Wednesday, May 29, 2013

NTR Literary Award presented to Noted Oriya writer Manoj Das

Manoj Das, the Noted Oriya writer on 28 May 2013 was presented the NTR National Literary Award.

The NTR National Literary Award was chosen by the jury of NTR Vignana Trust, headed by its chairperson N. Lakshmi Parvati which carries a cash prize of 1 lakh Rupees and citation.  The award recognises Das’s contribution to literature, both in Odiya and English. 

Manoj Das was also conferred with Padma Sri award and had his stories figured in the compilation of best literary works released in the US.

The award is instituted in memory of the actor-turned-politician who made a mark for his struggle to protect Telugu pride. He has penned down his first novel at the age of 14.

The award is coincidently given to Manoj Das on the same day which is marked by the birth anniversary of former Chief Minister and Telugu Desam founder Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao.

Blue is the Warmest Colour won Prestigious Palme d Or award

For the first time, a gay themed love story ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’ directed by French-Tunisian filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche has won the top honour - the Palme d’Or - at the 66th Cannes Film Festival.

The awards were decided after reviewing 20 films in competition by a nine-member jury led by US filmmaker Steven Spielberg, joined by Australian actress Nicole Kidman and Oscar-winning director Ang Lee among others. 

The film is a three-hour love story based on a graphic novel by Julie Maroh starring Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. It is basically a story about a teenage girl who falls in love with a slightly older woman. Overall, the movie is about sexual awakening, heartbreak, and self-discovery.

Kushal Singh Appointed as the Chairperson of NCPCR

The Ministry of Women and Child Development appointed Kushal Singh as the Chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). She was selected by the Committee which was headed by Krishna Tirath, Minister of Women and Child Development.

Indian Telecom Sector Became the Second Largest Telephone Network in the World

The Indian telecom sector became the second largest telephone network in the world, after China by registering exceptional growth during last nine years. The reasons for growth of telecom sector were reform measures by the Government of India, active participation of the private sector as well as wireless technology. 

National Telecom Policy-2012 (NTP-2012) was announced with an objective to maximise public good by facilitating reliable, secure and affordable telecommunication as well as broadband services in India. When NTP 2012 was implemented, a range of telephonic connections increased considerably. The telephone connections in India till January 2013 were 893.14 million. The rural telephone connections increased by around 10 million in the year 2012. Overall, the teledensity was 73.07 percent till January 2013. Rural teledensity crossed the 40 percent mark. Comparatively, in March 2004, the overall teledensity was 7.04 percent while the rural teledensity was 1.7 percent.

In case of mobile penetration, the preference of the use of wireless telephony increased considerably. As on 31 March 2012, the wireless telephones increased from 96.62 percent to 96.74 percent by June end 2012. The share of landline phones increased from 3.38 percent to 3.44 percent from April to December 2012. 

The wireless subscriber base also increased from 33.6 million in March 2004 to 864.72 million till December 2012. The average tariff for every outgoing call per minute for GSM services went down from 2.89 Rupees in March 2004 to 47 paisa in December 2012.

ISRO Navigation Centre Inaugurated

V. Narayanasamy, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions inaugurated ISRO Navigation Centre (INC), established at Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) Complex at Byalalu, about 40 km from Bangalore on 28 May.

The ISRO Navigation Centre (INC) is the important part of Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), which is an independent navigation satellite system developed by India.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Second SAARC Regional Workshop on Child Labour

The 2nd SAARC Regional Workshop on Child Labour is held on May 29 in New Delhi to chalk out and promote comprehensive and gender-sensitive approaches to understanding and responding to child labour; showcasing strategies and initiatives that have promoted learning and action to ending child labour and protecting adolescents at work; and fostering cooperation through the SAARC mechanisms and partnerships on the issue. The workshop will also be a platform of sharing of knowledge and experience amongst SAARC Member countries.
The 3 day long workshop for SAARC Member countries is being jointly organized by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India and V.V. Giri National Labour Institute in collaboration with the International Labour Organization. 

66th Cannes Film Festival

Blue is the Warmest Colour(La Vie D'Adèle Chapitres 1 et 2) which is directed by French-Tunisian filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche won the top honour - the Palme d'Or - at the 66th Cannes Film Festival.

The awards were decided after reviewing 20 films in competition by a nine-member jury led by US filmmaker Steven Spielberg, joined by Australian actress Nicole Kidman and Oscar-winning director Ang Lee among others. 

The film is a three-hour love story based on a graphic novel by Julie Maroh starring Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux.  It is basically a story about a teenage girl who falls in love with a slightly older woman. Overall, the movie is about sexual awakening, heartbreak, and self-discovery.

