Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spices export of India increased 41 percent during April to December 2013

The value of export of spices of India during April to December 2013 (of current fiscal year 2013-14) in terms of rupee registered an increase of 41 percent. This was revealed by the figures released by the Spices Board of India at Kochi.

The export of the value added spice products also registered a growth of 46 percent till 31 December 2013. Pepper and Cardamom were the leading contributors in the spices export with Pepper with 1846 crore rupees.

Overall, the total export between April 2013 and December 2013 of spices and spice products was 571680 tonnes, which generated 9433 crore rupees. Earlier during April to December 2012, the total exports were of 449926 tonnes valued 6696 crore rupees. This was a hike of 27 percent both in terms of volume and value of dollars. 

This increase of exports has achieved 92 percent of the set target in terms of volume and 91 percent in terms of value for the fiscal year 2013-14. 

Spices Board of India

Spices Board is a part of Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry. It is the flagship organization for the development and worldwide promotion of Indian spices. The Board is an international link between the Indian exporters and the importers abroad. The Board performs activities for excellence of Indian spices, involving every segment of the industry. 

Chairman, Spices Board India
 – A Jayathilak  

7 million died in 2012 due to Air pollution: WHO

Estimates released by WHO on 25 March 2014 reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died (1 in 8 persons) as a result of air pollution exposure. In its suggestion it says that reduction of air pollution could save millions of lives.

This finding of WHO has confirmed that in the present world, air pollution is the world’s largest single environmental health risk. This data had revealed a link between that the exposure between the indoor and outdoor air pollution and cardiovascular diseases (strokes and ischaemic heart disease). It also has linked air pollution with the cancer. The report has also linked air pollution with development of respiratory diseases like acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. 

Highlights of the findings of the estimate regionally
Low and middle income countries in the WHO South-East Asia and Western Pacific Regions had the largest air pollution-related burden in 2012. The estimates say that indoor air pollution resulted in deaths of total 3.3 million and the outdoor air pollution resulted in 2.6 million deaths.  

Specific disease that causes deaths mainly due to cardiovascular diseases in two cases outdoor air-pollution and indoor pollution. 

Outdoor air pollution-caused deaths – breakdown by disease:
• 40% – ischaemic heart disease
• 40% – stroke
• 11% – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
• 6% - lung cancer
• 3% – acute lower respiratory infections in children

Indoor air pollution-caused deaths – breakdown by disease:
• 34% - stroke
• 26% - ischaemic heart disease
• 22% - COPD
• 12% - acute lower respiratory infections in children
• 6% - lung cancer

These estimates are based on the 

• Latest WHO mortality data from 2012 
• Evidence of health risks from air pollution exposures
Estimated of the exposure to outdoor air pollution of people in different part of the world was formulated through a new global data mapping that included satellite data, ground-level monitoring measurements and data on pollution emissions from key sources as well as modeling of how pollution drifts in the air.

Nepal to host 18th SAARC Summit

Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala officially proposed to hold the 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu on 14th November. The date is subject to approval by SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) member states that include India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

This is the third time the country is hosting the event since the establishment of eight-member regional grouping in 1985. Nepal had last hosted the 11th SAARC Summit in January 2002 and 3rd Summit in November 1987.

The 17th SAARC summit was held in Maldives in 2011.

Turkey blocks You Tube

After blocking Twitter Turkey has blocked access to YouTube, the video-sharing website. The move came after a leaked audio recording was uploaded on the site apparently exposing senior government officials discussing military options in Syria.

Turkish government has informed mobile phone operators and internet service providers of its decision. Erdogan denounced the leaking of the report as villainous and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called it a declaration of war. Access to the site is now reportedly blocked, although internet users are finding methods to circumvent the ban.

Turkey blocked Twitter recently but a court has overturned that move. Prime Minister Erdogan has pointed out that similar incidents on social media in the last few weeks are a plot by the US based Islamic cleric Fehtullah Gulen and his supporters to unseat him ahead of March 30 elections.

Astronomers discovered first-ever miniature planet with two rings

Astronomers in fourth week of March 2014 discovered a miniature planet named Charkilo with two rings of ice and pebbles between Saturn and Uranus in the Kuiper Belt. This is the first ever discovery of a celestial body with rings like giant planets Saturn and Jupiter. Rings of the discovered celestial body are not more than few hundred meters thick and are only three and seven kilometer wide.  The centers of the two rings are 14 kilometer and the gap between them is 9 Kilometer.
The smaller celestial body was discovered by a team of researchers from Niels Bohr Institute. It is two billion kilometers out in the solar system and has been named as Chariklo.
The rings of Chariklo were discovered for the first time with the help of a new camera being used on the Danish telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. Although this miniature planet was known for many years but the rings were never observed. This camera has been developed at the Neils Bohr Institute. 
The planet, Charkilo is located in the Kupier Belt but at some point it is thrown out of this belt at the time of discovery it was was placed between Saturn and Uranus, in a collection of small objects called Centaur. Charkilo is the largest of all these objects with a diameter of 250 kilometer.

