector, which could be in the form of joint ventures, technology collaborations or marketing tie-ups.

The total trade between the two countries in the financial year 2010-11 was 10.6 billion US dollars, higher than bilateral trade target of 10 billion US dollars by the year 2012, set during the visit of South African President Jacob Zuma to India in June, 2010. A revised bilateral trade target of  15 billion US dollars has been set for the year 2014 during the meeting of Minister of Commerce and Industry, Government of India and the Minister of Trade and Industry, Government of South Africa held on 10 January, 2011. South Africa is India’s 2nd largest trading partner in Africa. There is, however, ample scope of diversifying the existing trade basket by bringing in many more manufactured goods.

There is active contact between India and South Africa in multilateral fora, particularly at the NAM, Commonwealth, G-77, G-20, NAASP and WTO. Both countries are part of the IBSA trilateral initiative. Both countries are currently non-permanent members of the UN Security Council (2011-2012). SA rendered pro-active support in the NSG decision to enable full civil nuclear cooperation with India. SA recently participated in the BRICS summit held in China in April, 2011.

India Signed Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with Estonia

India signed DTAA (Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement) with Estonia on 19 September 2011 and forged a pact to work with it in the field of information, communications and technology (ICT).  The DTAA and the pact on ICT was signed during the visit of communications and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal to Estonia. Kapil signed the DTAA with Estonian Minister of Finance Jurgen Ligi. 

India will also set up a Chair on Cyber Security in Tallinn University and a Chair on Indian languages, history and literature in another of Estonia’s universities.

The government of Estonia also announced 20 scholarships for Indian students that enroll with Estonian universities for accredited doctoral programme leading to a PhD degree in information and communication technology, environment technology, biotechnology, material technology power engineering or health.

 Sibal travelled to Helsinki, Finland, to participate in a summit on information and network security for emerging markets following his visit to Estonia. Estonia is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

India to host international dialogue on green economy

India along with the United Nations will host a dialogue on green economy and inclusive growth next month in preparation for the Earth Summit in Brazil 2012.

The meeting scheduled for Oct 3-4 will provide an informal forum for an exchange among ministers, high-level officials, and senior policy advisors, with expert inputs on green economy, social development, food security and energy security.

According to environment ministry, the Delhi Dialogue aims to support the preparations for Rio+20 by providing a platform for international deliberations on opportunities for a green economy to reinforce countries' poverty eradication and social development agendas.

The dialogue seeks to advance understanding and promote the achievement of consensus on key issues related to green economy and inclusive growth, with a particular focus on how green economy strategies and policies can be integrated with food security and energy security objectives.

The year 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the UN Conference on Environment and Development, referred to as the Earth Summit, a milestone in the global sustainability process. The first conference was held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 1992.

India to develop state of the art torpedo testing centre in Kyrgyzstan

India is planning to develop a facility in Kyrgyzstan to produce state of the art torpedoes in order to strengthen its under water attack capabilities.

The Torpedo Testing Centre located at Issyk Kul lake in Karakul province, 250 kms away from the capital Bishkek, is considered one of the best locations to launch and recover torpedoes fired during test trials.

"The facility was visited by Defence Minister A K Antony a few months ago. An Indian delegation would be visiting Kyrgyzstan soon to make an assessment of investment needed for the project and the terms and conditions for co-developing it," DRDO Chief Controller William Selvamurthy told.

To develop existing infrastructure at the centre, India has proposed to engage local companies with available know how in torpedo technology to co-develop the facility.

"India is willing to develop the Centre to test all kinds of torpedoes such as heavy weight torpedoes and those having thermal navigation system," Selvamurthy said.

The centre has a network of sensors which can monitor the speed, velocity, homing in and direction of the torpedo once it is fired. This enables scientists to make necessary modifications in the navigation system to make the missiles more accurate and fool proof.

The torpedoes fired in the lake are also recoverable enabling the scientists to make physical verification of its structure for further study.

A torpedo is a self-propelled explosive projectile weapons, launched above or below the water surface, propelled under water towards a target.

India is also planning to use the facility to test the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Developed by Naval Scientific and Technological Laboratory ( NSTL).

Developed during the Soviet era, the facility was used by the Russian military as a testing site for torpedo propulsion and guidance systems, and Karakol was home to a sizable population of military personnel and their families.

Hunar se Rozgar

"Hunar se Rozgar" is a scheme of the Ministry of Tourism that was launched for creation of employable skills amongst youth belonging to economically weaker sections of the society. This initiative was taken to bridge the gap of skilled manpower in the hospitality sector.
Under this scheme, a person seeking admission to the programme should be minimum eighth pass and in the age group of 18 to 28. The trainees of the 6-week Food and Beverage Service and 8-week Food Production courses are paid Rs 1500 and Rs 2000 each respectively. This year, the target of this programme was 5500 persons, to be implemented by 35 institute of hotel management, seven food craft institutes, two 5-Star hotels and the State Governments of U P Orissa, Kerala, M P and Punjab. The number of beneficiaries has already exceeded the target set for the current financial year.