With this the runner-up award, the Grand Prix, went to Inside Llewyn Davis which is directed by the Coen brothers. It is important here to note that the Coen brothers had won the Palme d'Or in 1991. Also, the Jury Prize went to Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda for Like Father, Like Son.

Some other Important Awards:
• Mexico's Amat Escalante won the best director prize for his film Heli.
• Hollywood veteran actor Bruce Dern took the best actor prize for his performance in Nebraska.
• Argentine-born Frenchwoman Berenice Bejo was awarded the best actress prize for her role in The Past.

Australia is the World s Happiest Nation

Australia has once again topped the world as the Happiest Industrialised Nation, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released on 28th May.

The OECD Better Life Index compares the well-being of 34 developed and emerging countries based on eleven categories including housing, income, jobs, education, life satisfaction and work-life balance. The Better Life Index found that 84 percent of Australians are satisfied with their lives -- better than the OECD average of 80 percent. 

Participants said they have more positive experiences, such as feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment and enjoyment, in an average day than negative ones. Australians' happiness was even greater than that of Canadians and Swedes, also known for high standards of living. 

The survey also found that Australians are living longer, with life expectancy at almost 82 years -- two years higher than the average. Employment levels are also stronger -- at 73 percent compared with an average of 66 percent for people aged 15 to 64.

RBI imposed Restrictions on Bank Loans against Gold

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) imposed restrictions on banks and NBFCs for providing loans against gold coins as well as units of gold ETFs and mutual funds to curb demands for gold on 27th May. Banks were asked to ensure that the amount of loan to any customer against gold ornaments, gold jewellery and gold coins (weighing up to 50 grams) should be within the board approved limit.

Banks are currently permitted to grant advances against gold ornaments and other jewellery and against specially minted gold coins sold by banks. However, no advances can be granted by banks for purchase of gold in any form, including primary gold, gold bullion, gold jewellery, gold coins, units of gold exchange traded funds and units of gold mutual funds.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mumbai Indians lifts maiden IPL title

Mumbai Indians finally annexed their maiden Indian Premier Legue title upstaging a jittery Chennai Super Kings by 23 runs in the final here today to bring the curtains down to a tarnished sixth season of the cash-rich league. Chennai Super Kings found the 149-run target, usually an easy ask by their standard, a little too much as they finished on 125 for nine on a difficult track.
Kieron Pollard (60 no and 1/34, 1 catch) was the man-of-the-match for his all-round effort.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni now lost back-to-back IPL finals despite being the lone man standing in the end with an unbeaten 63.
As soon as the last delivery was bowled by Pollard, senior pros Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting along with Team Mentor Anil Kumble rushed to the ground. Just like 2011 World Cup final, Tendulkar did a lap of honour with the teammates like Harbhajan carrying him on their shoulders.
Lasith Malinga (2/22) and Mitchell Johnson (2/19) set the tone before Harbhajan Singh (2/14) joined in the act as it was a rare batting disaster for the IPL heavyweights who featured in four straight, five overall, finals.
Four of their batsmen including Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja got out for noughts while tournament top-scorer Michael Hussey (1) was dismissed first-up by a perfect Lasith Malinga toe-crusher to set the tone.
For Mumbai Indians, Eden Gardens remained a happy hunting ground with six wins from seven outings this season as it Rohit Sharma and Co.
Mumbai Indians earned a prize purse of Rs 10 crore, while runners-up Chennai Super Kings were awarded Rs 7.5 crore in the Rs 25 crore prize money tournament.
The packed Eden bleeded blue in the summit clash as Mumbai Indians found themselves at 'home' even while defending a modest 149.
The intent became quite clear in the very fourth ball when Malinga, 'the slinger', bowled Michael 'Mr Cricket' Hussey (1), the 'Orange Cap' holder (733 runs), with his typical toe-crushing yorker.

IPL awards:

Catch of the season: Gurkeerat Singh Mann (Kings XI Punjab)
Best young player: Sanju Viswanadh Samson (Rajasthan Royals)
Pepsi Atom MVP: Shane Watson (Rajasthan Royals).
Fair Play Trophy: Chennai Super Kings.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Malayalam get the status of 'Classical Language'

The Union Cabinet has approved classifying Malayalam as a ‘Classical Language’ subject to the outcome of  Writ Petition No. 18810 of 2008 (R. Gandhi Vs UOI & Ors) in the High Court of Judicature at Madras (Chennai).

The benefits which are extended to Classical Languages include the following :-

a) Two major annual international awards for scholars of eminence in classical Indian languages.

b) A ‘Centre of Excellence for Studies in Classical Languages be set up.

c) The University Grants Commission be requested to create, to start with at least in the Central Universities, a certain number of Professional Chairs for Classical Languages for scholars of eminence in classical Indian languages.

