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The Hon’ble Prime Minister has unveiled the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020.
The Plan seeks to support the creation of necessary eco system for promoting electric mobility, a frontier technology, so as to make it a self-sustaining business in the future. The National Electric Mobility Mission Plan envisages new sales of 6-7 million units of a range of electric vehicles, which would result in liquid fuel savings of 2.2 – 2.5 million tons by 2020. This will also result in substantial lowering of vehicular emissions and decrease in carbon di-oxide emissions by 1.3% to 1.5% in 2020 as compared to a status quo scenario.
However with respect to the barriers in this sector government is aiming to adopt following measures which include – providing initial impetus through demand support measures that facilitate faster consumer acceptance of these expensive newer vehicles. In addition, the government will also facilitate automotive R&D and put in place charging infrastructure.
NMEM is amongst the most significant interventions of the Government that promises to transform the automotive paradigm of the future by lessening the dependence on fossil fuels, increasing energy efficiency of vehicles and by providing the means to achieve ultimate objective of cleaner transportation that is compatible with sustainable renewable energy generation. This Intervention will also help encourage the Indian Automotive Industry to shift to newer, cleaner technologies so that it builds its future competitive advantage around environmentally sustainable products, high end technologies, innovation and knowledge.
The implementation and roll out of the NEMMP 2020 will be done through various specific schemes, interventions, policies that are currently under formulation and will be considered by the Government in the near future.
Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, 2013
The Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, unveiled the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STI) 2013 that aspires to position India among the top five global scientific powers by 2020.
The STI Policy seeks to send a signal to the Indian scientific community, both in the private and public domain, that science, technology and innovation should focus on faster, sustainable and inclusive development of the people. The policy seeks to focus on both STI for people and people for STI. It aims to bring all the benefits of Science, Technology & Innovation to the national development and sustainable and more inclusive growth. It seeks the right sizing of the gross expenditure on research and development by encouraging and incentivizing private sector participation in R & D, technology and innovation activities.
The policy also seeks to trigger an ecosystem for innovative abilities to flourish by leveraging partnerships among diverse stakeholders and by encouraging and facilitating enterprises to invest in innovations. It also seeks to bring in mechanisms for achieving gender parity in STI activities and gaining global competitiveness in select technological areas through international cooperation and alliances. The policy goal is to accelerate the pace of discovery, diffusion and delivery of science led solutions for serving the aspirational goals of India for faster, sustainable and inclusive growth. A Strong and viable Science, Research and Innovation system for High Technology led path for India (SRISHTI) are the goal for the STI policy.
The Key features of the STI Policy 2013 are
a) Promoting the spread of scientific temper amongst all sections of society.
b) Enhancing skills for applications of science among the young from all social sectors.
c) Establishing world class infrastructure for R&D for gaining global leadership in some select frontier areas of science.
d) Positioning India among the top five global scientific powers by 2020(by increasing the share of global scientific publications from 3.5% to over 7% and quadrupling the number of papers in top 1% journals from the current levels).
e) Linking contributions of Science Research and innovation system with the inclusive economic growth agenda and combining priorities of excellence and relevance.
f) Creating an environment for enhanced private sector participation in R &D.
g) Enabling conversion of R & D output with societal and commercial applications by replicating hitherto successful models, as well as establishing of new PPP structures.
h) Seeking S&T based high risk innovation through new mechanisms.
i) Fostering resource optimized cost-effective innovation across size and technology domains.
j) Triggering in the mindset & value systems to recognize respect and reward performances which create wealth from S&T derived knowledge.
k) Raising Gross Expenditure in Research and Development (GERD) to 2% from the present 1% of the GDP in this decade by encouraging enhanced private sector contribution.
l) Increasing the number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) of R&D personnel in India by at least 66% of the present strength in 5 years.
m) Increasing accessibility, availability and affordability of innovations, especially for women, differently-abled and disadvantaged sections of society.
n) Aligning Venture Capital and Inclusion Innovation Fund systems.
o) Modifying IPR policy to provide for marching rights for social good when supported by public funds and for co-sharing IPRs generated under PPP
Triggering ecosystem changes in attitudes, mindset, values and governance systems of publicly funded institutions engaged in STI activities to recognize, respect and reward performances which create wealth from S&T derived knowledge.
As mandated by the Article 280 of the Constitution, the Government has constituted the Fourteenth Finance Commission consisting of Dr. Y. V. Reddy, former Governor Reserve Bank of India, as the Chairman and the following four other members, namely : – Prof Abhijit Sen, Ms.Sushma Nath, Dr. M.Govinda Rao and Dr.Sudipto Mundle.
The Commission shall make its report available by the 31st October, 2014, covering a period of five years commencing on the 1st April, 2015.The Commission shall make recommendations regarding the sharing of Union taxes, principles governing Grants-in-aid to States and transfer of resources to local bodies.
It would review the state of finances, deficit and debt levels of the Centre and states, keeping in view, in particular, the fiscal consolidation roadmap recommended by the 13th Finance Commission. It would suggest measures for maintaining as table and sustainable fiscal environment consistent with equitable growth including suggestions to amend the Fiscal Responsibility Budget Management Acts.
With regard to debt-stressed states, the Commission has been asked to suggest steps for augmenting revenues of states which are lagging. The Commission would also look into the “need for insulating the pricing of public utility services like drinking water, irrigation, power and public transport from policy fluctuations through statutory provisions”. Besides, it would suggest the level of subsidies that would be essential for sustainable and inclusive growth and sharing of burden between the Centre and states.
The Commission has also been asked to review the non-salary expenditure of states and recommend steps for upkeep of capital asset. The need for making the public sector enterprises competitive and market oriented, listing and disinvestment, and relinquishing of non-priority enterprises would form part of the recommendation. The Commission may also review the present arrangements as regards financing of Disaster
Management with reference to the funds constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and make appropriate recommendations there on. In making its recommendations on various matters, the Commission shall generally take the base of population figures as of 1971 in all cases where population is a factor for determination of devolution of taxes and duties and grants-in-aid however, the Commission may also take into account the demographic changes that have taken place subsequent to 1971.
A micro finance institution (MFI) is defined as an organization, other than a bank, providing micro finance services. These services are defined as micro credit facilities not exceeding Rs 5 lakh in aggregate, or with the Reserve Bank’s (RBI) specification Rs 10 lakh, to each individual. Other services like collection of thrift, pension or insurance services and remittance of funds to individuals within India also come under micro finance services.
a) The Bill allows the central government to create a Micro Finance Development Council with officers from different Ministries and Departments. This council will advise the central government on policies and measures for the development of MFIs.
b) In addition, the Bill allows the central government to form State Micro Finance Councils. These councils will be responsible for coordinating the activities of District Micro Finance Committees and reviewing the MFIs in their state.
c) District Micro Finance Committees review the development of micro finance activities within the district, monitor over-indebtedness and monitor the methods of recovery used by MFIs. These committees can be appointed by the RBI.
d) The Bill requires that all MFIs to obtain a certificate of registration from the RBI. The applicant needs to have a net owned fund of at least Rs 5 lakh. By ‘net owned fund’ the Bill means the aggregate of paid up equity capital and free reserves on the balance sheet. The RBI should also be satisfied with the general character or management of the institution.
e) Every MFI will have to create a reserve fund and the RBI may specify a percentage of net profit to add to this fund. There can be no appropriation from this fund unless specified by the RBI.
f) At the end of every financial year, MFIs are required to provide an annual balance sheet and profit and loss account for audit to the RBI. They will also have to provide a return detailing their activities within 90 days of the Bill being passed.
g) Any change in the corporate structure of a MFI, such as a shut down, amalgamation, takeover or restructuring, can only take place with approval from the RBI.
h) The RBI has the power to issue directions to MFIs. This could include directions on the extent of assets deployed in providing micro finance services, ceilings on loans or raising capital.
i) The RBI has the authority to set the maximum annual percentage rate charged by MFIs and set a maximum limit on the margin MFIs can make. Margin is defined as the difference between the lending rate and the cost of funds (in percentage per annum).
j) The RBI shall create the Micro Finance Development Fund. Sums raised by the RBI from donors, institutions and the public along with the outstanding balance from the existing Micro Finance Development and Equity Fund form this fund. The central government, after due appropriation from Parliament, may grant money to this fund. The fund can provide loans, grants and other micro credit facilities to any MFI.
k) The RBI is responsible for redressal of grievances for beneficiaries of micro finance services.
l) The Bill allows the RBI to impose a monetary penalty of upto Rs 5 lakhs for any contravention of the Bill’s provisions. No civil court will have jurisdiction against any MFI over any penalty imposed by the RBI.
m) The Bill gives the central government the authority to delegate certain RBI powers to the National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development or any other central government agency.
n) The central government has the power to exempt certain MFIs from the provisions of the Bill.
The Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill 2011 was introduced in order to amend the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Act, 1970/1980. The said Bill has been passed by both the Houses of Parliament.
This Bill would strengthen the regulatory powers of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and to further develop the banking sector in India. It will also enable the nationalized banks to raise capital by issue of preference shares or rights issue or issue of bonus shares. It would also enable them to increase or decrease the authorized capital with approval from the Government and RBI without being limited by the ceiling of a maximum of Rs.3000 crore.
Salient features of the Bill:
a) The new regulation gives power to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to issue new bank licenses.
b) The bill will increase voting rights of investors in the private sector banks to 26 percent from the existing 10 percent. This will make the Indian banking sector attractive for the overseas investors and is expected to lead to consolidation in the industry.
c) The Bill will allow foreign banks to convert their Indian operations into local subsidiaries or transfer shareholding to a holding company of the bank without paying stamp duty. Foreign banks have long sought these changes to the law which they say would encourage them to expand their operations in India. Under current laws, foreign banks such as Citibank and Standard Chartered have to pay 20-30 per cent tax as capital gains and stamp duty when transferring branches to a new legal entity.
d) The Bill proposes to establish a “Depositor Education and Awareness Fund”. The Fund will take over the deposit accounts which have not been claimed or operated for a period of ten years or more.
e) The amended bill will remove the ceiling of Rs 3000 crore on the amount of authorized capital that nationalized banks must hold. The approval to increase or decrease the authorized capital will have to be taken from the Central Government and the RBI. This move will help banks to enhance their capital by seeking appropriate approvals according to the need they face.
f) The amended bill also states that nationalized banks will be allowed to issue bonus and rights shares without the explicit approval of the RBI and the government. This step lends them a whole lot of functional autonomy at the operational level, and provides them great relief in terms of capital infusion going ahead.
g) The bill will give powers to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to inspect the books of all associates of a banking company. This is a major step as it expedites the process of RBI clearing banking licenses to companies who want to foray into the sector.
Under the regulations of the Banking Regulations Act, 1949, the RBI has the power to remove a director or any other officers of the banking company. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states that such power is not adequate if the entire Board of Directors is working against the interest of the depositors and the company. This Bill proposes to confer powers on the RBI to supersede the Board of Directors of a banking company for not more than 12 months and appoint an administrator for the managing the company during that period.
South-West Delhi survey highlights people’s open preference for male child (A survey done by The Hindu News paper)
Respect parents’ right to choose the sex of their child and legalize sex determination in the country was one of the responses to a social audit conducted in the Capital’s South-West district to understand the growing phenomenon of female foeticide in these parts. The audit, conducted by the Centre for Social Research (CSR), has also revealed that people are quite open about their preference for boys and justified it by saying that a son is essential for maintenance and retention of property while daughters will have to be married off.
South-West Delhi, which includes places such as Vasant Vihar, Vasant Kunj, Dwarka and Najafgarh, was chosen because it has the worst sex ratio in the Capital (836 women for every 1000 men), said CSR Head, Research and Knowledge, Manasi Mishra. “In my experience of working in Delhi and Haryana, maintaining female chastity is cited as a major reason as a preference for boys,” she said, apart from reasons such as payment of dowry, preserving familial legacy and share in property.
With people crossing over from the South-West district to adjoining districts such as Jhajjar and Bahadurgarh to determine the sex of the child, there should be a provision under the PC-PNDT Act to permit the District Appropriate Authority to raid adjoining districts, said District Magistrate Vikas Anand. He also highlighted the abysmal conviction rates against clinics and those involved in this practice.
“Among the institutional challenges is the lack of dedicated manpower at the district level, insensitivity of the police towards crime against women and sex selective abortion not being a priority for the system” he said. “However, among some of the efforts to curb this practice is during marriage registrations obtaining an oath from newlywed couples that they will not go for sex determination of their child.”
The survey conducted by the Indian Ministry for Health and Family Welfare:
India’s Annual Health Survey (AHS) is the first survey initiative to provide district-level fertility and mortality statistics, by annual panel, in nine of high-focus states. These include all eight of the Empowered Action Group (EAG) (In India, the eight socioeconomically backward states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, referred to as the Empowered Action Group (EAG) states, lag behind in the demographic transition and have the highest infant mortality rates in the country.) states, and Assam. The survey is governed by the Registrar General’s office, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The AHS baseline sampled 18.2 million people (3.6 million households) in all 284 districts of the selected nine states. District-level sample sizes were derived from the state’s known Infant Mortality Rates (IMR). The survey selected over 20,000 sample units – villages in rural areas, and Census Enumeration Blocks in urban areas. Given the size, it is said to be the largest sample survey in the world. The survey reports on vital indicators, including: total crude birth and death rates, sex ratios (at birth, 0-4, and all ages), and mortality rates (maternal, infant, neonatal, and under-five). All indicators are disaggregated by urban/rural and male/female.
Some highlights from the national data:
Child Birth Rate: 82% of districts fall between the range of 19-28 childbirths per 1000 people, per year
Infant Mortality Rates: the top 100 districts in IMR constitute about 50% of total infants deaths across the sampled states. 79% of districts range between 45 and 74 infant deaths per 1000 live births; 6-7 of these deaths are in neonates. 68% of districts report a range of 30-49 neonatal births per 1000 live births.
UMR: 66% of districts fall in the range of 61-100 deaths of under fives per 1000 live births; the top 100 districts make up 63% of child deaths in the sampled states
44% of districts have a sex ratio at birth lower than 900 females to 1000 males; in 33 districts the SRB is below 850.
This is a list of the States and Union territories of India ranked in order of sex ratio. Sex ratio, here is expressed as the number of women per thousand men in a given population at a given time. Data given per the Census of India 2001 and 2011 results. (Courtesy Wikipedia)
Women per 1000 men 2001
Women per 1000 men 2011
Increase in Sex ratio (Difference between 2011 and 2001)
Currently, there are about 51 births in India in 1 minute.
The grounds for the female sex ratio fall:
The crime against women was increased in few years back, and the gender ratio is skewed because of selective abortion and female infanticide.
Female fetuses are often aborted and baby girls killed after birth, leading to an appallingly skewed sex ratio. Women who survive frequently face discrimination, prejudice and neglect all their lives. Crimes against women are rising fast with 24,000 rape cases reported across India in 2011; a rise of 9.2% over 2010.
It is important to remember that only a fraction of rape cases are reported because of the intense social stigma any victim faces. The threat of further violence and even death further discourages reporting of such cases because perpetrators are often powerful and well connected, while the victim is poor and weak. Despite this systemic statistical bias that tends to underreport crimes against women, the figures have been going up for all categories from molestation to murder, kidnappings to trafficking, which increased by a spectacular 122% in 2011.
The systemic social discrimination against women leads to “more than two million women in India” going missing every year. Poor diet, lack of healthcare and violence prove to be a fatal cocktail. TrustLaw, a Thomson Reuters Foundation Service, estimates that India is the worst G20 country to be a woman; worse than even Saudi Arabia.
At the same time, India has more female leaders than the US. Sonia Gandhi, the Italian widow of the Nehru family who runs the country, and Sheila Dikshit, the Congress leader who has been in power since 1998, are both women. Ms Dikshit actually gave parole to Manu Sharma, convicted of murdering Jessica Lal in November 2009, presumably because he was the son of a senior leader in her party. The fact that even female leaders do not care about women’s issues makes India unique. In India, identities are forged through families, castes and communities. Women in power who can push through change tend to protect their errant boys because they do not feel any empathy for the average woman. Their cocooned lives with servants, bodyguards and fawning entourages make them as corrupt as their male counterparts. In turn, the million tragedies in this nation of over a billion continue.
Finally we are in the same society to face the rationality and imbalance of protecting women from the criminals and illiterate of diseases. The Change must be increase the peace and value of the women in the society.
The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize on 12.10.2012 for its efforts to promote peace and democracy in Europe despite being in the midst of its biggest crisis since the bloc was created in the 1950s.
The Norwegian prize committee said the EU received the award for six decades of contributions “to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.
“The stabilizing part played by the European Union has helped to transform a once torn Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace,” Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said.
The EU rose from the ashes of World War II, born of the conviction that ever-closer economic ties would make sure that century-old enemies never turned on each other again. It’s now made up of 500 million people in 27 nations, with other nations lined up, waiting to join.
The idea of a united Europe began to take on a more defined shape when, on May 9, 1950, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed that France and the Federal Republic of Germany pool their coal and steel resources in a new organization that other European countries could join.
“Today war between Germany and France is unthinkable. This shows how, through well-aimed efforts and by building up mutual confidence, historical enemies can become close partners,” the committee said.
The citation also noted the democratic conditions the EU has demanded of all those nations waiting to join, referred to Greece and Spain when they joined the 1980, and to the countries in Eastern Europe who sought EU membership after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.
The prize focused on the EU’s historical role as a builder of peace at a time when the union’s existence is under challenge from the financial crisis that has stirred deep tensions between north and south and when there are questions about the form in which the EU will survive.
“The EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest,” Jagland said. “The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU’s most important result- the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.
“The stabilizing part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.”
It was not yet clear who would accept the prize for the EU.
Recent winners of the Nobel Peace Prize
Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize since 1998
2012- The European Union.
2011- Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen.
2010- Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
2009- U.S. President Barack Obama
2008- Martti Ahtisaari
2007- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Al Gore
2006- Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank
2005- International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei
Mo Yan, a novelist who brought to life the turbulence of the 20th century China in vivid and often graphic works set against the tumult of the Japanese invasion and a struggling countryside, on 11.10.2012 became the first writer in China to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Peter Englund, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, praised Mr. Mo as an author “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary” in the announcement, which was hailed in China as a long-awaited landmark heralding the arrival of the country’s literature on the world stage.
Born Guan Moye, Mr. Mo adopted the pen name of Mo Yan — meaning “don’t speak” in Chinese. Mr. Mo revealed in a speech in Hong Kong that he chose the name to remind himself of the lines he could not cross as a writer in a country where the government routinely censors the works of authors and artists.
The turbulence Mr. Mo experienced in his early life in the rural north-eastern province of Shandong was reflected in his writing. Forced to leave school when he was only 12, when Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution (1966-76) began, Mr. Mo spent his childhood herding cattle and surviving on weeds and tree bark as he was too poor to eat rice.
The hardships of life in rural China were captured in his breakthrough work Red Sorghum, which brought him nationwide acclaim when made into an award-winning film by renowned director Zhang Yimou in 1987.
His sweeping novels often reflected the turmoil of 20th century China, from the Cultural Revolution to the horrors of family planning campaigns, depicted powerfully in his 2009 work Frog, which tells the story of a midwife haunted by the forced abortions she witnesses.
Mr. Mo has, however, received criticism from some Chinese dissidents and authors for not being critical enough of the Communist Party’s censorship regime and not speaking up for other silenced writers.
Nobel renews debate
Novelist Mo Yan said on Thursday he was “very surprised” on becoming the first writer in China to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, an award that has been hailed here as a watershed moment for Chinese literature’s long march overseas.
“I felt I was not very senior in terms of qualification [among Chinese writers]. There are many good writers and my ranking was not so high,” Mr. Mo told reporters in his hometown of Gaomi, a rural county in northeastern Shandong where he has set most of his novels. “My works… show the life of Chinese people as well as the country’s unique culture and folk customs,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying. “I was influenced by the cultural elements I witnessed through my childhood. When I picked up the pen for literature creation, the folk cultural elements inevitably entered my novels.”
Mr. Mo rose to national acclaim following his 1987 work Red Sorghum, the story of a young girl in rural China set on the eve of the Japanese occupation. He has since been much celebrated for his dramatic novels usually framed against turbulent events in recent Chinese history.
Among his more popular works here is the 1992 Republic of Wine, which lifts the veil on the drinking culture — and the accompanying corruption — that permeates all levels of government. His 2004 work Big Breasts and Wide Hips, the story of a mother and her seven daughters set against the backdrop of the fall of the Qing Dynasty, the Japanese invasion and the Cultural Revolution, was also critically acclaimed.
While Mr. Mo’s Nobel Prize for his “hallucinatory realism” was widely welcomed by the Chinese media and bloggers as a long-awaited recognition of this country’s writers, the award has also renewed questions about the relationship between politics and literature in a country where a vast censorship mechanism still operates.
Cui Weiping, a professor at the Beijing Film Academy, expressed her displeasure at the decision on the Chinese Twitter equivalent, Sina Weibo, suggesting it would strengthen the hands of the authorities.
The last Chinese Nobel laureate was the jailed political activist and writer Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the Peace Prize in 2010. As the Vice Chairman of the government-supported China Writers Association, Mr. Mo has faced criticism from some quarters for not speaking out against censorship forcefully enough. Beijing writer Liu Di, on Twitter, questioned his silence on Mr. Liu’s case.
Earlier this year, Mr. Mo was at the centre of a controversy that divided China’s literary world, when a major publishing house arranged for 100 top writers, including him, to commemorate a controversial 1942 speech by Mao Zedong. The Mao speech, from his landmark Yan’an Talks on Literature and Art, laid out the role writers needed to play in the Communist revolution — a speech seen by many as a precursor to the Communist Party’s subsequent censorship of intellectuals in a “rectification” campaign that persecuted thousands. While today’s China is far more open than the days of Mao, the willing participation of 100 writers in the project angered many of their colleagues.
Other Chinese writers have questioned the emphasis placed by dissidents and activists on a writer’s politics rather than on literature. Those familiar with Mr. Mo’s work point out he has not shied away from sensitive issues. His 2009 work Frog tells the story of a midwife haunted by the many forced abortions she witnessed on account of family planning rules.
“The question is, why do we expect writers, particularly Chinese writers, to be the political conscience of the nation to get [a] Nobel [prize]?,” asked Charles Laughlin, professor of modern Chinese literature in the University of Virginia, on Twitter. “I think most people don’t realise how epoch-making this is, as this is the first non-dissident in a Socialist country to win.”
Americans Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka won the 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry on 10.10.2012 forstudiesof protein receptors that let body cells sense and respond to outside signals. Such studies are key for developing better drugs.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the two researchers had made groundbreaking discoveries on an important family of receptors, known as G-protein-coupled receptors.
About half of all medications act on these receptors, so learning about them will help scientists to come up with better drugs.
The human body has about 1,000 kinds of such receptors, which let it respond to a wide variety of chemical signals, like adrenaline. Some receptors are in the nose, tongue and eyes, and let us sense smells, tastes and vision.
Dr. Lefkowitz, 69, is an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Dr. Kobilka, 57, is a professor at Stanford UniversitySchoolof Medicine in California.
“I’m feeling very, very excited,” Dr. Lefkowitz told anewsconference in Stockholm by phone. “I did not hear it … I wear earplugs, so my wife gave me an elbow,” he said. “And there it was. … It was a total shock and surprise.”
Dr. Lefktowitz said he had no clue that he was being considered for the Nobel Prize, though he added it has always been “a bit of a fantasy” to receive the award.
Dr. Kobilka said he found out around 2-30 a.m., after the Nobel committee called his home twice. He said he didn’t get to the phone the first time, but that when he picked up the second time, he spoke to five members of the committee. “They passed the phone around and congratulated me. I guess they do that so you actually believe them. When one person calls you, it can be a joke, but when five people with convincing Swedish accents call you, then it isn’t a joke.”
The academy said it was long a mystery how cells interact with their environment and adapt to new situations, such as when adrenaline increases blood pressure and makes the heart beat faster. Scientists suspected that cell surfaces had some type of receptor for hormones.
Using radioactivity, Dr. Lefkowitz managed to unveil receptors including the receptor for adrenaline, and started to understand how it works. Dr. Kobilka’s workhelped researchers realize that there is a whole family of receptors that look alike a family that is now called G-protein-coupled receptors.
The award is “fantastic recognition for helping us further understand the intricate details of biochemical systems in our bodies,” said Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, president of the American Chemical Society. “They both have made great contributions to our understanding of health and disease,” Dr. Shakhashiri said. “This is going to help us a great deal to develop new pharmaceuticals, new medicines for combating disease.”
Mark Downs, chief executive of Britain’s Society of Biology, said the critical role receptors play is now taking for granted. “This ground breaking work spanning genetics and biochemistry has laid the basis for much of our understanding of modern pharmacology as well as how cells in different parts of living organisms can react differently to external stimulation, such as light and smell, or the internal systems which control our bodies such as hormones,” Mr. Downs said in a statement.
The Nobel Prizes were established in the will of 19th century Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. Each award is worth 8 million kronor, or about $1.2 million. The awards are always handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.
A French-American duo shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics on 9,10.2012 for inventing methods to observe the bizarre properties of the quantum world — research that has led to the construction of extremely precise clocks and helped scientists take the first steps toward building superfast computers.
Frenchman Serge Haroche and American David Wineland (both 68) opened the door to new experiments in quantum physics by showing how to observe individual quantum particles while preserving their quantum properties.
A quantum particle is one that is isolated from everything else. In this situation, an atom or electron or photon takes on strange properties. It can be in two places at once, for example. It behaves in some ways like a wave. But these properties are instantly changed when it interacts with something else, such as when somebody observes it.
Working separately, the two scientists developed “ingenious laboratory methods” that allowed them to manage and measure and control fragile quantum states, said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. “Their ground-breaking methods have enabled this field of research to take the very first steps towards building a new type of superfast computer based on quantum physics,” said the academy. “The research has also led to the construction of extremely precise clocks that could become the future basis for a new standard of time.”
The two researchers use opposite approaches to examine, control and count quantum particles, said the academy.
Mr. Wineland traps ions electrically charged atoms and measures them with light, while Mr. Haroche controls and measures photons, or light particles.
In an ordinary computer, information is represented in bits, each of which is either a zero or a one. But in a quantum computer, an individual particle can essentially represent a zero and a one at the same time. Making such particles worktogether, certain kinds of calculations could be done with blazing speed.
One example is the factoring, the process of discovering what numbers can be multiplied together to produce a given number. Quantum computers could radically change people’s lives in the way that classical computers did last century, but a full-scale quantum computer is still decades away, the Nobel judges said.
Two scientists from different generations won the Nobel Prize in medicine on 8.10.2012 for the groundbreaking discovery that cells in the body can be reprogrammed to become completely different kinds, potentially opening the door to growing customized tissues for treatments.
Theworkof British researcher John Gurdon and Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka who was born the year Mr. Gurdon made his discovery has raised hopes of developing transplant tissue to treat diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes. And it has spurred a new generation of laboratory studies into other diseases, including schizophrenia, that may lead to new treatments.
Recent winners of Nobel Prize in Medicine
Basically, their work paved the way to making the equivalent of embryonic stem cells without the ethical questions the embryonic cells pose.
“Their findings have revolutionised our understanding of how cells and organisms develop,” the Nobel committee at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute said in announcing the 8 million kronor ($1.2 million) award. It was the first of this year’s Nobel Prizes, with five more awards to be announced by next Monday.
Mr. Gurdon, 79, showed in 1962 that the DNA from specialised cells of frogs, like skin or intestinal cells, could be used to generate new tadpoles. That showed the DNA still had its ability to drive the formation of all cells of the body.
At the time, the discovery had “no obvious therapeutic benefit at all,” Mr. Gurdon told reporters in London. “It was almost 50 years before the value the potential value of that basic scientific research comes to light.”
In 1997, the cloning of Dolly the sheep by other scientists showed that the same process Mr. Gurdon discovered in frogs would work in mammals.
