Scientists slam study
behind Bt Brinjal ban
A vital study cited by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to justify his
decision to disallow the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal in India is
flawed, claim top European scientists. Mr Ramesh had referred to the findings of
France-based Caen University professor Gilles-Eric Séralini and his team, which
had branded Bt brinjal—India’s first genetically modified (GM) food
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Experts claim that Séralini was unduly influenced by the renowned international
NGO Greenpeace—with its aggressive green agenda—which sponsored the study, and
never carried out a peer-reviewed laboratory study on GM crops he called
hazardous, including Bt maize and Bt brinjal, its gene or seeds.
The European Food Safety Association, a risk assessment body, has trashed
Séralini’s findings on Monsanto’s MON 863, a variety of Bt maize.
On February 9, 2010, the Union government decided to freeze the introduction of
Bt Brinjal in India till independent scientific studies established health and
environment safety of the product to the satisfaction of both public and
Bt Brinjal is a genetically modified vegetable that is infused with Cry1Ac gene
from a bacterium, bacillus thuringiensis, to make the plant resistant to fruit
and shoot borers and certain pests.
The Environment Ministry has appointed a Genetic Engineering Approval Committee
(GEAC) to regulate research, testing and commercial release of genetically
modified crops, foods and organisms. The GEAC had cleared Bt Brinjal for
commercial release in October 2009. According to GEAC Bt Brinjal would reduce
farmers’ dependence on pesticides and enable higher yields.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Uniform Math and
Science content for Class 11 and 12
From the 2011 academic session, students of Classes XI and XII across the
country will study a uniform science and math curriculum. Currently, course
content of these critical subjects varies with the State school board an
institution is affiliated to.
The idea is to have for every student a level playing field for entry to
professional colleges. The government has also received the approval of all
school boards—including State boards—to work towards a single, national-level
entrance exam for all engineering and medical courses in India from 2013.
Gradually, such an exam would be extended for entry to colleges of other
disciplines, such as law.
One test would mean the end of plenty like IIT-JEE, AIEEE and State exams for
engineering colleges and various State-level PMTs, beside national level PMT,
which the CBSE conducts. This, the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry
believes, would lessen the burden on students, who have to prepare for different
exams, which bring their own levels of stress.
India to launch
mission to cut emissions
India will spare no efforts to contribute to the success of post-Copenhagen
process, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared on February 6, 2010, as he
announced the launch of a National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency, aimed
at cutting carbon emissions by 99 million tonnes. Within the ambit of our
National Action Plan on Climate Change, India has already unveiled one of the
world's most ambitious plans for promoting solar energy, targeting an installed
capacity of 20,000 MW by the year 2022. The initiative is expected to lead to
avoidance of capacity addition of nearly 20,000 MW and reduce carbon dioxide
emissions of almost 99 million tonnes.
Courts do not need nod
for CBI probe: SC
On February 17, 2010, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of
courts’ powers to order CBI probe without the consent of State governments but
with a rider: the powers should be used cautiously and sparingly. The five-judge
Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, said that such
powers have to be used sparingly in exceptional and extraordinary circumstances
in cases having national and international ramifications. Otherwise, the CBI
will be flooded with such directions in routine cases. Such powers are vested
with the apex court and High courts to ensure protection of fundamental rights
of citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution, it said.
Judicial Standards and
The proposed Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, which will replace the
four decade-old Judges Inquiry Act, has laid down 14 guidelines for judges.
These guidelines will be called judicial standards.
Major highlights of the Bill are:
- No judge shall give an interview to the media in relation to any
of his judgement delivered, or order made, or direction issued, by him in
any case adjudicated by him.
- No judge shall enter into a public debate or express his views in
public on political matters, except views expressed by a judge in his
individual capacity on issues of public interest, other than as a judge
during a private discussion or at an academic forum.
- The Bill bars the judges from allowing any member of his family,
who is a practising lawyer, from using the residence in which the judge
actually resides or use of any other facilities provided to the judge, for
professional work of any family member.
- The proposed law expects judges not to delay delivering a
judgement beyond three months after conclusion of arguments and have bias in
judicial work or judgements on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or
place of birth.
- Any wilful breach of judicial standards could be treated as
misbehaviour and lead to a disciplinary panel initiating proceedings against
the erring judge.
- A complaint alleging misbehaviour or corruption would be referred
to a scrutiny panel comprising three judges. If the panel finds merit in any
complaint, it would be forwarded to an Oversight Committee, which after
investigating the matter can refer it to the President for initiating action
against the judge.
In an important step towards the implementation of the Indo-US civilian nuclear
deal, the Union government is to introduce a Bill to facilitate the entry of
American companies in the nuclear sector. The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage
Bill, 2009 is commonly known as the nuclear liability Bill.