The Government has earlier notified both Telugu and Kannada as Classical Languages.

Classical languages status is based on four norms:

(i) high antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years;
(ii) a body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers;
(iii) the literary tradition should be original and not borrowed from another speech community;
(iv) the classical language and literature being distinct from the modern, there may also be discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or offshoots.

World Bank funded National HIV/AIDS control support project

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved a proposal by the Department of AIDS Control, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for the implementation of National AIDS Control Support Project (NACSP) under the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) for an amount of Rs. 2550 crore. NACP is financed by the Government of India and the World Bank in equal proportion.

It will contribute towards intensifying and consolidating prevention services with a focus on highly vulnerable populations, high risk groups and bridge population and strengthening behaviour change communication (BCC) and demand generation, besides institutional strengthening and financial management. 

The primary objective of the project is to increase safe behaviour among high risk groups in pursuance of the national goal of accelerated reversal of the HIV epidemic by 2017. Its primary focus would be to strengthen and scale up prevention interventions and related BCC strategies for sub- groups of population identified to be most-at-risk by the NACP. These include Female Sex Workers (FSW), men who have sex with men (MSM), Transgender (TG)/Hijra populations and Injecting Drug Users (IDU).

The project would also support the planned expansion and consolidation of tailored interventions for other at-risk populations, including migrant workers and truckers which play a critical role in the transmission dynamics of HIV in the country. 

The BCC strategies developed under the project would provide emphasis on demand generation for prevention services among high risk groups and vulnerable populations, including a specific focus on youth. This component would also address the need for reduction of stigma associated with HIV by focused IEC to change the prevailing attitudes and perceptions. This would help in providing the desired impetus required for further consolidation of gains made in containing the spread of HIV infection in the country.

The NACP of India has been a remarkable success in its third phase (2007-2012) and the country is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for HIV prevention and control. Over the last decade, there has been a reduction of 57 percent in the new HIV infections and 29 percent reduction in AIDS-related deaths. This has led to the recognition of India`s HIV programme as a global best practice, and has been an important factor behind the decision of the World Bank to support the prevention component of the HIV programme, at a time of global financial meltdown and decreasing support from international donor agencies.

New age norms for Janani Suraksha Yojana

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has relaxed eligibility parameters for the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), Launched in 2005, the JSY is the government’s main scheme to enable women-especially those from vulnerable sections-to access institutional delivery. This was done to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality.

Under the new norms, Below Party Line (BPL) women can access JSY benefits irrespective of their age and number of children i.e. all women from BPL category, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in all States and Union Territories will be eligible for JSY benefits if they have given birth in a government or private accredited health facility. BPL women who prefer to deliver at home can also get JSY benefits.

Till now, the scheme provided assistance for institutional delivery to all pregnant women who give birth in a government or private accredited health facility in Low Performing States (those with bad health indicators, such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Assam). A woman gets Rs.1,400 for delivery in a government facility or accredited private facility and Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) gets Rs. 600 in rural areas. In the urban areas, the amounts paid are Rs.1,000 and Rs. 400 respectively.

However, in High Performing States (those with good health indices, such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka), assistance for institutional delivery was available to women from BPL/SC/ST households, aged 19 or above and only up to two live births for delivery in a government or private accredited health facility. The financial entitlement was Rs. 700 to the mother and Rs. 600 for the ASHA in rural areas and Rs. 600 and Rs. 400 in urban settings.

Further, in all States/Union Territories, the scheme provided Rs. 500 to BPL women-aged 19 or above and who deliver up to two live births -who prefer to deliver at home. With the amendments, all women who deliver at home will be entitled to this amount, basically for nutrition.

The decision was taken as a majority of women, who needed JSY benefits, remained out of the purview of the scheme because they had to prove they were 19 years of age and had no more than two children. The highest maternal mortality is reported among girls aged 14-15; the majority of these were out of the purview of the JSY as they were unable to produce proof of age or verify the number of children they had.

The government claims that as a result of the scheme, there has been an increase in institutional deliveries-from 47 per cent in 2007-08 to 72.9 per cent in 2009 (Coverage Evaluation Survey) and, most recently, to approximately 79 per cent-as per Health Ministry data.

United Nations released its Report on World Economic Situation and Prospects 2013

United Nations released its forecast report World Economic Situation and Prospects 2013 (Update as of mid 2013) in the third week of May 2013. The latest Economic Forecast from United Nations (UN) projected that the global economic growth can gain a slow momentum for the rest of the year as a result of improved global financial conditions. 

