Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bihar man wins Rs five crore on KBC

Diwali came early for Bihar's Sushil Kumar as he has become the first person to win the full prize money of Rs five crore in the fifth season of popular-quiz show 'Kaun Banega Crorepati'(KBC).

The 27-year-old Kumar correctly answered the jackpot question worth Rs five crore asked by megastar Amitabh Bachchan during the episode shot on October 25, to presumably win the highest prize-money awarded in Indian game shows, sources said. Kumar is a computer operator and a part-time tutor in Bihar.
The fourth season of KBC had seen Jharkhand contestant Rahat Taslim, winning Rs one crore, after she quit the jackpot question.

Government Approves 21 New Textiles Parks

Government has sanctioned 21 new Textiles Parks under the Scheme for Integrated Textiles Parks with a project cost of Rs. 2100 crores to be implemented over a period of 36 months. Minister for Commerce, Industry and Textiles Shri Anand Sharma as Chairman of the Project Approval Committee under the Scheme accorded approval to the recommendations of the Inter Ministerial Project Scrutiny Committee which examined 55 proposals for new Textiles Parks in the country. The Scheme for Integrated Textiles Parks seeks green field investments in textiles sector on a public private partnership basis with the objective of setting up world class infrastructure for Textiles industry.

Commerce, Industry and Textiles Minister Shri Anand Sharma said “sanction of new Textiles parks would catalyze significant additional investments with industry utilizing the benefits both under the Scheme for Integrated Textiles Parks for development of common infrastructure; and under the Technology Upgradation Funds Scheme for installation of Plant and Machinery.” Government has enhanced the allocation under TUFS from Rs. 8000 crores to Rs. 15404 crores under the 11th Five Year Plan and under the SITP an allocation of Rs. 400 crores has been made for sanction of new Textiles Parks in April 2011. Commerce Industry and Textiles Minister said that the new Textiles Parks would leverage an investment of over Rs. 9000 crores and provide employment to 4 lac textiles workers. Government would finance common infrastructure with a subsidy upto Rs. 40 crores per Textiles park.

Government has received a huge response to the roadshows held at Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Mumbai for seeking proposals for Textiles Parks under the Scheme for Integrated Textiles Parks. Proposals received were scrutinized by an inter ministerial Project Scrutiny Committee on the basis of project cost, land size, net worth of investors, employment generation and value chain to be developed by the industry. Government also sought to ensure balanced regional development, promote textiles industry in North Eastern States and in States where the industry is in a nascent stage of development and promote textiles parks in cooperative & handloom sectors. 6 new Textiles Parks have been sanctioned in Maharashtra, 4 in Rajasthan, 2 each in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, 1 each in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir and West Bengal. The product mix in these parks would include apparels and garments parks, hosiery parks, silk parks, processing parks, technical textiles including medical textiles, carpet parks, powerloom parks. “The focus of Government has been to ensure value addition through aggregation to best utilize India’s raw material surplus in cotton and cotton yarn for enhanced labor employment and export earnings” said Textiles Minister Shri Anand Sharma.

Lead Investors heading the Special Purpose Vehicles of the above listed Textiles Parks and the Project Management Consultant firms would be invited by Government in the coming days to enter into MOUs for implementing the projects. Government seeks to ensure timely implementation of the sanctioned projects and changes to avoid cost and time overruns have been incorporated into the MOUs to be entered into by Government under the scheme.

Commerce, Industry and Textiles Minister said that given the considerable demand for Textiles Parks in the country and given the success of the Scheme in the 11th Five Year Plan, Textiles Ministry would be seeking a higher allocation under the 12th Five Year Plan. It may be highlighted that of the 40 textiles parks sanctioned under the 11th Five Year Plan, 24 Textiles Parks have started operations and have attracted investments of Rs. 18880 crores, with a Government subsidy of Rs. 1420 crores.

India Elected Vice Chairman of Association of Asian Election Authorities

India has been unanimously elected as the Vice Chairman of the Association of Asian Election Authorities (AAEA) at its General Assembly held in Seoul today. The name of Dr. S. Y. Quraishi, Chief Election Commissioner of India was proposed as Vice Chair by the Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan and received enthusiastic support from other member countries. India takes over this responsibility from the Republic of Korea, which becomes the Chairman for the next three-year term. India is a founder member of this 17-member Association. Dr. Quraishi is accompanied by Shri Akshay Rout, Director General at the Election Commission of India.

Before the meeting began, the Chief Election Commissioner of India led the other members in thanking the outgoing chair Taiwan. Several regional associations of National Election Authorities and observers from Election Management Bodies of other continents also attended the AAEA General Assembly.

The Asian Election Authorities at the meeting agreed on the necessity of establishing an Association of World Election Bodies, and decided to set up a working group to implement this proposal. The interim name of this association has been decided as Association of World Election Bodies [A-WEB], following a suggestion of Dr. Quraishi, Chief Election Commissioner of India. The working group will deliberate on the shape, vision, structural organisation and work plan of the proposed A-WEB. It will also contact other regional associations of Election Management Bodies and individual Election Authorities to facilitate early constitution of A-WEB.

The Association of Asian Election Authorities (AAEA) was conceived to promote and institutionalise open and transparent elections, independent and impartial election authorities, professionalization of Asian election authorities, citizen participation in the electoral and civic process, information sharing, and the development of resources for election-related information and research.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Defunct satellite hits earth

A bus-sized defunct German satellite plunged to earth on October 23  after languishing in dead orbit for more than a decade, but space officials are not sure if any of its debris has hit the planet.
The 2.7-tonne Roentgen Satellite, or ROSAT, slammed into the earth's atmosphere sometime between 01:45 GMT (6:15 IST) and 02:15 GMT (6:45 IST) on Sunday, but there is no information if its debris fell on the planet, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) said in a statement.
“There is currently no confirmation if pieces of debris had reached the earth's surface,” the statement said.
However, DLR spokesman Andreas Schuetz said they would have to “wait for data in the next days” to know when and where the debris fell or could fall.
Scientists were no longer able to communicate with the dead satellite and it must have travelled some 20,000 km in the final 30 minutes before entering the atmosphere, he added.