More than 40 years after Mr. Gurdon’s discovery, in 2006, Mr. Yamanaka, 50, showed that a surprisingly simple recipe could turn mature cells back into primitive cells, which in turn could be prodded into different kinds of mature cells.
Basically, the primitive cells were the equivalent of embryonic stem cells, which had been embroiled in controversy because to get human embryonic cells, human embryos had to be destroyed. Yamanaka’s method provided a way to get such primitive cells without destroying embryos.
“The discoveries of Gurdon and Yamanaka have shown that specialized cells can turn back the developmental clock under certain circumstances,” the committee said. “These discoveries have also provided new tools for scientists around the world and led to remarkable progress in many areas of medicine.”
Just last week, Japanese scientists reported using Yamanaka’s approach to turn skin cells from mice into eggs that produced baby mice.
Mr. Gurdon has served as a professor of cell biology at Cambridge University’s MagdaleneCollegeand is currently at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, which he founded. Mr. Yamanaka worked at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco and Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan. He is currently at Kyoto University and also affiliated with the Gladstone Institute. Mr. Yamanaka is the first Japanese scientist to win the Nobel medicine award since 1987.
Mr. Gurdon said he first thought someone was “pulling my leg” when he got the call from the Nobel committee. He said he planned to celebrate with a drink, but expected to be back in the lab Tuesday morning and that he had no plans to retire.
Mr. Yamanaka told Japanese broadcasterNHKthat he was at home doing chores on Monday when he got the call from Stockholm. “Even though we have received this prize, we have not really accomplished what we need to. I feel a deep sense of duty and responsibility,” Mr. Yamanaka said.
Choosing Mr. Yamanaka as a Nobel winner just six years after his discovery was unusual. The Nobel committees typically reward research done more than a decade before, to make sure it has stood the test of time.
In 2010, the Nobel Prize in physics went to two researchers whose discoveries were also published six years earlier. In 2006, two American scientists won the medicine prize eight years after their work was published.
Prize committee member Juleen Zierath said Mr. Gurdon and Mr. Yamanaka’s discoveries, which also earned them a Lasker award for basic research in 2009, could hold “immense potential,” including in developing treatments for Parkinson’s disease and in making cells that produce insulin. However, she added that therapeutic implications are still far away.
The idea of reprograming cells has also been put to work in basic research on disease, through an approach sometimes called “disease in a dish.”
The reprogramming allows scientists to create particular kinds of tissue they want to study, like lung tissue for studying cystic fibrosis, or brain tissue for Huntington’s disease. By reprogramming cells from patients with a particular disease, they can create new tissue with the same genetic background, and study it in the lab. That can give new insights into the roots of the problem.
In addition, that approach allows them to screen drugs in the lab for possible new medicines.
Experts welcomed the announcement, praising the duo for their groundbreaking and influential discoveries in a field riddled with ethical debates.
“Everyone who works on developmental biology and on the understanding of disease mechanisms will applaud these excellent and clear choices for the Nobel Prizes,” said John Hardy, professor of Neuroscience at University College London. “Countless labs’ work builds on the breakthroughs they have pioneered.”
Mr. Yamanaka deserves extra credit for overcoming fierce objections to the creation of embryos for research, reviving the field, said Julian Savulescu, director of Oxford University’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.
“Yamanaka has taken people’s ethical concerns seriously about embryo research and modified the trajectory of research into a path that is acceptable for all,” Mr. Savulescu said. “He deserves not only a Nobel Prize for Medicine, but a Nobel Prize for Ethics.”
Goran Hansson, the secretary of the prize committee, said he had reached both winners by phone before the announcement. He said they were looking forward to coming to Stockholm to collect the award in a ceremony on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.
Nalanda International University (also known as University of Nalanda or Nalanda University) is the name of a proposed university in Nalanda, Bihar which is expected to be functional from 2013 with seven schools or more and will expand in later years.The university is based on the ideal of the ancient center of higher learning which was present from the 5th century CE to 1197 CE. Destruction and Demise.
According to records of history, Nalanda University was destroyed three times by invaders, but only rebuilt twice. The first time was by the Huns under Mihirakula during the reign of Skandagupta (455-467 AD). But Skanda’s successors promptly undertook the restoration, improving it with even grander buildings, and endowed it with enough resources to let the university sustain itself in the longer term.
The second destruction came with an assault by the Gaudas in the early 7th century. This time, the Hindu king Harshavardhana (606-648 AD) restored the Buddhist university.
The final blow came when it was violently destroyed in an Afghan attack led by Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193. In 1193, the Nalanda University was sacked by Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turk; this event is seen by scholars as a late milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India. The Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, in his chronicle the Tabaquat-I-Nasiri, reported that thousands of monks were burned alive and thousands beheaded as Khilji tried his best to uproot Buddhism.Academia
At its peak, the university attracted scholars and students from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Turkey, Greece, and Persia.The subjects taught included religion, history, law, linguistics, medicine, public health, architecture, metallurgy, pharmacology, sculpture and astronomy.
It is believed that in the 6th Century B.C. Gautama Buddha and Mahavira visited the university.
Nalanda University Bill
On 28th March, 2006 then President of India A.P.J.Abdul Kalam proposed the idea while addressing the Joint Session of the Bihar Vidhan Mandal for revival of Nalanda university. The Nalanda University Bill, 2010 was passed on August 21, 2010 in Rajya Sabha and August 26, 2010 in Lok Sabha. The bill received Presidential assent on September 21, 2010 thereby becoming an Act. The University came into existence on November 25, 2010, when the Act was implemented.
Japan and Singapore are financing the construction work, with contributions totalling around US$100 million.
It has been estimated that US$500m will be required to build the new facility, with a further US$500m needed to sufficiently improve the surrounding infrastructure. The group is looking for donations from governments, private individuals and religious groups.
The State Government of Bihar handed over 443 acres of sprawling land acquired from local people, to the University, where construction work has begun. It is a dream project of the former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam.
The Government of India constituted a Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG) in 2007, under the Chairmanship of Professor Amartya Sen to examine the framework of international cooperation, and proposed structure of partnership, which would govern the establishment of this University as an international centre of education. The University of Nalanda is proposed to be established under the aegis of the East Asia Summit (EAS), as a regional initiative. The NMG also has representatives from Singapore, China, Japan and Thailand. The NMG has met six times. The last meeting was held in New Delhi on 2-3 August 2010.
The Nalanda mentor consists of:
Amartya Sen – Professor at Harvard University.
Sugata Bose – Professor at Harvard University.
Wang Banwei – Professor at Peking University.
Meghnad Desai – Emeritus Professor at London School of Economics.
George Yeo – Former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore.
Tansen Sen – Associate Professor at Baruch College, CUNY.
Nand Kishore Singh – Member of Parliament – Rajya Sabha, India.
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has been appointed the first chancellor of the proposed Nalanda University (NU) in July 2012. He is also the chairman of the NU governing body. The appointment has been made by the then President Pratibha Patil and it was announced by governing body member and former foreign minister of Singapore, George Yeo.
Sen said the first two schools on ecology & environment and historical studies will start in 2014. After the approval of its architectural design, the construction work and appointment of faculty members will start simultaneously. “There will be seven postgraduate schools in the university. Two more schools of Information & Technology and Economics & Management will come up,” Sen told media. “Initially, 100 students in each of the two schools will be enrolled,” NU Vice Chancellor Gopa Sabharwal said. Gopa Sabharwal has already been appointed the first Vice Chancellor of this university in February 2011.
Thirty-eight persons, including two women, most of them believed to be villagers who rushed to the site of an explosion at a cracker unit, were killed when a large stock of explosives blew up on September 5 2012 afternoon. Thirty-three persons were wounded and have been admitted to government hospitals in Virudhunagar district and Madurai.
The tragedy took place at Mudalipatti, 13 km from Sivakasi, a region known for frequent accidents in the match and fireworks industries.
Though no bodies were found on the premises of Om Sakthi Fireworks Industries during the initial search by police and revenue officials, the death toll was confirmed after the removal of concrete sheds of at least three working areas flattened in the impact of the explosion. With earthmovers not reaching the site early, rescue work could not be taken up till 6.30 p.m.
The first explosion at the unit, one of the biggest in the region, was reported at 12.20 p.m. Villagers of Mudalipatti and workers of a nearby blue metal crusher unit rushed to the spot. A small posse of police tried to prevent the villagers from entering the unit, but the 500-strong crowd managed to get past the police. “Our inspector Raja tried to stop them but they did not heed his words,” said Virudhunagar Superintendent of Police Najmul Hoda.
“Unexpectedly, there was a huge explosion around 1 p.m. and the debris that flew across a wide distance injured them seriously,” District Revenue Officer R. Raju, who was at the site, said. Crackers and unfinished goods were seen strewn for more than a half-km radius at the entrance. “A huge stone hit the jeep of the Virudhunagar Tahsildar some 500 metres away from the cracker unit.”
Details of the number of workers employed and those present at the time of the incident were not available with officials. Even the police and firemen did not enter the premises for some time on seeing the bodies and the grievous nature of the injuries. Ten fire tenders, including some from Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Madurai districts, were parked in a serpentine queue outside the unit. The first one entered the unit only at 3.30 p.m. after the entrance was cleared of debris.
Many of the working sheds were damaged as a strong gust of wind fanned the fire. The injured, who were rescued by the villagers, were rushed to the government hospitals.
NHRC issues notice
National Human Rights Commission on September 7 2012 issued a notice to the Tamil Nadu government on the Sivakasi fire accident that claimed 39 lives.
The notice to the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary called for a report within four weeks on the fire in a cracker manufacturing unit near Sivakasi on September5.
The Commission issued the notice on the basis of a media report and complaints forwarded by an NGO representative and human rights activist, a NHRC statement said.
“Reportedly, about 90 per cent fireworks of the country are made in Sivakasi but no adequate safety measures have been ensured by the government. The complainants have requested a detailed enquiry in the matter and adequate compensation to the victims and families of the deceased,” it added.
The owner of a Sivakasi cracker manufacturing unit where a fire on September 5 claimed 39 lives was arrested on culpable homicide not amounting to murder and other charges from Samayanallur in this district on Sep 9 2012.
Murugesan, who had been absconding since the incident, was arrested by a special police team headed by Deputy Superintendent of Polic (Virudhunagar District) Ramamoorthy near a temple, they said.
He has been charged under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), Section 286 (negligent conduct with respect to explosive substance), Section 337 (causing hurt by endangering life ) and Section 338 (causing grievous hurt by rash or negligent act) of the IPC along with various sections under Indian Explosives Act and Explosive Substances Act.
Contribution of United Nations Population Fund during last four years to the Reproductive Child Health Programme which is mainly financed through budget of Government of India is as per details given below:-
Year Amount in US $
The growth rate of the Indian population is slowing down. As per 2011 census data, the percentage decadal growth during 2001-2011 has registered the sharpest decline since Independence. 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. For 2001-11, the decadal growth has decreased to 17.64 per cent, a decline of 3.90 per centage points.
Government has adopted the National Population Policy in February 2000 which provides for holistic approach for achieving population stabilization. The policy affirms the commitment of Government towards voluntary and informed choice and consent of citizens while availing of reproductive health care services.
The key interventions for population stabilization include the following:
A new scheme has been launched to utilize the services of ASHA to deliver contraceptives at the doorstep of beneficiaries. The scheme is being implemented in 233 districts of 17 states. ASHA is charging a nominal amount from beneficiaries for her effort to deliver contraceptives at doorstep i.e Re 1 for a pack of 3 condoms, Re 1 for a cycle of OCPs and Rs.2 for a pack of one tablet of ECP.
Government of India has introduced short term IUCD, Cu IUCD 375 under the Family Planning programme.
Enhancement of compensation packages for accepters and providers of sterilization services.
Introduction of a National Family Planning Insurance Scheme to cover any mishap that may occur due to sterilization.
Promotion of long term IUD-380-A as a spacing method.
Strengthening of post partum family planning services in the health facilities in view of the substantial increase of institrutional deliveries.
Promotion of male participation through Non Scalpel Vasectomy methods.
Training of doctors on minilap sterilization.
Enlistment of private providers to enhance provision of sterilization services.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the United Nations’ global development network. It advocates for change and connects countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP operates in 177 countries, working with nations on their own solutions to global and national development challenges. As they develop local capacity, they draw on the people of UNDP and its wide range of partners.
UNDP is an executive board within the United Nations General Assembly. The UNDP Administrator is the third highest-ranking official of the United Nations after the United Nations Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General.
Headquartered in New York City, the UNDP is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from member nations. The organization has country offices in 177 countries, where it works with local governments to meet development challenges and develop local capacity. Additionally, the UNDP works internationally to help countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
UNDP provides expert advice, training, and grant support to developing countries, with increasing emphasis on assistance to the least developed countries. To accomplish the MDGs and encourage global development, UNDP focuses on poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS, democratic governance, energy and environment, social development, and crisis prevention and recovery. UNDP also encourages the protection of human rights and the empowerment of women in all of its programs.
Furthermore, the UNDP Human Development Report Office publishes an annual Human Development Report (since 1990) to measure and analyze developmental progress. In addition to a global Report, UNDP publishes regional, national, and local Human Development Reports.
Millenium development goals
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that all 193 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015. The goals are:
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Target 1A: Halve the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day
Proportion of population below $1 per day (PPP values)
Poverty gap ratio [incidence x depth of poverty]
Share of poorest quintile in national consumption
Target 1B: Achieve Decent Employment for Women, Men, and Young People
GDP Growth per Employed Person
Proportion of employed population below $1 per day (PPP values)
Proportion of family-based workers in employed population
Target 1C: Halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
Prevalence of underweight children under five years of age
Proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption[
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Target 2A: By 2015, all children can complete a full course of primary schooling, girls and boys
Enrollment in primary education
Completion of primary education
everyone will get into school
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Target 3A: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015
Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education
Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament
For girls in some regions, education remains elusive
Poverty is a major barrier to education, especially among older girls
In every developing region except the CIS, men outnumber women in paid employment
Women are largely relegated to more vulnerable forms of employment
Women are over-represented in informal employment, with its lack of benefits and security
Top-level jobs still go to men — to an overwhelming degree
Women are slowly rising to political power, but mainly when boosted by quotas and other special measures
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality rates
Target 4A: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate
Under-five mortality rate
Infant (under 1) mortality rate
Proportion of 1-year-old children immunized against measles
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Target 5A: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio
Maternal mortality ratio
Proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel
Target 5B: Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health
Contraceptive prevalence rate
Adolescent birth rate
Antenatal care coverage
Unmet need for family planning
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
Target 6A: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
HIV prevalence among population aged 15–24 years
Condom use at last high-risk sex
Proportion of population aged 15–24 years with comprehensive correct knowledge of HIV/AIDS
Target 6B: Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it
Proportion of population with advanced HIV infection with access to antiretroviral drugs
Target 6C: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases
Prevalence and death rates associated with malaria
Proportion of children under 5 sleeping under insecticide-treated bednets
Proportion of children under 5 with fever who are treated with appropriate anti-malarial drugs
Incidence, prevalence and death rates associated with tuberculosis
Proportion of tuberculosis cases detected and cured under DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment Short Course)
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Target 7A: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs; reverse loss of environmental resources
Target 7B: Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss
Proportion of land area covered by forest
CO2 emissions, total, per capita and per $1 GDP (PPP)
Consumption of ozone-depleting substances
Proportion of fish stocks within safe biological limits
Proportion of total water resources used
Proportion of terrestrial and marine areas protected
Proportion of species threatened with extinction
Target 7C: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation (for more information see the entry on water supply)
Proportion of population with sustainable access to an improved water source, urban and rural
Proportion of urban population with access to improved sanitation
Target 7D: By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers
Proportion of urban population living in slums
Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development
Target 8A: Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system
Includes a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty reduction – both nationally and internationally
Target 8B: Address the Special Needs of the Least Developed Countries (LDC)
Includes: tariff and quota free access for LDC exports; enhanced programme of debt relief for HIPC and cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous ODA (Official Development Assistance) for countries committed to poverty reduction
Target 8C: Address the special needs of landlocked developing countries and small island developing States
Through the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and the outcome of the twenty-second special session of the General Assembly
Target 8D: Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term.
Review Summit 2010
A major conference was held at UN headquarters in New York on 20–22 September 2010 to review progress to date, with five years left to the 2015 deadline.
The conference concluded with the adoption of a global action plan to achieve the eight anti-poverty goals by their 2015 target date. There were also major new commitments on women’s and children’s health, and major new initiatives in the worldwide battle against poverty, hunger and disease.
Twin earthquakes and a spate of aftershocks struck southwestern China on 7.09.2012, toppling thousands of houses and sending boulders cascading across roads.
At least 67 people were killed and 731 others injured when a shallow earthquake followed by a series of aftershocks jolted the mountainous southwest China, triggering landslides and uprooting over a lakh people.
The 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit the border area of Yiliang county in Yunnan province and Weining county in the neighbouring Guizhou province at 11:19 am local time, according to China Earthquake Networks Centre (CENC).
The epicentre of the quake was traced at Luozehe town, about 33 km away from the city centre of Zhaotong. Its depth was about 14 km.
Sixty-seven people have been confirmed dead and 731 others were injured in the quakes, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted officials from the Yunnan Province’s civil affairs department as saying.
The death toll may rise further as rescuers are yet to reach some of the quake-hit villages blocked off by landslides and falling rocks, officials with Zhaotong City, Yunnan Province said.
Power and communications were cut-off in the worst-hit areas. It was followed by more than 60 tremors, with four above 4.0 on the Richter scale.
Forty-nine people were killed in Yiliang alone while one death was reported from urban Zhaotong area, a provincial civil affairs department official said. Over 150 others were injured.
The quake has disrupted the lives of over 700,000 people in Yiliang and Daguan counties as well as Zhaoyang District, which are all under the administration of Zhaotong, the city’s civil affairs bureau reported. So far, more than one lakh people have been evacuated. More than 20,000 houses were damaged or had collapsed.
The Red Cross spokesman for East Asia, Francis Markus, said 2,000 quilts, 2,000 jackets and 500 tents were being rushed to the area, which is largely inhabited by members of the Yi ethnic minority.
He said the use of light construction materials would likely create far more injuries than deaths.
A government official in Jiaokui town said a large number of houses had collapsed.
“The casualty number is still being compiled. I don’t know what it was like for the other towns, but my town got hit badly,” he said. Like many Chinese officials, he refused to give his name.
Mobile phone services were down and regular phone lines disrupted. Phones were cut off to clinics in four villages in Qiaoshan, another town in Yiliang, which has about half a million people.
Authorities sent thousands of tents, blankets and coats to the area, Xinhua said.
It said that so far no casualties had been reported in neighboring Guizhou, but that homes had been damaged or destroyed there.
These quakes were relatively shallow, about six miles (10 kilometers) deep, creating an intense shaking even at a lower magnitude.
By comparison, the 7.6-magnitude quake in Costa Rica this week was 25 miles (40 kilometers) below the surface, a fact that, combined with strict building codes, kept damage and deaths to a minimum.
Costa Rica earthquake
A powerful magnitude-7.6 earthquake shook Costa Rica and neighboring countries 5.09.2012, sending panicked people into the streets and briefly triggering a tsunami alert, but causing little damage. Authorities reported one confirmed death.
Officials said the quake collapsed some houses and at least one bridge and caused landslides that blocked highways. But Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla said there were no reports of major damage and called for calm.
Residents described being shocked by the force of the quake, which was felt as far away as Panama and Nicaragua and was the biggest since a 7.6-magnitude quake in 1991 left 47 people dead. The quake was somewhat deep – 25 miles (41 kilometers) below the surface. Quakes that occur deeper underground tend to be less damaging, but more widely felt.
“If it was a shallower event, it would be a significantly higher hazard,” said seismologist Daniel McNamara of the U.S. Geological Survey.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered about 38 miles (60 kilometers) from the town of Liberia and 87 miles (140 kilometers) west of the capital, San Jose. The magnitude initially was estimated at 7.9, but was quickly downgraded to 7.6.
The area is a seismically active zone where the Cocos tectonic plate dives beneath the Caribbean plate. “All along the Pacific coast of Central America, you can expect fairly big earthquakes,” McNamara said.
The quake was followed by three strong aftershocks of magnitudes 4.6, 4.5 and 4.4.
The Guanacaste region around the epicenter is a popular tourist destination known for its pristine beaches and nature and marine reserves. Costa Rica is also a popular destination for American retirees, tens of thousands of whom have settled there.
In the last four decades, the region has been rocked by 30 earthquakes of magnitude-6 and larger. Two exceeded magnitude-7 – in 1978 and 1990 – but did not cause any deaths.
The last deadly quake to strike Costa Rica was in 2009, when 40 people died in a magnitude-6.1 temblor.
The Centre In January 2012 notified 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in single brand retail, opening the decks for setting up shop by global retail chains such as Adidas, Louis Vuitton, Armani and Gucci to have full ownership of their India operations. However, the notification comes with some riders to protect the interests of domestic small and medium scale units.
“FDI up to 100 per cent under the government approval route would be permitted in single brand product retail trading,” according to an official note issued by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).
The notification states that in respect of proposals involving FDI beyond 51 per cent, the mandatory sourcing of at least 30 per cent would have to be done from the domestic small and cottage industries, which have a maximum investment in plant and machinery of $1 million (about Rs.5 crore).
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said the Cabinet took a conscious decision on November 24 to liberalise the policy for FDI in single brand retail. FDI in single brand retail has led to emergence of some global majors in the Indian market. “We have now allowed FDI up to 100 per cent with the stipulation that in respect of proposals involving FDI beyond 51 per cent there will be mandatory sourcing of at least 30 per cent of the total value of the products sold would have to be done from Indian ‘small industries/village and cottage industries, artisans and craftsmen. This step will provide stimulus to domestic manufacturing value addition and help in technical upgradation of our local small industry,” Mr. Sharma remarked. At present, for single-brand retailers, 51 per cent FDI is permitted. The removal of investment cap would help global fashion brands, especially from Italy, the U.S. and Europe, strengthen their interest in the growing Indian market. Many big names have already set up their operations in the country by partnering with Indian partners.
The new policy would allow them to buy out the domestic partners. The government said the move, which comes into effect immediately, would enhance competitiveness of Indian enterprises through access to global design, technologies and management practices.
The riders proposed in the notification state that products by the global chains should be of single brand only and be sold under the same brand internationally. Single brand retailing would cover products that are branded during manufacturing and the foreign investor should be the owner of the brand.
Though 51 per cent FDI in single brand was allowed in February, 2006, not much investment has come in the sector. In the last three and half years, FDI worth only Rs.196 crore was received in the sector.
FDI in retail to benefit farmers
Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy on 5.09.2012 said foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector would help farmers secure a premium price notwithstanding the controversy surrounding the Central policy matter.
Addressing a meeting after inaugurating a godown at the Agriculture Market Yard at Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Kiran Kumar Reddy said an investment of Rs. 500 crore was expected into the infrastructure and storage facility by the private sector. He said in the government sector a storage space of 10 lakh tonnes was being created in 2012 and 15 lakh tonnes in 2013.
He said while the total paddy production in the State was 210 lakh tonnes, only 44 lakh metric tonnes of storage facility were available.
The mismatch was causing a choking effect and created conditions for distress sale by farmers. Out of the 40 lakh tonnes rice exported at the national level, the AP’s contribution last season was 25 lakh tonnes.
As a result, the price of rice was looking up in the open market in the State.
Mr. Reddy launched the revised ‘Raithu Bandhu’ scheme wherein farmers would get credit for the stock at three per cent rate of interest.
If the farmers repaid the loan within 180 days, all the incentives would apply.
He called upon market yards and Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies to emulate the spirit of Mulapanur Cooperative Society in Karimnagar district which clocked a turnover of Rs. 150 crore by helping farmers hold stocks till the markets looked up. He said the government was giving a subsidy of 50 per cent for farm mechanisation activities. He expressed displeasure over the RBI norms for loan schedules in case of natural calamities saying it caused burden to farmers rather than mitigating the pain.
FDI Policy 2012
The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has, on April 10, 2012 come out with new Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy effective from April 10, 2012.
The consolidated circular on FDI policy was introduced for the first time in 2010 summarising all the regulations including those of FEMA and of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for the benefit of foreign investors. Thereafter, a revised version was released every six months. However, the Government has now decided that the consolidated circular on FDI Policy will be issued after one year instead of every six months.
The consolidated document is a guide to foreign investors as it contains the entire regulatory framework and includes all FDI policies announced prior to the release of the circular. It also has regulations on FDI, contained in FEMA and RBI circulars.
Definition of ‘Joint Venture’ remains unchanged
There was a speculation that the government was most likely going to define the term ‘joint venture’ for the purpose of FDI under which it would be mandatory for at least two partners to have minimum 25% stake each in the JV company. The definition of ‘joint venture’ was to be incorporated in the consolidated FDI policy, as reported by ET.
However, no such change has been introduced in the consolidated FDI policy.
According to the PIB, DIPP has introduced the following key changes under the new consolidated FDI Policy:
Policy for FDI in Commodity Exchanges
Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) can now invest up to 23 percent in commodity exchanges without seeking prior approval of the government. However, FDI will continue to need the approval of the FIPB.
At present, foreign investment, within a composite (FDI and FII) cap of 49 percent, under the government approval route is permitted in commodity exchanges. Within this overall limit of 49 per cent, investment by registered FIIs is limited to 23 percent and investment under the FDI scheme is limited to 26 percent. This change aligns the policy for foreign investment in commodity exchanges, with that of other infrastructure companies in the securities markets, such as stock exchanges, depositories and clearing corporations.
Non Banking Finance Companies (NBFC)-clarification on ‘leasing’
It has been clarified that the activity of ‘leasing and finance’, which is one among the eighteen NBFC activities, where induction of FDI is permitted, covers only ‘financial leases’ and not ‘operating leases’. This provision intends to clarify the coverage of the term ‘leasing and finance’, insofar as the NBFC sector is concerned.
Clarification on investment by FIIs:
Currently, an FII may invest in the capital of an Indian Company under the Portfolio Investment Scheme which limits the individual holding of an FII to 10 percent of the capital of the company and the aggregate limit for FII investment to 24 percent of the capital of the company. This aggregate limit of 24 percent can be increased to the sectoral cap/statutory ceiling, as applicable, by the Indian Company concerned, through a resolution by its Board of Directors, followed by a special resolution to that effect by its General Body. It has been clarified that this would be subject to prior intimation to RBI.
Investment by Foreign Venture Capital Investors (FVCIs)
FVCIs are allowed to invest in the eligible securities (equity, equity linked instruments, debt, debt instruments, debentures of an IVCU or VCF, units of schemes / funds set up by a VCF) by way of private arrangement / purchase from a third party also, subject to stipulated terms and conditions. SEBI registered FVCIs have also been permitted to invest in securities on a recognized stock exchange subject to the provisions of the SEBI (FVCI) Regulations, 2000.
Investment by ‘Qualified Financial Investors (QFIs)
Government has permitted QFIs to invest (DPs), in equity shares of listed Indian companies as well as in equity shares of Indian companies which are offered to the Indian public in terms of the relevant and applicable SEBI guidelines/regulations. QFls have also been permitted to acquire equity shares by way of right shares, bonus shares or equity shares, on account of stock split/consolidation or equity shares on account of amalgamation, demerger or such corporate actions, subject to the prescribed investment limits.
The individual and aggregate investment limit for QFIs will be 5 percent and 10 percent, respectively, of the paid up capital of company.
General permission for transfer of shares and convertible debentures:
The liberalised policy on transfer of shares/ convertible debentures of companies engaged in the financial services sector has now been reflected under FDI policy.
Changes in FDI policy in Single Brand retail trading
The policy regarding Single Brand retail trading has been liberalized and now FDI up to 100 percent is permitted under the Government route, subject to specified conditions, as per Press Note 1(2012) issued on January 10, 2012.