The forecast has cleared that after a down-turn of over two years, it is expected that the global economic activity will gain momentum in the second half of 2013 and 2014 being backed by the accommodative monetary policies in the developing and developed economies. As per the forecast the moderate pick-up activity will be witnessed by the world but the growth will be seemingly below potential. The employment gains mainly in the developed economies will remain weak. The short term risks associated with the economic slowdown in the large developing nations, fiscal adjustments of US and the worsened situations of the Euro Area have gone down but haven’t diminished. 

The risks carries both the possibilities one is of returning back on a good track and the second one is of getting derailed the improving world economy. 

The forecast has put forward a light for the policy makers to look forward for a balanced global recovery with a focus on job creation to be prioritized. To mitigate the negative policy spillovers and to promote cooperation and curb protectionism, as per the forecast there exists a need of enhancing the International Policy Coordination as this will help in reforming the international financial system and ensuring sufficient resource flows in developing economies and in the third world nations.

NSDF to offer Financial Assistance to Mary Kom Regional Boxing Foundation

The Union Sports Ministry on 24 May 2013 gave its approval for a grant of 309.56 Lakhs rupees to Mary Kom Regional Boxing Foundation, Imphal for construction of gymnasium hall and procurement of gym equipments for the foundation. 

The grant will be disbursed from the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF). The grant will be released in installments on fulfillment of certain conditions that is required by NSDF Scheme.

Mary Kom Regional Boxing Foundation is looking forward to create facilities at the new site allotted to it by the State Government of Manipur. 

Before this National Sports Development Fund released funds of 492 lakh rupees for Usha School of Athletics, Kozhikode, Kerala, for laying an 8 Lane Synthetic Track of international standard with supporting facilities.

Ramdarash Mishra and Narendra Kohli awarded with Vyas Samman

Professor Ramdarash Mishra and Dr Narendra Kohli were conferred with the Vyas Samman on 23 May 2013 for the year 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Professor Ramdarash Mishra (89) was honoured with the award for his collection of poems Aam ke Patte published in 2004. The collection of poems has tried to establish a relationship of man with ordinary objects like pen and table and has reminded their unnoticed importance in human life. 

Dr Narendra Kohli (73) was honoured for his historical novel Na Bhooto Na Bhavishyati published in 2004. The book has portrayed Swami Vivekananda, the culture of his time and his quest to be a sanyasi for National Unity.  The award was presented by Professor Surya Prasad Dixit, a noted scholar of Hindi and the Chairman of the Selection Committee.

About Vyas Samman

Vyas Samman was instituted by the K.K. Birla Foundation in 1991 and is awarded annually in recognition of the hindi literary work published in past 10 years in genres like plays, novels, poetry, short stories, critiques and others. The award carries 2.5 lakh rupees and a citation and a plaque.

Carole King is the first woman to receive Gershwin Prize

US singer and lyric writer Carole King became the first woman to receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize. The President of America, Barack Obama conferred the prize upon her in a function conducted at the White House in Washington. Gershwin Prize is given as a lifetime achievement in popular music.  Carole King is 71 years of age. She is known most popularly for her songs such as Aretha Franklin's (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. She has won the Grammy Award four times.

Shashi Kant Sharma new Comptroller & Auditor General of India

The President Pranab Mukherjee appointed Shashi Kant Sharma as the new Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. He will succeed Vinod Rai who superannuates on 21 May 2013 after completing tenure of five and a half years. His appointment to the post of CAG by the President was made on basis of Article 148 (1) of the Indian Constitution. Mr. Sharma is an IAS officer of 1976 Bihar Cadre and he was holding the position of Defence Secretary before this appointment.

Preeti Beniwal won gold in 2013 Senior National Women s Boxing Championship

Pugilist Preeti Beniwal bagged the gold medal in Senior National Women's Boxing Championship. In the event held at Khatima, Uttarakhand, Preeti out-punched Manipur's Y. Sandhya 22-9 in the final of the 60kg category. Preeti Beniwal was born on 25 December 1987. She hails from Hisar. Her father Subey Singh is a boxing coach. Her elder sister is married to famous Indian Boxer Akhil Kumar. Preeti is employed with Haryana Police as sub inspector.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Yuichiro Miura, 80-Year-Old Japanese Mountaineer Became Oldest Man to Climb Mount Everest

Yuichiro Miura, the 80-year old mountaineer from Japan reached Mount Everest’s summit on 23 May 2013. With this, he became the oldest man to climb the highest mountain peak of the world. 

Yuichiro Miura climbed the Everest at the age of 70 and 75 as well. As the oldest man to climb Mount Everest, he replaced Nepal's Min Bahadur Sherchan who climbed the Everest at the age of 76 years in 2008. It is important to note that Min Bahadur Sherchan will again attempt climbing Mount Everest in the last week of May 2013, at the age of 81 years. 