Sunil Gavaskar appointed as Interim President of BCCI

Sunil Gavaskar was appointed as the interim president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) by the Supreme Court on 28 March 2014. He was appointed as acting president of BCCI to discharge the functions of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014.
Sunil Gavaskar replaced the present BCCI chief N Srinivasan. The Supreme Court also directed administrative responsibilities of the BCCI board to the BCCI vice-president Shivlal Yadav, former off-spinner of Indian cricket team.
Former BCCI chief N Srinivasan was removed by the Supreme Court on the ground that his position as the Chairman of BCCI may interfere with the investigations going into the alleged involvement of his sons-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan. Gurunath Meiyappan was found to be involved in betting by the Mudgal Committee report on IPL spot fixing during IPL-6 held in 2013.

Jens Stoltenberg appointed as Secretary General of NATO

Jens Stoltenberg was appointed as the Secretary General of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This was announced by the North Atlantic Council on 28th March. Stoltenberg will take charges of Secretary General of NATO on 1 October 2014. He will replace the incumbent Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former Prime Minister of Denmark.

Jens was born in Oslo, Norway in 1959 and did his Masters in Economics from Oslo University. Jens Stoltenberg was appointed as Prime Minister of Norway in 2000. At present, he is a UN Special Envoy on Climate Change. He is involved in international assignments which included chairing the United Nations High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence and the High-level Advisory Group.

World Health Organization certified India as Polio Free country

The World Health Organization (WHO)certified India as a Polio Free country on 27th March. This action of WHO made India one of the 11 countries of South-East Region to be free from polio virus. 

The official certificate was received by Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Union Health Minister in New Delhi. 

The polio was eradicated from the country with the help of technological innovations like indigenous bivalent polio vaccines, close monitoring of polio programme and adequate domestic financial resources.
  • India’s victory over polio disease paved the way for polio-free certification for the South East Asia region of the WHO.
  • The achievement has also made the South-East Asian Region, fourth WHO Region for being certified as polio-free.
  • This certification was given by an independent commission under the WHO certification process.
  • This region is a home for about a quarter of world’s population.
  • The WHO South East Asia Region has 11 Member States namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

Jammu and Kashmir became first state to show No Smoking Area in elections booths

Jammu and Kashmir became the first state in the country to declare all election booths as No Smoking Areas in Lok Sabha elections 2014.Chief Electoral Officer of Jammu and Kashmir, Umang Narula issued a circular on 25th March 2014 to all returning officers and district election officers of the state.

The direction was issued in the backdrop of a request made by the J&K Voluntary Health Association. The Association made the request on the basis of Section-4 of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003. The Section-4 of the Act prohibits smoking at all public places.

Supreme Court says no to lowering age of juvenile

The Supreme Court on 28th March, refused to lower the age of a juvenile from 18, saying the legislature has fixed the age, which is constitutionally permissible. 

A three-judge Bench, headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, rejected two petitions, filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and parents of the December 16 gang-rape victim, challenging the constitutional validity of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bank of India launched Instant Money Transfer Scheme

Bank of India (BoI) on 24 March 2014 launched Instant Money Transfer (IMT) scheme in Mumbai. IMT scheme allows customers to withdraw cash without using either debt card or credit card at BoI's IMT-enabled ATMs. This is the first-of-its-kind initiative launched by a public sector bank.
Characteristic Features of IMT Scheme
• IMT is an innovative domestic money remittance facility. 
• It allows the customer to send money to a receiver only by using the receiver’s mobile number through the bank’s ATM and retail internet banking facility. 
• The receiver can withdraw money from a Bank of India’s ATM without using a card.
• The monthly withdrawal limit prescribed for IMT transaction is 25000 rupees for receiver, and per transaction limit of 10000 rupees.
• IMT is valid for 14 days only from the date of issue. After 14 days the transaction expires and the sender is credited back with the IMT amount. 
• IMT can also be cancelled by the sender before its expiry and withdrawal.
Process of Transaction under IMT Scheme
• The sender initiates IMT by providing receiver’s mobile number, four digits sender code, the IMT amount and authorises the transaction from either bank’s ATM or bank’s internet banking.
• The sender provides receiver’s name, address and mobile number to the bank either on SMS or Internet banking. 
• The receiver receives the notification of IMT on his mobile phone, along with a four-digit SMS Pin.
• The sender separately communicates the four-digit sender code to the receiver.
• The receiver, after getting these two pieces of information - one from the sender and the other on SMS, walks into the bank’s nearest IMT-enabled ATM and withdraws cash by punching in the mobile number, sender code, and SMS Pin.
The IMT scheme was launched following the RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan’s announcement made in February 2014 that RBI is currently working on a new system that will allow users to withdraw cash from ATMs even if the recipient doesn’t have a bank account. Through this service, RBI was looking to cater to the unbanked population in urban and rural areas.
Earlier in September 2010, Axis Bank launched a similar mobile-based bank-agnostic domestic remittances service for its India customers. Axis Bank had partnered with Empays Payment Systems to launch the service.
Chairman and Managing Director of Bank of India is V. R. Iyer.