The Bill aims at limiting the liability of a nuclear plant operator to Rs 300
crore in the eventuality of an accident and provides for appointing a claims
commissioner with powers of a civil court to arbitrate such cases. It also
provides for the penalty to be paid by the operator and not the supplier
companies, which would mainly be American in this case.
The operator would not be liable for any nuclear damages if the incident is
caused by “grave national disaster of exceptional character”, armed conflict or
an act of terrorism and is suffered by the person on account of his own
The Bill also provides for the establishment of the Nuclear Damage Claims
Commission, which will have one or more claims commissioners for a specified
area. The claims commissioner shall have all the powers of a civil court for the
purpose of taking evidence on oath, enforcing attendance of witnesses,
compelling the discovery and production of documents and other material objects.
Environment activists have described the attempt to cap the level of
compensation for victims of a nuclear accident as a violation of fundamental
rights. Currently, the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, allows the government-owned
Nuclear Power Corporation of India to operate nuclear power plants in the
Union Budget, 2010
On February 26, 2010, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presented a Budget that
broadly focused on fiscal stabilization. The Union Budget was presented at a
time when the Indian economy was on the path of revival and almost all demand
indicators had turned significantly positive. Investment and consumption demand
was also on a revival mode. The buoyancy in the manufacturing sector and up-tick
in import and export were also working well for economic growth prospects. In
the current economic scenario, what was required from the Budget was a further
push for consumption and investment. The Budget announcements tried to do just
- Additional Rs 1,65,000 cr for bank re-capitalisation
- Rs 3000 cr for agricultural impetus
- Farm loan payments to be extended for six months
- Fertilizer subsidy to be reduced
- Rs 100 cr woman farmer fund scheme
- Coal regulatory authority to be set up
- Clean energy fund to be established
- Interest subvention of 2% to be extended for handicrafts and SMEs
- Rs 200 cr for Tamil Nadu textile sector
- Interest subvention for housing loans up to 1 lacs
- Allocation to defence raised to Rs 1.47 lakh cr
- Defence capex raised to Rs 60,000 cr
- Divestment target of Rs 25,000 cr
- Rs 1200 cr assistance for drought in Bundelkhand
- Rs 48000 cr for Bharat Nirman
- NREGA scheme allocation raised to Rs 41,000 cr
- Allocation to health Rs 22,300 cr
- Allocation for school education up from Rs 26,800 cr to Rs 31036
- Allocation to power sector at Rs 5130 cr
- Rs 10,000 cr allocated for Indira Awaas Yojna
- Social Security Fund to have corpus of over Rs 1000 cr
- Rs 2400 cr for MSMEs
- Government to contribute Rs 1000 per month for pension security
- Rs 5400 cr allocated for urban development
- Rs 66100 cr allocated for rural development
- Rs 1900 cr allocated for UID project
- Gross tax receipts Rs 7.46 lakh cr
- Government to set up National Mission for delivery of justice
- 15% rise in planned expenditure
- Fiscal deficit target of 5.5% in FY11
- Excise on all non smoking tobacco raised
- Televisions to be costlier
- Mobile phones to become cheaper
- Cement to be costlier
- Refrigerators to be costlier
- Jewellery to be more expensive
- Monorail granted project import status
- CDs to be cheaper
- Excise duty on CFL halved to 4%
- Bank farm loan target: Rs 3.75,lakh crore
- Nutrient based fertiliser subsidy scheme to come into force from
April 1, 2010
- To build 20 km of highway every day
- Income tax on income upto Rs 1.6 lakh: Nil
- Income tax on income above Rs 1.6 lakh and upto Rs. 5 lakh: 10 per
- Income tax on income above Rs.5 lakh and upto Rs. 8 lakh: 20 per
- Income tax on income above Rs. 8 lakh: 30 per cent
Economic Survey 2010
- Economy likely to grow by up to 8.75 per cent in 2010-11.
- Full recovery; return to 9 per cent growth in 2011-12.
- Broad recovery gives scope for gradual stimulus roll back.
- High double-digit food inflation in 2009-10 major concern.
- Signs of food inflation spreading to other sectors.
- Farm & allied sector production falls 0.2% in 2009-10.
- Need serious policy initiatives for 4% agriculture growth.
- Moots direct food subsidy via food coupons to households.
- Favours making available food in open market.
- Favours monthly ration coupons usable anywhere for poor.
- Gross fiscal deficit pegged at 6.5 pc of GDP in 2009-10.
- India 10th largest
gold holding nation at 557.7 tonnes.
- Exports in April-December 2009 down 20.3 per cent.
- Imports in April-December 2009 down 23.6 per cent.
- Trade gap narrowed to USD 76.24 bn in April-December.