The next version of the consolidated circular on FDI Policy, will be released on March 29, 2013.
The country level tiger population, estimated once in every four years using the refined methodology, has shown an increasing trend with a population estimate of 1706, lower and upper limits being 1520 and 1909 respectively in the recent all India estimation (2010), as compared to the last country level estimation of 2006, with an estimate of 1411, lower and upper limits being 1165 and 1657 respectively.
SC on tiger tourism
Tourism Ban in “core areas”
Stepping in to conserve the big cat, the Supreme Court on July 24, 2012 directed that there shall be no tourism in any of the core zones of tiger reserves across the country.
A bench of Justices Mr Swatanter Kumar and Mr Ibrahim Kalifulla also warned of contempt proceedings and imposition of exemplary costs on States which failed to notify the buffer zones in their tiger reserves.
“We make it clear that till final directions are issued by this court, the core zones or core areas in the tiger reserves will not be used for tourism,” the bench said in its order.
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 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.
However, the counsels for Arunachal Pradesh and Jharkhand stated that they were ready with the notification and would file affidavits during the course of the day.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by conservationist Mr Ajay Dubey demanding removal of commercial tourism activities from core or critical tiger habitats in the tiger reserves.
Following resistance to the ban on tourism in core areas of tiger reserves by several States, NGOs and interested parties, the Supreme Court on August 29, 2012 permitted the Centre to review existing norms and come up with comprehensive guidelines on ‘Tiger Project’ and ‘sustainable tourism.’
A Bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar gave this permission after Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati drew the court’s attention to the objections received and the Centre’s intention to revisit the guidelines framed under the Wildlife (Protection) Act.
Mr. Vahanvati said the Centre wanted to promote responsible tourism in the reserves while ensuring the protection of the big cats.
Justice Swatanter Kumar told the Attorney General: “There seems to be some kind of clash, some kind of difference of opinion between the Centre and the States. Please ensure these are resolved. Also identify which activities shall be allowed and not allowed inside core areas.”
Justice Kumar urged the Centre to also consult experts before submitting the final guidelines to the Ministry for vetting. “Give us definite projections on how you are going to take care of the tigers,” he said. Mr. Vahanvati submitted that tourism “makes for anti-poaching.” “There is always a watch when tourism is allowed,” the Attorney General said.
The Attorney General, on being asked by the Bench if there could be a complete ban on tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves to protect the animals from poachers, said: “There cannot be two sets of guidelines, one to protect tigers and another to promote tourism. We want to make comprehensive guidelines to promote both. Everybody’s interest will be taken care of.”
Justice Kumar wanted the government to regulate tourism in these reserves and said it had been “a free-for-all till now.” He gave the example of about 100 vehicles entering a reserve a day and asked: “Is it necessary to take 100 vehicles into the core areas?” He also sought to know whether the government had any plan regarding maintenance of tigers in zoos.
Senior counsel Raj Panjwani, appearing for petitioner Ajay Dubey, at whose instance the court imposed the ban on July 24, argued that for 22 years the government had done nothing. The Bench, however, made it clear that the interim ban order would continue. It asked the Centre to consult all stakeholders — hotel associations affected by the ban, guides and tour operators, and State governments — while framing the revised guidelines. It agreed to take up all issues, including the plea for lifting the ban, for further hearing on September 27.
Initiatives Taken by the Government
Amendment of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 for providing enabling provisions towards constituting the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Tiger and Other Endangered Species Crime Control Bureau.
Enhancement of punishment in cases of offence relating to a tiger reserve or its core area.
Strengthening of antipoaching activities, including special strategy for monsoon patrolling, by providing funding support to Tiger Reserve States, as proposed by them, for deployment of antipoaching squads involving ex-army personnel/home guards, apart from workforce comprising of local people, in addition to strengthening of communication / wireless facilities.
Constitution of the National Tiger Conservation Authority with effect from 4.09.2006, for strengthening tiger conservation by, interalia, ensuring normative standards in tiger reserve management, preparation of reserve specific tiger conservation plan, laying down annual audit report before Parliament, constituting State level Steering Committees under the Chairmanship of Chief Ministers and establishment of Tiger Conservation Foundation.
Constitution of a multidisciplinary Tiger and Other Endangered Species Crime Control Bureau (Wildlife Crime Control Bureau) with effect from 6.6.2007 to effectively control illegal trade in wildlife.
The in-principle approval has been accorded by the National Tiger Conservation Authority for creation of five new tiger reserves, and the sites are:, Pilibhit (Uttar Pradesh), Ratapani (Madhya Pradesh), Sunabeda (Orissa) and Mukundara Hills (including Darrah, Jawahar Sagar and Chambal Wildlife Sanctuaries) (Rajasthan) and Satyamangalam (Tamil Nadu). Final approval has been accorded to Kudremukh (Karnataka) for declaring as a Tiger Reserve. Besides, the States have been advised to send proposals for declaring the following areas as Tiger Reserves: (i) Bor (Maharashtra), (ii) Suhelwa (Uttar Pradesh), (iii) Nagzira-Navegaon (Maharashtra), (iv) Guru Ghasidas National Park (Chhattisgarh), (v) Mhadei Sanctuary (Goa) and (vi) Srivilliputhur Grizzled Giant Squirrel / Megamalai Wildlife Sanctuaries / Varushanadu Valley (Tamil Nadu).
The revised Project Tiger guidelines have been issued to States for strengthening tiger conservation, which apart from ongoing activities, interalia, include funding support to States for enhanced village relocation/rehabilitation package for people living in core or critical tiger habitats (from Rs. 1 lakh/family to Rs. 10 lakhs/family), rehabilitation/resettlement of communities involved in traditional hunting, mainstreaming livelihood and wildlife concerns in forests outside tiger reserves and fostering corridor conservation through restorative strategy to arrest habitat fragmentation.
A scientific methodology for estimating tiger (including co-predators, prey animals and assessment of habitat status) has been evolved and mainstreamed. The findings of this estimation/assessment are bench marks for future tiger conservation strategy.
An area of 34070.46 sq. km. has been notified by 17 Tiger States as core or critical tiger habitat under section 38V of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006.
Financial and technical help is provided to the States under various Centrally Sponsored Schemes, viz. Project Tiger and Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats for enhancing the capacity and infrastructure of the States for providing effective protection to wild animals.
India has a bilateral understanding with Nepal on controlling trans-boundary illegal trade in wildlife and conservation, apart from a protocol on tiger conservation with China.
A protocol has been signed in September, 2011 with Bangladesh for conservation of the Royal Bengal Tiger of the Sunderban.
A sub-group on tiger/leopard conservation has been constituted for cooperation with the Russian Federation.
A Global Tiger Forum of Tiger Range Countries has been created for addressing international issues related to tiger conservation.
During the 14th meeting of the Conference of Parties to CITES, which was held from 3rd to 15th June, 2007 at The Hague, India introduced a resolution along with China, Nepal and the Russian Federation, with directions to Parties with operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale, for restricting such captive populations to a level supportive only to conserving wild tigers. The resolution was adopted as a decision with minor amendments. Further, India made an intervention appealing to China to phase out tiger farming, and eliminate stockpiles of Asian big cats body parts and derivatives. The importance of continuing the ban on trade of body parts of tigers was emphasized.
Based on India’s strong intervention during the 58th meeting of the Standing Committee of the CITES at Geneva from 6th to 10th July, 2009, the CITES Secretariat has issued a notification to Parties to submit reports relating to compliance of Decisions 14.69 and 14.65 within 90 days with effect from 20.10.2009 (Progress made on restricting captive breeding operations of tigers etc.).
Reintroduction of Tigers
As a part of active management to rebuild Sariska and Panna Tiger Reserves where tigers have become locally extinct, reintroduction of tigers / tigresses have been done.
Special advisories issued for in-situ build up of prey base and tiger population through active management in tiger reserves having low population status of tiger and its prey.
Creation of Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF)
The policy initiatives announced by the Finance Minister in the Budget Speech of 29 February, 2008, interalia, contains action points relating to tiger protection. Based on the one time grant of Rs. 50.00 crore provided to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for raising, arming and deploying a Special Tiger Protection Force, the proposal for the said force has been approved by the competent authority for 13 tiger reserves. Rs. 93 lakhs each has been released to Corbett, Ranthambhore & Dudhwa Tiger Reserve for creation of STPF during 2008-09. Since then, the guidelines of the STPF have been revised for deploying forest personnel in place of Police as an option-II, with scope for involving local people like the Van Gujjars. During the year 2010-11 and 2011-12, an amount of Rs. 270 lakhs has been provided to the Similipal Tiger Reserve for raising, arming and deploying the STPF. The States of Karnataka and Maharashtra have already deployed the STPF.
In collaboration with TRAFFIC-INDIA, an online tiger crime data base has been launched, and Generic Guidelines for preparation of reserve specific Security Plan has been evolved.
Implementing a tripartite MOU with tiger States, linked to fund flows for effective implementation of tiger conservation initiatives.
Rapid assessment of tiger reserves done.
Special crack teams sent to tiger reserves affected by left wing extremism and low population status of tiger and its prey.
Chief Ministers of States having tiger reserves affected by left wing extremism and low population status of tiger and its prey addressed for taking special initiatives.
Steps taken for modernizing the infrastructure and field protection, besides launching ‘M-STrIPES’ for effective field patrolling and monitoring.
Steps taken for involvement of Non-Governmental Experts in the ongoing all India tiger estimation.
Initiatives taken for improving the field delivery through capacity building of field officials, apart from providing incentives.
Action initiated for using Information Technology to strengthen surveillance in tiger reserves.
The second round of country level tiger status assessment completed in 2010, with the findings indicating an increase with a tiger population estimate of 1706, lower and upper limits being 1520 and 1909 respectively, as compared to the last country level estimation of 2006, with an estimate of 1411, lower and upper limits being 1165 and 1657 respectively.
The second round of independent assessment of Management Effectiveness Evaluation of Tiger Reserves done in 2010-11 for 39 tiger reserves based on globally used framework.
Increase in the allocation for Project Tiger with additional components.
Providing special assistance for mitigation of human-tiger conflicts in problematic areas.
As an outcome of the fourth Trans-border Consultative Group Meeting held in New Delhi, a joint resolution has been signed with Nepal for biodiversity / tiger conservation.
Regional Offices of the National Tiger Conservation Authority sanctioned at Nagpur, Bengaluru and Guwahati.
Launching of Phase-IV tiger reserve level monitoring.
Why to save the tiger?
The tiger is not just a charismatic species or just another wild animal living in some far away forest. The tiger is a unique animal which plays a pivotal role in the health and diversity of an ecosystem. It is a top predator which is at the apex of the food chain and keeps the population of wild ungulates in check, thereby maintaining the balance between prey herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed. Therefore, the presence of tigers in the forest is an indicator of the well being of the ecosystem. The extinction of this top predator is an indication that its ecosystem is not sufficiently protected, and neither would it exist for long thereafter.
If the tigers go extinct, the entire system would collapse. For e.g. when the Dodos went extinct in Mauritius, one species of Acacia tree stopped regenerating completely. So when a species goes extinct, it leaves behind a scar, which affects the entire ecosystem. Another reason why we need to save the tiger is that our forests are water catchment areas.
Therefore, it’s not just about saving a beautiful animal. It is about making sure that we live a little longer as the forests are known to provide ecological services like clean air, water, pollination, temperature regulation etc.
The Government of India has announced a national manufacturing policy with the objective of enhancing the share of manufacturing in GDP to 25% within a decade and creating 100 million jobs. It also seeks to empower rural youth by imparting necessary skill sets to make them employable. Sustainable development is integral to the spirit of the policy and technological value addition in manufacturing has received special focus.
Government of India decided to bring out the National Manufacturing Policy to bring about a quantitative and qualitative change with the following six objectives:
Increase manufacturing sector growth to 12-14% over the medium term to make it the engine of growth for the economy. The 2 to 4 % differential over the medium term growth rate of the overall economy will enable manufacturing to contribute at least 25% of the National GDP by 2022.
Increase the rate of job creation in manufacturing to create 100 million additional jobs by 2022.
Creation of appropriate skill sets among the rural migrant and urban poor to make growth inclusive.
Increase domestic value addition and technological depth in manufacturing.
Enhance global competitiveness of Indian manufacturing through appropriate policy support.
Ensure sustainability of growth, particularly with regard to the environment including energy efficiency, optimal utilization of natural resources and restoration of damaged/ degraded eco-systems.
In order to achieve these goals:-
Foreign investments and technologies will be welcomed while leveraging the country’s expanding market for manufactured goods to induce the building of more manufacturing capabilities and technologies within the country;
Competitiveness of enterprises in the country will be the guiding principle
in the design and implementation of policies and programmes;
Compliance burden on industry arising out of procedural and regulatory formalities will be reduced through rationalization of business regulations.
Innovation will be encouraged for augmenting productivity, quality, and growth of enterprises; and
Effective consultative mechanism with all stake holders will be instituted to ensure mid-course corrections.
The following industry verticals will be given special attention:
Employment intensive industries: Adequate support will be given to promote and strengthen employment intensive industries to ensure job creation. Special attention will be given in respect of textiles and garments; leather and footwear; gems and jewellery; and food processing industries.
Capital Goods: A robust economic growth would necessitate a strong demand for capital goods. Such growth would create a strong and continuing demand for capital goods. The capital goods industry, which is the mother industry for manufacturing has not grown at the desired pace. A special focus will be given to machine tools; heavy electrical equipments; heavy transport, earth moving and mining equipments.
Time bound programmes will be initiated for building strong capacities with R&D facilities and also to encourage growth and development of these capacities in the private sector while strategically strengthening the public sector to complement the private initiatives where essential.
Industries with strategic significance: A strategic requirement of the country would warrant the launch of programmes to build national capabilities to make India a major force in sectors like aerospace; shipping; IT hardware and electronics; telecommunication equipment; defence equipment; and solar energy. Mission mode projects will be conceptualised in each of these sectors, recognizing the fact that a mission on solar energy has already been launched under the National Action Plan on Climate Change.
Industries where India enjoys a competitive advantage: India‘s large domestic market coupled with a strong engineering base has created indigenous expertise and cost effective manufacturing in automobiles; pharmaceuticals; and medical equipment. The concerned ministries will be formulating special programmes to consolidate strong industry base to retain the global leadership position.
Small and Medium Enterprises : The SME sector contributes about 45% to the manufacturing output, 40% of the total exports, and offers employment opportunities both for self-employment and jobs, across diverse geographies. A healthy rate of growth shall be ensured for the overall growth of the manufacturing sector as also the national economy by policy interventions in areas like manufacturing management, including accelerated adoption of
Information technology; skill development; access to capital; marketing; procedural simplification and governance reform. The National Manufacturing Competitiveness Programme, being implemented by M/o MSME will be strengthened, and the recommendations of Task Force on MSME for creation of a separate fund with SIDBI, strengthening of NSIC, modification of lending norms and inclusion of lending to MSMEs under priority sector‘ lending will be given due regard in taking appropriate measures.
Public Sector Enterprises: Public Sector Undertakings, especially those in Defence and Energy sectors, continue to play a major role in the growth of manufacturing as well as of the national economy. A suitable policy framework will be formulated in this regard to make PSUs competitive while ensuring functional autonomy
Specific policy instruments have been conceptualized to achieve the objectives stated above. These instruments which are outlined in greater detail in Part-B of the Policy document broadly cover the following areas:-
Rationalization and simplification of business regulations;
Simple and expeditious exit mechanism for closure of sick units while protecting labour interests;
Financial and institutional mechanisms for technology development, including green technologies;
Industrial training and skill up gradation measures;
Incentives for SMEs;
Special Focus Sectors;
Leveraging infrastructure deficit and government procurement – including defence;
Clustering and aggregation : National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZs);
The National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZs) IS be developed as integrated industrial townships with state-of-the art infrastructure and land use on the basis of zoning; clean and energy efficient technology; necessary social infrastructure; skill development facilities, etc., to provide a productive environment to persons transitioning from the primary sector to the secondary and tertiary sectors. These NIMZs is managed by SPVs which would ensure master planning of the Zone; pre-clearances for setting up the industrial units to be located within the zone and undertake such other functions as specified in the various sections of this policy. To enable the NIMZ to function as a self governing and autonomous body, it will be declared by the State Government as an Industrial Township under Art 243 Q(c) of the Constitution. In sum, the NIMZs is meant to be large areas of developed land, with the requisite eco-system for promoting world class manufacturing activity. They would be different from SEZs in terms of size, level of infrastructure planning, and governance structures related to regulatory procedures and exit policies
Land for NIMZs
Size of land for NIMZ – An NIMZ would have an area of at least 5000 hectares in size.
Availability of land- The State Government will be responsible for selection of land suitable for development of the NIMZ including land acquisition if necessary.
The administrative structure of NIMZ will comprise of a Special Purpose Vehicle, a developer, State Government and the Central Government.
Setting up of NIMZ
Eight Investment Regions under the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) have been announced as NIMZs. The details are as under:-
Ahmedabad-Dholera investment Region, Gujarat
Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Park city near Aurangabad, Maharashtra
One NIMZ, outside the DMIC region, at Nagpur in Maharashtra has also been given in principle approval.
The Policy envisages leveraging the existing incentives/schemes of the Government of India and introducing new mechanisms to promote green technologies. These include setting up of a Technology Acquisition and Development Fund (TADF) to support the creation of a patent pool; domestic manufacturing of equipments inter-alia for controlling pollution and reducing energy consumption, environmental audit and green buildings.
Relief from Capital Gains Tax will encourage investment of the income generated from the disposal of unproductive assets like residential properties into manufacturing activity.
Eleven countries in WHO’s South-East Asia Region are now on track to declaring the Region Polio free, this was recognized during an event at the WHO’s Regional Committee Meeting in Yogyakarta, today. The last case of wild poliovirus in the Region was reported on 13 January 2011 in India making a regional polio free certification possible in early 2014.
“The magnitude of effort gone into achieving the Zero Polio status could be well understood by the fact that during each nationwide polio vaccination campaign, India has successfully vaccinated 172 million children through 2.3 million vaccinators in 202 million households,” said Mr Sudip Bandyopadhyay, India’s Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare. “India has several critical lessons learnt during the journey of polio eradication which will act as a guide not only for India but for the entire world in any public health intervention,” he added.
Twenty months without any cases of polio reported in the Region is an important milestone, but the mission has not been accomplished yet. Now is the time for maximum vigil, high levels of preparedness, high quality surveillance and maintenance of high immunity against polio among all children under five years old. This must be done through intensified routine immunization and supplementary vaccination campaigns when and where needed. The recent outbreaks in Asia-Tajikistan in 2010 and China in 2011 – have provided important lessons in maintaining high population immunity as protection against importations.
“On present trends, the South-East Asia Region is set to be declared polio-free in January 2014. This is a magnificent achievement. We must now eradicate polio globally. Medical officers from India, Bangladesh and Nepal are directly assisting countries that are still battling the wild virus. This region has the expertise, bolstered by success, to lead the world in this emergency response. We can and must win” said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director General.
India had been the largest endemic reservoir of polio in the world and suffered the greatest burden of paralytic polio. At times as many as 250 000 cases of paralytic polio occurred in India each year. India launched its fight to eradicate polio in 1995.
One of the lessons learnt in India was the importance of maintaining political commitment, robust national and international partnerships, availability of quality data, its analysis and use, and evidence-based accountability at all levels of the programme.
The milestone of 20 months without polio has not come easily for WHO’s South-East Asia Region. The main lesson is that there is no single national approach. Experiences need to be carefully reviewed and translated to fit with each country.
WHO is working with countries to ensure the Region sustains the gains made on polio eradication and achieves the regional polio-free certification in early 2014.
WHO’s Constitution came into force on 7 April 1948 – a date we now celebrate every year as World Health Day. WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends. WHO is responsible for the World Health Report, a leading international publication on health, the worldwide World Health Survey. The World Health Organization is a member of the United Nations Development Group.
In the 21st century, health is a shared responsibility, involving equitable access to essential care and collective defence against transnational threats.
WHO identifies its role as one of six main objectives:
providing leadership on matters critical to health and engaging in partnerships where joint action is needed;
shaping the research agenda and stimulating the generation, translation and dissemination of valuable knowledge;
setting norms and standards and promoting and monitoring their implementation;
articulating ethical and evidence-based policy options;
providing technical support, catalyzing change, and building sustainable institutional capacity; and
monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends.
Scope of the Terms of Reference of the Expert Committee Headed by Dr. Parthasarathi Shome on Gaar Expanded to Include all Non-Resident Tax Payers Instead of Only FIIs:
The Standing Committee on Finance has presented its report on Current Economic Situation and Policy Options to Parliament on August 30, 2012. The Committee has inter alia found that the investment climate in the country has suffered serious setback and investors confidence has been hit mainly because of the concerns over the impact of retrospective tax laws and new General Anti Avoidance Rules(GAAR).
The Government had constituted an Expert Committee headed by Dr. Parthasarathi Shome on GAAR on July 13, 2012. The Committee has now submitted its draft report, which has been placed in public domain on September 1, 2012 for seeking suggestions/opinion of the various stakeholders.
The Government had earlier on August 6, 2012 also requested the Expert Committee to examine the applicability of the amendment on taxation of non-resident transfer of assets where the underlying asset is in India, in the context of Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) operating in India purely for portfolio investment. It has now been decided to expand the scope of the Terms of Reference of the Committee to include all non-resident tax payers instead of only FIIs.
The terms of reference of the Committee are:
Receive comments from stakeholders and the general public on the draft GAAR guidelines which have been published by the Government on its website.
Vet and rework the guidelines based on this feedback and publish the second draft of the GAAR guidelines for comments and consultations.
Undertake widespread consultations on the second draft GAAR guidelines.
Finalise the GAAR guidelines and a roadmap for implementation and submit these to the government.
The Committee is mandated to work to the following time schedule:
Receive comments from stakeholders and general public till end-July 2012.
Vet and rework the guidelines based on this feedback and publish the second draft GAAR guidelines by 31 August 2012.
Finalise the GAAR guidelines and a roadmap for implementation and submit these to the government by 30 September 2012.
The Committee, chaired by Dr. Parthasarathi Shome, has submitted its draft report after analysis of the GAAR provisions and noting the concerns expressed by various shareholders. The draft report has recommended certain amendments in the Income-tax Act, 1961; guidelines to be prescribed under the Income-tax Rules, 1962; circular to clarify GAAR provisions along with illustrations; and other measures to improve tax administration specifically oriented towards GAAR matters.
The General Anti Avoidance Rule, or GAAR, was proposed in mid-March as part of the budget for fiscal 2013.
GAAR aims to target tax evaders, partly by stopping Indian companies and investors from routing investments through Mauritius or other tax havens for the sole purpose of avoiding taxes.
However, the ambiguous language, the lack of details, and the sudden onset of the provisions have been among the factors that have upset foreign investors.
Finance Minister proposed to defer the rollout of GAAR by a year to the financial year that begins in April 2013 to “provide more time” to both taxpayers and the tax office “to address all related issues”.
A local or foreign taxpayer will also be able to approach authorities in advance for a ruling on their potential tax liabilities, the Minister said.
An independent member would be in the GAAR approving panel, while one member would be an officer of the level of Joint Secretary, or above, from the Ministry of Law.
On the proposed retrospective amendment in tax rules, Mukherjee said the changes will not override the provisions of double-tax avoidance treaties India has with 82 countries.
The retroactive changes will only impact those cases where a deal has been routed through low-tax and no-tax countries with whom India does not have tax treaties.
The proposed retrospective changes in tax rules will not be used to reopen cases where assessment orders have already been finalized.
Mukherjee proposed to reduce long-term capital gains tax on private equity firms on the sale of unlisted securities to 10 percent, from 20 per cent currently, and bring the tax rate in line with what is charged from foreign portfolio investors.
The finance minister also proposed to cut the withholding tax to 5 per cent from 20 per cent currently on funding through foreign loans for “all businesses.” The budget in mid-March had proposed a lower withholding tax for some sectors.
It is proposed to extend the tax exemption on long-term capital gains related to the sale of unlisted securities in an initial public offering. The levy of the Securities Transaction Tax would be levied at the rate of 0.2 per cent on the sales of unlisted securities.
Apple Inc. of the U.S. and Samsung Electronics Co. of South Korea are embroiled in legal battles in 10 nations over intellectual property, spanning dozens of cases. Here are details of some of the bigger legal fights:
In the U.S., Apple scored a major victory on Aug. 24 when a jury found Samsung had “willfully” copied Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and awarded Apple $1 billion in damages. Apple is now requesting eight Samsung products be banned from the U.S. market. A hearing was rescheduled for Dec. 6 2012.
In South Korea, the court on Aug. 24 dismissed Apple’s claim that Samsung copied the look and feel of the iPhone and the iPad in a ruling widely seen as a victory for Samsung. Still, the judges issued bans on some Samsung and Apple products. It found that Apple illegally used Samsung’s wireless technology while Samsung violated Apple’s patent related to the way mobile devices notify users when an image reaches to the end.
In Japan, the Tokyo District Court denied Apple’s claim on Aug. 31 2012 that Samsung infringed upon Apple’s patent to have mobile devices and personal computers “synchronize” or share data with each other. Other cases in Japan are still pending.
In Germany, a Dusseldorf court said in July 2012 Samsung’s Galaxy Tap 7.7 imitated Apple’s design in an “unacceptable manner” and ordered European sales stopped. But the court said another Samsung tablet computer no longer infringed Apple’s iPad patents or designs after making enough changes. Other cases are still pending.
In Australia, Samsung became free to sell its Galaxy tablet computers after the country’s highest court dismissed Apple’s appeal in December 2011. But separate legal battles are ongoing over various patents.
Apple sued its component supplier Samsung, alleging in a 38-page federal complaint on April 15, 2011 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California that several of Samsung’s Android phones and tablets, including the Nexus S, Epic 4G, Galaxy S 4G, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, infringed on Apple’s intellectual property: its patents, trademarks, user interface and style. Apple’s complaint included specific federal claims for patent infringement, false designation of origin, unfair competition, and trademark infringement, as well as state-level claims for unfair competition, common law trademark infringement, and unjust enrichment.
Apple’s evidence submitted to the court included side-by-side image comparisons of iPhone 3GS and i9000 Galaxy S to illustrate the alleged similarities in packaging and icons for apps. However, the images were later found to have been tampered with in order to make the dimensions and features of the two different products seem more similar, and counsel for Samsung accused Apple of submitting misleading evidence to the court.
Samsung counter-sued Apple on April 22, 2011, filing federal complaints in courts in Seoul, Tokyo and Mannheim, Germany, alleging Apple infringed Samsung’s patents for mobile-communications technologies. By summer, Samsung also filed suits against Apple in the British High Court of Justice, in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, and with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) in Washington D.C., all in June 2011.
Appeal in cards
There has been much debate over an interview given by the jury foreman where he says that: “the software on the Apple side could not be placed into the processor on the prior art and vice versa, and that means they are not interchangeable”, so no prior art.
A few reviewers, most notably Groklaw, reported that this interview indicates the jury may have awarded inconsistent damages and ignored the instructions given to them. This is really part of the larger debate of whether juries should be allowed to rule on patent cases at all. The more moderate view to concede the Foreman’s brief comment could have been poorly phrased.
The most surprising possibility is the foreman’s statement could be somewhat accurate and upheld on appeal. Actually reading the patent refereed to shows one claim, with essentially six parts. This is highly unusual when filing patents in the US, as to enforce this patent all software features in the single claim must be present. The usual filing method would be to have one independent claim, then five dependent claims, allowing for easier enforcement.
The question is if the Apple processor could perform all of these software functions, and can only be answered by the proper Federal court. This is the same court which overruled a portion of the injunction ruling by Judge Koh.
The President, Pranab Mukherjee gave away National Sports and Adventure Awards at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan 29 August 2012. The function was attended by Union Minister for Tourism Subhod Kant Sahai , Ajay Maken, Minister of State (I/C) for Youth Affairs & Sports and several eminent sports persons.
