Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Indian economy is likely to grow between 6.1% to 6.7%  in 2013-14 as the downturn is more or less over and the economy is looking up. Following the slowdown induced by the global financial crisis in 2008-09, the Indian economy responded strongly to fiscal and monetary stimulus and achieved a growth rate of 8.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively in 2009-10 and 2010-11, but due to a combination of both external and domestic factors, the economy decelerated growing at 6.2% and an estimated 5% in 2011-12 and 2012-13 respectively. The Economic Survey 2012-13, presented by the Finance Minister Shri P. Chidambaram in the Lok Sabha predicts that the global economy is also likely to recover in 2013 and various government measures will help in improving the Indian economy’s outlook for 2013-14. While India’s recent slowdown is partly rooted in external causes, domestic causes are also important. The slowdown in the rate of growth of services in 2011-12 at 8.2%, and particularly in 2012-13 to 6.6 percent from the double-digit growth of the previous six years, contributed significantly to slowdown in the overall growth of the economy, while some slowdown could also be attributed to the lower growth in agriculture and industrial activities. But despite the slowdown, the services sector has shown more resilience to worsening external conditions than agriculture and industry. For improved agricultural growth, the survey underlines the need for stable and consistent policies where markets play an appropriate role, private investment in infrastructure is stepped up, food price, food stock management and food distribution improves, and a predictable trade policy is adopted for agriculture. FDI in retail allowed by the government can pave the way for investment in new technology and marketing of agricultural produce in India. Fast agricultural growth remains vital for jobs, incomes and food security.
The survey points out that the priority for the Government will be to fight high inflation by reducing the fiscal impetus to demand as well as by focusing on incentivizing food production through measures other than price supports. But unlike the previous year, when food inflation was mainly driven by higher protein food prices, this year the pressure has been coming mainly from cereals. On the Balance of Payments and External Position, the survey highlights that with net exports declining, India’s balance of payments has come under pressure. Moreover, in the current fiscal, foreign exchange reserves have fluctuated between US$ 286 billion and US$ 295.6 billion, while the rupee remained volatile in the range of Rs 53.02 to Rs 54.78 per US dollar during October 2012 to January 2013.
The survey had a special chapter focusing on jobs. The future holds promise for India provided we can seize the “demographic dividend” as nearly half the additions to the Indian labour force over the period 2011-30 will be in the age group 30-49. India is creating jobs in industry but mainly in low productivity construction and not enough formal jobs in manufacturing, which typically are higher productivity. The high productivity service sector is also not creating enough jobs. As the number of people looking for jobs rises, both because of the population dividend and because share of agriculture shrinks, these vulnerabilities will become important. Because good jobs are both the pathway to growth as well as the best form of inclusion, India has to think of ways of enabling their creation.
The survey calls for a widening of the tax base, and prioritization of expenditure as key ingredients of a credible medium term fiscal consolidation plan. This along with demand compression and augmented agricultural production should lead to lower inflation, giving the RBI the requisite flexibility to reduce policy rates. Lower interest rates could provide an additional fillip to investment activity for the industry and services sectors, especially if some of the regulatory, bureaucratic, and financial impediments to investment are eased. On financial sector reform, it takes note of the high level of gross NPAs (non-performing assets) of the banking sector which increased from 2.36 percent of the total credit advanced in March 2011 to 3.57 percent of total credit advanced in September 2012. The survey suggests that revival of growth will help contain NPAs, but more attention will have to be paid to whether projects are adequately capitalized up front given the risks. Expenditure on social services also increased considerably in the 12th Plan, with the education sector accounting for the largest share, followed by health. In the 11th Plan period nearly 7 lakh crore rupees has been spent on the 15 major flagshipprogrammes. A number of legislative steps have also been taken to secure the rights of people, like the RTI, MGNREGA, the Forest Rights Act, AND THE Right to Education. However, the survey notes that there are pressing governance issues like programme leakages and funds not reaching the targeted beneficiaries that need to be addressed. Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) with the help of the Unique Identification Number (Aadhaar) can help plug some of these leakages. With the 12thPlan’s focus on ‘environmental sustainability’, India is on the right track. However, the challenge for India is to make the key drivers and enablers of growth-be it infrastructure, the transportation sector, housing, or sustainable agriculture-grow sustainably.                
            Dr. Raghuram G. Rajan, Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance writes in an introduction to the Survey that these are difficult times, but India has navigated such times before, and with good policies it will come through stronger. Slowdown is a wake-up call for increasing the pace of actions and reforms. The way out lies in shifting national spending from consumption to investment, removing the bottlenecks to investment, growth, and job creation, in part through structural reforms, combating inflation both through monetary and supply side measures, reducing the costs for borrowers of raising finances and increasing the opportunities for savers to get strong real investment returns.

Railway Budget 2013: Highlights

Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has announced the Union Railway Budget for 2013-14 in Parliament. Here are the highlights :
 ● No increase in passenger fares 
 ● Railways will absorb Rs. 850 crore on account of no hike in passenger fare
 ● Marginal increase in reservation charges, cancellation charges
 ● Supplementary charges for superfast trains and tatkal booking
 ● 26 new passenger trains to be launched
 ● 67 express trains to be launched 
 ● 9 Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains to be introduced
 ● 500-km new lines to be completed in 2013-14
 ● Concessional fare for sportspersons
 ● 5 per cent average increase in freight 
 ● Diesel price hike added Rs. 3,300 crore to fuel bill of Railways
 ● Railways hopes to end 2013-14 with a balance of Rs. 12,506 crore
 ● 5.2 per cent growth in passenger traffic expected in 2013-14
 ● Railways' freight loading traffic scaled down by 100 million tonnes from 1025 million tonnes because of economic slowdown
 ● Railways to set up a Debt Service Fund
 ● Rs. 3,000 crore loan from Finance Ministry re-paid with interest by Railways this financial year