- 32.5% savings & 34.9% investment (of GDP in 2008-09) put India in
league of world's fastest growing nations.
- Government initiates steps to boost private investment in
- Wants credit available at reasonable rates on time for private
sector to invest in agriculture.
- Slowdown in infrastructure that began in 2007, arrested.
- Domestic oil production to rise 11 per cent in 2009-10.
- Gas output up 52.8 per cent to 50.2 billion cubic meters with RIL
- India world's 2nd
largest wireless network with 525.1 million mobile users.
- Virtually every second Indian has access to phone.
- Auction for 3G spectrum to provide existing and foreign players to
bring in new technology and innovations.
Railways Budget, 2010
Union Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee presented the Railways Budget, 2010, on
February 24. No change in passenger fares was announced—Planning Commission was
pitching for a hike—and the freight rates on select, but significant items such
as kerosene and food grains, were cut to keep prices down.
54 new trains, including 10 Durantos, were announced. The Minister also promised
to construct over 1,000 km of new rail lines over next one year.
The operating ratio, proportion of expenses to earnings, which was a healthy 75
per cent in 2007-08, was up to 94.7 per cent in 2009-10. The Railways hope to
bring it down to 92.3 per cent in 2010-11. Though the budget proposes to raise
net surplus from Rs 951.03 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 3,173 crore in 2010-11, these
figures were called “peanuts” by experts when compared to the figures of some
Only Rs 373.09 crore was provided for new projects. Many projects come with
riders: they’re either proposed in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode or
are “subject to sanction by the Finance Ministry and Planning Commission”.
- No increase in passenger fares.
- Rs.100 reduction in freight per wagon for fertilisers and
- Free travel for cancer patients in 3rd AC classes.
- Cost-sharing in public-private-partnership (PPP) mode in some
- Further extension of Kolkata Metro on priority basis; stations to
be named after Bahadur Shah Zafar, Tagore family.
- Karmabhoomi trains to
be introduced for migrant labour.
- New Janmabhoomi train between Ahmedabad and Udhampur.
- Special 'Bharat Teertha' train to be run around India to
commemorate Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary. A special train
to be run from West Bengal to Bangladesh to commemorate the anniversary.
- Railway line to be extended from Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh to
Leh in Jammu and Kashmir.
- Andaman and Nicobar Islands to get railway line from Port Blair to
- Sikkim capital Gangtok to be connected by rail from Rangpo.
- Impact of Sixth Pay Commission recommendations placed at Rs.55,000
- Gross earnings in 2009-10 estimated at Rs.88,281 crore.
- Working expenditure in 2009-10 estimated at Rs.83,440 crore.
- Expenses during 2010-11 estimated at Rs.87,100 crore.
- Thrust on expansion in 2010-11 with allocation of Rs.4,411 crore.
- Net profit of Rs.1,328 crore in 2009-10.
- Ten automobile ancillary hubs to be created.
- Policy decision to employ one member of family whose land is
requisitioned for railway projects.
- North-south, east-west dedicated freight corridors to be created.
- Centre for railway research to be established with Indian
Institutes of Technology and Defence Research and Development Organisation.
- Design, development and testing centre for railway wheels at
- Five sports academies to be set up; astroturf to be provided for
development of hockey; employment opportunities for sports persons.
- Railways to be lead partner for Commonwealth Games.
The Union government has accepted most of the recommendations of the Thirteenth
Finance Commission headed by former Finance Secretary Vijay Kelkar.
The Commission has told governments at the Centre and States to set their fiscal
house in order, even as it raised the share of taxes that the States would be
entitled to receive over the next five years by 1.5 percentage points.
In addition, the Commission, a Constitutional body that is appointed every five
years to recommend a tax-sharing formula between the Centre and States, has
suggested a roadmap for the introduction of a single-rate goods and services tax
(GST), the key indirect tax reform to create a common market in India.
Its stringent new roadmap for fiscal responsibility suggests, among other
things, that the overall debt of the Centre and States be capped at 68 per cent
of gross domestic product (GDP) from the current 82 per cent, and 75 per cent
recommended by the Twelfth Finance Commission.
The Finance Commission has recommended that the Centre reduce debt to 45 per
cent of GDP by March 2015, against 54.2 per cent at present. For States the
reduction in debt is recommended at 2 percentage points to 25 per cent. The
relatively less stringent condition for States comes with the rider that the
Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act allows the Centre to borrow on
behalf of the States to help them counter macro-economic shocks. During the
financial crisis, the Centre had relaxed the cap on the fiscal deficit.
The Finance Commission has said the Centre should transfer 32 per cent of the
taxes it collects to States, against 30.5 per cent at present. The overall
ceiling— including transfers to local bodies—on transfers from the Centre’s
gross revenue has been raised from 38 to 39.5 per cent.
