Tuesday, February 28, 2012

84th Academy Awards

The 84th Academy Awards ceremony, hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honored the best films of 2011. The ceremony took place at the Hollywood and Highland Center in Hollywood, California and was televised live in the United States on ABC on February 26, 2012.
The ceremony was hosted by Billy Crystal, marking his ninth time as host, and produced by Brian Grazer. Eddie Murphy was originally scheduled to be the host, and Brett Ratner was to be producer. However, Murphy stepped down after Ratner resigned, following Ratner's use of a gay slur when discussing rehearsals.
The Artist and Hugo each won five awards, with the former winning Best Picture and its star Jean Dujardin winning Best Actor. The Iron Lady won two awards, including Best Actress for Meryl Streep. The Artist became the first silent motion picture in 83 years (after Wings, which won Best Picture at the 1st Academy Awards) and the first French film to win Best Picture.
Best Picture: The Artist
Actress in Leading Role: Meryl Streep
Actor In Leading Role: Jean Dujardin
Actress in Supporting Role: Octavia Spencer for ‘The Help’
Actor in Supporting Role: Christopher Plummer for ‘Beginners’
Animated Feature Film: Rango
Cinematography: Hugo
Art Direction: Hugo
Costume Design: The Artist
Directing: The Artist
Documentary Feature: Undefeated
Documentary Short: Saving Face
Film Editing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Foreign Language Film: Iran ‘A Separation’
Makeup: The Iron Lady
Music (Original Score): The Artist
Music (Original Song): Man or Muppet from The Muppets
Short Film (Animated): The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore
Short Film (Live Action): The Shore
Sound Editing: Hugo
Sound Mixing: Hugo
Visual Effects: Hugo
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): The Descendants
Writing (Original Screenplay): Midnight in Paris

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rahul Bhatia awarded with Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year Award 2011

Rahul Bhatia, Managing Director of InterGlobe Enterprises group on 23 February 2012 chosen for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2011. InterGlobe Enterprises is a travelling company which has in its fold India's largest low-cost carrier Indigo Airlines.
Rahul Bhatia has been chosen for this award along with seven other successful entrepreneurs from different categories. Bhatia has been nominated for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2011 for successfully leading the Indigo Airlines to the top of the despite all the adversaries that the Indian aviation industry is facing.
Jury panel awarded, Chairman of HDFC Deepak Parekh with the Lifetime Achievement Award given his unparalleled contribution to the emergence of financial services and policy making in India.
Over 300 nominations were received for the Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 and the winners were selected by a jury panel led by R C Bhargava, Chairman, Maruti Suzuki Limited. Chanda Kochhar of ICICI Bank, Dalip Pathakof Warburg Pincus International, G.V. Prasad of Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, Sanjay Nayar of KKR (India); Sunil Kant Munjal of Hero Corporate Service and S Ramadorai of Tata Consultancy Services were also the part of the jury panel.
The Ernst & Young awards, which have accomplished its 13 years in 2012, is a premier business award. It is also the only global award programme which recognizes entrepreneurs across the industry.

PM to Inaugurate 2-Day Polio Summit 2012

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, will inaugurate the two-day ‘Polio summit 2012’ on 25th February 2012 at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi. India completed a year without reporting any case of polio in January 2012, a major achievement and unprecedented progress which needs to be sustained with continued intensive efforts until polio is eradicated. To commemorate India’s trailblazing effort and focus on the risks and way forward, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Rotary International are organizing the ‘Polio Summit 2012’. The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad will preside while the Ministers of State for Health and Family Welfare, Shri Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Shri S Gandhiselvan; Rotary International President Mr. Kalyan Banerjee and The Rotary Foundation Chairman Mr. William Boyd will be the guests of hounour at the Summit.

The Health Ministers of polio endemic countries Pakistan and Nigeria and neighbouring Sri Lanka and Nepal, and Rotarians from across the world are expected to attend the global summit. Senior health officials from various States, Principal Secretaries, Mission Directors NRHM and State Immunization Officers, heads and representatives of key partner organisations - Rotary International, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization- National Polio Surveillance Project and UNICEF will participate in the Summit. Representatives of the huge polio workforce are among the nearly 1,200 participants expected at the Summit.

Over the two days, the Summit will deliberate on how to build synergies to ensure that the present momentum against polio is maintained until the disease is eradicated. The last bastions of polio in India – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal – are expected to present their efforts and challenges. The Summit is expected to provide a platform for sharing and learning lessons. The World Health Organizations’ Assistant Director-General for Polio, Emergencies, Dr Bruce Aylward, will present the global scenario and China’s response to the recent poliovirus importation as a case study of emergency response, which would be a key strategy for India in the years ahead. WHO’s South East Asia Regional Office will lead the discussions around the challenges and way forward for polio free certification of the region.

Polio Summit 2012 will be a platform for all the key players in the end game strategy for polio eradication – government, partners, donors and frontline workers – to renew and reinforce their commitment to eradicate polio in India.

Monday, February 20, 2012

DRDO scientists to develop advanced seekers for tactical missiles

Imagine a war scenario in which miniaturised missiles equipped with Precision-Guided Munitions (PGMs) are unleashed from a mother missile to take out select enemy targets like an ammunition depot while avoiding collateral damage.
A mother missile acts as a “force multiplier” and to achieve the desired result, each miniaturised missile will have a seeker to ensure its independent motion, irrespective of the mother missile's motion.
Seekers, which are of two types — radio-frequency and infra-red, enable a missile to acquire, track and home in on to the target. They are required for all tactical missiles (less than 300 km range).
Scientists at the Research Centre Imarat (RCI), a key laboratory of Defence Research and Development Organisation's (DRDO) missile complex here, have embarked on developing such seekers to eventually equip mother missiles with smaller missiles packed with PGMs.
The mandate of the RCI is to deliver avionic systems for all missiles, including anti-ballistic systems and anti-aircraft missiles.
In a bid to conduct trials without using the mother missile, a Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV) has been imported to be used as a Technology Demonstrator for the project. A flight trial was conducted at the Integrated Test Range using the RPV along with a recoverable tow body by providing the vehicle the same velocity of a mother missile.
Good results were obtained from that exercise, RCI Director S.K. Chaudhuri told The Hindu on Sunday. More such trials would be carried out in stages to check the guidance, control and inertial navigation systems.
By the end of 2013, a crucial trial of the RPV with missile-launched PGMs to hit a target with both IIR (Imaging infrared) and mmW (millimteric Wave) seekers was being planned. Later, a flight test with a mother missile would be conducted, he said.
Another frontier technology area in which scientists have begun work is to design and develop ‘Low Probability of Intercept Radar Seeker' to equip anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles.
This seeker will enable the missile to escape detection and jamming by enemy radars. Currently, Russia and the U.S. have such seekers, a senior RCI scientist said.
A few months ago, a major success was achieved when anti-tank Nag missile was flight-tested with an indigenously-developed mmW seeker.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Millennium Development Goals: India makes impressive progress in 10 out of 22 indicators

With roughly three years left for India to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the country has managed to show significant progress in 10 of the 22 indicators.

