Thursday, August 30, 2012

RBI Agreement with UK on Black Money

On 17.07.2012, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Financial Service Authority (FSA) of UK. The MOU is on “Supervisory Operation and Exchange of Supervisory Information” to promote supervisory co-operation between these institutions, and to provide for formal basis for co-operation in the area of banking supervision, including for exchange of supervisory information. Such co-operation will enable these supervisory entities to perform their functions more effectively. The MoU contains provisions for sharing of supervisory information, co-operation in respect of on-site examinations, crisis management and maintenance of confidentiality of supervisory information shared between RBI and FSA. RBI shares any information received with regard to matters under the Financial Action Task Force with the Financial Intelligence Unit-India (FIU-IND) for taking further necessary action under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

India and Iran decided to expand Trade and Economic Cooperation

India and Iran 28 August 2012 decided to expand Trade and Economic Cooperation. The two nations agreed to expand trade and economic cooperation through the Chahbahar port. The port will act as an important trade and transit point for Afghanistan and central Asia. On the nuclear issue, India expressed hope that progress will be on the P5 plus one dialogue in the interest of peace and stability in the region. Both the nations agreed to set up an Indian cultural centre in Tehran.
India also discussed the issue of global governance confronting the developing world.

Archaeologists discovered 2000-Year Old Sculpture in Mexico

Mexican archaeologists in the first week of August 2012 discovered a 2000-year-old sculpture of a jaguar in Izapa. The one-tonne piece measures 1.38 meters long by 87 centimeters high and 52 centimeters wide. Izapa, is located about 12 km from the border with Guatemala. It was an important civic religious center built 2500 years ago by a pre-Mayan culture. The sculptures of Izapa were made with stones because there were no metals in that period. The jaguar sculpture seems to be only partially completed because the other faces of the stone are blank. It indicated that it was possibly in the process of being carved when work was halted on it.

Supreme Court of India upheld the death sentence of Mumbai Terror Attack Convict Ajmal Amir Kasab

Supreme Court of India on 29 August 2012 upheld the death sentence of Mumbai terror attack convict Ajmal Amir Kasab. Upholding the death sentence of Kasab the Supreme Court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice CK Prasad held that waging war against the country was the primary and foremost offence committed by the Pakistani terrorist.
Kasab along with nine other Pakistani terrorists had executed the country’s one of the deadliest terror attack on 26 November 2008. They had travelled from Karachi by sea and had gone on a shooting spree at various city landmarks including Taj palace hotel, in which 166 people were killed. While Kasab was captured alive, the other eight terrorists in his group were killed by security forces during the counter-terror operations.
The Apex Court’s order came after hearing to a petition filed by Kasab against the Bombay High Court’s decision to uphold his death sentence awarded by a special court. Since no advocate was ready to take the case, Raju Ramchandran, senior Supreme Court lawyer, was appointed the Amicus Curiea by the court.
Kasab was awarded the death sentence by a special anti-terror court on 6 May 2010 on charges of criminal conspiracy, waging war against the nation and various other provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Later on 21 February 2011, the Bombay High Court had upheld the special court’s verdict on 19 different charges under the IPC, the Arms Act, the Explosives Act, the Explosive Substances Act, the Foreigners Act, the Passport Act and the Railway Act.

Indian Community Welfare Fund

The Government has established the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) in 2009, which has been extended to all the Missions to meet contingency expenditures incurred by them for carrying out various on-site welfare activities for Overseas Indian citizens who are in distress. The ICWF is aimed at providing boarding and lodging for distressed Overseas Indian workers in Household/domestic sectors and unskilled labourers on a means tested basis. It also provides to Overseas Indians (a) emergency medical care (b) air passage to stranded persons, (c) initial legal assistance d) expenditure on incidentals, and (e) airlifting the mortal remains to India or local cremation/burial of deceased Overseas Indians. This help is extended in such cases where the sponsor is unable or unwilling to bear the expenses as per the contract and the family is unable to meet the cost. The ICWF has been found to be very useful to extend on site welfare activities for overseas Indians.

The government gives its attention to extending necessary facilities and protection to Overseas Indians. It intervenes wherever the situation so warrants. The Government has signed Labour MOUs with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries for the protection and welfare of Overseas Indian workers.

Ranking by World Bank

As per the World Bank Report, India has been ranked at 132 amongst the sample 183 Countries. Recognising the need for Reforming the Regulatory Environment for doing business in India, a Committee under the Chairmanship of Shri. M. Damodaran has been constituted on 23.08.2012 by this ministry to extensively examine different areas of root functioning such as financial reforms, governance reforms, liberalized policy framework, process reforms etc, and to suggest a roadmap for improving business climate in India.

Flood Early Warning System Project

The Flood Early Warning System (FLEWS) project is aimed to provide advance information on flood events as an input to disaster preparedness. However, FLEWS is not intended to prevent an impending flood event. FLEWS was initiated as Research and Development (R&D) project, at the behest of North Eastern Council (NEC) during 2009. It is currently extended to 14 districts in Assam covering both Brahmaputra and Barak valley on an operational basis.

The FLEWS project has been improving over the years both in terms of success rate in forecasting flood events (i.e., actual flood occurrence or rise in river level) and also in improving the lead time (time difference between the forecast issued and event occurrence). The success rate of flood prediction has improved from 25% in the year 2009 to 75% in the year 2011. During the current year the success rate has further improved to 80% for a total of 21 forecasted events in the 14 districts. The maximum lead time of forecast has improved from 7 hours to 18 hours during the same period.

The FLEWS model is terrain specific and in addition to satellite based inputs, in-situ data on rainfall and river discharge at critical points is also required. The Central Water Commission (CWC), Ministry of Water Resources is mandated for flood forecasts in India and Department of Space does not have any plan for extending FLEWS to other States including Odisha.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First Meeting of NCEM

The First Meeting of the National Council for Electric Mobility (NCEM) was held under the Chairmanship of Shri Praful Patel, Minister for Heavy Industry & Public Enterprises, at New Delhi on August 29. The NCEM adopted the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 (NEMMP 2020), which is the mission document for National Mission for Electric Mobility (NMEM). The meeting was attended by Shri Kamal Nath, Minister for Urban Development, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Minister for New & Renewable Energy, Dr. C.P. Joshi, Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Shri Vayalar Ravi, Minister for Science & Technology, Shri Namo Narain Meena, Minister of State for Finance, Dr. K. Kasturirangan, Member, Planning Commission, Dr. R. Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister, eminent leaders from the industry, academia and research institutes. The NEMMP 2020 lays the vision, sets the targets and provides the roadmap for achieving significant penetration of efficient and environmentally friendly electric vehicle (including hybrids) technologies in India by 2020. 

Report of Forest Survey of India in Forest Cover

The details of the India State of Forest Report, 2011 (ISFR) published by Dehradun –based Forest Survey of India is as follows:

• India State of Forest Report 2011 is the twelfth such report. The first report was published in 1987.

• Forest and tree cover of the country is 78.29 million hectare, which is 23.81% of the geographical area. This includes 2.76% of tree cover.

• The forest and tree cover would work out to 25.22% after exclusion of 183135 square kilometre above the altitude 4000 m from the total geographical area of the country as these areas do not support tree growth.

• In the hill and tribal districts of the country, a decrease in forest cover of 548 square kilometre and 679 square kilometre respectively has been reported as compared to the previous assessment.

• The north eastern States of the India account for one-forth of the country’s forest cover. There is a net decline of 549 square kilometre in forest cover as compared to the previous assessment.

• Mangrove cover has increased by 23.34 square kilometre during the same period.

• The total growing stock of India’s forest and tree outside forests is estimated as 6047.15 million cum which comprises 4498.73 million cum inside the forests and 1548.42 million cum outside the forests.

• The total bamboo bearing area in the country is estimated to be 13.96 million hectare.

• The total carbon stock in the country’s forests is estimated to the 6663 million tones.