Among proposals that provide a thrust to fiscal federalism, the commission has
recommended that local bodies receive up to 2.5 per cent of the divisible tax
pool. Of this, up to 1 per cent can be incentive-linked.
While there is more reason for the States to cheer since the commission proposes
an increase in grants, much of it is tied to specific spending programmes such
as those for elementary education and environment. There is, however, a
performance incentive of Rs 1,500 crore for Assam, Sikkim and Uttarakhand and a
grant of Rs 51,800 crore to meet the deficits of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal
Pradesh and the north-eastern States (excluding Assam).
Like its predecessor, the Thirteenth Finance Commission has recommended a debt
relief scheme for the States. The first element is to cap the interest rate on a
part of the loans from the National Small Savings Fund at 9 per cent from up to
10.5 per cent. This will translate into a benefit of Rs 28,360 crore to the
States. In addition, there is a Rs 4,506 crore benefit with the government
accepting the suggestion to write off central loans that are not administered by
the finance ministry but were outstanding at the end of 2009-10.
Including the higher grants-in-aid, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and
Maharashtra would be the biggest beneficiaries in terms of share of transfers.
Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir would be the top losers.
The Finance Commission has projected that tax receipts would see a compounded
annual growth rate of over 17 per cent between March 2010 and March 2015, while
nominal GDP growth is estimated at 13.2 per cent.
Prescribing a zero revenue deficit as the golden rule, the Commission has
recommended that the endeavour for all States should be to reach that level by
Union Cabinet raises
On February 18, 2010, the Union government decided to raise urea prices by 10
per cent. It also allowed the industry to fix retail prices of other subsidised
fertilisers, while limiting the government’s subsidy burden under a new policy
that will determine the subsidy on phosphorus and potash based on their
The decision, to take effect from April 1, 2010, will help the government reduce
its fertiliser subsidy bill, estimated at Rs 50,000 crore for 2009-10. But, the
move will hit farmers, even as fertiliser companies will stand to gain. The
latest decision does away with the practice of government fixing a maximum
retail price and aims at replacing the current system of giving subsidy to the
industry with direct assistance to farmers.
The switch to the nutrient-based fertiliser plan is significant as companies
will now be able to change retail prices of only nutrient-based fertilisers
(nitrogen, phosphorus, potash and sulphur), which will help the government cap
the subsidy on these fertilisers. The move is also expected to attract fresh
investment in the fertiliser industry.
The government’s annual subsidy bill on fertilisers in 2008-09 was estimated at
Rs 75,849 crore, which was expected to be brought down to Rs 49,980 crore in
2009-10. The bulk of the increase in the fertiliser subsidy is on account of the
sale of decontrolled fertiliser with concession to farmers. Urea accounts for
about 30 per cent of the total fertiliser subsidy burden.
committee to look into formation of Telangana
The Union government has set-up a five-member committee headed by Justice B.N.
Srikrishna to look into the modalities of forming the separate State of
Telangana. The committee has been given time till December 31, 2010 to consult
all sections of the society and submit report. The terms of reference of the
- Examine the situation in Andhra Pradesh with reference to demand
for separate Telangana State, as well as the demand for maintaining the
present status of a united Andhra Pradesh.
- Review developments in the State since its formation and their
impact on the progress and development of different regions of the State.
- Examine the impact of recent developments in the State on
different sections of people such as women, children, students, minorities,
OBCs, SC and STs.
- Consult all sections of people, especially political parties and
elicit their views on a range of solutions that would resolve the present
- Identify the key issues that must be addressed.
- Consult organisations of other civil societies such as industries,
trade unions, farmer organisations, women students.
- Make any other suggestion and recommendations that the committee
may deem appropriate.
- The protagonists of separate State, however, rejected the terms of
reference of the Justice Srikrishna committee and vowed to intensify their
agitation. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which has been spearheading
the statehood agitation, struck a belligerent note and announced that its
MPs, MLAs and MLCs would resign in protest.
- Rejecting the terms of reference and the ten-month time frame
given for the committee, the TRS chief said the Centre had once again
cheated the people of Telangana by backtracking on its December 9, 2009
statement announcing initiation of the process for formation of separate
Taking serious objection
to the inclusion of the demand for continuation of united Andhra Pradesh among
the terms of reference, he said: “what is the point in looking into the demand
for united Andhra Pradesh when it already exists now? There is only one popular
movement going on in the State and that is for separate Telangana State.”
However, the leaders from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions found comfort
in the open-ended nature of the panel’s terms. “We welcome the terms of
reference, which are fairly balanced. It will give an opportunity for a thorough
assessment of the ground situation,” a ruling Congress MP from coastal Andhra
Asian group endorses
seat to India in UN Council
India's candidacy for a non-permanent seat in the Security Council has been
endorsed by all 53 member States of the Asian group in the UN General Assembly.