With impressive gains in improving primary education enrollment rate, promoting gender equality and increasing forest cover, the country's lackluster performance in reducing overall poverty and health indicators has dragged down the performance of the overall South Asian region.

The millennium development goals are a list of eight international development parameters that all 193 members of the United Nations have to achieve by 2015. The progress in the 8 parameters is measured by 22 socio-economic indicators.

India, compared to most nations in the Asia Pacific, has made very slow progress in eradicating poverty over the period of 10 years, according to the Asia - Pacific Regional MDG report 2011-12.

With 49.4 % people living on less than $1.25 per day in the country, the metric for poverty used by MDGs, in 1994 , the country has able to reduce it to only 41.6% in the ten years to 2005.

The rate of reduction in poverty is much lower than other south Asian countries like Bangladesh that has brought down proportion of exteremely poor people from 66.8% in 1992 to 49.6% in 2005. India's poor population is much higher than Pakistan (22.6%), Sri Lanka (7%) and Turkey (2.7%).

The Asia- Pacific region as a whole has however already reached the MDG of halving the incidence of poverty. The proportion of people living below $1.25 per day in the region has come down from 50% in 1990 to 22% in 2009.

Out of the 22 indicators, India has achieved 7 while is on track to achieve another 3 while it is lagging behind in the rest. The South Asian region as a whole also has a similar profile though if one excludes India, the region is on track to eradicate extreme poverty by 2015.

Health indicators however continue to suffer in all sub regions in Asia - Pacific.

"We are in a race against time with just 3 years left to achieve the MDG. The good news though, is that our analysis shows many of these goals can still be reached with a re doubling of efforts, "said Noeleen Heyzer , United Nations under secretary general.

The greatest progress in the region has been in South East Asia which has already achieved 10 out of 22 assessed indicators and is on track for another 4. India has the second highest increase in primary enrollment ratio at 96.9% in 2008, up from 85% in 2000 among all countries of South West Asia.


The country has lagged behind in bringing infant mortality and maternal mortality rates down during the 1990-2008 decade significantly; however it has made progress in bringing down tuberculosis prevalence rate and HIV prevalence rates.

Forest cover in the country has improved to 23% of land cover in 2010, up from 21.5% in 1990. Protected areas have also seen a marginal increase during the 10 year period to 4.82% in 2010, from 4.49% in 1990. This is the best performance among other nations in South Asia. Carbon dioxide emissions have, however increased in the country over the period from 1.48 tons per capita in 2008 to 0.8 tons per capita in 1990.

e-waste rule will become highly demanding

The instruction manuals that usually come with your cell phone or television set most often lay down ways to properly discard these consumer items but do all of us read them? Come May, electronic device manufacturers might have to put in more efforts to ensure their ‘take back' schemes work better, as they will be responsible for the safe disposal of electronic and electrical goods that they produce.
As per the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2010, which will come into effect in May 2012, manufacturers of electronic goods, under the Extended Producers' Responsibility (EPR), will be responsible for recycling, reducing levels of hazardous substances in electronics and setting up collection centres. Bulk users such as large corporations, banks, insurance companies, government agencies and educational institutions will also need to keep a record of their e-waste disposal.
The Central Pollution Control Board is in the process of formulating guidelines to implement the rule that will be enforced from May 1, 2012. Chennai Corporation has already authorised 19 recyclers who can be roped in by units for their e-waste disposal. Proposed plans to start e-waste collection centres are on hold, because there is negligible e-waste even in the 4,500 tonnes of solid waste generated by the city every day, says R. Kumar, joint chief environmental engineer, TNPCB.
City-based recyclers also feel not much e-waste flows into their plants. “This is essentially why the rule needs to be enforced because now most of the e-waste generated in companies and households goes to the informal sector which needs to be stopped. We are also trying to figure out the quantum of e-waste generated as the last inventory we have is based on data of 2005,” says Anand Kumar, senior environment engineer, Hazardous Waste management division, CPCB.
“The implementation of the rule has become all the more important as most e-governance schemes attempt to link organisations through fibre-optic and through other devices. The amount of e-waste is only going to increase, and transparency in the rule will also help attract investors from other countries,” says Sabyasachi Patra, director, Manufacturer's Association of IT Industry.
However, electronic manufacturers and IT companies in the city feel the Act might be too harsh on them as the onus of disposal of all goods is on them. Some feel the rule is being implemented hurriedly with no clarity on certain concerns such as the location of the collection centres - if they should be affiliated to the manufacturers - and the implications of the cost of handling e-waste exceeding recovery. “The subsidy offered by the Central government is only for integrated facilities and there are none here because of lack of enough e-waste. E-waste recyclers also do not get the tax concessions, as e-waste does not fall in the solid waste management,” says P. Parthasarathy of Surface Chem finishers. The new rules will cover discarded IT and telecom equipment and consumer electrical goods but not medical devices, light bulbs, fluorescent tubes and batteries. “So, unless recyclers get a good volume of e-waste, recycling them may not be economically viable,” says Ram Ramachandran, managing director, TES- AMM recyclers. The process of authorising recyclers has been shifted to State PCBs by the CPCB which some manufacturers feel is a concern because there might be shortage of auditing manpower.
Citing countries with successful recycling models such as Japan, where there is a shared responsibility for e waste management, with even the user paying for it, Arjun Balakrishanan, director, Panasonic, says that putting all blame and responsibility on the producer can pull development down. Also, ‘take back' schemes are yet to gain mileage in India, says A. Prem Ananth of Dell. Many companies have been offering various incentives for customers, often as part of their Corporate Social responsibility but after May, they might need to have an in-house policy for it. Adding recycling costs to the price of the device also is not preferred by companies for there is almost no visibility that the producer has on the product after it is sold, says Mr. Ananth.
Another glaring shortcoming, feel experts, is that the legislation contains no penalties for producers or recyclers for violations of the law. “India introduced rules on recycling lead batteries in 2001 and, to date, only 25 per cent of batteries are recovered with nearly recycling units have been authorised,” says A. Sivakumar, a recycling consultant.