As per the assessments of 2011 (data period 2008-09) as published in ISFR-2011and the assessment of ISFR-2009 (data period 2006-07) there has been a marginal decrease of 367 sq. km in the forest cover of the country. The forest cover in the northeast between these two assessments has declined by 549 sq. km.

The loss of forest cover to the extent of 549 sq km in the seven northeastern States has been primarily due to prevailing socio-cultural practice of shifting cultivation in these states. Loss in other states like Andhra Pradesh (281 sq. km) and Kerala (24 sq. km) is reported due to harvesting of short rotation plantations like Eucalyptus, Acacia mangium, rubber etc. 15 States have reported cumulative gain of 500 sq. km which is mainly due to afforestation and conservation activities undertaken in these States.

V.V. Giri Memorial Award 2011 to Prof. Utsa Patnaik

The V.V. Giri Memorial Award 2011, instituted by the V.V. Giri National Labour Institute, an autonomous body of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India, was conferred by  Mallikarjun Kharge, Hon’ble Union Labour and Employment Minister, on Prof. Utsa Patnaik, a Professor in the Jawahar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi in recognition of her outstanding contributions to labour studies. Prof. Patnaik, in her academic and policy oriented research studies, has strongly argued for the promotion of labour-intensive small-scale production, which ensures sustainable agrarian development. Besides stressing the necessity of enhancing public investment in rural development, Prof. Utsa Patnaik has also emphasized the need to provide poor households with greater access to land and other productive assets.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cabinet nod for ban on child labour below 14

The Union Cabinet on August 28 approved a proposal for amending the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, to ban employment of children aged up to 14 in any form of industry.
It will be an offence to employ such children not only in factories or industries but also in homes or on farms, if their labour is meant to serve any commercial interest.
The Ministry of Labour is likely to introduce the amendment bill in Parliament soon.
Quoting the National Sample Survey Organisation’s figures, official sources said the amendment would benefit 46 lakh children, who have been working in various industries now, and they can concentrate on education.
The Cabinet also approved another amendment to define children aged 14-18 as “adolescents” and prohibit their employment in mines, explosives industries, chemical and paint industries and other hazardous establishments.
The government’s decision is in line with the convention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which prohibits any form of child labour until the age of 14.
Since the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or RTE now stipulates compulsory and free education of children up to the age of 14, the upper age limit in the Child Labour Act has been kept at 14.
The RTE, which makes education the fundamental right of a child, was passed by Parliament on August 4, 2009. It sets forth the modalities of free and compulsory education for children aged 6-14. The Act came into effect on April 1, 2010.

Indo-Pak Talks on Renewable Energy

The Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Shri Gireesh Pradhan informed a Pakistani delegation led by Mr. Zafar Mahmood, Secretary, Ministry of Water and Power, Government of Pakistan about renewable energy scenario in India. During the bilateral talks, Shri Pradhan presented to the delegation a detailed overview of India’s journey in the development and application of renewable energy. The achievement of India in installation of over 25000 MW of grid connected Renewable Energy was lauded by the visiting delegation. The focus of the presentation was on solar, wind, biomass and small hydro sectors.

The Pakistan side expressed interest in the development of Renewable Energy Policy over the last three decades and its implementation in India. They were informed about the provisions in the Indian Electricity Act 2003 and Tariff Policy with reference to Renewable Purchase Obligation for Renewable Energy . It was also informed by Mr Pradhan that renewable purchase obligation makes it mandatory for all the power distribution companies to purchase a minimum percentage of power generated through renewables. It was also mentioned that such a provision is an extremely effective instrument for promoting the use of renewable energy. The visiting delegation was also informed about fiscal and financial incentives given by Government of India to promote the renewable provision in energy sector.

Mr Zafar Mahmood said that renewable energy is a relatively new area in Pakistan. He said that this interaction has been extremely useful and provided him and his colleagues an opportunity to learn from Indian experience in the field of renewable energy. Mr Mahmood thanked Mr Pradhan and his team of senior officers for sharing their experience in the field of renewable energy with his delegation.

First ASEAN-FTA Partners meet to discuss Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

The Union Minister of Commerce, Industry & Textiles Shri Anand Sharma today left for a four-day visit to Cambodia. Minister Sharma will attend the first ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Plus Economic Ministers of ASEAN’s FTA Partner – India, Australia, China, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand – consultations in Siem Reap. The Consultations will form a key step towards launching the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which could potentially lead to the establishment of a free trade area comprising about 3.33 billion people. Addressing the press after India-China JEG here on Monday Shri Sharma said: “Both Minister Chen Deming and me will be proceeding to Cambodia to participate in the ASEAN and dialogue partners meeting, ministerial meeting. And in the first meeting of its kind ASEAN and its FTA partners would be discussing the regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEB). There will also be a Ministerial meeting of the East Asia Summit Minister. We will be continuing our discussions on the regional economic discourse or the architecture in Siam Reap in Cambodia.”

Shri Sharma will also attend East Asia Summit (EAS) Economic Ministers meeting, another first meeting of its kind. The East Asia Summit (EAS) is a forum for dialogue on broad strategic, political and economic issues of common interest and concern with the aim of promoting peace, stability and economic prosperity in East Asia. This forum includes the ten ASEAN members along with India, Australia, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America.

Minister Sharma will also meet the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) at the 10th AEM-India Consultations on August 31, 2012 in Siem Reap.

The visit will also likely feature Minister Sharma’s bilateral meetings with Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (MITI) Mr. Yukio Edano; Mr. Bark Tae Ho, South Korean Minister for Trade; Mr. Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister Of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation, Cambodia; and Mr. U Tin Naing Thein, Minister Of National Planning And Economic Development, Myanmar.

Reforms in Urban Sector

As per 2011 Census, only 70.6% of urban households have access to tap water supply and 32.7% urban households have access to sewerage system. As per the information available with the Ministry of Urban Development, the Municipal solid waste collection efficiency in India ranges between 70% and 90% in major Metro cities, whereas in several smaller cities it is below 50% and main method of disposal of solid waste is by crude dumping in about 94% of the cases.

i. In order to supplement the effort of State Governments, the Ministry launched Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in 2005 with a view to provide financial assistance for creating infrastructure facilities in all the urban areas of the country for water supply and sanitation including solid waste management with a reform oriented agenda. The JNNURM has two sub-missions namely Urban Infrastructure & Governance (UIG) and Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small & Medium Towns (UIDSSMT). Under UIG component of JNNURM, 65 cities having population more than one million and State capitals are eligible for funding and the remaining towns are eligible under UIDSSMT component. UIG Sub-Mission of JnNURM is concerned, 100% cost recovery for Water Supply and 100% cost recovery for Solid Waste Management are two ULB Level Reforms to be achieved within the Mission period as per commitment made in the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA).

ii. The Ministry of Urban Development has also launched a scheme on 10% Lump-sum provision for the Development of North Eastern Region including Sikkim.

iii. Ministry of Urban Development has also formulated a Scheme for Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme in Satellite Towns Magnets of Million plus Cities (UIDSST). The objectives of this scheme amongst others are to develop urban infrastructure facilities such as water supply, sewerage, drainage and solid waste management etc. at Satellite towns/ Counter Magnets around Seven mega-cities.

iv. The Ministry of Urban Development is implementing the North Eastern Region Urban Development Programme (NERUDP) with the financial assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB) in the capital cities of 5 North Eastern States viz. Agartala (Tripura), Aizawl (Mizoram), Gangtok (Sikkim), Kohima (Nagaland), and Shillong (Meghalaya) covering priority urban services in (i) Water Supply, (ii) Sewerage and Sanitation, and (iii) Solid Waste Management sectors. The scheme, which is spread over a period of six years from 2009-10 to 2015-16, includes following institutional and financial reforms to ensure improvement in urban governance, basic service delivery and operation and maintenance

(a) strengthening of municipal bodies – decentralization of urban services and transfer of responsibility and resources to ULBs;

(b) restructuring of PHED/municipal body and creation of one single city ring fenced area headed by a senior officer;

(c) migration to accrual based double entry accounting system and zation;

(d) rationalization and implementation of volumetric water charges, solid waste collection charges and other user charges for basic services

(e) Implementation of GIS based property tax system

Sunday, August 26, 2012

India beat Australia by six wickets to win U-19 cricket World Cup

Riding on the brilliant batting performances of skipper Unmukt Chand and Samit Patel India beat Australia by six wickets to win the Under-19 cricket World Cup at Tony Ireland Stadium in Townsville on August 26.