Nineteen countries, including Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh,
spoke in favour of giving India a slot on the Security Council table from
In January 2010, India's path to a non-permanent seat got cleared after its sole
competitor from Asia, Kazakhstan, backed out of the race.
The Security Council is made up of 15 States—five permanent members who have the
veto power and 15 non-permanent members elected for a two-year term. To win,
India needs two-thirds of the General Assembly vote, which adds up to about 128
counties saying yes to India's presence in the Council.
Running after more than a decade, India orchestrated a year-long campaign led by
India’s envoy to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri, who campaigned in New York and at
multilateral events at the United Nations.
The last time India had a seat at the Council was in 1992. In 1996, Japan won
with India trailing behind with approximately 40 votes.
Visit of Nepalese
President Ram Baran Yadav from Feb
President of Nepal Ram Baran Yadav visited New Delhi from February 15, 2010. In
an effort to make the visit a truly successful event, India offered a
250-million dollar soft loan through EXIM Bank and signed four major accords
with the Himalayan nation.
India also offered to supply 50,000 tonne of wheat, 20,000 tonne of rice and
10,000 tonne of yellow peas to its neighbour. An additional 2,000 tonne of wheat
would be provided to Nepal, if required.
The four accords signed by the two countries are: new air services agreement,
MOU on development of railway infrastructure at five border points, MOU on
development of India-Nepal friendship polytechnic at Hetavda in Makwanpur
district of Nepal; and MOU on establishment of India-Nepal friendship convention
centre at Birgunj in Nepal.
During the delegation-level talks, the Indian Prime Minister hoped that the
peace process and drafting of the constitution would be completed in Nepal as
per the schedule. Sixty-two-year-old India-educated Yadav expressed his
gratitude to the Indian leadership for assisting his country in its economic
The Presidential visit came on the eve of a new constitution the Nepal
government has pledged to promulgate in May 2010. Nepal's fragile peace process
that began after a decade of insurgency is expected to be consolidated by the
new statute. However, hiccups continue, with the Maoists now saying they will
agree to the rehabilitation of their guerrilla army, the People's Liberation
Army (PLA), only after the new statute came into effect.
Talks with Pakistan end without much headway
A breakthrough eluded India and Pakistan at the Foreign Secretary-level talks
with New Delhi rejecting Islamabad’s plea for the resumption of the composite
dialogue process (CDP) and handing over three fresh dossiers to the neighbouring
country linking elements in Pakistan, including JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, with
terrorist activities on the Indian soil.
At the first official dialogue between the two countries after a 14-month
hiatus, on February 25, 2010, India focused on terrorism emanating from the
Pakistani territory, while Pakistan raised the Kashmir, water and Baluchistan
The three-hour talks, seen by diplomatic observers more as an exercise in
scoring brownie points by the two sides, ended with Foreign Secretary Nirupama
Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir announcing at separate press
briefings that they would remain in touch and continue endeavours to restore
trust in the relationship. However, it was quite clear from the statements of
the two top diplomats that they would have to cover a lot of distance in putting
the peace process between the two neighbours back on track.
Manmohan Singh’s visit to Saudi Arabia
On February 26, 2010, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh became the first Indian
Prime Minister in 28 years to visit Saudi Arabia. During the visit, Saudi Arabia
expressed concerns over extremism in Pakistan as New Delhi and Riyadh firmed up
a strategic partnership.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled a roadmap for comprehensive economic
partnership as he addressed captains of industry from both the countries.
Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who had a discussion with Singh, later
spoke of the “dangerous trend” of extremism in Pakistan and made it clear that
Riyadh had nothing to do with the Taliban. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were among
the few countries that had recognised the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
The Saudi minister said, “Pakistan is a friendly country. Therefore, any time
one does see dangerous trends in a friendly country, one is not only sorry but
worried. And it is indeed the duty of all political leaders in Pakistan to unite
to see that extremism does not find a way to achieve its aim in the country and
this can only happen with united political leadership in Pakistan. This, we
hope, Pakistan will possibly achieve.”
India sees Saudi Arabia as a strategic partner for promoting peace, stability
and economic development. Such a partnership will bring benefits not only to the
two countries but to the region. After discussions between Mr Singh and King
Abduallah, the two sides signed the Riyadh declaration.
The Delhi Declaration, signed during the historic visit of King Abdullah to
India in 2006 as the chief guest on India's Republic Day, had charted out a new
path of cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia across a range of fields
including security, bilateral trade and investment, culture, science and
technology. According to the new declaration, keeping in view the development of
relations between the two countries, and the potential for their further growth,
the two leaders decided to raise their cooperation to a strategic partnership
covering security, economic, defence and political areas.