Govind Mishra selected for Saraswati Samman 2013

Govind Mishra, the renowned Hindi author will receive Sarawasti Samman for the year 2013 for his book ‘Dhool Paudho Par’ published in 2008. This honor will make Mishra the second Hindi author to receive the honor after Harivansh Rai Bachchan.
In 1991, Harivansh Rai Bachchan became the first Hindi author to receive this honor. 

First novel of Mishra was ‘Wo Apna Chehra’ published in 1969. Lal Peeli Zameen published in 1976 is MIshra's much talked novel. Earlier on 2 August 2013 the Saraswati Samman 2012 was given to Sugathakumari, the Malayalam poetess for ‘Manalezhuthu ‘ (the Writings on the Sand), a collection of poems in Malayalam. 

Saraswati Samman is an annual award and is given in recognition of outstanding prose or poetry literary works in Indian languages that are listed in Schedule VII of the constitution of India. This Samman is given for the literary works of last 10 years. The award was established in 1991 by K. K. Birla Foundation and carries a prize amount of 10 lakh rupees along with a certificate. 

Malala and Mishab-ul-Haq conferred with Pakistan Civil Awards on Pakistan Day

Malala Yousafzai and Misbah-ul-Haq along with 103 others were conferred with the Pakistan’s Civil Awards during a ceremony to observe the Pakistan Day on 23 March 2014. The awards were given at a ceremony held in Aiwan-e-Sadr in recognition of the services rendered by them to the nation. 

The list of 105 Civil Awards was approved by Mamnoon Hussain, the President of Pakistan on 14 August 2013 and 10 others were approved as special cases. The President also conferred the National Civil Awards on 39 individuals of which five are foreigners. 

Malala, the teenage rights activist along with the slain Pakistani student Airezaz Hassan was awarded with the Sitara-i-Shuja'at for gallantry. Malala would be conferred the award in London by the Pakistan mission. Misbah-ul-Haq, the national cricket captain of Pakistan for his services to sports was recognised with the President’s Award for Pride of Performance. Wali Khan Babar, the television reporter, who was shot dead in 2011, was awarded posthumously with the Pride of Performance Award. 

Young television reporter Wali Khan Babar, who was shot dead in 2011, will be posthumously awarded the Pride of Performance award.

20 recipients of the National Awards (Civil) were decorated on behalf of the President by the Governor Punjab at the Governor's House in Lahore. Other 12 awards were given by the Governor Sindh, the Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa awarded to nine recipients, and five nominated people received the award from the Governor Balochistan in Quetta.

President Mukherjee confers gallantry and distinguished service awards

President Pranab Mukherjee conferred 14 'Shaurya Chakras' to armed forces personnel for displaying conspicuous gallantry, indomitable courage and extreme devotion to duty at a solemn ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here on 22nd March.

Out of 14, three 'Shaurya Chakras' were awarded posthumously. The atmosphere in Darbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan was poignant and filled with emotions when the President posthumously awarded the ' Shaurya Chakras' to the wives of these three defence personnel. 

President Mukherjee, who is the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces, also conferred 18 'Param Vishisht Seva' medals, two 'Uttam Yudh Seva medals, two Bar to Ati Vishisht Seva medal and 17 'Ati Vishisht Seva Medals' to senior officers of the armed forces for distinguished service of an exceptional order. 

The following is the list of awardees in order of presentation: 