Project to study marine molluscs

The Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala and Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute, Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu are joining hands in a collaborative project to prepare a biodiversity database and DNA barcode data of marine molluscs of India.
Funded by the Department of Biotechnology under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology, the Rs.70 lakh project will document the rich biodiversity of marine molluscs of India, with special emphasis on the fauna of southeast and southwest coasts, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar islands.
It will prepare the DNA barcode data of commercially valuable marine molluscs. Apart from providing precise information on the taxonomy of molluscs, the data is also expected to help the management and conservation of species. Further, the barcode data will help identify yet unknown species and identify taxonomically-complicated specimens of marine molluscs.
The most important aspect of the project is that it will provide molecular data on molluscs scheduled in the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, helping to track illegal trade and commercial exploitation of the species, by examining even a piece of tissue, says Dr. A. Bijukumar of the University of Kerala, one of the coordinators of the programme.
An accurate, rapid, cost-effective and universally accessible DNA-based species identification programme christened “DNA Barcoding” has been authenticated by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as an efficient method of documenting diversity of species in ecosystems. Through a reliable ordering of biological information, the barcoding process enables accurate identification of species even by non- specialists.
Mollusca (including marine shells, octopus, sepia, loligo, limpets, elephant tusk shells) represent the largest marine category with about 23 per cent of all named marine organisms and the most diverse species inhabiting coastal waters. Because of their diversity, molluscs provide better pictures on marine biodiversity and ecosystem health.
The marine molluscan fauna of India includes about 3,370 species, out of which 24 are included in Schedule – I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The protected species include the horned helmet shell (Cassis cornuta), Trumpet triton (Charonia tritonis), “Glory of India” cone shell (Conus millnedwardsii), Red Helmet (Cypraecassis rufa), Emperor nautilus (Nautilus pompilus), Cowries and spider conches.
As many as eight varieties of oyster, two species of mussel, 17 species of clam, six species of pearl oyster, four species of giant clam and one species of window-pane oyster as well as gastropods such as Turbinella pyrum, Trochus sp., Turbo sp., and Babylonia spp. and 15 species of cephalopods are among the commercially exploited species of molluscs in India.
Apart from Dr. Bijumar, Dr. Sanil George of the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology and Dr. Patterson Edward of Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute will co-ordinate the three-year programme named “Biodiversity, DNA Barcoding and Phylogeny of Commercially Valuable Marine Molluscs of India”.

UNSC adopts India co-sponsored resolution on piracy

The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted an India co-sponsored resolution on piracy in Somalia, taking on board, at India’s initiative, the issue of prosecution of convicted pirates not only for acts of piracy but also for hostage taking.
The Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr E. Ahamed, attended the Security Council meeting here yesterday for the adoption of resolution on prosecution of pirates, co-sponsored by India and 10 other UNSC members.
In a first, at India’s initiative, the resolution deals with the issue of prosecution for acts of piracy as well as hostage taking.
The resolution calls for international cooperation in sharing information for the purpose of law enforcement and effective prosecution.
It recognises the increasing scope of piracy beyond the coast of Somalia, which affects not only the states in the region but also those far beyond.
India, supported by other members, incorporated in the resolution provisions dealing with persons who “intentionally facilitate piracy operations, including key figures of criminal networks involved in piracy.”
The resolution calls for prosecution of those who illicitly plan, organise, facilitate, or finance and profit from such attacks.
In the resolution, the 15-member body urged countries that have not already done so to criminalise piracy under their domestic laws and to implement prosecution methods in accordance with international human rights law.
The resolution also emphasised the need to establish specialised anti-piracy courts in Somalia and other countries in the region.

NDC endorses GDP target of 9 p.c.

The National Development Council (NDC) on October 22 endorsed a growth target of nine per cent for the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) despite the current economic slowdown and global financial concerns, even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed to political parties to ensure that long-term goals do not become hostage to short-term interests.
Following the daylong deliberations of the country's highest policy decision-making body, wherein a number of non-UPA States rapped the Centre over various issues, Dr. Singh assured the Chief Ministers that the Commission would take note of their suggestions while drafting the Plan.
“We have had a fruitful discussion. Many Chief Ministers had expressed their views on various issues covered in the Approach Paper. There are different views on some issues, but there is a broad agreement that the objectives laid out in the Approach Paper and the challenges identified therein should be the basis of finalising the 12th Plan,” Dr. Singh said.
Briefing the media after the meeting of the NDC, chaired by the Prime Minister, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said the target for five-year Plan period would be an annual average growth rate of nine per cent, up from the 8.2 per cent estimated during the 11th Plan.
Earlier, initiating the discussions on Approach Paper, Dr. Singh, while expressing concern over the current economic slowdown, exhorted the nation to guard against the prevailing “mood of negativism” as the ongoing weak phase was a “short-term phenomenon” reflecting highly unsettled conditions in the world economy as growth rates were being revised downwards in all the countries for the current year.
“The current slowdown is a matter of concern... We must guard against the mood of negativism that seems to have gripped the country.”
Good prospects
He suggested that with India's long-term prospects remaining “very good,” the 12th Plan policies should be shaped so as to take full advantage of the “emerging possibilities” stemming from a realignment of economic power and growing importance of emerging economies.
“The world is going through a major realignment of economic power. Industrialised countries are slowing down, emerging market economies are gaining weight and regionally, Asia is gaining weight. As an emerging market economy in Asia, we stand to gain on both counts. Our policies in the 12th Plan must therefore be shaped to take full advantage of these emerging possibilities,” Dr. Singh said.
“In setting target for the 12th Plan, we must look at longer term potential, assuming that the immediate short-term problems will be overcome. I have absolutely no doubt that our country's longer term prospects are very good,” he said.
Dr. Singh pointed out that although much of the economic growth is driven by the private sector, the government has a large role to play in providing a policy environment to encourage farmers and entrepreneurs. “This includes an environment of macro-economic stability, efficient functioning markets... a sound financial system for allocating financial resources, good governance with transparency, and effective enforcement of the rule of law,” he said, while noting that the government also has a very big role to play in developing both urban and rural infrastructure that is required to support broad and inclusive growth.
The Prime Minister stressed that each citizen should have access to essential public services of “acceptable quality” in areas such as health, education, provision of safe drinking water and sanitation. “Without such services, effective inclusion is simply not possible,” he said.
Seeking to reverse the mood of negativism through collective responsibility, Dr Singh said: “…The future is what we make of it. Nothing is ordained or pre-determined. India can rise, but India can also falter. We live in a world of rising and faltering economies. We can either become victims of negativism, criticising ourselves all the way, or work together to put ourselves firmly in the group of rising economies. Both optimism and pessimism have an infectious quality.”
In this regard, especially when the Opposition appears to be “in a perennial combat mode,” Dr. Singh on Saturday asked the parliamentary parties to strike a balance in their political positions on issues.
“Elected governments can deliver only if... the political process works to allow government to function in a manner where the needs of long-term development do not become hostage to short-term concerns. What this means is that parliamentary parties have to strike a difficult balance between maintaining adversarial political positions on many issues, while also cooperating to advance longer term national agenda,” he said, while admitting that this balance “is not easy to strike.”
Subtly hinting at the apparent ongoing conflicts between the Executive, the Judiciary and Parliament, Dr. Singh said that while development requires time and patience for policies to have an impact and also requires co-operation, at times like these, “it is of vital importance that each of our democratic institutions — the executive, the judiciary, Parliament and State Legislatures, the various constitutional and regulatory authorities, understand what their due role is, and play it in a constructive manner.”

Man wins Rs.5 crore on KBC

Diwali came early for Bihar's Sushil Kumar as he has become the first person to win the full prize money of Rs.5 crore in the fifth season of popular quiz show, Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC).
The 27-year-old Kumar correctly answered the jackpot question, worth Rs.5 crore, asked by megastar Amitabh Bachchan during the episode shot on October 25, to presumably win the highest prize money awarded in Indian game shows, sources said. Mr. Kumar, who recently got married, is a computer operator and a part-time tutor.