 ● New coach manufacturing and maintenance facilities to be set up in various places including Rae Bareli, Bhilwara, Sonepat, Kalahandi, Kolar, Palakkad and Pratapgarh
 ● Five fellowships to be announced to motivate students
 ● Centralised training institute to be set up in Secunderabad
 ● Will provide better living conditions for Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel
 ● Seek to fill 1.52 lakh vacancies in railways this year. 47,000 vacancies for weaker sections and physically challenged to be filled up soon
 ● Target of Rs. 4,000 crore for railway production units in 2014 
 ● Trying to connect Manipur through railways
 ● Investment of Rs. 3800 crore for port connectivity projects
 ● Target of Rs. 1000 crore each for Indian Railways Land Development Authority and Indian Railways Station Development authority
 ● Toll free 1800111321 number to address grievance. Introduced from February 2013
 ● Labs to test food provided in trains. ISO certification for all rail kitchens
 ● Advance fraud control will be used for ticket sale
 ● Induction of e-ticketing through mobile phones, SMS alerts to passengers 
 ● Next-generation e-ticketing system to improve end user experience. The system will support 7200 users per minute 
 ● Wheelchairs and escalators to be made to make stations and trains friendlier for the differently-abled.
 ● Rs. 100 crore to be spent to augment facilities at Delhi, New Delhi and Nizamuddin railway stations
 ● Special attention to stations in NCR.
 ● Free wi-fi facilities in select trains. 60 more 'adarsh' stations 
 ● Safety measures including new coaches with anti-climb features to be brought in
 ● More ladies specials in metros and a helpline number to be implemented
 ● Railways meets need of consumers while adhering to sound economic principles. Need to expand at a much faster growth rate
 ● I am committed to improving passenger amenities
 ● Resource crunch cannot be a reason for substandard services 
 ● Elimination of over 10,000 level crossings 
 ● 17 bridges sanctioned for rehabilitation
 ● Enhancement of the track capacity and the Train Protection Warning System (TPWS)
 ● Indigenously developed collision avoidance system to be put to trial
 ● Induction of self-propelled accident relief trains along with fast and reliable disaster management system
 ● Railway passengers deserve safe and comfortable travel. Safety is a mandate in running trains. There has been a significant reduction in accidents - .41 per million kms in 2003-04 to .13 in 2011- 12. We will strive to work towards a zero accident situation.
 ● Our targets need to be higher
 ● Mounting scarcity of resources, thin spread of funds continue to be a problem 
 ● The number of passenger trains has increased from 8000 in 2001 to over 12000 in 2012 - yet losses continue to mount. It is estimated to be Rs. 24,000 cr in 2012-13 
 ● Indian railways must remain financially viable
 ● Indian Railways plays an unparalleled growth in integrating the nation

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Ben Affleck's Iranian hostage drama 'Argo' won the Best Picture Oscar while Ang Lee pulled off a big surprise by taking home the Best Director trophy for 'Life of Pi' at the 85th Academy Awards.

British actor Daniel Day-Lewis, 55, scored a historic third Best Actor Oscar for his turn as the 16th US President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's civil-war set drama 'Lincoln'.

He has become the first actor to win the most number of Best Actor Oscars. His previous Oscars were for 'My Left Foot' in 1989 and 'There Will Be Blood' in 2007.

22-year-old Jennifer Lawrence emerged a winner for 'Silver Linings Playbook' in a tight best actress race by tripping strong contenders like Jessica Chastain, Emmanuelle Riva, Naomi Watts and Quvenzhane Wallis.

'Argo' saw off tough competition from eight other films --including 'Lincoln', 'Life of Pi', 'Amour', 'Django Unchained' and 'Zero Dark Thirty'-- to walk away with the top award.

'Argo' was declared a winner by Jack Nicholson and First Lady Michelle Obama, who tuned in through a videolink, making an unprecedented appearance from White House in a shimmery silver gown.

The film, based on real incidents, narrates the near impossible escape story when CIA pulled out six US diplomats from Iranin 1979 by posing as a fake film crew.

List of Oscar Winners from the 2013 Academy Awards:

1. Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained."

2. Animated Short Film: "Paperman."

3. Animated Feature Film: "Brave."

4. Cinematography: "Life of Pi."

5. Visual Effects: "Life of Pi."

6. Costume: "Anna Karenina."

7. Makeup and Hairstyling: "Les Miserables."

8. Live Action Short Film: "Curfew."

9. Documentary (short subject): "Inocente."

10. Documentary: "Searching For Sugar Man."

11. Foreign Language Film: "Amour."

12. Sound Mixing: "Les Miserables."

13. Sound Editing (TIE): "Skyfall," "Zero Dark Thirty."

14. Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables."

15. Editing: "Argo."

16. Production Design: "Lincoln."

17. Score: "Life of Pi."

18. Song: Adele, "Skyfall."

19. Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio, "Argo."

20. Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, "Django Unchained."

21. Director: Ang Lee, "Life of Pi."

22. Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook."

23. Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln."

24. Picture: "Argo."

Romanian drama 'Child's Pose' wins top prize in Berlin film festival

"Child's Pose", a mother-son drama set among post-communist Romania's new ruling class, won the Golden Bear top prize at the 63rd Berlin film festival.

Director Calin Peter Netzer, a member of Romania's renowned new wave in cinema, tells the story of a wealthy and controlling mother who fights to get her son acquitted after he kills a poor teenager with his car.

The Berlinale, the first major European film festival of the year and typically its most politically minded, handed two top prizes to the Bosnian docu-drama "An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker".
Nazif Mujic, the real-life protagonist of the picture by Oscar-winning director Danis Tanovic about a Roma couple denied life-saving medical treatment, claimed the Silver Bear best actor prize.
The film also won the runner-up jury prize.

Inaugural Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) 2013

The two-day inaugural Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) 2013 which was aimed to revive creativity and art of Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, concluded on 24 February 2013. The LLF 2013 ended with the discussions on literature, celebration of the international and local writers as well as social discourse of past, present and future of the literature. 