New BPL norms

The Planning Commission told the Supreme Court on September 20 that anyone spending more than Rs 965 per month in urban India and Rs 781 in rural India will be deemed not to be poor. Updating the poverty line cut-off figures, the commission said those spending in excess of Rs 32 a day in urban areas or Rs 26 a day in villages will no longer be eligible to draw benefits of central and state government welfare schemes meant for those living below the poverty line.

According to the new criterion suggested by the planners, if a family of four in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore or Chennai is spending anything more than Rs 3,860 per month on its members, it would not be considered poor. It's a definition that many would find ridiculously unrealistic.

Not surprisingly, the new above the poverty line definition has already created outrage among activists, who feel it is just a ploy to artificially depress the number of poor in India. The plan panel said these were provisional figures based on the Tendulkar committee report updated for current prices by taking account of the Consumer Price Index for industrial and agricultural workers.

TOI broke down the overall monthly figure for urban areas and used the CPI for industrial workers along with the Tendulkar report figures to see what these numbers translate into and how much the Planning Commission believes is enough to spend on essential items so as not to be deemed poor.

The Planning Commission suggests that spending Rs 5.5 on cereals per day is good enough to keep people healthy. Similarly, a daily spend of Rs 1.02 on pulses, Rs 2.33 on milk and Rs 1.55 on edible oil should be enough to provide adequate nutrition and keep people above the poverty line without the need of subsidized rations from the government. It further suggests that just Rs 1.95 on vegetables a day would be adequate. A bit more, and one might end up outside the social security net.

People should be spending less than 44 paise on fruits, 70 paise on sugar, 78 paise on salt and spices and another Rs 1.51 on other foods per day to qualify for the BPL list and for subsidy under various government schemes. A person using more than Rs 3.75 per day on fuel to run the kitchen is doing well as per these figures. Forget about the fuel price hike and sky-rocketing rents, if anyone living in the city is spending over Rs 49.10 a month on rent and conveyance, he or she could miss out on the BPL tag.

As for healthcare, according to the Planning Commission, Rs 39.70 per month is sufficient to stay healthy. On education, the plan panel feels those spending 99 paise a day or Rs 29.60 a month in cities are doing well enough not to need any help. Similarly, one could be considered not poor if he or she spends more than Rs 61.30 a month on clothing, Rs 9.6 on footwear and another Rs 28.80 on other personal items.

The monthly cut-off given by the Planning Commission before the apex court was broken down using the Consumer Price Index of Industrial Workers for 2010-11 and the breakdown given in Annexure E of the Tendulkar report of expenditure calculated at 2004-05 prices.

New BPL norms: Rs 39 enough for medical expenditure

Updating the poverty line cutoff figures, the Planning Commission said that those spending in excess of Rs 32 a day in urban areas or Rs 26 a day in villages would no longer be eligible to draw benefits for those living below the poverty line.

TOI broke down the overall monthly figure for urban areas and used the CPI for industrial workers along with the Tendulkar committie report figures to see what these numbers translate into and how much the Planning Commission believes is enough to spend on essential items so as not to be deemed poor. The Planning Commission suggests that spending Rs 5.5 on cereals per day is good enough to keep people healthy.

Similarly a daily spend of Rs 1.02 on pulses, Rs 2.33 on milk and Rs 1.55 on edible oil should be enough to provide adequate nutrition and keep people above the poverty line without the need of subsidized rations from the government.

It further suggests just Rs 1.95 on vegetables a day would be adequate. A bit more and one might end up outside the social security net. People should be spending less than 44 paisa on fruits, 70 paisa on sugar, 78 paisa on salt and spices and another Rs 1.51 on other foods per day to qualify for the BPL list and qualify for subsidy under various government schemes.

A person using more than Rs 3.75 per day on fuel to run the kitchen is doing well as per these figures. Forget about the price hike of fuel or sky-rocketing rents in the city. If anyone living in the city is spending over Rs 49.10 a month on rent and conveyance, he or she could miss out on the BPL category.

As for healthcare, Rs 39.70 per month is felt to be sufficient to stay healthy, believes the Planning Commission . On education, the plan panel feels those spending 99 paisa a day or Rs 29.60 a month in cities are doing well enough not to need any help.

Similarly, one could be considered to not be poor if he or she spends more than Rs 61.30 a month on clothing, Rs 9.6 on footwear and Rs 28.80 on other personal items. The monthly cut-off given by the Planning Commission before the apex court was broken down using the Consumer Price Index of Industrial Workers for 2010-11 and the break down given in Annexure E of the Tendulkar Report of expenditure calculated at 2004-05 prices.

The new tentative BPL criteria was worked out by the Planning Commission and approved by the Prime Minister's office before the government's affidavit was submitted before the Supreme Court. The plan panel said the final poverty line criteria would be available after the completion of the NSSO survey of 2011-12.

