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Home » Current Affairs » Current Affairs of August 2010

Current Affairs of August 2010


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Foreign Contribution Regulation Bill

Organisations of political nature and those involved in religious conversions will henceforth be barred from accepting foreign funds. Also, persons holding political positions like MPs and MLAs can no longer enjoy foreign hospitality and must intimate the government of their visits abroad, personal or official.

After letting private organisations bring in unaccounted foreign remittances for 34 years, the government has brought to the Lok Sabha the Foreign Contribution Regulation Bill, 2010, to regulate the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution of hospitality by certain individuals or associations and to prohibit such acceptances for activities detrimental to national interest. The Lower House passed the Bill, which the Rajya Sabha had already cleared.

At the root of the law is the concern that out of 40,173 NGOs (in 1993 there were just 1,500) accepting foreign funding, only 18,796 have submitted their audited accounts. For the rest, the government doesn’t know the source of funding.

So far, Rs 12,000 crore has “officially” come through the foreign route, of which 60 per cent has come from religious organisations, some from countries as small in population as Canada, Mauritius and Luxembourg.

The government’s data shows that in 2005 and 2006, there were over 32,144 organisations taking foreign funds in India. Only 18,000 declared their funding. In 2005-2006, of the Rs 7,000 crore that came from foreign sources, Rs 3,075 crore came for religious organisations. This explains why the new law (which replaces the 1976 legislation) bans foreign funds for conversion purposes.

Significant amounts (to the tune of Rs 7,229 crore) have also come in for education, with no monitoring. In the run-up to the new FCR Bill 2010, the government banned 41 outfits from taking foreign remittances; sealed accounts of 11 and asked 45 to take permission first.

With the new law, the government has also capped administrative expenses at 50 per cent of all inflows to NGOs (India has about 20 lakh).


Nuclear Liability Bill

On August 25, 2001, the UPA government successfully shepherded the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010, through the Lok Sabha, with active support from the BJP and strategic absence of some fence-sitters such as the Samajwadi Party.

Quashing opposition from the Left Bloc and other critics, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh denied that the Bill was railroaded through the House to serve US interests. “This Bill is a completion of a journey to end the nuclear apartheid, which the world had imposed on India in the year 1974,” he said.”

The government managed to bring the BJP on board in return for accepting amendments to the controversial Clause 17(b) and dropping the word “intent”. The new formulation of 17(b), now states that suppliers would be liable where “the accident has resulted as a consequence of an act of a supplier or his employees, done to cause nuclear damage, and such act includes supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services”.

While his government achieved what appeared even a few months ago to be an impossible task—getting the Lok Sabha to pass the Bill— Manmohan Singh announced that the government would give safety issues top priority. “Concern about nuclear safety is one, which I fully share. I assure (you) we will do everything to strengthen the Nuclear Regulatory Board to ensure that safety concerns receive the attention that they must, if we are to use nuclear power as a major source for generating and meeting India’s need for energy,” he said.

The key points of the Bill are:

—Controversial Clause 17(b) amended by dropping the word ‘intent’.
—Compensation cap to be paid by the operator at Rs 1500 crore provided in the Bill is not the ‘limit’.
—Compensation will be decided by the Claims Commissioner and the operator will have to pay.
—Government assumes full liability for even a plant not operated by it.
—The Bill is necessary for full implementation of civil nuclear deal signed with the USA in 2006.


Bill to provide women equal guardianship rights

A Bill paving way for the women to get equal rights in guardianship and adoption of children has been passed by the Rajya Sabha.

The Personal Laws Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. It also seeks to allow the mother, along with the father, to be appointed as a guardian, making the process gender-neutral.

Besides, it aims at removing hurdles in the way of a married woman to adopt. She can give a son or daughter for adoption.

For adoption and guardianship, under the existing Act, only the father is considered to be the natural guardian of the child in a Hindu family and only unmarried, divorced women and widows are allowed to adopt a child. Women separated from their husbands and engaged in lengthy divorce battles cannot adopt a child.


Annual Supplement to Foreign Trade Policy 2009-14

The government has extended sops worth Rs 1,052 crore to exporters, particularly for the labour-intensive textile, handicrafts and leather sectors, to help them see through the fragile economic recovery globally. The revenue implication of these measures would be Rs 1,052 crore. The government also made it clear that the popular Duty Entitlement Pass Book (DEPB) scheme, which has been in vogue for over a decade, is being extended for the last time.

Experts said drawing the curtains on the DEPB scheme was inevitable as it was considered incompatible with the global trade rules under WTO.

A number of additional products from sectors like engineering, leather, textiles and jute have also been added to the existing two per cent interest subvention scheme. Handloom, handicrafts, carpet and the SMEs have been getting this facility, which will now be available till March 31, 2011.

The government also extended the zero-duty Export Promotion Capital Goods (EPCG) scheme by one year to March 31, 2012. The scheme, which was announced in August 2009, was to expire on March 31, 2011. Steps to reduce transaction cost of exports too were announced in the policy.


India-Japan Strategic Dialogue

On August 21, 2010, visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada held the fourth round of strategic dialogue with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. The two sides discussed the nuclear pact, comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA), other bilateral and international issues, including UN reforms and the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, the focus was clearly on the nuke deal, the discussions on which the two countries propose to conclude as quickly as possible without setting any time-line.