Vijay Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt were awarded Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award for this year for their sterling performance in Shooting and Wrestling events at the recently concluded London Olympics. The award carries a statuettes, citations and cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakh each.
The President also gave away Dronacharya Awards for the this year to the following eight Sports persons in recognition of their meritorious achievements in the field of coaching. The award carries a statuettes, citations and enhanced cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each.
Virender Poonia, Athletics
Sunil Dabas, Kabaddi (Women)
Yashvir Singh, Wrestling
Harendra Singh, Hockey
Dr. Satyapal Singh, Para Sports (Athletics)
J.S. Bhatia, Athletics *
Bhawani MukherjeeTable Tennis *
B.I. Fernandez, Cuban Boxing Coach, Boxing
( *- for Life Time Achievement )
25 Sports persons were conferred Arjuna Awards for the year 2012, in recognition of their outstanding achievements in the respective field of sports. The Award carries a statuettes, citations and enhanced cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each. The Sports persons are as follows:
Deepika Kumari, Archery
Laishram Bombayla Devi, Archery
Sudha Singh, Athletics
Kavita Ramdas Raut, Athletics
Ashwani Ponnappa, Badminton
Parupalli Kashyap, Badminton
Aditya S. Mehta, Billiards & Snooker
Vikas Krishan, Boxing
Yuvraj Singh, Cricket
Sardar Singh, Hockey
Yashpal Solanki, Judo
Anup Kumar, Kabaddi
Samir Suhag, Polo
Annu Raj Singh, Shooting
Omkar Singh, Shooting
Joydeep Karmakar, Shooting
Deepika Pallikal, Squash
Sandeep Sejwal, Swimming
Ng. Sonia Chanu, Weightlifting
Narsingh Yadav, Wrestling
Rajinder Kumar, Wrestling
Geeta Phogat, Wrestling
M. Bimoljit Singh Wushu
Deepa Malik, Athletics – Paralympics
Ramkaran Singh Athletics – Paralympics
Jagraj Singh Mann (Athletics ), Gundeep Kumar ( Hockey) , Vinod Kumar ( Wrestling) and Sukhbir Singh Tokas ( Para-Sports) were conferred Dhyan Chand Awards for the year 2012 for their contribution to sports by their performance and efforts to promote the sports. The award carries a statuettes, citations and cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each.
With a view to recognize, the contribution made to sports development by entities other than sportspersons and coaches, the Government had instituted in 2009, a new award “Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar”, which has four categories, namely, community sports development, promotion of sports academies of excellence, support to elite sportspersons and employment to sportspersons.
The Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL) was conferred “Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar” for the year 2012 under the category of Community Sports Identification and Nurturing of Budding Young Talent . Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) received the award under the category of Financial Support for Sports Excellence . Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) also received the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar” for Establishment Management of Sports Academics of Excellence whereas Air India Sports Promotion Board got the award under Employment of Sportspersons and Sports Welfare Measures. Entities selected for Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar were given Trophy and Citation.
The President also conferred Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Awards for the year 2011 to recognize the contribution and performance of the awardees in the field of adventure sports. Col. Anand Swaroop, SM and Sub. Rajendra Singh Jalal were given award for Land Adventure. Bhakti Sharma for Water Adventure and Mandip Singh Soin received Life Time Achievement award. The award carries cash prize of Rs 5 lakh and Bronze Statuette along with a citation.
World Bank to provide assistance to check poaching in National Parks
The Central Government has not sought assistance from the World Bank to check poaching in and around national parks and sanctuaries in the country. However, a project entitled “Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection in Asia” with the following components has been proposed for credit of US$ 30 Million from World Bank under Third Phase of Adaptable Program Lending:
i. Capacity building for wildlife conservation and cooperation for addressing the illegal trans-boundary wildlife trade (US$20.52 million): This component aims to bring about regional harmonization and collaboration in cross-border wildlife conservation and management, combating wildlife crime through strengthened legislative and regulatory frameworks, well-equipped specialized agencies and systems, as well as relevant training and awareness programs for staff across the range of agencies that contribute to the enforcement of wildlife laws and regulations namely the Wildlife Division in the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.
ii. Promoting Wildlife Conservation in Asia (US$2.95 million): The objective of this component is to generate and share knowledge as well as technical expertise by promoting research and innovative approaches on emerging challenges in wildlife conservation.
iii. Project coordination and communication (US$ 5.04 million): Under this component expenditure of US$ 0.76 million is estimated for project management and monitoring. The remaining amount is to be spend on project communications, wherein a multi-pronged approach will be adopted to communications in order to meet regional and local challenges.
The credit agreement has not been signed with The World Bank and negotiations have not been held so far.
Report of Forest Survey of India in Forest Cover
The details of the India State of Forest Report, 2011 (ISFR) published by Dehradun –based Forest Survey of India is as follows:-
India State of Forest Report 2011 is the twelfth such report. The first report was published in 1987.
Forest and tree cover of the country is 78.29 million hectare, which is 23.81% of the geographical area. This includes 2.76% of tree cover.
The forest and tree cover would work out to 25.22% after exclusion of 183135 square kilometre above the altitude 4000 m from the total geographical area of the country as these areas do not support tree growth.
In the hill and tribal districts of the country, a decrease in forest cover of 548 square kilometre and 679 square kilometre respectively has been reported as compared to the previous assessment.
The north eastern States of the India account for one-fourth of the country’s forest cover. There is a net decline of 549 square kilometre in forest cover as compared to the previous assessment.
Mangrove cover has increased by 23.34 square kilometre during the same period.
The total growing stock of India’s forest and tree outside forests is estimated as 6047.15 million cum which comprises 4498.73 million cum inside the forests and 1548.42 million cum outside the forests.
The total bamboo bearing area in the country is estimated to be 13.96 million hectare.
The total carbon stock in the country’s forests is estimated to the 6663 million tones.
As per the assessments of 2011 (data period 2008-09) as published in ISFR-2011and the assessment of ISFR-2009 (data period 2006-07) there has been a marginal decrease of 367 sq. km in the forest cover of the country. The forest cover in the northeast between these two assessments has declined by 549 sq. km.
The loss of forest cover to the extent of 549 sq km in the seven northeastern States has been primarily due to prevailing socio-cultural practice of shifting cultivation in these states. Loss in other states like Andhra Pradesh (281 sq. km) and Kerala (24 sq. km) is reported due to harvesting of short rotation plantations like Eucalyptus, Acacia mangium, rubber etc. 15 States have reported cumulative gain of 500 sq. km which is mainly due to afforestation and conservation activities undertaken in these States.
Second Intergovernmental Committee Meeting for Nagoya Protocol in New Delhi
A Backgrounder on ICNP – 2
The Second Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ICNP-2) was held in New Delhi from 2-6 July, 2012.
The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) is a new international treaty adopted under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan on 29th October, 2010, after six years of intense negotiations.
The CBD, one of the two agreements adopted during the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, is the first comprehensive global agreement which addresses all aspects relating to biodiversity. The Convention, while reaffirming sovereign rights of nations over their biological resources, establishes three main goals: (i) conservation of biological diversity, (ii) sustainable use of its components and (iii) fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources. A framework for implementing the third objective of the CBD, which is generally known as access and benefit sharing (ABS) is provided for in the Convention.
All living organisms: plants, animals and microbes, carry genetic material that has potential uses for developing a wide range of products and services for human benefits, such as in development of medicines, drugs, cosmetics, enzymes, agricultural and horticultural products, environmental techniques etc.
ABS refers to the way in which genetic resources may be accessed, and the way in which benefits that result from their use are shared between the people or countries using the resources (users) and the people or countries that provide them (providers). Prior to the CBD, biological resources were considered as common heritage of mankind. The CBD, while reaffirming sovereign rights of States over their natural resources, stipulates that the authority to determine access to genetic resources rests with the national Governments and is subject to national legislation. Further, access where granted, has to be on mutually agreed terms (MAT) and subject to prior informed consent (PIC) of the Party providing such resources. Each Party is also required to take measures to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits on MAT arising from the commercial and other utilisation of genetic resources with the Party providing such resources. The CBD also recognises the importance of traditional knowledge associated with biological diversity, and stipulates that Parties subject to their national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain this traditional knowledge, and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of holders of their knowledge and encourage equitable sharing of benefit arising from use of such knowledge.
As a megadiverse country rich in biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge, and with a rapidly advancing biotechnology industry, India has contributed effectively in ABS negotiations.
The objective of the Nagoya Protocol, namely, the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources, is also one of the three objectives of the CBD. The Nagoya Protocol on ABS establishes a clear framework on how researchers and companies can obtain access to genetic resources and to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources, and how benefits arising from the use of such material or knowledge will be shared. The Protocol also sets out clear obligation for Parties to provide that users of genetic resources within their jurisdiction respect the domestic regulatory framework of Parties from where the resource has been accessed.
An Intergovernmental Committee for the Nagoya Protocol (ICNP) has been established by Parties to the Convention as an interim governing body to undertake the preparations necessary for the first Meeting of the Parties, at which time it will cease to exist. The first meeting of ICNP was held in June, 2011, in which India has been elected as one of the two Bureau members to represent Asia Pacific region. This is helping India to steer the discussions under ICNP. The second meeting of ICNP is being hosted by India in Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi from 2-6 July, 2012.
The Nagoya Protocol has been signed by 92 countries, and as on date ratified by five countries. India signed the Protocol on 11th May, 2011, and is in the process of completing interministerial consultations necessary for ratifying the Protocol. The Protocol will enter into force 90 days after its 50th ratification. The first meeting of the governing body of the Protocol (CoP-MoP) will be held concurrently with the next meeting of governing body of the CBD (CoP).
The ICNP-2 will discuss issues such as: capacity building of developing countries for implementation of the Protocol, awareness raising, modalities of ABS clearing house, procedures and mechanism to promote compliance with the Protocol, agenda for the first CoP-MoP, rules of procedure for CoP-MoP, and global multilateral benefit sharing mechanism.
The recommendations of the ICNP meetings will be considered by the CoP-11 to the CBD being hosted by India in Hyderabad in October 2012.
On September 9, 2012 the Indian Space Research Organisation will launch its hundredth mission. Over a period of 49 years, the space agency has sent up 63 satellites and 37 launchers, made indigenously. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is in-charge of Space and Atomic Energy, will be at Sriharikota on September 9 to watch the launch of a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C21) that will put French remote-sensing satellite SPOT-6 and Japanese micro-satellite PROITERES in orbit.
The ISRO says it will be a routine, no-frills event, with just two foreign commercial launches going on board the PSLV-C21. It will not carry an Indian satellite.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will witness the milestone event scheduled for 9.50 a.m. at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. Confirming this, ISRO spokesman Devi Prasad Karnik , “There will be no celebrations, but yes, the Prime Minister will be there.”
Atal Behari Vajpayee was the last Prime Minister to witness a launch — that of the ISRO Oceansat-1 on May 26, 1999; Dr. Singh has visited the site on another occasion.
The PSLV-C21 will put in orbit a 712-kg French remote sensing satellite, SPOT-6, and a 15-kg Japanese microsatellite. They will be placed in polar slots (where the satellites move from pole to pole) at a distance of 655 km from the Earth’s surface.
SPOT-6 will be released first, followed by Proiteres, the experimental Japanese spacecraft, Mr. Karnik said.
The workhorse PSLV rocket can take up a weight of around 2,000 kg for a polar launch. The C21 will fly in the “core alone” format without the six additional strapped-on motors. This configuration will be about 30 per cent less than the standard mode with four smaller strap-on motors, Mr. Karnik said.
At over 700 kg, SPOT-6 will be the ISRO’s heaviest since it started doing paid launches in late 1990s. The 27 foreign satellites it has launched so far weighed between 1 and 320 kg. Italy’s Agile has been the first heavier spacecraft to date and was placed in orbit in April 2007.
How 100 missions?
According to ISRO, if a satellite built by it is put in orbit by another country’s launch vehicle, it is counted as one mission. If India’s or other countries’ satellites are put in orbit by an ISRO-built rocket such as SLV-3 or PSLV from Sriharikota, it is counted as two missions.
The Prime Minister will reach Sriharikota on September 8 evening, stay overnight and watch the launch next morning between 9.20 a.m. and 9.50 a.m. The four stages of the PSLV have been assembled in the first launch pad on the seafront of the spindle-shaped island. The launch vehicle, weighing 230 tonnes and 44 metres tall, will be a core-alone version without strap-on booster motors.
A team of students and faculty of the Osaka Institute of Technology (OIT) developed PROITERES, which stands for Project of OIT Electric Rocket Engine Onboard Small Space Ship.
India’s space journey began when satellite Aryabhatta lifted off from the Volgograd launch station at Kapustin-Yar (now in Russia) on April 19, 1975.
Observing that the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks had shocked the collective conscience of Indian people, the Supreme Court on 29.08.2012 confirmed the death sentence awarded to the prime accused, Ajmal Kasab, by the trial court for waging war against India.
In its 398-page judgment, a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and C.K. Prasad said: “This case has the element of conspiracy as no other case. The appellant was part of a conspiracy hatched across the border to wage war against the government of India, and lethal arms and explosives were collected with the intention of waging war against the government of India.”
The Bench rejected Kasab’s argument that he was not given a fair trial. It accepted the argument of senior counsel for Maharashtra Gopal Subramanium that he was given legal assistance right from the stage of trial, and said Kasab’s plea (that he was not given legal assistance from the beginning), by itself, would not vitiate the proceedings.
Writing the judgment, Justice Alam said: “The conspiracy was to launch a murderous attack on Mumbai, regarding it as the financial centre of the country; to kill as many Indians and foreign nationals as possible; to take Indians and foreign nationals… hostages for using them as bargaining chips in regard to the terrorists’ demands; and to try to incite communal strife and insurgency, all with the intent to weaken the country from within. In short, this is a case of terrorist attack from across the border. It has a magnitude of unprecedented enormity on all scales. The conspiracy… was as deep and large as it was vicious. The preparation and training for the execution was as thorough as the execution was ruthless. In terms of loss of life and property, and more importantly in its traumatising effect, this case stands alone, or it is at least the very rarest of rare to come before this court since the birth of the Republic. Therefore, it should also attract the rarest of rare punishments.”
While confirming the death sentence of Ajmal Kasab, the lone Pakistani gunman captured alive in the Mumbai terror attacks case, the Supreme Court said ‘absolute certainty’ may not necessarily be a myth or fake in all cases.
Justice C.K. Prasad, who sat on the Bench with Justice Aftab Alam, said: “Hardly [does] one come across a case, where the court does not resort to ‘certain probability’ as a working substitute for proof beyond all reasonable doubt. However, in the case in hand, from the evidence, oral and documentary, reference of which has copiously been made in the judgment by Justice Aftab Alam, make me believe that ‘absolute certainty’ may not necessarily be a myth or fake in all cases and can be a reality.”
Justice Prasad said: “The present case is an exception. Here, I am more than certain that the planning and conspiracy to commit the crime were hatched in Pakistan, the perpetrators… were Pakistani, trained at different centres in that country, and the devastations which took place at various places in Mumbai were executed by the appellant in furtherance thereof.”
Justice Alam said: “We find that the primary and first offence that the appellant and his co-conspirators committed was the offence of waging war against the government of India. It does not matter that the target assigned to the appellant and Abu Ismail was CST Station (according to amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran, counsel for Kasab, no more than a public building), where they killed a large number of people or that they killed many others on Badruddin Tayabji Marg and in Cama Hospital. What matters is that the attack was aimed at India and Indians. It was by foreign nationals. People were killed for no other reason than they were Indians; in the case of foreigners, they were killed because their killing on Indian soil would embarrass India. The conspiracy, in furtherance of which the attack was made, was, inter alia, to hit at India; to hit at its financial centre; to try to give rise to communal tensions and create internal strife and insurgency; to demand that India should withdraw from Kashmir; and to dictate its relations with other countries. It was in furtherance of those objectives that the attack was made, causing the loss of a large number of people and injury to an even greater number of people.”
Nothing could have been more “in like manner and by like means as a foreign enemy would embarrass India.”
Live coverage by media condemned
Slamming the electronic media for its live coverage of the 26/11 terrorist attacks, the Supreme Court said that by doing so the Indian TV channels did not serve the national interest or any social cause.
A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and C.K. Prasad, while confirming the death sentence on the prime accused, Ajmal Kasab, said the “reckless coverage… gave rise to a situation where, on the one hand, the terrorists were completely hidden from the security forces and they had no means to know their exact positions or even the kind of firearms and explosives they possessed and, on the other, the positions of the security forces, their weapons and all their operational movements were being watched by the collaborators across the border on TV screens and being communicated to the terrorists.”
The Bench said: “Apart from the transcripts, we can take judicial notice of the fact that the terrorists’ attacks at all the places, in the goriest details, were shown live on Indian TV from beginning to end, almost non-stop. All the channels were competing with each other in showing the latest developments on a minute-to-minute basis, including the positions and the movements of the security forces engaged in flushing out the terrorists.
“In these appeals, it is not possible to find out whether the security forces actually suffered any casualty or injuries on account of the way their operations were being displayed on the TV screen. But it is beyond doubt that the way their operations were freely shown made the task of the security forces not only exceedingly difficult but also dangerous and risky.”
Holding that any attempt to justify the conduct of the TV channels by citing the right to freedom of speech and expression would be “totally wrong and unacceptable in such a situation,” the Bench said: “Freedom of expression, like all other freedoms under Article 19, is subject to reasonable restrictions. An action tending to violate another person’s right to life guaranteed under Article 21 or putting the national security in jeopardy can never be justified by taking the plea of freedom of speech and expression.”
“Expressing its anguish, the Bench said: “The shots and visuals could have been shown after all the terrorists were neutralised and the security operations were over. But, in that case, the TV programmes would not have had the same shrill, scintillating and chilling effect and would not have shot up the TRP ratings of the channels. It must, therefore, be held that by covering live the terrorists’ attack on Mumbai in the way it was done, the Indian TV channels were not serving any national interest or social cause. On the contrary, they were acting in their own commercial interests, putting the national security in jeopardy. It is in such extreme cases that the credibility of an institution is tested. The coverage of the Mumbai terror attack by the mainstream electronic media has done much harm to the argument that any regulatory mechanism for the media must come only from within.”
The Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Yojana is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme being implemented by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj with the objective of assisting efforts of the State Governments for training and capacity building of elected representatives of Panchayati Raj Institutions. Funding of the scheme is applicable only for the non-BRGF districts. The scheme focuses primarily on providing financial assistance to the States/UTs for Training & Capacity Building of elected representatives (ERs) and functionaries of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). Assistance is provided for Distance Learning infrastructure for the ERs and Functionaries of the PRIs including Satellite based training infrastructure. In respect of Hill States and States in the North Eastern Region, assistance is also given for capital expenditure on establishment of Panchayat Resource Centres/ Panchayat Bhawans at Block/Gram Panchayat levels. The scheme has a small component of Infrastructure Development under which the construction and renovation of Panchayat Ghars in all the States is funded. The scheme is demand driven in nature and provides for funding on 75:25 sharing basis between the Central and State Governments concerned. Assistance under the Training component is also given to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), where the central assistance may be 100% and such proposals are required to be forwarded with the recommendations of the State Government concerned.
Rural Business Hub (RBH)
Rural Business Hub is aimed to eradicate rural poverty and create employment opportunity in rural India. This initiative would give a fillip to village enterprises that add value to economic activities in rural areas.
There is a steady influx of rural people to urban areas in search of employment and economic opportunity. Also, there is a wide gap between rural and urban areas in terms of public services like health and education, in the quality of life and levels of income. This gap is perceived to be widening. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment, 1992, has mandated Panchayats as Institutions of Self Government, to plan and implement programmes of economic development and social justice. Government of India has recognized that Panchayati Raj is the medium to transform rural India 700 million opportunities. There is also a felt need to ensure that the benefits of rapid economic growth, unleashed through the reforms of the last two decades, need to flow to all sections of society, particularly to rural India.
The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has adopted the goal of “Haat to Hypermarket” as the overarching objective of the Rural Business Hubs (RBH), initiative aimed at moving from more livelihood support to promoting rural prosperity, increasing rural non-farm incomes and augmenting rural employment. RBHs set up in association with Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) could thus constitute the fulcrum of “inclusive growth” – the theme of the 11th Plan.
In order to address the empowerment of EWRs and EYRs in a systematic, programmatic manner, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Govt. of India, has launched a new scheme with the approval of the competent authority in the 11th Five Year Plan. The objective of PMEYSA is to knit the EWRs in a network and through group action, empower themselves, so that both their participation and representation on local governance issues, improves. PMEYSA aims at a sustained campaign to build the confidence and capacity of EWRs, so that they get over the institutional, societal and political constraints that prevent them from active participation in rural local self governments.
It is a Central Sector Scheme. The entire amount is funded by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj for organizing the various activities under this scheme. Fund is released to the State Panchayati Raj Department in two equal installments in the ratio of 50:50. The balance amount (second installment of 50%) is released only on furnishing of (1) Utilization certificate in respect of funds released and (2) Audited Statement of account on the expenditure (item-wise) incurred by the State Government/SSC.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)
It is a rural job guarantee scheme, enacted by legislation on August 25, 2005. The scheme provides a legal guarantee for one hundred days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage of 120 per day in 2009 prices. The original version of the Act was passed with Rs 155/ day as the minimum wage that needs to be paid under NREGA. However, a lot of states in India already have wage regulations with minimum wages set at more than 100 per day. NREGA’s minimum wage has since been changed to 130 per day. The Central government outlay for scheme is 40,000 crore in FY 2010–11.
This act was introduced with an aim of improving the purchasing power of the rural people, primarily semi or un-skilled work to people living in rural India, whether or not they are below the poverty line. Around one-third of the stipulated work force is women. The law was initially called the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) but was renamed on 2 October 2009.
Key provisions: Adult members of a rural household, willing to do unskilled manual work, are required to make registration in writing or orally to the local Gram Panchayat.
The Gram Panchayat after due verification will issue a Job Card. The Job Card will bear the photograph of all adult members of the household willing to work under NREGA and is free of cost.
The Job Card should be issued within 15 days of application.
A Job Card holder may submit a written application for employment to the Gram Panchayat, stating the time and duration for which work is sought. The minimum days of employment have to be at least fourteen.
The Gram Panchayat will issue a dated receipt of the written application for employment, against which the guarantee of providing employment within 15 days operates
Employment will be given within 15 days of application for work, if it is not then daily unemployment allowance as per the Act, has to be paid liability of payment of unemployment allowance is of the States.
Work should ordinarily be provided within 5 km radius of the village. In case work is provided beyond 5 km, extra wages of 10% are payable to meet additional transportation and living expenses
Wages are to be paid according to the Minimum Wages Act 1948 for agricultural labourers in the State, unless the Centre notices a wage rate which will not be less than 60 per day. Equal wages will be provided to both men and women.
This is a Centrally sponsored scheme being implemented by Department of Food, Civil Supplies, Consumer affairs. The Annapurna scheme aims at providing food security to meet the requirement of those Senior Citizens who though eligible have remained uncovered under the National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS). Under the Annapurna Scheme, 10 Kg. of food grains per month are to be provided ‘free of cost’ to the Beneficiary. The number of persons to be benefited from the Scheme will, in the first instance, be 20% of the persons eligible to receive pension under NOAPS in States/Union Territories.
Eligibility Criteria Central assistance under Annapurna Scheme will be provided to the Beneficiaries fulfilling the following criteria: a) The age of the applicant (male or Female) should be 65 years or above. b) The applicant must be destitute in the sense of having little or no regular means of subsistence from his/her own source of income or through financial support from family members or other sources. In order to determine destitution, the criteria (if any) currently in force in the State/UTs could also be followed. c) The applicant should not be in receipt of pension under the NOAPS or State Pension Scheme. d) As mentioned above, the Beneficiary would be entitled for 10 Kgs of food grains (wheat or rice) per month free of cost. The scheme was launched in the year 2002 and is valid up to January 2012.
Antodhaya Anna Yojana
This is also a Centrally sponsored scheme being implemented by Department of Food, Civil Supplies, Consumer affairs. The scheme was launched in the year 2002 and is valid up to January 2012. Antyodaya Anna Yojana has been launched by the Honorable Prime Minister of India on the 25th December, 2000. This scheme reflects the commitment of the Government of India to ensure food security for all, create a hunger free India in the next five years and to reform and improve the Public Distribution System so as to serve the poorest of the poor in rural and urban areas. It is for the poorest of poor that the Antodaya Anna Yojana has been conserved. It is estimated that 5% of population are unable to get two square meals a day on a substained basis throughout the year. Their purchasing power is so low that they are not in a position to buy food grains round the year even at BPL rates. Eligibility – 5% of population who are unable to get two square meals a day on a sub stained basis throughout the year.
U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, who took a giant leap for mankind when he became the first person to walk on the moon, has died at the age of 82, his family said on 25.08.2012.
Armstrong died following complications from heart-bypass surgery he underwent earlier this month, the family said in a statement, just two days after his birthday on August 5.
As commander of the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969. As he stepped on the dusty surface, Armstrong said: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”Those words endure as one of the best known quotes in the English language.
The Apollo 11 astronauts’ euphoric moonwalk provided Americans with a sense of achievement in the space race with Cold War foe the Soviet Union and while Washington was engaged in a bloody war with the communists in Vietnam.
Neil Alden Armstrong was 38 years old at the time and even though he had fulfilled one of mankind’s age-old quests that placed him at the pinnacle of human achievement, he did not revel in his accomplishment. He even seemed frustrated by the acclaim it brought.
“I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks but for the ledger of our daily work,” Armstrong said in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program in 2005.
He once was asked how he felt knowing his footprints would likely stay on the moon’s surface for thousands of years. “I kind of hope that somebody goes up there one of these days and cleans them up,” he said.
James Hansen, author of “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong,” told : “All of the attention that … the public put on stepping down that ladder onto the surface itself, Neil never could really understand why there was so much focus on that.”
The Apollo 11 moon mission turned out to be Armstrong’s last space flight. The next year he was appointed to a desk job, being named NASA’s deputy associate administrator for aeronautics in the office of advanced research and technology.
Armstrong’s post-NASA life was a very private one. He took no major role in ceremonies marking the 25th anniversary of the moon landing. “He’s a recluse’s recluse,” said Dave Garrett, a former NASA spokesman.
Hansen said stories of Armstrong dreaming of space exploration as a boy were apocryphal, although he was long dedicated to flight. “His life was about flying. His life was about piloting,” Hansen said.
Born August 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio, Armstrong was the first of three children of Stephen and Viola Armstrong. He married his college sweetheart, Janet Shearon, in 1956. They were divorced in 1994, when he married Carol Knight.
Armstrong had his first joyride in a plane at age 6. Growing up in Ohio, he began making model planes and by his early teens had amassed an extensive aviation library. With money earned from odd jobs, he took flying lessons and obtained his pilot’s license even before he got a car license.
In high school he excelled in science and mathematics and won a U.S. Navy scholarship to Purdue University in Indiana, enrolling in 1947. He left after two years to become a Navy pilot, flying combat missions in the Korean War and winning three medals.
Flying Test Planes
After the war he returned to Purdue and graduated in 1955 with an aeronautical engineering degree. He joined the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), which became NASA in 1958.
Armstrong spent seven years at NACA’s high-speed flight station at Edwards Air Force Base in California, becoming one of the world’s best test pilots. He flew the X-15 rocket plane to the edge of space – 200,000 feet up at 4,000 mph.
In September 1962, Armstrong was selected by NASA to be an astronaut. He was command pilot for the Gemini 8 mission and backup command pilot for the Gemini 11 mission, both in 1966.
On the Gemini 8 mission, Armstrong and fellow astronaut David Scott performed the first successful docking of a manned spacecraft with another space vehicle.
Armstrong put his piloting skills to good use on the moon landing, overriding the automatic pilot so he and fellow astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin would not have to land their module in a big rocky crater.
