Current Affairs – July 2012 National Affairs
- The northern grid crashed early on 30 July, in one of the worst outages in more than a decade, dragging eight States into darkness, affecting inter-State train operations and health services and impacting millions of lives. The 400-kV Bina-Gwalior line, feeding the Agra-Bareilly transmission section, tripped at 2.35 a.m. and wreaked havoc on the generation and transmission systems, shutting down all major plants, including hydropower stations, in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territory of Chandigarh, all wired to the northern grid. The immediate impact was shortage of around 32,000 MW.The shutdown had a crippling effect on inter-State passenger and goods trains that came to a halt. A majority of the hospitals claimed to have alternative arrangements, yet health services were affected at several places. Meanwhile, the Power Ministry on 30 July, announced the constitution of a three-member panel to probe the grid collapse. The panel, headed by Central electricity Authority (CEA) Chairman A.S. Singh, will submit its report in 15 days. The northern grid, which caters for about 28 per cent of the country’s population, covers the regions of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, J&K and Chandigarh.
- P. Chidambaram took charge of the Finance Ministry on 31 July, after three and a half years spent presiding over the Home Ministry. In a minor reshuffle, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave the Home portfolio to Sushil Kumar Shinde, who was Power Minister. Simultaneously, Union Corporate Affairs Minister M. Veerappa Moily has been given additional charge of Power. The changes were announced on 31 july through a press communiqué issued by Rahstrapati Bhavan.
- An overstrained power generation and transmission structure spreading across 21 States of the North, East and North-East regions collapsed on 31 July, plunging half of the country into darkness. The second massive breakdown in as many days was caused by the continuing grid indiscipline on the part of the State Electricity Boards (SEBs) and power utilities that overdrew power from an already overstretched generation system. On 30 July, the northern grid collapsed and it was restored after 15 hours. The Eastern and North-Eastern transmission lines too failed on 31 July afternoon. The railway network was the worst hit with trains across major parts of the country stopping midway. This is possibly the first time that all three grids have collapsed simultaneously. Till late in the evening, around 25000 MW of the total 50,000 MW had been restored. About 13,000 MW has been restored in the Northern region and about 4,000 MW in the Eastern region. Supply to the affected regions is being extended from western and southern Grids.
- Thirty-two persons, including six women and three children, were burnt to death when flames engulfed the S11 coach of the Chennai-bound Tamil Nadu Express, close to the Nellore railway station in Andhra Pradesh in the early hours of 30 July. Twenty-seven passengers suffered burns and two of them are stated to be critical. Most of the deceased and the injured belong to Vijayawada, Warangal and Jaipur. Some were working as software professionals in Chennai. All other coaches were intact. The cause of the fire is yet to be established.
- Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy launched of the afforestation drive on 63rd ‘Vana Mahotsavam’ in Tummaluru village in Maheshwaram mandal of Ranga Reddydistrict on 31 July. The afforestation drive is majorly aimed at planting 20 lakh saplings across the State on a single day, and distribution of over 30 crore seedlings grown by different agencies under various government schemes.Eight crore of teak and red sanders saplings grown in rural nurseries under the MGNREGS will be distributed free of cost to farmers as part of the drive.
- Pranab Mukherjee elected 13th President of India: Pranab Mukherjee was elected as the 13th President of India on 22 July 2012. Pranab Mukherjee defeated his rival PA Sangma with a huge margin as he secured nearly 69 percent of total valid votes. In an electoral college of 10.5 lakh, Pranab Mukherjee secured a vote value of 713763, while, PA Sangma managed to get only a vote value 315987. Out of the total 748 MPs, Pranab got the support of 527 while his rival, PA Sangma got 206 votes in his favour. Fifteen votes including that of Samjwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav were invalid. Of these, nine were to be in favour of Mukherjee while six for Sangma. Each MP has a vote value of 708. There are a total of 776 voters in both the Houses of Parliament. The Electoral College also consisted of 4120 MLAs in the states. Elections were held on 19 July 2012.