Earlier, India frittered away the early advantage as defending champions Australia recovered from a shaky start to post a competitive 225 for 8 in the final of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup on Sunday.

Electing to field after winning the toss amid overcast conditions, the Indians had the Aussies on the mat at 38 for 4 before host skipper William Bosisto (87 not out) rebuilt the innings with the help of some notable contributions down the order.

Sandeep Sharma was the pick of the bowlers for India, grabbing four wickets in his 10 overs that conceded 54 runs and included a couple of maidens.

In conditions that have favoured bowlers all through the tournament, two-time winners India could not have asked for a better start as Sharma struck in his very first over.

He removed both the openers -- Cameron Bancroft (2) and Jimmy Peirson (0) -- in his first spell itself. The Oz team was looking down the barrel as a couple of more wickets fell in quick succession.

However, Bosisto took charge of the proceedings and gradually steadied the ship sharing a 65-run fifth wicket stand with Travis Head (37) to start with.

But the Indians managed to get back when Harmeet Singh and Baba Aparajith combined to run out Head after a mix-up between the two batsmen.

Head took off for a single from the non-strikers end, but was sent back by Bosisto. Harmeet moved quickly to pick up the ball and threw it to Aparajith, who ran out Head.

Head's 56-ball knock included five fours.

The Indians, however, let slip the advantage once again as Bosisto found another able partner in Ashton Turner (43).

Together the duo accelerated the scoring rate and put on 93 runs for the sixth wicket.

Turner was the more aggressive of the two batsmen, sending down three boundaries and a six during his 50-ball knock before becoming Sharma's third victim of the match.

The Aussie score read 196 for six at that stage and it wasn't long before the Indians managed to send the tail back to the pavillion.

But Bosisto held fort at one end and his 120-ball patient innings included six boundaries.

More importantly, the skipper managed to take his team past the 200-mark, which gave the Aussies the crucial psychological edge as most of the games so far have been low-scoring thrillers.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

India’s First AEW&C Aircraft Modified and Fitted with DRDO’S Indigenous Systems Lands on Indian Soil

First fully modified aircraft for indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems landed on Indian soil at Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS), Bangalore, a DRDO laboratory) at HAL airport on yesterday. Aircraft was received by enthusiastic crowd from CABS, its work centers, Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) and IAF members. The aircraft and the flight crew was received by Dr Christopher, Program Director and Dr K Tamil Mani, Chief Executive, CEMILAC. The aircraft and its crew from Indian Air Force and M/s Embraer were given a hearty welcome with water cannon.

The acceptance of the Aircraft was completed over a period of 15 days at Embraer Facilities in Brazil, by a team from CABS, its work centres, CEMILAC, DGAQA & IAF.

The Aircraft was flagged off from M/s Embraer, Brazil on 17 Aug 2012 by Shri G Elangovan, Chief Controller R&D, Dr S Christopher, Programme Director, Mr K Tamil Mani, Chief Executive, CEMILAC and team members and was flown across multiple continents to arrive in India. The Aircraft ferried with several mission system external components of DRDO including the Active Electronically scanned Array Antenna with passive electronics fitted on the Aircraft.

The arrival of this Aircraft marks the beginning of another phase of journey leading to the next major milestone of integration of the DRDO developed mission system, which will be followed by development flight trials in India beginning of 2013.

It may be noted that this is the first Aircraft delivered by M/s Embraer for which the contract was signed in 2008. The next Aircraft is expected to arrive in December 2012.

India’s Stance at the UN on Internet Governance

The Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology Shri Sachin Pilot informed the Rajya Sabha  that India’s proposal at the session of United Nations Commission for Science and Technology Development (CSTD) on 18th May 2012 in Geneva was a reiteration of the statement made in the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in October, 2011 under the Agenda Item "Information and Communication Technology for Development" which , inter alia, asked CSTD to establish an open ended Working Group to discuss the establishment of a Committee for Internet Related Policies (CIRP).

The proposal was prepared by Ministry of External Affairs and was endorsed by Department of Electronics and Information Technology. The proposal is as per the mandate enshrined in the Tunis Agenda of Enhanced Cooperation and is accordingly a step forward towards the democratization of the global internet related public policy issues. The proposal was in consultation with Brazil and South Africa.

The Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) has been interacting with representatives from the Civil Society and Advocacy Groups as well as with Industry Associations regularly. A meeting involving, industry, civil society and Government was held in the Department on 9th May, 2012.

Committee for Reforming the Regulatory Environment for Doing Business in India

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has constituted a committee under the chairman ship of Shri M.Damodaran, former Chairman, SEBI for reforming the Regulatory Environment for doing Business in the country. The committee will conduct an in-depth study in to the entire gamut of regulatory framework and prepare a detailed roadmap for improving the climate of business in India within a period of six months. It is noteworthy that easing of business environment mandates extensive examination of regulations in different areas of root functioning such as financial reforms, governance reforms, liberalized policy framework, process reforms etc.

The other members of the Committee includes Shri Y.C.Deveshwar, Chairman, ITC; Shri Ishaant Hussain, Director, Tata Sons Limited; Shri K.V.Kamath, Chairman, Infosys; Shri Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindra Group; Shri Kumar Mangalam Birla; Chairman Aditya Birla Group; Shri R.K.Pachauri, Vice-Chairman,TERI; Shri Vijai Sharma,Ex-MOEF Secretary; Shri Subas Pani,Former Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development; Shri Amitabh Choudhary, CEO, HDFC Standard Life; Shri Anil Bharadwaj, Secretary General, FISME and Shri P.R. Ramesh, Chairman, Chairman, Deloitte India. Besides, their will be representatives from various Central Minstries such as Corporate Affairs, Finance, Power, Petroleum, Highways, Commerce, Industry and Urban Development.

The constitution of committee follows a recent Report of World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, entitled “Doing Business 2012: Doing Business in a very transparent World” that ranks india in the 132nd position among the sample of 183 countries.

Economic Census

The Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Statistics and Programme Implementation Shri Srikant Kumar Jena has said that the economic census has not been conducted so far after it was conducted in the year 2005, which happened to be the fifth economic census. This census is conducted generally once in five years.

In a written reply in the Lok Sabha  he said, to provide up-to-date information on number of non-agricultural establishments, number of agricultural establishments excluding crop production and plantation and also number of workers engaged by such establishments, as well as their distribution by State, District and Village/Ward level for comprehensive analysis of the structure of the Economy, it has been decided to conduct the Sixth economic census during October 2012- June 2013. The conduct of Sixth economic census has been approved with an outlay of Rs.763.49 crore.

He said, the Sixth economic census is to be conducted in collaboration with all the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations, who are to engage enumerators and supervisors for conducting the field work. For monitoring of field work, data processing and validation, and writing of reports, it has been envisaged to create an economic census cell in each State/UT and also at the Centre. Accordingly Government has approved creation of 30 posts at the centre and 235 posts in the States/ UTs for the purpose.

A New Strain of Rice developed by the Scientists that could boost Crop Yields

Scientists developed a new strain of rice that could increase crop yields by a fifth for small farmers. It grows well in soils lacking the nutrient phosphorus. The gene will be now transferred to modern varieties of rice using classic methods of cross-breeding, not genetic engineering.
Many soil types bond tightly to phosphorus, allowing only a small quantity of the precious mineral to plant roots.To solve this problems, farmers seek help of phosphorus fertilisers. But in poor countries, this option costs too much, which means the plant is left undernourished. Ultimately, this meagre growth affects yields.
In October 2011, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said the global population of seven billion could rise to at least 10 billion by 2100. Therefore, we need more yields. Phosphate fertilisers are typically extracted from layers of rock which were ocean sediments millions of years ago.