U.S. launches new coalition to fight climate change

The U.S. has roped in Bangladesh and four other nations under a new six-country global initiative to combat climate change, protect health, improve agricultural productivity and strengthen energy security.
Announcing the ‘Climate and Clean Air Coalition’ here, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the world has not done enough to fight climate change and the coalition of the United States, Bangladesh, Canada, Mexico, Sweden and Ghana will work to curb black carbon, methane and hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs).
Ms. Clinton said the U.S. will contribute USD 12 million to the initiative to spread practical ideas and practices.
This coalition — the first international effort of its kind — will conduct a targeted, practical, and highly energetic global campaign to spread solutions to the short-lived pollutants worldwide, she said.
It will mobilise resources, assemble political support, help countries develop and implement a national action plan, raise public awareness, and reach out to other countries, companies, NGOs and foundations.
Describing climate change as one of the most serious and complex problems facing the world, she said it impacted “global security, global economy, global food and water supplies, and the health and well-being of people everywhere.”
“And we know that in the principal effort necessary to reduce the effects of carbon dioxide, the world has not yet done enough. So when we discover effective and affordable ways to reduce global warming — not just a little, but by a lot — it is a call to action,” she said.
She pointed out that more than one-third of current global warming is caused by short—lived pollutants. They also destroy millions of tonnes of crops every year and wreak havoc on people’s health.
“Millions die annually from constantly breathing in black carbon soot that comes from cook—stoves in their own homes, from diesel cars and trucks on their roads, from the open burning of agricultural waste in their fields,” she noted.
“By focusing on these pollutants — how to reduce them and, where possible, use them for energy — we can have local and regional effects that people can see and feel,” she said.
Ms. Clinton noted that the U.N. Environment Programme has determined that reducing these pollutants can slow global warming by up to a half degree Celsius by 2050. To put that into context, the world’s goal is to limit the rise in global temperature to two degrees. So a half a degree, or 25 per cent, is significant, she said.

German president quits in scandal over favours

German President Christian Wulff has announced his resignation in a scandal over favours he allegedly received before becoming head of state creating a new problem for Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Mr. Wulff announced his immediate resignation on Friday, a day after the slow-burning affair escalated dramatically with a request by prosecutors for Parliament to lift his immunity from prosecution.
Mr. Wulff is stepping down after less than two years in the job. He was Ms. Merkel’s candidate for the presidency in 2010.

G-20 Foreign Ministers to discuss global issues in Mexico

The first ever meeting of G-20 foreign ministers would discuss pressing global issues including governance, trans-national crime, green growth, climate change and food security, US officials have said.

Organised by Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa in the Mexican resort town of Los Cabos, the meeting is to be attended by among others US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Several other G-20 countries including France, China, Brazil and India would be represented at a lower level.

Mexico is the current chair of the G-20 countries and the summit would be hosted on June 18-19.

A senior state department official said that the meeting is informal so it would not result in any formal statements.

"This meeting reflects, in many ways, the evolution of the G-20 since the first summit of Washington in the fall of 2008, which, was designed to deal with the global financial crisis," the official said.

"This is going to focus on broad non-financial global issues, some of which have been discussed by G-20 leaders in the past, but some of which are new to the G-20 process or at least have not been emphasised to any great degree, including some broad economic governance issues, some environmental issues, development policy, and green growth," the official said.

During her meetings, Clinton would be amplifying some themes that are included in the broad G-20 mandate, which is balanced and sustainable growth.

Although, she will not going to get into the details of the G-20 financial part of the process, but she will call for an open, free, transparent, and fair global economic system.

Clinton will address things like anti-competitive government practices or distortions, which encompass the ways in which governments artificially distort markets or create uneven economic playing fields, the official said.

Among other things, Clinton will also highlight issues like climate change, freedom of navigation and maritime security to promote a well-functioning global economy; besides governance issues like fight against corruption and bribery.

India-born biologist Kamal Bawa bags world's 1st major international award

India-born biologist Kamal Bawa has bagged the world’s first international award for outstanding scientific work that promotes sustainable development globally.
Dr. Bawa, distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, will receive the Gunnerus Sustainability Award from the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (DKNVS) at a function in Trondheim, Norway on April 17, an official announcement said.
“We are very pleased to have selected such a worthy winner of the first Gunnerus award,” said Professor Kristian Fossheim, president of DKNVS.
The Gunnerus award is the first major international prize for outstanding scientific work that promotes sustainable development globally, and will be awarded every two years starting in 2012.
Dr Bawa is most noted for his pioneering work on population biology in rainforest areas.
His wide span of research includes groundbreaking biological discoveries made in Central America, Western Ghats in India and the Himalayas.
He is specially noted for the establishment, and as President, of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) in Bangalore.
Until recently, he also held Ruffolo Giorgio Fellowship in Sustainability Science and Bullard Fellowship at Harvard University.
“I am very pleased over the recognition that our work has received,” Dr Bawa said.
The award is named after DKNVS’ founder Bishop Johan Ernst Gunnerus (1718—1773) and is the result of collaboration between DKNVS, Sparebank1 SMN and the society Technoport.

UNDP interested in learning about Kerala e-governance

Geraldine J. Fraser-Moleketi, Practice Director, Democratic Governance Group, United Nation’s Development Programme (UNDP) has expressed interest in visiting Kerala and learning about the government’s work in the area of democratic governance.
“We would be happy to explore areas of mutual collaboration in strengthening South-South learning initiatives and possible partnership with the government in the area of e-governance, anti-corruption, governance assessments and local governance,” the Director said in a letter to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy from New York.
Expressing his deep appreciation for the innovative practices in democratic governance initiated by Kerala in strengthening the people’s access and participation in human development and governance, Mr. Fraser-Moleketi said that many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America might be able to learn from the innovative practises in democratic governance in Kerala.
“I have accessed media reports about the innovative approach to ensure transparency and accountability in Governance, particularly your decision to web-stream the entire functioning of your office. Your mass contact programme, in many ways, is the first of its kind to ensure the right to direct access to leaders and senior civil servants of the government.
“On visiting your website I was impressed by the 24X7 call centre to the office of Chief Minister and the whistle blowing provisions for combating corruption. The idea box for Vision 2030 also seems to be an interesting case of developing an inclusive approach to building shared vision within the society.”
He said that during his tenure as the Cabinet Minister of South Africa and in his present capacity, leading the world-wide democratic governance practise of UNDP, he emphasised the need to promote South-South learning in the area of democratic governance.
“I believe that many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America may be able to learn from the innovative practises in democratic governance in Kerala. The Democratic Governance Group of UNDP will be interested exploring how best to show case options for south-south learning from Kerala.”
Mr. Fraser-Moleketi is scheduled to visit India in the second week of March.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Growth should not be at cost of environment: PM

Ahead of a meeting with environment ministers of BASIC countries, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said growth is important for the people but should take place in a way which does not harm the environment.

"Economic growth is essential for the people, but we cannot allow growth to be pursued in a manner which damages our environment," the PM said on Twitter, according to the PMO.

Environment Ministers of BASIC countries- Brazil, South Africa, India and China- are calling upon the Prime Minister on Monday.

The Environment Ministers of the BASIC countries are meeting again after the December climate change meet in Durban.

The meeting will be focused on working out a common and concerted strategy on the proposed new global climate change regime.

It will be closely watched to assess the future prospects of the group comprising the four emerging economies.