Chairperson of the LLF's advisory board declared that the first-ever LLF was meant to reclaim and celebrate essence of Pakistani culture. 

In the event, people got an opportunity to meet, hear and interact with some of the eminent journalists, artists, intellectuals, authors and many more, at both local and global level. Indian authors who took part in the LLF 2013 were Pran Nevile, Urvashi Butalia and Jeet Thayil.

UK Scientists discovered the Deepest Hydrothermal Vents in the World

UK scientists in the third week of January 2013 discovered a set of hydrothermal vents, the deepest anywhere in the world while exploring the ocean floor in the Caribbean islands. Scientists used ROV (Remotely operated vehicle) in the Cayman Trough to make this discovery. They stumbled across a previously-unknown site nearly 5000m below the surface.
In the huge pressure of the sea three miles down, the ROV, which is also known as ISIS, was gently steered around the vents, to take pictures and gather samples.
Hydrothermal vents are among the strangest features of the deep ocean and their existence was hidden until the 1970s. Since then they have been discovered at about 200 sites across the globe which includes the Southern Ocean and the Atlantic.
However it was in 2010 that vents were first detected in the Cayman Trough, a deep trench formed by the boundary between two tectonic plates. One set of vents, known as Beebe, was considered as the deepest on record prior to the recent discovery made in the Ocean floor of Caribbean islands.

Maharaja Jiwaji Rao Scindia Gold Cup 2013

61st Cavalry defeated IPG 9-5 ½ in the M3M Maharaja Jiwaji Rao Scindia Gold Cup 2013 to lift the trophy on 24 February 2013. Major Ravi Rathore scored five goals in the Jaipur Polo Ground, New Delhi, thereby giving a comfortable lead to the Cavalry men. 

Bhawani Kalvi of IPG managed to score four goals, but could not close the gap, thus losing to the 61st Cavalry in the M3M Maharaja Jiwaji Rao Scindia Gold Cup 2013. 

Marina Erakovic Won Her First WTA Title In US National Indoor Tennis Championship 2013

Marina Erakovic won her first Women's Tennis Association title, US National Indoor Tennis Championship 2013 after beating Germany's Sabine Lisicki in Memphis on 23 February 2013. 
The match merely took place for one set with Marina Erakovic winning 6-1 and Sabine Lisicki unable to begin due to illness.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Justice Usha Mehra Commission Submitted its Report to the Union Government of India

Justice Usha Mehra Commission on 22 February 2013 submitted its report to on the 16 December 2012 Delhi gang-rape incident to the Union Government of India. The report was received by the Union Minister of Law and Justice Ashwani Kumar and the Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh.

Major findings of the Usha Mehra Commission

• Lack of Coordination between the Police and the transport department
• Lack of cooperation between the police of National Capital Territory and National Capital Region plays a great role in escape of the criminals from one place to another
• Lack of PCR vans and public transport facility in Delhi

Usha Mehra Commission

The Usha Mehra Commission was constituted by the Union Government on 26 December 2012 to inquire into the different aspects of the brutal rape and assault incident of the girl on 16 December 2012 on the streets of Delhi. The commission was asked to submit the report within three months. Retired Delhi High Court Judge, Usha Mehra was the head of this commission.

Two Blasts in Hyderabad claimed 16 Lives and left 119 Injured

Two bomb blasts took place in Dilsukhnagar, the busy shopping area of Hyderabad, the Capital City of Andhra Pradesh on 21 February 2013. 16 people were reported dead and 119 were critically injured in the serial blasts that rocked the city around 6:50 pm.

Investigations were ordered by both the Central Government and the State Government to find out the group involved in the blast. The State Government of Andhra Pradesh appointed a probe team into the matter.

The blasts were triggered using the Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), which were placed on two different bicycles at a distance of 100 meters from each other near Konark and Venkatadri theatres. The area of blasts lie on the Hyderabad-Vijaywada National Highway within Cyberabad police limits.

World’s First Mercury Treaty adopted by 140 Countries at Geneva

An international treaty that legally binds the nation to limit the use of health hazardous mercury was adopted by 140 nations in the third week of January 2013 at Geneva.

The treaty would be signed in Minamata, Japan, in October 2013 to honour the inhabitants of town who have suffered the consequences of serious mercury contamination for decades

The treaty that was reached after four years of difficult negotiations will aim at

• Reduction of global emission levels of the toxic heavy metal or the quick silver
• Reduce the production and the use of mercury in industrial processes and product production
• To cut mercury pollution from utility plants, mining, a host of products and industrial processes, and set enforceable limits as well as to encourage alternatives where mercury in not used or released

Making of the treaty

Switzerland and Norway pushed forward for making of an international treaty to limit the emission of Mercury in the atmosphere. The two nations came up with the plans of reducing the emission of mercury decades ago and it was finalized after a long conference in Geneva held in February 2013.

Impact of Mercury on Human Being
The natural element Mercury cannot be created or destroyed, but is released in air, water and land from different activities like coal powder plants, gold mining activities as well as electrical goods and other consumer products. Mercury enters the food-chain via fish and poses a threat to the living being more likely to pregnant women and children. As per the data released by the World Health Organisation intake of mercury or any of its compounds to any limit is not safe and it may lead to memory loss, language impairment and kidney damage.

Viswanathan Anand won Grenke Chess Classic Trophy

Viswanathan Anand, the World Champion in Chess from India won the Grenke Chess Classic trophy of 2013 after defeating Arkadij Naiditsch from Germany on 17 February 2013. To secure his win in the Grenke Chess Classic, Anand also defeated Fabiano Caruana from Italy. This was his first title of the year.

The 43 years old Anand, managed to take a 49 move win against Arkadij with his black pieces to claim the title for his all-play-all tournament title in five years. Anand last won a title in March 2008 at Linares, when he topped the field with 8.5 points in the eight player field. In January 2013, Anand finished at third position in the Tata Steel at Wijk aan Zee in although he lost the first round to Wang Hao from China.