National Mission on Food Processing

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs  approved a new Centrally Sponsored Scheme titled "National Mission on Food Processing (NMFP)”. This scheme would start in co-operation with the State Governments in 2012-13.

The NMFP scheme would help the States / UTs in maintaining requisite synergy between agriculture plans of States and Development of food processing sector, which in turn would help in Increase in farm productivity thereby increase in farmers` income also. This would also help in ensuring efficient supply chain by bridging Infrastructural / institutional gaps. A National Food Processing Development Council (NFPDC) has been set up under the Chairmanship of Minister (Agri. & FPI) with representatives of State Governments, Industry associations and related Govt. of India Departments. This will provide guidance to all schemes of Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MOFPI) including the NMFP.

The basic objective of NMFP is decentralization of implementation of Ministry`s schemes, which will lead to substantial participation of State Governments / UTs. Beneficiaries of MOFPI schemes will also find it easier to deal with State Governments. This would be a paradigm shift in the Ministry`s approach and is driven by the need to make food processing truly a national initiative.

Government has already accorded approval and communicated to all States for taking up preparatory activities / advance action by States / UTs for implementation of NMFP during 12th Plan and released Rs. 29.81 crore (as on 10.7.2012 to states / UTs for taking up preparatory activities / advance action for implementation of NMFP.

The following schemes being implemented by Government of India directly will not be implemented through State Governments under this scheme in 2012-13:

i. Scheme for Technology Up-gradation / Establishment / Modernization of Food Processing Industries.

ii. Scheme for Cold Chain, Value Addition and Preservation Infrastructure for Non- Horticultural Products.

iii. Scheme for Human Resource Development (HRD)

iv. Scheme for Promotional Activities

Subsequently more activity will be added during the 12th Plan. Flexibility will also be given to States to add components and deviate from central guidelines subject to approval from the National Food Processing Development Council (NFPDC).

Indian American Karl Mehta was selected to Work on Five High-Impact Projects

Indian-American entrepreneur Karl Mehta was selected among the 18 Presidential Innovation Fellows who would work on five high-impact projects in the US capital Washington DC.
Selected from an applicant pool of nearly 700 innovators from across the country, the Fellows would spend six months in Washington DC to work on five high-impact projects aimed at supporting entrepreneurs, small businesses and the economy, while significantly improving how the Federal Government serves the American people.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Forbes World's Most Powerful Women 2012

The annual Forbes ranking showcases women making a difference in the realms of politics, business, finance, entertainment and philanthropy. Here are the top 100–
1. Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Germany
2. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, United States
3. Dilma Rousseff, President, Brazil
4. Melinda Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
5. Jill Abramson, Executive Editor, New York Times Co.
6. Sonia Gandhi, President, Indian National Congress, India
7. Michelle Obama, First Lady, United States
8. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund
9. Janet Napolitano, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, United States
10. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
11. Oprah Winfrey, Entrepreneur, Personality
12. Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo
13. Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO, Kraft Foods
14. Lady Gaga, Musician, Philanthropist
15. Virginia Rometty, President and CEO, IBM
16. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President, Argentina
17. Ursula Burns, Chairman and CEO, Xerox
18. Meg Whitman, CEO, Hewlett-Packard
19. Aung San Suu Kyi, Chair and Parliamentarian, National League for Democracy, Burma
20. Maria das Graças Silva Foster, CEO, Petrobras-Petróleo Brasil
21. Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo
22. Anne Sweeney, Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks, and President, Disney/ABC Television Group, Walt Disney
23. Diane Sawyer, Anchor of World News, ABC, Walt Disney
24. Angela Braly, CEO, WellPoint
25. Susan Wojcicki, Senior Vice President, Google
26. Queen Elizabeth II, Monarch, United Kingdom
27. Julia Gillard, Prime Minister, Australia
28. Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, United States
29. Arianna Huffington, Editor-In-Chief, Huffington Post Media Group, AOL
30. Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister, Thailand
31. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Service, United States
32. Beyonce Knowles, Actress, Entrepreneur, Musician
33. Diane Von Furstenberg, Owner, Fashion Designer, Diane von Furstenberg Studio, L.P.
34. Helen Clark, Administrator, U.N. Development Programme
35. Georgina Rinehart, Executive Chairman, Hancock Prospecting
36. Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony
37. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization
38. Jennifer Lopez, Actress, Musician, Personality, Philanthropist
39. Sheri McCoy, CEO, Avon Products
40. Shakira, Musician, Personality, Philanthropist
41. Mary Barra, SVP, Global Product Development, General Motors
42. Zhang Xin & family, Cofounder, CEO, Soho China Ltd.
43. Alice Walton, Chairman, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
44. Laura Lang, CEO, Time Inc., Time Warner
45. Angela Ahrendts, CEO, Burberry Group
46. Sue Naegle, President, HBO Entertainment, Time Warner Cable
47. Ellen DeGeneres, Comedian, Personality, Philanthropist
48. Safra Catz, President, CFO, Oracle
49. Laurene Powell Jobs & family, Founder and Chair, Emerson Collective
50. Rosalind Brewer, President and CEO, Sam's Club, Wal-Mart Stores
51. Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief, Vogue, Conde Nast Publications, Inc.
52. Helene Gayle, President, CEO, CARE
53. Christiane Amanpour, Chief International Correspondent, CNN, Time Warner
54. Rosalia Mera, Investor, Philanthropist
55. Cynthia Carroll, CEO, Anglo American
56. Cher Wang, Co-founder and Chair, HTC
57. Abigail Johnson, President, Fidelity Personal, Workplace and Institutional Services, Fidelity Investments
58. Padmasree Warrior, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer, Cisco Systems
59. Chanda Kochhar, Managing Director and CEO, ICICI Bank
60. Gail Kelly, CEO, Westpac Banking Group
61. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, United States
62. Ellen Kullman, Chairman and CEO, EI du Pont de Nemours
63. Drew Gilpin Faust, President, Harvard University
64. Shari Arison, Investor, Philanthropist
65. Mary Schapiro, Chair, Securities and Exchange Commission, United States
66. Angelina Jolie, Actress, Philanthropist
67. Miuccia Prada, Owner, Fashion Designer, Prada
68. Carol Meyrowitz, CEO, TJX Cos
69. Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, World Food Programme, United Nations
70. Sue Gardner, Executive Director, WikiMedia Foundation
71. Joyce Banda, President, Malawi
72. Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Managing Director, World Bank
73. Bonnie Hammer, Chairman, Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios, NBCUniversal, Comcast
74. Chua Sock Koong, Group CEO, SingTel
75. Sofia Vergara, Actress, Entrepreneur
76. Ho Ching, CEO, Temasek
77. Tina Brown, Editor-in-Chief, The Daily Beast and Newsweek, IAC/InterActiveCorp.
78. J.K. Rowling, Author
79. Chan Laiwa & family, Philanthropist
80. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Founder, Chair, Biocon Ltd.
81. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance, Nigeria
82. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President, Liberia
83. Gisele Bundchen, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Supermodel
84. Mary Meeker, General Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
85. Shaikha Al-Bahar, CEO-Kuwait, National Bank of Kuwait
86. Marjorie Scardino, CEO, Pearson
87. Solina Chau, Director, Li Ka Shing Foundation
88. Jan Fields, President, McDonald's USA, McDonald's
89. Weili Dai, Co-founder, Marvell Technology Group
90. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President, CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
91. Sun Yafang, Chair, Huawei Technologies
92. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Foreign Trade, United Arab Emirates
93. Guler Sabanci, Chairman and Managing Director, Sabanci Holding
94. Greta Van Susteren, Anchor, FOX News, News Corp
95. Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, JPMorgan Chase
96. Mindy Grossman, CEO, HSN
97. Patricia Woertz, Chairman, CEO and President, Archer Daniels Midland
98. Judith Rodin, President, Rockefeller Foundation
99. Beth Brooke, Global Vice Chair - Public Policy, Ernst & Young
100. Sheikha Mayassa Al Thani, Chair, Qatar Museums Authority, Qatar

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Russia formally became a Member of the World Trade Organisation

Russia formally became a member of the World Trade Organisation(WTO) on 22 August 2012 after 18 years of negotiations. Russia agreed to reduce import tariffs on goods, including food and cars and to relax controls on overseas companies entering its financial and telecom sectors. Russia will be the 156th member of the WTO. WTO requires that any country that seeks to benefit from it must apply the same trade rules to all member countries. Russia negotiated for membership for 18 years, beginning when the WTO was called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Location of Nuclear Reactors in India

In India, nuclear power reactors are set up and operated on twin unit concept with dedicated safety and process systems, operating personnel and the management for operating these units. Each reactor has independent safety and process systems. At the same site, additional twin units module with independent safety and security of operating island are considered to reduce requirement of land for exclusion zone. This also helps in meeting the objective of minimizing the displacement of population.