Since the Copenhagen round of talks in 2009, the BASIC has emerged as a key component for a successful outcome in climate talks.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Zubin Mehta honoured with Israel's Presidential Medal

India-born music conductor Zubin Mehta has been honoured with Israel's first Presidential Awards of Distinction, the country's version of the French Legion of Honour or the Order of Canada.

The award is being bestowed upon those "who have made an outstanding contribution to the state of Israel or to humanity, through their talents, services, or in any other form," a statement from the Israeli Presidency said.
Mehta, 75, will be sharing the honours with the likes of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Judith Feld Carr, a Canadian-Jewish musician and human rights activist who helped smuggle thousands of Jews out of Syria, the Rashi Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, Chabad Rabbi Adin Even Yisrael and attorney Uri Slonim.
The Indian conductor, who is the music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), will be awarded the honour "for his unique contribution to the world of Israeli music," the statement said.

Barack Obama to felicitate Amartya Sen with National Humanities Medal

India-born Nobel laureate Amartya Sen will be felicitated by US President Barack Obama for his efforts to increase the understanding of how to fight hunger and poverty.

US President Barack Obama would felicitate Sen, 78, with the 2011 National Humanities Medal, along with others, the White House announced.

The White House said the award is being given to Sen for his insights into the causes of poverty, famine, and injustice.

"By applying philosophical thinking to questions of policy, he has changed how standards of living are measured and increased our understanding of how to fight hunger," the White House said as it announced the list of awardees.

The First Lady would also attend the awards ceremony for the 2011 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal scheduled on February 13.

The 2011 National Medal of Arts would be awarded to Will Barnet, Rita Dove, Al Pacino, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Martin Puryear, Mel Tillis, United Service Organization and Andre Watts.

The 2011 National Humanities Medal will be given to Kwame Anthony Appiah, John Ashbery, Robert Darnton, Andrew Delbanco, National History Day, Charles Rosen, Teofilo Ruiz, and Ramon Saldivar, besides Amartya Sen.

Amartya Sen won his Nobel Prize for economics in 1998 for his studies of the roots of poverty.

National Food Security Bill, a historic initiative by central government

National Food Security Bill, a historic initiative by central government Puducherry, February 11, 2012 Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Prof. K.V. Thomas, has said that the National Food Security Bill is a historic initiative by the government of India and marks a paradigm shift in food security - from welfare to a rights-based approach. This Bill is perhaps the only legislation of its kind in the world, says the Minister.

Prof. K.V. Thomas was addressing the All-India Editors’ Conference on Social Sector Issues (ECSSI) in Puducherry today. According to Food Minister, the NFSB seeks to address the issue of food security in a comprehensive manner by adopting a life cycle approach. Prof. Thomas clarified that the additional financial implication of the NFSB is not going to be large. With the current coverage and entitlement and also taking into account estimated allocations under other welfare schemes, the food subsidy for 2012-13 is expected to be about Rs. 88997 crore. However, if we were to just update the coverage under TPDS (Targetted Public Distribution System) using 2011 census, the subsidy will be Rs. 109795 crore. In comparison, the estimated subsidy requirement under NFSB is estimated to be Rs. 1,12,205 crore, i.e., an additional amount of Rs. 2410 crore.

Prof. Thomas said that the perception of some states about the coverage under TPDS provide in the bill being restrictive and which will come in the way of universal PDS for a much higher coverage being implemented by them is misplaced. The Bill only specifies the minimum entitlement under TPDS and places obligations on central and state governments to fulfill them once the Act comes into force. He said that the apprehensions in some States about their food grain allocations under NFSB getting reduced is premature. The issue of state-wise coverage, corresponding the all-India coverage specified in the Bill, is yet to be decided.

Ministry of Rural Development and Planning Commission will consult the states to arrive at a consensus on the methodology that will seek to ensure that no poor or deprived household is excluded from coverage under different government programmes and schemes. The Minister clarified that the major impact of NFSB will be in terms of food subsidy which is estimated to be additional Rs. 23228 crore more in 2012-13,compared to the estimated requirement under existing TPDS and other welfare schemes.

On computerization of TPDS, Prof. Thomas said steps have been initiated for the computerization of the PDS in the country. States have been asked for the digitalization of ration card, computerized allocation of fair price shops to make the PDS more effective. Computerisation of TPDS has been taken under Mission Mode Project under national e-governance plan. The Standing Committee on Food & Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution is to hold consultations with the stake-holders in various states and modifications will be made in NFSB based on the consultations by the committee.

All India Editors Conference on Social Sector Issues 2012

The Minister of State for Human Resource Development Smt. D. Purandeswari has appealed the State Governments to extend full cooperation for the betterment of education infrastructure in the Country. Addressing the All India Editors Conference on Social Sector Issues in Puducherry here today Dr. Purandeswari said education is a collective and cooperative responsibility of Union as well as all state governments.

The minister said in order to strengthen the elementary Education sector the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan norms have been revised to correspond with the provisions of the RTE Act. Emphasis is being given on sending higher enrolment of girl child under the Abhiyan. She said by bringing a constitutional amendment in the form of Article 21A, the Right of children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 has become operative in the country w.e.f. April 2010. She said the sharing of funds between the Centre and states was in the ratio of 50:50 during 11th plan period and now it is proposed to make 65:35 in between Centre and the State during the XII Plan.

She also spoke of the Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan(RSMA), a flagship programme to improve access to secondary education to all young persons according to norms through proximate locations and to ensure that no child is deprived of secondary education of satisfactory quality due to gender, socio economic, disability and other barriers.

The Minister referred to the Model School Scheme announced by the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and said this scheme envisages providing quality education to talented rural students through setting up of 6000 model schools as a bench mark of excellence at block level at the school of one school per block. The scheme was launched in 2008-09 and is being implemented from 2009-10.

She said efforts are being made to improve the quality of teachers through the Teachers Eligibility Test(TET) and urged all the stake holders to ensure its success.

The Minister said 14 bills to bring about reform in Education Sector have been tabled in the Parliament. She also said that to ensure that only quality education through collaboration with foreign university and educational institutions is imparted in India a bill is already under the consideration of Parliament.

Smt. Purandeswari said at the time of Independence there were only 20 universities and 500 colleges which have increased to 611 universities and university-level institutions and 31,324 colleges since August 2011. She said to face the challenges of 21st century, Government has taken a number of Initiatives during the XI Plan period which focus on improvement of access alongwith equity and excellence, adoption of state specific strategies, enhancing the relevance of higher education through curriculum reforms, vocationalisation, networking and use of Information Technology and distance education along with reforms in governance. Expansion, inclusion, rapid improvement in quality by enhancing public spending, encouraging private initiatives and initiating the long overdue major institutional and policy reforms are at the core of these efforts, she added.

The Minister said with planned interventions and sustained efforts considerable progress has been made in the literacy area, The literacy rate in 2001 Census was 64.83 percent, which improved to 74.04 percent in 2011.Interestingly literacy rate has improved sharply among females as compared to males.