Addressing a joint press conference with Krishna after the three-hour talks between the two sides, Okada candidly admitted that initiating negotiations with India on the nuclear pact was the toughest decision he had taken during his stewardship of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, given the fact that India was not a signatory to the NPT. He also acknowledged that the proposal for a nuclear agreement with India was facing sharp criticism back home, since Japan is the only country to have experienced a nuclear attack.

He also told the Indian side that the philosophy of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation must be incorporated in the proposed accord on nuclear cooperation.

Asked if Japan had advised India against detonating another nuclear device, Okada said: “I don’t think we can suggest to India to refrain from conducting a test…but if such a thing were to happen, we shall have no option but to suspend our cooperation with India (in the field).”

The two countries will continue and enhance consultations within the G-4 process for reforms of the UN, including the Security Council. They also welcomed the inclusion of the US and Russia in the East Asia Summit (EAS).


National Innovation Council

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has approved the setting up of a National Innovation Council to prepare a road map for the 'Decade of Innovation 2011-2020'. Sam Pitroda, adviser to the Prime Minister on public information infrastructure and innovations, will head the National Innovation Council.

The Council has been given the mandate to evolve an Indian model of innovation focussing on inclusive growth and creating an appropriate eco-system conducive to fostering inclusive innovation.

It will delineate appropriate policy initiatives within the government required to spur innovation. It will also promote the setting up of sectoral innovation councils and state innovation councils.

While encouraging all important sectors of the economy to innovate, the NIC will take special efforts to facilitate innovation by micro, small and medium enterprises.

Innovation in public services delivery and encouraging multi-disciplinary and globally competitive approaches for innovations would be focused on by the council.


Nuclear liability bill passed

Nuclear liability bill which was adopted by Rajya Sabha has now been approved by the process of Voice vote. The session of the Parliament lasted 48 hours extra than the scheduled time so that the legislation can be easily passed and approved. A total of 18 amendments were introduced in this bill by Lok Sabha before processing it further. Soon the bill was selected for a considerable hike in the liability of operator. This liability has now become 3 times then what it was in the past and now holds a value of rupees 1500 crore’s in total. By virtue of progression of this bill and significant increase in the liability many overseas companies have shown their interests in setting up reactors in India. Special accidental care will now be provided for the employees operating in the various sections of the nuclear plants. The decision and the passing of the bill had been strongly opposed by the BJP leaders as they found it insignificant.


Swiss Bank Access

Swiss Authorities will provide information to India on cases of tax fraud and tax evasion from January 1,2011under the reworked double tax agreement (DTA) signed by India and Switzerland. The Indian Authorities can now seek information about the account holders in Swiss banks who have a case filed against them for tax evasion.


Government Intervention for CWG

PM and his select team of ministers takeover as CWG supervisors. Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh took over the reigns of the forthcoming games in the wake of scandals and unfinished work surrounding the event. Committee of Secretaries, headed by a Cabinet Secretary, will now supervise the mega event to be held in October overtaking Organizing Committee chief Suresh Kalmadi.


Bhopal Case reopened

The Supreme court of India has reopened the Bhopal Gas leak case in response to Government’s petition for harsher punishment to the guilty for the worst tragedy of its kind in which at least 7,000 people perished within days of the release of the toxic methyl isocyanate gas at the Union Carbide pesticide plant on 3 December 1984, and a further 15,000 died later from exposure to the gas. The tragedy left countless others with lifelong damage to their health.


CSAT to replace the civil services prelims

The new Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) will replace the existing civil services (preliminary) examination from 2011. The new scheme will test the candidates for their aptitude for civil services as well as their ethical and moral dimension of decision-making. There will now be two common papers with equal weightage in place of one common paper (general awareness) and one optional paper (any particular subject of choice). The civil services main exam and the interview will remain the same as of now.


Rahul creates controversy

Wherein one place Mamta Banerjee is speaking in the favour of naxals and now Rahul Gandhi is sharing a dias with a suspected Maoist , this is the approach of the government in the fight against naxals.


Member Parliament salaries hiked

Parliament recently in Delhi has made a decision to increase the salaries of MPs. A hike of about rupees 35000 will be introduced in the salary of each MPs thus taking it from figures like 20,000 to 55,000 or so. Because daily allowance has an important role to play hence parliament has also decided to exactly double the allowances issued daily to each Member of Parliament. Hence daily allowance of rupees 1000 will now become 2000. This daily allowance will be issued only when the parliament session is in progress. Other than the daily allowances the official expenses for every office per month have now been considerably raised and touch a 50,000 amount. That is not all the travel and conveyance charge issued will now become 4 times which were earlier around rupees 1,00,000. Retired members will now get a monthly pension of around rupees 20,000 which was around 10,000 in the past times.


Commonwealth with less green

Approximately 40,000 trees have been either felled or transplanted for Delhi’s preparation of Commonwealth Games 2010. Apart from the financial burden of creating world class infrastructure and transport facilities Delhites have to bear the loss of its green cover as the compensatory plantation cannot in any way compensate for the loss of a fully grown, mature tree.


Blackberry controversy

Research in Motion (RIM), the maker of Blackberry has finally surrendered to Indian security agencies’ demand for access to their server. The company has proposed for lawful access to its services including the messenger as well as the enterprise with immediate effect and the company would have to set up a server in India if it does not work to the satisfaction of Indian agencies. The security agencies already had access to voice data, SMS and general emails sent through Blackberry devices but Blackberry email and messaging services that are highly encrypted were major concerns for the security agencies. With this understanding in place the government has decided to serve notices to Google and Skype also to fall in line.