Param Vishisht Seva Medal: 
  1. IC-27972X Lieutenant General Gyan Bhushan,
  2. UYSM, AVSM, VSM, Infantry/Headquarters South Western Command
  3. Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chopra, AVSM (01627-Y)
  4. Air Marshal Jagdish Chandra, AVSM, VSM (14613)
  5. Aeronautical Engineering (Electronics)
  6. Air Marshal Rajinder Singh, AVSM, VM (13980) Flying (Pilot)
  7. Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman, AVSM, VM, VSM (13606)
  8. Flying (Pilot) (Retired)
  9. Air Marshal Satish Pal Singh, AVSM, VM (13770) Flying (Pilot) (Retired)
  10. IC-27782L Lieutenant General Panemangalore Gopalakrishna Kamath, AVSM, YSM, SM, Infantry / Army War College
  11. IC-27979F Lieutenant General Jatinder Singh Bajwa, UYSM, SM, Infantry
  12. IC-27990A Lieutenant General Munish Sibal, AVSM and Bar, Infantry
  13. IC-30353P Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM and Bar, Infantry
  14. MR-03471Y Lieutenant General Gautam Ravindranath, SM, VSM, Army Medical Corps
  15. IC-30118W Lieutenant General Anjan Mukherjee,
  16. Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Regiment of Artillery
  17. IC-30085W Lieutenant General Jag Darshan Singh Rawat, SM, Intelligence Corps / Military Intelligence Training School and Depot
  18. IC-27290M Lieutenant General Ramesh Halgali, AVSM, SM, Infantry (Retired)
  19. IC-27701A Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Sidhu, AVSM,VSM, Armoured Corps (Retired)
  20. IC-27767W Lieutenant General Pradeep Bhalla, AVSM, VSM, Army Ordnance Corps (Retired)
  21. IC-30068W Lieutenant General Surendra Pratap Tanwar, AVSM, Regiment of Artillery (Retired)
  22. Vice Admiral Kannan Bhagavatheswaran, AVSM, VSM (50431-R) (Retired)
Uttam Yuddh Seva Medal: 
  1. IC-30351K Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh, AVSM,VSM, Infantry/Headquarters Eastern Command
  2. IC-36269L Lieutenant General Anil Singh Nandal, AVSM, SM, Infantry/Headquarters 16th Corps
  3. Bar To Ati Vishisht Seva Medal
  4. IC-31324M Lieutenant General Kotheneth Surendranath, AVSM, SM, VSM, Armoured Corps / Headquarters 33rd Corps
  5. Vice Admiral Muttathil Puthanveetil Muralidharan, AVSM, NM (01587-F) (Retired)
Ati Vishisht Seva Medal: 
  1. DR-10295P Lieutenant General Swaminathan Murali Mohan, Army Dental Corps
  2. IC-31007L Lieutenant General Anil Malik, Armoured Corps / Armoured Corps Centre And School.
  3. IC-31917Y Lieutenant General Surinder Mohan Mehta, SM, VSM and Bar, Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers/ Military College of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Secunderabad
  4. IC-27969X Lieutenant General Rajesh Pant, VSM, Corps of Signals / Military College of Telecommunication Engineering, Mhow
  5. MR-03516N Lieutenant General Mandeep Singh, VSM, Army Medical Corps (Retired)
  6. MR-03691H Major General Rajan Chaudhry, VSM, Army Medical Corps
  7. IC-35206W Major General Konsam Himalay Singh,YSM, Infantry / Headquarters 25th Infantry Division
  8. IC-37204K Major General Binoy Poonnen, VSM, Infantry / Headquarters 57th Mountain Division
  9. IC-35471M Major General Bipin Rawat, YSM, SM, VSM, Infantry / Headquarters 19th Infantry Division
  10. IC-35487X Major General Narinder Pal Singh Hira, SM, Infantry / Headquarters 10th Infantry Division
  11. IC-34086W Major General Bal Krishan Sharma, SM and Bar Infantry (Retired)
  12. Rear Admiral Rakesh Pandit, NM (01700-N)
  13. Rear Admiral Kishore Onkar Thakare, NM (40767-A)
  14. Rear Admiral Sudhakar Thurumalla, NM (60301-Y)
  15. Air Vice Marshal Narendra Bahadur Singh, VSM (15635), Aeronautical Engineering (Electronics)
  16. Air Commodore Sandeep Singh, VM (17312) Flying (Pilot)
  17. Air Commodore Suresh Singh, VSM (16941) Aeronautical Engineering (Electronics)
Shaurya Chakra: 
  1. IC-59849M Major TN Unnikrishnan, 15th Battalion The Dogra Regiment
  2. IC-67215L Major Saurabh Suyal, SM and Bar, Armoured Corps / 22nd Battalion The Rashtriya Rifles
  3. Squadron Leader Ajit Bhaskar Vasane (27697) Flying (Pilot)
  4. Nagendra Singh, Assistant Commandant, Office of The Commandant-207, Cobra At GC, CRPF, Durgapur-14(WB)
  5. Vinoj P. Joseph, Assistant Commandant, Office of The Commandant-207, Cobra At GC, CRPF, Durgapur-14(WB)
  6. Wing Commander Vatsal Kumar Singh (24223) Flying (Pilot)
  7. Flight Lieutenant (Now Sqn Ldr) Gunadnya Ramesh Kharche (29037) Flying (Pilot)
  8. 3398295W Havildar Vir Singh, 13th Battalion The Sikh Regiment
  9. IC-66537Y Major Vijayendra Singh Yadav, Brigade of The Guards/ 21st Battalion The Rashtriya Rifles
  10. IC-61591H Major Chandra Shekhar Singh, 666 Army Aviation Squadron (Reconnaissance and Observation) (Posthumous)
  11. IC-72070P Captain Dinesh Kumar, 9th Battalion The Madras Regiment
  12. IC-65672A Major Manish Punj, Rajput Regiment / 10th Battalion The Rashtriya Rifles
  13. 2486356P Naik Rajeshver Singh, 16th Battalion The Punjab Regiment (Posthumous)
  14. 2486445N Naik Anil Kumar, 16th Battalion The Punjab Regiment (Posthumous)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hinduja brothers emerged as 3rd richest family in Britain

A research report entitled A Tale of Two Britains published by anti-poverty charity Oxfam has ranked Hinduja brothers as third richest family in Britain. The report released on 17th March 2014 claimed that the London-based Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja have a combined wealth of 10 billion dollars and this report was based on the latest list from Forbes Magazine. The report in its analysis has said that the divide between the rich and poor in the United Kingdom has widened.