U.R. Ananthamurthy on South Asian prize shortlist

Distinguished Kannada writer and Jnanpith awardee U.R. Ananthamurthy is among the six authors shortlisted for this year’s $50,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.
He has been selected for his widely acclaimed novel Bharathipura (translated into English by Susheela Punitha), which reflects his lifelong preoccupation with transcending caste and class interests in modern society.
The Prize was instituted last year to recognise the best writing about the South Asian region.
Others on the shortlist are: Kavery Nambisan (The Story that Must Not Be Told’); Chandrakanta (A Street in Srinagar); Usha K.R. (Monkey-man); Tabish Khair (The Thing About Thugs); and Shehan Karunatilaka (Chinaman).
Announcing the shortlist at a glitzy function here on Tuesday at the end of a two-week-long DSC South Asian Literature Festival, Ira Pande, chairperson of the jury, regretted that “some of the terrific novels’’ had to be left out — “a cross that every jury has had to carry’’. 
The winner will be announced at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival on January 21, 2012.  
Organisers described the prize as “a first-of-its-kind initiative’’ specifically focusing on the richness and diversity of South Asian writing.
“The prize is also unique since it is not ethnicity driven in terms of the author’s origin and is open to any author belonging to any part of the globe as long as the work is based on the South Asian region and its people.
Last year, it was won by Pakistani author H.M. Naqvi for his debut novel Home Boy

India elected to serve on UN ECOSOC

India is among 21 countries which were  elected to serve on the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the six principal organs of the UN and the main body tasked with furthering economic and social cooperation and development worldwide.
UN member states elected 18 countries to serve three-year terms starting next year and three other nations through by-elections held as some countries were stepping down from the 54-member Council before the formal end of their terms.
Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Nigeria and Libya were elected to the five African vacancies, while Indonesia, India and Japan won the three seats allotted to Asia-Pacific States. Belarus claimed the only Eastern European vacancy.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Brazil and Cuba were victorious, while Spain, France, Germany, Ireland and Turkey were successful in the Western European and other States category.
In the three by-elections, Switzerland replaced the outgoing Norway, the Netherlands succeeded Belgium, and Bulgaria took over from Hungary.

National Manufacturing Policy

The Cabinet approved the revised proposal of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry to put in place a National Manufacturing Policy.

The Cabinet in its meeting held on 15" September 2011 considered the National Manufacturing Policy and directed that the policy may be considered by a Group of Ministers (GOM) for further harmonizing the differences in some inter-ministerial positions notably relating to Ministry of Labour and Employment and the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The GOM in its meeting held on 14th October 2011 has resolved the relevant issues. A revised note incorporating the recommendations of the GOM has been approved by the Cabinet today.

The major objectives of the National Manufacturing Policy are to increase the sectoral share of manufacturing in GOP to at least 25% by 2022; to increase the rate of job creation so as to create 100 million additional jobs by 2022; and to enhance global competitiveness, domestic value addition, technological depth and environmental sustainability of growth.

The policy has been formulated after detailed consultations with the industry; subject matter experts; State Governments and the concerned Ministries/Departments of the Government of India. The policy envisages specific interventions broadly in the areas of industrial infrastructure development; improvement of the business environment through rationalization and simplification of business regulations; development of appropriate technologies especially green technologies for sustainable development and skill development of the younger population.

Industrial infrastructure development is envisaged not only generally but also through the creation of large integrated industrial townships called National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZs) with state-of-the-art infrastructure; land use on the basis of zoning; clean and energy efficient technologies; necessary social and institutional infrastructure in order to provide a productive environment to persons transitioning from the primary to the secondary and tertiary sectors. The land for these zones will preferably be waste infertile land not suitable for cultivation; not in the vicinity of any ecologically fragile area and with reasonable access to basic resources.

It is envisaged to ensure compliance of labour and environmental laws while introducing procedural simplifications and rationalization so that the regulatory burden on industry is reduced. The interventions proposed are generally sector neutral, location neutral and technology neutral except the attempt to incentivize green technology for sustainable development No subsidies are proposed for individual units or areas. The basic thrust is to provide an enabling environment for tapping the potential of the private sector and the entrepreneurial skills of the younger population.

The contribution of the manufacturing sector at just over 16% of India`s GOP is much below its potential and a cause of concern especially in the context of other Asian countries in similar stages of development. This also has its socio-economic manifestations and prevents India from fully leveraging the opportunities of globalization. India is a young country with over 60% of its population in the working age group. With over 220 million people estimated to join the work force in the next decade, the manufacturing sector will have to create gainful employment for at least half this number. With a view to accelerating the growth of the manufacturing sector, the manufacturing policy proposes to create an enabling environment suitable for the sector to flourish in India.

Revision of the list of Scheduled Tribes in the State of Karnataka

The Union Cabinet  approved the revision in the list of Scheduled Tribes in the State of Karnataka and introduction of a Bill in the Parliament for effecting the proposed insertion.

This decision will fulfill the long term demand of the `Medara` community for granting Scheduled Tribes status in the State of Karnataka. The persons belonging to the `Medara` community will be eligible to get the Scheduled Tribe certificate from the State of Karnataka and will also be eligible for all benefits meant in the Constitution for the Scheduled Tribes in the State, after the requisite amendment as per the Constitutional provision.

The verification of social status and issuance of Scheduled Tribes certificates rests with the concerned State Government or Union Territory Administration. The State Government of Karnataka will be accountable for the implementation.

Consent to the increase in India’s quota in the International Monetary Fund

The Union Cabinet  approved the increase in India’s quota in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a result of the Fourteenth General Review of Quotas.

When the Fourteenth General Review of Quotas becomes effective, it will result in a major realignment of quota shares among members to better reflect the global realities. All the BRIC countries would now be among the 10 largest quota shareholders at the IMF.

India’s quota share at the IMF will increase from 2.44% to 2.75%, making it the eighth largest quota holding country at the IMF. Significantly, India’s gain in terms of quota share is the seventh largest in this round of quota review. In absolute terms India’s quota will increase from SDR 5,821.5 million to SDR 13,114.4 million.

Establishment of a Regional Centre for Biotechnology

The Union Cabinet October 25 approved the enactment of the requisite legislation for establishment of the Regional Centre for Biotechnology Training and Education under the auspices of UNESCO.

Taking into consideration the fact that modern biotechnology has been recognised globally as a rapidly advancing science wherein molecular techniques and process are employed to develop health care solutions for human and animal sector, for agriculture and environment technologies, the Centre proposes to engage students in research by integrating science, engineering and medicine with a view to create high quality human resource in disciplinary and interdisciplinary areas. Further the Centre would also create physical infrastructure in critical platform technologies to support interdisciplinary education training and research in biotechnology for providing interface between agriculture or veterinary sciences and engineers and environmental biologists, ecologists and engineers for agricultural and environmental technologies in order to help molecular breeding, bio-energy and green technologies. Thus the Centre would be able to produce human resources tailored to drive innovation in biotechnology, particularly in areas of new opportunities and also to fill talent gap in deficient areas. The Centre would also cater to designing novel programmes for education and training which could then be assimilated by the Universities in India and in the region.

