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Home » Current Affairs » Current Affairs of March 2010

Current Affairs of March 2010

A D V E R T I S E M E N T
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RBI raises repo, reverse repo

On March 19, 2010, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) surprised banks and money market players by raising key policy rates 25 basis points. The move, aimed at taming inflation and anchoring inflationary expectations, marked a reversal in the easy monetary policy regime amid signs of strong economic revival.

The central bank said the repo rate, or the rate at which banks borrow from RBI, is being increased 25 basis points to 5 per cent. Similarly, the reverse repo rate, or the rate at which surplus cash is parked with the central bank, was increased to 3.5 per cent, from 3.25 per cent earlier.

This was the second action since January 2010, when RBI announced a 75-basis point rise in the cash reserve ratio (CRR) to 5.75 per cent.

But, unlike CRR, which is used to manage liquidity in the system, an increase in the repo and reserve repo rates is aimed at signalling an increase in interest rates.

RBI joined central banks in Australia and Malaysia, which raised rates in March, while Norway and Israel did so at the end of 2009. The US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank are among those waiting for evidence of a more concrete recovery before they unwind record low borrowing costs.

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A D V E R T I S E M E N T


Delhi High Court orders for Permanent Commission for Women Officers

On March 12, 2010, in a path-breaking judgement, the Delhi High Court has directed the Centre to offer within two months Permanent Commission (PC) to Short Service Commissioned (SSC) women officers of the Air Force and the Army at par with male SSC officers with all consequential benefits, including promotion.

At present, the Indian Army offers permanent commission to women after 10 years of SSC. This is applicable to those who were recruited after March 2009 and that too only in two streams — the Judge Adjutant General (JAG) branch and the Education corps. Women are also recruited in Signals, Engineers, Ordnance and Air Defence but are not eligible for PC.

In the IAF, women are offered a permanent option in the Legal, Accounts and Education corps. Women chopper and transport pilots, engineering corps, Logistics and Meteorological streams are not eligible for permanent commission. At present, there are about 1,050 and 827 women officers in the Army and the IAF, respectively. Separately, the Navy has 280 women.

The benefit would be extended to women officers recruited prior to change of policy (March 2009) and the PC shall be offered to them after completion of five years. However, these benefits would be available only to women officers in service or who approached the HC but retired when the case was pending in the court, the Bench clarified.

The court made significant remark on having women in combat roles saying “the claim of absorption in areas of operation not open for recruitment of women officers cannot be sustained being a policy decision.”
 


Live-in not an offence: SC

The Supreme Court has opined that a man and woman living together without marriage cannot be construed as an offence. “Living together is not an offence. It cannot be an offence,” a three judge bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Deepak Verma and B.S. Chauhan observed.

The court said even Lord Krishna and Radha lived together according to mythology. The apex court made the observation while reserving its judgement on a special leave petition filed by noted south Indian actress Khusboo seeking to quash 22 criminal cases filed against her after she allegedly endorsed pre-marital sex in interviews to various magazines in 2005.

The judges grilled the counsel for some of the complainants in the case and repeatedly stressed that the perceived immoral activities cannot be branded as offence.

The apex court further said the views expressed by Khusboo were personal. “How does it concern you. We are not bothered. At the most it is a personal view. How is it an offence? Under which provision of the law ?” the bench asked the counsel.

Khusboo had approached the apex court after the Madras High Court in 2008 dismissed her plea for quashing the criminal cases filed against her throughout Tamil Nadu.
 


Promotion fundamental right: SC

The Supreme Court has ruled that governments at the Centre and States should “act as model employers” and that all eligible employees virtually had a “fundamental right” to promotion as guaranteed under Article 16 of the Constitution.

A Bench comprising Justices R.V. Raveendran and Asok Kumar Ganguly made the clarification while directing the Centre and the Union Public Service Commission to grant promotion with retrospective effect to members of the Uttar Pradesh State Civil Service (SSC) who had been affected by a delay of more than two years in the cadre review following the creation of Uttaranchal (now Uttarakhand) in 2000.

The Centre and the UPSC contended that the statutory mandate of a cadre review exercise every five years “is qualified by the expression ordinarily” and as such it was not necessary to undertake it every five years. The Bench, however, did not buy this argument. “We hold that the statutory duty which is cast on the State government and the Central government to undertake the cadre review exercise every five years is ordinarily mandatory subject to exceptions which may be justified in the facts of a given case.

“Surely, lethargy, inaction, an absence of a sense of responsibility cannot fall within the category of just exceptions,” the apex court ruled, obviously indicting the UP government for not responding to the Centre’s reminders.

The court accepted the government’s arguments that Rule 4(2) did not have retrospective effect, but refused to interfere with the Delhi HC order which had, by using its special power under Article 142 of the Constitution, directed the Centre to “mitigate the hardship and denial of legitimate rights of the employees” in view of the “facts and circumstances of the case.”


Foreign Education Bill

After several years of debate, the Union Cabinet, on March 15, 2010, unanimously approved a Bill that would allow foreign education providers to set up campuses in India and offer degrees. A Bill to this effect was first introduced in the Rajya Sabha in August 1995. The new one is expected to be introduced in Parliament and be voted into law by the monsoon session of 2010.

This is a milestone which will enhance choices, increase competition and benchmark quality. A larger revolution than even in the telecom sector awaits us,” said Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Human Resource Development (MHRD).

The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations, Maintenance of Quality and Prevention of Commercialisation) Bill will allow foreign universities to invest at least 51 per cent of the total capital expenditure needed to establish the institute in India. Such institutes will be granted deemed university status under Section 3 of the Universities Grants Commission (UGC) Act, 1956.

The Bill aims to regulate the entry, operation and maintenance of quality assurance and prevention of commercialisation by foreign educational institutions, besides protecting the interest of the student community from sub-standard and ‘fly by night’ operators.

The Bill is aimed at not only bringing in investment in the education sector, but also draw in foreign students, besides helping check the flight of Indians to study (then work and settle) abroad.

India’s food security goals in danger

An alarming new report by the World Bank has shown that an increasing number of aquifers in India are reaching unsustainable levels of exploitation, endangering long-term food security goals. If current trends continue, in 20 years about 60 per cent of all aquifers in the country will be in a critical condition, putting at risk over a quarter of the harvest, concludes the report “Deep Wells and Prudence: Towards Pragmatic Action for Addressing Groundwater Overexploitation in India”.

The report rings alarm bells for policy makers, warning them against status quo. A rainfall deficit in 1963-66 had decreased India’s food production by 20 per cent, but a similar drought in 1987-88 had very small impact on food production due to widespread prevalence of groundwater, which is now declining.

India is the largest groundwater user in the world, exploiting 230 cubic kilometres of groundwater every year—over a quarter of the global total. Today, groundwater supports 60 per cent of irrigated agriculture and more than 80 per cent of rural and urban water supplies.

Even though there is a major dependence of many sectors on groundwater and it is being overexploited, there is little investment in its management. This inaction has arisen mainly because the solutions often proposed for groundwater management are very controversial, including “command-and-control” regulation of wells and curbing the supply of free or cheap power for groundwater irrigation.
 


India to sign extradition treaties with Iran, Sri Lanka, Brazil, France & Israel

After signing extradition treaties with Saudi Arabia and South Korea, India has finalised draft agreements with five more nations—Iran, Sri Lanka, Brazil, France and Israel. The government is now working out the dates on which the treaties can formally be signed.

The treaty with Saudi Arabia was signed in February, during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Riyadh. Another such treaty was signed with South Korea when its President, Lee Myung-Bak, visited New Delhi in January 2010.

With bilateral cooperation in security and counter-terrorism measures assuming significance, India has stepped up efforts to formalise agreements with other nations so suspects can be brought back to the country to be tried under Indian laws. Indian government is giving extradition treaties the utmost importance as intelligence inputs suggest that some nations could be used as safe heavens by terrorists and the underworld.

India has extradition treaties with several countries, including Nepal, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada, UK, Switzerland, Bhutan, USA, UAE and the Russian Federation.
 


Loan agreement with Japan

India has signed an agreement for Rs 10,500 crore (Yen 215.611 billion) Official Development Assistance (ODA) from Japan. This includes Rs 1,648.36 crore for the second phase of Delhi mass rapid transport system project (DMRTS), Rs 4,422.83 crore for the dedicated rail freight corridor and Rs 2,933 crore for Chennai metro.

