Current Affairs – September 2012 National Affairs
- Acting further on the recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) set up to review the allocation of coal blocks, the Coal Ministry on 18 september, de-allocated two more blocks, including one linked to Sudhir Kant Sahay, brother of Union Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay, and recommended stiff penal action against Congress MP Naveen Jindal-owned Jitpur coal block in Chhattisgarh.The Ministry also decided to deduct bank guarantees of Tata Sponge Iron and Bhushan Power and Steel Ltd for having failed to develop the blocks allocated to them in Odisha within the time frame.With the de-allocation of two more blocks, the total number of mines that have faced this action has increased to seven. The bank guarantee of seven firms has been deducted. The IMG has so far recommended de-allocation of eight blocks and deduction of bank guarantee in the case of 10 blocks.
- The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development on 18 September 2012 decided to launch a scheme called” Saksham” to empower adolescent boys by educating them on gender sensitivity and moral behaviour. Saksham aims to target young boys in the age group 10-18 years for their holistic development by giving lessons in gender sensitivity and inculcating in them respect for women.The Union government has already allocated ten lakh rupees for preparatory work for the scheme which is expected to be rolled out from the next financial year 2012-13.
- The Automotive Skill Development Council (ASDC), India’s first Sector Skill Council (SSC), held its first convocation in Begaluru on 17 september.The ASDC is funded by the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) and Ministry of Heavy Industry.Pawan Goenka, chairman, ASDC, said there was a lot of scope for growth of the automotive industry in India.Its share of the GDP has grown from 3 per cent to 6.7 per cent. By 2020, India will be the third largest automotive producer from its present sixth position.
- The Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) and the British Museum have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for collaboration on 17 september in kochi.The collaboration would be in effect for five years and may be extended. Both the organisations are keen on building on their existing cooperation and working together on research, conservation, loans, exhibitions and other key areas of museum activity for the benefit of audiences in Kerala, London and worldwide.
- Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 19 september, directed Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu at Biligundlu (the border) daily from September 21 till October 15. Both the States said the ruling was “unacceptable’’.Chairing the seventh meeting of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) to resolve the issue of sharing of Cauvery waters, the Prime Minister initially appealed to the States to reach an amicable and mutually acceptable solution on pro rata sharing of distress this season, when the monsoon has been deficient in the both the States, but there was no consensus.For a while the meeting was adjourned mid-way for all parties to confabulate, but still no agreement could be reached.Expressing her “total disappointment’’ with the verdict, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa told that she had no option but to knock at the doors of the Supreme Court to seek justice to sustain the samba crop. Reacting to Tamil Nadu’s decision to approach the Supreme Court, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid said since there was no consensus a decision had to be taken and it was expected that the States would accept it.
- Moving a step closer towards transparency and clarity, the Coal Ministry on 19 september,has invited the comments of coal producing States on rules for auction of assets through competitive bidding. Allocation of coal blocks to companies for specified end use other than power generation shall be done through competitive bidding, in which even government firms can participate.The Ministry has engaged a professional consultant to frame exhaustive guidelines for ensuring transparency in allocation of natural resources. Competitive bidding, for which the government has already identified 54 coal blocks, is likely to take off only early next year.
- The Union Commerce and Textile Minister Anand Sharma said in Ahmedabad on 19 september that,theAhmedabad-based National Institute of Design will soon be given the status of “Institute of Excellence, Mr. Sharma, who inaugurated the Gandhinagar campus, said a Bill was being drafted to give the NID the status of institute of excellence on a par with the IIMs and the IITs.Mr. Sharma said. The NID is the only institute of its kind in the country.
- A day after Ministers of the Trinamool Congress resigned from the Union Council of Ministers, six Ministers of the Congress in the West Bengal government handed over their resignations to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the State Secretariat on 22 september,in kolkata.Senior Congress leader and former Minister in the government Manas Ranjan Bhunia described the developments here as a “sequel” to the Trinamool Congress withdrawing support from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre in a “complex political situation.”
- India’s first child witness court room inaugurated:
India’s first child witness court room (CWCR), designed to present friendly image of courts for child witnesses, was today inaugurated at the Karkardooma courts complex in New Delhi on 17 September. The CWCR has been opened to help children, who are sometimes witnesses in cases pertaining to sexual offences, to depose freely in the court.
- All imported cosmetics to be regulated for safety :
In a first-time move to legally regulate the multi-crore imported personal care product industry, the Health Ministry has approved draft guidelines which bar the sales of imported cosmetics in India unless their manufacturers get the products registered with the apex drug regulator Central Drug Standards Control Organisation. For this purpose, the government is setting up a dedicated wing under the CDSCO’s Drug Controller General of India, which will act as the registration authority for imported cosmetics. The wing will come up at CDSCO’s Noida complex. The wing will be equipped with state-of-the-art facilities to monitor the range of imported cosmetics for their safety. At present, there is no system to regulate such imports. The step will ensure the safety of consumers using these products, a senior Health Ministry official told. The government has notified amendments to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules making it compulsory for global cosmetic manufacturers or their authorised agents and subsidiaries in India to seek registrations of cosmetic brands before sale in the country. The Guidelines for Import and Registration of Cosmetics mentions, Each cosmetic category — like lipstick, mascara, tooth pastes, soaps etc will carry a registration fee of USD 250 or equivalent Indian rupees. Any violation will evoke penalties in the form of fines and even jail term. At the time of registration, manufacturers of imported cosmetics will be required to declare the chemical composition of raw materials used and finished products. The strength of raw materials and the shelf life of cosmetics must also be provided and all these should be in conformity with the specifications laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards, the Draft Guidelines for Import of Cosmetics says. The idea is to ensure consumer safety. Imported cosmetics worth thousands of crores are being used and these are unregulated at present, Health Ministry officials say. The need for regulation was felt in the wake of unsafe cosmetic products entering the supply chain. A WHO study recently warned against the use of skin lightening soaps, creams and cosmetics like eye make-ups, cleansing products and mascaras saying these could contain mercury.