Yet the landing was not without danger. The lander had only about 30 seconds of fuel left when Armstrong put it down in an area known as the Sea of Tranquility and calmly radioed back to Mission Control on Earth, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
Aldrin, who along with Armstrong and Michael Collins formed the Apollo 11 crew, told BBC radio that he would remember Armstrong as “a very capable commander and leader of an achievement that will be recognized until man sets foot on the planet Mars.”
Armstrong left the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) a year after Apollo 11 to become a professor of engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
Declines Offers to run for Office
After his aeronautical career, Armstrong was approached by political groups, but unlike former astronauts John Glenn and Harrison Schmitt who became U.S. senators, he declined all offers.
In 1986, he served on a presidential commission that investigated the explosion that destroyed the space shuttle Challenger, killing its crew of seven shortly after launch from Cape Canaveral in January of that year.
Armstrong made a rare public appearance several years ago when he testified to a congressional hearing against President Barack Obama administration’s plans to buy rides from other countries and corporations to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
Armstrong also said that returning humans to the moon was not only desirable, but necessary for future exploration — even though NASA says it is no longer a priority.
“We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away,” the family said in their statement. “Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.”
His family expressed hope that young people around the world would be inspired by Armstrong’s feat to push boundaries and serve a cause greater than themselves.
“The next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink,” the family said.
Obama said that Armstrong “was among the greatest of American heroes – not just of his time, but of all time. …”Today, Neil’s spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown – including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further in space. That legacy will endure – sparked by a man who taught us the enormous power of one small step.”
Glenn, an original NASA astronaut with Armstrong, spoke of his colleague’s humble nature. “He was willing to dare greatly for his country and he was proud to do that and yet remained the same humble person he’d always been,” he told.
The space agency sent out a brief statement in the wake of the news, saying it “offers its condolences on today’s passing of Neil Armstrong, former test pilot, astronaut and the first man on the moon.”
Armstrong is survived by his two sons, a stepson and stepdaughter, 10 grandchildren, a brother and a sister, NASA said.
Some controversy still surrounds his famous quote. The live broadcast did not have the “a” in “one small step for a man …” He and NASA insisted static had obscured the “a,” but after repeated playbacks, he admitted he may have dropped the letter and expressed a preference that quotations include the “a” in parentheses.
Asked to describe what it was like to stand on the moon, he told: “It’s an interesting place to be. I recommend it.”
Apollo 11 was the spaceflight which landed the first humans, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on the Moon on July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC. Armstrong became the first to step onto the lunar surface 6 hours later on July 21 at 02:56 UTC. A third member of the mission, Michael Collins, remained alone in lunar orbit until they returned from the surface about 15 hours later. All three astronauts returned to Earth safely after travelling in space for 8 days.
Launched by a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida on July 16, Apollo 11 was the fifth manned mission of NASA’s Apollo program. The Apollo spacecraft had three parts: a Command Module with a cabin for the three astronauts which was the only part which landed back on Earth; a Service Module containing propulsion, electrical power, oxygen and water; and a Lunar Module for landing on the Moon. After being sent to the Moon by the Saturn V’s upper stage, the astronauts separated the spacecraft from it and travelled for three days until they entered into lunar orbit. Armstrong and Aldrin then moved into the Lunar Module and landed in the Sea of Tranquility. They stayed a total of about 21½ hours on the lunar surface, including about 2½ hours outside the spacecraft. After lifting off in the upper part of the Lunar Module and rejoining Collins in the Command Module, they returned to Earth and landed in the Pacific Ocean on July 24.
Broadcast on live TV to a world-wide audience, Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface and described the event as “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Apollo 11 effectively ended the Space Race and fulfilled a national goal proposed in 1961 by the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy in a speech before the United States Congress, “before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
On 24 August 2012, Oslo District Court found Breivik sane and guilty of murdering 77 people. He was sentenced to preventive detention, a special form of prison sentence, with a term of 21 years and a minimum of 10 years, with the possibility of extension for as long as he is deemed a danger to society; this is the maximum penalty in Norway. Breivik announced that he does not recognize the legitimacy of the court and will therefore not appeal.
Breivik, who has admitted detonating a fertilizer bomb outside government headquarters, killing eight, before gunning down 69 at the ruling party’s summer youth camp, faces the possibility of indefinite extensions to his sentence.
Many survivors and victims’ families wanted a sane verdict, saying the opposite would diminish his responsibility for the attacks.
Breivik said he targeted the ruling centre-left Labour Party for its support of Muslim immigration. He dismissed being called a child murderer, arguing that his victims, some as young as 14, were brainwashed activists whose support for multiculturalism threatened to adulterate pure Norwegian blood. His trial began on 16 April 2012, and closing arguments were held on 22 June, 2012.
Breivik himself had argued for the sane verdict as he wanted the attack to be seen as a political statement. Two teams of court-appointed psychiatrists examined Breivik prior to his trial; in the first report Breivik was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and a second evaluation was commissioned following widespread criticism of the first report. The second psychiatric evaluation was published one week before the trial, concluding that Breivik was not psychotic during the attacks nor during the evaluation, he was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.
The psychiatrists diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia, concluding that he had developed the disorder over time and was psychotic both when he carried out the attacks and during the observation. He was also diagnosed with abuse of non-dependence-producing substances antecedent of 22 July 2012. The psychiatrists consequently found Breivik to be criminally insane.
According to the report, Breivik displayed inappropriate and blunted affect and a severe lack of empathy. He spoke incoherently in neologisms and had acted compulsively based on a universe of bizarre, grandiose and delusional thoughts. Breivik alluded to himself as the future regent of Norway, master of life and death, while calling himself “inordinately loving” and “Europe’s most perfect knight since WWII”. He was convinced that he was a warrior in a “low intensity civil war” and had been chosen to save his people. To the psychiatrists, Breivik described plans to carry out further “executions of categories A, B and C traitors” by the thousands, themselves included, and to organise Norwegians in reservations for the purpose of selective breeding. Breivik believed himself to be the “knight Justiciar grand master” of a Templar organisation. He was deemed to be suicidal and homicidal by the psychiatrists.
On 10 April 2012 the second psychiatric evaluation was published with the conclusion that Breivik was not psychotic during the attacks and he was not psychotic during their evaluation. Instead, they diagnosed antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. Breivik expressed hope at being declared sane in a letter sent to several Norwegian newspapers shortly before his trial, writing about the prospect of being sent to a psychiatric ward he stated: “I must admit this is the worst thing that could have happened to me as it is the ultimate humiliation. To send a political activist to a mental hospital is more sadistic and evil than to kill him! It is a fate worse than death.”
On 8 June 2012, Professor of Psychiatry Ulrik Fredrik Malt testified in court as an expert witness, stating that he finds it unlikely that Breivik is schizophrenic. According to Malt, Breivik suffers from Asperger syndrome, Tourette syndrome, narcissistic personality disorder and possibly paranoid psychosis
Anders Behring Breivik, the convicted Norwegian mass murderer and terrorist, in a sequential bombing and mass shooting on 22 July 2011 bombed government buildings in Oslo, resulting in eight deaths, then carried out a mass shooting at a camp of the Workers’ Youth League (AUF) of the Labour Party on the island of Utøya, where he killed 69 people, mostly teenagers.
Breivik claims that he started a nine-year-plan to finance the attacks in 2002 (at age 23), founding his own computer programming business while working at the customer service company. He claims that his company grew to six employees and “several offshore bank accounts”, and that he made his first million kroner at the age of 24. The company was later declared bankrupt and Breivik was reported for several breaches of the law. He then moved back to his mother’s home, according to himself to save money. The first set of psychiatrists who evaluated him said in their report his mental health deteriorated at this stage and he went into a state of withdrawal and isolation. His declared assets in 2007 were about NOK 630,000. (US$116,410), according to Norwegian tax authority figures.He claims that by 2008 he had about NOK two million (US$$369,556])and nine credit cards giving him access to €26,000 in credit.
In May 2009 he founded a farming company under the name “Breivik Geofarm”, described as a farming sole proprietorship set up to cultivate vegetables, melons, roots and tubers.
Also in 2009 he visited Prague in an attempt to buy illegal weapons. He was unable to obtain a weapon there, and Breivik decided to obtain weapons through legal channels in Norway instead.He obtained one semi-automatic 9 mm Glock 17 pistol legally by demonstrating his membership in a pistol club in the police application for a gun licence, and the semi-automatic Ruger Mini-14 rifle by possessing a hunting licence.
Breivik had no declared income in 2009 and his assets amounted to 390,000 kroner ($72,063), according to Norwegian tax authority figures. He states that in January 2010 his funds were “depleting gradually”. On 23 June 2011, a month before the attacks, he paid the outstanding amount on his nine credit cards so he could have access to funds during his preparations.
In late June or early July 2011, he moved to a rural area south of Åsta in Åmot, Hedmark county, about 140 km (87 mi) northeast of Oslo,the site of his farm. As he admits in his manifesto he used the company as a cover to legally obtain large amounts of artificial fertiliser and other chemicals for the manufacturing of explosives.] A farming supplier sold Breivik’s company six tonnes of fertiliser in May. In his manifesto Breivik described his first experiments with explosives, and details a successful test detonation at a remote location on 13 June 2011. He sets the cost of the preparations for the attacks at € 317,000 – “130,000 out of pocket and 187,500 euros in lost revenue over three years.”
Six hours before the attacks, Breivik posted a YouTube video urging conservatives to “embrace martyrdom” and showing himself wearing a thermal sports top and pointing a Ruger Mini-14. He also posted a picture of himself as a Knight Templar officer in a uniform festooned with gold braid and multiple medals. In the video he put an animation depicting Islam as a trojan horse in Europe.Analysts describe it as promoting physical violence towards Muslims and Marxists who reside in Europe.
Far right ideologist
Breivik described his far-right militant ideology in a compendium of texts entitled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, which he distributed electronically the day of the attacks.In it he lays out his worldview, which includes Islamophobia, support of Zionism and opposition to feminism. It also expresses support for far-right groups such as the English Defence League and paramilitaries such as the Scorpions.It regards Islam and “cultural Marxism” as “the enemy”, and argues for the violent annihilation of “Eurabia” and multiculturalism, and the deportation of all Muslims from Europe based on the model of the Beneš decrees. Breivik wrote that his main motive for the atrocities was to market his manifesto. Breivik had been active on several Islamophobic and nationalist blogs, and was a regular reader of Gates of Vienna, the Brussels Journal and Jihad Watch.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog IAEA and Iran failed on 24.08.2012 to strike a deal aimed at allaying concerns about suspected nuclear weapons research by Tehran, a setback in efforts to resolve the stand-off diplomatically before any Israeli or U.S. military action.
A flurry of bellicose rhetoric from some Israeli politicians this month has fanned speculation that Israel might hit Iran’s nuclear sites before the U.S. presidential election in November.
Tensions rose another notch between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) when diplomatic sources said Iran had installed many more uranium enrichment centrifuges at its Fordow underground site.
While the new machines are not yet operating, the move reaffirmed Iranian defiance of international demands on it to suspend enrichment and may strengthen the Israeli belief that toughened sanctions and concerted diplomacy are failing to make the Islamic Republic change course.
“The discussions today (24.08.2012) were intensive but important differences remain between Iran and the U.N. that prevented agreement,” Herman Nackaerts, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s chief inspector, told journalists after about seven hours of talks with an Iranian delegation in Vienna.
“At the moment we have no plans for another meeting.”
Little headway appeared to have been made on the IAEA’s most urgent request – access for its inspectors to the Parchin military site where the IAEA believes Iran has done explosives tests relevant for developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Iran’s ambassador to the Vienna-based IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said that “undoubtedly some progress” was made but that differences remained. “Because it is a very complex issue … issues related to national security of a member state are something very delicate,” the veteran Iranian diplomat said.”But I have to say that we are moving forward … and we are going to continue this process so that we at the end of the day will have a framework agreed by both sides.”Soltanieh had said before the talks began: “Both sides are trying to bridge the gap.”
The diplomatic sources who revealed the expansion of centrifuge capacity at Fordow also said satellite imagery indicated Iran had used a brightly coloured tent-like structure to cover a building at Parchin, increasing concern about a possible removal of evidence of illicit past nuclear work there.
Iran Ignoring World
Israel signalled its patience with diplomacy was fading.
“Only yesterday (23.08.2012) we received additional proof that Iran is continuing accelerated progress towards achieving nuclear weapons and is totally ignoring international demands,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before the talks ended.
Asked about the outcome of the Vienna meeting, a Western diplomat accredited to the IAEA said: “As dismal as expected.” A U.S. State Department official, asked about the revelation of more enrichment capacity at Iran’s Fordow plant, said world powers would keep using diplomacy and sanctions to press Iran into nuclear restraint, but time was running out.
Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy and the world’s No. 5 oil exporter, says it wants nuclear energy for more electricity to serve a rapidly growing population, not nuclear weapons, and has threatened wide-ranging reprisals if attacked.
Nackaerts, the IAEA’s global chief of inspections, said before the meeting that the broader goal was a deal on greater, overall inspector access to answer the U.N. watchdog’s questions about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.
It was the first meeting between the two sides since discussions in early June 2012 petered out inconclusively, dashing previous hopes that an accord might be on the cards.
These talks were separate from Tehran’s negotiations with six world powers that have made little headway since resuming in April after a 15-month hiatus, but the focus on suspicions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions mean they are still closely linked.
Washington has said there is still time for diplomatic pressure to work in making Iran curb its enrichment programme, which is the immediate priority of the six powers – the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany.
Refined uranium can fuel nuclear power plants or nuclear bombs, depending on the level of enrichment.
Iran says it seeks only civilian nuclear energy. But its refusal to limit and open up its atomic activity to unfettered IAEA inspections that could determine whether it is purely peaceful, or not, has led to harsher punitive sanctions and louder talk about possible military action.
Western diplomats had expected no breakthrough but said Iran could offer a concession to inspectors – who want access to sites, officials and documents – in hopes of blunting their upcoming quarterly report on Iran, which is due in the last week of August 2012.
In so doing, Iran would also seek to deflect a planned Western move to have the 35-nation IAEA board of governors, meeting next month, to formally rebuke Tehran over its failure to cooperate with the agency’s inquiry.
So any Iranian concession should be treated with scepticism, one diplomat accredited to the IAEA said.
The IAEA’s immediate priority remains access to Parchin, even though Western diplomats say it may now have been purged of any evidence of nuclear weapons research, possibly carried out a decade ago.
Citing satellite images, diplomats said this week Iran has demolished some small buildings and moved earth at Parchin. On 23.08.2012, diplomatic sources said the building believed to be housing an explosives chamber – if it is still there – had been “wrapped” with scaffolding and tarpaulin, hiding any sanitisation or other activity there from satellite cameras.
Iran says Parchin, about 30 km (20 miles) southeast of the capital Tehran, is a conventional military facility and has dismissed allegations aired about it as “ridiculous”. It says a broad framework agreement for how the IAEA should conduct its inquiry is needed before possibly allowing access to Parchin.
Israeli independence – Iranian revolution
From the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 until the Iranian Revolution and the fall of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1979, Israel and Iran maintained close ties. Iran was the second Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel as a sovereign nation after Turkey.Israel viewed Iran as a natural ally as a non-Arab power on the edge of the Arab world, in accordance with David Ben Gurion’s concept of an alliance of the periphery. Israel had a permanent delegation in Tehran which served as an unofficial de facto embassy.
After the Six Day War, Iran supplied Israel with a significant portion of its oil needs and Iranian oil was shipped to European markets via the joint Israeli-Iranian Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline.Brisk trade between the countries continued until 1979. Israeli construction firms and engineers were active in Iran. Iranian-Israeli military links and projects were kept secret, but they are believed to have been wide-ranging,for example the joint military project Project Flower (1977–79), an Iranian-Israeli attempt to develop a new missile.
In spite of all those ties and trades, Iran voted in support of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 in 1975 which equated Zionism with racism (the resolution, however, was later revoked with Resolution 4686 in 1991, which post-revolution Iran voted against).
Other issues between Iran and Israel
During Ayatollah Khomeini’s campaign to overthrow Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Israel, which had relatively warm relations with the Shah, became an issue. Khomeini declared Israel an “enemy of Islam” and ‘The Little Satan’ – the United States was called ‘The Great Satan’.
After the second phase of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which witnessed the establishment of the Islamic Republic, Iran cut off all official relations; official statements, state institutes, events and sanctioned initiatives adopted a sharp anti-Zionist stance.
According to Dr. Trita Parsi, author of “Treacherous Alliance – The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States,” (Yale University Press, 2007), Iran’s strategic imperatives compelled the Khomeini government to maintain clandestine ties to Israel, while hope that the periphery doctrine could be resurrected motivated the Jewish State’s assistance to Iran.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in December 2000 called Israel a “cancerous tumor” that should be removed from the region. In 2005 he emphasized that “Palestine belongs to Palestinians, and the fate of Palestine should also be determined by the Palestinian people”. In 2005 Khamenei responded to President Ahmadinejad’s alleged remark that Israel should be “wiped off the map” by saying that “the Islamic Republic has never threatened and will never threaten any country.”
On 15 August 2012, during a meeting with veterans of the Iran-Iraq War, Ayatollah Khamenei said that he was confident that “the fake Zionist (regime) will disappear from the landscape of geography.”In addition, on 19 August, Khamenei reiterated comments made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which the international community and United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon condemened, during which he called Israel a “cancerous tumor in the heart of the Islamic world” and said that its existence is responsible for many problems facing the Muslim world.
Iranian funding of Hamas and Hezbollah
A mural in Tehran, Iran. The mural depicts the emblem of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and quotes the founder of The Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, saying: “Israel must be destroyed”
Iran supplies political support and weapons to Hamas, an organization committed to the destruction of Israel by Jihad. According to Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, “Hamas is funded by Iran. It claims it is financed by donations, but the donations are nothing like what it receives from Iran.”
Iran has also supplied another enemy of Israel, the militant organization Hezbollah with substantial amounts of financial, training, weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic, and organizational aid while persuading Hezbollah to take an action against Israel.Hezbollah’s 1985 manifesto listed its four main goals as “Israel’s final departure from Lebanon as a prelude to its final obliteration.” According to reports released in February 2010, Hezbollah received $400 million dollars from Iran.
A new type of bio-sensor can detect minute traces of glucose in saliva, tears and urine, doing away with pinpricks for diabetes testing.
“It’s an inherently non-invasive way to estimate glucose content in the body,” said Jonathan Claussen, former Purdue University doctoral student and now a research scientist at the US Naval Research Lab.
“Because it can detect glucose in the saliva and tears, it is a platform that might eventually help to eliminate or reduce the frequency of using pinpricks for diabetes testing,” said Claussen, the journal Advanced Functional Materials reports.
Claussen and Purdue doctoral student Anurag Kumar led the project, working with Timothy Fisher, Purdue professor of mechanical engineering; D. Marshall Porterfield, professor of agricultural and biological engineering; and other researchers at the university’s Birck Nanotechnology Centre, according to a Naval Lab statement.
“Most sensors typically measure glucose in blood,” Claussen said. “Many in the literature aren’t able to detect glucose in tears and the saliva. What’s unique is that we can sense in all four different human serums: the saliva, blood, tears and urine. And that hasn’t been shown before.”
The sensor has three main parts: layers of nanosheets resembling tiny rose petals made of a material called graphene, which is a single-atom-thick film of carbon; platinum nanoparticles; and the enzyme glucose oxidase.
Besides diabetes testing, the technology might be used for sensing a variety of chemical compounds to test for other medical conditions.
“Because we used the enzyme glucose oxidase in this work, it’s geared for diabetes,” Claussen said.
“But we could just swap out that enzyme with, for example, glutemate oxidase, to measure the neurotransmitter glutamate to test for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, or ethanol oxidase to monitor alcohol levels for a breathalyzer. It’s very versatile, fast and portable.”
The technology is able to detect glucose in concentrations as low as 0.3 micromolar, far more sensitive than other electrochemical biosensors based on graphene or graphite, carbon nanotubes and metallic nanoparticles, Claussen said.
The Miss World pageant has been in existence for more than 50 years and though the pageant was not widely publicized in America, it is as widely known on the international market as the the Miss Universe pageant. The recent crowning of Miss China, Wen Xia Yu, was as Miss World 2012 has come into question of being a rigged and political move.
On August 18, 2012, the 52nd pageant was held in Ordos, China, and the 23-year-old was crowned Miss World 2012 amid 116 pageant contestants. The decision was met with questions almost immediately as the Miss World Facebook page lit up with angry comments from naysayers around the world. The comments are still being posted as of today.
While many question China’s triumph in the beauty contest, others point out issues to the contrary. Contestants in the Miss World competition are selected by modeling agencies rather than pageant judges. This year’s United States representative, Claudine Book, competed in all five categories: talent, fitness, swimwear, evening wear and the “beauty with a purpose” division, but did not win any of the categories.
Others have pointed out that Wales’, Sophie Moulds, took second place despite the fact that Moulds and the contest’s creators share a British commonwealth bond. As a matter of fact, the BBC network broadcast the contest more prominently, than any network in the United States.
Lastly, before the crowning event, Miss Philippines was slated as a winner by many because of her beat-boxing performance during the talent competition that went viral.
Miss World 2012, the 62nd edition of the Miss World pageant was held on August 18, 2012 in Dongsheng Fitness Center Stadium, Ordos City, Inner Mongolia, China. 116 contestants from all over the world competed for the crown, marking the biggest turnout in the pageant’s history. Ivian Sarcos of Venezuela crowned her successor Yu Wenxia of China at the end of the event. The contestants visited Shanghai and Changshu.
China PR won its second Miss World title. Coincidentally, it won its two titles in its homeland.
Wales reached its highest placement since 2004.
Australia last placed in 2006, where both representatives placed second Runner-up.
South Sudan placed for the first time.
England, Indonesia, Philippines, Spain placed two years in a row.
Kenya, Netherlands, United States last placed in 2010.
Brazil, India, Mexico last placed in 2009.
Jamaica last placed in 2007.
China is the second country after United Kingdom to win on her own country.
India is the first Miss World contestant to win two fast track events in an edition.
Miss world – 2012 – China PR – Yu Wenxia
1st Runner-up – Wales – Sophie Moulds
2nd Runner-up- Australia – Jessica Kahawaty
Miss World Talent 2012 qualifiers were announced on July 21. On August 4, there were 16 contestants who were selected as semifinalists and then 5 finalists were announced during the Talent final held on August 8 at the Ordos Theatre. The winner is announced during the Miss World finals on August 18, 2012.
China PR – Yu Wenxia
Jamaica – Deanna Robins
Norway – Karoline Olsen
Panama – Maricely González
Philippines – Queenierich Rehman
Miss World Sports & Fitness 2012 qualifiers were announced on August 9 after tryouts which was held on August 7. There were 24 contestants who were selected as semifinalists, with 6 for each group and will go through the Sports finals held at the Ordos Stadium on August 9 and 10 2012. The 6 sports events are shuttle run, long jump, penalty shoot out, 100 meter sprint, relay race and swimming. Sweden – Sanna Jinnedal.
Miss World Top Model 2012 qualifiers were announced on July 23. There were 47 contestants who were selected as semifinalists and went through the finals on August 12. The Top Model finals featured Graham Black’s collection for ‘Erdos 1436′ and was taking place at the Erdos 1436 Fashion House, in Market Square. The Top 10 finalists were selected and the winner will be announced on August 18. South Sudan – Atong Demach
Miss World Beauty With A Purpose The Top 10 in Beauty with a Purpose has been announced. The winner announced on 18th Augus 2012. India – Vanya Mishra
In February 2012, four members of a feminist Russian punk-rock band named “Pussy Riot,” protesting against President Vladimir Putin’s government, walked into the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. They wore bright-colored balaclavas and performed a provocative song called “Punk Prayer,” with lyrics that called on the Virgin Mary to drive Putin away, and condemned the close relationship of the church and the Russian government.
Shortly after, three of the women were arrested and detained for months as a 2,800-page indictment was compiled, accusing them of criminal hooliganism and religious hatred. On 17.08.2012, the three were convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment, after a trial widely condemned by outside observers as an attack on free speech. Pussy Riot members face threat of violence in Russian jail.
Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk-rock group based in Moscow. Founded in August 2011, the band stages provocative performances about Russian political life in unusual and unauthorized locations, such as Lobnoye Mesto in Red Square, on top of a trolleybus, or on a scaffold in the Moscow Metro.
Warning from Pussy Riot lawyer
A lawyer for Pussy Riot has warned that three members of the feminist punk band sentenced to jail last week could face violence and discrimination because of the intense state campaign against them.
“For half a year, state-run television has built up a very negative image of them – that they’re blasphemers, heretics,” said Nikolai Polozov, a member of the women’s defence team. “The only source of information in prisons is state-run TV.
“We have a serious basis to think they can be faced with physical harm, moral pressure and even violence.”
Maria Alyokhina, 24, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, were found guilty last week of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for February 2012 performance in Moscow’s official cathedral criticising Vladimir Putin.
Polozov said he would appeal against their sentence – two years in a minimum security prison colony – within two weeks.
Alyokhina has already protested against the band’s treatment. In a letter handed to Polozov from the detention centre in southern Moscow where they have spent the past five months, she described how prison officials and special forces troops had treated them harshly. “I found this strange, usually they’re not so rude with us, so that means they’ve got an order,” she wrote. “I want to believe that all will end well, but everything that’s happening points to it being otherwise.”
Russian opposition activists remain enraged by the sentencing. On 21.08.2012, hackers attacked the site of the Khamovnichesky court, which hosted the trial against the three women, peppering it with slogans decrying Russia’s justice system. The hackers also defaced the site’s main page with a video by Azis, a gay Bulgarian singer.
As well as exposing the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent, the trial has also shone a spotlight on its increasingly conservative policies, encouraged by the Russian Orthodox church, including repressive anti-gay laws.
The trial has prompted criticism from some of Putin’s closest allies. Yet many government supporters continue to promote the theory that Pussy Riot was part of a western plot to weaken Russia.
“It seems that the planned and well-orchestrated provocation called ‘Pussy Riot’ succeeded,” Vladimir Yakunin, the Kremlin-connected head of Russian Railways and a high-profile supporter of the Orthodox church, wrote this week. The group, he said, was organised in response to growing Orthodox unity.
“As a person, I feel sorry for these young women and it’s unfortunate that our law enforcement system did not find those who directed this performance, financed it and are now trying to get political dividends from it.”
Police are searching for other members of Pussy Riot who they believe were involved in the February performance of an anti-Putin “punk prayer” at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
Court site hacked
A slogan denouncing President Vladimir Putin was posted on the site as was an appeal for the trio’s release along with a video clip of one of the band’s latest anti-Putin songs and a clip by Bulgarian singer Azis, local media reported.
The hack attack – claimed by AnonymousRussia, which says it is affiliated with hacking activist group Anonymous – comes amid a chorus of criticism of the sentences, which Western governments and singers said were disproportionate and opponents of Putin called part of a crackdown on dissent.
A screenshot posted by opposition activist Ilya Yashin on Twitter showed the court’s web page topped by an inscription reading: “Putin’s thieving gang is plundering our country! Wake up, comrades!” Another caption called for the release of the band’s jailed members.
The United States and the European Union called the sentences disproportionate and Washington has urged Russian authorities to “review” the case.
Human rights groups and musicians including Madonna and Paul McCartney have also criticised the trial, but opinion polls indicate few Russians sympathise with Pussy Riot and support from local musicians has been muted.
Russia police said they were searching for other members of Pussy Riot and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed Western criticism of the sentences, saying people should not “go into hysterics” about the case.
Also, democracy activist and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov was called in for police questioning over claims he bit an officer on the hand when he was detained at a protest in support of Pussy Riot. Mr Kasparov has called the accusation “drivel”.