The five top richest Britons listed in the report are-- The Duke of Westminster is the richest
-The David and Simon Reuben
-The Hindujas
-The Cadogan family
- Sports Direct retail boss Mike Ashley

It claimed that the wealth and power in Britain is concentrated in few hands leaving the rest behind. The Oxfam report claimed that the property, savings and other assets of these five Britons worth 28.2 billion pounds, which when combined is more than the wealth of poorest 20 percent (about 12.6 million people) of the population that totals to 28.1 billion pounds. 

The report titled “A Tale of Two Britain’s” says that 0.1 percent of the total population of Britain have seen an average growth of 24000 pounds a year whereas, the incomes of the poorest 90 percent of Britons have gone up only by an average of 2.82 pounds a week or 147 pounds a year. 

The findings of the Oxfam report came in wake of the report released in January 2014 claiming that 85 richest people (billionaires) on the planet owns almost same amount of wealth that is with the half of the world’s population (approx 3.56 billion people).

UK decided to honour the Indian heroes of World War I

United Kingdom in third week of March 2014 decided to honour the Indian soldiers, who participated in the World War I through a series of events. The events will be organised to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the conflict of World War I that started in 1914. 
To commemorate Indian involvement in the war that began in 1914, the British High Commission along with the United Service Institution in India has planned a series of events. In the First World War, about one million Indian soldiers participated of which over seventy thousand died during the war. 
The commemorative events will be organised in the UK, India and other parts of the world (the nations whose representatives participated in the historic conflict). As part of the 2014’s centenary events of World War I, special paving stones will be laid in the home towns of the soldier of UK who were awarded with the Vitoria Cross.
These stones will be given to the councils in the areas, where the Victoria Cross were born. The process of laying down the stones will be completed by 2018 of which 28 will be unveiled by 2015. In total 11 Indian soldiers were awarded with the Victoria Crosses of which six were from present India, three from the divided Pakistan and two were from Nepal.

Paris imposed a partial car ban to combat pollution

France introduced driving restrictions in Paris to tackle dangerous pollution levels on 17th March 2014. Under the scheme drivers are allowed to use their cars only on alternate days, according to the odd or even numbers on their license plates. 

Parking will be free for vehicles with even number plates on a particular day. The residents are encouraged to carpooling or car-sharing sites to work out their commutes and rides. Free public transport including cycle and electric car-sharing schemes also introduced to combat smog.

The restrictions will be reviewed on a daily basis to determine if an extension is necessary. The last restricted driving scheme was introduced in October 1997 in response to pollution from heavy diesel fumes. It lasted one day.

Paris is more prone to smog than other European capitals because of France's diesel subsidies and its high number of private car drivers. As per the European Environment Agency (EEA) data, there was 147 microgrammes of particulate matter (PM) per cubic metre of air in Paris - compared with 114 in Brussels, 104 in Amsterdam, 81 in Berlin and 79.7 in London.

Mizoram wins 68th Santosh Trophy

Mizoram won its maiden Santosh Trophy for Football by defeating Railways by 3-0. With this win Mizoram became the second team from the North-East, after Manipur, to win the Santosh Trophy. Making its first appearance in the final, Mizoram conquered a diffident start to overpower a well-prepared Railways and gifted a big gathering of its passionate supporters at the Kanchenjungha Stadium a memorable evening.

Mizoram had taken a lead of one nil in the first half through a goal by captain Zeco Zoram Sanga. Zoram Sanga surged again in the 59th minutes to make it two nil for his team. In the dying moments of the match Lalrin Puia made it three- nil and sealed the match for Mizoram. Railways had bagged the Santosh Trophy in 1966.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tomas Halik won Templeton Prize 2014

Tomas Halik, the Czech priest won the Templeton Prize for 2014. The award was announced by the John Templeton Foundation on 13 March 2014 and under the award he will receive 1.1 million Euro.
Tomas Halik (65) is a person, whose work is aimed at seekers, the segment of those asking questions about religious and spiritual issues but unaffiliated with religion or atheism.
Since 1997 Halik has taught the sociology of religion at Charles University in Prague.  He authored numerous books like Patience With God and Night of the Confessor.
In 2011 he received honorary title Man of Reconciliation 2010 and he also received The Knight’s cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in 2012.  
 About Templeton Prize 
• The award was established in 1972 by the late Sir John Templeton. The Prize is a monetary award of 1.1 million Euros and is the largest annual award in terms of cash in the world. 
• It honours a living person for his exceptional contribution of affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical work.
• The first winner of Templeton was Mother Teresa in 1973. The two recent winners were Nobel Peace Prize laureates Desmond Tutu in 2013 and the Dalai Lama in 2012.