The nuclear reactors planned to be set up at Jaitapur are the Evolutionary Pressurized Water Reactors (EPRs). The EPR design has been based on the proven design, safety principles and manufacturing technologies employed in “N4” reactors in France and “KONVOI” reactors in operation in Germany. N4 & KONVOI reactors are under successful and safe operation for the last many years. The EPRs planned at Jaitapur incorporate the operational feedback from “N4” & “KONVOI” reactors. Currently, EPRs are under construction in Finland, France and China which may become operational in the next 2 to 4 years. The operational experience from these reactors will also be available before the commissioning of Jaitapur nuclear power project. As regards the cost, the discussions on the techno-commercial offer of AREVA. France are focused on arriving at mutually acceptable capital cost and tariff levels.

Following the Inter-Governmental Agreement between India & France in 2008, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and AREVA, France signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to set up Nuclear Power Reactors at Jaitapur on February 4, 2009. A General Framework Agreement (GFA) and Early Works Agreement (EWA) were signed between NPCIL and AREVA on December 6, 2010. The GFA covers installation of the initial set of 2x1650 MW EPR including scope of work, division of responsibility, design, materials, technology, services and life time fuel supplies. The EWA relates to preliminary works related to design, engineering and regulatory aspects.

Six Sporting Coaches to receive Dronacharya Award for 2012

The names of six sporting coaches were recommended for the Dronacharya Awards for the year 2012.  Wrestling coach Yashvir Singh, Boxing Coach BI Fernandez, Athletics Coach Virender Poonia, Kabaddi Coach Sunil Davas, Parathletics Coach Dr. Satyapaul and Hockey Coach Harinder Singh are the six coaches who have been selected for the coveted award, given to the coach of different sports, for their excellent contribution to the sports.
Boxing Coach BI Fernandez, who is a Cuban national, became the first foreign coach to be recommended for the Dronacharya Award. Fernandez has been instrumental in India’s impressive performances in Boxing in the international tournaments.
The Dronacharya Awards committee was headed by former Indian hockey captain Aslam Sher Khan. The other members include Rajkumar Sangwan (boxing), Dhanraj Pillai (hockey), Shiny Wilson (athletics), Morad Ali Khan (shooting), Karnam Malleswari (weightlifting), Bahadur Singh (athletics), Bhupender Dhawan (powerlifting,G S Sandhu (boxing), Ramphan Mann(wrestling,Prem Chand Degra (body building).

Dronacharya Award

The Dronacharya Award was instituted by the government of India in 1985. The award has been given to 72 people until 2011. The award carries five lakh rupees and a citation and is conferred to coaches of different sports for their noteworthy contribution. The awards will be presented by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhawan on 29 August 2012, the National Sports Day.

Statistical Account of Poor

Planning Commission prepares the poverty estimate for the country & the State based on the large sample surveys on household consumers expenditure conducted by National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) at the interval of approximately five years. Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) provides financial & technical support to the States/ Union Territories (UTs) for conducting Below Poverty line (BPL) Census to identify rural households living below the poverty line. The technical component of MoRD’s role includes finalization of methodology for identifying BPL families and implementation modalities. The BPL Census is thus conducted by the States/UTs and the BPL lists are prepared and maintained by the respective State Government/UT Administration. These lists are also provided by the State Governments/UT Administration to MoRD.

Currently, the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC), 2011 is underway in States/UTs under the stewardship of Ministry of Rural Development. The Census will capture the number of people in the BPL lists in the States and Union Territories.

Caste-wise number of such families in each States is not available as the earlier BPL Census, 2002 was not caste based. The figures will emerge after completion of the Socio-Economic Caste Census, 2011. The Census does not elicit information on any financial assistance received by BPL people from the Central and State Government and employment got by them during the year.

Urban Water Supply in the Country

Centrally Sponsored Accelerated Urban Water Supply Programme (AUWSP) was launched in 1993-94 by the Government of India to provide central assistance to State Govts. on 50:50 matching basis between Central Govt. and State Govts. for implementation of water supply schemes in small towns having population less than 20,000 as per 1991 census. The same criteria of eligibility were adopted as per 2001 census for financial assistance with subsequent decision taken in consultation with planning Commission. The AUWSP has been subsumed with Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small & Medium Towns (UIDSSMT) under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) with effect from FY 2005-06.

The other schemes/ programmes of the Ministry since inception of AUWSP are as under:

Ministry of Urban Development has launched Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in 2005 with a view to provide financial assistance for creating infrastructure facilities in all the urban areas of the country including water supply with a reform oriented agenda. The JNNURM has two sub-missions namely Urban Infrastructure & Governance (UIG) and Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small & Medium Towns (UIDSSMT). Under UIG component of JNNURM, 65 cities having population more than one million and State capitals are eligible for funding and the remaining towns are eligible under UIDSSMT component.

Ministry of Urban Development has formulated a Scheme for Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme in Satellite Towns / Counter Magnets of Million plus Cities (UIDSST). The objectives of this scheme amongst others are to develop urban infrastructure facilities including water supply at Satellite towns/ Counter Magnets around Seven mega-cities.

The Ministry has also launched North Eastern Region Urban Development Programme (NERUDP). The capital cities of the five states are covered in the first phase viz., Agartala (Tripura), Aizawl (Mizoram), Gangtok (Sikkim), Kohima (Nagaland) and Shillong (Meghalaya) and the remaining three States would be covered in Phase-II.

The Ministry of Urban Development has also launched a scheme on 10% Lump-sum provision for the Development of North Eastern Region including Sikkim.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Delhi State Government launched Kerosene-free Delhi Scheme

In an initiative to make the national capital Kerosene free, the Delhi Government  launched Kerosene-free Delhi scheme  on 21 August 2012 in capital. Under this scheme, over 3.50 lakh households will get LPG cylinder and a gas stove free of cost in the coming days. The government , while launching the scheme, distributed the cylinders and stove to 200 beneficiaries. The state government will spend 108 crore rupees on this scheme. With this scheme, Delhi is likely to become the first kerosene-free city in the country.

PJ Kurien elected the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha

Congress leader PJ Kurien was unanimously elected the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh moved the motion for the election of Kurien.
Kurien has been the member of national parliament for the last three decades representing Idukki, and Mavelikkara Lok Sabha constituencies. Since 2005 he is a member of the Rajya Sabha.
The Deputy Chairman is elected in the meeting of the Rajya Sabha as decided by Chairman of the Rajya Sabha from amongst the members of the Rajya Sabha. He is supposed to resign from his original party because as a Deputy Speaker, he has to remain impartial.
Deputy Chaiman of Rajya Sabha acts as the Presiding Officer in case of leave or absence of the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, the Vice-President of India.

Inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List

The Minister for Culture and Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja has said that Establishing Outstanding Universal Values (OUV) based on one or more than one criteria, as enumerated in the UNESCO’s Operational Guidelines 2011, is the basis of inclusion of any historical site/monument on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. List of criteria is placed at Annexure-I. Details and status of proposals submitted in last four years are as given in Annexure-II.