- New measures announced for the welfare of overseas Indians:
Vayalar Ravi, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs inaugurated the 7th Heads of Indian Missions (HoMs) conference on 17 September 2012. He announced revised Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) scheme, which includes:
- Assistance towards boarding expenses per head by HOMs is enhanced from 15 to 30 days.
- Payment of penalties in respect of Indian nationals for illegal stay in the host country where prima facie the worker is not at fault.
- Payment of small fines/penalties for the release of Indian nationals in jail/detention centre.
- Providing support to local Overseas Indian Associations to establish Overseas Indian Community Centres in countries that have populations of Overseas Indians exceeding 1,00,000.
- Providing support to start and run Overseas Indian Community-based student welfare centres in Countries that have more than 20,000 Indian students’ presence.
The Minister also mentioned that Government has given the voting rights to NRIs. The Government is also getting the PIO and OCI Card Scheme merged into one Scheme. The conference was attended by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries as well as Jordan, Yemen, Malaysia, Maldives, Angola, Thailand, Nigeria, Iraq and Libya. The conference is organized by the Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs every year to discuss the issues related to protection and welfare of Overseas Indian workers. There are approximately 7.5 million semi-skilled and unskilled overseas Indian workers in the GCC countries and Malaysia on temporary employment/ contract visas, predominantly in the construction, healthcare and household services sectors. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) is the nodal Ministry for protection and welfare of Overseas Indian workers.
- Shimla Municipal Corporation introduced Green Tax on vehicles entering Shimla:
Shimla Municipal Corporation on 15 September 2012 introduced Green Tax on Shimla entry of vehicles not registered in Himachal Pradesh. The Corporation Commissioner M.P. Sood stated that the vehicles crossing the entry points of the town will have to pay the imposed tax. The tax will be imposed on automobiles on both commercial and non-commercial category. By imposing the tax, the corporation will increase its revenue by Rs 6 crore per year. The taxes will be charged on the four entry points of the city namely, Totu, Tara Devi, Dhalli and Mahali.
- Tax imposed as per the category of vehicles:
1.Two wheelers- Rs 100 per entry
2. Car- Rs 200 per entry
3. Utility Vehicles- Rs300 per entry
4. Bus/truck- Rs 500 per entry
- Congress-ruled states to increase LPG subsidy cap to 9 cylinders:
The Congress has decided to increase the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders from 6 to 9 in the states ruled by the party. Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi said party president Sonia Gandhi had spoken to the Congress chief ministers and directed them to increase the number of subsidised cylinders to 9. The Congress-led UPA Government had, on 13th September, announced an annual six-cylinder cap on subsidised cylinder for every family. The Delhi government has already announced that it will give three more cylinders to the families belonging to economically weaker sections under a scheme to make the state kerosene-free
- SC: Land belonging to Scheduled Castes or Tribes cannot be bought by Non-Dalits:
The Supreme Court of India on 20 September 2012 ruled that the land belonging to scheduled castes or tribes cannot be bought by non-dalits, including companies as such transactions are unconstitutional. A bench of justices KS Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra gave the verdict on an appeal by the Rajasthan government against the state High Court’s order holding such a sale to be valid in law. The Rajasthan High Court had passed its order on an appeal by a private firm against the refusal by the state authorities to recognise or grant mutation to the purchase of a plot by the company from a person belonging to scheduled caste.
- 2500 developers achieve Guinness World Record
Nearly 3000 developers made history on 22 September by setting a world record for the ‘Most Participants in a Software Development Marathon in One Location’ organised by software giant Microsoft in Bangalore. The record has been set at 2567 developers coding non-stop for 18 hours since yesterday (21 September). Developers came from all over India and beyond to participate in the event hosted by Microsoft — building, designing and testing apps for the Windows platform. Emceed by Gaurav Kapoor and Roshan Abbas, the event was filled with activities throughout the day and night including performances from DJRink, rock band Swarathma and morning yoga sessions and build new apps for Windows. As the clock struck 0800 hrs the world’s largest app marathon was realised, a company release said. Mr Paul O’Neill, Vice President Guinness World Records Commercial, announced Microsoft’s entry into the Guinness World Records for the Most Participants in a Software Development Marathon in One Location. A certificate validating the record was presented to Jon DeVaan, Corporate Vice President for Windows Development at Microsoft and Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation India Pvt. Ltd.
- On instructions from the Central Vigilance Commission, the CBI on 24 September, decided to expand the scope of its investigation into the scam in coal blocks allocation to private firms between 1993 and 2004. The probe will now cover the blocks given during the six-year tenure of the BJP-led NDA government, from 1998 to 2004, besides those allotted by the Congress government led by P.V. Narasimha Rao after 1993 and the United Front government from 1996 to 1998. Till now, the CBI was investigating private companies that got blocks between 2004 and 2009.As per the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report on the allocation between 1993 and 2009, 215 blocks were allotted and 99 of them went to government companies and 105 to private firms, while 11 were allotted for ultra-mega power projects. Twenty-four blocks were de-allocated between 2003 and 2011 for non-performance by companies. On representations from MPs, Coal Minister Shriprakash Jaiswal wrote to the CVC, seeking a CBI probe into the allocations since 1993 when the government started giving blocks to private players for captive use. Mainly Congress MPs alleged massive irregularities in the allocations under the NDA rule.