- No tourism in core areas of tiger reserves: SC Stepping in to conserve the Tiger, the Supreme Court today directed that there should be no tourism activity in any of the core zones of tiger reserves across the country. A bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifulla also warned of contempt proceedings and imposition of exemplary costs on states which failed to notify the buffer zones in their respective tiger reserves. The apex court was also furious that several states despite its earlier directions of April 4 and July 10 had failed to notify the buffer zones in their respective reserves and warned that if they failed to comply within three weeks the defaulting states shall be saddled with a cost of Rs 50,000 each, recoverable from the Principal Secretary, Forest of the state concerned. The apex court also imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 each on Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra and Jharkhand for not complying with its directions.
- Registration charges hiked: Andhra Pradesh Government on 25 July issued GOs hiking registration charges across various services. While the marriage registration charges were enhanced to Rs 200, society registration charges were modified to Rs 500. The services like getting a duplicate copy for certificate of registration would be Rs 300. Encumbrance Certificates would also become dearer from here on and these decisions would come into effect from July 27. Obtaining EC of less than 13 years would be charged as Rs 200, for more than 13 years up to 30 years Rs 500 and Rs 1000 above 30 years
- Physical education made compulsory in schools: The government Andhra Pradesh on 26th July, issued orders making physical education compulsory in schools across the State. In tune with Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy’s direction, the government issued the GO 63 that carried the school academic calendar prescribing the number of periods in a day, school timings, subjects to be covered and other activities. The Chief Minister has said that State government was encouraging sports, games and athletics in order to inculcate dedication, discipline, concentration and mental ability in the younger generation. According to the timetable, the number of classes for physical education and health would range from three to six in a week.
- Coast Guard Station Karaikal Commissioned on the Puducherry- Tamil Nadu Coastline:Vice Admiral MP Muralidharan, Director General Indian Coast Guard at Karaikal on 25 July 2012, commissioned Coast Guard Station Karaikal. Karaikal is the fifth coast guard station on the Puducherry-Tamil Nadu coastline. The station is part of ongoing efforts by the Coast Guard to strengthen coastal security along the Indian coastline. The station at Karaikal will help augment patrolling along the east coast and prevent illicit activities such as infiltration, smuggling and illegal fishing. Coast Guard Station Karaikal will function under the administrative and operational control of the Commander Coast Guard Region (East) through the Commander Coast Guard District Headquarter- 5 located at Chennai. Commandant PR Lochen was appointed as the Commanding Officer of the station.
- Supreme Court Modified Order on Rehabilitation of Sex Workers: The Supreme Court of India on 26 July 2012 modified one of its order on welfare and rehabilitation of sex workers. A special bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Gyan Sudha Misra modified its earlier order, saying, “the modification shall not be construed that by this order any encouragement is being given to prostitution.” Modifying its earlier order, the bench clarified that it would only examine the conditions conducive for sex workers to work with dignity in accordance with provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The bench added that it was keen that sex workers should be given an opportunity to avail rehabilitation measures of the government and other agencies for them. While adjudicating a petition for rehabilitation of former sex workers, the Supreme Court had on July 19, 2011 had framed three terms of reference. Article 21 in the Constitution of India states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law
- Ministry of Women and Child Development drafted the National Policy for Children 2012: The Ministry of Women and Child Development on 26 July 2012 drafted the National Policy for Children 2012. The revised draft policy reaffirms the government’s commitment towards children and addresses new challenges, seeking to realize the full potential of children’s rights throughout the country. It defines a child as a person below eighteen years of age, and acknowledges the inalienable and inherent rights of the child and aims to realize the full range of child rights for all children in the country. The draft has stated that every child has a right to be safeguarded against hunger, deprivation and malnutrition. According to the draft policy, the state is bound to secure the rights and entitlement of children in difficult circumstances such as migration, displacement, disasters and communal violence. The first National Policy on Children was formulated in 1974. The first policy of 1974 described children as a supremely important asset and made the state responsible for providing equal opportunities for growth and development of all children. The policy primarily focused on health and education of the children.