In a written reply in the Lok Sabha Kumari Selja said, Ministry of Culture has set up an Advisory Committee on World Heritage Matters (ACWHM) with a mandate to consider and recommend heritage sites for nomination for inscription on World Heritage List, taking into account both the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the site and quality of nomination dossier.

Earthquake Engineering Codes by BIS

The Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA) Kumari Selja has said that Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has published various standards/codes on earthquake engineering. Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) has published these guidelines on quake safe construction for greater public awareness.

In a written reply in the Lok Sabha today she said, Ministry of HUPA has not constituted any ad hoc body to ensure that BIS guidelines and engineering codes are being followed by new structures in the country.

She said, an Expert Committee constituted by Ministry of Home Affairs had prepared a Model Town and Country Planning Legislation, Zoning Regulation Development Control and Building Regulation / Bye-laws for safety against natural hazard with special emphasis in earthquake hazard. The committee recommended among other things amendments in Town & Country Planning Act, regulation in land use zoning and mandatory use of codes related to earthquake resistant construction to be implemented by State Governments.

Kumari Selja said, with the enactment of Disaster Management Act in 2005, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was set up by the Government to spearhead and implement a holistic and integrated approach to Disaster Management in India. The NDMA has issued Earthquake Guidelines envisaging State Government to review, revise the Town & Country Planning Act, land use zoning regulations, Building Bye-laws and Development Control Rules.

Building Materials Technology Promotion & Council has also organized several workshops in States/Union Territories (UTs) to disseminate the information contained in the above recommendations, the Minister added.

Fluoride Mitigation Centre in Gujrat will be set up within the 12th Five year Plan

The Government today informed that a Fluoride Mitigation Centre in Gujrat will be set up within the 12th Five year Plan. Rural Development Minister and the Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation Jairam Ramesh said in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha that the Centre has already approved the proposal to set up the centre. He said, the Regional Centre for Fluoride and Fluorosis Management at Gandhinagar will assist the Northern States including Gujrat in providing solutions to Fluoride contamination in drinking water and Fluorosis management. The Government of India has constituted an Expert Committee under the Chairmanship of Director, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur to finalize the terms of reference of the Institute and prepare Detailed Project Report.

Ramesh informed that under National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP), 67 percent of the funds released to the States can be spent on coverage and water quality problems including fluoride contamination in rural drinking water supply.

DRDO developed bio-digester toilets will be installed in villages

The Minister for Rural Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation Shri Jairam Ramesh said that his Ministry has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) for implementation of bio-digester based toilets in Gram Panchayats in a phased manner. Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha today, he said the MoU has provision for DRDO to adapt the technology suitably for use in villages. He, however admitted that there is no data existing regarding dry latrines in the rural areas of the country.

Earlier, the Minister informed in a function in the Capital last month that one lakh bio-toilets will be installed in about 300 backward Gram Pachayats of the country in the next two years to make them open defecation free. He said, the project will entail a cost of 150 crore rupees in the first phase. He was speaking after the signing of an MoU between DRDO and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation for Bio-Digester based Eco-friendly toilets developed by DRDO. Shri Ramesh said, his Ministry has also offered to install with DRDO built bio-toilets in all new railways coaches and to share half the cost of retrofitting all existing 50,000 coaches in the next four to five years. He informed that the whole project will cost about 500 crore rupees and offered to share the burden on a 50-50 basis with the Railways. He said, the measure will not only prevent the corrosion of tracks but will also provide odourless toilets to passengers.

Drinking Water Supply in Urban Areas

Water supply is one of the admissible components of infrastructure development for providing financial assistance under Urban Infrastructure Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT). So far 452 water supply projects have been sanctioned at a cost of Rs. 8891.54 crore involving central commitment of Rs. 7184.48 crore, out of which an amount of Rs. 5978.74 crore has been released to the States so far.

The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) is implementing the North Eastern Region Urban Development Programme (NERUDP) with the financial assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB) covering capital cities of 5 North Eastern States viz. Agartala (Tripura), Aizawl (Mizoram), Gangtok (Sikkim), Kohima (Nagaland), and Shillong (Meghalaya).

Under Urban Infrastructure & Governance (UIG) Sub-Mission of JNNURM, Water Supply is one of the admissible components of grant of Additional Central Assistance (ACA). So far 157 projects on Water Supply Sector have been approved with approved cost of Rs.2048589.03 lakh and ACA commitment of Rs.1008819.48 lakh for various Mission cities during the Mission period i.e. 2005-2012.

21, 751 Village Grain Banks Sanctioned for 20 States

The Government has been sanctioned 21,751Village Grain Banks to 20 States. The Village Grain Banks Scheme provides safeguards against starvation during period of lean season or natural calamity, when marginalized food insecure households do not have sufficient resources to purchase rations. Such households in need of food grains, can borrow food grains from the Village Grain Banks set up within their villages to be subsequently returned to the Bank. The grain banks can be set up in food scarce areas like drought prone areas, hot and cold desert areas, tribal areas and the inaccessible hilly areas which remain cut off because of natural calamities like flood etc. About 30-40 Below Poverty Line/Antyodaya Anna Yojana families may form a grain bank. These villages are to be identified/notified by the concerned State Government/Union Territory Administration. Foodgrains are loaned to BPL families @ one quintal per family under Village Grain Bank Scheme, he added.

Strengthening of PDS

With a view to specifically target poor sections of society, Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) was launched in 1997. Under TPDS, foodgrains (rice and wheat) @ 35 kg per family per month are allocated to States/Union Territories (UTs) for 6.52 crore accepted number of Below Poverty Line (BPL)/Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) families for distribution at subsidized prices through Fair Price Shops. Allocation of foodgrains are also made to Above Poverty Line (APL) families depending upon the availability of foodgrains in Central pool and past offtake. Presently, the allocations of foodgrains to APL families range between 15 kg to 35 kg per family per month. This information was given by Prof. K.V. Thomas, Minister for Consumer Affairs Food and Public Distribution System in a written reply in Lok Sabha today.

The Minister stated that strengthening and streamlining of TPDS is a continuous process. To improve functioning of TPDS, Government has been regularly requesting State/UT Governments for continuous review of lists of BPL and AAY families, ensuring timely availability of foodgrains at Fair Price Shops (FPSs), ensuring greater transparency in functioning of TPDS, improved monitoring and vigilance at various levels and introduction of new technologies such as Computerization of TPDS operations at various levels. States/UTs have also been advised to improve the viability of FPSs by enlarging the basket of commodities by adding non-PDS items for sale through FPSs, rationalization of commission to FPS dealers, door-step delivery of foodgrains, etc. the Minister added.

Bio-Fertilisers being Promoted for better Soil Health

Government is promoting use of bio-fertilisers through a Central Sector Scheme National Project on Organic Farming (NPOF) for setting up of new or strengthening of existing bio-fertiliser production units, technology transfer and training etc. To ensure quality of bio-fertilisers - Rhizobium, Azotobacter, Azospirillium, Phosphate Solubilising Bacteria, Potash Mobilising Bacteria, Zinc Solubilising Bacteria and Mycrorhizal bio-fertilisers have been incorporated in Fertilizer Control Order, 1985.

The total production of bio-fertilisers was 20,111 Metric Tone (MT), 25,065 MT, 20,040 MT and 37,998 MT during 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively. The trend in use of bio-fertilizers is increasing but the total area covered under bio-fertilizers about 3% of total cultivable area in the country.

Awareness creation activities on use of bio-¬fertiliser is being addressed through training programme seminar and through advisory in package and practices for different crops under organic management. ICAR also imparts training, organizes field level demonstrations etc. to educate farmers on use of bio-¬fertilisers. During 2006-12, a total 320 demonstrations were conducting on various crops in different States.

Application of bio-fertilisers to seed or soil is ongoing process to keep the soil healthy and to get healthy crop yield.