She expressed concern on the school dropout rate especially among the girl child in the transition period of primary to secondary education and said lack of proper toilet facilities and drinking water facilities in the rural areas are one of reasons to it. She said the issue is being taken up with the Ministry of Rural Development under the convergence programmes.

She said a National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework (NVEQF) is being developed as it will emphasize the importance of integration of vocational education and training and general education in all types of education and training. It will provide a common reference frame work for linking various qualifications and setting common principles and guidelines for a nationally recognized qualifications system and to address the issues of skill shortage in various sectors. She said it will be a unified system of national qualifications covering schools, Vocational education and Training Institutions as well as the Higher education Sector and would be useful in integrating education and training systems encouraging lifelong and continuing learning.

Interceptor scores a direct hit on target missile

Validating Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) capability, India successfully launched an interceptor missile to destroy an incoming target missile in a direct hit at an altitude of 15 km over the Bay of Bengal on Friday.
The target missile mimicked an incoming enemy missile with a range of more than 2,000 km.
A few minutes after the ‘hostile’ missile, a modified surface-to-surface Prithvi, took off at 10.10 a.m. from Launch Complex-3 at Chandipur, the interceptor missile, Advanced Air Defence (AAD), was fired from the Wheeler Island. As the target missile climbed to a height about 100 km and began descending at rapid speed, the interceptor travelling at supersonic speed homed on to the target and smashed it to smithereens around 10.15 a.m. at a 15-km altitude in the endo-atmosphere.
The crucial test was conducted as part of India’s plans to deploy a two-tiered BMD system to engage and kill incoming enemy missiles in the endo-atmosphere and exo-atmopshere.
This was the seventh interceptor mission and the fifth endo-atmospheric interception. Six of the tests to date have been successful, including the first three in a row.
Immediately after the modified Prithvi was launched, the Long Range Tracking Radars near Puri picked up the target missile as also the Multi Functional Radar at Paradip tracked the missile and passed on the information to guidance computer, which gave the command for launching of AAD after computing the target’s flight. Equipped with inertial navigation system, a hi-tech computer and a radio-frequency seeker the AAD locked on to the target missile and blasted it in the terminal phase.
Scientific advisor to Defence Minister V.K. Saraswat, Defence Research and Development Organisation's (DRDO) Chief Controller for missiles and strategic systems, Avinash Chander and other top missile scientists were present.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Andhra Pradesh reports loss of 281 sq km forest cover

The State of Forests Report, 2011, has reported a loss of 281 sq km of forest cover in Andhra Pradesh, of which 182 sqkm was recorded in Khammam and surrounding districts. The Centre has, based on the reports from Andhra Pradesh, said that a substantial amount of the loss in forest cover has been on account of Left wing extremism, particularly in the Khammam, Adilabad, Warangal and South Koraput.

There has been a decline in forest cover of about 679 sq km in tribal districts. Environment secretary T Chatterjee, who released the report, said that over six to eight months, between 2008 and 2009, Maoists were responsible for cutting trees in hundreds of acres in Khamman, Warangal and Adilabad districts of Andhra Pradesh and adjoining districts in Orissa.

"In Warangal and Khammam, they cut trees because they wanted to involve the people... The wood, which was mostly teak, was sold. These cuttings were done over a period of time, anywhere between six to eight months, in small patches corresponding with villages," Chatterjee said.

Officials explained that given most trees in the area was teak, it provided a revenue stream for Naxals, who had by 2008/09 been driven out of Andhra Pradesh. "These are not areas where Naxals lived or operated from. These forests were home to villages from where they recruited and the sale of timber gave them a source of earning," the secretary explained.

Other factors, which account for the decline of forest cover in Andhra Pradesh harvesting of mature plantation of eucalyptus and other species.

India loses 367 sq km of forests in 2 years

India recorded a net loss of 367 sq km of forests between 2009 and 2011 with Khammam district in Andhra Pradesh alone losing 182 sq km of green cover in the period, the latest 'state of forest' report has found. In all, AP lost 281 sq km of forests in two years. The report, prepared biennially by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), the Dehradun-based wing of the environment and forests ministry, was released on Tuesday.

Environment secretary T Chatterjee attributed the loss to Left-wing extremists chopping off forests illegally, and the paper pulp industry harvesting old eucalyptus plantations in Khammam. He claimed that the forests in Khammam had been cleared in less than six months with plantations being cut and the extremists egging people on to cut the forests as well. The report, though, noted that the loss of forest cover was largely due to the felling of eucalyptus plantations.

But officials were unable to explain how vast swathes of forests could disappear from one district in just six months. Khammam had also recorded a 56% loss of forests between 2007 and 2009 as per the ministry's reports. This reduction too had been apportioned to the cutting of plantations by the government in 2009.

The explanation, blaming the loss of green cover on Naxals, was also odd considering Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, which currently witness a far stronger presence of Left-wing extremists, have either seen growth or stagnation of their forests cover. In Chhattisgarh, a net loss of 4 sq km of forests was recorded while there was a net gain of 83 sq km in Jharkhand.

The report noted that the largest loss of forests, excluding the northeastern states, occurred in AP which lost 281 sq km of forests in just two years. While the northeastern states show huge changes annually in their forest stocks, these are reflective of the large-scale shifting cultivation practised in the region and the figures do not reflect a permanent loss of green cover.

A forest survey official said at the meeting that the AP government in its own report had recorded more than 100 sq km of forest loss in the state inside land controlled by the forest department. The central survey report records changes in forest cover all through the geographical area of the country and does not limit itself to land that is officially recognized as forestland.

As per the survey, the forest and tree cover of the country is 78.29 million hectares which is 23.81% of the geographical area. Asked when the government expected to achieve the mandated 33% forest cover, director general of forests P J Dilip Kumar said that would require a structural change in the economy where more and more people migrated to the cities and the agricultural land left fallow could then be used to grow forests. He said failing agriculture was already making people migrate to the towns.

The response from the government raises serious questions about the value of the report which does not demarcate natural forests from plantations. The FSI director general said neither had they been mandated to do the demarcation nor did they have the technological ability to do so. UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), however, does segregated statistics for the two types of forests for India based on reports submitted by the government.

The weakness of the report in bringing out the health of forests in India was evident when officials admitted that the 100 sq km of forests added over two years were really agro-forestry patches and not real forests. Though agro-forestry is important as a source of timber to take the pressure off natural forests, a growth in these mostly mono-cultural plantations cannot compensate for the loss of biodiversity-rich natural forests which are lost to development projects, especially mining.

New 13,100 hectare wildlife reserve in Rajasthan

To protect and provide conducive atmosphere for development of wild life, the Rajasthan government today cleared a proposal to declare 13,100 hectare forest land in Sikar and Jhunjhunu as 'Shakambhari Conservation Reserve'.