- ‘Anti-Ragging Web Portal’ inaugurated: Kapil Sibal, the Union Human Resource Minister inaugurated the ‘Anti- Ragging Web Portal’ on 26 July 2012. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has developed the portal in collaboration with Ed.CIL (India) Ltd. and Planet E-Com Solutions. Rajendra Kachroo, father of Aman who lost his life to ragging at a medical college in Himachal Pradesh in 2009 has also contributed in the UGC managed portal. Supreme Court, in its judgment dated 8 May, 2009 ordered implementation of a ragging prevention programme comprising, setting up toll-free anti-ragging helpline /call centre, database of institutions/students, engaging an independent non-government agency.All calls that would be received by the Anti-ragging Helpline (18001805522) will be managed and followed up in a structured software system. Moreover, students can see the progress of their complaint any time on www.antiragging.in .
- Cabinet extends tenure of M B Shah Commission of Inquiry:
The Union Cabinet on 20th July, approved extension of the tenure by a year till July 16 2013 of Justice M B Shah Commission of Inquiry which was set up to look into cases of illegal mining. An additional expenditure of Rs.50 lakh will be incurred because of the extension. It will cover Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Madhya Pradesh. The Justice M.B.Shah Commission of Inquiry was set up on November 22, 2011. It is based in Ahmadabad and was required to submit its report by July 16.
- Cabinet OKs Bill to make laws on sexual assault more stringent:
The Union Cabinet on 19th July, has approved introduction of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, in Parliament seeking to widen the scope of sexual offence and replace the word ‘rape’ by the words ‘sexual assault’ to make the offence gender neutral. According to official spokesperson, the highlights of the Bill include substituting sections 375, 376, 376A and 376B by replacing the existing sections 375, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C and 376D of the Indian Penal Code,1860, replacing the word ‘rape’ wherever it occurs by the words ‘sexual assault’ to make the offence of sexual assault gender neutral.
- India recorded 3.8 Percent Unemployment Rate:
According to the findings of unemployment survey conducted by the Labour Bureau of the Government of India, the country recorded 3.8 % unemployment rate in the year 2010-11. The earlier figure (2009-10) was 9.4 %. The survey was conducted in all 28 states and 7 Union Territories. The findings of the survey were released on 9 July 2012. As per the survey report, the official unemployment rate of the country was 3.8 %, with urban unemployment and rural unemployment stood at 5.1% and 3.5 % respectively. Women unemployment at 6.7 % stood significantly ahead of men unemployment rate at 2.8 %. The report stated that of those with a livelihood, the majority were self-employed or casual labour. While 48.6 % were self-employed, 31% were casual labor. Based on social stratum the rates of employment for the SC, ST, and OBC groups stood at 55.9 per cent, 59.7 %, and 53.3 % respectively, as compared to 48.5 % for the general category. The unemployment rate was found maximum in states such as Goa (16 %), Kerala (9 %) , while Gujarat (1 %) had the lowest number of unemployment rate.
- Pranab Mukherjee is 13th President of India:
Pranab Mukherjee was elected as the 13th President of India on 22 July 2012, by defeating his nearest rival PA Sangma with a huge margin as he secured nearly 69 percent of total valid votes. In an electoral college of 10.5 lakh, Pranab Mukherjee secured a vote value of 713763, while, PA Sangma managed to get only a vote value 315987. Returning Officer announced the victory of Pranab Mukherjee for the Presidential election VK Agnihotri. Pranab Mukherjee will be sworn in as the thirteenth President of India on 25 July 2012. The election is held through the system of proportional representation by means of the single – transferable vote by secret ballot. The 1971 census is currently under consideration. The candidate who gets 50 percent of votes is considered elected. Supreme Court looks into all disputes related to Presidential election. V V Giri is the only person who was elected as the President of the country as an independent candidate in 1969. Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy was the only person to be elected to the office of President of India unopposed, as no other candidate filed nomination for the post of the President. He was elected to the office of President in July 1977.
- Supreme Court upholds life term for Bihar ex-MP The Supreme Court on 10th July, upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of ex-MP Anand Mohan Singh in the 1994 murder case of Gopalganj District Magistrate G. Krishnaiah. A bench headed by Justice A.K. Patnaik dismissed the plea of Singh, a gangster-turned-politician from Bihar, who had approached the Supreme Court against his conviction and life imprisonment in the murder case. Singh, who was the leader of the then Bihar People’s Party (BPP), was accused of inciting a mob accompanying the cortege of a BPP leader to lynch Krishnaiah on December 5, 1994. The BPP is now defunct.The officer was pulled out of a car, beaten up mercilessly and then shot dead. Singh, a former MP from Sheohar, was awarded death sentence under Sections 302 (murder) and 109 (abetment of offence) of the Indian Penal Code by Additional District and Sessions Judge R.S. Rai on October 3, 2007. However, the Patna High Court in its December 2008 verdict had commuted Singh’s death penalty to life sentence, against which he had moved the Supreme Court.