Six projects will be covered under the loan, including Sikkim Biodiversity Conservation and Forest Management Project, Kolkata East-West Metro Project (II) and Rengali Irrigation Project (III). With this, the cumulative commitment of ODA from Japan has reached Rs 15,5840 crore.
 


Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of Russia visit India in March 2010.

Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin’s one-day visit New Delhi on March 13, 2010, has gone some distance in adding a strong economic dimension to ties between the two nations. The visit helped in building a roadmap to strengthen economic ties, including in the pharmaceutical sector, getting Russian investments in infrastructure projects and accessing Russian markets for Indian services.

Demonstrating the solidity of their strategic relationship to the world, India and Russia sealed multi-billion dollars deals in key areas like defence, nuclear energy, diamond, petroleum and aviation as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Moscow’s support to Delhi in its fight against terrorism.

The visit is noted for the success in taking this vital strategic partnership forward, giving the much needed economic impetus. A host of steps aimed at scaling up the current $7.5 billion bilateral trade to $20 billion by 2015 were set in motion.

Besides agreement on nuclear reactors, an MoU for cooperation in Russia’s satellite navigation system was also agreed upon during the visit.

Russia announced its readiness to build 16 nuclear reactors for power stations in India. An important agreement was the umbrella pact between the National Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and the Atom Stroy for Kudankulam III and Kudankulam IV nuclear reactors as part of the nuclear cooperation accord between the two sides. The agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy is expected to open more avenues of nuclear cooperation between the two countries. The two sides also signed a pact on serial construction of Russian designed nuclear reactors.

The most significant accords between the two sides were on the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier that was approved by the Union Cabinet for the purchase of the vessel at $ 2.33 billion and the supply of 29 MIG 29K—the sea variant of the fighter used by the IAF—valued at $ 1.5 billion.
 


India-USA agree on N-reprocessing

India and the United States have reached a deal on reprocessing American-origin spent nuclear fuel to be supplied to India under the landmark civil nuclear agreement signed in September 2008.

The talks were wrapped up well before the August deadline. The US statement noted that these arrangements will enable Indian reprocessing of US-obligated nuclear material under IAEA safeguards. Completion of these arrangements will facilitate participation by US firms in India’s rapidly expanding civil nuclear energy sector.

The reprocessing arrangements were negotiated pursuant to Article 6 (iii) of the US-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement, also called the 123 Agreement. Under the 123 Agreement, India will construct new facilities dedicated for reprocessing the safeguarded nuclear material under IAEA safeguards.

The advanced consent agreement is only the third of its kind ever undertaken by the US. The US has such agreements with the European consortium EURATOM and Japan. China, Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea, which have 123 Agreements with the US, do not have such agreements.


SC okays quota for Andhra Muslims

On March 25, 2010, the Supreme Court okayed religion-based reservation in government jobs and educational institutes in Andhra Pradesh but referred the matter to a constitution bench to decide on its constitutional validity.

In an interim order, a bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan extended the benefit of four per cent reservation in jobs and education to 14 other backward classes of Muslims in the State. In the process, it stayed the February order of the State High Court that had quashed the Andhra Pradesh Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes of Muslims Act, 2007.

But the apex court refused to grant quota benefit to a 15th category of Muslims mentioned in the Act as the social groups were not specified. It also made it clear this was a temporary measure. The constitution bench is expected to take up the case in August 2010.

According to Andhra government, the reason for giving four per cent quota to backward Muslims was because they constitute 5-6 per cent of the State's population. The creamy layer—those who earn over Rs 4 lakh annually, children of class-I officers working with the State/Central governments and those who hold constitutional posts—are not entitled.

All parties barring the BJP welcomed the decision.
 


Rajya Sabha passes historic Women’s Reservation Bill

Fourteen years after it was envisaged, the Rajya Sabha, on March 10, 2010, passed the landmark Women’s Reservation Bill that will pave the way for reserving 33 per cent seats for women in Parliament and State Assemblies. But prior to that, the legislation has to be seen through in the Lok Sabha.

Of the 186 members present in the Rajya Sabha, 185 voted in favour of the Bill. Barring the parties from the Hindi-belt—Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and BSP—all other parties that included the constituents of Congress-led UPA and BJP-led NDA supported the Bill that was to carry out the 108th amendment to the Constitution for enabling reservation.

The Congress-led UPA, the BJP-led NDA and also the Left parties were on the same side as the Parliament authored the “historic move”, which could upstage several well ensconced politicians but ensure proper representation of women, which languishes at 11 per cent in Lok Sabha.

SP and RJD MPs walked out even before the discussion began. BSP’s leader in Upper House Satish Chandra Misra walked out after expressing his party’s point of view: “We support the cause of reservation, however, oppose the Bill in its present form.”

The proposed legislation to reserve 33.3 percent seats in Parliament and State Legislatures for women was drafted first by the H D Deve Gowda-led United Front government. The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on September 12, 1996. Though it has been introduced in Parliament several times since then, the Bill could not be passed because of lack of political consensus.

Main points of the legislation

  • Seeks to reserve one-third of seats for women in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.

  • Allocation of reserved seats shall be determined by the authority prescribed by the Parliament.

  • One-third of the total seats reserved for SCs and STs shall be reserved for women from these groups in LS and Assemblies.

  • Reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the State or Union Territory.

  • Reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of the Act.


 

Union Cabinet okays tougher laws to deal with hijackers

With terror threats in the aviation sector looming large, the Union government has decided to make the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1982 tougher by including death sentence as a punishment for hijacking a plane with intention of creating a terror strike.

A cabinet meeting headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approved the amendments to be incorporated in the existing Act, which at present only provides for life imprisonment and fine.

The anti-hijack policy that was revised and approved by the Cabinet Committee for Security in 2005 could not be made a law primarily due to lack of consensus on the punishment for the hijacker, having intent of creating terror strike and caught alive.

The policy also has provision for immobilisation of the plane and disallowing it to take off, if the hijack occurs on the Indian soil. Notably, during the Kandahar hijack in December 1999, in which passengers and crew members were exchanged for four dreaded terrorists, security forces had failed to immobilise the plane when it had landed at the Amritsar airport. The CCS, in August 2005, had cleared the proposal to shoot down a commercial plane if it was hijacked. It also strictly ruled out any negotiations with hijackers on meeting any of their demands.

According to the policy, if a rogue aircraft paid no heed to ATC warnings and deviated from its specified path or headed towards any strategic spot, a decision on shooting it down would come into play. In case of an emergency situation, the shoot down orders could be given by the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister or the Home Minister, whoever could be contacted first.

 

Earth Hour 2010 has been celebrated on 27 March

Earth Hour 2010 has been celebrated on 27 March organized by World Wide Fund for Nature, India. Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru are official Earth Hour Cities among 15 Indian cities.

 

Supreme Court allowed religion based 4 % reservations in Govt jobs & educational institutes in Andhra Pradesh

Supreme Court allowed religion based 4 % reservations in Govt jobs & educational institutes in Andhra Pradesh. It extended the benefit to 14 OBC in muslims in the state. The matter is further referred to Constitutional bench of Supreme Court.

 

 

Prohibition of unfair practices in technical, medical educational institutions & universities Bill is passed by Govt

Prohibition of unfair practices in technical, medical educational institutions & universities Bill is passed by Govt. It provided for 3 year imprisonment and a fine of upto Rs 50 lakh for higher education providers guilty of misleading students.

 

 

Govt approved Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry & Operation) Bill 2010

Govt approved Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry & Operation) Bill 2010. It provides foreign universities to set up campuses in India.

 

 

Govt starts the scheme for creation of the National Population Register (NPR) of Indian residents

Govt starts the scheme for creation of the National Population Register (NPR) of Indian residents. The project will cover an estimated 1.2 billion people and total cost of the project will be Rs. 3539.24 crore.

 

India became 1st country in the world to have a ‘manoeuvrable’ supersonic cruise missile, when it successfully test fired 290 km range Brahmos missile.

 

Mobile boom leads to numbering problem

With the 10-digit mobile numbers on the brink of getting exhausted as 1.5-crore-odd mobile subscribers are being added every month, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has begun the process of finding a long-term solution to this complex issue.

And it might include 11-digit mobile number to ensure unhindered growth of mobile penetration.

The DoT allowed the use of mobile numbers beginning with ‘8’ after the entire ‘9’ got exhausted besides doing away with ‘95’ STD dialling to make more mobile numbers available to operators.