The Centre will work in collaboration with other Centres of UNESCO and carry out is programmes through grants provided by the Government. The Bill provides for laying the annual report and annual accounts together with the audit report in both Houses of the Parliament.

Setting up of National Institute of Mountaineering & Allied Sports at Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh

The Cabinet October 25 approved setting up of a National Institute of Mountaineering & Allied Sports (NIMAS) at Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh as an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Defence, a Registered Society under Societies Registration Act.

The required land at Dirang for the Institute has been provided by the State Government of Arunachal Pradesh. The expenditure on construction of various buildings at the site of the institute would be Rs. 81 crore. It will directly provide employment to 89 people, mostly in the middle and lower level. Besides, it will generate further indirect employment in the region and will also boost the economy of the common people who would be providing day to day various services required to the Institute.

It would be a training institution for multifarious adventure activities relating to land, air and aqua to attract adventure enthusiasts. The systematical training in the activities will increase the number of visitors from all parts of the country to the remote areas of this border State and their interaction with locals will result in development of the region.

This Institute would be first National Institute of its kind where theoretical and practical training for activities relating to mountaineering, aero adventure and aqua adventure would be conducted. Trainees for the courses at the Institute shall be from all parts of India and abroad. These would include personnel from Defence Forces, Para Military Forces, NCC cadets, civilians and students sponsored by State Governments.

Scheme for creation of National Optical Fiber Network for Broadband connectivity of Panchayats

The Union Cabinet October 25 approved a scheme for creation of a National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) for providing Broadband connectivity to Panchayats.

The objective of the scheme is to extend the existing optical fiber network which is available up to district / block HQ’s level to the Gram Panchayat level initially by utilizing the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF). The cost of this initial phase of the NOFN scheme is likely to be about Rs.20,000 crore. A similar amount of investment is likely to be made by the private sector complementing the NOFN infrastructure while providing services to individual users.

In economic terms, the benefits from the scheme are expected through additional employment, e-education, e-health, e-agriculture etc. and reduction in migration of rural population to urban areas. As per a study conducted by the World Bank, with every 10% increase in broadband penetration, there is an increase in GDP growth by 1.4%. NOFN will also facilitate implementation of various e-governance initiatives such as e-health, e-banking, e-education etc. thereby facilitating inclusive growth. It will also provide high bandwidth connectivity for electronic delivery of services to citizens. The proposed NOFN will enable effective and faster implementation of various mission mode e-governance projects amounting to approx. Rs.50,000 crore initiated by Department of Information Technology as well as delivery of a whole range of electronic services in the above areas by the private sector to citizens in rural areas.

Restructuring of the Geological Survey of India

The Union Cabinet October 25 approved a proposal for restructuring of the Geological Survey of India (GSI). The Cabinet also approved the ‘right sizing’ of the strength of GSI by filling up of posts over a 10 year period to achieve full recommended strength as also, approved constitution of Geophysics, Chemistry and Engineering S&T Streams as Organized Services as as to bring them at par with the geology stream.

The Cadre restructuring will address the acute stagnation, improve career growth and will consequently attract talent to the sector. The restructuring will also facilitate GSI to effectively function in Mission mode with well defined objectives, encourage individual and group development and facilitate specialization. This will also result in better span of control at all levels with clearly defined goals and targets, well laid out responsibilities, robust monitoring mechanisms, effective communication / reporting systems (through multi-channel) and clear accountability at all levels.

The proposal is based on the recommendations of the High Powered Committee (HPC) constituted for the purpose of review of the functioning of Geological Survey of India and to assess Geological Survey of India’s capacity and capabilities to meet emerging geosciences challenges, both national and global. The recommendations, when implemented will immensely enhance GSI’s capacity and capability in addressing emerging challenges especially in augmenting resource base, both for essential and strategic minerals. It will also facilitate GSI to undertake issues having immediate societal relevance like climate change, desertification, glacial retreats and coastline changes as well as geogenic issues.

Proposal for Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project approved

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs October 25 approved the proposal for scheme of Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) with the World Bank assistance.

Total cost of the scheme is Rs.21,000 crore (Rs.1968 crore for State component and Rs.132 crore for Central component), comprising Rs.1680 crore will be funded by World Bank, Rs.393.60 crore will be funded by the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) states and balance Rs.26.4 crore through central sector scheme.

It would provide rehabilitation of 223 Dams in the States of Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Tamil Nadu along with the dam safety institutional strengthening in these four States and Strengthening of the Dam Safety Organizations at national level in Central Water Commission.

The project will improve the safety and operational performance of selected existing dams with reduced risk of failure. The primary beneficiaries are both urban and rural communities dependent on the concerned reservoirs for their water supply and livelihood as well as all downstream communities, who could be placed at physical and/or operational risk if dam safety is compromised. With the institutional strengthening component, Dam Safety Organisations (DSOs) will become effective organisations that can take the lead in overseeing that dams remain safe from a structural and operational point of view.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Argentine president wins landslide re-election

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez was re-elected in a landslide winning with the widest victory margin in the country’s history as voters were mobilised by popular programmes that spread the wealth of a booming economy.
Ms. Fernandez had 53 percent of the votes after 24 percent of polling stations had been tallied nationwide, while her nearest challenger got just 17 percent. Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo predicted the president’s vote share would rise, saying very few of the ballots in her party’s stronghold of Buenos Aires province, the country’s largest, had been counted.
Thousands of the populist leader’s supporters crowded into the capital’s historic Plaza de Mayo in a jubilant, flag-waving celebration.
Ms. Fernandez is Latin America’s first woman to be re-elected as president, but the victory was personally bittersweet the first without her husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, who died of a heart attack last Oct. 27. 
Ms. Fernandez appeared to have won a larger share of votes than any president since Argentina’s democracy was restored in 1983, when Raul Alfonsin was elected with 52 percent. Her margin over Gov. Hermes Binner and five other candidates was wider even than the 1973 victory margin of her strongman hero, Juan Domingo Peron.
Her political coalition also hoped to regain enough seats in Congress to form new alliances and regain the control it lost in 2009. At play were 130 seats in the lower house and 24 in the Senate.
Ms. Fernandez suffered high negative ratings early in her presidency, but she soared in popularity as a widow by softening her usually combative tone and proving her ability to command loyalty or respect from an unruly political elite.
Most voters polled beforehand said they wanted government stability to keep their financial situations improving in what has been one of Argentina’s longest spells of economic growth in history.
Ms. Fernandez, 58, chose her youthful, guitar-playing, long-haired economy minister, Amado Boudou, as her running mate. Together, the pair championed Argentina’s approach to the global financial crisis increase government spending rather than impose austerity measures, and force investors in foreign debt to suffer before ordinary citizens.
Argentina has been closed off from most international lending since declaring its world-record debt default in 2001, but has been able to sustain booming growth ever since.
The country faces tough challenges in 2012- Its commodities exports are vulnerable to a global recession, and economic growth is forecast to slow sharply in the coming year. Declining revenues will make it harder to raise incomes to keep up with inflation. Argentina’s central bank is under pressure to spend reserves to maintain the peso’s value against the dollar, while also guarding against currency shocks that could threaten Argentina’s all—important trade with Brazil.
Boudou could now win attention as a potential successor to Fernandez, but navigating these storms will require much skill and good fortune.
Opposition candidates blamed Ms. Fernandez for rising inflation and increasing crime and accused her of politically manipulating economic data and trying to use government power to quell media criticism.
Former President Eduardo Duhalde, who fell from front-running rival to near-last in the polls, said in a dour closing speech that “the country is dancing on the Titanic,” failing to prepare Argentina for another global economic crisis.
But economist Mark Weisbrot said Argentina is in far better shape than most countries in the region to face such problems.
U.S. President Barack “Obama could take a lesson from this,” said Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “It’s an old—fashioned message of democracy. You deliver what you promise and people vote for you. It’s kind of forgotten here in the U.S.”