Direct tax code

The Government deferred the direct tax code(DTC) by yet another year to April 2012 causing yet another disappointment to the taxpayers. Women taxpayers suffered a bolt as the preferential treatment meted out to them earlier is now proposed to be withdrawn. Senior citizens, however, enjoy a higher exemption limit. The bill that replaces the Income Tax Act 1961 seeks an increase in exemption threshold of individuals from Rs.1.6 lakh currently to Rs.2lakh. The corporate taxes will be reduced to a flat 30%.


Leh hit by flood

A cloudburst on the intervening night of August 5 and 6 has led to flash floods and mudslides in the Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir. The cloudburst and the following floods have claimed over 175 lives and injured about 400 people, besides causing widespread damage to public and private property. The worst hit Chuglamsar has just turned into debris all over.


More rich than poor Indians

National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) has estimated in its report, “How India Earns, Spends and Saves”, that despite the economic slowdown of the last three years, the number of high-income households in India has exceeded the number of low-income households. Households with high income or earnings have grown by over 3.7% in total and now touch the mark of around 21%. That is not all also the households with low income sources have fallen by around 3.2% and gone down to a mark of 18%.


CWG Anthem

When everything is being prepared for the common wealth coming up in October then how could Music maestro A R Rahman stay away from it. Yes, the musician has launched the theme song for the Commonwealth Games 2010 that has the best lyrics covering khelo oh yaaro,,jeeto oh yaaro. During the launch of this theme song honorable Chief Minister Shiela Dixit, Bhupinder Singh Hooda and OC Chairman Suresh Kalmadi were present in the ceremony.

Theme song released
SONG FOR SPORT: Music composer A.R. Rahman renders the Commonwealth Games 2010 theme song, “Jiyo Utho Badho Jeeto,” during its release in Gurgaon, Haryana. Mr. Rahman, who sang the song for around five minutes.

Oscar winning music composer A R Rahman launched the theme song of the Commonwealth Games “Swagatham” at a glittering ceremony at Gurgaon near New Delhi.

Rahman sung the song in front of a gathering which included Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, her Haryana counterpart Bhupinder Singh Hooda and CWG Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi.

Rajpal to lead hockey team in Commonwealth Games

  Hockey captain Rajpal Singh with the Commonwealth Games mascot in New Delhi.

Rajpal Singh was named captain of the 16-member hockey squad, announced by Hockey India, for the October Commonwealth Games.

  • The side has only one goalkeeper in Bharat Chetri and five defenders, including Sandeep Singh, who was awarded Arjuna Awardee.
  • There are six midfielders and Rajpal is leading the forwards line-up along with Shivinder Singh and Tushar Khandker and Dharamvir Singh.
  • “The team was selected after the trials conducted at Balewadi, Pune in the presence of Hockey India Selectors Col.


  • Goalkeeper:

Bharat Chetri (Canara Bank).

  • Defenders :

Sardar Singh (Haryana), Sandeep Singh (Haryana), Dhananjay Mahadik (Services), Gurbaj Singh (Air India) and Prabodh Tirkey (Air India).

  • Midfielders:

Arjun Halappa (Air India), Vikram Pillay (Air India), Ravi Pal (BPCL), Bharat Chikara (Indian Oil), Danish Mujtaba (UP) and Sarvanjit Singh (PSB)

  • Forwards:

Rajpal Singh (Indian Oil), Tushar Khandker (BPCL), Shivendra Singh (Air India), Dharamvir Singh (Indian Oil).

CWG breeding mosquitoes

The fingers are already crossed and people fear further delay in the common wealth problems. When the earlier hurdles are not getting removed and new problems are coming into view. The sincere attention is being drawn by the mosquitoes breeding in various dumps. Because of heavy rainfall in the country water is collected in almost every venue and mosquitoes have converted these venues into their favorite breeding places and are increasing the fear of dengue disease.


Yet another marine disaster

A foreign cargo ship MV Khalijia-111 which collided with MSC Chitra which was carrying about 1,200 containers with over 266 tonnes of fuel about 10 km off Mumbai harbour has spilled oil into the Mumbai seas. The collision tilted MSC Chitra vessel causing 300 containers carrying oil to tumble into the Mumbai waters creating a thick oil slick two to three kms around the vessel Chitra causing a serious threat to the marine life.


India’s Independence

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hoists the national flag during the 64th Independence Day celebrations, in New Delhi

Manmohan Singh became the third Prime Minister to hoist the national flag from the ramparts of Red Fort for the seventh time in a row, after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

By hoisting the tricolour, Dr. Singh overtook his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had the honour of unfurling the national flag from the majestic Red Fort six times.

The historic Mughal monument has seen Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, unfurling the national flag 17 times. He is closely followed by his daughter Indira Gandhi who had the honour of unfurling the flag 16 times.

Dr. Singh, the country’s 14th Prime Minister, first hoisted the tricolour on August 15, 2004, three months after he assumed office


Major Jyotin Singh awarded Ashok Chakra posthumously

Major Laishram Jyotin Singh, who fought bare-handed with a heavily-armed terrorist and saved 10 colleagues during an attack on Indians in Kabul in February, has been posthumously given the Ashok Chakra, the highest peacetime gallantry award.

Singh, from the Army Medical Corps, engaged the terrorist who struck on 26th February at a hotel which housed members of Indian Medical Mission.

The 37-year-old from Manipur showed exemplary courage when a heavily-armed terrorist, after detonating an explosives-laden vehicle and killing three guards, entered the hotel building to kill any survivors.