 

Budget Highlights – at a Glance

  Taxation

  • 25% tax savings for people who are earning upto Rs 1 lakh pm

  • Service tax unchanged at 10%

  • Online news agencies to attract tax

  • Account editing for companies with income above Rs 15 lakhs

  • More services to be taxed

  • Peak custom duty unchanged at 10%

  • 5% custom duty on crude petrol back

  • Minimum alternate tax hiked from 15% to 18%

  • Corporate surcharge down from 10% to 7. 5%

Tax slabs

  • Upto 1.6 lakhs- Nil

  • Above 1.6 lakhs to Rs 5 lakhs- 10%

  • Above 5 lakhs to 8 lakh: 20%

  • Above 8 lakhs 30%

  • R&D deduction hiked

Exports

    • 2% interest subvention for exports extended

    • Interest subvention to benefit handicraft, jewellery and gem exports

Textiles

    • One-time 200 cr for allotment to Tripura Textile sector in Tamil Nadu

What cost more

  • Petro products to cost more

  • Cement to cost more

  • Large cars, SUVs to cost more

  • Cigarettes, non-smoking, chewing tobacco to cost more

  • Gross Tax Receipts Rs 7. 46 Lakh crore

  • Fuel price hike in due course

  • Gold, silver to cost more

  • TVs, air-conditioners to go up

  • Air travel to get costlier

What cost less

  • Rationalisation of custom duty on gaming software; gaming software to cost less

  • Mobile phones to be cheaper

Govt. expenditure

  • Fiscal stimulus to be partially rolled back

  • Defence allocation up by 6000 cr

  • 15% rise in plan expenditure

  • Fiscal deficit 5.5% for FY 11

  • Fiscal deficit 4.8% for FY 12

  • Special allocation for unorganized labour sector

IT- sector

  • Technology Advisory Group to function under Nandan Nilekani

Infrastructure

    • Plan allocation doubled for power sector

    • To construct 20 km highway everyday

    • 13% rise in allocation for transport sector

    • 5 mega food parks to be set up

    • Infrastructure thrust to be maintained in rural and urban areas

    • Govt. committed to SEZ growth

Banking & Finance

  • Rs 16,500 cr allocated to public sector banks

  • Divestment proceedings to be spent on social sector

  • Double digit food inflation a worry

  • RBI considering giving banking licenses to more private players

  • Medium term growth plan to cross double-digit figure

  • Private investment can sustain 9% growth

  • Need to review fiscal stimulus

  • GDP to reach 10% soon

  • Efforts on to reduce inflation in two months

Urban Development

  • Slum free India at the earliest

  • Bharat Nirman outlay Rs 48,000 cr

  • NREGA allocation Rs 40,100 cr

  • Banks in all villages with over 2000 population

  • Subsidy for affordable housing increased

Education

    • Increase in allocation for school education

Power

    • Plan allocation to renewable energy ministry hiked

    • Coal regulatory authority to be set up

    • National clean energy fund to be set up

Agriculture sector

  • Budget gives strong focus to boost agri production

  • Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna to get Rs 300 cr

  • Four pronged strategy to boost agri production

  • Repayment of loans to be extended to 6 months in drought and flood hit areas

  • Fertilizer subsidy to be reduced

  • Failure in agriculture sector compensated by good show in manufacturing sector



Indian Aviation2010 in Hyderabad

The stage is set for the commencement of India Aviation 2010, the second edition of the international civil aviation exhibition and conference, at the Begumpet airport Hyderabad.

As many as 190 companies, including 115 from abroad, representing the who’s who of the aviation industry — including Boeing, Airbus, Cessna, Bombardier, Beechcraft and Bell — are participating in the five-day event from March 3 to 7 to explore business opportunities with prospective customers.

After the success of the first edition in October 2008, India Aviation 2010 will include static and flying display of over 40 aircraft, providing an ideal platform for companies to further their commercial aircraft activities and support services.

 

Water found on Moon by Chandrayan

The discovery was made by a Nasa payload on board Chandrayaan-1 called Mini-Sar (miniature synthetic aperture radar). The payload was sent by NASA onboard Chandrayan- I.

The discovery of ice deposits in more than 40 craters in the moon’s North Pole by NASA’s Miniature -Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini-SAR)

M. Annadurai, Project Director, Chandrayaan-1 and 2.

The Mini-SAR is one of the 11 scientific instruments that flew on board India’s Chandrayaan-1. In September 2009, Isro’s moon impact probe and the hyper spectral imaging camera (Hysi), along with Nasa’s moon minerology mapper, announced the discovery of water molecules on the moon. But, these were not large deposits. In contrast, the Mini-Sar is stated to found huge quantities of water ice.

NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), which was another instrument on board Chandrayaan-1, had earlier indicated that water was getting formed even in the sun-lit regions.

Mini-Sar, the Nasa payload carried by Chandrayaan-1 collected strips of data while flying over the lunar poles. The surveyed strips are each eight km wide and between 150-300 km long.

Director of the Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Labarotory (PRL) is  J N Goswami

 

Improving Income of Farmers is also important – MSS

 Demanding attention to farmers, agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan said  increasing income per hectare was as much of a concern as improving yield per hectare.

“The National Farmer’s Policy is unique because it shifts focus from the land to its tiller.”

 

Non-lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) underutilized

 Only 16 per cent of the 150 projects approved by the Centre and funded under the Non-lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) during 2004-2009 were completed in Assam as these projects were taken up without adequate planning and prioritisation.

This was revealed in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India for the year ended March 31, 2009 that was tabled on the floor of the Assam Assembly on the opening day of the budget session on Tuesday.

The NLCPR was created by the Centre in 1989 from the ten per cent unspent balances provided in the budget of Central ministries and departments for funding specific infrastructure projects in the north-eastern region. The Ministry of Development of North-Eastern Region (DONER) took charge of NLCPR in August 2002.

 

India and Saudi Arabia sign extradition treaty and other agreements

    * India and Saudi Arabia have vowed to jointly combat terrorism and money laundering as they signed an extradition treaty and several agreements to raise their cooperation to a strategic partnership covering security, economic, energy and defence areas.

    * The extradition treaty enhances existing security cooperation and will help in apprehending wanted persons in each other’s country.

    * Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Saudi King Abdullah signed the Riyadh Declaration outlining the contours of a new era of strategic partnership between the two countries.

    * Both sides emphasised the importance of strengthening the strategic energy partnership in line with the Delhi Declaration of 2006, including meetingIndia’s increasing requirement of crude oil supplies and identifying areas of new and renewable energy.

    * India and Saudi Arabia also signed four other agreements relating to transfer of sentenced persons, cultural cooperation, memorandum of understanding between Indian Space Research Organisation and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology for cooperation in peaceful use of outer space and joint research and information technology.

 

 

China spends double of India’s on Military

 China announced the smallest rise in its military spending in two decades, moved by its neighbours’ concerns on the rapid growth of its military and as a result of the financial crisis.

The country will increase its defence outlay by 7.5 per cent in 2010, Li Zhaoxing. This is the first time in 20 years that the military spending will not show double-digit growth. Spending rose by 14.9 per cent in 2009.

The figures for this year will, however, have to be approved when the NPC opens its annual 10-day session , during which a number of other government policies and laws will be up for review and approval.

The planned defence budget for 2010 was $78 billion. This would still make China by far the biggest military spender in Asia. India’s defence outlay rose by 3.98 per cent this year to $ 32 billion (Rs. 1,47,344 crore).

But military analysts have persisting doubts on how transparent China’s defence accounting procedures were, and that the figure was more likely in the range of $140-$150 billion.

 

Who will pay for nuke accidents?

 Shortly after the Kudankulam project began in 2000, the DAE set up a two-man committee consisting of legal scholar V.B. Coutinho and nuclear scientist Rajaraman to study the legislative framework on nuclear liability of different countries. The committee produced a report soon thereafter, recommending India’s accession to the CSC and drafting a broad nuclear liability law for the country.

There is a proposal to limit the liability of private companies in nuclear field in case of accidents.

Questioning the logic of limiting the liability of private companies in the nuclear field, the Finance Ministry suggested that a “formula-based limitation be considered which matches the liability regime for the operator to the types of accidents that may occur so as to incentivise adherence to the higher safety standards, limit negligence and encourage the practice of the highest international standards while providing reasonable and scientifically determined cover by the Central government.”

 

Women’s Reservation Bill on the anvil

 On March 8, the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, the government intends pushing the long-pending women’s reservation Bill through the Rajya Sabha to give women 33 per cent reservation in the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies.