Visit of President of
The Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, visited India on February 9, 2010 and held
wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on all issues of mutual
interest, including the international situation. Apart from the declaration on
terrorism, the two countries issued a document on cooperation in the field of
science and technology.
Days after keeping New Delhi out of the Istanbul conference on Afghanistan at
the instance of Pakistan, Turkish President Abdullah Gul sought to placate India
by strongly endorsing its position on the issue of terrorism.
Turkey is the first Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) member to support
India’s call for early conclusion of a comprehensive convention on international
terrorism, which finds a mention in the joint declaration on terrorism. Turkey’s
position is being seen as a major departure from that of OIC, which is not
willing to exclude armed forces from the purview of the convention.
On Afghanistan, the Turkish President praised the role being played by India in
the reconstruction plan in the embattled nation.
India, UK ink N-pact
On February 11, 2010, India signed a civil-nuclear cooperation declaration with
Britain, making it the eighth country to sign such a pact with New Delhi after
India secured approval of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) to undertake
nuclear commerce in September, 2008. It is a general umbrella agreement on
civil-nuclear cooperation between the two countries.
India has already signed nuclear deals with France, the USA, Russia, Kazakhstan,
Namibia, Mongolia and Argentina. A nuclear agreement between India and Canada
has also been finalised. Germany and South Korea have also expressed their
desire to cooperate with India in the field of civil-nuclear energy.
The pact is expected to provide legal framework to British companies to export
components and products.
Andhra HC quashes
quota for Muslims
In a major setback to the Andhra Pradesh government’s Muslim reservation policy,
the High Court, on February 8, 2010, struck down a legislation providing four
per cent quota for the minority community in jobs and educational institutions.
A seven-member constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice A.R. Dave found
fault with the way the survey was conducted by the Backward Classes Commission,
whose recommendations had formed the basis for quota policy.
The State Assembly had passed the legislation in July 2007 providing four per
cent reservation for socially and educationally backward Muslims by including
them among backward classes. The quota was made applicable to 15 Muslim groups
identified by the Andhra Pradesh Backward Classes Commission as socially and
educationally backward. These were categorised as BC-E Group for the purpose of
Acting on a bunch of writ petitions filed by several individuals and
organisations challenging the legislation, the court—in a majority
verdict—termed the commission’s survey as “irrational and unscientific” and held
the legislation as “unsustainable”.
Bengal ‘poor performers’ in fight against naxalites
Maharashtra and West Bengal, which have been hit by terrorist and Maoist
violence, are among the seven States that have fared poorly in modernising their
police force. According to official documents, put together by the Home
Ministry, Maharashtra and West Bengal have been labelled as “poor performing
States” as they failed to use the funds sanctioned to them by the Centre for
upgrading their police force and intelligence apparatus.
The Centre earmarked Rs 1,230 crore for 2009-10 for the scheme for modernisation
of the State police forces (MPF), which is meant primarily to equip State
governments to deal with emerging challenges to internal security like terrorism
and naxal violence.
The poor performing States have outdated and obsolete weapons and even the
extremist-prone police stations are often not supplied with modern weapons, and
even when it is supplied police personnel are not trained to use them. Their
police communication network does not function efficiently, they do not have
enough vehicles and their forensic laboratories lack proper infrastructure.
Indian Economy –
The Indian economy showed a degree of
resilience as it recorded a better-than-expected growth of 7.9 per cent during
the second quarter of 2009-10 but the recovery is yet to become sufficiently
For several months, rapidly rising food
inflation has been a cause for concern. There are indications that the sustained
increase in food prices is beginning to spill over into other commodities and
services as well.
Factors contributing to increase in
1. The poor south-west monsoon has already materialised.
2. Higher global crude prices and
3. Less than expected seasonal moderation in food
prices have also exerted upward pressure on inflation.
Global Economy –
The global economy
is showing increasing signs of stabilisation with the Asian region experiencing
a relatively stronger rebound. The IMF has also revised the projection of global
growth for 2010 to 3.9 per cent, up from 3.1 per cent.
However, significant risks remain:
(i) the recovery is driven largely by government spending in many economies;
(Quarterly growth rate, Non-food credit growth, earnings expectation by the
companies and business confidence surveys etc…)
(ii) commodity and asset prices have risen
aided by high levels of global liquidity; and (Inflation and
Bond prices etc..)
(iii) emerging market economies (EMEs),
which are generally recovering faster than advanced economies, are likely to
face increased inflationary pressures. ( WPI)
(These are the three main factors to watch
for in the coming days. Each factor is measured by some indicators as indicated
in brackets against them)
Why Australia has not yet signed the
Nuke Deal with India?
is an issue of vital importance, though it is not without hiccups. On the
‘Yellowcake’ front, Australia is still in ‘denial
mode’, despite earlier support for the India-US
Nuclear Deal and India Specific Safeguards at the International Atomic Energy
Agency and at the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
The decision to deny Uranium to India
actually radiates from Rudd’s (Australian PM) domestic political compulsions and
the fact that he has to face federal elections in
2010. The devised alternative route to energy cooperation is trade in coal and
Liquefied Natural Gas.