Major Laishram Jyotin Singh, who sacrificed his life in the February terror attack in Kabul this year, has been awarded the Ashok Chakra, the highest peacetime gallantry award announced.

In the process, he saved the lives of 10 colleagues.


IBM Number two employer

IBM is the second largest private sector employer in India after TCS . The company has more than one lakh people on its rolls.


India slips to 5th position from 3rd in global steel output

According to the statement of the Parliament, India has slipped to the fifth position in terms of global steel production with a 32.5 million tonnes output in the first six months of this year.

In 2009, the country occupied the third rank in global steel production with 62.8 million tonnes (MT) output whereas China topped the list with 567.8 MT. Japan secured the second place with 87.5 MT production, as per the World Steel Association (WSA).

The US and Russia super ceded India during the first half of the year occupying third and fourth positions with 41 MT and 32.6 MT production, respectively during the first half of the year.

As per the latest estimates, the crude steel capacity in the country is likely to reach 120 MT by 2012 from 72.9 MT in 2009-10.

The fall in the country’s output is said to be on account of a dip in demand and prices of steel in the wake of global economic crisis and a gloomy global steel scenario.


Govt. to give state-owned banks Rs. 4,868 crore for cheap farm loans

The government on Friday decided to release Rs. 4,868 crore to public sector lenders for providing concessional loans to farmers. The decision, taken at a Cabinet meeting, will help lenders provide farmers short-term crop loan at 7 per cent interest. The Union Cabinet today gave its approval for the release of Rs. 4,868 crore as interest subvention to Public Sector Banks (PSBs), Regional Rural Banks (RRBs), Cooperative Banks and NABARD for refinance to RRBs at concessional rates to reimburse the amount of interest subvention to ensure that the farmer, in general, should receive short-term crop loan at 7 per cent per annum this fiscal. The lenders would have given loans to farmers at 9 per cent, had the subsidy of 2 per cent not been provided by the government. The government has, since 2006-07, been subsidizing short term crop loans so as to ensure the availability of funds to farmers. This interest subvention scheme has been continued for 2010-11 for public sector banks, regional rural banks and cooperative banks. In 2009-10, an additional subvention of one per cent was being provided to farmers who repaid on time. This has been increased from one per cent in 2009-10 to two per cent in 2010-11. Thus, the effective rate of interest for such farmers will be five per cent per annum. The banks have been consistently meeting the targets set for agriculture credit flow in the past few years. For 2010-11, the target for agricultural credit flow has been raised to Rs. 3,75,000 crore from Rs. 3,25,000 crore in 2009-10.


New inflation index likely to come from August

The government is planning to start a new wholesale price index (WPI) series from August for more realistic picture of price rise. The revised index, which has been scrutinized by experts, would cover price changes of about 250 extra items. It will have 2004-05 as the base year, changed from 1993-94 base year for calculating inflation. The department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) is ready with the new inflation index. The Committee of Secretaries (CoS), headed by cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar will give the final approval to the index.


Rahul Gandhi a hit on Facebook

Rahul Gandhi is a hit on Facebook. He has a fan page following of 67,921 people, which could be among the largest for any leader in the country on the popular social networking site.Mr. Gandhi’s Facebook account, which the Congress says has not been created by him, has 4,999 friends listed in it. It has photographs and videos as well as regular updates.Rahul’s sister Priyanka Vadra too has a fan page, with 17,469 people listed as followers .Another page, titled “Priyanka Gandhi politician,” has 163 followers. Party president Sonia Gandhi has a page, which lists her as an author, with 1,283 people ‘liking’ it. There is another page that lists her as a ‘politician.’Chairman of the computer department of the Congress Vishwajeet P. Singh said some of the pages gave information taken from Wikipedia and are “definitely” not created by the office of either Mr. Gandhi or Ms. Gandhi.


India largest recipient of World Bank loans in 2009-10

  India was the World Bank’s favourite last fiscal when it came to extending financial aid in the form of loans, both among developing countries and the world’s poorest nations. The World Bank, through its lending arms IBRD and IDA, committed USD 9.3 billion in financial assistance to India in the fiscal, more than the aid committed by the US and the European Union.

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) committed USD 6.7 billion, or 15.1 per cent of its total lending in the fiscal, to India, according to government officials. In comparison, the second highest recipient, Mexico, got USD 6.4 billion.

The World Bank’s concessionary lending arm, the International Development Association (IDA), which helps the world’s poorest countries, committed 17.7 per cent of its total aid, amounting to USD 2.6 billion, to India in 2009-10.

India was also the largest recipient of loans from Germany’s state-owned development bank KfW Group and Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA) last fiscal.
However, the country was only the third largest recipient of external assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It was also the second largest recipient of loans from the European Union in Asia. In terms of the total amount of aid given by the US in the fiscal, India stood at 27th in the list of countries.


Non-metros more hurt by inflation

Data on the Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers viz. CPI (IW) show that these cities have the unenviable distinction of recording the highest increase in monthly prices, in the first half of calendar 2010, among urban centres. Prices in these towns rose between 19-27 per cent in the six months through January to June 2010 over the corresponding months in 2009.

On an all India-basis, the point-to-point inflation in the urban centres was 13.7 per cent in June 2010. As against this, in most metros, prices increased at a lower rate of around 10-10.5 per cent.

Among the metros, Kolkata registered the highest inflation (around 13 to 13.7 per cent), while Chennai got away comparatively mildly (around 9 to 10 per cent). Rangapara in Assam was relatively unscathed by the inflationary winds, with prices increasing between 3.6-6.3 per cent, the lowest in the country.