 

 

Navy fighter Sagar pawan crashes in Airshow

 In another crash involving aging aircraft, two young Navy aviators were killed on Wednesday during a spectacular aerobatics show after their Surya Kiran MkII, a series inducted about 30 years ago, failed to pull out of a dive and plunged into a three-storied building in full view of the who’s who of Indian aviation.
As part of the `bomb burst’ manoeuvre, the four aircraft from Goa’s Hansa base came down vertically in formation and were supposed to peel off at a predetermined height like shrapnel after a blast.

The plane was part of the Sagar Pawan Aerobatics Team which has enthralled spectators over years, creating plumes of a coloured smoke across blue skies. On Wednesday, they were carrying out their last – but most difficult exercise – at the India Aviation 2010.
The two naval pilots, Cdr Suresh K Maurya (39) and his co-pilot Lt Cdr Rahul Nair (33), were performing in the aerobatics display when the aircraft crashed into a building. They were performing at the inaugural function of theIndia Aviation 2010 Air-show at Hyderabad. Posted at INS Hansa, Goa, the two fly fighter jets and are specialised pilots.

 

Railway Budget – quick review

 National High Speed Rail Authority to be set up
- To achieve 1000km electrification by 2011

- Routes of 21 trains will be extended

- 13,000 unmanned crossings to be manned in the next 5 years

- Railways to acquire 20,000 new wagons

- Suburban rail services to be strengthened

- Freight cut on food-grains and kerosene

- Special train between India and Bangladesh

- Railways to have a master-plan for N-E region

- AC service charges cut to Rs 20 as against Rs 40 earlier

- Special efforts to clear outstanding debt of the railways

- Railways saved 2,000 cr during the austerity drive

- 10 more Duranto trains to be launched

- 54 new trains to be introduced in FY11

- Rs 1,302 crore allocated for passenger amenities

- Integral Coach Factory in Chennai to be modernised

- Dedicated freight & passenger corridors to be set up

- To provide employment to 1 member of land losers’ family

- Houses to all railway employees in the next 10 years

- Railway eco parks to be set up to give importance to nature

- Tourists trains to be launched on 16 routes

- GPS-based driver guidance system on locomotives

- Will set up 10 automobile and ancillary hubs

- 2008-09 combined turnover of Rs 13,641 cr for railways

- 5 wagon industries to be set up in JV-PPP mode

- Design development & testing centre for wheels in Bangalore

- No increase in freight tariff

- To run 101 suburban trains in Mumbai

- Railways to complete 25,000km of rail lines by 2020

- 50 creches and 20 hostels for children of women employees

- Mobile e-ticketing centres at hospitals, courts & universities

- To make e-tickets available at panchayat level

- New scheme of house for all railway employees

- Double-decker trains to be used on pilot basis

- Special trains, opportunities to sportspersons for CWG

- Railways to be lead partner for Commonwealth Games

- Security of women passengers will be improved

- Railways plans for 6 water bottling plants

- Plan to raise Rs 10,000 – 20,000 crore in FY11

- To complete 1000km lines in one year

- India Inc needs to join hands with Railways

- Railway exams can be taken in regional languages

- 117 trains will be flagged off by March 31st

- Budget proposals have been made on economic viability

- Railways will not be privatised

- Indian Railways needs to catch up faster with the West

- Policy guidelines will be made simple and easy

 

US Bill on tackling Unemployment

 The United States House of Representatives  followed the Senate in passing a jobs bill of $15 billion and setting the ball rolling for President Obama’s top priority for 2010 — tackling unemployment.

With a 217-201 vote largely along partisan lines, the Hiring Incentive to Restore Employment Act (the “HIRE Act”) offers a payroll tax holiday for businesses that hire unemployed workers and an income tax credit of $1,000 for businesses that retain them. The bill passed in the Senate a few weeks ago by a vote of 70-28 and remains to be signed into law by Mr.Obama.

While the bill is significantly smaller than the $787 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Act — more commonly known as the stimulus package — that was passed approximately a year ago, it offers a range of supports designed to boost new hiring.

 

Maoists plan to overthrow Indian State in 2050

The Union government said the objective of the Maoists engaged in an armed ‘liberation struggle’ was to overthrow the Indian state by 2050, as indicated by documents seized from them.

Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai has stated that an in-depth analysis of Maoist operations also pointed to assistance by former Army men.

He also said the Maoists did their homework before launching attacks and their approach was that of a well-trained army — surveying the place, making notes and studying every aspect.

The Home Secretary said that even though the joint anti-naxal operations were going on, the rebels had not suffered any significant reverses, and that the government would need seven to eight years to have full control over the areas lost to the Maoists.

The operations have not hit even five per cent of hardcore militants. The real armed cadres are yet to come out.

The Maoist influence was spread over 34 districts in eight States.

 

UN-Special Agency for Women planned

 To mark the upcoming International Women’s Day, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked the General Assembly to pass a resolution that would create a U.N. agency to focus solely on the well-being of women.

In 2009, U.N. announced that four agencies would be amalgamated to create one single agency that would be dedicated for the welfare and equality of women.

This year’s celebration on March 8 also marks the fifteenth anniversary of the landmark Beijing Declaration, which is the most comprehensive document adopted on women’s right that obligated governments to provide equal opportunities to women in all fields.

In West Asia, however, representation remains low, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which finds that women make up only 18.8 per cent of MPs worldwide, shy of the 20 per cent target set by the Beijing Declaration.

To mark International Women’s Day, U.N. AIDS agency (UNAIDS) launched a new programme called ‘Agenda for Accelerated Country Action for Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV’ that requires governments to address gender inequalities that put women and girls at risk to contract HIV.

 

What is wrong with India’s stand on emission reductions?

 Consistently maintained that per capita emission principle is the basis for an equitable burden sharing. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made an international commitment that India’s per capita emission would never exceed that of the developed countries.

At present, India’s per-capita emission is at 1.2 to 1.4 MT.

The per capita emission approach does present some problems. It helps countries leverage on their large populations, as is the case with India and China, allowing for the rich in these countries to hide behind its poor. The per capitaemission principle does not address the development concerns.

There is not much support for this stand internationally. As of now, only Germany and, to some extent, France have expressed support for it.

 

SSA and RMSA – summary

 Education of girls especially those belonging to the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and minorities is one of the principle concerns in education, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) provides support inter-alia for free textbooks up to Class VIII, organizes back to school camps for out of school girls, as well as bridge courses for older girls. In addition, the National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level (NPEGEL) and the Kasturba Gandhi Vidyalaya (KGBV) reach out to girls from marginalized social groups in educationally backwards blocks in the country.

The Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) envisages several measures for girls education including inter-alia, appointment of female teachers and provision of separate toilets for girls. The scheme of girls hostel was launched in November 2008 to facilitate girls to pursue secondary education. The scheme envisages setting up hostels in Educationally Backward Blocks (EBBs).

 

Twenty IIITs to be established

To address the increasing skill challenges of the Indian IT industry and growth of the domestic IT market, this HRD Ministry intends to establish 20 Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) during the XIth Plan.

Although, the proposal is for setting up all twenty IIITs in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode, since industry participation may not be forthcoming in some States like in the North East, it is proposed that IIITs in the North East may be set up by the Central Government with contributions from Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DONER).

 

On Stem cell banking

Stem cell banking is being done in the private sector in the country. In addition, the Government is providing support to the public-funded institutions to generate human embryonic stem cell lines and their storage for research purpose.

The Department of Biotechnology and Indian Council of Medical Research have jointly formulated guidelines for stem cell research and therapy. The guidelines also include cord blood banking and human embryonic stem cell banking.

 

What are Gram Nyayalays ?

As per the provisions of Section 3 of the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008, it is for the State Governments to establish Gram Nyayalayas in consultation with the respective High Courts. Since the coming into force of the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008, the States of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan have notified 95 Gram Nyayalayas, out of which 47 have started functioning.

The Central Government has requested the State Governments to set up more Gram Nyayalayas in consultation with their respective High Courts.

As the Gram Nyayalays are to be established for every Panchayat at Intermediate level, it is estimated that nearly five thousand Gram Nyayalayas would be ultimately set up, the locations of which are to be decided by the respective State Governments.

 

Why Bio-deisel is not blended like ethanol?

The National Policy on Bio-fuels is aimed at accelerated promotion and development of bio-fuels such as bio-ethanol and bio-diesel. The Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) have been directed to sell five per cent ethanol blended petrol in the entire country except North-Eastern States, Jammu & Kasmir, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshdweep.