- Shettar sworn in Karnataka Chief Minister: Fifty-six year-old Lingayat leader from north Karnataka, Jagadish Shettar, was sworn-in as chief minister on 12th July, along with a full-fledged team of 33 ministers. This included two deputy chief ministers – Party State President K. S. Eshwarappa and former Home Minister R. Ashok. Mr. Shettar is the third chief minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party that came to power in 2008. He will have a short tenure of only about 10 months as the State Assembly’s term ends in May 2013. While all the 21 ministers who were part of the previous dispensation have been continued in the new government, 12 new ministers have also been included. With this, the ministry has reached the maximum size of 34 members including the chief minister that has been allowed for Karnataka considering the numerical strength of its Assembly. This is the first time since the formation of the BJP government that all the ministerial berths have been filled up. Also, this is the first time that the state is having two deputy chief ministers though five other previous governments had single deputy chief ministers. The members of the Shettar ministry are: K. S. Eshwarappa and R. Ashok (Deputy Chief Ministers), Govind Karjol, Umesh Katti, C. M. Udasi, Suresh Kumar, Visveshwara Hegde Kageri, Shobha Karandlaje, Murugesh Nirani, B. N. Bachche Gowda, C. P. Yogeshwar, V. Somanna, M. P. Renukacharya, S. A. Ravindranath, S. A. Ramdas, Balachandra Jharkiholi, Anand Asnotikar, A. Narayanaswamy, Revunayak Belamagi, Varthur Prakash, Raju Gowda (who were part of the earlier dispensation); S. K. Bellubbi, C. T. Ravi, D. N. Jeevaraj, Sogadhu Shivanna, Arvind Limbavali, B. J. Puttaswamy, Appachchu Ranjan, Anand Singh, Kalakappa Bandi, Kota Srinivas Poojary and Sunil Valyapure. The swearing-in ceremony was held at the Glass House in Raj Bhavan.
- India is the third most desirable destination for FDI: As per the report from UNCTADWorld Investment Report 2012 released on 5 July , India is the third most desirable destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) .The report said, the two large emerging economies, China and India, saw inflows rise by nearly 8 per cent and by 31 per cent, respectively. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development(UNCTAD) is an inter-governmental body that seeks to maximize trade, investment and development in developing nations. The UNCTAD report said that,in South Asia, FDI inflows have turned around after a slide in 2009–2010, reaching $39 billion, mainly as a result of rising inflows in India, which accounted for more than four fifths of the region’s FDI. FDI outflows from India rose by 12 per cent to $15 billion in 2011. The UNCTAD report, however, shows that FDI inflows by multionational companies was third-highest in India, only behind China and the US. It also found that India remains the third highest prospective host economy for FDI by multionational companies from 2012-2014, only behind China and the US. Last year, the coalition United Progressive Alliance government approved 49 per cent FDI in retail but had to quickly dial back the development after political parties, including allies, protested.
- World Population Day celebrated: World Population Day was celebrated on 11 July 2012. It aims to make aware people about the increasing population in the country. The main theme of the year 2012 was “Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services”. Since 1987, the population day is being celebrated world wide.