Tax pact to crack Swiss banks

A subtle but significant shift is taking place in the way the government is dealing with the celebrated Swiss banking secrecy laws. India and Switzerland are close to signing a landmark tax agreement that could make things easier for  sleuths, though some question marks remain. Swiss foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey is scheduled to meet Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday amid expectations of a new double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA) that would pave the way for India to obtain information on money stashed away in secret accounts.

Finance Ministry sources said the government has concluded the renegotiation to widen the ambit of the bilateral tax treaty after initiating steps last year in an effort to unearth money stashed away by Indians.

Last year, UBS, one of Switzerland’s largest banks, admitted to helping U.S. taxpayers hide accounts from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The US cracked down and forced UBS to give details concerning American customers.

The Centre has written to about 65 countries to amend existing tax treaties insisting on the adding Article 26 of OECD’s Model Tax Convention that allows governments to seek tax-related information. That provision is both an enabling and limiting factor for Indian sleuths.


Overseas investments by India Inc take a dip

India Inc was not that aggressive during 2009-10 when it came to expanding global footprint. This has been reflected in the latest data on overseas direct investment for that year.

Corporate India’s overseas direct investment in 2009-10 was $10.75 billion, substantially lower than $16.23 billion recorded in 2008-09, data available with the Finance Ministry showed.

The global financial meltdown has compelled most Indian companies to adopt a cautious approach even as certain big corporate houses took it as an opportunity to spread their wings further and expand their empires.

In 2007-08, India Inc’s overseas direct investment stood at $18.31 billion. For the same year, India ranked as the fourth largest overseas business acquirer among developing and transitional economies, after Singapore, the UAE and Russia.

Total foreign direct investment (FDI) outflow from India increased from a level of $25 million in early nineties to about $14 billion in 2007. India remains a net FDI recipient even though the gap between outflows and inflows has been narrowing in the recent years running up to 2008-09. However, the drop in overseas direct investment has slightly increased the gap for 2009-10. Indian outward FDI has predominantly been a private sector activity.


Upper layer of atmosphere shrinking: study

One of the highest sections of the atmosphere is shrinking as a result of low sun activity, U.S. researchers reported.

According to the study, published in the American Geophysical Union’s journalGeophysical Research Letters, the sun’s energy output was unusually low from 2007 to 2009.

During that period the atmospheric layer called the thermosphere — from 55 miles to 300 miles (90-240 kilometres) above the Earth — cooled and shrank. That reduced the density of gas at high levels where many satellites orbit, explained Thomas Woods of the University of Colorado, a co-author of the report.

The decline in high-level density was as much as 30 percent, Woods said, even less than the last solar minimum.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Office of Naval Research.


Mukesh Ambani joins World Economic Forum’s Foundation Board

Reliance Industries’ Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani has been has elected as Member to the Board of World Economic Forum.

Others elected to the Board are Alcatel-Lucent’s CEO, Ben J Verwaayen and Zhu Min, Special Adviser, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a former Deputy Governor, People’s Bank of China, a press release issued on 27th August, 2010 stated.

The Foundation Board is composed of leaders from business, politics, academia and civil society who strongly identify themselves with the Forums mission to improve the state of the world and who make a valuable contribution to this mission through their involvement.


India is top exporter of petro products in Asia

India is now the largest petroleum products exporter in Asia, surpassing South Korea.

According to the data compiled by oil and metal information provider Platts, India’s gross exports currently average 1 million barrels a day, inching past South Korea which exports 0.9 million barrels a day.

With the commissioning of a new refinery by Reliance Industries at Jamnagar and Essar Oil increasing refinery output at Vadinar, India overtook South Korea by mid-2009 and has since then consistently maintained the lead position.

India’s average petroleum products export grew from 0.77 million barrels a day in January 2009 to one million barrels a day in August 2009. In the current year, the average oil products export from India stands at 1.07 million while South Korea exports average 0.88 million.

In fact, India’s refining capacity at 3.69 million barrels a day is the third largest in Asia after China and Japan, which have a refining capacity of 9.6 million bpd and 4.64 bpd respectively. Platts’ compilation is based on the data from individual countries.


Highways authority to launch toll free number

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has decided to launch a four digit toll free number that will help road-users to save lives and ensure road safety.

The NHAI has decided to set up five call centres covering the eastern, western, northern, southern and central regions. They will be located in backward districts.

The decisions were taken in the light of the fact that more than one lakh people die in road accidents in the country every year, the highest in the world. The poor sections of people account for 70 per cent of the fatalities.

The social cost of road accidents has been estimated at 3 per cent of the GDP.


India first choice of UK firms for outsourcing jobs

Two-thirds of British companies intending to outsource jobs offshore prefer India over China. This is the finding of a study jointly carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development here and the accounting firm KPMG. The remaining one-third will go to China and eastern Europe.

The corporate are seeking to export call centre, IT and finance jobs abroad. A significant number of such employers called on the UK government to rethink the immigration cap imposed by home minister Theresa May in the present Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, illustrating that one out of 10 jobs in the UK’s private sector will be relocated abroad in the next year.


Mid-size & small IT firms struggling to maintain growth

For the first time in many years, second-tier IT vendors are not sharing the same optimism as their larger counterparts about a recovery in demand for IT services.

While the country’s top technology firms including Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Technologies and Wipro grew their revenues in double digits, Tech Mahindra and Patni saw their revenues and profits fall sequentially, because of pressure on telecom clients and project delays, and have refrained from giving a robust guidance.