The Human Development Index (HDI) in the country rose by 21% says a report while cautioning that health, nutrition and sanitation remained key challenges for India. India Human Development Report, 2011, prepared by Institute of Applied Manpower Research, placed Kerala on top of the index for achieving highest literacy rate, quality health services and consumption expenditure of people. Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Goa were placed at second, third and fourth position respectively.

The report was released on October 21 by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia in the presence of Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh. It said, as on today, two-thirds of the households in the country reside in pucca (cemented) houses and three-fourth of families have access to electricity for domestic use. According to the report, India's HDI has registered an impressive gains in the last decade as the index increased by 21 per cent to 0.467 in 2007-08, from 0.387 in 1999-2000.

However, it noted that Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Assam are those states which continue to lag behind in HDI and remain below the national average of 0.467. At the same time, the quantum of improvement in HDI in some of the poor states was higher than the national average, the report said, citing the cases of Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Assam. The overall improvement in the index was largely attributed to the 28.5 per cent increase in education index across the country.

It ranges from 0.92 for Kerala to 0.41 in the case of Bihar. The improvement in the education index was the "greatest" in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to name a few, the report said. The analysis also indicates that improvement in the health index, as compared to education, has been lower. It ranges from 0.82 in Kerala to 0.41 in Assam. It observed that despite the Right to Education Act, school education faces challenges of quality and employability. The report also said that despite improvements, health, nutrition and sanitation challenges are most serious.

Stating that open defecation was posing a serious threat to health and nutritional status, the report said even though half of the population had access to sanitation in 2008-09, there was still wide inter-state variation. It said 75% households in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Uttarakhand do not have toilet facilities. The report revealed even in Nirmal Gram Puraskar winning villages, toilets are often being used for storing, bathing and washing purposes. On the issue of right to food and nutrition, the Human Index Report revealed that calorie consumption has been declining and the intake of calories by poor are way below the recommended norm.

The report said Gujarat fares the worst in terms of overall hunger and nutrition among the industrial high per capita income states. The report also noted that "India is the worst performer in terms of low birth weight, underweight and wasting among children in BRIC and SAARC countries”. Reacting to the findings, Ramesh said increased focus should be laid on health and nutrition during the 12th Plan period even as he lauded the growth in the education sector. "On nutrition, I am puzzled as to why high rate of malnutrition continue to persist even in pockets of high economic growth," he said referring to findings of Gujarat. The minister said total expenditure on sanitation has been only one-tenth of the resources allocated for the water sector.

Ramesh attributed the positive growth in education to Central "interventions" like Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan and RTE. The report said between 2002-03 and 2008-09, there has been an improvement in condition of people's housing with 66% population residing in pucca housing. In rural areas, share of household in pucca houses has increased from 36% to 55%. It said a greater proportion of Muslims than the SCs and STs live in pucca houses due to their urban concentration. The report revealed that three-fourths of all households had access to electricity, with 75% households having access to electricity for domestic use. Insofar as tele-density was concerned, the report said it increased at an "impressive pace" over time from 22% in 2008 to 66% till December 2010, largely led by growth in urban tele-density.

It said good governance and social mobilisation by state governments was reflected by the fact that SCs and OBCs in Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala were better off than even the upper castes in Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh in terms of various health outcome indicators. The report also highlighted the fact that 60% of the poor were concentrated in states like Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. It said though incidence of poverty declined over the years across states, the above said states performed much worse than others in terms of poverty reduction. Further, asset ownership both in urban and rural areas continued to be highly unequal and concentrated among top five per cent of households.

Friday, October 21, 2011

National Policy for Welfare of Senior Citizens

The National Policy on Older Persons, 1999 envisages State support to ensure financial and food security, health care, shelter and other needs of older persons to improve the quality of their lives.

The Ministry of Social Justice &Empowerment is implementing the scheme of integrated programme for Older Persons under which financial assistance is provided to Non-Governmental Organisation, Panchayati Raj Institutions, Local Bodies,etc. for running and maintenance of old age homes. An amount of Rs 60.73 lakh, Rs.52.02 lakh and Rs. 67.18 lakh were released to NGOs in Assam for running and maintenance OAHs under the scheme during 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 respectively.

Besides, Various concessions/Facilities like income tax rebate; concession in rail and air fare; separate queue for older persons and geriatric clinic in several government hospitals, etc.are provided to senior citizens by the Central Government.

Indo-French Joint Military Training : Ex Shakti – 11

An Indo-French Joint Military Training Exercise SHAKTI – 2011 held at Chaubattia with effect from 09 to 21 October 2011 under the aegis of Garud Division. French Army has been represented by four Officers and 50 troops of the 13 Mountain Infantry Battalion while an equal number of officers and troops participated from Second Battalion the Bihar Regiment, under the aegis of 99 Mountain Brigade of the Indian Army.

Exercise Shakti – 11 the first ever Indo-French exercise between the two nations which aimed not only at training troops in Counter Terrorist Operations but also in enhancing defence cooperation and military relations between the two nations. It has provided an ideal platform for the personnel of the two countries to share their experiences on counter terrorist operations; especially in mountainous terrain. The exercise was conducted in the areas adjoining the salubrious town of Ranikhet which provided an excellent opportunity for the contingents of the two countries to practice and rehearse drills and procedures related to operations in this rugged terrain.

The activities conducted during training includes familiarization with weapons & equipment being used by both the countries, introduction to the organization, concept and basic tactics at infantry company and platoon level and modalities of conducting complex operations like Area Domination Patrols, Cordon and Search operations and Search and Destroy Operations in counter insurgency environment. Personnel from the French contingent also got a chance to fire infantry weapons being used by the Indian Army during day as well as night.

The training culminated in a 48 hours Consolidation Exercise in which troops of both nations carried out a daring Search and Destroy Operation in the general area of Pilkholi village on the outskirts of Ranikhet. The troops had reached the area of operations after a grueling march throughout the night of 20th Oct 11 and thereafter carried out a precise, well coordinated and executed operation to neutralize the 2 terrorists hiding in the dense forests of Pilkholi. The search and destroy mission included clearing and destruction of a terrorist hideout, employment of the Quick Reaction Teams to neutralize escaping terrorists and carrying out a thorough search of the dense forest. The highlight of the event was an audacious and surgical Raid by heliborne commandoes of both armies on a simulated target. The commandoes of the French Army also employed their Paragliding skills and laid effective stops by employing three paragliding commandoes during the raid. The final phase of the exercise was reviewed by Brigadier General Herve Wattecamps and Colonel Bertrand Lavaux as representatives of France and Major General Rajesh Arya, Vishishtha Seva Medal, General Officer Commanding, 6 Mountain Division and Brigadier A K Yadav, Commander, 99 Mountain Brigade representing India.