Yuichiro Miura reached the height of 29035 foot (8850-meter). He climbed the Everest with three more Japanese climbers, which included his son and six Nepalis Sherpas.

Government sanctioned 100 Crore Rupees under UIDSSMT to Develop MP Towns

Union Urban Development Ministry on 22 May 2013 sanctioned 100 crore rupees under Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns-UIDSSMT for development of small and medium towns of Madhya Pradesh. This scheme aims at improvement in urban infrastructure in towns and cities in a planned manner.
The ministry also sanctioned 195 rupees crore rupees for the state under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNRUM).

Friday, May 10, 2013

Prime Minister to Inaugerate National Platform of Disaster Risk Reduction

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh will inaugurate the First Session of National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in New Delhi at the Vigyan Bhawan on 13th May 2013. Union Home Minister Shri Sushilkumar Shinde will also be present on the occasion. The whole range of stakeholders from Government, Parliamentarians, Media, International Orgnaisations, NGOs, local community representatives, scientific and academic institutions and corporate businesses etc., will participate in this two day conference. The theme of the Conference is “Mainstreaming DRR in Development: From Risk to Resilience”. The Conference will help in sharing of experiences, views and ideas, present findings of research and action and explore opportunities for mutual cooperation in the field of Disaster Risk Reduction. 

The First Session of the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction will enable the decision makers, partners, experts and practitioners of DRR to come together to deliberate initiatives, share information, promote campaigns and provide useful suggestions relating to Disaster Risk Reduction. 

Cabinet approved creation of the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA)

The Union Cabinet has approved for constituting an autonomous body called the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) by subsuming the Prime Minister’s National Council on Skill Development (PMNCSD), the National Skill Development Coordination Board (NSDCB) and the Office of the Adviser to the PM on Skill Development. It will be located in the Ministry of Finance. 

The new skill body will coordinate and harmonise the skill development efforts of the government and the private sector to achieve the targets of the 12th Plan and beyond. It will also anchor and operationalise the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) and be the nodal agency for sector skills councils and endeavour to bridge the social, regional, gender and economic divides in skilling.

Further, it will also be empowered to raise extra budgetary resources. The central ministries and NSDC will continue to implement schemes in their remit, the statement said.

The NSDA is expected to provide the much-needed single point focus to ensure that skilling quality and standards meet sector-specific requirements benchmarked to international standards. The initiative will boost employability of youth in India.

The proposal to set up NSDA was first considered by the Cabinet in its meeting held in January this year and it was referred to a Group of Ministers (GoM) to review all aspects.

Initiatally, there were some objections from ministries such as HRD and Labour and Employment which argued that the new body would lead to duplication of efforts. However, the differences were sorted out subsequently.

Government approves National Cyber Security Policy

According to the government report, around 1,692 security threat incidents were reported to the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) from various national and international agencies, in last December.

Thus the government has approved the National Cyber Security Policy that aims to create a secure computing environment in the country and seeks to build adequate trust and confidence in electronic transactions along with the focus on manpower training. 

The policy caters for the whole spectrum of ICT users and providers including small and home users, medium and large enterprises and government and non-government entities. It aims to create a cyber security framework that will address all related issues over a long period. The framework will lead to specific actions and programmes to enhance the security posture of country's cyber space.

Besides, cyber security intelligence forms an integral component to be able to anticipate attacks and quickly adopt counter measures.

Tribal Forest Dwellers Empowerment Scheme launched

The Government enacted a Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. Under this act, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional forest Dwellers have been given the right to hold the forest land for habitation or for self-cultivation or for carrying out any other traditional activity for their livelihood. Most of the Scheduled Tribes are poor and need financial support for productive utilization of land for their livelihood.

In order to provide concessional finance to the Forest Dwelling STs, the NSTFDC has formulated the new Tribal Forest Dwellers Empowerment Scheme. NSTFDC would generate awareness, provide training and assist in market linkage apart from providing financial assistance at concessional rate of interest of 6% p.a. to the beneficiaries. This assistance would be made available through 33 State Channelizing Agencies of NSTFDC and certain PSU Banks/ Regional Rural Banks having refinance agreements with NSTFDC.

The Radio Partnership MoU between NSTFDC and AIR will cover events organized by NSTFDC for socio economic empowerment of STs. The broadcast can be in 23 languages and 146dialects throughout the country. The coverage will be in the form of Radio Report with in-house/news reel programmes. As AIR is having foot print over the entire country and is covering more than 99% of population, this partnership will facilitate creation of larger awareness about programmes of NSTFDC throughout the country.