Traditionally in the Indian IT industry, higher demand for IT services has spilled over to smaller service providers, benefitting them. But post-recession, there has been visible divergence in how large firms and a majority of medium-size firms perceive future demand.


Sachin shortlisted for ICC People’s Choice Award

Sachin Tendulkar is one of the five cricketers who has been shortlisted for the first LG People’s Choice Award to be given away during the ICC prize distribution function in Bengaluru on October 6.

The other four are Mike Hussey of Australia, Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka, England captain Andrew Strauss and South African A.B. de Villiers, an ICC release

The award category, which has been included for the first time this year, will be chosen by cricket fans around the world who now have a chance to vote for their favourite player until September 10.


Sehwag becomes sixth Indian batsman to score 7000 Test runs

Virender Sehwag became the sixth Indian batsman to score 7000 Test runs during his unbeaten knock of 97 on third and final Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo.

Sehwag reached the milestone during the final session when he scored a single off Sri Lankan paceman Lasith Malinga to mid-off area to bring up his 70 at the P Sara Oval.

The dashing Indian opener is the 38th batsman overall to have scored 7000 runs.

31-year-old Sehwag, who made his debut against South Africa at Bloemfontein in 2001, was playing in his 79th Test.

Sunil Gavaskar was the first Indian to complete 7000 runs in Test cricket years ago, while the other Indians in the list are Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly.

Innovative parameters

The cricketers have been selected on the basis of some innovative parameters by a five-member ICC selection panel, chaired by former West Indies captain and current chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee Clive Lloyd.

The panel also includes former international players Angus Fraser of England, Matthew Hayden of Australia, Ravi Shastri of India and Zimbabwe’s Duncan Fletcher.

These parameters include innovation, dynamism, strength in decision-making, performing well under pressure and also executing a plan to distinction.

The LG ICC Awards ceremony is now in its seventh year


Arjun Atwal creates history

THIS IS IT! Arjun Atwal gives vent to his feelings after winning the Wyndham Championship to put(t) his name in the annals of Indian sporting history.

Becomes the first Indian to win on the U.S. PGA Tour

Arjun Atwal became the first Indian and just the sixth Asian-born player to win on the PGA Tour when he secured a one-stroke victory at the Wyndham Championship.

Atwal joined Japanese trio Isao Aoki, Shigeki Maruyama and Ryuji Imada and South Koreans K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang in an elite but growing club of champions from world’s most populous continent.

The 37-year-old Atwal finished at 20-under-par 260 to beat American David Toms (64) by one stroke.


Sachin, Dhoni, Sehwag among 8 players nominated for ICC Awards

India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar and opener Virender Sehwag are among the eight cricketers who have been nominated for the October 6 LG ICC Awards 2010.

Nine players from four teams have each been nominated in three different categories for the award which is scheduled to be held in Bangaluru later this year.

Besides the Indian players, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis from South Africa, Shane Watson and Doug Bollinger from Australia and Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardena feature prominently in the long-lists for the awards.

For the first time, this year’s awards feature a new category, the People’s Choice Award, which will be chosen by cricket fans around the world who will get a chance to vote for their favourite player online from a short-list of five cricketers selected by the ICC selection panel.

The long-lists of nominations were made by a five-man ICC selection panel chaired by former West Indies captain and current chairman of the ICCCricket Committee Clive Lloyd.

The panel also includes former international players Angus Fraser of England, Matthew Hayden of Australia, Ravi Shastri of India and Zimbabwe’s Duncan Fletcher.


Sensex jumps nearly 200 pts to close at over two-year high

A smart rally in financial, FMCG and metal stocks, supported by strong global cues, pushed the BSE benchmark Sensex higher by nearly 200 points on Thursday to close at its highest level in two-and-a-half years.

Extending its upward journey for the second day, the 30-share barometer of the Bombay Stock Exchange ended with a gain of 197.82 points, or 1.08 per cent, at 18,454.94, its best closing since February 5, 2008.

In two days of rally, the Sensex has recorded a gain of 406 points.

The National Stock Exchange’s 50-share Nifty index added 1.11 per cent to settle at 5,540.20 points.


Shaurya Chakra for Dhonde

Commander Dilip Dhonde of Maharashtra has been decorated with Shaurya Chakra for becoming the first Indian to undertake a solo circumnavigation of the globe.

Commander Donde undertook “Sagar Parikrama” on Indian Naval Sailing Vessel Mhadei.

The Shaurya Chakra is a military decoration awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice while not being engaged in direct action with the enemy.

Post-matric scholarships for SC students to be raised by 70%

The cash amount of post-matric scholarships meant for students belonging to scheduled castes will be raised by 70 per cent. Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik stated, the government has taken a decision to revise and increasethe cash amount of post-matric scholarships keeping in view the rise in consumer price index.


UP launches scheme to financially assist poor families

The Uttar Pradesh government will implement Mahamaya Gareeb Aarthik Madad Yojna – a scheme to provide financial assistance to poor and destitute from 1st October, Social Welfare Minister Indrajeet Saroj stated in Lucknow.

Under the scheme, financial assistance will be extended to 30 lakh families, that have neither received the Below Poverty Line (BPL) ration card nor any type of pension, to fulfill their daily needs.

The beneficiaries will get financial assistance at the rate of of Rs 300 per month in two half-yearly instalments.

Saroj also directed the officials to verify income and caste proof of persons covered under various schemes of social welfare department and lodge FIR, if their certificates were found to be fake.