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) , which met under the leadership of the Prime Minister, on 24 September, approved a Rs. 1.90-lakh crore debt restructuring package for the State Electricity Boards to facilitate a turnaround of the State distribution companies (discoms). The package may force the distribution companies, which are in the red, to begin a fresh round of tariff increase. A Cabinet note said that, restructuring by lenders is subject to certain steps to be taken by the State government/discoms and their commitment to fulfill mandatory conditions aimed at bridging the gap between the average cost of supply and the average revenue realised to restore the viability of the sector. In other words, it will be mandatory for the State governments or distribution companies to revise their tariffs regularly to avail themselves of the package. The scheme provides for 50 per cent of the outstanding short-term liabilities as of March 31, 2012 to be taken over by the States governments. This shall be first converted into bonds to be issued by the distributing companies to lenders and guaranteed by the State governments. The scheme also makes prepaid meters mandatory by March 31, 2013 for all government consumers and large consumers (1 MW and above), in whose cases defaults have occurred.
- The Union Cabinet on 24 September broadly approved the scheme of one rank, one pension (OROP), which is the long-standing demand of ex-servicemen. Cabinet also gave its nod for enhancement of family pension and dual family pension. These decisions will cost the government about Rs. 2300 crore annually. It also approved the grant of family pension to mentally and physically challenged children of armed forces personnel. The decisions on pension issues of ex-servicemen may be implemented from a prospective date and payment made accordingly. The Cabinet nod for the OROP came weeks after the six-member committee, set up by the Prime Minister, submitted its report. Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth headed the committee. It was set up after a Rajya Sabha panel last year recommended granting one rank, one pension to defence personnel.
- Hyderabad is hosting the ninth general assembly of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), which is being billed as the biggest ever conference on eye care. The gathering has nearly 1,600 participants from 87 countries. Delegates include ophthalmologists and optometrists. IAPB is an umbrella organisation that leads international efforts in blindness prevention. Its previous general assembly, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2008, attracted 800 participants from 60 countries. The meet, titled ‘Eye Health: Everyone’s Business’, focuses on eliminating avoidable blindness globally by 2020. It is part of a joint programme of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the IAPB, called ‘Vision 2020 – The Right to Sight’, and includes international NGOs, professional associations, eye care institutions and corporations. According to WHO data shared by officials of the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, which is involved in organising the Hyderabad event, India has some 63 million cases of visual impairment out of a total of 285 million cases worldwide. An estimated 80 per cent of all visual impairment is avoidable, which means that it can be prevented, treated or cured. Inaugurating the event on September 17, former president of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam said India needed to build research capacity, make laws donor-friendly and improve accessibility to eye care. The conference ends on September 20.
- The Supreme Court on 28 September, expressed its displeasure over Karnataka not complying with a direction issued by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, heading the Cauvery River Authority (CRA), to release 9,000 cusecs of Cauvery water daily to Tamil Nadu from September 20 to October 15. The Bench comprising Justice D.K. Jain and Justice Madan B. Lokur directed Karnataka to comply with the CRA’s order. It issued notice to Karnataka seeking its response within a week to Tamil Nadu’s application, and a rejoinder from Tamil Nadu within a week thereafter. Senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan, appearing for Tamil Nadu, told the court that the CRA had directed Karnataka on September 19 to release 9,000 cusecs from September 20, but the order was not complied with. Since Karnataka had failed to obey the order, it should be treated as constitutional breakdown, and the court should direct the Centre to invoke Article 355 or 356. He said the court might order deployment of the Army in Karnataka to ensure it complied with the order.
- The committee, headed by former finance secretary Vijay Kelkar, formed to prepare a fiscal consolidation plan for the government, on 28 September, recommended withdrawal of all subsidies, saying the Indian economy is poised on the edge of a “fiscal precipice”. But officials in the finance ministry said the committee’s suggestion cannot be accepted as it is, as some subsidies are necessary, given the government’s stated policy of inclusive growth. The committee said half of diesel subsidy should be eliminated by March 2013 and the rest by fiscal 2014.It recommended kerosene price should be raised by Rs.2 per litre and that the subsidy on the fuel needed to be reduced by one-third by fiscal 2015. It also suggested phased elimination of subsidy on LPG in the next four years. In case of food, the panel favoured rising of issue price of food grain at ration shops. On fertiliser subsidies, it wanted the government to raise the urea price. The report advised the government to sell residual stake in BALCO. The committee warned the government that in the absence of these corrective measures, the fiscal deficit of the government could shoot up to 6.1 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the current financial year against the budget estimate of 5.1 per cent.
- Country’s first Aquifer Atlas was released in New Delhi on 27 September. There has been a sharp decline in groundwater levels in several parts of Delhi, West Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan over the years. According to the data released , which is part of country’s first ever aquifer atlas, Himachal Pradesh has the best groundwater level as water exploited is quickly recharged. The atlas, first ever compilation of aquifer systems in India, says that within the national capital, South-West Delhi is the worst affected by depleting groundwater levels. The Central Ground Water Board Chairman S C Dhiman said that the construction around Aravali Hills has created a situation which has disturbed the groundwater recharge system. He said over exploitation due to population concentration has led to depletion of levels and the recharge process is slow due to the type of soil in the region. Dhiman also said hard rock areas of South India are also severely affected. The atlas has been prepared on 1:250000-grid map scale. Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said that, it would be better if the scale is 1:10000 so that every village in the country is covered. Then it will help the farmers and the common man to understand the water level in their area.