Standings of Players Point wise:

1. Viswanathan Anand from India (6.5/10)
2. Fabiano Caruana from Italy (6/10)
3. Michael Adams from England (5/10)
4. Georg Meier from Germany (5/10)
5. Arkadij Naiditsch from Germany (4/10)
6. Daniel Fridman from Germany (3.5/10)

T. S. Vijayan, the Former LIC Chief Took Over as the Chairman of IRDA

T. S. Vijayan, the former LIC chief took over as the Chairman of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) on 21 February 2013. Vijayan will succeed J. Hari Narayan. J. Hari Narayan completed the five-year term on 20 February 2013.

The tenure for IRDA chairman is five years or till 65 years.

T. S. Vijayan will take over as the Chairman of IRDA when the entire industry is facing meltdown. The challenges which will be faced by him include taking the insurance industry to rural areas as well as simplifying the insurance products.

New Drug Policy

The government has notified the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy, 2012 (NPPP-2012) where it has also been proposed to regulate and control the prices of National List of Essential Medicines- 2011.

The salient features of National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy, 2012 (NPPP- 2012) are as under:

• The regulation of prices of drugs is on the basis of essentiality of drugs as under National List of Essential Medicines – 2011.

• The regulation of prices of drugs is on the basis of regulating the prices of formulations only.

• The regulation of prices of drugs is on the basis of fixing the ceiling price of formulations through Market Based Pricing (MBP).

The provisions under National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Policy- 2012 (NPPP- 2012), are to put in place a regulatory framework for pricing of essential drugs as per the strength and dosages as specified in National List of Essential Medicines- 2011 which satisfy the priority healthcare needs to majority of the population.

Ratan Tata Awarded the Life Time Achievement Award 2012 by Ernst & Young

Ratan Tata, the former head of Tata Group was awarded the life time achievement award 2012 by Ernst & Young on 21 February 2013. He was given away the award for displaying great role for the Indian businessmen on global business level.

The entrepreneur of the year (2012) award was given away to Adi Godrej, Godrej Group Chairman. It is important to note that entrepreneur of the year award is an only business award which is based on self-nomination.

Also, Ernst & Young announced names of successful entrepreneurs in various categories and these awards were given away to TT Jagannathan, Chairman, TTK Group; Francisco D’Souza, Chief Executive Officer, Cognizant Technology Solutions; Cyrus S Poonawalla, Managing Director, Serum Institute of India and Onkar S Kanwar, Chairman and Managing Director, Apollo Tyres.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sixth World Cup triumph for Australia

Australia’s attack found its spearhead in Ellyse Perry while off-spinner Lisa Sthalekar deceived them with flight and turn as first time finalist West Indies, chasing 259 for victory, fell short by 114 runs in the final of the ICC Women’s World Cup.
Australia wrapped its hands around the World Cup for the sixth time.
Despite Deandra Dottin’s ruthless smashing of the ball at the Brabourne stadium here West Indies was all out for 145 in 43.1 overs.
Ellyse, who had missed the Super Six due to a leg injury, lopped off the West Indian top order, her figures reading three for 19.
Player-of-the-match: J. Cameron (Aus). Player-of-the-series: S. Bates.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

First India-Japan Maritime Affairs Dialogue was held in New Delhi

The first India-Japan Maritime Affairs Dialogue was held in New Delhi on 29 January 2013. Issues of mutual interest were discussed, inter alia, maritime security including non-traditional threats, cooperation in shipping, marine sciences and technology, marine biodiversity and cooperation at various multilateral forums. 

The Indian delegation was led by DB Venkatesh Varma, Joint Secretary (Disarmament and International Security Affairs), in the Ministry of External Affairs and the Japanese delegation by Mr. Kazuyuki Yamazaki, Deputy Director General (Ambassador), Foreign Policy Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Justice Y Bhaskar Rao sworn in as new Lokayukta of Karnataka

Justice Yarabati Bhaskar Rao was sworn in as the new Lokayukta of Karnataka. Governor HR Bharadwaj administered the oath of office to the anti-corruption ombudsman in Bangalore on February 14. The post of Lokayuktha was lying vacant since September 2011, after Justice Shivaraj Patil, resigned following allegations of false declaration while obtaining a housing site. The 74-year-old former Chief Justice Bhaskar Rao was acting Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court for three months in 1999 and later served as Chief Justice for four months. After retirement, he was appointed Chairman of Andhra Pradesh Human Rights Commission and later became a member of the National Human Rights Commission.

President inaugurates the National Conference on Green Design

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the fourth GRIHA National Conference on Green Design at a function at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi February 14, 2013. 

Speaking on the occasion, the President said that the continuing increase in the Indian population and growth of the Indian economy, along with rapid urbanization has led to an enormous demand for buildings. This in turn is leading to a huge increase in demand for electricity in new and existing buildings. To achieve sustainability, the policy makers at all levels need to address the environmental pressures due to increased demand for resources, and a rapidly changing climate, he said. Several policy and regulatory mechanisms have been devised to address the urban challenges, and are being implemented through national plans and programmes. However, much more needs to be done in this regard, he added. 

The President congratulated The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India on the development and implementation of GRIHA- the indigenous green building rating system of India. He also congratulated the recipients of the GRIHA awards for demonstrating environmental responsiveness, energy efficiency and for making significant efforts to adopt renewable energy integration in their respective buildings and expressed hope that others would emulate and benefit from the examples set through these buildings.

International Conference on Inclusive Urban Planning

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (M/oHUPA), Government of India is organizing a two day International conference on “Inclusive Urban Planning” on 18-19th February 2013 at Vigyan Bhavan. The conference is a part of the series of such events organized every two years, where publication of India Urban Poverty Report is an immediate outcome. 

Seventeenth Convocation of National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences

The 17th Convocation of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences was held in Bangalore on February 14. Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare was the Chief Guest on the occasion. 