Bhopal gas leak: Govt wants 1,500 crore from Dow

More than 20 years after the Supreme Court-supervised Bhopal gas victims compensation package of $470 million was worked out, the Centre has decided to seek more than Rs 1,500 crore extra from Dow Chemicals and its subsidiary Union Carbide. This meant to be additional relief for the victims.

Given the decision of the Group of Ministers (GoM) to uniformly give Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the kin of those who died in the worst ever industrial disaster on December 2-3, 1984, when deadly methyl isocyanate gas leaked from the UCC plant in Bhopal, the ministry feels that the gradation made by the Supreme Court for compensation was not correct.


RBI directive to core investment companies

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 13th August, 2010 directed core investment companies (CICs) to register themselves with the central bank in case their asset size is at least Rs. 100 crore.

CICs are non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), which invest in shares for the purpose of owning a stake in a company, rather than for trading. They also do not carry out any other financial activities.

The RBI also asked these companies to keep aside minimum capital at all times to ensure that their “adjusted net worth shall not be less than 30 per cent of aggregate risk weighted assets on balance sheet and risk adjusted value of off-balance sheet items as on the date of last audited balance sheet as at the end of the financial year”.


Status of Boradband connectivity in Schools

Under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme “Information and Communication Technology in Schools” there is a provision for internet connectivity including broadband in Government and Government aided secondary and higher secondary schools subject to availability of telecom infrastructure in the vicinity and based on viable proposals from the State Government.

The Rural Wire-line Broadband Scheme of Department of Telecommunication, there is provision for providing broadband connectivity to individual users and Government Institutions, including schools in rural and remote areas.

Under the Scheme, BSNL plans to provide 8,88,832 wire-line broadband connections to individual users and Government Institutions, including schools, and will set up 28.672 kiosks over a period of 5 years i.e. by 2014. As of May 2010, a total of 1,42,906 broadband connections have been provided in rural and remote areas.

Under the Centrally Sponsored Plan Scheme “National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT)”, there is a proposal to provide broadband connectivity to over 18000 colleges in the country including each of the Departments of 419 Universities/Institutions of higher learning by the end of the 11th Five Year Plan.


Teacher-Student Ratio

The University Grants Commission (UGC) had constituted a Committee under the Chairmanship of Prof. J.A.K. Tareen on the norms for teacher to student ratio for various disciplines/programmes and teaching to non-teaching ratio in Central Universities and UGC maintained Deemed to be Universities. The recommendations of the Committee are as under:

1. Teacher to Student Ratio-

PG Programme

(i) For Science Programme 1:10

(ii) For Humanities/Social Science 1:15

(iii) Commerce & Management 1:15

(iv) Media & Mass Communication 1:10

UG Programme

(i) Social Sciences 1:30

(ii) Sciences 1:25

(iii) B.Ed. As per NCTE norms

(iv) Media & Mass Communication 1:15

2. Teacher to Non-Teaching Ratio:

1:1.1 Non-Teaching (Ministerial)

1:0.40 Non-Teaching (Technical)

1:1.30 for affiliating University (Ministerial)

The recommendations of the Committee are under consideration with UGC.


Banks’ loans fall in July, deposits rise: RBI

Indian banks’ outstanding loans fell in July while deposits posted an increase, Reserve Bank of India data showed on 11th August, 2010. Loans fell 1.3 per cent in July to Rs 33.57 trillion and in the fortnight ended July 30, they shrunk by 0.2 per cent, data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) showed.

On the other hand, total deposits of banks grew 1.04 per cent during the fortnight to Rs 46.4 trillion as on July 30, and were up a marginal 0.15 per cent in July.

On-year, banks posted a robust 19.7 per cent credit growth in July and deposits grew 13.98 per cent in the same period, data showed.

The RBI has projected loan growth of 20 per cent for 2010/11 fiscal year in the quarterly review in July. Indian banks’ investments in government bonds, during the July 30 fortnight, grew 0.33 per cent to Rs 14.39 trillion, the RBI said.

Year-on-year, investments grew by 8.44 per cent, it said.


RBI proposes foreign investment in Private Banks below 50%

The Reserve Bank on 11th August, 2010 suggested lowering the foreign investment limit in new private sector banks to below 50 per cent from 74 per cent currently, in order to strengthen the local banks.

RBI released the paper on issuing new banking licenses to foster greater competition and expand the banking system. It listed pros and cons of various norms such as minimum capital requirements and caps on promoters as well as foreign shareholding.

The paper did not say whether the 50 per cent cap on foreign investment in private sector banks should apply to the new units only, or will hold true for the existing ones as well. Industry experts said the new cap could be for all.

Infy to begin search for its new Murthy

Infosys Technologies will begin the task of finding a replacement for its chairman and chief mentor, NR Narayana Murthy, from January next year, as India’s second-biggest software exporter seeks to pass on the baton to a new crop of leaders. Mr Murthy will retire next year August after he turns 65.

At present there are three nominees for the successor of Mr. Murthy are in the Infosys’ nominations committee, which has ICICI Bank non-executive chairman KV Kamath, Cornell University professor Jeffrey Sean Lehman and HDFC Standard Life Insurance CEO Deepak M Satwalekar as its members, has already begun discussions on the process.

Mr Murthy, who founded Infosys along with six others in 1981, quit as executive chairman when he turned 60 in 2006. The company has been preparing for its biggest leadership transition since then.