The General Officer Commanding during the interaction with the press, said ‘During the course of training, besides honing their counter terrorism skills and sharing their experiences on the Counter Insurgency/ Counter Terrorist operations, the troops developed a remarkable mutual understanding and inter-operability that will further strengthen relations between our two great armies.’ The General Officer declared the exercise an ‘unprecedented success’.

FCI Releases its Operational Report

Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Shri K.V. Thomas today released Operational Report of FCI for the year 2010-11. It is first report of its kind since inception of FCI in 1965. The statistical information contained in this report is based on operational data of FCI.

Releasing the report, the Minister said the report is an initiative to bring more transparency in the working of FCI. He said that the report would serve as a single repository of information, which is handy at the same time comprehensive, highlighting the metro level operational data. He said efforts are being made to modernize the storage of foodgrains by adopting latest technology. Efforts are also being made to increase the storage capacity of FCI, which has been increased by 27.74 lakh tones during 2010-11.

According the report, FCI recorded an increase of 10% in the total movements of foodgrains during 2010-11 over last year. Movements to north-eastern region increased about 19%. During the year the FCI made record procurement and record allocations of foodgrains.

The Operational Report contained in eight chapters gives statistical data of stock, storage capacity, distribution & procurement.

Indo Oman Air Exercise – Eastern Bridge – II Concludes at Jamnagar

A four day joint exercise between the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) concluded October 21, at Air Force Station Jamnagar. The exercise, named “Ex Eastern Bridge - 2011” marks the second of the series, the first was held in Oct 2009 wherein six IAF Jaguars had operated at RAFO Thumrait, Oman. It is the first time that the RAFO Jaguars have participated in a Joint exercise held in India.

The RAFO contingent comprised of six Jaguar aircraft and 115 personnel. The IAF’s Jaguars and MiG 29s based at Jamnagar have participated in the exercise.

RAFO Jaguars had ferried in directly from Thumrait and landed at Jamnagar. Two years back when the IAF contingent visited Oman, their Omani counterparts had expressed keen interest and desire to fly over Indian terrain which has a vast variation quite unlike the Omani flatbed desert. After having flown from Air Force Station Jamnagar, they would understand the challenges the IAF routinely encounters flying over the varying Indian landscape with deserts to the North and dense vegetation and hills towards South Gujrat.

After the familiarization of RAFO contingent with local flying operational procedures at the base, the exercise commenced on 17 Oct 2011. The 04 day long exercise involved a variety of flying missions from each other’s best practices in terms of operational, maintenance and administrative procedures. The exercise gave vast exposure to the aircrew of RAFO and IAF, towards missions involving long duration sorties with in flight refueling, large force strike packages, air to ground bombing and maritime strike roles routinely performed by the IAF both independently and in mixed operations.

This exercise did not only enrich the IAF and RAFO professionally but culturally also as the Omani people and Indians share a similar culture. The Ex provided an opportunity of rich interaction between the personnel of both countries. Veterans of EX- Eastern Bridge-I in 2009 also got a chance to meet old friends from RAFO. This has strengthen the bond between the Air Forces, IAF and RAFO.

At the culmination of the exercise an informal social interaction and a friendly football match between the teams of the participating contingents have been played with an aim to enhance mutual understanding and bonhomie. The Omani’s have shown a fondness for Indian cuisine and have especially liked the Khakras, samosas and Dhoklas.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Sense of an Ending earned British Novelist Julian Barnes the Man Booker

British novelist Julian Barnes on 18 October 2011 won the Man Booker prize for his novella, The Sense of an Ending. Barnes' eleventh novel, The Sense of an Ending, published by Jonathan Cape, was released on 4 August 2011.

The novel is about a 60-something man forced to confront buried truths about his past after the unexpected arrival of a letter.

The book was hailed by critics as an exquisitemeditation on growing old, the nature of memory and relationships. At 150 pages, The Sense of an Ending is his shortest novel. The judges  mentioned that the book was exquisitely written, subtly plotted and reveals new depths with each reading.

Barnes, one of Britain's most critically acclaimed novelists, was previously nominated for Flaubert's Parrot in 1984, England, England in 1998 and Arthur and George in 2005.

The record for the shortest book ever to win a Booker remains Penelope Fitzgerald's Offshore which won in 1979.

Rajasthan Government launched a Web based Social Security Pension System

The Rajasthan Government launched a web based Social Security Pension System on 19 October 2011 at Jaipur. This is an e-Governance initiative for effective and timely disbursement of pension and it would accelerate the whole process from sanction to disbursal of the pension under various schemes. This online system is a web-based solution to facilitate and maintain information pertaining to application, verification, sanction and disbursement of pension under various social security pension schemes. The system would be used by all SDOs, BDOs, Tehsildars, Treasury Officers and Sub Treasury Officers.

The state government is providing Social Security Pension to aged people, widows and disabled persons of deprived and weaker sections of the society. Currently in the state, more than 12 lakh pensioners are getting benefit of the Social Security Pension scheme and 700 crore rupees are being disbursed to beneficiaries. The pensioners in the age group of 75 years and above are being provided 750 rupees while pensioner in the age group of below 75 years is being given 500 rupees per month.

Road Accidents Survey

The Government has undertaken Road Safety Audit of selected stretches of National Highways/Expressways with a view to strengthen road safety on highways,  The specific aim of Road Safety Audit is that safety should be a prime post-construction operative feature.     The analysis of road accident data received from States/UTs reveals that drivers’ fault is the single most important factor responsible for accidents, fatalities and injuries (78.5%).  Some of the other factors responsible for road accidents are as under:-

Fault of pedestrian
Fault of cyclist
Defect in road conditions
Defect in condition of motor vehicle
Weather condition
All other causes

      The Union Ministry of Road Transport & Highways collects data on road accidents from all States/UTs in a format developed as per the Asia Pacific Road Accident Database (APRAD) project of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific (UNESCAP).  These data are analyzed and an annual publication titled “Road Accidents in India” is released every year by the Transport Research Wing of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.  The latest issue of the publication for the year 2009 was released in April 2011.  The report contains data on road accidents and related parameters, including factors causing road accidents, for all States/UTs.

The data used in the publication are based on returns received from the Police Departments of respective State/UT Governments.

National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) follows Indian Road Congress(IRC) specifications in the design of highways. Traffic study is carried out by the consultant at the time of preparation of feasibility report /DPR.  The consultant proposes a variety of measures like improvement of junctions, provision of underpass/over bridges, pedestrian crossings etc. from the safety perspective. Also, region specific requirements are provided in  IRC codes.  The geometric design of highways factors in variations in terrain, material, traffic, etc.  Functions of  IRC include preparation of Standards, Codes of practice and guidelines for the planning, design, construction, operation & maintenance of roads and bridges in the country. IRC is not involved in actual designing of specific roads.