Former president Mohamed Nasheed seeks refuge in Indian embassy

Former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, has sought refuge at the Indian High Commission in Male and India has agreed to allow him "spend the night" in the Indian high commission in Male. Outside the building, the police are waiting to give effect to an arrest warrant issued by a court against him.

The stand-off is likely to continue for some more time as the high court has rejected Mr Nasheed's request that the arrest warrant issued by the lower court be stayed. As long as the former president is inside the High Commission, the Maldivian police cannot arrest him as it is Indian Territory.

The court issued the arrest warrant as he did not turn up for his previously scheduled trial hearing at Hulhumale Magistrate Court on February 10 in the case regarding detention of chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in 2012. The former President was on a visit to India after being granted permission to depart the country by the court. Despite the travel period he was allowed expiring on February 9, Mr Nasheed arrived back in Male only on February 11.

Mr Nasheed is charged with abusing his power as president after winning the first free elections in the country in 2008. Mr Nasheed was forced out of power in February last year in what he has described as a coup orchestrated by former ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

World’s first complete bionic man named “Rex”

  • Researchers have built the world’s first complete bionic man named “Rex”.
Rex, which is on display in UK, has the face of a man, prosthetic limbs, a functional artificial blood circulatory system and artificial organs, including a pancreas, kidney, spleen and trachea. At 6.5-feet tall, Rex is valued at a whopping $1 million.
Rex showcases the potential future of prosthetics. As per scientists, in future, people may be able to fix a failing organ without having a transplant and without having to wait for a compatible donor.

Seismologists Declared Life on Earth Was Facing Threat Due to Catastrophic Super-Volcano

Seismologists in the second week of February 2013 declared that life on our planet was facing threat because of the catastrophic super-volcano which would erupt anytime in 200 million years. The seismologists explained that around two heaps of rocks which are like the size of continents, were crashing against each other as they shift under the mantle of the Earth, i.e., 2900 km below Pacific Ocean. 

Seismologists also explained that beginning of any of huge eruptive events could lead to gigantic destruction on the Earth. This mechanism would lead to huge plume eruptions but these would happen somewhere in 100 million to 200 million years time duration. 

The study conducted revealed that the activity created zone of partly molten rock which was that of the size of Florida and this would cause massive eruptions in the times to come.
Hotspot plume super-volcano eruptions during previous 2 million years at Yellowstone caldera of Wyoming led to huge landforms. For example, gigantic flood basalt eruptions created huge provinces such as Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River basalts some 17 to 15 million years ago. 

Since early 1990s, scientists knew about existence of thermochemical piles, which were that of the size of continents, sitting on top of the Earth’s core and below most of the volcanic hotspots of the Earth.

First-ever Original Song Written and Recorded in Space

A Canadian astronaut has teamed up with Barenaked Ladies lead singer Ed Robertson for the first ever original track to be written and recorded in space, 402 km above the Earth aboard the International Space Station.The pair wrote the song together before the collaboration was recorded via satellite at a studio in Toronto.The song, called “ISS ( Is Somebody Singing)” focuses on the experience of a person in space missing his loved ones on the Earth below.

Three Year Old Girl Joins Mensa After Taking IQ Test in Russian

A brainy 3 year old girl Clever Alice Amos has been unveiled as the youngest new member of Mensa with a higher IQ than Stephen Hawking.Amos has been granted full membership of the brain box society after scoring an incredible 162 on an IQ test – she took in Russian.Her IQ of 162 ranks her higher than a list of the world’s greatest luminaries – dead and living.Former US presidents Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin and Bill Clinton could only muster 128, 160 and 137 respectively.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wadhwa Committee

The Supreme Court of India has appointed the Wadhwa Committee to look into the maladies affecting the proper functioning of the public distribution system (PDS) in India. The committee has ruled that the whole system of procurement and distribution of food grains is built on corruption and its benefits to the poor are low. The Committee has recommended least human intervention and end-to-end automation and computerization of the complete PDS chain.

Kalyan Kumar Chakravarty Appointed As the Chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi

The President of India has appointed Shri Kalyan Kumar Chakravarty, as Chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi. Kalyan Kumar Chakravarty is a 1970 batch Indian Administrative Service Officer and retired in the rank of Secretary to Government of India. In addition to holding posts at district and national level, in developmental and cultural administration in the Govt. of Madhya Pradesh, he held several assignments with an academic content viz. Director, Education, Archaeology and Museums, Government of Madhya Pradesh, Commissioner of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Madhya Pradesh, Special Secretary, Culture, Government of Madhya Pradesh, Director, Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya at Bhopal, Principal Secretary/Additional Chief Secretary for Culture, Education, Environment, Forest and Tourism, Government of Chhattisgarh, Member-Secretary, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Director General, National Museum, New Delhi and Vice Chancellor, National Museum Institute.  Chakravarty will hold office till the end of the calendar year in which he completes 70 years of age i.e. upto 31.12.2017. 

Lalit Kala Akademi
Lalit Kala Akademi or the National Academy of Fine Art is fine art institution of Government of India with an objective to promote, develop as well as spread the culture of Indian fine art. It receives funds from Ministry of Culture.

Priority Sector Lending (PSL) to Minorities Crossed 15 Percent Mark in 2012-2013

Priority Sector Lending (PSL) to Minorities increased considerably from 10.60 percent of total PSL in 2007-2008 to 15.01 percent in 2012-2013. Priority Sector Lending (PSL) to minorities belongs to one of the schemes which are covered under the Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme for Welfare of Minorities.

An increase was observed because of lending of 171960.71crore Rupees as on September 2012 to the minorities. Self-employment initiatives were created and sustained because of bank credit. The increase was observed because of sustained efforts of government of India.