Ratan Tata selected ‘Businessman of the decade’

Ratan Tata, Chairman of the TATA group was bestowed with the title of ‘Businessman of the Decade’ during a ceremony held in Mumbai.

Governor of Maharashtra, K. Sankaranarayanan felicitated Ratan Tata with the award at a function organised by Federation of Indo-Israel Chambers of Commerce.


IT industry upsets about the US plan of hiking visa fees

Indian IT companies on 6th August, 2010 cried foul over a proposed US Bill that is expected to saddle the outsourcing industry with an additional cost of $200-250 million towards visa fees.

The Border Security Bill – which has been passed by the US Senate and will be taken up by the House of Representatives shortly – seeks to recover the cost of a beefed-up US-Mexico border security programme by imposing a steep $2000 increase in H-1B and L-1 visa fee (filing fee and fraud prevention and detection fee) over the current account.

At present, depending on their size, IT companies shell out $1,570 or $2,320 towards H-1B visa fees. Apex industry association NASSCOM (National Association of Software Companies) fears that the proposed bill hurt competitiveness of Indian outsourcing firms. That at a time when the $50-billion IT export industry has just begun to recover from the effects of global financial crisis, and is already nervous about the debt crisis in Europe.

In 2009, Wipro is the IT firm among the others who have got maximum H1 visas (1964).


India now has more rich than poor

The growing economy has spun a wheel of fortune for Indians, with high income households outnumbering those in the low category for the first time at the end of 2009-10, according to estimates made by think-tank NCAER.

India has 46.7 million high income households as compared to 41 million in the low income category, the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) estimates on earnings and spendings have revealed.

“For the first time, the number of high income households is set to exceed the number of poor households in 2009-10,” the NCAER said, adding that the middle income class continued to grow.

Households earning less than Rs 40,000 per annum (at 2001-02 prices) are dubbed as low income, whereas those with earnings over Rs 1.80 lakh fall in the high income category.

Those earning between Rs 45,000-Rs 1.80 lakh per annum are considered middle income households, whose number surged to 140.7 million out of the total of 228.4 Indian million families at the end of 2009-10.

Thus, the NCAER survey confirms that 62 per cent of Indian households belong to the middle class, which is the target of most consumer goods firms.

Similarly, 53 per cent of all air conditioners are owned by middle class homes and nearly 46 per cent of all credit cards are to be found in these households.


21 new sites added to World Heritage List

The UNESCO has added 21 new sites to its World Heritage List, bringing the total to 911.

Among the sites added after a ten day meeting in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia were the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long-Hanoi in Vietnam and the historic villages of Hahoe and Yangdong in South Korea. Also included were the Episcopal city of Albi in France, the prehistoric caves of Yagul and Mitla in Mexico, thehistoric monuments of Dengfeng in China, and the 17th century canal ring in Amsterdam.

The Everglades National Park in the United States was added to UNESCO’s list of sites in danger, while the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador was removed from it.

The UNESCO meeting would be held in 2011 in Bahrain.


Stocks up at 30-month highs!!

Putting behind a weak profit growth in quarterly results unveiled by India Inc for the April-June quarter, stocks are surging ahead. The third straight session of rise on Wednesday saw the 30-share sensitive index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange’s Nifty close at 30-monthly highs as investors seemed to bet on strong economic growth ahead.

The Sensex rose 102 points or 0.5 per cent to close at 18,217.4 while the Nifty gained 28 points to close at 5,467.9, even as the whole of Europe was trading in the red.

The Sensex has gained 776 points or 4.5 per cent over the last one month amidst a strong FII inflow of Rs 16, 617 crore in July and R2,582 crore in the first three trading days of August.


Worlds cheapest laptop designed by IIT, Kanpur

India has developed world’s cheapest laptop. Designed by experts at IIT, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, the device was unveiled recently.  This low-cost computer comes with a price tag of Rs 1,500 or $35.  This has been aimed for students and probably to change the class room education across the country.

This sleek looking device is no bigger than a iPad, equipped with touch-screen and built in keyboard, wi-fi connectivity, USB port, have a 2 GB RAM memory, and is supported by a 2-watt system for areas with poor supply. Thedevice has an alternate solar battery support.

The laptop is packed with Internet browsers, PDF reader and video conferencing facilities.  The device is expected to come out for students by 2011.  He further added that the aim is to reduce the price to $20 and eventually $10 i.e. Rs 470.


Sericulture treated as Agriculture partly

Keeping in view the fact that National Commission for Agriculture and Reserve Bank of India have considered sericulture up to the stage of cocoon production as an agriculture activity,

Department of Agriculture & Cooperation has decided to include sericulture up to the stage of cocoon production along with extension system for cocoon production and silk yarn production in agri-enterprises up to the stage of yarn production and marketing to be eligible for funding under RKVY.


Railways’ New Catering Policy 2010

A new Catering Policy 2010 of Indian Railways has been introduced w.e.f. 21st July, 2010 which has revised policy guidelines regarding management of mobile as well as static catering units.

The management of providing onboard catering services to the railway passengers on Indian Railways is now to be done by the Zonal Railways instead of IRCTC, in a phased manner.

Following steps are taken to maintain quality of food and mobile as well as static units:-

1. Modernization of base kitchens and cell kitchens where food is prepared for onward transmission to mobile unit.
2. Conducting special drive on premium trains and base kitchen.
3. Conducting 3rd party audit by reputed agencies.
4. Customer satisfaction surveys.
5. Web enabled complaint management systems.
6. Toll free number to lodge complaint.

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