National Outreach Conference on Global Nuclear Disarmament

he Vice President of India Shri M. Hamid Ansari has said that India has become a State with Nuclear Weapons, its credibility to raise the issue of Global Nuclear Disarmament is even higher. Addressing at the “National Outreach Conference on Global Nuclear Disarmament” organized by Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA) to mark 68th Birth anniversary of late Shri Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India at New Delhi. India has thus become the first and thus far only nuclear power to be in the forefront of unambiguously advocating a detailed, eminently practical and comprehensive roadmap to rid the world of the danger of instant annihilation.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award and Arjuna Awards Announced

The Government has announced the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award and Arjuna Awards for the year 2012.
A large number of nominations were received for these awards this year, which were considered by Selection Committee consisting of eminent sportspersons and sports administrators; headed by Col Rajya Vardhan Singh Rathore. Based on the recommendations of the Committee and after due scrutiny, the Government has approved to confer awards upon the following sportspersons. 
A.        Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award - 2012:

Shri Vijay Kumar
Shri Yogeshwar Dutt

B.        Arjuna Awards 2012:

Sl. No.
Ms. Deepika Kumari
Ms. Laishram Bombayla Devi
Ms. Sudha Singh
Ms. Kavita Ramdas Raut
Ms. Ashwani Ponnappa
Mr. Parupalli Kashyap
Mr. Aditya S. Mehta
Billiards & Snooker
Mr. Vikas Krishan
Mr. Yuvraj Singh
Mr. Sardar Singh
Mr. Yashpal Solanki
Mr. Anup Kumar
Mr. Samir Suhag
Ms. Annu Raj Singh
Mr. Omkar Singh
Mr. Joydeep Karmakar
Ms. Deepika Pallikal
Mr. Sandeep Sejwal
Ms. Ng. Sonia Chanu
Mr. Narsingh Yadav
Mr. Rajinder Kumar
Ms. Geeta Phogat
Mr. M. Bimoljit Singh
Mrs. Deepa Mallick
Athletics – Paralympics
Mr. Ramkaran Singh
Athletics – Paralympics

Normally  only one award of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna  is given every year to an individual sportsperson. However, the Scheme provides that this condition can be relaxed in exceptional circumstances viz., winning of an Olympic medal. Like wise for the Arjuna Awards, normally not more than 15 awards are to be given in any calendar year.  However, the Scheme of Arjuna Awards also provides that keeping in view the performance of Indian sportspersons in the Commonwealth, Asian Games and Olympic Games during a particular year, Arjuna Awards exceeding 15 in number may be allowed with proper justification and approval of the Minister for Youth Affairs & Sports.  The Selection Committee noted that 2012 is the Olympic year and India has won 6 medals in the London Olympics, which is country’s best performance in Olympic Games, and recommended that the condition of one award in case of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and 15 awards in case of Arjuna Awards may be relaxed and the number of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award may be increased from 1 (one) to 2 (two) and Arjun Awards may be increased from 15 (fifteen) to 25 (twenty five). 

National Sports Awards are given every year to recognize and reward excellence in sports.  Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award is given for spectacular performance in the year under consideration; Arjuna Award is given for consistently outstanding performance for three consecutive years preceding the year of award.    
Apart from a medal and a citation, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Awardees will receive a cash prize of Rs.7.5 lakh each and Arjuna Awardees will receive statuettes, citations and cash prize of Rs.5 lakh each. 
The awardees will receive their awards from His Excellency the President of India at a specially organized function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on August 29, 2012. 

‘Rajiv Gandhi Manav Seva Award’ for Service to Children Announced

The winners of the “Rajiv Gandhi Manav Seva Award for Service to Children” for 2011 have been announced by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. These are

1. Shri R. Ravi Kumar,
President Sri Gayatri Welfare and Cultural Youth Academy, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

2. Swami Japananda,
Chairman Swami Vivekananda IRHC, Pavagada, Karnataka

3. Shri N. Thungdemo Kikon,
Founder Secretary, Wondang-Ki-Charitable Foundation, Dimapur, Nagaland

Rajiv Gandhi Manav Seva Award is conferred on three individuals who make outstanding contribution in the field of Child Protection, Child Development or Child Welfare for over ten years. The Award carries a cash prize of Rupees One lakh and a citation to each awardee. The selection for the award is made each year by a National Selection Committee, from the candidates recommended by the State governments

The National Selection Committee is chaired by the Minister for Women and Child Development. The Secretary, WCD is member and Jt. Secretary (VJ), WCD is the member secretary. The committee has representatives from ministries of social justice, health, HRD (Dept. of elementary education) and from the Delhi School of Social Science. Representative from Indian child welfare council, an NGO, is also on the selection committee.

In pursuance of the Government of India’s policy to support and promote voluntary action in the area of Child Development/Welfare, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India instituted the “Rajiv Gandhi Manav Seva Award for Service to Children” in 1994 to honour individuals who have made outstanding contribution towards the cause of children. The Award was instituted on 20th August, 1994, the 50th Birth Anniversary of the late Prime Minister, Shri Rajiv Gandhi who had deep love and concern for children.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Miss China bags the title of Miss World 2012

Miss China, Wenxia Yu won the title of Miss World 2012 while Miss Wales Sophie Elizabeth Moulds and Miss Australia Jessica Michelle Kahawaty came second and third respectively. Miss China had to compete with 116 candidates to win the crown.

Miss India Vanya Mishra made it to the list of top 7 finalists, but could not go beyond that.
Miss World contest is watched by over a billion people across the world.

Reigning Miss World Ivian Sarcos of Venezuela crowned the winner in the futuristic Ordos stadium, which sits alongside a vast town square devoted to the powerful Mongolian warrior Genghis Khan.

The beauties have been in the town from the past one month. Apart from the traditional swimsuits and evening gowns, participants also donned interesting national and local costumes to make the event even spicier.

While the charm of the pageant, first held in 1951, has waned in the West, it continues to be an object of interest in Asian countries. Sweden's Kiki Hakansson was the first Miss World, while Oscar-winning US actress Halle Berry was a finalist in 1986.

Venezuela has produced the most Miss Worlds, with six winners, while India and Britain claim five titles each.

Rita Faria was the first Indian to bag the title in 1966, followed by Aishwarya Rai(1994),  Diana Hayden(1997), Yukta Mookhey(1999) and Priyanka Chopra(2000).

China has already hosted the competition five times.

Gujarat's GIFT bags World Finance award

Gujarat International Finance Tec City (GIFT), the upcoming liberalised financial service centre in the state, was recently adjudged 'Best Industrial Development & Expansion' project by London-based magazine World Finance.

The project was judged on the basis of its infrastructure, scope, size and complexity as well as in terms of its potential for enabling economic growth in the region through the relocation and centralization of India's financial and IT sectors, said a GIFT statement.

GIFT outclassed projects like Moscow International Finance Centre in Russia and Songdo in South Korea.

World Finance belongs to the W N Media Group in London - global multimedia group with a broadcasting division. GIFT project is an upcoming international financial and IT services hub and is promoted by Gujarat government through Gujarat Urban Development Company Limited ( GUDC) and Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS).

It got the status of International Financial Services Centre ( IFSC) in December last year. It will be a deemed foreign territory enabling banks and financial institutions transact in foreign currencies from within India and a fraction of cost compared to its global peers.

A part of GIFT has also been notified as a Special Economic Zone ( SEZ), facilitating exemptions from central and state taxes.

Gujarat Government announced to Ban on Gutka

Gujarat state government on 15 August 2012 announced a comprehensive ban on gutka, which will come into effect from 11 September 2012. From this date, the production, storage, sale and distribution of gutka shall be banned in the state.
Maharashtra government recently imposed a comprehensive ban on gutka and pan masala. Gutka is also banned in Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, while Rajasthan government had announced its decision to ban the product in July 2012.

Lakhdar Brahimi was appointed the New UN Arab League Envoy for Syria

Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi was appointed the new UN-Arab League envoy for Syria on 17 August 2012. He will succeed Kofi Annan, who resigned earlier this month after his six-point peace plan failed to achieve a meaningful cease-fire. Lakhdar Brahimi will be known as the Joint Special Representative for Syria.
The 78-year-old Algerian diplomat has served as a U.N. special envoy in Iraq after the U.S. invasion; in Afghanistan, before and after the end of Taliban rule; and in South Africa after the apartheid era.  He also brokered an end to the Lebanese civil war as a senior Arab League official between 1984-91. He went on to serve as Algerian foreign minister between 1991-93.