In order to increase credit flow to the minorities, various steps were undertaken by the Government. These included:

•Reserve Bank of India issued directions on Priority Sector Lending in order to improve credit facilities to the minorities.
•From 2007-2008 to 2011-2012, 5954 branches of bank were opened in those areas where there was substantial minority population.
•Regular monitoring of Public Sector Banks was done for checking disposal of loan applications for the minorities.
•14244 awareness campaigns were organised by Public Sector Banks in 15466 towns and blocks which covered minority population.

Priority Sector Lending (PSL) to Minorities in the absolute terms increased from 58662.67 crore Rupees in 2007-2008 to 171960.71crore Rupees as of September 2012.

Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme for Welfare of Minorities

The President on 25 February 2005 announced that Government of India would recast the 15 Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities for including certain programme specific interventions.

The objectives of this programme were as follows:
•Enhancing opportunities for education.
•Ensuring an equitable share for minorities in economic activities and employment, through existing and new schemes, enhanced credit support for self-employment, and recruitment to State and Central Government jobs.
•Improving the conditions of living of minorities by ensuring an appropriate share for them in infrastructure development schemes.
•Prevention and control of communal disharmony and violence.

MCX-SX, the Third National Stock Exchange Made its Debut in India

MCX-SX, the third bourse on the equities and equity derivatives trading block debuted on 11 February 2013. It is the third national stock exchange of India after Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange. MCX-SX started its trading in shared of 1116 listed companies against 1665 companies in National Stock Exchange and 5191 companies in Bombay Stock Exchange.

MCX-SX Index:

MCX-SX Index is called SX40. This is like Sensex of BSE and Nifty of NSE. SX40 is formulated for measuring the economic performance through polished presentation of different industries as well as sectors based on ICB, which is a leading international classification from FTSE-100 of Britain.

SX40 Constituents:

SX40 constituents are as follows:
•Ambuja Cements
•Asian Paints
•Bajaj Auto
•Bharti Airtel
•Cairn India
•Coal India
•Dr Reddy's
•Gail (India)
•HCL Tech
•HDFC Bank
•Hero MotoCorp
•JP Associates
•Maruti Suzuki
•Power Grid Corp
•Sun Pharma
•Tata Motors
•Tata Power
•Tata Steel
•Titan Industries
•United Spirits
•Zee Entertainment

What is SX40:

•SX40 is the free-float based index, which means that the shares are available at any time for trading. It is an index of 40 large-cap as well as liquid stocks.
•SX40 includes those companies which have minimum free float of 10 per cent. These companies are included within top 100 liquid companies.
•In terms of international indexes, Britain's FTSE includes 25 percent free float criteria and US S&P 500 includes 50 percent free float criteria.
MCX-SX’s competition:
•The direct competition of MCX-SX is with NSE and BSE.

India and Japan held talks to Strengthen Cooperation in Tourism Sector

India and Japan on 12 February 2013 decided to strengthen cooperation in tourism sector and explore the new areas and opportunities in the sector by working together in different fields like the field of human resource development, investment in the tourism sector, exchange of tour operators and exchange of information related to tourism.

The decision was made during a meet of the Japanese Senior Vice-Minister of Tourism, Hiroshi Kajiyama with the Union Tourism Minister K Chiranjeevi in India. The two also discussed issues related to singing of an agreement/MoU.

India and Japan had been an important tourism market for each other in the recent past and Japan accounts to be among the top ten inbound tourist generating market for India.

Japanese tourists in India in past few years:
No. of tourists                
Japanese Tourists in India are interested in visiting to places connected to Buddhism in India. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) had extended a loan of 7331 million Japanese Yen that is equivalent to 299 crore rupees for development of the Ajanta Ellora Conservation and Development Program – Phase II. The Ministry of Tourism is going to hold road shows in Tokya and Osaka on 18 February 2013 and 20 February 2013, respectively.

New norms for Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana approved by the Cabinet

PMGSY was launched in the year 2000 and has the objective of providing all-weather connectivity to all unconnected habitations with population of 500 persons and above 250 persons and above in hilly states, desert areas (as identified under DDP), Tribal Schedule-V areas and 82 selected tribal and backward districts as identified under Integrated Action Plan in rural areas of the country. The Union Cabinet has given its approval to for the upgradation of the scheme. The new norms include:

A. Revision of the Core Network by including:

I. 2,687 left-out unconnected habitations (as per the 2001 census) in Tribal (Schedule-V) areas (other than 82 Integrated Action Plan (lAP) districts already included) and blocks adjoining the international border under the Border Area Development Programme (BADP). It was also approved to provide new connectivity to these habitations and allowing  upgradation of certain roads measuring about 2,000 km in these areas at an estimated cost of Rs.1,000 crore (at 2012-13 prices), based on a road condition survey which will determine an upgradation priority list;
II. 1,410 left out unconnected habitations with population of 250 persons and above (as per the 2001 census) in the 10 Hill States and desert areas (as identified under the Desert Development Programme (DDP)) to provide new connectivity to these habitations;
III. 9,112 left out unconnected habitations with population of 500 persons and above (as per the 2001 census) in plain areas to provide new connectivity to these habitations, at an estimated cost of Rs.13,850 crore (at 2012-13 prices).

B. Extension of the cluster approach from international border blocks to international border districts of the State of Arunachal Pradesh,  by clubbing the  population within a path distance of 10 km, and treating as a cluster for eligibility and to provide new connectivity to 126 habitations at an estimated cost of Rs.1,200 crore (at 2012-13 prices)

C. 'In principle' approval for covering unconnected habitations with population of 100 persons and above (as per the 2001 census) in the Left Wing Extremists affected blocks (identified in consultations with the Ministry of Home Affairs) with a limited provision to complete missing links, to form closed loops from through routes of the core network at an estimated cost of Rs. 8,000 crore (at 2012-13 prices).