- An All India Survey on Higher Education, conducted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development has revealed that the percentage of students from the Other Backward Communities who have enrolled in higher education has gone past 27 per cent, but the number of students from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes continues to be very low. Indicating an impressive increase in the Gross Enrolment Ratio from 15 per cent in 2009-10 to 18.8 per cent in 2010-11, the survey shows that the enrolment of women has increased substantially from 12.7 per cent to 16.5 per cent during this period, as against that of men, where the increase has been from 17.1 per cent to 20.9 per cent. Of the students in higher educational institutions, OBC students comprise 27.1 per cent, with 27.3 per cent being male and 26.8 per cent being female. However, the Scheduled Castes comprise only 10.2 per cent of the enrolment, with 10.3 per cent male and 10.1 female, while the Scheduled Tribe enrolment is extremely low at 4.4 per cent, with males and females almost on a par, according to “Higher enrolment indicates growing interest in higher education in India. The figures show that India has the highest number of students in colleges after the United States,” Mr. Sibal said, after releasing a first-of-its-kind survey. There is reservation for all these categories in higher educational institutions. Twenty-seven per cent seats are reserved for OBC students, 15 per cent for the Scheduled Castes, and 7.5 per cent for the Scheduled Tribes. However, quotas are applicable only in Central educational institutions. The data on these categories is based primarily on the reservations in publicly-funded institutions, as well as voluntary disclosures. The initial survey released by Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal was based on information collected from 448 universities, 8,123 colleges, and 4,076 standalone institutions, until July 31. It is a voluntary exercise, and will help in gathering relevant statistics on higher education on various parameters.
- Coming out in support of the Union government, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on 28 September, said the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu was safe and there was no need for people living in its surrounding areas to protest. NDMA Vice-Chairman M. Shashidhar Reddy said, there is no need for concern on any of the [nuclear] plan, not only Kudankulam but also the Kalpakkam atomic power station, which too is located in Tamil Nadu, is also safe. The government has taken several safety measures and would continue to do so. Speaking to journalists after a day-long session on disaster management organised to mark the eighth foundation day of the NDMA, Mr. Reddy said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who also heads the NDMA, and nuclear experts have repeatedly assured that the Kudankulam plant was safe and there would be no compromise on the safety standards of any of the nuclear plants. The government has already announced a Rs. 500-crore development project for the areas surrounding the Kudankulam plant. Drills were being carried out in six States which have nuclear plants to make people aware about how to deal with any disaster. Mr. Reddy said Rs. 35,000 crore would be spent under the 12th Five Year Plan for strengthening various disaster management mechanisms in the country.
- Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 21 September, laid the foundation stone of a Buddhist university in Sanchi and called for tolerance and understanding in the world, saying it was of great relevance in view of the violence sparked due to religious causes. The Sri Lankan president’s visit to Sanchi came even as MDMK chief Vaiko and around 750 of his party workers were arrested for protesting against the visit. He said the University, which is aimed at promoting mutual relationships between Asian countries, would help to revive Buddhist and Indic studies based on the ancient concepts of teaching, self enquiry and traditional knowledge.
- The Union Cabinet on 20 September has approved the National Policy on Information Technology 2012.The policy aims to leverage Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to address country’s economic and developmental challenges, and envisages growth of the IT market to three hundred billion U.S. dollars, besides creation of additional 10 million employments by 2020.
- The thrust areas of the policy include:
The Policy will be notified in the Gazette shortly. Detailed proposals for individual initiatives will be formulated in consultation with the concerned Ministries.
- To increase revenues of IT and ITES (Information Technology Enabled Services) Industry from 100 Billion USD currently to 300 Billion USD by 2020 and expand exports from 69 Billion USD currently to 200 Billion USD by 2020.
- To gain significant global market-share in emerging technologies and Services.
- To promote innovation and R and D in cutting edge technologies and development of applications and solutions in areas like localization, location based services, mobile value added services, Cloud Computing, Social Media and Utility models.
- To encourage adoption of ICTs in key economic and strategic sectors to improve their competitiveness and productivity.
- To provide fiscal benefits to SMEs and Startups for adoption of IT in value creation
- To create a pool of 10 million additional skilled manpower in ICT.
- To make at least one individual in every household e-literate.
- To provide for mandatory delivery of and affordable access to all public services in electronic mode.
- To enhance transparency, accountability, efficiency, reliability and decentralization in Government and in particular, in delivery of public services.
- To leverage ICT for key Social Sector initiatives like Education, Health, Rural Development and Financial Services to promote equity and quality.
- To make India the global hub for development of language technologies, to encourage and facilitate development of content accessible in all Indian languages and thereby help bridge the digital divide.
- To enable access of content and ICT applications by differently-abled people to foster inclusive development.
- To leverage ICT for expanding the workforce and enabling life-long learning.
- To strengthen the Regulatory and Security Framework for ensuring a Secure and legally compliant Cyberspace ecosystem.
- To adopt Open standards and promote open source and open technologies
- Ajmal Amir Kasab’s mercy petition, addressed to President Pranab Mukherjee, has been “rejected” by Maharashtra Home Ministry; days after the lone surviving perpetrator of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks set in motion the last option available to save his life. “The Home Ministry has rejected Kasab’s petition and has forwarded it to the Chief Minister’s Office,” sources in the home department said on 24 September. Under the rules, the Chief Minister’s Office will forward the mercy plea to the Union Home Ministry, which in turn will send it to the Rashtrapati Bhavan with its recommendation.
- Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy on 26 September said his government will allow foreign players to set shops in the state in tune with the Centre’s decision allowing foreign FDI in multi-brand retail.”The multi-national companies will invest Rs 500 crore on infrastructure activity like cold storages under the FDI norms. Such investments will directly benefit the farm sector and farmers will get more prices for their produce,” Reddy said while interacting with fishermen at Chavalipadu village in Krishna district under the state government’s reaching out programme ‘Indiramma Bata’. He said the state government was initiating measures to raise the fish produce from current Rs 11,000 crore to Rs 25,000 crore in the next five years. “The government has decided to abolish Non-Agricultural Land Assessment (NALA) Tax to the tune of Rs 469 crore on fishing farms,” Reddy added.
- The Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, on 27 September,gave its approval to the final pharma pricing policy, bringing 348 essential drugs under the government’s price control regime. The GoM, at its last meeting, had agreed to study how emerging countries such as Mexico, South Africa, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka fixed the prices of essential medicines, before finalising the drug pricing policy in India. After the meeting, Mr. Pawar told reporters that the GoM would forward its recommendations to the Cabinet within a week for approval to bring the drugs under the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM). These drugs with total sales of around Rs.29,000 crore account for about 60 per cent of the domestic market. At present, the government, through the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), controls prices of 74 bulk drugs and their formulations. The Supreme Court had recently criticised the government on this issue, and had given the government a two-week ultimatum to finalise the policy.
- The Election commission on 27 September 2012 directed the Political Parties and candidates not to use birds and animals in the campaigns. The commission also directed that in case the use of animal is unavoidable then the party or candidate will have to ensure that no harm is caused to the animal including violation of any law as well as cruelty towards the creature. To justify the decision the commission pointed towards Article 51(g) of the Indian Constitution that states compassion for all living creature as well as Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960. The commission also pointed towards the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 that prohibits overloading and torturing of the animals. The Election Commission has also sent letters to the political parties as well as the Chief Electoral Officers of every state and union territories. The decision was made following the representations received by the election commission by some organization and individual stating the cruelty that animals suffered during the election campaign of the political parties.
- Procuring passport will be costlier from October 1. The Government has decided to increase the Passport and related services fees from Rs 1000 to Rs 1500 under the normal category and from Rs 2500 to Rs 3500 under Tatkal scheme, a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs Ministry said. The Passport and related services were last fixed on March 29, 2002. For Indian citizens living abroad, the revised fee would be $75.00 (from 40.00) and Euro 60.00 (from 48.00) for normal applications. The statement said that the hike was necessitated by considerable increase in the last ten years in inputs costs relating to establishment, capital expenditure, procurement of equipment, reimbursement to police authorities, payment to India Posts, printing of passport booklets, personalization costs, income tax expenses and contractual payment to service providers.
- Pre-paid mobile numbers to lose ISD facility soon:
Telecom regulator TRAI has asked telecom companies to de-activate the international calling facility in pre-paid numbers and restore it only after a subscriber gives his explicit consent to avail this facility. “Inform all pre-paid subscribers having ISD facility, through SMS, within 10 days of the date of issue of this direction, that ISD facility of the subscribers shall be discontinued after sixty days,” Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said in a directive to telcos. “If such subscribers want to continue with ISD facility, they should give their explicit consent for availing such facility within 60 days of the receipt of the SMS,” it added. TRAI has issued this directive following complaints from consumers about missed calls from international telephone numbers which are often premium numbers charging high tariff, prompting the consumers to make call to such numbers. Trai said it has also been receiving complaints from consumers about receiving calls and SMSes from international numbers informing them about winning of prizes or lottery and prompting consumers to call a particular number to claim the prize or lottery money.”These numbers are international numbers, which are often premium numbers charging higher tariffs. By responding to such calls/SMS the consumers have to pay unintended charges,” Trai said. The regulator has asked telecom operators to inform subscribers through SMS, within 10 days of the direction, that pre-paid cellular mobile telephone service consumers need not respond to all missed calls from unknown international numbers or calls about winning prizes or lottery
- Jal Satyagraha wins, MP govt to reduce dam water level:
Bhopal: Bowing before the villagers who have standing in neck-deep water for 17 days demanding reduction in the water level of the Omkareshwar dam, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on 10 September, announced the reduction of the water level to 189 metres. The Madhya Pradesh CM said, “Taking into account of the present situation, the state government has decided to reduce the water level to 189 metres from the current 190.5 metres.” Expressing concern on the adverse affect of the decision, Chouhan said, “Reducing the water level would affect the irrigation process and 20,000 hectares of land will not get water. Decreasing the water level will also lead to loss of 120 megawatt electricity.” The Omkareshwar dam is built across the Narmada River. The Chief Minister also announced that the affected villagers will be given land-for-land within 90 days.
- Goa Government ordered Temporary Suspension of Mining Operations:
The Goa Government on 10 September 2012 ordered temporary suspension of all mining operations in the state. An order to this effect was issued by the Principal Secretary, Department of Mines and Geology. The suspension came into effect from 11 September 2012. The decision comes in view of the serious illegalities and irregularities mentioned in the report of the Justice M.B. Shah commission of inquiry constituted by the Union Government of India to look into the aspect of illegal mining in various states including Goa. However, the suspension of mining operations will have no effect on trade and transportation of ore already mined and existing in the lease-hold area, in transit or stored or stocked on the jetties.