Julian Assange would be Granted Political Asylum by Ecuador

The foreign ministry of Ecuador announced that Ecuador would be granting Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange a political asylum on 16 August 2012.
Assange shot to fame in the year 2010 after he leaked a number of US diplomatic cables and videos regarding the war in Iraq and Afghanistan through Wikileaks. Following the incident, USA and other countries whose secrets were divulged jumped into considerable action. Assange and his team argue that the alleged sex crimes allegations and these accusations are untrue and falsely built up.
He  best known as the editor-in-chief and co-founder of WikiLeaks, a media website which has published information from whistleblowers.

Ashtamudi Lake a shrinking Ramsar site

On August 19, 2012, it will be 10 years since the brackish water Ashtamudi Lake with eight creeks was declared a Ramsar site by designating it as a wetland of international importance. The lake was recommended by the Ramsar Convention’s partner organisations as a wetland of 61.4 sq km. And the lake entered the Ramsar list as site number 1,204.
However, since then, the area of the lake has shrunk to 34 sq km and it is facing serious environmental degradation. Revenue authorities dispute the 61.4 sq km extent but agree that the lake may have shrunk by at least 5 sq km in the past 10 years.
Internationally there are 2,046 wetlands designated Ramsar sites and India has 25. The main purpose of declaring an important wetland as Ramsar site is to enable its conservation through local and national-level action with international cooperation for achieving sustainable development.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cinematographer Ashok Mehta passed away

Veteran Cinematographer Ashok Mehta passed away in Mumbai on 15 August 2012. He was 65. Mehta was suffering from lung cancer and was getting treatment at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai.
During his long career in Bollywood Mehta worked with prominent filmmakers like Subhash Ghai, Rajiv Rai and MF Husain. He was the director of photography in films like 36 Chowringhee Lane, Utsav, Trikal, Khalnayak, Bandit Queen, Chalte Chalte, Gajgamini, Trimurti, Khalnayak, Moksha and Ram Lakhan.

Economic Outlook 2012-13 Highlights

Dr. C. Rangarajan, Chairman, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister released the document ‘Economic Outlook 2012-13’ at  in New Delhi 0n August 17.
 Following are the highlights of the document:

Ø  Economy to grow at 6.7 per cent in 2012/13

o    Farm sector GDP projected to grow at 0.5 per cent in 2012/13 due to the impact of weak monsoon on agriculture and the current reservoir storage position in 2012/13.
o    Manufacturing sector projected to grow at 4.5 per cent. Electricity, automotive, steel and cement sector have shown improvement in the period of April-June. Because of the benefits of the low base, manufacturing sector will show improved performance in the second half of this year.
o    Mining sector for the year as a whole expected to grow at 4.4 per cent due to growth in the coal and lignite sector, and some recovery in iron ore.
o    Electricity generation expected to continue to grow at an average pace of around 8 per cent.
o    Construction expected to show some improvement compared to last year as evidenced by the recent increase in the output of steel and cement.
o    In Services sector, some improvement expected particularly in the large transport, trade and communications sector.

Ø Global Situation: There is a dark mood in the advanced economies; especially in Europe. The slower growth in the US and in the EU will have an adverse impact on the expansion of these markets for India’s exports, both of goods and services.

Ø Structural Factors:
o    Gross Domestic Fixed Capital Formation as a proportion of GDP has fallen from its highest level of 32.9% in 2007/08 to 30.4 % in 2010/11 and to 29.5 per cent in 2011/12. Projected to be 30.0% in 2012/13.
o   Domestic saving rate has declined from 32.0% in 2010/11 to 30.4% in 2011/12 and projected to be at 31.7% in 2012/13.

Ø  External Sector:
o   Current Account Deficit was $78.2 billion (4.2% of GDP) in 2011/12 and projected at 67.1 billion (3.6% of GDP) in 2012/13.

§  The merchandise trade deficitwas$189.8 billion (10.2 per cent of GDP) in 2011/12 and projected at $181.1 billion (9.7 per centof GDP) in 2012/13.
§  Overall the net balance on invisibles was $111.6 billion(6.0% of GDP) in 2011/12 is expected to grow at $114 billion (6.1% of GDP) in 2012/13.

o   Capital flows were $67.8 billion (3.7% of GDP) in 2011/12 and projected at $73.2 billion (3.9% of GDP) in 2012/13. This would be adequate to service the projected CAD of $67 billion for the year as a whole.

o   Accretion to reserves projected at $4 billion in 2012/13

Ø Inflation:
Deficient SW monsoon likely to have an adverse impact on the prices of primary food items, especially on those where the ability of government stocks to play a moderating role is not there.Inflation rate expected to be within the range of 6.5 to 7.0 per cent at the end of 2012-13.

Ø  Expanding fiscal imbalance continues to be a major area of policy concern.
The fiscal deficit for the Centre was 5.89% of GDP in RE 2011/12 and is estimated at 5.06% in BE 2012/13.
In some contrast to the Centre’s finances, the fiscal health of the States is better. 
The consolidated fiscal deficit of the Centre and the State governments for 2011/12 (RE) was 8.2 per cent of GDP. The consolidate deficit based on Budget Estimates for 2012/13 is estimated to be 7.2 per cent.
The containment of the fiscal imbalance at the Centre rests on our managementofthe subsidy bill, especially that on refined petroleum products and by increasing the Tax-GDP ratio.
Introduction of the General Sales Tax on Goods & Services (GST) would be a very important milestone in the path of tax reform. It requires considerable negotiations, bargaining and preparatory work in relation to both the structure and operation of the tax.

Ø    Reforms in Agriculture sector:
Reforms in Agriculture sectorneed focused attention on liberalizing tenancy arrangements, reforming domestic markets for agricultural produce and, reducing input subsidies.

Ø    Measures to accelerate the Economic growth:
Integrated decision-making on high-impact infrastructure projects
For Projects costing in excess of a minimum threshold, say Rs 5,000 crore, a Cabinet Committee comprising of ministers in charge of concerned departments should take an integrated view. The Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure could be recast as the Cabinet Committee for Sustainable Development of Infrastructure for this purpose, and its composition as well as powers under the rules of business modified accordingly.
Permitting FDI in multi-brand retail
For channelling transfer of capital and technology, FDI in multi-brand retail up to 49 per cent may be allowed to attract investment in this sector. Such of the states as are receptive to the idea may implement this.
FDI and other reforms in the Aviation sector
    FDI in civil aviation may now be allowed to the existing extent of 49 per cent for foreign airlines as well.
Containing petroleum products subsidies
Given the huge subsidy projection for the current financial year, priority consideration may be given to (i) a suitable increase in the price of diesel in one or more steps, and (ii) a cap on the level of consumption of subsidised domestic LPG close to what is currently being consumed by poorer households, i.e., 4 cylinders.

We need to focus further on the following issues:
o    Policy predictability: There is need to specifically focus and address the apprehensions that have been occasioned by perceptions of arbitrary actions on tax and other fronts.
o    Clearing payments: Outstanding payments for infrastructure projects need to be cleared on time.
o    Promoting savings:Given the declining trend in domestic saving rate, we need to make financial products more attractive.
o    Containing inflation:
§   Taming inflation is critical for sustained growth. Need to take steps to contain high inflation in primary food which is mostly linked to the antiquated system of marketing and absence of modern handling and storage facilities for perishable products.
o    Improving the CAD:
§   Some amelioration through price reform in case of diesel could serve to contain demand.
§   To contain the import of gold, an improvement in the return as well as the regulatory regime in which mutual funds and life insurance products are sold areof utmost importance.
§   Significant improvement required in the approach of government to a number of issues to make IT-related export business much more competitive.

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