Minister for Women & Child Development Launched the World Bank Assisted ISSNIP

The Minister for Women & Child Development, Krishna Tirath on 9 May 2013 launched the World Bank assisted ICDS Systems Strengthening and Nutrition Improvement Project (ISSNIP). The aim of the programme is improvement of child development and nutritional outcomes for children in selected districts having higher proportional of child under nutrition.

The project is worth 2893 crore Rupees with 70 percent IDA share of2025 crore Rupees over the time duration of 7 years. The cost of phase 1 of the project is estimated to be around 682 crore Rupees. The project received an initial support of 106 million US dollar by World Bank, which is payable over the time of 25 years. This will be followed by the support for second phase of 344 million US dollar, which will be subject to assessment of phase 1.

First phase of this project will support the efforts of Union Government to strengthen policy measures and institutional capacity and will also finance innovative pilots and programmers in 162 high malnutrition-burden districts across eight States. Apart from this, the project will also support the urban and sub-urban pilots in NCR of Delhi and convergent nutrition action pilots in Odisha and Uttarakhand. 

The Minister for Women & Child Development took various other measures for strengthening the programme management, planning and monitoring of ICDS with introduction of revised MIS, and the 5-tier monitoring and supervision committee with representation of People’s representatives to review the progress in ICDS at different levels.

The ISSNIP project will support the government’s efforts in building the necessary institutional capacity and systems needed to improve nutrition in the targeted groups of mothers and children. 
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the implementation of the International Development Association (IDA) assisted ICDS Systems Strengthening and Nutrition Improvement Project (ISSNIP) in October 2012.
Features of ICDS Systems Strengthening and Nutrition Improvement Project (ISSNIP):

• ISSNIP is designed to supplement and provide value addition on the existing ICDS programme, through systems strengthening for better service delivery, as well as to allow the selected States and Districts to experiment, innovate and conduct pilots of potentially more effective approaches for ICDS in order to achieve early childhood education and nutrition outcomes. 

• The additional support through the project is catalytic and is an important dimension of MWCD’s overall efforts to strengthen and restructure the ICDS programme.
• Four major components under the project are: (i) Institutional and systems strengthening in ICDS (ii) Community mobilization and behaviour change communication (iii) piloting multi-sectoral nutrition actions, and (iv) Project Management, Technical Assistance and Monitoring & Evaluation.

Union Government of India Approved Policy Development of Aviation Hubs in India

The Union Government of India on 9 May 2013 approved the policy development of aviation hubs in India. Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari announced that the Inter-Ministerial Committee will be developed that will work out on different models for this policy.
The formation of the hubs would require establishment of various facilities such as foreign exchange, immigration, provisions for visa-on-arrival as well as customs. For this various ministries will be involved and therefore the Inter-Ministerial Committee will be developed. This committee would facilitate establishment of various aviation hubs in different major cities. The approval of the policy is termed as the major initiative for infrastructural development. 

The aviation hub is basically an airport that is used as intermediate point for transferring air travellers from original destination to final destination of their journey. This is also technically called hub-and-spoke operation. 

The policy will focus on not just development of the global hubs in India, but also establishment of domestic regional hubs which will cater to growing air traffic from the non-metro destinations in areas such as Northeast. 

The Union Cabinet, along with the approval of policy development of aviation hubs, also approved constitution of autonomous body called the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) by including the National Skill Development Coordination Board (NSDCB), Office of the Adviser to the PM on Skill Development as well as Prime Minister's National Council on Skill Development (PMNCSD). The National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) will come under the Ministry of Finance.

The role of NSDA is coordination as well as harmonization of Government’s skill development efforts as well as private sector for achieving skilling targets of 12th five-year plan. NSDA will also play the role of anchoring and operationalising National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) as well as the nodal agency for Sector Skills Councils.

Amendments in the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959 Approved

The Union Cabinet of India on 9 May 2013 gave its approval to Amendments in the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959 by introducing a Bill in the Parliament named Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill, 2013.

The Section 3 of the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959, has been amended time to time. It lists certain offices of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State, which do not disqualify the holders thereof for being chosen as, or for being, a Member of Parliament. The Chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is exempted from such disqualification under Sub-clause (ii) of clause (ba) of section 3 of the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959. 

By the 89th Amendment Act of 2003 of the Constitution of India, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Tribes was bifurcated into two independent Commissions namely the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes. With the 89th amendment Act Article 338 of the Constitution was amended and a new article, namely, Article 338A was inserted in the Constitution.

State Of The World's Mothers Report 2013 released

Save the Children released its 14th annual State of the World's Mothers (SOTWM) report: 'Surviving the First Day.' The report focuses on the staggering number of newborn deaths that occur in a baby's earliest days -- and the opportunity to reduce this universal tragedy. It includes data on women's health, children's health and economic wellbeing for 176 countries.