- Journalists must not cross the line of contempt: SC
The Supreme Court on 11 September, laid down a constitutional principle where aggrieved parties can seek from appropriate court the postponement of the publication of court hearings and a decision taken on a case-by-case basis. The court, however, refrained from framing broad guidelines for reporting of sub-judice court matters, saying it cannot be done across the board. The bench observed that freedom of speech and expression is not an absolute right under the Constitution and the journalists should understand the ‘lakshman rekha’ so that they do not cross the line of contempt. A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said it was laying down the constitutional principle which will allow the aggrieved parties to seek from appropriate court the postponement of the publication of court hearings. The bench said the concerned court will decide the question of postponement of reporting court proceedings on case-by-case basis. We are not framing guidelines but we have laid down constitutional principle and appropriate writ courts will decide when the postponement order has to be passed on case-by -case basis, the bench also comprising justices D K Jain, S S Nijjar, Ranjana Prakash Desai and J S Khehar saidv
- Now Delhi bans plastic bags:
Taking a giant leap forward towards protecting the environment, the Delhi Government has imposed a blanket ban on manufacture, sale, storage and use of plastic bags in the city. The decision was taken at a meeting of the Delhi Cabinet on 11 September. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said: “After considering the adverse effects of plastic carry bags on the environment, we decided to ban them. It has also been observed that plastic bags cause blockage of gutters, drains and sewerage system, thereby resulting in serious environmental and public health-related problems”. She said her government would soon issue a notification stating that no person including any shopkeeper, vendor, wholesaler or retailer, trader or hawker would sell or store or use any kind of plastic carry bags. No person will manufacture, import, store, sell or transport any kind of plastic carry bags in the city. Also, no person will use any kind of plastic cover or plastic sheet or plastic film or plastic tube to pack or cover any book including magazine, invitation or greeting card. The notification will, however, not affect the use of plastic carry bags as specified under the Bio-Medical Waste Management & Handling Rules, 1998.The Delhi Pollution Control Committee member-secretary will ensure overall monitoring and implementation of the ban. The notification will come into force with effect from the date to be decided by the Government in the official Gazette.
- Karnataka agreed to release 10,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu:
Karnataka showcased a gesture of goodwill on 10 September 2012 in front of the Supreme Court of India and agreed to release 10,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu from the Cauvery River, till 20 September 2012. As a response to this act of Karnataka, the bench of Justices D.K. Jain and Madan Lokur didn’t pass any verdict for the plea of directing the state to release 2 tmcft (thousand million cubic foot of water). Supreme Court expressed its hope that a fine and friendly solution will be brought forward by the Cauvery River Authority that is headed by the Prime Minister. The bench also stated that in case Karnataka’s plea is kept pending than the bench will have to come forward for making a decision on the issue.
- Vice president of India M. Hamid Ansari released a book :
Vice president of India Hamid Ansari released the book “Muslim in Indian cities” on 10 September 2012. The book is edited by Laurent Gayer and Christopher Jafferlot. On the occasion of book release, Vice-President denoted Indian muslim as sui generic that means unique in characteristics. The book speaks about Muslim life in India. Numbering more than 150 million, Muslims constitute the largest minority in India, yet they suffer the most politically and socioeconomically. The books argue that the quality of Muslim life may lag behind that of Hindus nationally, local and inclusive cultures had resilient in the south and the east. Within India’s cities, however, the challenges Muslims face can be harder to read. As per the book, In the Hindi belt and in the north, Muslims have known less peace, especially in the riot-prone areas of Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Jaipur, and Aligarh, and in the capitals of former Muslim states—Delhi, Hyderabad, Bhopal, and Lucknow. These cities are rife with Muslim ghettos and slums. However, self-segregation has also played a part in forming Muslim enclaves, such as in Delhi and Aligarh, where traditional elites and a new Muslim middle class have regrouped for physical and cultural protection. Combining firsthand testimony with sound critical analysis, the book follows urban Muslim life in eleven Indian cities, providing uncommon insight into a little-known but highly consequential subject. The book is published by Harper Collins publisher, India.
- First single entrance test for MBBS, BDS admissions:
The first-ever National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to MBBS and BDS courses across the country will be held on May 5 next year, the CBSE announced on 13 September. The NEET aims at mitigating the need of students to appear in multiple tests and promote merit in admission process. It will allow class XII students to sit in a single entrance examination to get admission to almost all medical colleges in India, including private medical colleges. A single merit list will be created for the MBBS and BDS seats across the country, which will show state, minorities and SC/ST quotas. Announcing the date, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) said that Medical Council of India (MCI) and Dental Council of India (DCI) have already notified that the Board will be conducting the test for entry to medical and dental colleges in the country. The syllabus has already been notified by the Medical Council of India (MCI) and all admissions to MBBS and BDS will be held on the basis of the common merit list.
- UPA government approves FDI in multi-brand retail, aviation, broadcasting and power exchanges :
-In a major decision signalling the end of policy paralysis in the UPA government, the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 13 September, accepted 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail. The government has, however, left the option to invite multi-brand retail on the states. There is an opt out clause in the FDI in multi-brand retail, which has been the most contagious of the issues. According to the clause, “Retail sales outlets maybe set up in those states which have agreed or agree in the future to allow FDI in multi-brand retail under this policy. This is an enabling clause. This means that no FDI in retail will be allowed in any state unless the state explicitly agrees to come on board and agree to the policy.” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at the meeting that the time had come for big bang reforms. “If we have to go down, we have to go down fighting,” he said. Notably, the issue had been pending for quite long because of opposition from key UPA allies such as the Trinamool Congress. The government also approved foreign direct investment in aviation, broadcasting and power exchanges. The decision means that foreign airlines will now be allowed to invest as much as 49 per cent in the Indian carriers. Also, the FDI cap on various streams of broadcast services has been raised to up to 74 per cent. In another important decision, the government approved the disinvestment of five Public Sector Units (PSUs), including Oil India (10 per cent), Nalco (12.5 per cent) and Hindustan Copper (9.59 per cent).