Sachin Tendulkar voted Cricketer of the Generation

Sachin Tendulkar on 14 March 2014 was voted as the Cricketer of the Generation by a 50-member jury that comprised current and former cricketers and journalists. To win the award, Sachin defeated his competitors spin legend Shane Warne and all-rounder Jacques Kallis. 

Other titles for 2013 in the annual ESPNcricinfo Awards

• Test bowling title for 2013 - Mitchell Johnson 
• ODI bowling award – Shahid Afridi, he won under the same category for 2009 
• Test batting award – Shikhar Dhawan for his knocking 187 runs on debut against Australia in Mohali in 2013
• ODI batting performance of the year – Rohit Sharma for his ODI double-century in Bangalore, against Australia
• The Debutant of the Year (new category) – Mohammed Shami of India
• Contribution to Cricket Award (new category) – Tarak Sinha, head coach of the Sonnet Cricket Club in Delhi,
• Cricket for Good award – Rahul Dravid for mentoring the junior and Paralympic athletes in India
• Batsman of the Year, Best Test Batsman, and Most Consistent Batsman – AB de Villiers
• Bowler of the Year and the Best Test Bowler – Dale Steyn

GK Pillai resigned as Chairman of MCX-SX

GK Pillai resigned as Chairman of MCX-SX on 14 March 2014. Consequently, current Vice Chairman and former LIC Chairman, Thomas Mathew T was elected as new Chairman and Ashima Goyal was elected as Vice Chairperson by the Board members.  The exchange also announced that MCX and FTIL had been reclassified as Public Shareholder from Promoter Shareholder.
Incidentally, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) began its probe on 13 March 2014 against the stock exchange’s founder Jignesh Shah and former Chairman of SEBI C.B. Bhave. The probe will also investigate the alleged irregularities in the sanctioning of MCX-SX along with the subsequent recognition renewals of exchange in 2009, 2010. 
Former Home Secretary, GK Pillai was appointed as Chairman of MCX-SX following the National Spot Exchange Limited (NSEL) scam. During his tenure, a new board, Managing Director and CEO were appointed. He played a pivotal role in bringing stability by renegotiating contracts, rationalizing costs and other similar measures.

Akhilesh Gupta as New President of India Met. Society

Akhilesh Gupta has been elected as the President of Indian Meteorological Society for a two-year term.
Gupta (50) is the youngest-ever President of the society.
Established in 1956, the society is a non-profit organization that promotes advancement, dissemination of knowledge, and application of meteorology and related sciences.
Gupta had only recently been elected as Fellow of Indian Meteorological Society.
Those elected Fellows earlier include APJ Abdul Kalam; MS Swaminathan; K Kasturirangan; and Jagadish Shukla (US).
Gupta started his career as Meteorologist in India Meteorological Department in 1985. He later joined National Centre for Medium range Weather Forecasting in 1994 where he worked till 2006. He has been Adviser to Minister, Science and Technology and Earth Sciences and Secretary to University Grants Commission. He is currently the Head of Climate Change Programme of Department of Science and Technology where he coordinates two National Missions on climate change. 

Asian Grand Prix Archery Championship: Indian archers won 2 gold & silver in team events

Indian archers bagged 2 gold and silver in the team events in 1st Asian Grand Prix Archery Championships at Bangkok on 13th March 2014. Whereas, in the Compound Women’s team event women team defeated Iran to clinch the first gold, 219 to 204. The women compound team included Gagandeep Kaur, V Jyothi Surekha and P Lily Chanu.

In the Men’s Recurve, the team of Jayanta Talukdar, Tarundeep Rai and Kapil won gold after defeating Taipei, 6-0 in set system. Apart from this, the Indian team of Abhishek Verma, Sandeep Kumar and Rajat Chouhan won silver in the Men’s compound section after facing a defeat by Iran, 227 to 232. Recurve women's team lost to Japan in the bronze medal match and completed at the fourth position. The women recurve team included Deepika Kumar, Bombayla Devi and Laxmirai.

1st Asian Archery Grand Prix 2014 (World Ranking) is being organised in Bangkok from 10 March to 16 March 2014. The event has been organised following the World Archery Rules for 2012 in both divisions Recurve and Compound.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Election Commission set up multi agency grid to curb Black Money

The Election Commission on 11 March 2014 created a multi-agency grid of revenue and security intelligence agencies. The aim is to curb the use of black money in Lok Sabha and assembly polls. The intelligence agency will regularly update Election Commission about suspected financial movements. 
Election Commission in the first of its kind initiative had created a board of senior officials drawn from ten financial and security intelligence departments.
The intelligence agencies include the officials from income tax intelligence and investigations, Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau and the security forces of SSB, BSF, CISF and the Railway Protection Force. 
The board will meet twice a week at Nirvachan Sadan to generate common leads and flag suspect money instances. 