Bio-diesel is currently not being marketed commercially for blending with diesel as the bio-diesel industry is still at nascent stage of development. R&D is also being pursued through different Scientific Agencies on feedstock development, conversion processes and production of ethanol mainly from sugarcane molasses and bio-diesel from Jatropha.

 

Environmental Audit conference by CAG

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) plans to undertake an environmental audit, the topic of which is “water pollution in India”. Issues, causes and mitigation methods relating to rivers, lakes and groundwater in the country would be addressed in the audits. The aim would also be to identify critical issues and suggest solutions which would help the government to conserve and protect this scarce resource more effectively. It is in this backdrop, the CAG is organising an International Conference on environment concerns about water pollution.

The purpose of this conference is to deliberate on the causes of pollution, action taken by governments and civil society to address these concerns and environmental, management and legal interventions needed to put lakes, rivers and ground water on the path of sustainability.

Over the last decade, the office of the CAG of India has increased its focus on audit of environmental issues, keeping in mind the challenges facing India today with respect to management and conservation of the environment. More than 100 audits on diverse environmental issues like biodiversity, pollution of rivers, waste management etc., have been conducted by the CAG.

 

Need for Human approach in Tax Collection

Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee has asked Indian Revenue Service officials to consider tax payers as important stakeholders in nation building and to administer taxes with a human approach. He was addressing the 63rd batch of IRS trainees last evening.

Shri Mukherjee pointed out that the shift in policy whereby tax payers are not seen as adversaries has resulted in a significant growth in tax collection during the past decade. He asked the trainee officers to imbibe this approach in their daily working.

The Finance Minister said that direct taxes collection has increased by ten times during the past decade. He also pointed out that the share of direct taxes is now more than 55 %.

The Finance Minster reminded the officials that it was due to increased tax buoyancy and collection efforts of Revenue departments that the government was able to waive off the loans to farmers amounting to Rs 71,000 crores.

 

Higher Education – Dhande Task Force constituted

The Eleventh Five Year Plan envisages increase in the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education to 15 per cent of the population in the age cohort group of 18-24 years by 2011-12.

This requires a substantial increase in the number of institutions and consequently would require an adequate number of teachers for impartingeducation.

The Government has taken measures to attract talent into the academic profession by liberalizing pay and other incentives at levels higher than that provided to the All India Civil Services (Group ‘A’) at the entry stage.

The age of superannuation has been increased to 65 years for persons engaged in teaching in higher education institutions.

The Government has constituted a Task Force under Prof. Sanjay Dhande, Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur to assess the existing faculty shortage and the requirement of quality faculty in technical, professional and Universityeducation considering the need to achieve the targeted GER in the remaining period of the Eleventh Plan and the Twelfth Plan and to suggest remedial policies and other measures to meet the estimated shortfalls in quality faculty.

 

National Action Plan on Climate Change

The National Action Plan on Climate Change which was launched in June 2008, envisages a National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-system amongst its 8 national missions. A new research centre on Himalayan Glaciology has been established at Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun.

This Mission and the Centre would address the issues of Himalayan glaciers. The Government has developed Guidelines and best practices for Sustaining Himalayan Eco-system (G-She), which is shared with all State Governments in the Himalayan Region.

 

Counter Terrorism Measures taken by Govt

Adequate counter insurgency/counter terrorism measures are in place to keep security situation under control.

  • Measures taken include augmenting the Central Para-Military Forces; amendment of the CISF Act to enable deployment of CISF; strengthening and re-organizing of Multi-Agency Centre for collation and sharing of intelligence with other intelligence and security agencies; tighter immigration control and effective border management through border fencing, flood lighting, deployment of surveillance equipment and coastal security.

  • The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 was amended and notified in 2008 to strengthen the punitive measures to combat terrorism.

  • A National Investigation Agency has been constituted under the National Investigation Agency act, 2008 to investigate and prosecute offences.

  • NSG hubs at Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Mumbai have been established. Operations are based upon threats perceptions.

  • Anti-insurgency weapons developed by DRDO include weapons used by commandos, survival kits, fire-retardant material/equipment etc.

 

What if we can do Banking in Post Offices

There is a proposal to introduce Core Banking Solution (CBS) in 4,000 post offices for ensuring “anytime, anywhere and any branch banking” in these 4000 post offices. There is a financial outlay of Rs.106 crores for development of CBS software, customer relations management, training, project management unit, centralised back office etc. during the 11th Five Year Plan.

The project aims at provision of delivery channels like ATM, internet, phone and mobile banking services besides streamlining the existing operations of savings schemes /savings certificates.

 

Schemes under Foreign Trade Policy

Under the recently announced Foreign Trade Policy (2009-2014), the Government has provided a number of incentives to promote exports to various countries including the African, Latin American and CIS Countries. Some of the important schemes are Focus Market Scheme (FMS), Focus Product Scheme (FPS), Vishesh Krishi and Gram Udyog Yojna (VKGUY), and Status Holders Incentive Scrips.

 

Steps taken to make Post Offices profitable

Government has also taken the following steps to make the post offices a profitable organization:

  • Modernize mail operations through improved transmission of mails, parcel and logistics between major cities, setting up of automatic mail processing centres for faster processing of mails and rationalization of the existing mail network.

  • Induction of technology in speed post network and financial services so as to increase the efficiency of operations.

  • Leveraging the postal network to provide various utility services.

  • Utilizing technology for improving productivity in post offices.

  • Imparting need based training to all staff.

 

Rural Teledensity touches 21.19%


The Government has taken various measures to provide telecom facilities in rural areas of the country. As a result, the rural teledensity has become 21.19% as on December, 2009 against the target of 4% teledensity in rural areas by 2010.

To spread the reach of telecom connectivity, more than 5.6 lakh villages have been provided with Village Public Telephones (VPTs) in the country covering more than 95% of the villages.

 

Role of TRAI in Telecom Revolution

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was established with the objective to regulate the telecommunication services, to protect the interest of service providers and consumers of the telecom sector, to promote and ensure orderly growth of the telecom and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

TRAI has been able to achieve the above objectives as evident from below:

The supportive regulatory environment created by TRAI through issue of various regulations, directions and orders has contributed significantly in the growth of telecom services in terms of increase in the number of service providers, consumer base and vast network of the telecom services in the country.

These measures have resulted in overall benefits to the consumer in terms of choice of services, affordable tariff of telecom services and better quality of services.

 

Full Rural Broadband coverage by 2014: USOF


Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) has taken following steps for providing broadband services in rural areas:

i. The Indian Telegraph Rules have been amended, and stream IV has been added under the title “Provision of broadband connectivity to villages in a phased manner” to bring provisioning of broadband connectivity to the rural areas under the purview of the USOF.

ii. For providing broadband connections in rural areas, including Gram Panchayats, USOF has signed an Agreement with BSNL on January 20, 2009 under the Rural Wireline Broadband Scheme to provide wire-line broadband connectivity to rural & remote areas by leveraging the existing rural exchanges infrastructure and copper wire-line network. The speed of each of the broadband connections shall be at least 512 kbps always on.

Under this scheme, BSNL will provide 8,88,832 wire-line Broadband connections to individual users and Government Institutions and will set up 28,672 Kiosks over a period of 5-years, i.e., by 2014.

The subsidy disbursement is for (i) broadband connections, Customer Premises Equipment (CPE), Computer/Computing devices (ii) setting up of Kiosks for public access tobroadband services.

 

India – EU Trade and Investment Agreement


The Government of India is negotiating a bilateral Broad – based Trade and Investment Agreement with the European Union (EU).
The negotiations commenced in June 2007 covering areas of Trade in Goods, Trade in Services, Investment, Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures, Technical Barriers to Trade, Trade Remedies, Customs Cooperation & Trade Facilitation, Dispute Settlement, Competition and Intellectual Property Rights.

Legal texts of the proposed agreement in all these areas have been exchanged and are being discussed. Tariff liberalisation offers have also been exchanged on trade in goods. The negotiations are at an advanced stage.
Indian exports to EU will increase, as products exported from India to EU will get preferential duty treatment from EU on conclusion of this FTA.

The feedback received from various stakeholders has been considered for drawing up the initial sensitive list of products on which notariff reductions proposed to be offered by us to the EU. In addition, in case of a surge in imports and injury to the domestic industry, India can take measures such as anti dumping and safeguards.