The connection between Pussy Riot and the political performance art group Voina has been highlighted by some of the group’s critics and has been called an “aggravating moral circumstance” in the eyes of the conservative public (which constitutes about 60 per cent of Russians).
Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich participated in some Voina performances. Tolokonnikova, while pregnant, was part of a performance in which couples were filmed having sex in the Biology Museum in Moscow in 2008 which has been called an “orgy” by the media.
Voina (Russian: Война = War) is a Russian street-art group known for their provocative and politically charged works of performance art. The group has had more than sixty members, including former and current students of the Rodchenko Moscow School of Photography, Moscow State University, and Tartu University. However, the group does not cooperate with state or private institutions, and is not supported by any Russian curators or gallerists.
The activities of Voina have ranged from street protests, symbolic pranks in public places, and performance-art happenings, to vandalism and destruction of public property.
The Senkaku islands also known as the Diaoyu Islands, or the Pinnacle Islands, are a group of uninhabited islands controlled by Japan in the East China Sea. They are located roughly due east of mainland China, northeast of Taiwan, west of Okinawa Island, and north of the southwestern end of the Ryukyu Islands.
Japanese visit to disputed islands sparks China protest
Ten Japanese made an unauthorized landing on Uotsuri, the largest in a small archipelago known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands and in China as the Diaoyu Islands. The uninhabited islands surrounded by rich fishing grounds are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan. Of the 10 who visited the island, five were conservative local assembly members.
Protests flared up across China after a group of Japanese nationalist activists swam ashore and raised flags on an island also claimed by China, located north of Taiwan.
Chinese took to the streets in protest, overturning Japanese-branded cars and smashing windows at some Japanese-owned businesses, as Beijing lodged a formal complaint, urging Tokyo to prevent frictions from escalating further.
“The Senkakus are undoubtedly Japanese territory. It is to be expected that Japanese would take that to heart,” said Eiji Kosaka, an assemblyman from Tokyo’s Arakawa district.
China’s Foreign Ministry protested, summoning Japan’s ambassador to voice its complaints.
“The Japanese side should properly handle the current issue and avoid seriously damaging the overall situation of China-Japan relations,” ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement.
Tokyo rejected a complaint by China’s ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry.
Vice Foreign Minister Kenichiro Sasae told that the protests in China were “regrettable” and urged Chinese authorities to ensure the safety of tens of thousands of Japanese citizens there, the ministry said.
Earlier, a group of 14 Hong Kong residents and mainland Chinese travelled by boat to the islands, some swimming ashore. Protesters in Beijing, Hong Kong and other cities praised them as heroes and burned Japanese flags, but Japan arrested the 14 for landing without authorization.
This visit by the Chinese activists raised calls by critics of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government to take stronger action to protect the islands. Some lawmakers are urging that Japan’s military be called on to protect the territory.
Japan says it has controlled the five main islands for more than 100 years. It has been trying to place four that are privately held under state ownership to bolster its territorial claim.
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Timothy Yang summoned Japan’s de facto ambassador to Taiwan, Sumio Tarui, on 19.08.2012 to lodge a protest over the visit by the Japanese activists to the islands, which are about 190 kilometres off Taiwan’s northeastern coast.
Yang said the “provocative act” had heightened tensions in the area, according to a ministry statement.
South Korean angle
Frictions have also flared recently over another set of disputed islands controlled by South Korea.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited the islands in the Sea of Japan, called Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean in August 2012. His visit was seen by many as an attempt to play up anti-Japan sentiment ahead of elections in late 2012.
In the latest move to reinforce its territorial claim, South Korea unveiled a 120-centimetre-tall monument in the disputed islets, emblazoned in Korean with “Dokdo” in front, “Republic of Korea” on the back and President Lee Myung-bak’s name on the side.
Records of these islands date back to as early as the 15th century. They were referred as Diaoyu in books such as Voyage with a Tail Wind and Record of the Imperial Envoy’s Visit to Ryūkyū (1534). Adopted by the Chinese Imperial Map of the Ming Dynasty, both the Chinese name for the island group (Diaoyu) and the Japanese name for the main island (Uotsuri) both mean “fishing”.
The first reference to the islands in a book published in English was Edward Belcher’s 1848 account of the voyages of HMS Sammarang. Captain Belcher observed that “the names assigned in this region have been too hastily admitted.” Belcher reported anchoring off Pinnacle Island in March 1845.
In 1870s and 1880s, the English name Pinnacle Islands was used by the British navy for the rocks adjacent to the largest island Uotsuri-jima/Diaoyu Dao, Kuba-jima/Huangwei Yu and Taishō-jima/Chiwei Yu. The name “Pinnacle Islands” is used by some as an English-language equivalent to “Senkaku” or “Diaoyu”.
The collective use of the name “Senkaku” to denote the entire group began with the advent of the controversy in the 1970s.
David Ko of the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, the group that organized the Hong Kong mission, accuses Japanese authorities of mistreating the detained crew.
Despite Sino-Japanese tensions running high, Ko says plans are now being formulated for the Hong Kong activists to return to the disputed territory later this year.
“Territorial politics are changing,” he said. “The Americans have shifted their focus back to the Pacific. And, China is unwilling to be surrounded. This is going to be a trouble spot in the near future – the South China Sea, all the way up to the north China Sea.”
Analyst Johnny Lau suggests that the fact this was not the case with the Kai Fung 2 indicates a clear policy shift by the central government in Beijing.
“In 2021, Japan will stress it has controlled the Diaoyu for 50 years,” he said. “In international law, Japan can [then] officially claim they are under [its] sovereignty. So the Chinese government has to do something to stop this. That is why they will try to use more assistance from the general public.”
Protest planned against Japan
Meanwhile, Hong Kong activists are planning a day of national protest against Japan September 18, marking the 81st anniversary of the Japanese invasion of northern China. This event, widely known as the Manchurian Incident, preceded the Second Sino-Japanese war by some six years.
The Mukden Incident, also known as the Manchurian Incident, was a staged event engineered by Japanese military personnel as a pretext for invading the northern part of China, known as Manchuria, in 1931.
On September 18, 1931, a small quantity of dynamite was detonated by Lt. Kawamoto Suemori close to a railroad owned by Japan’s South Manchuria Railway near Mukden (now Shenyang). Although the explosion was so weak that it failed to destroy the lines and a train passed minutes later, the Imperial Japanese Army, accusing Chinese dissidents of the act, responded with a full invasion that led to the occupation of Manchuria, in which Japan established its puppet state of Manchukuo six months later. The ruse was soon exposed to the international community, leading Japan to diplomatic isolation and its March 1933 withdrawal from the League of Nations. The actual event is known as the “Liutiaohu Incident” and the event including its aftermath is known in Japan as the “Manchurian Incident” and in China as the “September 18 Incident.”
The World Humanitarian Day was observed on 19th August, 2012. One of the most crucial yet overlooked humanitarian issues of today: violence against health care. Attacking health-care structures and personnel, and ambulances – as well as deliberately obstructing the efforts of the wounded to find help – are common features of conflicts throughout the world.
In Sri Lanka and Somalia, hospitals have been bombed. In Libya and Lebanon, ambulances have been attacked ; in Bahrain, medical personnel who gave Medicare to protesters are on trial; and in Afghanistan, the wounded languish for hours in vehicles held up in checkpoint queues. From Colombia to Gaza, and from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Nepal, there is a lack of respect for the neutrality of health-care facilities and personnel, and medical vehicles, among both those attacking them and those who misuse them for military gain.
The ICRC( Intl community of the red cross) has been documenting violence against health-care facilities and personnel, and against patients, since 2008 in 16 countries where it is working. The number of incidents that have been recorded is striking. But statistics represent only the tip of the iceberg: they do not capture the compounded cost of violence – health-care staff leaving their posts, hospitals running out of supplies and vaccination campaigns coming to a halt. These knock-on effects dramatically limit access to health care for entire communities, many of whose members may be suffering from chronic or war-related health problems.
Deliberate attacks on health-care facilities and personnel and on patients and medical vehicles virtually always violate international law. The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols assert the right of the wounded and the sick – combatants and civilians alike – to be spared further suffering during armed conflict and to receive assistance. To ensure this in practice, health-care facilities and personnel, and medical vehicles, are given protected status as long as they maintain their neutrality and treat all patients – irrespective of their political, religious or ethnic affiliation – equally. Medical installations, vehicles and personnel are clearly identified by protective symbols such as the red cross, red crescent and red crystal. Furthermore, all parties to a conflict are obliged by law to search for and collect the wounded after battle, and to facilitate their access to health-care facilities. These laws, binding on all, are not always respected.
The ICRC and its partners in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement strive to find ways of reaching and assisting those wounded during armed conflict and internal strife, and to protect health-care facilities. Some initiatives are purely legal, such as spreading knowledge of international humanitarian law among State and non-State actors and raising the subject of violations with them when these occur. Some take more material form, such as protecting hospitals with sandbags and bomb-blast film for the windows and marking their roofs and sides with a Red Cross or Red Crescent, or teaching safer access techniques to ambulance crews. And some are innovative measures to meet local needs, like the taxi referral service in southern Afghanistan, which transports the wounded from the front lines to hospital. But more has to be done to halt violence against health care before it occurs. Primary responsibility for protecting health care lies with combatants and States, who have an obligation to respect the law, not with humanitarian organizations, who invariably deal with the consequences of violations.
The ICRC is launching a major campaign to raise awareness of this pressing issue, and mobilizing a community of concern. This global initiative will last four years and aims at making a crucial difference for people affected on the ground.
Ecuador has granted asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange two months after he took refuge in its London embassy while fighting extradition from the UK on 16.08.2012.
It said his human rights might be violated if he is sent to Sweden to be questioned over sex assault claims.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK would not allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the country and the move was also criticised by Stockholm.
Ecuador said it would seek to negotiate arrangements for Mr Assange to leave.
“We don’t think it is reasonable that, after a sovereign government has made the decision of granting political asylum, a citizen is forced to live in an embassy for a long period,” Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said.
Mr Assange took refuge at the embassy in June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over assault and rape claims, which he denies.
Mr Patino had accused the UK of making an “open threat” to enter its embassy to arrest Mr Assange, an Australian national.
Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patino: “We believe that his fears are legitimate”
Mr Assange said being granted political asylum by Ecuador was a “significant victory” and thanked staff in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
However, as the Foreign Office insisted the decision would not affect the UK’s legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden, Mr Assange warned: “Things will get more stressful now.”
“It was not Britain or my home country, Australia, that stood up to protect me from persecution, but a courageous, independent Latin American nation,” said Mr Assange, who watched the announcement with embassy staff in a live link to a press conference in Quito.
“While today is a historic victory, our struggles have just begun. The unprecedented US investigation against Wikileaks must be stopped.
Announcing Ecuador’s decision, Mr Patino launched a strong attack on the UK for what he said was an “explicit type of blackmail”.
The UK Foreign Office had warned, in a note, that it could lift the embassy’s diplomatic status to fulfil a “legal obligation” to extradite the 41-year-old by using the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987.
That allows the UK to revoke the diplomatic status of an embassy on UK soil, which would potentially allow police to enter the building to arrest Mr Assange for breaching the terms of his bail.
Mr Hague said it was a “matter of regret” that the Ecuadorean government decided to grant Mr Assange political asylum but warned that it “does not change the fundamentals” of the case.
He also warned that it could drag on for some “considerable” time.
“We will not allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the United Kingdom, nor is there any legal basis for us to do so,” he said.
“We are talking about an Act of Parliament in this country which stresses that it must be used in full conformity with international law,” he said.
Mr Patino said Ecuador believed Mr Assange’s fears of political persecution were “legitimate” and said his country was being loyal to its tradition of protecting those who were vulnerable.
Sweden summons ambassador
The Swedish government reacted angrily to Mr Patino’s suggestion that Mr Assange would not be treated fairly by its justice system, summoning Ecuador’s ambassador to explain.
“The accusations… are serious, and it is unacceptable that Ecuador would want to halt the Swedish judicial process and European judicial co-operation,” said Anders Joerle, spokesman for the Swedish foreign ministry.
The Organisation of American States called a special meeting at its Washington headquarters on 16.08.2012 to discuss the Ecuador-UK relationship, specifically Ecuador’s diplomatic premises in the UK.
Mr Assange entered the embassy after the UK’s Supreme Court dismissed his bid to reopen his appeal against extradition and gave him a two-week grace period before extradition proceedings could start.
It was during that fortnight, while on bail, that he sought refuge.
A subsequent offer by Ecuador to allow Swedish investigators to interview Mr Assange inside the embassy was rejected.
The Wikileaks website Mr Assange founded published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments, particularly that of the US, in 2010. Mr Assange says he fears that if extradited to Sweden, he will then be passed on to the American authorities.
In 2010, two female ex-Wikileaks volunteers accused Mr Assange of committing sexual offences against them while he was in Stockholm to give a lecture. Mr Assange claims the sex was consensual and the allegations are politically motivated.
Why the dare devilry by Ecuador?
One unanswered question on most observers’ minds at this time was why Ecuador has decided to grant political asylum to Mr. Assange especially when doing so would risk jeopardising its ties with nations that it considers important allies and trading partners, including the U.S., the U.K.,Sweden and Australia.
A host of possible justifications for the Ecuadorian action have been suggested, including notions that the country’s President, Rafael Correa, may be seeking to show himself a champion of free speech, or to embarrass the US, or to thrust himself onto the global stage as a fearless leader.
However as Mark Weisbrot of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research has argued, Mr.Correa “didn’t want this mess and it has been a lose-lose situation for him from the beginning,” given the escalation in tensions that he has suffered the US, UK and Sweden since Mr. Assange sought asylum at the embassy on June 19, 2012.
Mr. Weisbrot and others have pointed out that the U.S. is Ecuador’s largest trading partner and has several times threatened to cut off trade preferences that support thousands of Ecuadorian jobs.
However what Ecuador’s own explanatory note on the decision to grant Mr. Assange asylum suggests is that Mr. Correa’s government made the decision based on a careful consideration of the facts in the case, including shortcomings in the procedures followed by the prosecution regarding sexual assault charges that he faces in Sweden, and the balance of ethical considerations.
Of particular salience to Ecuador’s support for Mr. Assange is the fact that Mr. Assange’s legal team have on several occasions offered to provide Swedish authorities with access to Mr.Assange on the premises of Ecuador’s London embassy, in order for them to interrogate him and take formal statements for the case.
“This measure is perfect and legally possible. Sweden did not accept,” Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry noted, adding that the U.S. had similarly refused to clarify its position on the Assange case, “saying it is a bilateral matter between Ecuador and the United Kingdom.
Thus the facts that ultimately tilted Ecuador toward granting asylum to Mr. Assange included the consideration that “there is strong evidence of retaliation by the country or countries that produced the information disclosed by Mr. Assange, retaliation that may endanger their safety, integrity, and even his life.”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the “Oceans Compact” initiative on 12.08.2012. This is intended to tackle the “precarious state” of the world’s seas.
Oceans are facing a “grave threat” from pollution, excessive fishing and global warming.
“Ocean acidification is eating into the very basis of our ocean life; and sea level rise threatens to re-draw the global map at the expense of hundreds of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people,” Ban said.
The Compact aims to protect the world’s people from ocean degradation and natural hazards such as tsunamis, from over-fishing and from pollution by land and sea activities.
It calls for countries most at risk from rising sea levels to develop plans to mitigate the threat, and for vulnerable regions to have tsunami warning systems.
By 2025, all countries should set national targets to curb nutrients, marine debris and wastewater.
The Compact calls for renewed efforts to curb illegal fishing, rebuild fish stocks and halt the spread of invasive alien species.
By 2020, it says, at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas should be subject to conservation measures.
Pakistani miscreants behind the rumours that triggered exodus among northeasterners?
Government Blocks 245 web Pages for Inflammatory Content hosting of Provocative and Harmful Content Being Monitored Continuously
A lot of inflammatory and harmful content/information has been found to be appearing on the social networking sites hosted outside the country. Bulk of the content/information, which contained images and videos mostly morphed, aimed at targeting people of North East. Most of the content were taken from events unrelated to the incident occurred in Assam. Hosting of such morphed image/video led to a lot of inciting comments from users on the blogs hosting such morphed images/videos and circulation of hate SMSes. It disturbed the peace and harmony among the communities leading to public disorder and exodus of North Eastern people from some parts of the country.
Considering the sensitivity and after effects of such inflammatory and harmful content hosted on the social networking sites, the Department of Electronics & Information Technology had issued an advisory on 17th August 2012 to all the intermediaries including national and international social networking sites, advising them to take necessary action to disable such inflammatory and hateful content hosted on their websites on priority basis. The Department of Electronics & Information Technology also called a meeting of the representatives of international social networking sites based in India and advised them to take all possible action to disable such content immediately.
Such inflammatory and harmful content continued to appear on the social networking sites despite the advisory and request made by the Department of Electronics & Information Technology. The circulation of hate messages and availability of inflammatory and harmful content led to disturbance of peace and harmony at several places in the country causing threat to life and national security. The web pages hosting such content inciting violence and creating law & order problem were identified. Keeping in view the sensitivity and need for restoring peace, harmony and public order, the Government on recommendation of Ministry of Home Affairs issued orders under section 69A of the Information Technology Act 2000 directing intermediaries including international social networking sites to block 76 web pages on 18.08.2012, 80 web pages on 19.8.2012 and 89 web pages on 20.8.2012. These intermediaries and international social networking sites were also requested to provide registration details and access logs of the person who uploaded such content. The initial response from international social networking sites indicates that such content have been hosted from outside the country and to a large extent from a neighboring country (Pakistan). An intermediary social networking site has responded that the up-loaders of the inflammatory and hateful content are outside the jurisdiction of the country, thereby implying that they are not obliged to take any constructive step to deal with it. The proxy servers and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services which hide the user identity operating from no. of countries appear to have been used for uploading the content. The agencies are continuously monitoring hosting of such inflammatory and harmful content.
The Department of Electronics & Information Technology has been working with international social networking sites on this issue. However, a lot more and quicker action is expected from them to address such a sensitive issue which concern restoring peace, harmony, public order and national security.
Home Minister Expresses Concern on Social Media Networking Sites being Misused by Elements Based in Pakistan
Union Home Minister Shri Sushil Kumar Shinde has expressed concern to his Pakistani counterpart over the issue of social media-networking sites being misused by elements based in Pakistan to circulate false pictures and stories so as to whip up communal sentiments in India and has sought Pakistan’s full cooperation in checking and neutralizing such elements. Shri Shinde expressed these views when Mr. Rehman Malik, Interior Minister of Pakistan spoke to him on 19.12.2012 over telephone. This was the first direct contact between the two Ministers.
Shri Shinde thanked Mr. Malik and conveyed his Eid wishes to him and the people of Pakistan. The Union Home Minister expressed the hope that the occasion would herald an improvement in Indo-Pak relations.
The Interior Minister of Pakistan briefly spoke of the pending issues between the two Ministries and re-iterated his commitment to bring the masterminds and perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack to justice. He assured full mutual cooperation in this matter. Mr. Rehman Malik also invited Shri Shinde to visit Pakistan to sign the revised Visa agreement which has now been agreed to by both sides.
Both concluded the discussion by agreeing to continue the mutual cooperation and to work towards rooting out terrorism in all its form and manifestation.
Rumours trigger exodus among north-east Indian residents
In what appeared to be a case of panic being reported among sections of residents from the Northeast residing in Bangalore, over 6,000 people boarded trains headed for Guwahati here on 15.08.2012. Anonymous cellphone messages spreading rumours of killings and rape of northeast residents, or containing warnings of dire consequence for those staying beyond August 20 continued.
This even as Director-General and Inspector-General of Police L.R. Pachau appealed to citizens not to panic, as the rumours about alleged violence against Northeast residents here was “unfounded and baseless”. Sources in SWR told The Hindu that in the wake of huge demand for tickets, two special trains, apart from the one regular one, had been announced.
The exodus of panic-stricken northeastern residents from here continued on 16.08.2012 with 7,500 people leaving for home following rumours of violence targeting them. According to officials, at least 7,500 passengers took three special trains to Guwahati, apart from the regular Bangalore-Guwahati Express.
Railway authorities stopped issuing tickets at 7.15 p.m. since they could not accommodate any more. On 15.08.2012 night, 6,900 passengers travelled in two special trains and the Guwahati Express.
Driven by rumours, security agencies, BPOs, restaurants and hotels, beauty parlours, colleges and schools, where people from the northeast work and study in substantial numbers, were deserted. This despite the Karnataka government, the police, concerned citizens and representatives from Muslims appealing for calm and trying to assuage the fears of the migrants. Representatives of the mohalla and masjid-level committees were trying to douse the tension.
The State government and the police went into damage control mode announcing confidence-building measures. Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, after chairing a meeting with top officials and bureaucrats and representatives of the associations of the northeastern people, announced setting up of a 24-hour helpline.
“Karnataka is the safest place for you to live in the country,” he said, pointing out that no major incident of violence against the people from the northeast had been reported in the State so far.
Neelasandra, Adugodi and Suduguntapalya in southeast Bangalore, where the threat perceptions were high, wore a deserted look. Police were seen patrolling the streets. These lower income and thickly populated areas are home to large numbers of working class Muslims and the northeastern people.
Most leading colleges, which have a large number of northeastern students, assured their safety at the campus meetings.
Apart from Karnataka, mass exodus of north eastern residents was noticed in Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad.
8000 people arrive at Guwahati
Four more special trains, three from Bangalore and one from Howrah, arrived at the Guwahati railway station on 20.08.2012, bringing about 8000 more people fleeing from the south, even as Id celebration in the State including the violence-hit districts of Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Chirang passed off peacefully.
Dr. C. Rangarajan, Chairman, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister released the document ‘Economic Outlook 2012-13’ at a Press Conference in New Delhi. Following are the highlights of the document:
Economy to grow at 6.7 per cent in 2012/13
Farm sector GDP projected to grow at 0.5 per cent in 2012/13 due to the impact of weak monsoon on agriculture and the current reservoir storage position in 2012/13.
Manufacturing sector projected to grow at 4.5 per cent. Electricity, automotive, steel and cement sector have shown improvement in the period of April-June. Because of the benefits of the low base, manufacturing sector will show improved performance in the second half of this year.
Mining sector for the year as a whole expected to grow at 4.4 per cent due to growth in the coal and lignite sector, and some recovery in iron ore.
Electricity generation expected to continue to grow at an average pace of around 8 per cent.
Construction expected to show some improvement compared to last year as evidenced by the recent increase in the output of steel and cement.
In Services sector, some improvement expected particularly in the large transport, trade and communications sector.
Global Situation: There is a dark mood in the advanced economies; especially in Europe. The slower growth in the US and in the EU will have an adverse impact on the expansion of these markets for India’s exports, both of goods and services.
Gross Domestic Fixed Capital Formation as a proportion of GDP has fallen from its highest level of 32.9% in 2007/08 to 30.4 % in 2010/11 and to 29.5 per cent in 2011/12. Projected to be 30.0% in 2012/13.
Domestic saving rate has declined from 32.0% in 2010/11 to 30.4% in 2011/12 and projected to be at 31.7% in 2012/13.
Current Account Deficit was $78.2 billion (4.2% of GDP) in 2011/12 and projected at 67.1 billion (3.6% of GDP) in 2012/13.
The merchandise trade deficitwas$189.8 billion (10.2 per cent of GDP) in 2011/12 and projected at $181.1 billion (9.7 per centof GDP) in 2012/13.
Overall the net balance on invisibles was $111.6 billion(6.0% of GDP) in 2011/12 is expected to grow at $114 billion (6.1% of GDP) in 2012/13.
Capital flows were $67.8 billion (3.7% of GDP) in 2011/12 and projected at $73.2 billion (3.9% of GDP) in 2012/13. This would be adequate to service the projected CAD of $67 billion for the year as a whole.
Accretion to reserves projected at $4 billion in 2012/13
Deficient SW monsoon likely to have an adverse impact on the prices of primary food items, especially on those where the ability of government stocks to play a moderating role is not there.Inflation rate expected to be within the range of 6.5 to 7.0 per cent at the end of 2012-13.
Expanding fiscal imbalance continues to be a major area of policy concern.
The fiscal deficit for the Centre was 5.89% of GDP in RE 2011/12 and is estimated at 5.06% in BE 2012/13.
In some contrast to the Centre’s finances, the fiscal health of the States is better.
The consolidated fiscal deficit of the Centre and the State governments for 2011/12 (RE) was 8.2 per cent of GDP. The consolidate deficit based on Budget Estimates for 2012/13 is estimated to be 7.2 per cent.
The containment of the fiscal imbalance at the Centre rests on our managementofthe subsidy bill, especially that on refined petroleum products and by increasing the Tax-GDP ratio.
Introduction of the General Sales Tax on Goods & Services (GST) would be a very important milestone in the path of tax reform. It requires considerable negotiations, bargaining and preparatory work in relation to both the structure and operation of the tax.
Reforms in Agriculture sector:
Reforms in Agriculture sectorneed focused attention on liberalizing tenancy arrangements, reforming domestic markets for agricultural produce and, reducing input subsidies.
Measures to accelerate the Economic growth:
Integrated decision-making on high-impact infrastructure projects
For Projects costing in excess of a minimum threshold, say Rs 5,000 crore, a Cabinet Committee comprising of ministers in charge of concerned departments should take an integrated view. The Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure could be recast as the Cabinet Committee for Sustainable Development of Infrastructure for this purpose, and its composition as well as powers under the rules of business modified accordingly.
Permitting FDI in multi-brand retail
For channelling transfer of capital and technology, FDI in multi-brand retail up to 49 per cent may be allowed to attract investment in this sector. Such of the states as are receptive to the idea may implement this.
FDI and other reforms in the Aviation sector
FDI in civil aviation may now be allowed to the existing extent of 49 per cent for foreign airlines as well.
Containing petroleum products subsidies
Given the huge subsidy projection for the current financial year, priority consideration may be given to (i) a suitable increase in the price of diesel in one or more steps, and (ii) a cap on the level of consumption of subsidised domestic LPG close to what is currently being consumed by poorer households, i.e., 4 cylinders.
We need to focus further on the following issues:
Policy predictability: There is need to specifically focus and address the apprehensions that have been occasioned by perceptions of arbitrary actions on tax and other fronts.
Clearing payments: Outstanding payments for infrastructure projects need to be cleared on time.
Promoting savings: Given the declining trend in domestic saving rate, we need to make financial products more attractive.
Taming inflation is critical for sustained growth. Need to take steps to contain high inflation in primary food which is mostly linked to the antiquated system of marketing and absence of modern handling and storage facilities for perishable products.
Improving the CAD:
Some amelioration through price reform in case of diesel could serve to contain demand.
To contain the import of gold, an improvement in the return as well as the regulatory regime in which mutual funds and life insurance products are sold are of utmost importance.
Significant improvement required in the approach of government to a number of issues to make IT-related export business much more competitive.
Dehydration from diarrhea is the second largest cause of global infant mortality, after respiratory ailments, and 88% of life-threatening diarrhea worldwide is caused by drinking contaminated water. A child somewhere in the world dies from drinking impure water every 30 seconds.
Human waste attracts less funding than other development projects but ‘Reinvent the Toilet’ challenge recognises that better hygiene can cut health-care costs and prevent early deaths
A solar powered toilet that breaks down water and human waste into hydrogen gas for use in fuel cells has won first prize in a competition for next-generation toilets to improve sanitation in the developing world.
The California Institute of Technology in the United States received the $100,000 first prize for its design. Loughborough University in the United Kingdom took the $60,000 second prize for a toilet that produces biological charcoal, minerals and clean water, and Canada’s University of Toronto came third, winning $40,000 for a toilet that sanitises faeces and urine, and recovers resources and clean water.
The winners took part in a “Reinvent the Toilet” challenge set by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which asked designers to break with a sanitation model that has changed little since it was developed by Alexander Cummings more than 200 years ago. It is a model that depends on piped water, sewer or electrical connections that poor countries can ill afford.