About Election Commission
The Constitution of India has vested in the Election Commission of India the superintendence, direction and control of the entire process for conduct of elections to Parliament and Legislature of every State and to the offices of President and Vice-President of India.

Election Commission of India is a permanent Constitutional Body. The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950. The Commission celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2001.

Originally the commission had only a Chief Election Commissioner. It currently consists of Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.

India-US Energy Dialogue

India and the United States agreed to further work collaboratively on energy sector. At the India-US Energy dialogue in New Delhi today, both the countries agreed to promote scientific cooperation, research & development for greater technological innovation and for deployment of environmentally-friendly technologies and products. Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, Dr.Montek Singh Alhuwalia and the United States Department of Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz after participating in the Dialogue, held a press interaction in New Delhi today. They hoped that the Dialogue will lead to business-to-business collaboration of both the countries. The expected expanding trade and sound regulatory frameworks would emerge to deliver energy solutions for sustainable growth of economies of both the countries for benefit of their people. 

Five of the six working groups affiliated with the Energy Dialogue (Coal, Oil & Gas, New Technologies and Renewable Energy, Power and Energy Efficiency, and Sustainable Growth) have held meetings over the last five days at the Co-chairs level including experts/officials. U.S.-India Joint Clean Energy Research and development Centre had also brought up issues relating to progress on solar energy, advanced bio-fuels and energy efficiency of buildings under PACE-R. 

Partnership to Advance Clean Energy PACE- Research & Development (PACE-R) has been working on research and development projects on solar energy, Building Energy Efficiency and Second generation bio-fuels. A number of consortia from Industry, R&D and Education Institutions have been formed to take up the projects in these areas. 

In 2009, the India and U.S. agreed to significantly increase collaboration on energy security and clean energy through launching the Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE). 

India and USA have also signed two separate MOUs for partnership in clean energy access (PEACE) and demand for air-conditioning sector. The MOU on Promoting Energy Access through Clean Energy (PEACE) was launched in September 2013 for promoting increased energy access and is developing several priority activities. 

Dr. Ahluwalia said that the U S Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz will be in Mumbai tomorrow to witness the meeting of civil nuclear working group which could help to work towards cooperation in this sector. 

Michelle Bachelet sworn-in as President of Chile for second term

Bachelet was sworn-in as the President of Chile in Valparaiso. The 62-year old Michelle took the oath of the office on 11th March 2014. This is her second term in the office and with this swearing-in she became the first Chilean President in over half a century to return for the second term.
The presidential sash was accepted by her from Isabel Allende, the President of Senate and this passage of the sash from one woman to another has happened for the first time in Chile’s history. 
After swearing-in some the major challenges before her are to bring reform in political and economic structures that dates back to 1973-1990 during the dictatorship of Gen Pinochet. She will also have to bring in changes to offer free education along with reducing income disparity and reform healthcare.
Earlier, she held the position of the President of Chile between 2006 and 2010. In the first term as the President, she was the first female president of Chile.Constitution of Chile that is one of the richest countries in Latin America barred immediate re-election of Michelle to the Presidential post.

Virat Kohli reclaimed number one position on ICC ODI batsmen rankings

Virat Kohli on 9 March 2014 reclaimed the number one position in the ICC Player Rankings for ODI Batsmen. He was able to claim the first position by gaining 12 points during the Asia Cup by scoring 189 runs in three innings with 136 against Bangladesh. He is followed by South African ODI captain AB de Villers, who was at the first position before the Asia Cup. 

New Zealand to hold referendum on changing the National Flag

Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key on 10th March 2014 announced the plan to hold a referendum on changing the National Flag by 2017. The decision to hold referendum on changing National Flag was taken in lieu of many citizens feeling that it is a relic from the colonial past. 

The current flag depict the Southern Cross star constellation and includes Britain's Union Jack in the top left corner. Many opined that the current flag is too similar to Australia's flag and doesn't reflect New Zealand's independence from former colonizer Britain. But many who have served in the military oppose a change. 

The change in the design of flag it would not signify an end to the South Pacific nation's Constitutional ties to the British monarchy or participation in the Commonwealth group of countries. For instance, Canada's 1965 decision to embrace a distinctive maple leaf design did not led to its severance of ties with British monarchy or its participation in Commonwealth group of countries. Yet for many, a new flag would represent another small step by New Zealand toward disentangling itself from its British past. In 2004, for instance, the country established a Supreme Court to replace Britain's Privy Council as the final court of appeal.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

363 Political Parties Participated In 2009 Elections

If we ask you to hazard a guess as to how many political parties participated in the Lok Sabha elections of 2009, there is a big probability of your answer going well off the mark. As many as 363 political parties participated in the Yajna of democracy contesting 543 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 elections. Out of these 363, only seven were recognized as ‘National Parties’ by the Election Commission of India. These seven parties were (in alphabetical order): Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist) – CPM, Indian National Congress (INC), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).From the remaining 356 parties, 34 parties were recognized as State parties and the remaining 322 were registered but unrecognized political parties.