 

Why Govt. supports GM crops

Genetically Modified (GM) crops have the potential to increase farm yields, reduce farm costs and thereby increase farm incomes. The Government has, therefore, been very supportive of the efforts to develop transgenic crops. Many transgenic crops are currently being developed and tested at various public and private institutions. Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) is implementing a mega Network Project on Transgenics in Crops (NPTC) to initiate and strengthen the Research and Development (R&D) efforts on functional genomics and transgenic crops.

In view of concerns regarding the risk to human health and the environment from the use of GM crops, Government has, adopted a case by case approach to assess safety concerns in respect of each transgenic event. All issues relating to bio-safety, environmental safety, etc., have been entrusted to a strict regulatory regime under the provisions of theEnvironment (Protection) Act, 1986. Genetically modified (GM) crops are already being planted in 25 countries, including 15 developed and 10 industrialised countries as per ISAAA, 2008.

 

Agri : Farm Gate to Home Gate scheme

With a view to bring down the rising prices, NAFED has launched a “Farm Gate to Home Gate scheme” in Delhi on 12.02.2010 and Chennai on 15.02.2010 in order to take the agriculture produce from farmers field to the consumers avoiding middle man.

The objective of the initiative is to procure farm produce directly from farmers and sell it to the consumers at fair and affordable prices. Under this scheme NAFED has identified 17 kitchen basics including pulses, sugar, spices and edible oils. NAFED intends to extend this scheme to other parts of the country.

 

Implementation of Forest Dwellers Act

Various States have progressed in varying degrees in implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

While the States like Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have established the prescribed structures and procedures, have received a large number of claims and have started distributing the title deeds, other States, because of various reasons, are still to catch up.

 

What are Rural Business Hubs?

Ministry of Panchayati Raj is implementing a Scheme of Rural Business Hubs (RBHs) to promote Rural Non-Farming Enterprises (RNFE) which utilise local skills and/or resources and promote rural employment. The Scheme works on a 4P (Public-Private-Panchayat-Partnership) model and is applicable in all the BRGF districts and all the districts in the North Eastern Region.

  • Panchayats, the grass-roots democratic institutions, may prepare plans based on local resource endowments, felt needs of people and relative absorptive capacity and implement them

  • Ideally suited for agriculture / horticulture / handloom / handicrafts related activities, where production is decentralized.

  • RBH Scheme is operational since September, 2007

 

What are the benefits of Community Radio Stations

Grant of Permission Agreement for establishing, maintaining and operating a Community Radio Station at Central India Institute of Science and Technology, Indore, Madhya Pradesh has been signed .  With this, the number of CRS will increase to 67 in the country.

The focus of the Community Radio Station would be to encourage the community members to speak out their needs and ideas, to create knowledge content for students and to act as a medium for teachers to develop knowledge content relevant to their subjects.

It will also ensure that the community is literate and enabled to absorb information through media including radio. Regular information on child health, pregnancy, local health issues and seasonal precautions for women’s related programmes will benefit the community.

The Government encourages setting up of community radio stations as it promises to provide an opportunity to the local communities to express themselves, share their views and particularly empower the women, youth and the marginalized group to take part in local self governance and overall socio economic and cultural development of the area.

Community Radio Station also better informs the society about the developmental initiatives of government and promote transparency in the implementation of the schemes.

 

Financial Intelligence unit – India and KYC norms

Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in terms of instructions contained in the guidelines on Know Your Customer (KYC) norms, have advised the banks that before opening any new account it should be ensured that the identity of the customer does not match with any person with known criminal background or with banned entities such as individual terrorist or terrorist organisation etc. Banks are stipulated to file suspicious transaction reports pertaining to remittances/withdrawals from bank accounts and in respect of account holder.

Financial Intelligence Unit – India (FIU-IND) has been set-up to receive information relating to certain types of transactions including suspicious transaction from financial sector, analyze received information and disseminate information in appropriate cases to relevant intelligence/law enforcement agencies.

 

System of Rice Intensification

In order to increase the productivity of land, water and other farm inputs in cultivation of rice crops, a new farming practice – System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has been adopted in many States including Karnataka.

This system of cultivation promotes resource conservation wherein use of low inputs such as seeds, water, fertilizers, as compared to conventional rice production system, is practiced. Seedlings are grown up to 10-12 days in the nurseries and are directly planted at prescribed distance.

In this system of cultivation, use of conoweeders for weeding is practiced which also helps in better soil aeration and increased soil organic matter due to incorporation of weeds thereby producing more tillers and panicles. This system is reported to have increased the production of rice by 30-40%.

Under Centrally Sponsored Scheme on Integrated Cereals Development Programme in Rice Based Cropping System Areas under Macro Management of Agriculture and National Food Security Mission, the technology of SRI is promoted in the selected States including Karnataka.

 

Karu Karya – Livelihood for Naval widows

A design studio called ‘Karu Karya’ established under the aegis of the Naval Wives Welfare Association.  ‘Karu Karya’, which means ‘Fine Work’, is a step by Naval wives aimed at empowerment of sailors’ wives and Naval widows to help them stand on their own feet.

Apart from this, the Naval Wives Welfare Association (NWWA), which is a Command Family Support System, has, through its new ‘Outreach’ programme, also supported the weaver’s community of India.

The entire raw material for this fashion line is sourced from artisans from Kalamkari and Madhubani hand woven by weavers from Andhra Pradesh, Benares and Kerala. The designing and stitching of these garments has been done by the community of naval wives including officers’ wives, sailors’ wives and widows.

The boutique also aims to encourage ‘Khadi’, a symbol of self-reliance, and to prevent the extinction of this fine art. NWWA has adopted a remote Khadi village Ponduru in Andhra Pradesh and has been taking care of the medical, health and nutrition of all its inhabitants.

 

Railways earn 262 Crore from Optic Fibre network

The optic fibres have been laid for modernization of Indian Railways’ communication network necessary for its operational requirements.

As of January 31, 2010, Indian Railways have laid 37382 kms of optical fibre cable. A total investment of around Rs. 1500 crore has been made on the optic fibre project.

Revenues have been realized from the available spare capacity in the optical fibre network. The revenue earned from Optic Fibre project during the last five years is Rs. 32 crore in the year 2004-05, Rs. 56 crore in 2005-06, Rs. 112 crore in 2006-07, Rs. 188 crore in 2007-08 and Rs. 261 crore in the year 2008-09.

 

Features of 73rd Constitutional Amendment

According to the 73rd Constitutional amendment, all States and Union Territories to which Part-IX of the Constitution applies are required to implement Panchayati Raj system with the following features –

(a) Constitution of Panchayats at Village, Intermediate and District levels except for States having a population of less than 20 lakhs which may not constitute a Panchayat at the Intermediate level;

(b) Regular elections to the Panchayats every five years;

(c) Reservation of seats and offices of Chairpersons for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women at each level of Panchayats and

(d) Constitution of State Finance Commission and State Election Commission.

Also under Article 243G of the Constitution, State Legislatures are to endow the Panchayats with powers and authority to enable them to function as institutions of self government.

 

PPP in Railways

Certain areas such as development of world class stations, establishment of super specialty hospital/medical colleges, setting up of manufacturing units for rolling stock, setting up of perishable cargo centres, infrastructure projects for port connectivity and several activities in catering/tourism and hospitality area have been identified for possible execution through Public Private Partnership/Joint Venture/Special Purpose Vehicle route.

In South Central Railway, Obulavaripalle-Krishnapatnam new line project of 112 kilometres has been taken up with private sector participation through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) formed by Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) in partnership with Krishnapatnam Port Company Limited and Bramhani Industries Limited along with NMDC Limited and Government of Andhra Pradesh.

Secunderabad and Tirupati stations in South Central Railway have been identified for development into world class stations through Public Private Partnership.

 

Finance Commission of India

The Finance Commission of India came into existence in 1951. The Finance commission is established under article 280 of the Indian Constitution of India by the President of India. The Indian Finance Commission Act was passed to give a structured format to the Finance Commission of India as per the world standard. The need for the Finance Commission was felt by the British for guiding the finance of India. The structure of the modern Act was laid in the early 1920′s. The Finance Commission is formed to define the financial relations between the centre and the state. The Finance Commission Act of 1951 tells about the qualification, appointment, term, eligibility, disqualification, powers etc of the Finance Commission.

Functions Of The Finance Commission
The Finance Commission’s duty is to recommend to the President as to-

  • The distribution of net proceeds of taxes between the Union and the States.