The Rajasthan cabinet cleared the proposal for the Reserve under section 36-A of Wild Life (protection) Act, an official said.

The decision, which was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, would help in promoting eco-tourism besides providing effective protection and atmosphere for development of wild life in the Reserve, an official said.

The cabinet also gave nod to a proposal regarding special package to a company for making truck body, cabin, dumper and trailer on chassis. The project would bring investment of Rs 30 crore and help in providing employment to 700 to 800 people directly and indirectly.

India's forest cover declines

India's forest cover has declined, with the maximum loss recorded in Andhra Pradesh, where the Centre blamed the Naxals for felling trees.

The reduction is to the tune of 367 square km in comparison to the 2009 assessment, says a new Government forest survey report released here today.

Forest and tree cover of the country as per the biennial assessment report prepared by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) is 78.29 million hectares, which is 23.81 per cent of the geographical area. This includes 2.76 per cent tree cover.

Andhra Pradesh recorded maximum forest cover loss of 281 sq km, says the India Sate of Forest Report 2011 released by Environment Ministry Secretary T Chatterjee. This is the twelfth report in the series.

While 15 states have registered aggregate increase of 500 sqkm in their forest with Punjab leading with increase of 100 sqkm, 12 states and Union Territories, mainly from the northeast, have shown a decline of 867 sq km.

Chatterjee said Naxals have cut trees in hundreds of acres in Andhra Pradesh's Warangal and Khammam districts in last two years.

"In Warangal and Khammam, they cut because they wanted to get the people involved....The wood was auctioned later. These cuttings were done over a period of three days," he said.

The assessment was made on the basis of satellite imageries.

Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover in the country at 77,7700 sqkm followed by Arunachal Pradesh at 67,410 sqkm.

In terms of percentage of forest cover in relation to total geographical area, Mizoram tops with 90.68 per cent followed by Lakshadweep with 84.56 per cent.

Decline in 281 sqkm forest cover in Andhra Pradesh is also attributed to harvesting of mature plantation of Eucalyptus and other species.

Fall in forest cover in North East is particularly due to prevailing practice of shifting cultivation in this region, says the report.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Indonesia became the 157th Country to adopt the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty)

Indonesia became the 157th country to adopt the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Indonesia formalised ratification of the nuclear test ban treaty on 6 February 2012 at the United Nations. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) completed its talks on the regional weapons free zone in 2011 and the 10 member states are now completing ratification of that treaty. The Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone treaty commits ASEAN's 10 member states not to develop, manufacture or otherwise acquire, possess or have control over atomic weapons.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Maldives president quits after police mutiny

Maldives' first democratically elected president resigned on Tuesday after a police mutiny described by his office as an attempted coup, capping three weeks of political upheaval in the holiday paradise.

"It will be better for the country in the current situation if I resign. I don't want to run the country with an iron-fist. I am resigning," President Mohamed Nasheed told a televised press conference.
Early in the day, rebel police officers joined anti-government protests that have rocked the capital Male for the past three weeks. They later took over state television and began broadcasting an opposition channel.
Army spokesman Colonel Abdul Raheem Abdul Latheef told a news agency that troops had used tear gas and rubber bullets during clashes with the protestors and police in the crowded capital Male.
"The sporadic clashes began after midnight and continued until 8:00 am (0830 IST)," Latheef said. A presidential official described the unrest as "an attempted coup" by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who Nasheed turfed out of power in the country's first democratic presidential elections in 2008.
Army spokesman Latheef stressed there had been no military takeover, although the defence forces had "advised" Nasheed to resign. "It is not a coup. Definitely not a coup," he added.
Vice President Mohamed Waheed was later sworn in as the new head of state, while the government urged the population of 300,000 Sunni Muslims to remain calm. Opposition demands for Nasheed to step down escalated after he ordered the arrest last month of Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed on charges of misconduct and favouring opposition figures.
There have also been demonstrations by Islamic fundamentalists against the government, particularly over the transport ministry's decision to allow direct flights from Israel.
The leader of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party, which has accused Nasheed of being under the influence of Jews and Christians, called on the military to detain him, adding that he should face charges of "corruption and misuse of power".
The main opposition Progressive Party, headed by former strongman Gayoom, said that Nasheed was at his home and is "being allowed to communicate with people outside".
The Maldives, a country of 1,192 Indian Ocean islands scattered across the equator, is dependent on tourism and is famous for its upmarket holiday resorts and hotels that cater for honeymooning couples and high-end travellers.
Travel agencies said there were already signs the unrest and instability were putting off tourists, which are a vital source of revenue for a country that demanded a bail-out from the International Monetary Fund in 2009.
A delegation from the UN Department of Political Affairs headed by Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco had been due to arrive on Thursday in a bid to broker a resolution to the political crisis. Nasheed, a father of two daughters, rose from grassroots political opposition to the autocratic regime of Gayoom.
He formed his Maldivian Democratic Party in exile but then returned home to a hero's welcome, sweeping 54 per cent of the vote in the 2008 elections whose results brought people out in into the street dancing and cheering.
The media-savvy leader used his mandate to build a reputation internationally as a committed campaigner against climate change. Problems, including high youth unemployment, widespread illegal drug use, and an increasing rise in Islamic fundamentalism have fuelled discontent with his rule.

India, Russia to hold Exercise INDRA

Indian Army troops will proceed to Russia later this year for participating in the annual INDRA series of exercise between the two armies.

Moscow had called off the exercise scheduled to be held in June last year in Russia. An exercise between the navies of the two sides was also cancelled after Russia cited the engagement of their ships in rescue operations in Tsunami-hit Japan.

An Indian Army team is in Russia to hold discussions with its counterparts to prepare for the INDRA 2012 exercise planned to be held around the middle of the year there, Army officials said here.

During the visit, the Indian team will also see the area where the exercises are supposed to be held, they said.

Since 2003, India and Russia have conducted five of the INDRA-series joint ground and naval exercises. The last such exercise was held between the two countries' army units in India in October 2010.

Meanwhile, Indian is also engaging armies of Singapore and Indonesia in war games to learn from each other's experience of counter insurgency and counter terrorism operations.

A platoon-level exercise, consisting 30 troops, would be held with the Indonesian Army at the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) at Vairangte in Mizoram from February 12, the officials said.

During the 22-day exercise, troops from Indian and Indonesian armies will participate in several joint drills and exercise to hone their skills in counter insurgency and counter terrorism, they added.