- Diesel price hiked by Rs 5:
The government on 13 September, hiked the price of diesel by Rs 5 per litre, to be effective from midnight. The Cabinet Committee of Political Affairs (CCPA), however, decided not to hike the price of kerosene. The CCPA, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also ended the subsidy on branded diesel fuel saying it would be sold at market rates. In another major decision, it was decided that a household would get a maximum of six LPG cylinders at the subsidised price per year. The government, however, spared an increase in petrol price by cutting excise duty of Rs 5.50 per litre.
- Golden jubilee of the National Pledge :
The Pledge, the students across the country take every day in their schools was first written in Telugu by Paidimarri Venkata Subba Rao in 1962, when he was working as the District Treasury Officer of Visakhapatnam. It was first introduced in the Visakhapatnam City Schools in 1963 and later in all schools in the state. Later, the Education Department of Central Government got it translated into English and other languages and introduced in all schools across the country from January 26, 1965. The golden jubilee celebration of The Pledge is going on in a befitting manner. Now a group of Vizagties geared themselves up to celebrate golden jubilee of the plege from September last week to November last week in a grand manner. President of Uttarandhra Rakshana Vedika, SS Siva Shankar said that Venkata Subba Rao was a native of Nalgonda but he was totally neglected by successive governments. Unfortunately Subba Rao’s name was not mentioned anywhere in the history with regard to the pledge.
- Appoint people with judicial background to CIC: Supreme Court
Holding that Central and State Information Commissions perform quasi-judicial functions, the Supreme Court on 14 September, asked the government to appoint people from judicial background also as its members. A bench of justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar also lifted the stay on appointment of information commissioners.
- National Students Union of India wins Delhi University elections:
The Congress-backed National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) has won the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) elections, bagging the top three seats in the union. NSUI’s Arun Hooda, Varun Khari and Varun Chaudhry recorded the highest votes for the posts of President, Vice-President and Secretary posts respectively. Their campaign this year touched on several issues like increase in the number of hostels, special consideration for sportspersons, cheap study material for students and subsidised metro cards. Their main opponent, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), had centred their campaign around corruption at the centre. 13 candidates were in the fray for the post of president this year: Seven for vice-president and nine each for the posts of secretary and joint secretary. Last year, NSUI had won only the post of the president. The other three were won by ABVP.
- Nagaland Peace Channel organizes NE Youth Peace Festival:
Nagaland Peace Channel has announced to organize the fifth annual ‘North East Youth Peace and cultural Festival’ (NEYPCF) from September 21 to 23 at Holy Cross Higher Secondary School Campus in Dimapur, on the theme ‘Sustainable peace for a sustainable future.’ According to sources here today The North Eastern Youth Cultural & Peace Festival is an annual gathering of the Peace Club members, associates and representatives of various organizations, peace activists and thinkers from across the North East and invitees from across the country and the world. The three day event would enable integration through inter-cultural interaction and sharing, facilitate learning through input sessions, panel discussions and discourses from leading personalities, provide entertainment through exposition of cultural dances, songs and art forms, and above all inculcate Peace in the mind and hearts of the participants through the thematic stream , ‘Sustainable peace for a sustainable future.’ The delegates are expected to reach the venue on September 21.
- The Union Cabinet on 4 September approved an amendment to the Constitution to provide special status to Bidar, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Koppal, Raichur and Bellary districts in the Hyderabad Karnataka region. Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge says, the Bill will enable reservation in education and jobs, besides development.
- To check misuse of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards, the government has asked telecom service providers not to provide mobile connection for more than three months to any foreign tourist visiting India. According to fresh guidelines, which came into effect recently, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has told the service providers that the proof for issuance of a mobile connection to any foreigner would be the passport having a valid visa
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2010 that seeks to protect women, including domestic workers, from sexual harassment at workplace was passed in the Lok Sabha on 3 September. According to the bill, piloted by Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath, sexual harassment includes any unwelcome act or behaviour such as physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography. The acts or behaviour — direct or by implication — will also include any other physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature. Non-compliance with the provisions of the law will be punishable with a fine of up to Rs 50,000. Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to do business. The bill defines domestic worker as a woman employed to do household work for remuneration. A Parliamentary Standing Committee, which examined the bill, held the firm view that preventive aspects had to be strictly in line with the Supreme Court guidelines in the 1997 Vishaka case. The judgment not only defines sexual harassment at workplace but also lays down guidelines for its prevention and disciplinary action. The bill makes it mandatory for all offices, hospitals, institutions and other workplaces to have an internal complaints redress mechanism.
- The Lok Sabha passed by voice vote, a bill to bifurcate the civil services cadre of Manipur and Tripura — The North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Amendment Bill, 2011. At present, the two States have a joint cadre of the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Police Service and the Indian Forest Service.
- The other Bill passed by the Lok Sabha, without discussion, is to expand the National Highways Authority of India. At present, the NHAI consists of a Chairman, up to five full-time members and up to four part-time members. The National Highways Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2011, seeks to increase the strength to six full-time members and six part-time members, besides the Chairman. At least two of the part-time members should be non-government professionals with knowledge of, or experience in, financial management, transport planning or any other relevant discipline.