  • To evaluate the increase in the Consolidated Fund of a state to affix the resources of the Panchayat in the state.

  • To evaluate the increase in the Consolidated Fund of a state to affix the resources of the Municipalities in the state.

Implementation Of The Recommendation Of Finance Commission
The recommendation of the Finance Commission are implemented

  • By an order of the President or by executive orders.

Powers of the Commission:
The Finance Commission has the following powers:

  • The Commission shall have all the powers of the Civil Court as per the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

  • It can call any witness, or can ask for the production of any public record or document from any court or office.

  • It can ask any person to give information or document on matters as it may feel to be useful or relevant.

  • It can function as a civil court in discharging its duties.

Qualifications for appointment and the manner of selection:
The Chairman of the Finance Commission is selected among persons who have had the experience of public affairs, and four other members are selected among persons who

  • Are, or have been, or are qualified as judges of High Court, or

  • Have knowledge of finance, or

  • Have vast experience in financial matters and are in administration, or

  • Have knowledge of economics

Term of Office of the members:
Every member of the commission shall be in the office as specified by the President. He can also be reappointed, provided that he has already addressed a letter to the President for his resignation.

Conditions of service and salaries and allowance of members:

  • Each member should provide whole time or part time service to the Commission as the President with respect to each case might specify.

  • Each member shall receive salaries according to the provisions made by the central government.

Disqualification:
A member may be disqualified if:

  • He is of unsound mind.

  • He is involved in a vile act.

  • If his interests are likely to affect the smooth functioning of the Commission.

 

Doppler Weather Radar at NewDelhi Airport

Doppler Weather Radar (DWR) will be installed at IGI Airport, New Delhi by the end of April, 2010.

DWR is operated in 24 x 7 mode and provides velocity and spectrum width data, in addition to reflectivity obtained from conventional radars.

Radial velocity data of weather systems provides better insight into the dynamics of weather systems. Spectrum width data gives information on turbulence and wind shear in the atmosphere.

It gives better quantitative rainfall estimates by suppressing ground clutter and anomalous propagation. It is able to produce wind field patterns associated with cyclones and make it possible to better analyse the internal structure of storms.

DWR data is ingested in Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) models for weather predictions.

 

First Environmental Court in the World

In the context of environmental Audit, two very important initiatives are ongoing, namely the National Green Tribunal (NGT) with a network of specialized Environment Courts and National Environment Protection Authority (NEPA).

he NGT will give the Indian citizen first time judicial remedy as far as environmental damages are concerned. India would be the first country in the world to have such an extensive network of specialized environment courts.

NEPA’s core mandate will be to ensure that the standards and stipulation under which environmental approvals are granted are actually adhered to. CPCB and SPCBs will work under one umbrella of NEPA. Soon all the licensing functions of the Ministry will be transferred to NEPA. So MOEF becomes a policy making body, and the actual approvals or rejections, even of clearances, would be the responsibility of this independent professional organization.

The NEPA will work on the ‘polluter-pays’ and ‘precautionary’ principles on all matters related to environment in India, essentially project clearances and enforcement of environment laws. The Central Pollution Control Board and the state regulators will report to the authority. While NEPA will carry out monitoring and compliance, the NGT will settle disputes.

 

US Healthcare bill is bonanza for Indian IT industry

The outsourcing industry may receive the biggest bonanza ever with the US healthcare bill getting approved by the House of Representatives. The opportunity that it throws up for outsourcers is huge and far bigger than the Y2K opportunity, which included only changing code, said experts.

When the bill becomes law, it will bring around 32 million more Americans under insurance cover, pushing healthcare providers and insurance firms to become more efficient and opening up demand for less expensive services, better technology and business intelligence.      The opportunity is not at a company-level but at an industry level.

 

SCHEMES UNDER RURAL EMPLOYMENT GENERATION PROGRAMME

The Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), is a new creditlinked subsidy scheme being implemented by the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises both in rural as well as urban areas.

Under this Scheme entrepreneurs can establish new ‘micro enterprises’ with margin money subsidy.

The Minister further added that PMEGP is being implemented through Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), the nodal agency at the national level.

For Special Category (including SC / ST / OBC /Minorities/Women, Ex-servicemen, Physically
handicapped, NER, Hill and Border areas etc. the rate of subsidy for Urban is 25% and for rural is 35% of the Project cost.

Prior to the introduction of PMEGP in 2008-09, the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, through KVIC, had been implementing a Central Sector credit-linked subsidyprogramme, called the Rural Employment Generation Programme (REGP) from 01.04.1995 to 31.03.2008, in the rural areas and small towns with population up to 20000.

PMEGP has replaced REGP w.e.f. 2008-09 and has an outlay of Rs. 4735
crore (Rs. 4485 crore towards margin money and Rs. 250 crore towards backward forward
linkages), with a target of creating 36.14 lakh jobs in 4 years.

 

Gender Equality : What are the steps to be taken

There are many obstacles to women, To remove these obstacles, far reaching changes are needed in the interlinked areas of economics, social policy, politics, and the law.

In the realm of economics, policies which ensure that women and men have the same inheritance rights and rights to land title will put assets in the hands of women, and significantly improve their ability to make their voice heard inside and outside the home.

The Human Development Report estimates that increasing the proportion of women in the workforce to 70 per cent, equivalent to the rate of many developed countries, would boost annual GDP in India by 4.2 per cent, in Malaysia by 2.9 per cent, and in Indonesia by 1.4 per cent.

Political reforms

  1. Political reforms are needed so that more women can enter legislatures and positions of power. This region has produced a number of women Presidents and Prime Ministers. More women in power at every level will ensure that women’s needs get higher priority than they currently do.

  2. Nations in the Asia Pacific committed to achieving real progress for women when they signed the Millennium Declaration in 2000 and backed the Millennium Development Goals. In countries where the needs and status of women are given low priority, there is the least progress on the goals. If women’s status is lifted, that greatly improves the prospects for achieving the MDGs.

  3. Reducing maternal mortality will also have positive spill over effects on the goal of improving children’s health and access to education, and of reducing poverty and hunger.

  4. Providing girls with education will, in time, be positive in reducing child mortality, and improving child nutrition and health for future generations.

  5. Tackling the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence not only addresses a basic human right, but also helps reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.

  6. The Millennium Development Goals summit at the U.N. this September is a major opportunity to show how prioritising meeting the needs of women can transform development progress.

 

Security Commission for Union Territories set up

Ministry of Home Affairs has constituted a Security Commission for Union Territories early this month in pursuance of directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

The composition of the Security Commission is as under:

(i) Union Home Secretary … Chairman

(ii) Chief Secretary, Delhi … Member

(iii) Chief Secretary, A&N Islands … Member

(iv) Chief Secretary, Puducherry … Member

(v) Commissioner of Police, Delhi … Member

(vi) Representatives of other UTs … Member

(according to the requirements of the agenda of the meeting)

(vii) 5 Independent Members to be nominated by the Central Government

(viii) Joint Secretary (UT), MHA … Convenor

The tenure of the Independent Members, nominated by the Central Government, shall be for a period of two years.

Role of the Commission

The Commission would frame broad policy guidelines for promoting efficient, effective, responsive and accountable policing, in accordance with the law; identify performance indicators to evaluate the functioning of the Police Service.

These indicators shall, inter alia, include: operational efficiency, public satisfaction, victim satisfaction vis-à-vis police investigation and response, accountability, optimum utilisation of resources, and observance of human rights standards; and review and evaluate organisational performance of the Police Service in the state as a whole as well as district-wise against (i) the Annual Plan, (ii) performance indicators as identified and laid down, and (iii) resources available with and constraints of the police.

In WP (C) No.310/1996, titled Prakash Singh & Ors Vs. Union of India & Ors, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had directed, inter alia, to constitute a State Security Commission.

 

Prithvi II and Dhanush missiles test fired

India has successfully testfired Prithvi II ballistic missile from Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur off the Orissa coast also Dhanush, the naval version of Prithvi has also been testfired .

‘Prithvi-II’ ballistic missile, which has a maximum range of 295 km, was successfully test fired from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, about 15 km from Balasore, off the Orissa coast.

The sleek missile is handled by the strategic force command’

Prithvi, the first ballistic missile developed under the country’s prestigious Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), has the capability to carry 500 kg of warheads and is thrusted by liquid propulsion twine engine.

‘Dhanush’ missile test fired

India  successfully test fired its ship-based ballistic missile ‘Dhanush’, with a range of 350 km, from a naval vessel off the Orissa coast.