S&P warning to India on negative rating

Even as there is no immediate threat of downward tweaking, global rating agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) on February 06 cautioned India that its sovereign credit rating could tilt slightly towards ‘negative' if effective action was not taken to counter “the balance of risk factors” emanating from economic uncertainties at home and abroad.
In its report titled ‘Several factors could weigh on India's current stable sovereign rating in 2012', S&P Ratings Services pointed out that even though it did not expect to downgrade or revise the ‘stable' outlook on India's investment grade ('BBB-') long-term sovereign credit rating in the near future, there were some concerns as the country is battling with high inflation, weak government fiscal position, slow domestic economic growth and the euro zone sovereign debt crisis which could impact the economy.
“Like many countries, India is facing some challenges on a few fronts, and the balance of risk factors for the sovereign credit rating may be shifting slightly toward the negative … S&P doesn't expect to downgrade or revise the outlook on the long-term rating in the near future,” the S&P report authored by its credit analyst Takahira Ogawa said.
According to Mr. Ogawa, India has been “grappling with a political gridlock” and the government's ability to implement measures to “improve economic growth and fiscal prudence will be vital” to boosting confidence. “However, the negative factors, combined with the government's weak policy formulation and implementation, may lead us to a tipping point,” the S&P credit analyst said.
As per the report, high inflation, a weak fiscal position and slower economic growth have hurt investor confidence in the rupee which triggered a capital outflow and all these negatives weighed on the stable sovereign outlook on India in 2012. “Our stable outlook on the 'BBB-' long-term rating on India currently reflects our expectation of strong economic growth in the medium term and gradually improving fiscal performances,” Mr. Ogawa said while noting that the rating agency has already “factored in inflation and political uncertainty, which may lead to higher government subsidies and stalled reform efforts."

Britain marks Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday

Prince Charles is leading ceremonies to mark the 200th birthday of novelist Charles Dickens.
The heir to the British throne will lay a wreath on Tuesday on the writer’s grave in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner, where actor Ralph Fiennes will give a reading.
More events are being held in Portsmouth, southern England, where Dickens was born on February 7, 1812.
Dickens also was one of the first modern celebrity authors, and campaigned for social reform in Victorian England.
His novels, including Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, are still read by millions and have spawned innumerable film and TV adaptations.
Dickens also was one of the first modern celebrity authors, and campaigned for social reform in Victorian England.
His biographer, Claire Tomalin, says today’s headlines about social inequality, greedy bankers and corrupt politicians prove Dickens is still relevant.

Queen celebrates Diamond Jubilee

Guns boomed as Queen Elizabeth on February 06 celebrated the 60th anniversary of her accession to the British throne kicking off the run-up to the official Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June billed as the biggest event of the year, up there with the London Olympics.
She is the longest-serving British monarch after her great-great grandmother Victoria and has seen 11 Prime Ministers come and go. David Cameron is Her Majesty's 12th Prime Minister.
A series of gun salutes including two in London — one in Hyde Park and the other at the Tower of London — and release of two official photographs of the Queen marked the Accession Day.
For the 85-year-old monarch, the occasion evoked mixed emotions as the day also marked the 60th death anniversary of her father George VI whose sudden demise on February 6, 1952 catapulted her to the throne. The newly-married Princess Elizabeth was holidaying in Kenya with her husband Prince Philip when she was informed of her father's death and she rushed back to Britain to be installed as Queen.
The Queen usually spends the day privately but this year she broke with tradition to pay a low-key visit to a nursery school in Norfolk and watched a musical performance by children. Earlier, she was greeted by well-wishers who presented her flowers. 
Click here to view the timeline.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Subodh Kant Inaugurates Sapporo Snow Festival

Union Tourism Minister  Subodh Kant Sahai inaugurated Sapporo Snow Festival at Sapporo, Japan Feruary 6,  to mark the 60th year of India Japan diplomatic relations. Speaking on the occasion the Minister said that Ice replica of Taj Mahal displayed at the festival will definitely help in attracting large number of visitors to India not only from Japan but also from neighbouring countries. He said Japan is an important source market for Indian Tourism with tremendous in bound tourism potential. Shri Sahai said as per records of the Tourism Ministry, India received more than 1,65,000 tourists from Japan during 2011. The Ministry of Tourism has set up an Incredible India booth at the festival.

The Tourism Minister is on a four-day visit to Japan. During his stay, the Minister will hold meetings with the representatives of Japanese Tourism Department and Tour and Travel Trade. The Minister will also host an India evening at the festival which will be attended by guests from Japanese Tourism and Travel Trade, media, opinion makers and stake-holders. During his stay at Tokyo, Shri Sahai will hold discussions with the senior officials of Japanese Tourism and representatives of travel trade.

The Sapporo Snow festival, one of Japan’s largest winter events attracts a large number of visitors from Japan and abroad every year. The festival began in 1950. During the weak long festival the statues and sculptures built of ice turns Sapporo into a winter dreamland of crystal like – ice and white snow

International Conference on Climate Change, Sustainable Agriculture and Public Leadership

A two-day International Conference on Climate Change, Sustainable Agriculture and Public Leadership begins February 7. The Conference is being organized by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Education in collaboration with the National Council for Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Public Leadership.

The main objective of this conference is to bring scientists, teachers, researchers, economists, managers and policy makers from around the world on a single platform to discuss various aspects of climate change, sustainable agriculture and public leadership and develop a consensus containing a set of valuable recommendations, as a way forward for addressing the issues related to the future climate scenario, Indian agriculture and food security.

According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and World Meteorological Organization, climate change can adversely impact global environment, agricultural productivity and the quality of human life. More importantly in developing countries, it will be difficult for farmers to carry on farming in the scenario of climate change. Developing countries, India in particular, are vulnerable to climate variability and climate change as farming depends largely on the variability of rainfall. Fluctuations in areas planted to arable crops and annual yield are directly related to climate conditions and notably to rainfall and rainfall pattern.

The knowledge and understanding of implications of climate change at the national level is inadequate and fragmentary. International efforts to address the issue of climate change began with the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. The importance and significance of the vulnerability of natural and human systems to climatic changes and adaptation to such changes is increasingly being realized.

Apart from different national organizations, several international organizations like ICRISAT, FAO, IFAD, ICARDA and expert from Morocco, Kenya, Syria, Canada, USA, UAE and Singapore are expected to take part in the Conference.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

SHADE:A New Pact signed by India, Japan and China

SHADE- The pact signed by India, japan and China to achieve the most efficient use of Naval forces present in the Indian ocean region. India, Japan and China signed a pact to share data to achieve the most efficient use of Naval Forces present in the Indian Ocean Region. This initiative is called the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE). The initiative began functioning from 1 January 2012. The SHADE mechanism is likely to check sea piracy in Indian Ocean.

V. Shantaram Life Time Achievement Award for Veteran Environmental Filmmaker Mike Pandey

Veteran environmental filmmaker Mike Pandey was honoured with the prestigious V. Shantaram Life Time Achievement Award at the Mumbai International Film Festival 2012 on 3 February 2012. The award was presented by Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan. He received the award for his documentaries on wildlife conservation and environment.

Mike Pandey is one of India’s foremost wildlife and environmental filmmakers. He hasd won over 300 national and international awards. His list of films include Shores of Silence, The Last Migration, Broken Wings and The Timeless Traveller.