Key highlights of the Report

The first day of life is the most dangerous day for mothers and babies. Save the Children’s first-ever Birth Day Risk Index compares first-day death rates for 186 countries and finds that in most countries, children are at greatest risk on the day they are born. Babies in Somalia have the highest risk of dying on their birth day. First-day death rates are almost as high in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, and Sierra Leone. Mothers in these four countries are also at high risk on this day. Mothers in Somalia and Sierra Leone face the second and third highest lifetime risk of maternal death in the world, respectively.

The first day is also a day of unequaled opportunity to save lives and set the stage for a healthy future. Most newborn and maternal deaths could be prevented by ensuring that mothers and newborns have access to low-cost, lifesaving interventions through improved and expanded health care systems. Ensuring access to well-trained and equipped health care workers during childbirth is part of the solution. 

According to the United Nations, four products could greatly assist health workers in saving many newborn lives. The products are: 

a) steroid injections for women in preterm labor (to reduce deaths due to premature babies’ breathing problems); 
b) resuscitation devices (to save babies who do not breathe at birth);
c) hlorhexidine cord cleansing (to prevent umbilical cord infections); and 
d) injectable antibiotics (to treat newborn sepsis and pneumonia). 
Other low-cost interventions such as kangaroo mother care and early and exclusive breastfeeding would save many more babies. Such interventions, as part of strengthened health care systems, not only can dramatically reduce maternal and newborn deaths, but also can prevent a lifetime of negative health consequences such as long-term disabilities, intellectual impairment and increased vulnerability to illness. 

Poor health is not only costly for individuals and their families, it can also impede a nation’s efforts toward economic growth. 

Mothers and babies in sub-Saharan Africa face the greatest risks. Maternal, child and newborn death rates have declined across the developing world since 1990, but progress has been slowest in sub-Saharan Africa. The bottom 10 countries on the Mothers’ Index are all in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of these same countries also have very high rates of first-day death, and sub-Saharan Africa also occupies the 10 worst spots on the Birth Day Risk Index. Seven countries – Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Sierra Leone and Somalia – score in the bottom 10 on both indices. While mothers and babies struggle for survival in much of sub-Saharan Africa, a number of countries have demonstrated that progress is possible despite great challenges.

On the Mother's Index -- the global ranking system for maternal and infant health -- Finland, Sweden and Norway top the list, while Sierra Leone, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo bring up the rear. The United States fell from number 25 to number 30 in 2013 and is also the country in which more than half of all first-day deaths in the industrialized world occur.

India and South Asia

Further over three lakh newborns in India die within 24 hours of their birth every year – the highest number in the world. With a total of 3,09,000 babies hardly surviving a day, India tops the list for such deaths. The country accounts for 29 per cent of all such deaths — ahead even of Nigeria, Pakistan and China. 

Quoting Sample Registration Survey (SRS 2011) figures, the report says Madhya Pradesh has the highest burden of early newborn deaths (0-7 days) at 32, followed closely by Uttar Pradesh and Odisha (30). Other States with high burden are Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir. Kerala is the leader in reducing neonatal mortality by a wide margin, while Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Maharashtra too have improved the national rate.

The report also claims that 4,20,000 babies across South Asia die on their first day – almost one every minute. According to the report, of the one million babies who die each year on the day they are born, almost 40 per cent are in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Chronic malnourishment which leads to mental or physical impairment or ‘stunting’ is particularly severe in the region.

Bangladesh has reduced newborn mortality by 49 per cent since 1990. Community health workers reaching mothers and babies at home, and training birth attendants and medical staff in resuscitation devices to help babies breathe are factors in this progress. Nepal has reduced mortality by 47 per cent since 1990.

In South Asia, there are striking differences among countries in the case of maternal risk to life. In Afghanistan, a mother has a one in 32 risk of maternal death, in India it is 1 in 170, and in Nepal one in 190. The top five countries in the South Asian mothers’ ranking are: Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. The bottoms five are (in descending order) Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

Nigeria has 89,700 deaths in this category, followed by Pakistan (59,800), China (50,600), Congo (48,400), Ethiopia (28,800), Bangladesh (28,100), Indonesia (23,400), Afghanistan (18,000) and Tanzania (17,000).

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Committee to Devise A PPP Policy with CIL Setup

The Union Government has envisaged that one of the ways forward to reduce the dependence on imports is to devise a Public Private Partnership (PPP) policy framework with CIL as one of the partners in order to increase the production of coal for supply to power producers and other consumers. Accordingly the Ministry of Coal has set up a Committee to devise a PPP Policy framework with CIL as one of the partners in order to increase production of coal, This information was given by the Minister of State for Coal, Shri Pratik PrakashBapu Patil in a written reply in Rajya Sabha here today.