        The following graph brings out the number of national parties, state parties and registered parties (un-recognized) participated in general elections since 1952.

Fact Sheet on Arunachal Pradesh

The 16th Lok Sabha elections would be held in the 2 Parliamentary Constituencies of Arunachal Pradesh on a single poll day, namely April 9, 2014. Polling will be held at 2,158 polling stations. Out of the state’s total of 7,35,196 electors as on 11th February 2014, 17.0% are in the age group 18–25 while women constitute 50.09%. The poll expenditure limit per candidate for all constituencies in the state is Rs.54 lakhs

Fact Sheet on Assam

The 16th Lok Sabha elections would be held in the 14 Parliamentary Constituencies of Assam on three poll days, namely April 7, 12 and 24, 2014. Polling will be held at 24,275 polling stations spread across 16,606 polling station locations. Out of the state’s total of 18,722,325 electors as on 12th February 2014, 16.6% are in the age group 18–25 while women constitute 48.2%. The poll expenditure limit per candidate for all constituencies in the state is Rs.70 lakhs.

Fact Sheet on Tripura

The 16th Lok Sabha elections would be held in the two Parliamentary Constituencies of Tripura on two poll days, namely April 7 and 12, 2014. Polling will be held at 3,095 polling stations spread across 2,283 polling station locations. Out of the state’s total of 23,79,541 electors as on 7th February 2014, 17.9% are in the age group 18–25 while women constitute 49.04%. The poll expenditure limit per candidate for all constituencies in the state is Rs.70 lakhs.

Annual Health Survey released: Health indicators in some States show improvement

All major health indicators in the country’s worst-performing States are showing a gradual improvement over the years but inter-State variations persist.

Districts with the highest and lowest values of Crude Birth Rate and Infant Mortality Rate remained the same over the three rounds. Top 100 districts constitute about 51 per cent of total infant deaths across 9 States (284 districts), whereas it was 50 per cent during the baseline.

The nine States for which AHS is conducted — Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Assam — have 50 per cent of the country’s population, 60 per cent of births, 71 per cent of infant deaths, 72 per cent of under 5 deaths and 62 per cent of maternal deaths. The reference period for the current round is January to December 2011.

As far as IMR is concerned, 9 districts — Purbi Singhbhum, Dhanbad, Bokaro, Giridih and Kodarma (Jharkhand); Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Pithoragarh and Almora (Uttarakhand) — have already achieved the Millennium Development Goal-4 national target of 28. During the first update and baseline, there were 7 and 6 districts respectively. Another 11 districts — Ranchi, Deoghar, Hazaribagh and Garhwa (Jharkhand), Nainital, Bageshwar, Champawat, Udham Singh Nagar and Dehradun (Uttarakhand), Patna (Bihar), and Durg (Chhattisgarh) — are in closer vicinity of achieving the target.

Importantly, 100 districts account for 52 per cent of under-5 mortality rate whereas it was 63 at the baseline. In U5MR, 15 districts — Pithoragarh, Almora, Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Nainital, Bagheswar, Dehradun and Champawat (Uttarakhand) and Purbhi Singhbum, Hazaribagh, Dhanbad, Bokaro, Girdih, Deoghar and Kodarma (Jharkhand) — have already achieved the MDG national level target of 42. During the first update and baseline, there were 12 and 7 districts. Champawat, Hazaribagh, Dhanbad, Bokaro, Kodarma (first update), Giridih, Deoghar and Dehradun (second update) are new additions.

Another 11 districts — Ranchi and Garhwa (Jharkhand); Durg (Chhattisgarh); Udham Singh Nagar and Pauri Garhwal (Uttarakhand); Dhemaji and Kamrup (Assam); Indore (M.P.); Kota (Rajasthan); Jharsuguda (Odisha); and Patna (Bihar) — are in closer vicinity. Chhattisgarh and Bihar recorded the highest fall (7), while UP and Uttarakhand recorded the lowest (3) from the baseline to the second update round.

More female infants die, compared with males. In Rajasthan, the female IMR is 60, compared with 51 for males, the difference is the highest. 

In the baseline also, Rajasthan recorded the maximum difference with female IMR as 65 compared with 55 for males.

Twenty-five administrative divisions, comprising 100 districts (104 districts in baseline), constitute 45 per cent of the total maternal deaths, whereas it was 41 per cent in baseline. Forty-two districts are hotspots (57 in baseline) — with the worst indicators.

The Annual Health Surveys for these nine States are conducted to monitor the impact of targeted interventions in the low performing districts so as to remove disparities. The indicators in these States also bring down the national averages.