India's green IT, sustainability spend to reach $70 b by 2015

India's spending on green IT and sustainability initiatives will double from $35 billion in 2010 to $70 billion in 2015, according to Gartner, Inc., a leading IT research and advisory company.
In its report “Hype cycle for green IT and sustainability in India, 2011,” Gartner said green IT and sustainability have found their way into the IT organisations of many industries in India. Although still buzzwords for many, they will soon emerge as top priorities for businesses, investors and technology professionals across industries and policymakers in India.
“India's information and communication technology (ICT) industry will be an early adopter of green IT and sustainability solutions as India is one of the fastest-growing markets in terms of IT hardware and communications infrastructure consumption,” said Ganesh Ramamoorthy, research director at Gartner. “As enterprises embrace IT to improve productivity and drive growth, penetration of ICT infrastructure has been growing rapidly during the past decade, as has the energy consumption and resulting carbon emissions of India's ICT infrastructure”.
Apart from the ICT industry, the banking and financial services, hospitality, manufacturing (such as automobiles), pharmaceuticals, and other industries that have significant exposure to the export markets, will join the green IT and sustainability trend early in India. In other industries, addressing energy, carbon, resource efficiency and sustainable economic development is currently still in the early stages. “Indian businesses will initially start adapting solutions that have been tried and tested in developed nations, but tailored to the Indian market's needs and conditions. However, the unique challenges faced by India, such as an unreliable power infrastructure, a growing urban-rural divide, and increasing population migration to urban areas, will also provide businesses with the opportunity to innovate and test new cost-effective approaches and green technology solutions.
“While awareness of green IT and sustainability issues is low in Indian organisations, the increasing global focus on energy efficiency, energy security and green IT and sustainability issues is now causing the executive leadership in the technology sector to track, report and manage sustainable and resource-efficient business practices. Simultaneously, operational cost of making energy-efficient resources available is pressuring CIOs in Indian companies to develop strategies to optimise ICT utilisation, including companywide energy management, while not compromising on growth or deployment of newer technologies,” Mr. Ramamoorthy said. “We are already beginning to see the use of energy-efficient technology in data centres, manufacturing facilities and public buildings in India. While home energy management solutions in residences are still in the early stages, they are increasingly tested in newly-built urban areas and gated communities”.

Proscribed drug poses a threat to vulture population

The illegal use of diclofenac for veterinary purpose is posing a threat to the vulture population in the country despite a ban on its veterinary use since 2006.
Recent studies showed that it is available in a number of pharmacies.
The drug was banned after its traces were found in cattle carcasses. The drug proved fatal for vultures feeding on the carcasses, resulting in a sharp decline in their population.
Use of vials
A study, jointly carried out by the Bombay Natural History Society, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund on the availability of the drug across 11 States from November 2007 to June 2010, revealed that the 30ml vials meant for human use were purchased over the counter at many places and used for veterinary purposes.
The survey, covered over 250 veterinary and general pharmacies.
The “veterinary use of diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, is the main factor responsible for the decline of the species of Gyps vultures in South Asia.
Studies have established that diclofenac is toxic to vultures and is widespread in cattle carcasses across India at sufficient concentrations to be the principal cause of the decline,” the report said.
In Kerala, diclofenac was sold in a couple of pharmacies in Attapadi and Thiruvananthapuram, said C. ornithologist Sashikumar, who led the study in Kerala.
The team, consisting of K. Vishnav and P.A. Vinayan, covered 39 medical shops in Wayanad, 25 in rural area of Thiruvananthapuram adjoining Tamil Nadu and 15 in Attapadi.
Though none of the shops surveyed in Wayanad was found selling the 30ml vials, they were available in pharmacies in Gundalpet and Masanagudi, which were close to vulture habitats of Mudumalai and Bandipur Tiger Reserves.
“The vultures foray around 200 km in search of food and there exists the possibility of them feeding on carcass of cattle which were treated with the drug,” Mr. Sashikumar said.
Traces of the drug would remain in the body of the animal for around 48 hours of use and could be lethal for birds feeding on the carcass.
During the survey, it was also found that some pharmacies were selling diclofenac for human use in large volumes for multiple dosages, which could also be used for veterinary purpose.
The study recommended the reduction of size of vials of the drug meant for human use and action against pharmaceutical manufacturers and pharmacies flouting the ban.
In Kerala, two species of vultures — Oriental White-backed and Red-headed Vultures — are found in Tholpetty, Bathery and Kurichiyat forest ranges of Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.
Ornithologists are of the view that there would be around 20 nesting pairs of the White-backed vultures in Wayanad. No incidents of bird death were reported from the area.
There were reports of sighting of vultures in Periyar and Parambikulam areas in the 1980s. However, the vulture population was now confined to Wayanad, Mr. Sashikumar said.

Former Afghan President Rabbani killed in suicide attack

Burhanuddin Rabbani, former President of Afghanistan and Chairman of the High Peace Council — leading the year-old Afghan effort to negotiate with the Taliban — was killed in a bomb blast at his residence in the centre of Kabul's high-security diplomatic district.
Reports from Kabul suggested that he was meeting two members of the Taliban at the time of the blast as part of the ongoing efforts at reconciliation. One of them is understood to have detonated the bomb while the other survived the blast with injuries. He and the driver of their vehicle are in custody.