Real Time Train Information System (RTIS) based on ‘SIMRAN’ becomes Functional from 19TH October 2011

In a major passenger friendly move, Indian Railways has opened the first phase of the Real Train Information System (RTIS) to  public for accurate train tracking thus heralding a new era of application of advanced communication and information technologies in various Railway related activities.
 This new tracking system is based on Satellite Imaging for Rail Navigation (SIMRAN) and has been developed jointly by the Ministry of Railways’ Research arm namely Research, Design and Standards Organization (RDSO), Lucknow  and noted engineering institute, IIT, Kanpur.
Union Minister of Railways, Shri Dinesh Trivedi inaugurated this facility during the Economic Editors’ Conference held here yesterday. 
The trains covered for this first phase are following 6-pair of trains:

Howrah - N Delhi Rajdhani
N Delhi - Howrah Rajdhani
Howrah - N Delhi Rajdhani
N Delhi - Howrah Rajdhani
Sealdah - N Delhi Rajdhani
N Delhi - Sealdah Rajdhani
Mumbai Central - N Delhi Rajdhani
N Delhi - Mumbai Central Rajdhani
Mumbai Central - Nizamuddin A K Rajdhani
Nizamuddin - Mumbai Central A K Rajdhani
Lucknow - N Delhi Shatabdi
N Delhi - Lucknow Shatabdi

          This facility will provide accurate train running information on a click of button or through SMS and will overcome limitations of the existing train information dissemination through 139 which is mainly dependent on manual collection and feeding.

RTIS system deployed in the trains mentioned above will provide the following information to public/passengers:

             (i)        Train locations.
 (ii)       Train running position (i.e. whether train is running on time or if   running late and by how much.  
 (iii)     Train location with respect to next stopping station in terms of  kms.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NDTV Indian of the Year 2011 Awards

Icon of India : N. R. Narayana Murthy
Transformational Idea of the Year Award: Nandan Nilekani
LIC Unsung Hero of the Year: RTI activists Amit Jethwa, Dattatreya Patil, Vishram Dodiya, Satish Shetty & Vitthal Gite
Lifetime Achievement Award: Dev Anand & Rahul Dravid
Entertainer of the Year (Music): Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy
Entertainer of the Year (Movie) - Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
India’s Heroes: Team India, World Champions
Indian of the Year: Anna Hazare & Arvind Kejriwal

India’s food security situation continues to rank as “alarming”

India's food security situation continues to rank as "alarming" according to the International Food Policy Research Institute's Global Hunger Index, 2011. It ranks 67 of the 81 countries of the world with the worst food security status. This means that there are only 14 countries in the world whose people have a worse nutritional status.

The GHI is composed of three equally weighted indicators - the proportion of the population that is undernourished, the proportion of children who are underweight and under-five child mortality.

India's GHI for 2011 was 23.7 - lower than it was last year, but higher than it was 15 years ago - giving it a rank of 67. Pakistan, Nepal, Rwanda and Sudan all did better than India, while Bangladesh, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo were among the countries that did worse.

Northern railways opened India's longest railway tunnel

The northern railways opened India's longest railway tunnel piercing through the Pir Panjal range in Jammu & Kashmir. The tunnel is part of the ambitious Udhampur - Srinagar - Baramulla rail link project of Northern Railways. At 10.96km long, the Pir Panjal Railway Tunnel is India's longest and Asia's 2nd longest tunnel, aimed at reducing the travel distance between Quazigund and Banihal to only 11 km and providing a hassle-free travel up to Baramulla.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Yash Pal honoured with Lal Bahadur Shastri Nat Award

President Pratibha Patil conferred the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award 2011 on noted scientist and educator Prof Yash Pal.

Pal was honoured for excellence in public administration, academics and management at a brief function in the ornate Durbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Saturday.
The 85-year-old scientist conceptualised and set up a number of Inter-University institutions and has been involved in science communication activities through the media.
"In recognition of his outstanding contribution in the field of astrophysics, space technology, and education and most importantly for popularising science, the 12th Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration, Academics and Management for 2011 is being conferred on Prof Yash Pal," read the citation.
The honour carries a cash award of Rs five lakh, a citation and a plaque. The Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management has instituted the award in memory of the second Prime Minister of the country.
It is presented every year by the President at a ceremony in the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
C K Prahlad, N R Narayana Murthy, R A Mashelkar, M S Swaminathan, E Sreedharan, Sunil Bharti Mittal and Aruna Roy are among the earlier awardees.

Hot rocks could help trigger earthquakes

The heat generated when rocks grind against each other during earthquakes could be a major contributor to the weakening of faults and setting the stage for a bigger tremor, scientists have found.
When rocks scrap against each other, they produce extreme heat at scattered microscopic bumps, called asperities, where they make contact. This process is similar to producing heat by rubbing your hands together, but on an extreme scale.
At major faults, such as the San Andreas in California, flashes of heat from rocks shearing past each other melts the rock. This makes the rocks slippery at those microscopic contact points, lowering the friction between them enough to trigger a significant amount of stress and setting the stage for an earthquake, the researchers said.
“These findings give us a much clearer picture of what might be happening at faults during an earthquake, and has implications on how earthquake ruptures travel within the earth,” researcher David Goldsby, a geophysicist at Brown University, was quoted as saying by OurAmazingPlanet.
To learn more about this flash heating, the scientists rubbed together different types of rocks commonly found in faults, such as quartzite and granite.
They simulated earthquake speeds of close to 1.6 feet per second (0.5 meters per second). The bumps, or asperities, each had a surface area of less than 10 microns wide, or about a tenth of the diameter of a human hair.
The researchers, who detailed their study in the journal Science, found that intense flash heating can heat asperities dramatically, perhaps up to 3,270 degrees Fahrenheit (1,800 degrees Celsius), enough to melt most rock types associated with earthquake faults.

Antarctic ozone hole now as big as North America

The first significant ozone hole above the Antarctic is now as big as North America, scientists have claimed.
Spanning about 25 million square kilometres, the ozone hole over the South Pole reached its maximum annual size on September 14, becoming the fifth largest on record, they said.
The largest Antarctic ozone hole ever recorded occurred in 2006, at a size of 27.5 million square km, a size documented by NASA’s earth-observing Aura satellite, LiveScience reported.
The Antarctic ozone hole was first discovered in the late 1970s by the first satellite mission that could measure ozone, a spacecraft called POES and run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The hole has continued to grow steadily during the 1980s and 90s, though since early 2000 the growth reportedly levelled off. Even so scientists have seen large variability in its size from year to year.
Intense cold in the upper atmosphere of the Arctic last winter activated ozone-depleting chemicals and produced the first significant ozone hole ever recorded over the high northern regions, the scientists reported in journal Nature.
On the earth’s surface, ozone is a pollutant, but in the stratosphere it forms a protective layer that reflects ultraviolet radiation back out into space, protecting us from the damaging UV rays.