V. Shantaram Life Time Achievement Award

The award carries a citation, a trophy and a cash prize of Rs.5 lakh. It was instituted in 1996 in memory of the legendary filmmaker V. Shantaram. The award is given with an objective to recognise the multi-faceted contributions of an Indian for the documentary film movement.

Iran Successfully launched an Observation Satellite into Orbit above Earth

Iran on 3 February 2012 successfully launched an observation satellite called navid satellite into orbit above Earth. It will be placed into an orbit at an altitude between 250 and 370 kilometres. The weight of the satellite is 50-kilogram and it is meant to stay in orbit for 18 months.
Western nations are worried about Iran’s space programme because they fear that it could be used to develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads

Astronomers found the Fourth Habitable Planet outside our Solar System called GJ667Cc

Astronomers found the fourth habitable planet outside our solar system called GJ667Cc. The planet is 22 light years from Earth. The newly found planet is rocky in nature. It orbits its star every 28.15 days. It has a mass at least 4.5 times that of earth. The team of astronomers analysed data from the European Southern Observatory.

Friday, February 3, 2012

National Infant Mortality Rate Reduced Further to Forty-Seven Infant Deaths per 1000 Live Births

As per the latest Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin, December 2011 released by the Registrar General of India (RGI), it is noted that  Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) has dropped further by  3 points from 50 to 47 infants deaths per 1000 live births during 2010.  The IMR for rural areas has dropped by 4 points from 55 to 51 infant deaths per 1000 live births while the Urban rate now stands at 31 from the previous 34/1000.  

 State of Goa still has the lowest IMR of 10 infant deaths followed by Kerala with 13 infant deaths per 1000 live births (as against 12/1000 in January 2011 figures) – the Urban IMR in Kerala has however reduced to 10 against 11 of previous figures.  Madhya Pradesh has the highest IMR of 62/1000 followed by UP and Odisha with 61/1000 IMR. States/UTs of Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Meghalaya still have IMRs more than the national average of 47. Copy of December 2011 SRS bulletin is attached.   

The Sample Registration System (SRS) is a large-scale demographic survey for providing reliable annual estimates of birth rate, death rate and other fertility & mortality indicators at the national and sub-national levels. The field investigation consists of continuous enumeration of births and deaths in selected sample units by resident part time enumerators, generally anganwadi workers & teachers, and an independent survey every six months by SRS supervisors. The data obtained by these two independent functionaries are matched. The unmatched and partially matched events are re-verified in the field and thereafter an unduplicated count of births and deaths is obtained. The sample unit in rural areas is a village or a segment of it, if the village population is 2000 or more. In urban areas, the sampling unit is a census enumeration block with population ranging from 750 to 1000. At present, SRS is operational in 7,597 sample units (4,433 rural and 3,164 urban) spread across all States and Union territories and covers about 1.5 million households and 7.27 million population.

Scientists developed a Vaccine to Treat Breast Cancer

Scientists developed a vaccine to treat breast cancer, using a patient’s own cells. To achieve this, Scientists enrolled 27 patients and separated specialised white cells using standard techniques similar to blood donation.The cells were modified in the laboratory in such a way that the immune system could detect the cancerous cells as foreign and attack them.The patients were given four weekly injections of their personalized vaccine.

The pre-vaccination samples were compared with post-vaccination samples by the scientists and its was found that five patients almost 20 person had no disease, which proved that their immune system had wiped out the tumour.

The scientific experiment showed that the breast cancer vaccines developed in this way could be effective against breast cancer. The scientific findings were published in the Journal of Immunotherapy.

Union Minister for Labor & Employment Mallikarjun Kharge presented with Pride of India Award

Visiting union minister for labor and employment Mallikarjun Kharge was presented with Pride of India award by the Indian-American community in Washington on 1 February 2012. He was honoured with theaward for his over four decades of public service.

The award was presented jointly by the Indian American Friendship Council  (IAFC) and India Association of North Texas (IANT) at a reception hosted in honour of the visiting union minister, Kharge in Dallas.

In his address, Kharge provided an update on various bilateral memoranda on items of mutual interest, such as mining safety, employment, social security and said that India's GDP is poised to grow at a faster pace than most of the nations.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Filmfare Awards: Ranbir Kapoor, Vidya Balan named best actors

The annual 57th Filmfare awards held in Mumbai.Vidya Balan taking away the Best Actress award for her performance in The Dirty Picture, while Ranbir Kapoor bagged the Best Actor award for Rockstar.

The trophy for the Best Film was given to Zoya Akhtar's Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. A.R. Rahman was named the Best Music Director for Rockstar.

Bollywood A-listers including Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D'Souza performed at the award function.

The red carpet rolled out for stars and celebrities as they walk down to celebrate the greatest and the best of Hindi cinema.

The award function saw Shah Rukh Khan and Ranbir Kapoor for the first time hosting the show together.


Best Actor: Ranbir Kapoor for Rockstar

Best Actress: Vidya Balan for The Dirty Picture

Sridevi and Boney Kapoor give away the Award to Vidya Balan.

Best Film: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Best Director: Zoya Akhtar for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Best Dialogue: Farhan Akhtar for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

Best Screenplay: Akshat Verma for Delhi Belly

Best Story: Sanjay Chauhan for I Am Kalam

Best Actor (Critics) Award: Ranbir Kapoor for Rockstar

Best Actress (Critics) Award: Priyanka Chopra for 7 Khoon Maaf

Best Film (Critics) Award: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Best Supporting Actor (Male) Award: Farhan Akhtar for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Best Supporting Actor (Female) Award: Rani Mukerji for 'No One Killed Jessica'


Partho Gupte for Stanley Ka Dabba


Aruna Irani.
Idea Sony Scene of the Year Award: The Dirty Picture


Best Music Director Award: AR Rahman for Rockstar

Best Lyrics Award: Irshad Kamil for 'Nadaan Parindey' of Rockstar

Best Playback (Male) Award: Mohit Chauhan for 'Jo Bhi Mein' from Rockstar

Best Playback (Female) Award: Rekha Bhardwaj and Usha Uthup for 'Darling' of 7 Khoon Maaf

RD Burman Award for Best upcoming Talent: Krishna for Tanu weds Manu

Best Choreography: Bosco-Caesar for 'Senorita', Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Best Background Score: Ranjit Barot for Shaitan


Best Debut Director Award: Abhinay Deo for Delhi Belly

Best Debut (Male) Award: Vidyut Jamwal for Force

Best Debut (Female) Award: Parineeti Chopra for Ladies vs Ricky Bahl


Best Action: Mathhias Barsch for Don 2.

Best Cinematography: Carlos Catalan for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Best Editing: Huzefa Lokhandwala for Delhi Belly

Best Production Design: Shashank Tere for Delhi Belly

Best Sound Design: Nakul Kamte for Don 2

Best Costume Design Award: The first Award of the night has been declared. Niharika Khan for The Dirty Picture.