The net number of total eligible unconnected habitations are 1,64,849. This is likely to increase to 1,78,184 habitations on account of this relaxation.
Grameen Sadak Yojana enhances movement between villages and towns. Thus increases the pace of rural development as follows:

• New business opportunities will emerge due to better transport.
• Transportation cost of agricultural goods will get reduce.
• This will increase connectivity to schools and hospitals.
• This will provide employment to poor and unemployed people.
• This will increase penetration of government assistance in inaccessible areas too.
• This will enhance the better implementation of government schemes.

Farmers now find it easier to take their produce to market in time, school enrollment is on the rise, and families' access to health care has improved. The Rural Roads Project has also brought about a paradigm shift in the way rural roads are mapped, designed, monitored, and built.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Afzal Guru’s Secret Hanging Was Called Operation Three Star

Operation Three Star: Code name given to secret plan for executing Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist Afzal Guru in Tihar Jail on 9 February 2013. 

Operation Three Star started on 4 February 2013, just a day after the President of India Pranab Mukherjee rejected mercy plea of Afzal Guru. A few top officials of Home Ministry were aware about secret Operation Three Star.
Afzal Guru was hanged on 9 February 2013 at 8 AM in Tihar Jail, New Delhi. Afzal Guru was guilty of conspiring as well as providing shelter to terrorists who attacked Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001. 

Hanging of Mumbai terror attack militant Ajmal Kasab was called Operation X. he was hanged at Yerwada Central Jail on 21 November 2012.

Pakistan Successfully Test Fired Short Range Surface-To-Surface Missile Hatf IX (NASR)

Pakistan on 11 February 2013 successfully test fired short range surface-to-surface missile Hatf IX (NASR). The test fire took place with consecutive launches of two missiles from multi-tube launcher. NASR has 60 km range with the capability of in-flight manoeuvring. It also has the capability of carrying nuclear warheads having apt yields, with higher efficiency.
Important facts 

•NASR is designed specifically to defeat Anti-Tactical Missile Defence Systems of all kinds. 
•The test firing of short range surface-to-surface missile Hatf IX (NASR) was a part of medium-range ballistic missiles [MRBM] and short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile [SRBMs] exercise which will be completed in three cycles by July 2013. 
•The missile has the capability to carry nuclear weapons.

Second Meeting of Joint Committee Of Business Development Cooperation Between India And Colombia

The Second Meeting of Joint Committee of Business Development Cooperation between India and Colombia was held on 11th February, 2013 in New Delhi. Mr. Carlos Andres de Hart Pinto, Vice Minister of Entrepreneurial Development, Colombia and Commerce Secretary Shri S R Rao, Govt. Of India met to discuss issues of concern of both sides. 

A lot of emphasis was made on improving bilateral trade and investment between the two countries. Specific sectors such as Mines and Minerals, textiles, engineering, automobile, pharmaceuticals and Biotech, transport sector, infrastructure development, strengthening human capital, cluster development of certain sectors, knowledge transfer, services trade (IT, software engineers, BPOs) have been identified for enhancing collaboration and co-operation . 

It was decided to constitute Joint Working Group (JWG) in five sectors viz pharma/biotech, IT, FMCG, Auto, engineering & transport, textiles to formalize the structure and follow up enhancement in value chains in these sectors. Both sides decided to consider flexibility in Visa issues. Cooperation in tourism sector was also explored. 

It has been decided to set up a CEO forum for discussion on various issues at the level of B2B which will be co-chaired by business stalwarts from both sides. 

South Asian Autism Network Conference

A daylong Conference of South Asian Autism Network (SAAN) is being held on February 11.
Representatives from India, Bangladesh, Thailand and WHO, SEARO are participating in the daylong conference. Wishing the Conference all success, the Union Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment Kumari Selja in her speech said “I am really happy to participate in this august regional conference which is focussing its attention on improving the situation of persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I welcome all the international and national delegates to this conference. 

Autism is a complex condition and individuals with autism have a completely different social understanding of the world from those who are non-autistic. The challenges in processing information and in social communication make it hard for most them to express themselves and advocate for their rights. This is why parents, activist parent groups and NPOs have taken the lead in advocating for their children and bringing about these changes we now see. 

Commissioning of Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Rajratan’

Indian Coast Guard Ship `Rajratan, the fifth of a series of eight Inshore Patrol Vessels (IPVs) was commissioned by Director General Indian Coast Guard, Vice Admiral MP Muralidharan in Kolkata.
In his address during the commissioning ceremony, Vice Admiral Muralidharan dwelt upon the criticality of capacity building towards tackling emergent maritime challenges. He reiterated the need for continuous vigil along the nation’s maritime frontiers to preserve and protect our maritime interests. He further stated that several far-reaching initiatives towards augmentation of manpower and force levels were underway, that would provide the requisite fillip to the Coast Guard’s capabilities. 

Indigenously built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Kolkata, the 50m long IPV displaces 300 tonnes and can achieve a maximum speed of 34 knots, with an endurance of 1500 nautical miles at an economical speed of 16 knots. Equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry and advanced communication and navigational equipment, it makes an ideal platform for undertaking multifarious close-coast missions such as surveillance, interdiction, Search and Rescue, and medical evacuation. The special features of the ship include an Integrated Bridge Management System (IBMS), Integrated Machinery Control System (IMCS) and an integrated gun mount with indigenous Fire Control system (FCS). The ship is commanded by Commandant (JG) CS Joshi, and has a complement of five Officers and 30 Other Ranks. Post commissioning, ICGS Rajratan would be based at Porbandar under the administrative and operational control of the Commander, Coast Guard Region (North West). 

Commander, Coast Guard Region (North-East) Inspector General KC Pandey and other senior dignitaries of the Central and State Govt. were also present in the commissioning ceremony. 

North Korea carries out nuclear test

North Korea has sparked alarm around the world by testing a nuclear bomb. It has staged its most powerful nuclear test yet, claiming a breakthrough with a "miniaturised" device in a striking act of defiance to global powers including its sole patron China. Its claim of miniaturisation suggests that it is a step closer to fitting a nuclear warhead onto a ballistic missile.