Australia recently signed the first
long-term LNG supply deal with Petronet India Limited. This 20 year agreement
will enable India to take gas from the Gorgon oil field which could just be the
beginning of a big partnership in the energy sector.
India has signed
India has signed nuclear deals with France,
Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Argentina and Namibia.
India and the U.K. have agreed on the text of a civil nuclear
cooperation deal that is likely to be signed soon on a convenient date.
When the deal is signed, it will be the seventh civil nuclear agreement inked by
India since its first historic deal with the United
States in October 2008.
Risk Factors for the
Economy that are to be watched
During the current financial year, the year-on-year growth in
money supply (M3) moderated from over 20 per cent at the
beginning of the financial year to 16.5 per cent on January 15, 2010,
reflecting deceleration in bank credit growth.
Year-on-year non-food credit growth
recovered to over 14 per cent by mid-January 2010 from the trough of around 10
per cent in October 2009. The indicative adjusted non-food credit growth for
2009-10 is now reduced to 16 per cent from the earlier projection of 18 per cent
and M3 growth during 2009-10 has been reduced to 16.5 per cent for
policy purposes from the earlier projection of 17 per cent.
Apart from the
Global factors that need
to be watched the factors below are more in relation to Indian
While the baseline scenario is comforting,
a number of downside risks to growth and upside risks to
inflation need to be recognized. These include
uncertainty about the pace and shape of the global recovery;
(ii) the surge in oil prices, if global
recovery is stronger than expected;
(iii) uncertainty about the performance of the
south-west monsoon in 2010;
(v) sharp increase in capital flows, above the
absorptive capacity of the economy, which may complicate exchange rate and
monetary management; and
(vi) accentuation of inflation expectations, if
excess liquidity is allowed to persist in the face of a narrowing output gap.
Development Summit ( DSDS)
Sustainable Development Summit ( DSDS), organized by The Energy and
Research Institute, is an annual event that brings together policymakers and
stakeholders. This year’s theme — “Beyond Copenhagen: new pathways tosustainable
development” — has attracted a large number of world leaders and negotiators.
Multi-lateral “Milan” Navy exercise
Chief of Naval Staff Admiral
Nirmal Verma said the Navy preferred to work together with other navies in the
Indian Ocean region rather than assume leadership as envisaged by the U.S.
“We are talking about coming
together on a constructive level… and [Indian Navy] not coming in as a
headmaster,” Admiral Verma said on the sidelines of a seminar organised as part
of the multi-lateral “Milan” exercise, in which 13 countries are participating
He was responding to a
question on how the country visualised its role following the Pentagon’s latest
assessment that the Indian Navy was acquiring the capability and could possibly
assume a greater security role in the region.
Nine foreign ships and
delegations from 12 countries including Australia, Brunei, Bangladesh,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka,
Thailand and Vietnam arrived here on Wednesday for the 7th edition of the
The officers and personnel
first held operational interaction and took part in a table-top exercise on
Thursday aimed at enabling all participating ships to undertake joint planning
towards building mutual confidence and improving inter-operability in dealing
with problems like piracy, arms and drug running and illegal migration.
Admiral Verma said the theme
of the seminar, “Navies in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief
Operations,” gave the flavour of cooperation being envisaged by the different
navies in the South and South East Asian region.
“Our coming together is not a
security bloc but to cooperate to tackle man-made and natural disasters,” he
said when asked whether the multi-lateral exercise could raise Beijing’s
suspicion considering that some participating countries had maritime disputes
On the “Malabar” exercises
with the U.S., he said, it will remain bilateral. A few years ago, the exercise
included navies of the U.S., Singapore, Australia and Japan, a move that did not
go down well with China. On China’s capability and Indian preparations, Admiral
Verma said the Navy’s plans were made taking into account the region and were
not country-specific. He said India had the deterrence of conventional
Admiral Verma said creating
awareness among the fishing community to threats from the sea, a task undertaken
as part of the coastal security plan, has started yielding results. Earlier in
his inaugural address at the seminar ‘Andaman & Nicobar Islands,’ Lt. Gov.
Bhopinder Singh underscored the need for speed in reaching out to
Year of Germany in
The President of the
Federal Republic of Germany first official visit to
India underlines the increasing importance of the
strategic partnership between Germany and India. It is expected to further
strengthen bilateral ties, including the forthcoming ‘Year of Germany in India
2011 – 2012’, which will showcase areas of mutual interest.