- Raj Kiran, the third of a series of eight indigenously built In-shore Patrol Vessels, was commissioned for the east coast guard region in Visakhapatnam by the chief of eastern naval command (ENC), Vice-admiral Anil Chopra. Raj Kiran would be under the operational control of the commander of north-east coast guard region and would help in taking up various close coast operations such as surveillance, interdiction, search and rescue and medical evacuation. The 50-metre vessel commanded by Lieutenant commander Sumantho Roy with a crew of 5 officers and 30 sailors features an integrated bridge management system, integrated machinery control system and an integrated gun mount with fire control system. The vessel which displaces 300 tonnes with a maximum speed of 34 knots and an endurance limit of 1500 nautical miles at an economical speed of 16 knots is equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry and advanced navigational and communication equipment
- Gutka and pan masala will be banned in Gujarat from September 11. The government issued a notification on this.
- Satyajit Ray’s “Pather Panchali” has secured the 42nd place, with 31 votes to its name, in ‘The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time’ poll by Sight & Sound magazine. It is the only Indian film to secure a place in the list.846 film critics, programmers, academics and distributors voted for the Sight and Sound decadal poll for the greatest films of all time. First among the Apu Trilogy, Pather Panchali entered the poll list in 1962 at number 11.First position has been taken over by Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”. Hitchcock’s 45th feature won the throne by 34 votes to its credit.
- The Union Cabinet on 6 September 2012 gave its approval to continue interest subsidy to Public Sector Banks (PSBs), Regional Rural Banks (RRBs), Cooperatives Banks and NABARD enabling them to provide short-term crop loans of up to Rs 3 lakhs to farmers at 7% p.a. during the year 2012-13. It was also decided to provide additional interest subsidy of 3% p.a. to those farmers who repay loans within one year of disbursement in the current fiscal year. The Cabinet allowed the release of 10901 crore Rupees as interest subvention for 2012-13. Interest subsidy is allowed for small and marginal farmers having Kisan Credit Cards for loan. Centre has subsidized short-term crop loans to farmers since 2006-07 to ensure the availability of crop loans to farmers of upto Rs.3 lakh at 7% p.a. For the year 2012-13, the target for agricultural credit flow has been raised to Rs 575000 crore from Rs 475000 crore in the year 2011-12.
- Govt clears SC/ST quota proposal for promotion in state jobs:
The government on 4th September, cleared a proposal that would allow it to provide reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in promotion in state jobs. The Union Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the proposal for making provisions for quotas for SC/STs in promotions in government jobs. Most political parties had favoured a legally sustainable legislation in the backdrop of the Supreme Court order. The proposed bill seeks to amend at least four articles of the Constitution to enable the government to provide quota in promotions to SC/STs. BSP leader Mayawati had raised the issue in Parliament after the Supreme Court had on April 28 struck down her government’s decision in this regard. Parliament had witnessed disruptions on the issue in the current as well as the previous session.
- CBI on 4th September, registered cases against five companies and unknown government officials as part of its probe into alleged irregularities in allocation of coal blocks and carried out searches across 10 cities. According to CBI spokesperson, five FIRs have been filed against five companies and unknown government officials for alleged cheating. The agency sleuths were also conducting searches at 30 places in ten cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Patna, Hyderabad, Dhanbad and Nagpur, the spokesperson said. The filing of FIRs comes three months after registration of a Preliminary Enquiry into the coal scam by the agency on the directions of the Central Vigilance Commission. Hyderabad, Dhanbad and Nagpur, the spokesperson said. The filing of FIRs comes three months after registration of a Preliminary Enquiry into the coal scam by the agency on the directions of the Central Vigilance Commission.
- The A.P. High Court directed the State Election Commission on 4 Septemebr, to commence the process of elections to panchayat raj (PR) bodies immediately and complete it within three months from the date on which the percentage of reservations is finalised by the State government. In a far-reaching judgment, a division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Vilas V. Afzulpurkar made it clear that the reservations for various categories in the PR institutions shall not cross 50 per cent.
- India’s Internet subscriber base is expected to reach 150 million by the end of this year. According to a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India and IMRB said: “The number of claimed Internet users has seen a growth of 16 per cent over last year. This number is estimated to grow up to 150 million by December 2012.” There will be 105 million users in urban India while the rural areas will contribute 45 million subscribers, the report added. Claimed users are those who have used Internet at least once in their lifetime while active users have used Internet at least once in the last one month
- India recorded sharpest decline in its decadal growth in its population since Independence in 2001-11 when it decreased by 3.90 per cent to 17.64 per cent, government informed Parliament on 7 September. Stating that growth rate of Indian population is slowing down, government told Rajya Sabha, “As per 2011 census data, the percentage decadal growth during 2001-2011 has registered the sharpest decline since Independence”. “For 2001-11, the decadal growth has decreased to 17.64 per cent, a decline of 3.90 percentage points,” Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said in a written reply. “It declined from 23.87 per cent in 1981-1991 to 21.54 per cent for the period 1991-2001, a decrease of 2.33 percentage points,” he added. He said government adopted the National Population Policy in February 2000 for achieving population stabilisation and United Nations Population Fund contributed 15.81 million dollars in four years since 2008 to help India achieve the objective. United Nations Population Fund contributed 44,00,000 dollars in 2008, 50,00,000 dollars in 2009, 31,19,475 dollars in 2010 and 33,00,000 dollars in 2011 to the government reproductive child health programme, he added.