- Vetaran congress leader Pranab Mukherjee, resigned as the Union Finance Minister on 26 June 2012 as he is going to contest in the presidential elections.. He was appointed as the Union Finance Minister on 24 January 2009, during the UPA I government. Mukherjee was first appointed as the Finance minister of India during the Indira Gandhi government in 1982 and he got his maiden annual budget presented in the Parliament in 1982-83.His first instance as the Union Minister started in 1973, when he was appointed the Union Deputy Minister for Industrial Development in the Indira Gandhi government. He was first elected to the Loksabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament, in 2004 from Jangipur constituency in West Bengal and was made the leader of the house by the ruling coalition. Mukherjee served in various capacities under three different Prime Ministers including Indira Gandhi, PV Narsimha Rao and Manmohan Singh.In a Parliamentary career spanning more than four decades, Mukherjee held various key positions such as the Union Minister of External Affairs and Union Minister of Defence in various Congress governments. As the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission during PV Narsimha Rao government from 24 June 1991 to 15 May 1996, he was instrumental in the growth of Indian economy in the post economic reform era.A key figure of the Congress led UPA government, Mukherjee was heading nearly a dozen Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on various crucial issues such as telecom, divestment, food security, water issues, gas pricing and large power projects, among others. His candidature for the Presidential Elections also made him to quit as the head of numerous EGoM.
- In a first, the Central Vigilance Commission of India has been chosen to lead a global task force to promote international cooperation in enforcement and prevention of corruption offences. The objectives of the task force is to facilitate exchange of information about anti-corruption organisations, systems, procedures and practices. It will also promote international cooperation in enforcement and prevention, define best practices and develop benchmarks and new approaches to tackle corruption in its various manifestations and assist in capacity building of anti-corruption authorities (ACAs). The decision to assign the role of heading the task force to CVC was taken recently by the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA), an independent, non-political anti-corruption organisation. Central Vigilance Commissioner Pradeep Kumar had in April proposed creation of the task force and expressed interest in leading it during an executive committee meeting of IAACA in Tanzania which was attended by chiefs of anti-corruption watchdogs from various nations including India.
- The Union Government of India on 4 July 2012 announced the 5.4 billion dollar free drug policy, which will benefit the country’s 120 crore population .Under the new policy, every citizen of the country will be provided free medicines in all public health centres spreaded across the country. As the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare kept branded drugs out of this policy, the patients will be given only generic drugs. The policy which will remain effective over the next five years will provide a much needed support to nearly 40 percent people of the country, which spends 1.25 dollar or less a day on health.Now, india spends only about 1.2 percent of its annual GDP on health, making it a country with least spending on public health services.
- The Supreme Court of India on 3 July 2012 declared the area within a five-kilometre radius around the Jarawa Tribal Reserve in Andaman and Nicobar Islands as “no go zone”. The Apex Court banned all commercial and tourism activities near the Jarawa habitat.The court’s verdict came following a news report which showed some tourists throwing money, food and bananas at the tribal people. The news report had forced the government to order an inquiry.Jarawas are one of the oldest living indigenous people in the world. The tribe has their home in the forests of the Andaman Islands in India. The present number of Jarawa tribe is estimated to be about 250-400. Jarawas have been living in the forests of the Andaman Islands for past thousands of years.
- In a major relief to the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, the Supreme Court on 6th July, quashed a First Information Report registered against Mayawati by the CBI,alleging that she acquired assets disproportionate to the known sources of her income. A Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and Dipak Misra said ”The impugned FIR is without jurisdiction and any investigation pursuant thereto is illegal. After reading all the orders of this Court, we are satisfied that this court, being the ultimate custodian of fundamental rights, did not issue any direction to the CBI to conduct a roving inquiry into the assets of the petitioner commencing from 1995 to 2003 even though the Taj Heritage Corridor Project was conceived only in July, 2002 and an amount of Rs. 17 crore was released in August/September 2002.” Writing the judgment, Justice Sathasivam said: ”The method adopted by the CBI is unwarranted and without jurisdiction. We are also satisfied that the CBI has proceeded without a proper understanding of various orders passed by this court. We are also satisfied that there was no such direction relating to second FIR (relating to disproportionate assets), dated 05.10.2003.”
- The Union government on 6th July, appointed Home Minister P. Chidambaram the chairman of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on spectrum, which has a daunting task to accomplish in a matter of days. With this, Mr. Chidambaram has become the third chairman of the EGoM, replacing Sharad Pawar, who took the place of Pranab Mukherjee The most important part of the EGOMâ€™s work is to fix the reserve price for spectrum in the 2G auctions scheduled for August. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended a reserve price of Rs.18, 348 crore for 4.4 MHz of pan-India spectrum â€” a quantum leap from Rs.1,658 crore at which the former Telecom Minister, A. Raja, allocated pan-India licences in 2008.