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Home » Current Affairs » Current Affairs of February 2010

Current Affairs of February 2010

A D V E R T I S E M E N T
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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 crop—“unsafe”.

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 experts.

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.

 

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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 Accountability Bill

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.

 

N-liabilities Bill

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 negligence.

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 country.

 

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 that.

Highlights:

  • 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 cr
  • 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 cent
  • Income tax on income above Rs.5 lakh and upto Rs. 8 lakh: 20 per cent
  • 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 agriculture.
  • 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 starting production.
  • 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 years ago.

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”.

Highlights:

  • No increase in passenger fares.
  • Rs.100 reduction in freight per wagon for fertilisers and kerosene.
  • Free travel for cancer patients in 3rd AC classes.
  • Cost-sharing in public-private-partnership (PPP) mode in some gauge-conversion projects.
  • 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 Diglipur.
  • Sikkim capital Gangtok to be connected by rail from Rangpo.
  • Impact of Sixth Pay Commission recommendations placed at Rs.55,000 crore.
  • 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 Bangalore.
  • 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.

 

13th Finance Commission

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 2014-15.

 

Union Cabinet raises Urea prices

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 nutrients.

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.

 

Justice Srikrishna 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 committee are:

  • 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 difficult situation.
  • 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 State.

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 region said.

 

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 January 2011.

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 15-18

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 development.

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 issues.

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.

 

Prime Minister 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 Turkey Abdullah Gul

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 providing reservation.

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”.

 

Maharashtra, West 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 – Outlook

Growth

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 broad-based.

Inflation

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 Inflation: 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 – Outlook

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?

Energy cooperation 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 nuclear deals

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.

Risk Factors Apart from the Global factors that need to be watched the factors below are more in relation to Indian Economy.

While the baseline scenario is comforting, a number of downside risks to growth and upside risks to inflation need to be recognized. These include

(i) 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.

 

Delhi Sustainable Development Summit ( DSDS)

  The  Delhi 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 here.

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 exercise.

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 with China.

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 capability.

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 disaster-affected countries.

 

Year of Germany in India

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 grammys

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 exemptions.

New Income Tax slabs

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

Women

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 migration.

 

Prime Minister 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.

 

Constitution 111th Amendment

Constitution 111th 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.

 

Some More

· 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 of Nigeria

· 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.

 

 




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