A R Rahman wins two
Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman
continued his winning streak, bagging two Grammy
awards for his foot-tapping number ‘Jai Ho’ and outstanding soundtrack for the
film Slumdog Millionaire. Rahman won in the category
of Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture,
Television Or Other Visual Media for Slumdog Millionaireand Best Song
Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media for ‘Jai Ho.’
New Income Tax Slab
for 2010 – 2011
In a major relief to the
corporate sector, the Government proposed to reduce the surcharge on
corporate tax to 7.5 per cent from 10 per cent now.
However, it has increased the Minimum
Alternate Tax (MAT) from existing 15 per cent to 18 per cent on book profits of
those companies which do not pay tax because of various
General tax payers
Up to Rs 1,60,000 — NIL
Rs 1,60,001 to Rs 5,00,000 — 10 per cent
Rs 5,00,001 to Rs 8,00,000 — 20 per cent
Rs 8,00,000 and above —30 per cent
Up to Rs 1,90,000 — NIL
Rs 1,90,001 to Rs 5,00,000 —10 per cent
Rs 5,00,001 to Rs 8,00,000 — 20 per cent
Rs 8,00,000 and above — 30 per cent
Senior citizens of 65 years and above
Up to Rs 2,40,000 — NIL
Rs 2,40,001 to Rs 5,00,000 — 10 per cent
Rs 5,00,001 to Rs 8,00,000 — 20 per cent
Rs 8,00,000 and above — 30 per cent
India signed a Civil Nuclear Cooperation
Agreement with the UK
India signed a Civil
Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the UK, which became the 8th country to enter
into such a pact, since the lifting of atomic trade embargo in 2008.
India and Denmark
signed a social security pact
India and Denmark signed
a social security pact which will relieve their workers from double taxation and
provide for cooperation in areas of labour market expansion and orderly
Manmohan Singh visits Saudi Arabia in Feb 2010
Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh visits Saudi Arabia in Feb 2010. He was the first Indian PM in 28 years to
visit the gulf country. Saudi Arabia is India’s largest supplier of crude oil (
23 %) followed by Iran ( 17 %) and Nigeria ( 11 %). India is offering upto 10 %
equity to Saudi petroleum firm Saudi Aramco in a refinery being built in Orissa.
PM addressed the Shoura council of Saudi Arabia.
Amendment – Proposes to incorporate a new Part ( Part IX B) in the Constitution
so as to provide for legal framework to regulate the functioning of cooperative
societies. A new Article ( Article 43 B) is also proposed to be inserted in Part
IV of the Constitution (Directive Principles of State Policy) for the States to
promote voluntary formation, autonomous functioning of cooperative societies.
Nuclear Liability Bill
will be introduced by Govt in Parliament in Winter session 2010.
Civil Liability for
Nuclear Damage Bill 2009 commonly known as Nuclear Liability Bill will be
introduced by Govt in Parliament in Winter session 2010. The draft bill aims at
limiting the liability of a nuclear plant operator to Rs. 300 crore in the
eventuality of an accident. The bill provides for the penalty to be paid by the
operator and not the supplier companies which would mainly be American in this
case. India has entered into civil nuclear cooperation agreement with eight
countries so far.
· The two other Indian Nominees — sarod
maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and tabla legend Zakir Hussain — lost out.Amjad Ali
Khan, nominated in the Best Traditional World Music Album
category for his album ‘Ancient Sounds’ was pipped by African Mamadou Diabate
for his album ‘Douga Mansa (The King’s Vulture).’Hussain, who won a Grammy last
year, and was nominated in the Best Classical Crossover
Album category for ‘The Melody of Rhythm,’ was beaten by Chinese-origin musician
Yo-Yo Ma for his record ‘Songs Of Joy And Peace.’
· Social activist and actor Nafisa Ali
(left) and Kiran Bedi, the first woman IPS officer in the country, received the
Kalpana Chawla Excellence Awards 2010 in New Delhi on Sunday.
· Abuja is the capital
· Leander Paes equalled the record for most
number of Grand Slam title triumphs by an Indian as the veteran and his
Zimbabwean partner Cara Black clinched the Australian Open mixed doubles
championship with a straight-set win. The triumph gave the Indian his 11th
overall and fifth mixed doubles title. With this, Paes has equalled one-time
doubles’ partner Mahesh Bhupathi’s tally.
· Orhan Pamuk- Nobel
Prize Winner for Literature
· Kiran Desai- Man Booker Prize Winner
· Women became officially recognized as a
permanent part of the US armed forces in 1948, the UK in 1949 and Canada in
1951. India started recruiting women in its armed forces in 1992. Earlier,
recruitment was restricted to the Army Medical Corps,
the Army Dental Corps and the Military Nursing Service.