The missile was fired from INS-Subhadra in the Bay of Bengal , The nuclear-capable ‘Dhanush’, a naval version of ‘Prithvi’, was also test-fired.

The 350-km range missile will give Indian navy the capability to launch a missile on enemy’s targets with great precisions.

The sophisticated radar systems located along the coast monitored Saturday’s entire trajectory of the vehicle.

The single stage missile is powered by liquid propellants. It is 10-metre long and weighs six tonnes. It has one metre diameter and can carry 500 kg warhead. 

 

Supreme Court heralds 4% reservation for Muslim backwards

  • The demand for religious quota in jobs and admissions gained legitimacy when the Supreme Court leaned in favour of an Andhra Pradesh (AP) law providing 4% quota to 14 “backward groups” within the Muslim community.

  • The court, which passed an interim order, referred the adjudication of constitutional validity of the AP law to a Constitution Bench.

  • The SC interim order, passed by a bench comprising Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and justices JM Panchal and BS Chauhan, may now open the floodgates to extending the benefits of reservation to Muslims and Dalit Christians in other states.

  • The lack of judicial sanction has so far been cited by the Centre to stonewall demands for religion-based quota, which was recommended by the Ranganath Mishra panel.

  • The AP move was earlier turned down by the state’s high court for violating the Constitution. In a majority judgment of 5:2, the high court had struck down the law arguing that it was “unsustainable” and violative of articles 14, 15(1) and 16(2) of theConstitution. While Article 14 pertains to the right to equality, Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion and caste while Article 16 is about equality of opportunity in matters of employment.

  • The only categories now kept outside the quota ambit are Syeds, Pathans, Arabs and Iranis, but they account for less than 10% of Muslim population in the state. Muslims constitute 9.2% of AP’s 77 million population.

  • The apex court bench was in agreement with the argument put forth by Attorney General (AG) GE Vahanvati and former AG K Parasaran that quota benefits are extended to socially and educationally backward communities on the basis of their profession and not religion.

  • It would be social discrimination of the worst kind if on the one hand reservation was given to similarly situated groups within the Hindu community, but denied to those in the Muslim community, they argued.

  • The Bench was in agreement with their position that it was not fair to exclude Muslim barber or washerman community from the quota list when the similarly placed Hindu groups were being provided with benefits ofreservation.

 

Role of National Commission for STs

Maurice Kujur, Vice-Chairman,National Commission for Scheduled Tribes presented the Third Report of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes for the year 2007-08to the President.

Shri T.Samphel and Shri Oris Syiem Myriaw,  are Members of the Commission.

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes was constituted w.e.f. 19 February, 2004 consequent to the amendment of Article 338 of the Constitution of India and insertion of a new Article 338A vide the Constitution (Eighty-ninth Amendment) Act, 2003.

Article 338A of the Constitution, inter alia, enjoins upon the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes to present Report(s) to the President upon the working of the Constitutional safeguards for Scheduled Tribes and to make in such Report(s) recommendations regarding measures that should be taken by the Union or any State for effective implementation of those safeguards and other measures for the protection, welfare and socio-economic development ofScheduled Tribes.

As per the constitutional provisions the report of the Commission has to be laid in both Houses of Parliament along with a Memorandum explaining the action taken or proposed to be taken on the recommendations relating to the Union.

Similar action has also to be taken while laying the Report in the Legislative Assembly of the State concerned, in relation to the recommendations concerning the State.

 

India – Bangladesh Relations

India has been maintaining a cordial foreign policy that can be extended even to a non-friendly nation. As we have a sovereign power in making our own policy but drawing the policy in an inter-related way that depends upon the different nations of the world. It has been shifting a dramatic way in its policy from the Western centric to the East Policy in the name of ‘Look East Policy’. Out of the eastern countries which it tries to make friendly relations, Bangladesh is considered as one of the most important to it. Especially, India is focusing upon the South Asian countries over the few years. Inspite of many efforts and initiatives like South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC), Gujral Doctrine, Look East Policy, the relations between India and its neighbours have been far from satisfactory.

In case of Indo-Bangladesh relations, it is not only sharing its socio-cultural affinity with India. Even the credit of formation of Bangladesh goes to India, when the history dated back to December 1971. Earlier to that Bangladesh was called as East Pakistan, a part of Pakistan nation. It became independent with the help ofIndia, by making a long liberation war. After the formation of Bangladesh, it made its first treaty of friendship and peace with India, by its founder and father of Afghanistan Mr. Mujib-ur-Rehman.

Out of 38 years of its Independence, it has been ruled by military rulers for 15 years – from 1975 to 1990. Again the restoration of democracy in 1991 revived hopes for better relations between the two countries. But it appears that the domestic politics of Bangladesh has infiltrated into its foreign policy establishment. Whenever, the Awami League (one of the three national parties), led by Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of father of Bangladesh, Mujib-ur-Rehman, is in power in Bangladesh, the relations between the two countries are cordial and friendly.  On the other hand, when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, BNP, led by Khalida Zia is in power in Bangladesh, the relations between the two countries are acrimonious and conflictual.

However, Awami League has regained its power in 1996, it lost it to the BNP by the year 2001, which led a major problem between the Indo-Bangladesh relations. The BNP government has been instrumental in developing warm ties with China, particularly in the last decade. Between the years 2006-07, trade between China and Bangladesh rose by 28.5% and there have been agreements between the two countries to grant various Bangladesh commodities tariff free access to Chinese market. Cooperation between the military of Bangladesh and the Chinese Army is also increasing with joint military agreements signed between the two countries. China’s growing influence on Bangladesh is a cause of worry forIndia.

At present, the Awami League has regained its power in December 2008, as the ruler of Bangladesh by its party leader Shiekh Hasina Wajed, the daughter of Mujib-ur-Rehman, which is also supported by another national party Jatiya Party, led by H. M. Ersad. This time, the Awami League has come to power with a 2/3 majority in its parliament, which led it to take independent decisions upon the foreign policy, which is a major determinat of cordial relations betweenIndia and Bangladesh.

 

Recent Visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister and Agreements

Earlier, the problem of Ganga Water sharing arose in 1975 when India consturcted Farakka Dam on the Ganga River to increase the supply of water for maintaing the navigabilityof Hoogly River. With many ups and downs, the two countries signed Ganga Water sharing agreement in 1996, which would guide the water sharing between the two countries for next 30 years. However, the sharing of water of other tributaries of Ganga between the two countries still remains unclear.

The Teen Bigha corridor is a small piece of Indian Territory which joins Bangladeshi enclaves of Dahagram and Angorpota. Agreements for the use of this corridor by Bangladesh were signed in 1972 and 1982. Following the Indian Supreme Court judgement, the Teen Bigha corridor was given to Bangladesh on perpertual lease, without any rent in 1992. However, this perpetual lease provided for the retention of Indian sovereignty over Teen Bigha with free movement of Indian Citizens living on either side of the corridor.

Both countries signed Chakma Hill Tract Agreement in 1997 which paved way for the repatriation of more than 50000 Chakma refugees living in Tripura. The repatriation of these refugees is almost complete. To check the further infiltration of Bangladeshi refugees, the Government of India has decided to put barbed wire fencing along the 3300 km border between the two countries. Bangladesh resents the fencing of the border. As a goodwill gesture, Kolkata-Dhaka Bus service was also initiated in 1999. More recently, Bangladesh has handed over some Indian insurgent leaders, notably Arbind Rajkhova, the chief of ULFA toIndia in December 2009.

 

Recent Five Agreements
Recently in January 2010, Bangladesh Prime Minister made a first visit to India. This visit has proved instrumental in reviving the friendly relations between India and Bangladesh. Further improvement, India and Bangladesh signed five agreements to enhance mutual co-operation. These agreements are:

  1. Agreement to provide mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.

  2. Transfer of persons, who are sentenced by each other.

  3. Agreement to fight against terrorist activities, organised crimes and illegal drug-trafficking.

  4. Agreement in the form of memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation in the field of power generation.

  5. Agreement to enhance cultural exchange programme.

And there was a memorandum of understanding (mou) on co-operation in Power sector, signed between the two countries is very significant.India has also promised $ 1 Billion line of credit to Bangladesh for building railway tracks in Bangladesh.

Both India and Bangladesh share common history and culture and that should reflect in the common sharing of interests, which can pave way for further development and peace in both of the nations.

 




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