         The Minister said that besides this, the Government has taken following measures to further step up domestic production which includes:

·         Emphasis on modernization and technology development and coal quality improvement.
·         Emphasis on infrastructure development.
·         Periodical review of development of coal blocks.
·         Development of some of the coal blocks assigned to CIL through engaging Mine Development & Operator (MDO).
·         Periodical review of on going projects.
·         Constant persuasion with Ministry of Railways for expeditious implementation of critical rail lines & improved supply of rakes.
·         Regular persuasion with the State Governments on the pending issues and law & order problems.
·         Regular interaction with line Ministries and State Governments for clearing Environment and Forest clearances for new projects.

Scheme for Menstrual Hygiene

In the first phase, the Scheme for Promotion of Menstrual Hygiene has been started as a pilot in 152 districts across 20 States in 2010. Supply of sanitary napkins in 107 districts in 17 States has started in a centralised supply mode, wherein sanitary napkins have been supplied by Government of India under NRHM’s brand-name, ‘Freedays’. These States are: Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Supply of sanitary napkins in the remaining 45 districts was envisaged through Self Help Groups (SHG), wherein SHGs were to manufacture the sanitary napkins. SHG supply has not yet taken off in the ear-marked 45 districts. ‘Freedays’ are being sold to adolescents girls at the rate of Rs. 6 per pack of six napkins by Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs). 

A total amount of Rs. 70.65 crore had been ear-marked for supply of a total amount of 9.32 crore packs of sanitary napkins during the 11th Five Year Plan to the 17 States implementing the Scheme through centralized procurement. There was no separate State - wise fund allocation for the Scheme for Promotion of Menstrual Hygiene during the 11th Five Year Plan. 

The Government of India has initiated an assessment of impact of the Scheme for Promotion of Menstrual Hygiene. The assessment is not complete and accordingly, results of the assessment are awaited. 

IEC materials – audio, video and reading materials for adolescent girls, and job-aids for ASHAs for communicating with adolescent girls have been developed for generating adequate knowledge and information about menstrual hygiene and being used by the Centre and States. In addition, States are also planning re-orientation of ASHA workers for improving access to adolescent girls. States have proposed (in Programme Implementation Plans for 2013-14) use of mass media, print media and other means for increasing awareness on menstrual hygiene. 

Mission Steering Group of NRHM has recently approved for continuation of the Scheme for Promotion of Menstrual Hygiene in 107 existing districts without any interruption and to prioritise the scheme for expansion in all districts and make appropriate provisions in the annual PIP. 

Financial Stability and Development Councul (FSDC)

The Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) has been constituted vide GOI notification dated 30th December, 2010. The Council is chaired by the Union Finance Minister and its members are Governor, Reserve Bank of India; Finance Secretary and/or Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs; Secretary, Department of Financial Services; Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance; Chairman, Securities and Exchange Board of India; Chairman, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority and Chairman, Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority. 

The Council deals, inter-alia, with issues relating to financial stability, financial sector development, inter–regulatory coordination, financial literacy, financial inclusion and macro prudential supervision of the economy including the functioning of large financial conglomerates. No funds are separately allocated to the Council for undertaking its activities. 

The Council and its Sub-Committee (chaired by Governor, Reserve Bank of India) deliberate on agenda items proposed by any of the members of the Council which broadly include matters relating to financial stability, inter-regulatory coordination, and financial sector development. The Council/Sub-committee deliberates on these issues and suggests taking appropriate steps, as required. 

4745 Self Help Groups formed in UP and Bihar under ‘PRIYADARSHINI’ scheme of WCD Ministry

The Ministry Women and Child Development has promoted 4745 Self Help Groups (SHGs) under its project ‘Priyadarshini’. The pilot project namely Women Empowerment and Livelihood Programme in Mid- Gangetic Plains- ‘Priyadarshini’- is being administered by the Ministry in 13 blocks spread across 5 districts in Uttar Pradesh and 2 districts in Bihar. Of the 4745 SHGs formed under the project, 2396 SHGs have been promoted in Bihar and 2349 in UP. Also, 2534 SHGs have been savings linked-1243 in Bihar and 1291 in Uttar Pradesh. Rs.15 Crore has been sanctioned for the year 2012-13, of which Rs 2.50 Crore has been expended up to October 31st, 2012. 

Though the focus of the project ‘Priyadarshini’ is on livelihood enhancement, the beneficiaries will be empowered to address their political, legal, health problems issues through rigorous capacity building. Over 1,00,000 households are to be covered under the project and 7,200 SHGs will be formed during the project period ending 2016-17. Against the target of total 48 Community Service Centres (CSCs) in entire project period, NABARD has so far established 3 fully operational CSCs per block which makes total 39 CSCs under the project.