1,25,000 year old Antarctic lake may hold clues to life

A team of British scientists and engineers will drill three kilometers through the ice in Antarctica to explore signs of life in a lake buried under the glacial surface. Scientists believe such lakes could give important clues to development on earth and the pattern of climate change in the region. The mission will use hot water to melt its way through the 3 kilometer thickness of ice to reach Lake Ellsworth. The buried lake has been isolated from the outside world for at least 1 lakh 25,000 years.

The First ever Prisoner Swap between Israel and Palestine took place at the Rafah Crossing

The first ever prisoner swap between Israelis and the radical Palestinian group Hamas took place at the Rafah crossing on 18 October 2011. Israel’s abducted soldier Gilad Shalit was handed over to Egyptian authorities and in exchange, 477 Palestinian prisoners were released by Israel. Israel and the radical outfit Hamas had signed the deal in the second week of October 2011.

Scientists Identified the bug which Caused the Bubonic Plague in Europe

Scientists claimed to have reconstructed the genome of the bug that caused the bubonic plague (often referred as black death) in Europe. The bug was discovered to be an ancient strain of a bacterium called Yersinia pestis and not so much different from today’s.  

The discovery was made by scientists at McMaster University in Canada, the University of Tubingen in Germany. The study was published in the journal Nature on 12 October 2011.

The Scientists collected the ancient Y.pestis DNA from 46 teeth and 53 bones excavated from the East Smithfield burial grounds in London. Researchers reconstructed the bacterium’s genome and made comparisons to the genomes of existing strains of Y.pestis. They determined that the bug hadn't changed much in the more than 600 years since the plague swept Europe.

The study will help researchers track bug’s evolution.  It could improve scientists' understanding of modern diseases as well.

Bubonic plague still strikes somewhere between 1000 and 3000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization. It wiped out 30 million people in Europe (30 to 50 Percent of the population in Europe) between 1347 and 1351.

Bubonic plague is a zoonotic disease, circulating mainly among small rodents and their fleas, and is one of three types of infections caused by Yersinia pestis (formerly known as Pasteurella pestis), which belongs to the family Enterobacteriaceae.

Syria announced the Creation of a Committee tasked with Preparing New Constitution

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on 15 October 2011 announced the creation of an ad hoc committee tasked with preparing a new Constitution within four months. President Assad issued a decree establishing the national committee to draft a new Constitution in a period not exceeding four months from the date of its creation. The 29-member committee is headed by former Justice Minister Mizhar al-Annbary.
A new Constitution has been a key demand of a protest movement that erupted on 15 March 2011, initially calling for greater freedoms and later demanding the ouster of the Assad regime.

First meeting of the Advisory Council of the National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms

Salman Khurshid, Minister of Law and Justice, here today chaired the first meeting of the Advisory Council meeting of the National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms.  Mullappally Ramachandran, Minister of State for Home Affairs; Shri Ali Mohd. Sagar, Minister of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs, Jammu & Kashmir; Shri G. E. Vahanvati, Attorney General of India and most of the other members of the 15- member Council were present in the meeting.

Addressing the Council, Khurshid said that the National Mission will ensure a well coordinated response of the Executive and the Judiciary for speeding up delivery of justice in the Country and to reduce the delay in the disposal of cases by the courts. “ This”, he said “ would reinforce faith of the people in the rule of law and secure a social order in which the legal system of the nation promotes justice and ensures that opportunity for securing justice is not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.” The Mission, spanning 5 years from 2011 to 2016, will focus on two major goals as envisaged in the Vision Document, namely:

i) Increasing access to justice by reducing delays and arrears in the system; and

ii) Enhancing accountability through structural changes and by setting performance standards and capacities.

Secretary, Department of Justice, Smt. Neela Gangadharan, who is the Convenor and the Mission Leader, gave an overview presentation on the National Mission to Council.

The National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms was approved by the Union Cabinet on 23rd June this year. The broad areas covered by the National Mission are policy and legislative changes, re-engineering of procedures, human resource development, leveraging ICT and improve physical infrastructure of subordinate courts. Infrastructure development for the subordinate judiciary is the major thrust area of the National Mission. Inadequacy of infrastructure facilities in District and Subordinate courts has remained a major bottleneck in the judicial system largely contributing to the accumulation of arrears. In order to augment the resources of the State Governments for development of infrastructure facilities for the judiciary the Central Government outflow would be around Rs. 5,500 crore over five years of the National Mission.

Friday, October 14, 2011

NIESBUD- Developing Entrepreneurial Culture

National Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development (NIESBUD) is a premier Institute under the Ministry of MSME for coordinating, training and overseeing the activities of various institutions and agencies engaged in Entrepreneurship Development particularly in the area of small industry and small business. NIESBUD has launched a major project for Entrepreneurship and Skill Development of 35,000 youth by December 2011 in the states of West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, J&K, Gujarat and Union Territory of Chandigarh. NIESBUD is one among several Institutions functioning under the Ministry of MSME. In its endeavor to spread entrepreneurial culture throughout the country, the Ministry is being assisted by two more entrepreneurship development Institutions namely National Institute for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ni-msme), Hyderabad and Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship, Guwahati.
 Identifying Skills for Maximum Employment
The Skills have been identified on the basis of market needs to ensure maximum employment. The Institute hopes that at least 25% of the participants will be employed within this financial year. The main skills identified are Housekeeping & Hospitality, Retail Management, IT & ITES, Light Engineering, Fashion Designing, Artificial Gems & Jewellery and Cosmetology and Beautician. Most of these training programmes are being sponsored by the Ministry under the Scheme of ‘Assistance to Training Institutes’. The participants are encouraged to gain self employment and are provided hand holding support under the scheme of Rajiv Gandhi Udyami Mitra Yojana (RGUMY) being implemented by the Ministry of MSME. The programmes are closely monitored to ensure the highest quality. The District Administration, Industry and Business Associations, Bankers and Placement Agencies are closely involved with the programmes.
National and International Forum for Exchange of Ideas
NIESBUD has been conducting training programmes for national and International participants since 1983 besides conducting research studies and providing guidance and consultancy to new and existing entrepreneurs in MSME sector. NIESBUD has been working with different Ministries like  Ministry of Labour and Employment, Rural Development, Social Justice & Empowerment, etc. and assisting them in fulfilling their objectives.
Promoting Entrepreneurship
NIESBUD has helped Central and State Governments and their agencies in promoting entrepreneurship in their respective areas by way of guidance, consultancy, etc. It has also provided support and guidance to various countries in Asia and Africa.
NIESBUD has recently organized more than 100 Workshops in different Engineering Colleges, Management Institutions and others in order to create awareness among the students and faculty in realizing the power of entrepreneurship.  Thousands of students and hundreds of Faculties realized that the ultimate need of the country is not only to create another employee rather to establish entrepreneurs who will in turn provide employment to many persons.
Till the end of 2010-11, the Institute has trained more than 75,000 persons including 2100 from 125 countries and plans to conduct 8 international training programmes for training 200 participants from 25 Countries in 2011-12 the Institutes will also train at least 40,000 persons in employable skills and will strive for the wage and self employment of at least 10,000 participants.