North Korea stated that the nuclear test was conducted as part of measures to protect national security and sovereignty against the reckless hostility of the United States that violated republic's right for a peaceful satellite launch.

The first priority for the international community will be determining the precise nature and yield of any test and what it reveals about the technical level of the North's nuclear weapons programme. For nuclear experts, the key question will be whether North Korea used up more of its scarce reserves of plutonium for the suspected third test, or used uranium in a new and self-sustaining path to atomic detonations

A uranium test would confirm suspicions that the North has been secretly enriching weapons-grade uranium for years and open a path for Pyongyang to significantly expand its small nuclear arsenal.

Some experts had suggested a simultaneous test of both plutonium and a uranium device.

Even with sophisticated seismic monitoring and "sniffer" planes capable of detecting radioactive fallout, external analysis will provide only limited information on the test, especially if it was well-contained.

North Korea's two previous tests in 2006 and 2009 which triggered waves of UN sanctions.

Protocol for Amending DTAA signed between India and Sweden

India and Sweden have signed protocol amending the avoidance of double taxation pact.

The convention and protocol between India and Sweden for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income and on capital (DTAC) was first signed on June 24, 1997.  In April 2011, both India and Sweden concluded a protocol to amend the Article 27 of the DTAC concerning exchange of Information to bring it in line with the international standards and to add an article in the protocol to the DTAC to include tax examination abroad. 

The protocol was signed by Indian Ambassador to Sweden Banashri Bose Harrison and Anders Borg, Ministry of Finance, Sweden.

The protocol will replace the article concerning exchange of information in the existing DTAC between India and Sweden and will allow exchange of banking information as well as information without domestic interest. It will, now, allow use of information for non-tax purpose if allowed under the domestic laws of both the countries, after the approval of the supplying state.

The article added in the protocol to the DTAC will enable both the countries to assist in conducting tax examination abroad by allowing officials of one country to enter the territory of other country for this purpose.

Ministry of Steel Initiative to Strengthen Cooperation in Steel & Mining with Brazil

The Ministry of Steel recently led a delegation to Brazil to strengthen cooperation between the two nations in steel & mining. During the visit, a Letter of Intent (LoI) was signed by the Secretary, Ministry of Steel on behalf of Government of India and by the Executive Secretary (Mines & Energy) on behalf of the Government of Brazil.

The LoI inter-alia aims to promote and expand bilateral relations between the two countries in the mineral sector with focus on strengthening the supply chain for the growth of the steel industry in both the countries.  The Letter of Intent aims to encourage investment opportunities in iron & steel related businesses by the Indian and the Brazilian companies in India and Brazil, facilitate exchange of technical know-how in developing the iron and steel production and other steel related raw materials, including pelletisation plants and other associated industries. Both the Governments would jointly work for developing the steel industry and to exchange technically qualified manpower for sustainable growth of the iron & steel industry.

The possibility of signing a Memorandum of Understanding during the forthcoming visit of the President of Brazil to India is also being explored. Both India and Brazil have been showing robust growth in the consumption of steel and are globally viewed as the two large emerging markets after China in terms of their growth potential.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Indo-French satellite set for launch

Indo-French space cooperation is all set to soar to new heights with the scheduled launch of a satellite to study changes in the environment soon after the visit of French President Francois Hollande.

The SARAL-Altika satellite, a joint project of the space agencies of India and France, will complement the observations of the seas made by current satellites.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has identified a launch window between February 22 and February 25 for putting the 450 kg Indo-French satellite into orbit from its spaceport at Sriharikota, official sources said here.

India's warhorse rocket, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will put the satellite into orbit.

SARAL is short for Satellite with ARgos and ALtiKa, the two main devices on it which have been provided by French space agency CNES. Besides building the spacecraft, ISRO will launch and operate it through its life.

SARAL would be one of the very few ocean-centric satellites and a vital cog in studying sea surface heights and other aspects.

Earlier, the launch was scheduled for December last year but it had to be put off to complete a few tests and validations.

AltiKa is an Ka-band altimeter system, dedicated to accurate measurement of the rise in the sea levels.

The satellite would be useful in studying the sea state, light rainfall climatalogy, mean sea level and coastal altimetry.

The satellite would help ocean scientists gather accurate data on the rise in the sea level which could threaten the low lying and coastal areas of the country. 

NASA to launch world's largest solar sail in 2014

NASA has announced plans to launch the world's largest solar sail in 2014 - and it will be travelling an incredible two million miles from Earth.

The giant solar sail will use photons from the Sun for propulsion, paving the way for various exploration missions that could be accomplished only through the use of "propellant-less propulsion" technology.

Dubbed Sunjammer, the giant solar sail measures about 124 feet on a side and boasts a total surface area of nearly 13,000 square feet.

Led by industry manufacturer L'Garde Inc of Tustin, California, the Solar Sail Demonstration mission builds on two successful ground-deployment experiments led by L'Garde in 2005-2006, NASA said.

It also leverages the successful deployment of the NanoSail-D sail, a 100-square-foot test article NASA launched to Earth orbit in early 2011 to validate sail deployment techniques.

Sunjammer is potentially applicable to an advanced space weather warning system, which could provide more timely and accurate notice of solar flare activity.

During its own test flight, the new Solar Sail Demonstration mission - dubbed "Sunjammer" by its designers in honour of the 1964 Arthur C Clarke story of the same name, in which he coined the term "solar sailing" - will deploy and operate a sail approximately 124 feet on a side.

That's almost 13,000 square feet, or a third of an acre - seven times larger than any solar sail tested in space to date. But when collapsed, it's the size of a dishwasher and weighs just 70 pounds.

Attached to a 175-pound disposable support module, the Sunjammer is easily packed into a secondary payload on a rocket bound for low-Earth orbit.

The sail will unfurl in space to catch the sunlight. During the flight experiment, researchers will test attitude controls and assess sail stability and their ability to trim.

They also will execute a navigation sequence with mission-capable accuracy.