“Imagine what’s possible if we continue to collaborate, stimulate new investment in this sector, and apply our ingenuity in the years ahead,” said Bill Gates as he announced the winners on August 14, 2012 in Seattle, Washington state. “Many of these innovations will not only revolutionise sanitation in the developing world, but also help transform our dependence on traditional flush toilets in wealthy nations.” Sanitation and hygiene are the laggards in the millennium development goals (MDGs) of reducing extreme poverty. Basic sanitation, covering toilets, latrines, handwashing and waste, is not an MDG but a target under MDG seven on ensuring environmental sustainability.
Sanitation and hygiene have been the poor cousins in the global water, sanitation and hygiene work and programmes, outfunded by as much as 13 to one, even though most water-related diseases are really sanitation-related diseases.
In March 2012, the U.N. announced that the world had reached the goal of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water, well ahead of the 2015 deadline. However, the world is still far from meeting the MDG target for sanitation, and is unlikely to do so by 2015.
Only 63 per cent of the world population has access to improved sanitation, a figure projected to increase to only 67 per cent by 2015, well below the 75 per cent target in the MDGs. Currently 2.5 billion people lack access to an “improved sanitation facility”, which hygienically separates human waste from human contact.
As Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary General, has acknowledged, sanitation is a sensitive and unpopular subject. It is not a high-profile issue, although the UN declared access to water and sanitation a fundamental right in 2010 and there is a U.N. rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.
At the current rate, the world will miss the sanitation MDG target by 13 percentage points, meaning there will be 2.6 billion people without access to improved sanitation, according to the 2010 report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef joint monitoring programme for water supply and sanitation. . If things carry on as they are, the MDG target will not be met until 2049.
As many as 1.2 billion people practice what the U.N. describes as “open defecation.” They go to the toilet behind bushes, in fields, in plastic bags or along railway tracks. The practice poses particular problems for women and girls, who can be subject to physical and verbal abuse or humiliation.
According to the WHO, improved sanitation delivers up to $9 in social and economic benefits for every $1 invested because it increases productivity, reduces healthcare costs, and prevents illness, disability, and early death.
Project – A Bill Gates foundation intitative
In 2011, the Gates Foundation issued a challenge to universities to design toilets that can capture and process waste without piped waster and transform human waste into useful resources such as energy and water.
US billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates is investing in a solar-powered toilet for the developing world that will use little or no water.The need for a new type of toilet is an important part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s push to improve health in the developing world, officials familiar with the project said.
In 2012, the foundation, named after the Microsoft co-founder and his wife, gave grants to eight universities around the world to help create a hygienic toilet that is safe and affordable and can transform waste into energy. The project challenged inventors to come up with a toilet that operated without running water, electricity or a septic system. It needed to operate at a cost of no more than five cents a day and would ideally capture energy or other resources.
Open defecation leads to sanitation problems that cause 1.5 million children under five to die each year.
The eight universities, led by Professor Michael Hoffman, designed a toilet that generated hydrogen gas and electricity. They won a $100,000 prize.
The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports felicitated heroes of London Olympics 2012 at a function organized at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium. Six medal winners namely, Mr Sushil Kumar, Mr Vijay Kumar, Mr Gagan Narang, Ms Saina Nehwal, Ms M C Mary Kom and Mr Yogeshwar Dutt along with their parents and 47 Athletes and 17 Indian and foreign Coaches who participated at recently concluded London Olympics 2012 were the special guests at today’s function. Shri Ajay Maken, Minister of State (I/C) for Youth Affairs & Sports presided over the felicitation ceremony, which was attended by representatives of Indian Olympics Association, National Sports Federations, officials of the Sports Ministry and Sports Authority of India ( SAI). More than 2000 young sports persons of “COME & PLAY SCHEME” of SAI and children from several schools added colours to the ceremony.
At the function, six young talented sports persons of “Come & Play Scheme” presented cheques of Special Cash Awards to each of medal winners of London Olympics, 2012. The Cheques of cash award of Rs. 30 Lakh each to two Silver medal winners, namely, Mr Sushil Kumar and Mr Vijay Kumar and of Rs. 20 Lakh each to four Bronze Medal winners, namely, Mr Gagan Narang, Ms Saina Nehwal, Ms M C Mary Kom and Mr Yogeshwar Dutt were given away under the “Scheme of Special Award to Medal winners in international Sports events” of the Sports Ministry.
After the felicitation function, six medal winners along with rest of members of Indian contingent to London Olympics and more than 2000 young sports persons of “Come & Play Scheme” and school children marched to Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate and paid the floral tributes to the martyrs.
While speaking earlier at felicitation ceremony , Shri Ajay Maken, lauded the athletes and their coaches for their extra ordinary performance at London Olympics. Keeping in view, best results achieved under “OPEX London 2012” ,Shri Makan announced that a programme on similar lines “OPEX Olympics -2020” would be launched with a target to get 25 Medals. As a part of the programme, all athletes would be provided international and domestic exposure, foreign coaching and other infrastructural facilities, he added.
Brief Achievements of Medal Winners at London Olympics are as follows:-
a) SUSHIL KUMAR
India’s star grappler Sushil Kumar won the men’s 66kg freestyle category silver in the London Olympics.
Sushil thrashed Akzhurek Tanatarov of Kazakhastan 9-6 in the semifinals to become first India wrestler to reach the final of Olympic. After taking 3-0 lead in the first round, Sushil was down by his opponent in the second round. However, the Indian wrestler fought back to score 6 points in the final round, finishing with the score of 9-6 at London’s Riverbank Arena. Sushil had earlier defeated Ikhtiyor Navruzov of Uzbekistan in his quarterfinal bout. Sushil Kumar won his opening bout against Ramazan Sahin of Turkey, who had won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
(b) VIJAY KUMAR
Army sharp shooter Vijay Kumar fought a nerve-wracking battle with five other top marksmen to clinch the silver medal in the men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol event at the Olympic Games.
Vijay Kumar beat back the challenge of world champion Alexei Klimov of Russia, Chinese duo of Ding Feng and Zhang Jian and German Christian Reitz in the 40-shot final to finish runner-up in a thrilling finale behind Cuba’s Leuris Pupo who shot his way to the gold with a world record equalling score of 34.
The 26-year-old Army subedar from Himachal Pradesh found the target 30 times out of 40 attempts in the series comprising eight rounds of five shots each.
( c) GAGAN NARANG
Opening the medals account for India, Gagan Narang won the country its first medal in the London Olympics 2012. Narang bagged a bronze medal in the 10m air rifle event.
Narang has won numerous medals in the ISSF World Cups, World Championship, Commonwealth Games and the ASIAD, besides creating a new world record in 2008.
(d) SAINA NEHWAL
Saina Nehwal gave India its maiden medal in Olympic Games badminton .
Her opponent folded up with a dodgy knee after leading 21-18, 1-0, but Saina was on the threshold of entering the zone from where she might have dominated this bronze playoff, getting her tiring opponent to play long rallies, even as she stumbled, slipped and asked for water breaks.
(e) MARY KOM
India’s star woman boxer MC Mary Kom, fivetime world champion ensured a piece of history for herself and the country by fetching a bronze in the flyweight 51kg category.
“Magnificent Mary”, from Manipur, was the lone Indian in fray when women’s boxing made its Olympic debut in the London Games.
(f) YOGESHWAR DUTT
Yogeshwar Dutt put up a brilliant display of powerpacked freestyle wrestling in the Olympic Games and won a bronze medal.
The 29-year-old experienced grappler from Sonepat in Haryana showed tremendous fighting spirit and exhibited excellent technique against three very strong rivals in the repechage rounds to clinch India’s fifth medal of the Games.
The 2012 Summer Olympics, officially the Games of the XXX Olympiad, and also more generally known as London 2012, was a major international multi-sport event, celebrated in the tradition of the Olympic Games, as governed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), that took place in London, United Kingdom from 27 July to 12 August 2012. The first event, the group stages in women’s football, began two days earlier, on 25 July. More than 10,000 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) participated.
Approximately 4,700 Olympic and Paralympic medals have been produced by the Royal Mint at Llantrisant.They were designed by David Watkins (Olympics) and Lin Cheung (Paralympics). Virtually all the gold, silver and copper was mined in Salt Lake County, Utah in the U.S.Each medal weighs 375–400 g (13.2–14.1 oz), has a diameter of 85 mm (3.34 in) and is 7 mm (0.27 in) thick, with the sport and discipline engraved on the rim.The obverse, as is traditional, features Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, stepping from the Panathinaiko Stadium that hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, with Parthenon in the background; the reverse features the Games logo, the River Thames and a series of lines representing “the energy of athletes and a sense of pulling together”. The medals were transferred to the Tower of London vaults on 2 July 2012 for storage.
Each gold medal is made up of 92.5 percent silver and 1.34 percent gold, with the remainder copper. The silver medal (which represents second place) is made up of 92.5 percent silver, with the remainder copper. The bronze medal is made up of 97 percent copper, 2.5 percent zinc and 0.5 percent tin. The value of the materials in the gold medal is about $644, the silver about $330, and the bronze about $4.71 on the current market.
Around 10,500 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) took part,surpassing the 1948 Summer Olympics in London and the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester as the largest multi-sport event ever to be held in the United Kingdom.
Three athletes from the Netherlands Antilles Olympic Committee, which had its membership withdrawn by the IOC Executive Committee at the IOC session of June 2011, and one athlete from South Sudan, which has no recognized NOC, participated independently under the Olympic flag.
The official mascots for the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games were unveiled on 19 May 2010. Wenlock and Mandeville are animations depicting two drops of steel from a steelworks in Bolton. They are named after the Shropshire town of Much Wenlock, which held a forerunner of the current Olympic Games, and Stoke Mandeville, a village in Buckinghamshire where a forerunner to the Paralympic Games were first held.The writer Michael Morpurgo wrote the story concept to the mascots, and an animation was produced. Two stories have been created about the mascots: Out Of A Rainbow and Adventures On A Rainbow.
India sent its biggest ever contingent for the London Olympics. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on sent 81 athletes in 13 disciplines who representing India at the quadrennial mega-event. India had sent 57 athletes in 12 disciplines for the Beijing Games in 2008.
Parupalli Kashyap also made a mark by becoming the first Indian male to reach the quarterfinal stage of the Olympics in badminton
Krishna Poonia qualified for the final of the women’s discus throw final and Vikas Gowda also did the same in the men’s discus throw. But in the final, Vikas finished 8th and Poonia finished seventh. Poonia could only hurl the discus to a distance of 63.62m, well below her personal best of 64.76m, also a national record. She was subdued throughout the competition. Gowda began on a promising note with a near 65m mark — a 64.79m throw — but eventually fizzled out without any semblance of fight.
The lowest point in archery came when Deepika Kumari, the world number one, crashed out in the very first round of the women’s individual recurve. It was a shocker for the Indian camp.
Indian Hockey team finished at the bottom of the table, at spot 12, not winning even a single match. Never in the history of Indian hockey has a team finished last in the Olympics, an 8th finish in the Atlanta Olympic Games being their worst show before the London debacle.
Boxer Sumit Sangwan, lost a closely contested bout 14–15 against Yamaguchi Falcao Florentino of Brazil in the light heavyweight category – Round of 32. The ESPN commentators described the loss as “daylight robbery.” India’s Chef-de-mission, on the insistence of Sports Minister Ajay Maken, lodged an unsuccessful appeal against the judges’ decision believing he had won.
A win by Vikas Krishan in the welterweight pre-quarters was overturned after an appeal by the opponent Errol Spence. The Indian was given four penalty points and the score was changed from 11–13 to 15–13 in favour of Errol Spence. The decision was overturned citing the nine holding fouls committed by the Indian boxer in the third round and for spitting out the gumshield intentionally. As the jury’s decision was final, no further appeal by the Indians were permitted. India approached the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)but the appeal was rejected.
Boxer Manoj Kumar lost his pre quarter final Light Welterweight bout against Great Britain’s Tom Stalker in a controversial manner. The boxer was at the wrong end of some of the dubious judging calls and he cried “cheating” openly before leaving the boxing arena.
Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa missed out on a badminton – women’s doubles quarterfinal berth by a difference of one point after tying with Japan and Taipei on points. Prior to India’s final group game, the Japanese partnership of Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa lost to Chinese Taipei’s Cheng Wen Hsing and Chien Yu Chin. On behalf of the Badminton Association of India, a protest was lodged saying that the match between Japan and Chinese Taipei was fixed and that Japan had deliberately lost that match in order to have a better draw in the next round. The Indian appeal was turned down.
8 woman badminton players were disqualified from participating for allegedly throwing their games. The eight disqualified players are world doubles champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China and their South Korean opponents Jung Kyung Eun and Kim Ha Na, along with South Korea’s Ha Jung Eun and Kim Min Jung and Indonesia’s Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii.
The Olympic flag reached Rio de Janeiro, which will host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games – a challenge which authorities in Brazil say, the city is prepared to conquer. Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes stepped off a plane carrying the flag, accompanied by Carlos Arthur Nuzman, President of the 2016 Games Organising Committee and Rio Governor Sergio Cabral.
The sun’s atmosphere is an ideal place to study and test many magneto-hydro-dynamic (MHD) processes controlling turbulent plasma. Sadakh, the cold desert in India, will have the world’s largest state-of-the-art solar telescope on the earth soon for this purpose. This National Largest Solar Telescope (NLST) will be set up at high altitude Pongong Tso Lake Merak near Line of Actual Control on the Sino-Indian divide. It will be unique globally because the largest solar telescope, the Mc-Math-Pierce Solar Telescope, in the world at present is 1.6 meters. It is situated in Kitt Peak national Observatory at Arizona in the United States. The NLST will have the reputation of being the world’s largest telescope till 2020. It is expected that a larger telescope may become operational in the US by 2020-2021.
NLST is a Gregorian multi-purpose open telescope. It will be on-axis with the provision of carrying out night time stellar observations using a spectrograph. It will be able to study particles spread across 50 kilometers of the sun. It is expected to resolve features on the sun of the size of about 0.1 arcsec. The focal plane instruments are to include a high resolution polarimetric package to measure polarization with an accuracy of 0.01 %, a high spectral resolution spectrograph to obtain spectra in 5 widely separated absorption lines simultaneously and high spatial resolution narrow band image in various lines.
The telescope will be fitted with a 2 meter reflector which will enable scientists to carry out cutting edge research to understand the fundamental processes taking place on the earth. The design is by an international company which also designed the 1.5 meter telescope located at Tenarife Island in Spain. All the telescope’s instruments will be developed by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) and will be remotely operated through the master control facility at Bangalore. The link will be through a satellite which will be provided by the Indian Satellite Research Organisation (ISRO). Night-time observations will be made using an instrument which will be built in collaboration with the University of Hamburg, Germany.
Scientists will study the sun’s microscopic structure, and long term changes in the earth’s climate and environment. This will provide useful data to carry out research in order to minimize or remove disruptions to communication network and satellite due to periodic solar-winds.
The telescope will address the fundamental question about the nature of solar magnetism. It will aim to resolve flux tubes and measure their strength; address the development of magnetic fields on the sun which are responsible for almost all the observation phenomena on the sun. They include solar dynamo, solar cycle and solar variability that determine and control space weather.
Selection of the Site
To install the telescope, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics studied two other sites-Hanle, Leh and Devasthal near Nainital in Uttarakhand but eventually opted for Merak in Ladakh.The cloudless skies and low atmospheric water vapour have made it one of the best sites in the world for optical, submilimeter and millimeter wavelengths.
The Himalayan regions provide certain atmospheric conditions required for such telescope functioning. It provides a large number of clear hours for making observations with very good visibility. The water vapour in the field is also low which helps making observations in infrared wavelength for high accuracy of magnetic field and velocity measurements. The lake side provides better seeing condition. Because of lake water, there is extremely low water vapor content and this is unaffected by the monsoon.
The NLST project is a major multi-party initiative involving IIA, ISRO, Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and Inter University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA). The project will involve an investment of over Rs 250 crore, most of which will go in procuring equipment.
The Western Ghats is a mountain range that runs along the western side of India.
It runs, about 1600 kms, North to South, along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau.
It is one of the eight hottest hotspots of biological diversity in the world.
It originates near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, and runs through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, finally ending at Kanyakumari.
These hills cover a total area of 160,000 square kms.
The average elevation is about 1,200 m (3,900 ft).
The region is home to over 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species and 179 amphibian species.
It is also reported that the Western Ghats is home to at least 84 amphibian species, 16 bird species, seven mammals, and 1,600 flowering plants which are not found elsewhere in the world.
There are numerous protected areas designated by the Government of India in the Western Ghats. They include two bio reserves and thirteen National Parks.
The Nilagiri Biosphere Reserve that comprises 5500 square kms of evergreen and deciduous forests forms an important part of the Western Ghats.
The Silent Valley National Park in Kerala, which forms part of the Western Ghats, is one among the last tracts of virgin tropical evergreen forest in India.
In August, 2011, the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) designated the entire Western Ghats as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA). The panel also assigned three levels of ecological sensitivity to its different regions.
In 2012, thirty nine places in the Western Ghats region have been declared as World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO.
The twin quakes on 11.08.2012, measuring 6.4 and 6.3 on the moment magnitude scale, flattened hundreds of hamlets in Iran’s mountainous northwest, near the city of Tabriz.
As of 12.08.2012, the earthquake death toll is about 306. Health Minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi told a session of parliament that the number jumped by about 50 after victims expired in the hospital. More than 3,000 people were injured in the twin earthquakes that struck two days ago, she added in comments broadcast on state radio.
In one hamlet visited by AP Television News near the village of Bajeh Baj, 13 miles west of one of the epicenters, furniture peeked out from under piles of bricks and collapsed roof timbers while men sorted through debris, trying to salvage what little was left of their households.
Residents say the earthquake killed 35 people living in the simple dwellings surrounded by mountains. Dried earth was left split wide open from the force of the shock, which cut some houses in two and left the wall of one standing only where it was propped up by a refrigerator.
The death toll included some 219 women and children, Dastjerdi said, adding that around 2,000 injured people had been released from hospitals soon after the quake since they had only minor injuries.
Dastjerdi said her ministry has deployed scores of ambulances and medics to the region but still needs helicopters to transfer seriously injured people quickly.
Authorities say old, heavy roofs without frames were largely responsible for the death toll in the rural areas.
Scores of aftershocks have coursed through the region since the 6.4 and 6.3 magnitude quakes hit the area, home to some 300,000 people in a 2,300-square-mile (6,000-square-kilometer) borderland near Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The quakes hit the towns of Ahar, Haris and Varzaqan in East Azerbaijan province. At least 12 villages were totally leveled, and 425 others sustained damage ranging from 50 to 80 percent, state TV and news agencies reported.
Many roads and other infrastructure were heavily damaged. State TV showed relief workers distributing tents and helping survivors, mainly in rural areas.
Iran is located on seismic fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. In 2003, some 26,000 people were killed by a 6.6 magnitude quake that flattened the historic southeastern city of Bam.
Iran rejects US aid
Iran has rejected on 15.08.2012, a United States offer of aid for survivors of deadly earthquakes which struck villages in its north-west, saying the offer was not made in “good faith”.
However, the head of the interior ministry’s crisis management organisation, Hassan Ghadami, told local media Iran had declined aid offers.
“Iran did not accept the US offer for sending humanitarian aid for quake survivors,” he said.
“We do not believe the US put forward the offer in good faith. We are currently having a medicine supply crisis because of sanctions.
“Do us a favour and lift the sanctions.”
Iran’s response underlined what it saw as US hypocrisy, given that Washington this year has done all it can to isolate Tehran, by imposing economic sanctions.
Although Iran’s Red Crescent said it had rejected other offers of aid from Germany, Taiwan and Russia, media reports say humanitarian cargoes from a handful of countries, including Qatar, Pakistan, Switzerland and Azerbaijan, have arrived.
The US stressed that Americans had ways of sending assistance to Iran for the quake, despite the sanctions.
The US and Iran have no diplomatic relations and have been involved in a tense diplomatic standoff for decades, most recently over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Department of Telecommunications had adopted the international EMF norms in the year 2008 in respect of mobile towers prescribed by International Commission on non Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). The ICNIRP guidelines are being followed by a number of countries in the world.
Many Countries, mostly developed Countries have developed their own health based precautionary guidelines where the exposure limit of these radiations is very low.
As per the recommendations of Inter Ministerial Committee on EMF Radiation, the radio frequency emission level exposure limits have been revised to 1/10th of the existing prescribed base station emission level which will be effective from 01.09.2012.
MOEF I Advisory on use of Mobile Towers in a to Minimize their Impacts on wildlife
An Expert Committee to Study the possible Impacts of Communication Towers on Wildlife including Birds and Bees was constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India on 30th August 2010. The report of the expert committee has been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The review of the available scientific information by the Expert Committee in the report indicates that the Electro-Magnetic Radiations (EMR) interfere with the biological systems. On the basis of the report of the Expert Committee and subsequent deliberations with the stakeholders, a list of actions to be undertaken by various agencies involved in providing, regulating, and dealing in any other manner with, the EMR based services, has been prepared Main objective of the listed actions is to avoid and mitigate the impacts of EMR. The Ministry of Environment and Forests accordingly has requested the concerned Departments, State Governments, user agencies, and the public at large to take following actions:
Ministry of Environment and Forests:
The Electro Magnetic Radiations from the communication towers may have varying negative impacts on wildlife especially birds and bees. Accordingly, the information on the impacts related to different forms of wildlife as well as humans, should be provided to the concerned agencies for regulating the norms for notification of standards for safe limits of EMR taking into consideration the impacts on living beings.
Regular auditing and monitoring of EMR should be conducted in urban localities/educational/hospital/industrial/residential/recreational premises and especially around the Protected Areas (PAs) and ecologically sensitive areas w.r.t. notified norms of Department of Telecommunications. Problematic towers from EMR point of view should be got suitably relocated/removed.
Bold signs and messages on the dangers of cell phone towers and associated radiations are displayed in and around the structures of the towers. In addition to these signs, use of visual daytime markers in areas of high diurnal raptor or waterfowl movements, should also be promoted.
Before according permission for construction of towers, ecological impact assessment and review of installation sites will be essential in wildlife and/or ecologically important areas. The Forest Department should be consulted before installation of cell phone towers in and around Pas and zoos.
State Environment and Forest Departments:
Regular awareness drive with high level of visibility through all forms of media, and in regional languages should be undertaken by the State Governments and concerned Departments to make people aware about various norms and standards with regard to cell phone towers and dangers of EMR from the same. Such notices should also be placed in all wildlife protected areas and zoos by the Forest Department.
Department of Telecommunications:
To prevent overlapping of high radiation fields, new towers should not be permitted within a radius of one kilometre of the existing towers. Sharing of passive infrastructure if made mandatory for Telecom Service Providers can minimize need of having additional towers. If new towers must be built, these should be constructed with utmost care and precautions so as not to obstruct flight path of birds, and also not to increase the combined radiations from all towers in the area.
2. The location and frequencies of cell phone towers and other towers emitting EMR, should be made available in public domain. This can be at city/district/village level. Location-wise GIS mapping of all cell phone towers should be maintained which would, inter alia, help in monitoring the population of birds and bees in and around the mobile towers and also in and/or around wildlife protected areas.
3. There is an urgent need to refine the Indian standard on safe limits of exposure to EMR, keeping in view the available literature on impacts on various life forms. Till such time the Indian standards are reformed, a precautionary approach shall be preferred to minimize the exposure levels and adopt stricter norms possible, without compromising on optimum performance of the networks.
All concerned agencies:
1. Security lighting for on-ground facilities should be minimized, and as far as possible, point downwards or be down-shielded to avoid bird hits.
2. Any study conducted on impact of EMF radiation on wildlife needs to be shared with Forest Department and Department of Telecommunications to facilitate appropriate policy formulations.
This information was given by Shri Harish Rawat, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing Industries in written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on 14.08.2012.
In order to address the constraints limiting the productivity of rice based cropping systems in eastern India, the Government launched a programme namely `Bringing Green Revolution in Eastern India (BGREI)` during the year 2010-11. It is a sub scheme of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and is being implemented in seven States viz. Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Eastern Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
The focused interventions under the programme through cluster demonstrations on improved technologies for different agro-ecological conditions of States are the integral part of the programme for reducing the yield gap. The production of rice increased substantially during 2011-12 over the previous years in majority of the States except Assam, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The maximum increase was recorded in Jharkhand followed by Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
For the inclusive growth and increasing food production and thereby controlling food inflation, several crop based programmes like National Food Security Mission (NFSM), Macro Management Mode of Agriculture (MMA), Integrated Scheme of Oilseeds, Pulses, Oil palm & Maize (ISOPOM), Initiative for Nutritional Security through Intensive Millets Promotion (INSIMP) – a sub scheme of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) are implemented in the country. Besides, Government of India is also implementing Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) in the country to enhance investment in agriculture sector by the States so as to rejuvenate agricultural sector and achieve 4% annual growth.
The National Development Council (NDC), in its meeting held on 29th May, 2007 resolved that a special Additional Central Assistance Scheme (RKVY) be launched. The NDC resolved that agricultural development strategies must be reoriented to meet the needs of farmers and called upon the Central and State governments to evolve a strategy to rejuvenate agriculture.
Basic features of RKVY
The RKVY aims at achieving 4% annual growth in the agriculture sector during the XI Plan period, by ensuring a holistic development of Agriculture and allied sectors. The main objectives of the scheme are:
To incentivise the states so as to increase public investment in Agriculture and allied sectors.
To provide flexibility and autonomy to states in the process of planning and executing Agriculture and allied sector schemes.
To ensure the preparation of agriculture plans for the districts and the states based on agro-climatic conditions, availability of technology and natural resources.
To ensure that the local needs/crops/priorities are better reflected in the agricultural plans of the states.
To achieve the goal of reducing the yield gaps in important crops, through focused interventions.
To maximize returns to the farmers in Agriculture and allied sectors.
To bring about quantifiable changes in the production and productivity of various components of Agriculture and allied sectors by addressing them in a holistic manner.
Choeyang Kyi, the first Tibetan athlete to compete in the Olympic Games made history by winning the bronze medal in London. . 21 year old Kyi, reported to be a member of the Communist Party, was reluctant to be drawn into sensitive political questions surrounding Tibet following her race,
Her bronze medal win, in the women’s 20 km walk competition, was also greeted by the unprecedented sight of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) national flag and the Tibetan snow-lion flag – which is banned in China and a popular symbol of the independence movement – flying side by side, perhaps for the first time in modern history.
Both Chinese fans and the Tibetan exile community in London, whose members have often criticised the Chinese government’s policies, cheered Kyi’s win. Chinese supporters yelled “Jia You” – a sporting chant that is an equivalent of “Come on!” – while Tibetans cheered “Gyuk!” or “Go on.”
“I’m extremely honored to take part as the first representative of the Tibetans at the Olympic Games and to win a medal,” Choeyang said. She finished 14 seconds behind Russia’s Elena Lashmanova who set a world record at 1 hour, 25 minutes, 2 seconds.
Her success as China’s first Tibetan athlete has also triggered calls for China to provide more support to its 55 minority groups, whose members are rarely represented in national sports teams, which are dominated by the majority Han Chinese population.
Kyi’s success story is a remarkable one, beginning on the cold grasslands of the Tibetan plateau. Born in a family of herders, Kyi grew up in a predominantly Tibetan town in the Qinghai prefecture of Haibei, which sits along the northern shores of the Qinghai Lake.
No credits to China
“As an individual, we wish her well,” Dicki Chhoyang, Kalon for information and international relations of the Central Tibetan Administration, told in an interview. “She must have put in a lot of effort to reach there. But we are sad that she cannot represent a free Tibet.”
“China uses things like this for their political gain. The fact that a Tibetan is participating in the Olympics does not take away anything from the dire situation prevailing inside Tibet,” Kalon Dicki Chhoyang added.
Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), Government of India has launched a special scheme (July 2012) named Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana (MGPSY) for overseas Indian migrant workers. The scheme aims to encourage, enable and assist the overseas Indian migrant workforce to voluntarily save for their return and resettlement and for their old age.An estimated 5 million Indian Nationals with ECR (Emigration Check Required) passports are working on temporary employment/contract visas in the Gulf Countries. It is observed that a majority of the earnings periodically remitted by overseas Indian workers to their families in India are rarely accumulated as savings and often cause only a temporary improvement in the consumption expenditure of their families. As a result majority of overseas Indian workers face the risk of poverty when they return to India and when they are too old to work.
Overseas Indian workers are largely excluded from formal social security benefits available to residents of ECR countries. The Government of India has demonstrated a sustained and deep commitment to inclusive growth and has taken a number of important steps to improve income and provide employment opportunities and equal access to social security for its citizens. However there has been no mechanism as yet to overseas Indian workers to benefit from such policy initiatives.
In this context the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), has introduced a special social security scheme named Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana (MGPSY) for overseas India workers in ECR Countries. The scheme named after Mahatma Gandhi, is a voluntary scheme aims to encourage and enable the workers to meet their three major needs. It helps them to save for their pension in old age through NPS-Lite (National Pension Scheme); save for their return and resettlement and obtain free cost of life insurance cover, Ministry will also co-contribute under this scheme for a period of five years or till the return of workers to India, whichever is earlier.
Pension in Old Age
The scheme will help the worker to save for their old age. Old age savings will be managed by credible public sector pension funds. While a worker save between Rs.1000 to Rs.12000 in his/her pension account they will get a co-contribution of Rs.1000 in case of male and Rs.2000 in case of female in the NPS-Lite account from Ministry.
Return and Resettlement (R&R ) Saving
To address the immediate monitory need of the worker on his return back to India, the scheme provides an option in the form of R&R saving. The scheme will help to save money over a period of time to cover the resettlement expenses in the short term. While the worker invest Rs.4000 in this scheme they will also get a Ministry co-contribution of Rs.900 in their R&R account.
An overseas Indian worker enrolled in this scheme would be provided with a free cost life insurance cover and applicable as long as they are working in ECR country.
Ministry’s Co-contribution to MGPSY
If a worker contribute Rs.5000 per year, then the Ministry’s Co-contribution will be Rs.3000 in case of female worker and Rs.2000 in case of male worker for the whole scheme. Ministry co-contribution is subjected to subscriber making necessary contribution to the scheme. This co-contribution will be applicable for a minimum period of 5 years or for the period of employment whichever is earlier.
Overseas Indian workers with ECR passports and aged between 18 and 50 years on an employment/contract visa are eligible to join the scheme. The Ministry has authorized the Life Insurance Corporation of India and Bank of Baroda to deliver the scheme to eligible overseas Indian workers. Bank of Baroda and LIC will assist eligible to open MGPSY accounts and will deliver a range of services to subscribers.
A secure and well regulated institutional framework has been designed to encourage, enable and assist overseas Indian workers to participate in this Scheme. In order to motivate broad-based voluntary enrolments, encourage regular savings and pension accumulations of overseas Indian Workers.
An estimated 5 million Indian Nationals with ECR (Emigration Check Required) passports are working on temporary employment/contract visas in the Gulf Countries. It is observed that a majority of the earnings periodically remitted by overseas Indian workers to their families in India are rarely accumulated as savings and often cause only a temporary improvement in the consumption expenditure of their families. As a result majority of overseas Indian workers face the risk of poverty when they return to India and when they are too old to work.
Overseas Indian workers are largely excluded from formal social security benefits available to residents of ECR countries. The Government of India has demonstrated a sustained and deep commitment to inclusive growth and has taken a number of important steps to improve income and provide employment opportunities and equal access to social security for its citizens. However there has been no mechanism as yet to overseas Indian workers to benefit from such policy initiatives.
In this context the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), has introduced a special social security scheme named Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana (MGPSY) for overseas India workers in ECR Countries. The scheme named after Mahatma Gandhi, is a voluntary scheme aims to encourage and enable the workers to meet their three major needs. It helps them to save for their pension in old age through NPS-Lite (National Pension Scheme); save for their return and resettlement and obtain free cost of life insurance cover, Ministry will also co-contribute under this scheme for a period of five years or till the return of workers to India, whichever is earlier.
About UTI Mutual Fund
UTI Mutual Fund is a SEBI registered mutual fund whose Sponsors are State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Bank of Baroda and Life Insurance Corporation of India.
UTI Mutual Fund is one of the largest mutual fund in India with investor accounts of more than 10 million under its 89 domestic schemes / plans as on June 30, 2012.
A private firm engaged in emu farming in Chennai, TN has been charged with cheating investors of their promised monthly returns.
EMU is an Australian national Bird healthy and zero Cholesterol food. These EMU Birds Foods can be availed at market leading price.
Emu stand from 5 to 6 feet in height with black and white stripes and can weigh up to 150 lbs when mature. Emus normally attain their full height within 12 months. Emus have been known to live in excess of 30 years.
Females often start laying eggs when they are 2-3 years old. When fully mature productive females may lay in excess of 60 eggs a year but the average is 25-30 with a reproductive cycle starting at 2 years of age can create an abundance of birds in a very short span of time. The normally dark green eggs are laid every 3 days (on average) during the winter and early spring months. Eggs average about 500-700 grams (1.1 to 1.5 lbs), but it is not unheard of to have eggs less than 300 grams (.6 lbs) or larger than 1000 (2.2 lbs). When fertile, it takes about 2 months to hatch an emu egg. Males do the majority of the hatching and rearing of the chicks, as the females tend to live very nomadic lives. Females often are the more aggressive of the species, which is why it is most common to see emus kept in pairs, although trios (1 male and 2 females) are not uncommon when the females have been raised together.
Mr. Guru, M.D of Susi emu firm and seven others of the firm have been booked under Sections 420 (cheating) and 120B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, based on written complaints from five investors. The complainants claimed that they had invested in the commercial emu farming schemes of the firm, which assured monthly returns. But, the payments dried up recently and requests were not answered.
The police launched a detailed investigation following the complaints. Deputy Superintendent of Police K. Gunasekaran, who heads the investigation, said that investors were turning up at the firm’s head office at Perundurai, claiming that they did not receive their monthly payments. “The owner of the firm is absconding.”
On 7.98.2012, more than 2,000 persons who had invested in the firm gathered in front of the head office and claimed that they had not received their monthly payments. They alleged that the firm had collected a huge sum as deposits from them promising staggering returns on their investment. But, it had failed to return their money.
The district administration launched a probe under the Tamil Nadu Protection of Interests of Depositors (in Financial Establishments) Act. A team of revenue officials led by District Revenue Officer S. Ganesh inspected the firm’s premises
In 2006, M.S. Guru, hailing from Perundurai, founded Susi Emu Farms and introduced a buy-back scheme that promised lucrative returns on investment in contract emu farming. For an initial investment of Rs. 1.5 lakh, he promised a return of Rs. 3.34 lakhs within two years. Under the scheme, the company provided investors three pairs of chicks on the payment of Rs. 1.5 lakh as caution deposit. It also provided the infrastructure to rear the birds and offered Rs. 6,000 a month for the maintenance of the birds, besides a yearly bonus of Rs. 20,000. Thus, the investor was offered around Rs. 1.44 lakh. As per the scheme, the company would take back the birds after two years and return the deposit too. When word got out that Susi Emu Farms made prompt payments, the investments poured in; in no time the company’s presence spread all over Tamil Nadu.
Soon after, the firm introduced a VIP scheme, taking advantage of the lack of awareness among people about the birds. Under this scheme, the investor had to deposit Rs. 1.5 lakh. But unlike the regular scheme, the firms promised to rear the chicks and pay the investors Rs. 7,000 a month and an annual bonus of Rs. 20,000.
The success of Mr. Guru’s business model led to the mushrooming of emu firms, which advertised heavily in the Tamil media. Some even promised a return of Rs. 2 lakh a month for an investment of Rs. 10 lakh.
Oblivious to the fact that there are no processing facilities for products derived from emus, the investors bought these firms’s claims that they exported emu meat and that everything from an emu was marketable. Many firms reportedly even engaged in trading of birds among themselves instead of marketing the emu meat, oil and skin (for leather).
Sensing that something was wrong, the Erode district administration issued repeated warnings asking people not to fall for the tempting offers from these firms. “We have warned the investors on several occasions. But, lured by the get-rich-quick schemes, they failed to see the warning signs,” Collector V.K. Shanmugam said.
The bubble burst when Susi Emu Farms failed to pay the monthly maintenance fee to the investors. After waiting for some time, the investors made a beeline for the firm’s office in Perundurai.
On August 6, 2012 Mr. Guru and his entire family disappeared. Others in the business followed suit, abandoning scores of investors and the birds.
India is recognised as one of the mega-diverse countries, rich in biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge. With just 2.4% of the land area, India accounts for nearly 7% of the recorded species even while supporting almost 18% of human population. India has a long history of conservation and sustainable use of natural resources and is a party to many international environmental conventions including UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The current decade (2011-2020) has been declared as United Nations Decade on Biodiversity and United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification. With India hosting the 11th meeting of Conference of the Parties (CoP-11) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), during 8-19 October 2012 in Hyderabad, it is an opportune time to showcase the wide array of biodiversity in the country, the threats to this rich biodiversity and the conservation measures adopted thereof.
This CoP-11 assumes immense importance considering that it is being held in the 40th anniversary year of Stockholm Conference, 20th anniversary year of Rio Earth Summit and 10th anniversary year of World Sustainable Summit held in 2002. This would also be the first CoP in the UN Decade on Biodiversity.
Science Express – Biodiversity Special (SEBS)
In an effort to create widespread awareness on the unique biodiversity of the country, Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), in a unique partnership with Department of Science & Technology (DST) has launched a special exhibition train- ‘Science Express Biodiversity Special (SEBS)’ that will cover over 100 stations in two years of running across the country in two phases.
‘Science Express’, a train rake with 16 air-conditioned coaches was originally custom-made for DST by Indian Railways. Since 30 October 2007, when it was flagged off by the Prime Minister of India and German Chancellor, DST organised four tours across India, the last one culminating on 16 June 2011.
Of the 16 coaches of the Science Express- Biodiversity Special, eight are solely dedicated to showcasing the myriad biodiversity spread across the bio-geographical zones. These include the Trans-Himalaya & the Himalayas, the Gangetic Plains, North East India, the Desert & Semi-Arid Zone, the Western Ghats, the Deccan Peninsula, the Coasts & Islands. These eight coaches also focus on range of Biological diversity, critically endangered species (IUCN Red list), biodiversity hotspots, domesticated biodiversity (agriculture, animal husbandry), biodiversity & livelihoods, bio-culture; threats/challenges (climate change, other anthropogenic), conservation measures, success stories & unique experiences. The exhibition also covers various other facets like marine, coastal, forest, microbial, agro biodiversity and their linkage with livelihoods besides challenges of conservation.
In the rest of the rake, three coaches have exhibits on Climate Change, Energy and Water conservation. The legacy of ‘Science Express’ showcasing the most popular exhibits from the previous four phases has been exhibited in another coach. A conference room-cum-training facility is also provided in that coach, primarily for the purpose of capacity building of teachers.
Science Express- Biodiversity Special (SEBS) was flagged off on 5 June 2012 from Delhi Safdarjung by Smt. Sheila Dixit, Chief Minister of Delhi and Smt. Jayanti Natarajan, Minister of State (I/C), (MoEF). The ongoing phase will culminate in Gandhinagar on 22 December 2012. During this tour, the train will be stationed at Secunderabad during 9-19 October 2012 so that the COP delegates and dignitaries from about 190 countries are able to experience the rich biodiversity of our country.
Since its launch on 5 June 2012 and till 31 July 2012, this only-of-its-kind train has made halts of 3-4 days duration each at 16 locations in the Eastern and North Eastern India and over 6 lakh visitors, mostly students and teachers have been able to enjoy the interesting and informative exhibits. The SEBS has got overwhelming response, and the purpose of creating wide spread awaress on Biodiversity issue is being served quite well. The train is now on its onward journey to Southern, Western and Northern India and will eventually travel almost 18,000 km in the first phase to cover 52 locations. The exhibition is expected to be visited by more than 15 lakh visitors but indirectly it is likely to engage over 50 lakh people.
Wherever the train travels, activities have been planned before hand to engage visitors across different age groups to reinforce the message of SEBS and specific Outreach Programme are conducted at local schools and institutions associated with the National Environment Awareness Programme (NEAC) and National Green Corps (NGC) of MoEF and associate & partners of DST. In addition, a variety of informative take-away material is made available for wider distribution among visitors.
The train reflects the dedication, diligence and dynamism of the knowledge partners who have contributed immensely to bring forth the essence of ‘biodiversity’ and conservation practices as well as issues of ‘climate change’ in our country. Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre (VASCSC) and Centre for Environment Education (CEE), Ahmedabad along with the lead knowledge partners. Bombay Natural History Society, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, G. B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, National Museum of Natural History, Wildlife Institute of India and Wildlife Trust of India, and several others have contributed to give final touches to this unique exhibition on wheel. HSBC, the Swiss Embassy, Nestle, PCRA and Indus Towers have supported some of the exhibits and complementary activities.
The earthquake hazard assessment study carried out for the proposed nuclear power plant at Jaitapur in Maharashtra has notable flaws, eminent geophysicist Vinod K. Gaur said here on 10.08.2012.
Professor Gaur of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, said the site investigation work had several weaknesses including geotechnical findings with ambiguous implications. The study neglected crucial observations relating to seismicity, he said delivering the 11th C. Karunakaran endowment lecture organised by the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS).
“The absence of seismicity in Jaitapur in the past century is erroneously interpreted to infer that no seismicity will occur in the future. The fallacy of this argument lies in the recognition that the same claim could have been made for both the Koyna and Latur regions before they experienced massive earthquakes of magnitude above 6 on the Richter scale.”
The Jaitapur plant was claimed to have no active faults within five km, ignoring the fact that the National Institute of Oceanography mapped offshore faults that had disturbed recent submarine sediments within three km of the site. “The Vijaydurg fault, a 35-km onshore fault at the base of the Jaitapur terrace, is classified as inactive, yet no seismic evidence is presented to indicate when this fault last slipped. No trenching of the fault was considered necessary and no estimate of the earthquake magnitude that could occur on this fault has been attempted. There has been no attempt to map the offshore extent of the fault.”
Professor Gaur also questioned the claim of immunity of the site to a tsunami. Observing that what appeared a major tsunami occurred in 1524, 100 km north of Jaitapur, possibly caused by offshore faulting or a distant earthquake, he said the study offered no discussion of the potential tsunami threat faced by the plant.
The nuclear establishment had avoided a discussion on seismic safety, he said. “The Nuclear Power Corporation of India has invoked the expert opinion of three notable seismologists to endorse the safety of the Jaitapur site. Seismologists who might have other views on the issue are intimidated and silenced.” He pointed out that U.S. geologist Roger Bilham, who authored a paper on the seismicity of the Jaitapur region, was banned from entering India.
Professor Gaur said it was intriguing that high resolution seismic, palaeoseismic studies and submarine mapping of offshore faults were missing from the investigations aimed at ensuring safe design of the plant. “That a plea is necessary to ask for transparency in scientific analysis of issues crucial to societal well-being is a tragic commentary on the democratic character of a society.”
Nearly 1,600 farmers and fisherfolk on June 2012 protested at Madban and Sakhri Nate in Ratnagiri district against the Jaitapur nuclear power plant.
No arrest was made, but police detained 22 activists, including Rajan Salvi, MLA, for violating the curfew order.
There was tension in the area throughout the day, even as the protest fizzled out at the actual Jaitapur plant site where only around 100 local farmers, including women, gathered to protest against the forcible land acquisition and to till the land they lost to the project.
Nearly 1,500 fisherfolk protested at Sakhri Nate village to show solidarity with the farmers of Madban and Mithgavane who lost their land to the project.
Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant
Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant derived its name From Jaitapur lighthouse which is mentioned in many international maps. Government of India has decided to promote nuclear power at a large scale in view of rapidly rising demand for electricity, limited and depleting fossil resources, environmentally benign and safe nature of nuclear power etc. Accordingly, Government of India accorded its sanction in October 2005 to set up the Nuclear Power Plant at Jaitapur besides three other locations.
Technical and Economic Reasons for Selection of Jaitapur Site
The Site Selection Committee recommended setting up a nuclear power plant at Jaitapur, based on the suitability of meeting criteria like which include availability of land vs. population density, available source of cooling water , seismicity, safe-grade elevation at site (flood analysis etc), environment aspects and proper access for transportation of heavy/over-dimensional equipment to plant site. Along with these conditions and based on some other considerations the Government approved Jaitapur site for the establishment of the NPP.
The site selection for is carried out by the Site Selection Committee, notified by the Government of India which selects site for setting up a nuclear power plant, revied various parameters as per the requirements laid down in the code of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and the laid-down criteria.
The Jaitapur site is not considered earthquake-prone. As per seismic zoning map of Government of India, Jaitapur site falls within zone III.
As per the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) codal requirement, there should not be any active fault within 5 km radius from the proposed site of an NPP. Further, based on the studies carried out by various government institutes/ organisations, there is no active fault found up to 30 km radius from JNPP site. Hence, the site is not considered earthquake-prone. This is to further confirm that based on the available data of seismicity prevailing in the geographical region, all the structures, buildings and equipments of JNPP would be designed to qualify the “ground motion acceleration”
Benefits of the Project
The benefits of project are-
i) The project will augment electricity generation in the country, in a benign and environment-friendly way, which is the need of the hour.
ii) Development of areas around project site.
iii) Direct and indirect employment opportunities.
iv) Contribution of National Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) in social and community development of surrounding areas, especially nearby villages, in the field of education, health and infrastructure facilities.
Generation Capacity of JNPP
One unit of 1650 MWe plant operating at full capacity shall generate 36-39 million units per day. Presently, generation capacity of six units is 1650 MWe capacity each. Evolutionary Pressurised Reactors (EPR) from AREVA, France is under consideration of the Government of India.
Number of Reactor Units
There will be six reactor units of 1650 MWe each at JNPP. The distance between each adjacent reactor unit is planned to be 250-300 meters.
Completion of Project
5 to 6 months’ time is required to declare commercial operation after completion of construction. The time required for completion of each unit is approximately six years from the start date. Approximately all the six units of 1650 MWe each will be constructed in a twin-unit mode in phased manner and implemented in a period of 15-18 years.
Life Span of Each Plant
The guaranteed life of the proposed plant is 60 years.
Type of Fuel
This plant will be “PWR-type”, based on enriched uranium fuel. Irrespective of the fuel type, all the safety guidelines based on International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)/Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) regulations are strictly adhered to by NPCIL to ensure that there is no adverse effect on environment, health and life of people through air, sea and land as a result of the operation of the NPP.The uranium will be supplied by AREVA, France, which will be also supplying the reactor units.
Source of Fresh Water
The fresh water requirement of the plant units and the proposed residential complex of JNPP will be met from a desalination plant facility installed by (NPCIL).
Some 350 Hindu families have now entered India, perhaps fearing religious persecution in Pakistan.
Over 200 Hindu families were allowed to cross into Amristar on 10.08.2012 on their scheduled pilgrimage after a brief detention by Pakistani authorities in Lahore following reports that they were planning to migrate to India to escape from abductions and attacks on their businesses in Upper Sindh.
Though such pilgrimages to temples in India are an annual affair around this time of the year, they caught the media eye this year because of the spate of attacks on members of the Hindu community in Upper Sindh. Several members of the community in Jacobabad are said to have shut shop, sold their properties and moved out of the Upper Sindh district in recent months for fear of their daughters being kidnapped and forcibly converted.
According to the vice-chairman of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (Sindh chapter), Amarnath, 50 per cent of the Hindu community in Upper Sindh have moved out — most of them to the melting pot of Karachi and some to other countries.
After the “exodus” from Jacobabad made it to the Sindhi papers, it was picked up by the national media and became an issue over the past 24 hours with Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Thursday night claiming it was a conspiracy and that the Indian High Commission should explain why so many visas had been issued.
However, various Hindu community leaders maintained that this was “yatra season” and people went on the pilgrimage in large groups.
“They are all going on a short-stay visa for pilgrimage or to meet their families. Whether they will all return is not certain,”’ Mr. Amarnath told, claiming that over the past three years 3,000 families have moved to India. Last year 300 families had gone to India on pilgrimage and 60 of them stayed back.
While Hindus and other minorities in Sindh have always had it better than their counterparts elsewhere in the country, they have of late become targets; primarily because of a degree of prosperity among some sections of the community.
This has made them easy prey for the Wadheras (feudal lords) of the province. Ironically, the Wadheras who have been giving the community maximum grief owe allegiance to the Pakistan People’s Party, which is said to be the most minority-friendly of all political organisations of Pakistan. Hindus who participated in various television talk shows over the past 24 hours said the Wadheras were targeting them primarily to get them to leave their areas so that their properties can be taken over.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari has called for a report on the situation and civil society members agitated by reports of Hindus fleeing their country sought to mobilise support for them and petition the Supreme Court but this was of little consolation to a community which feels let down by the superior judiciary in the Rinkle Kumari case.
Another batch of 115 Hindu families crossed over into India from the foot crossing point at Wagah in Lahore on 11.0 m.2012 morning as the government observed Minorities Day to commemorate founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s ‘August 11′ speech in which he said “religion or caste or creed… has nothing to do with the business of the State”.
President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday night set up a three-member committee of parliamentarians to visit the areas of Sindh from where Hindus are said to be fleeing. His party’s all-inclusive policy credentials are under question now in the wake of several attacks on minorities and smaller Muslim sects including Shias.
In his message on Minorities Day, Mr. Zardari said: “As the Quiad-e-Azam once said that Pakistan symbolises also the aspirations of a nation which found itself in a minority in the Indian sub-continent. We therefore cannot be unmindful of hopes and fears of minorities in the country. We cannot be oblivious of our responsibility to continue making efforts for bringing into the main stream of national life peoples of all faiths and allay their concerns about their rights and privileges as guaranteed by our religion and the Constitution.’’
While the Indian pilgrimage of Hindus has drawn considerable attention because of the fear that they are migrating, the economic slowdown in the country due to the security situation and energy crisis has resulted in many people seeking greener pastures. Industrialists are taking their businesses elsewhere and recently the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa Government said boys from Chitral along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border were joining the Afghan National Army.
Rinkle Kumari Issue – May 2012
Faryal Bibi formerly Rinkle Kumari is a 19 year Pakistani girl and a student, who was kidnapped and allegedly forced to converted from Hinduism to Islam and marry Muslim Naveed Shah.
Her case was appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court of Pakistan and generated widespread news interest & talk shows. In the Supreme Court of Pakistan, she was sent to a shelter to make up her mind.
Chief Justice sent them to the Registrar Office after relatives tried to influence the girls in the courtroom. The bench observed that since the girls were adult, they could decide their future. This event was despite Rinkle Kumari’s open shrieking on camera and in court against being taken to a shelter, as she insisted on being returned to her mother.
Though the three women — Rinkle Kumari, Lata and Asha — were allowed to choose according to their free will by the court, their relatives and civil rights activists alleged that injustice had been done to them as they chose to go with the men they were married to out of coercion.
S.M.Krishna’s reaction to the forcible conversion issue
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna appealed to Pakistan to protect the constitutional rights of its minorities by ensuring their safety, security and wellbeing.
He hoped that Islamabad would discharge its constitutional duties towards its minority communities in view of the purely humanitarian nature of this issue.
The Minister was making a statement in the Lok Sabha regarding the alleged ill-treatment of Hindus — particularly women — in Pakistan, an issue that was raised by senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi on May 2, 2012 in the House.
He said though the 1972 India-Pakistan Shimla Agreement specifically provided for non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, “nevertheless, based on the reports of persecution of minority groups in Pakistan, India has taken up the matter with Pakistan in the past.” Pakistan had said that it was fully cognisant of the situation and looked after the welfare of all its citizens, particularly the minorities.
After encountering several road blocks and witnessing one of the fiercest farmers’ agitations over compensation of land in 2010 and 2011 that led to a police firing in which about half-a-dozen people were killed, the 165.537 km-long Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway was inaugurated by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav via video-link on 10.08.2012.
At the Noida end, the formalities were completed by Samajwadi Party national general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav. He flagged off vehicles on the six-lane, access-controlled expressway, on which one can travel from Delhi to Agra in two to three hours instead of four to five hours. Vehicles can move at a speed of 120 kilometres per hour.
The expressway, developed by Jaiparakash Associates, billed as the longest access controlled expressway in the country.
The project was conceptualised in 2003 and it took nine years to develop it. It has three main toll plazas and six inter changes.
Mr. Akhilesh Yadav put an end to speculations over the fate of the other expressway in the State — the 1047-km-long Ballia-Noida Ganga Expressway, saying the Samajwadi Party was not in favour of constructing it. The Ganga Expressway project was embroiled in controversy since it was awarded to the group in 2007 with land acquisition and environmental clearance not coming through making the project a non-starter. The CM also said that Jaypee Infratech will not be allowed to charge any toll on the Noida-Greater Noida expressway that the company had built earlier
The project, launched in December 2008, was the former Chief Minister, Mayawati’s most ambitious scheme.
In 2010 and 2011, the Yamuna Expressway, previously called the Taj Expressway, had become synonymous with farmers’ politics in western Uttar Pradesh as farmers launched an agitation demanding more compensation for the land they sacrificed for the project. The long-drawn agitation spread across Gautam Buddha Nagar, Aligarh and Agra districts, with Tappal, Jikarpur and Bhatta Parsaul emerging as the nerve centres of the agitation.
As the Mayawati government fought back, the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party went on an overdrive to take advantage of the situation.
Mr. Akhilesh Yadav recalled the situation and spoke of the cycle yatra he had undertaken to express solidarity with the agitating farmers of Bhatta-Parsaul and Tappal.
While the farmers were not against the construction of the Yamuna Expressway, and considered the Formula-1 racing track (India’s first F-1 race is scheduled there in October) being built alongside as a matter of pride for the entire nation, they were angry that the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) authorities were silent.
Sources said farmers of these villages, including some in Greater Noida Authority, were upset that the ‘urgency clause’ had been invoked for acquiring their land.
The acquisition was for industrial development but no industries have been set up. Instead it has been handed over for building residential colonies.
The farmers have also been demanding that six per cent of the developed land be returned to them and the “abaadi” (populated ) areas be regularised. Like their counterparts in the Noida villages, the farmers of the Expressway villages have also demanded that committees should be set up for their uplift.
Cases to be withdrawn
The Chief Minister said cases registered against the farmers who participated in the agitation would be withdrawn. While cases against 24 farmers of Tappal were withdrawn by the present regime in April 2012, the ones against other farmers, including those of Bhatta Parsaul, would be withdrawn soon.
Mr. Yadav announced that land for projects would not be acquired without farmers’ consent.
He stressed on need for good roads in the backward Purvanchal and Bundelkhand regions for their development. He said no toll tax would be levied on the expressway from Noida to Greater Noida and this road would not be included in the expressway .
On the possible extension of the expressway till Lucknow (by aligning it with the proposed Agra- Lucknow Green Field Expressway), Executive Chairman of JP Group Manoj Gaur said the group was ready to undertake the project, if given an opportunity by the government.
No Toll Tax till August 15
He announced that no toll tax would be levied till August 15, 2012 and that an integrated complex would be developed along the expressway under the Social Upliftment Trust.
In India, Vice President is the second highest ranking government official in executive branch of India. Vice President can act as President in case of President’s death, resignation or removal and in the absence of the President. India’s Vice president is elected by members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The tenure of a Vice President is 5 years. To be vice president of India citizen must be minimum 35 years old and citizen of India.
“I declare Hamid Ansari as duly elected to the office of the vice-president of India,” T. K. Viswanathan, the returning officer for the poll, told reporters.
In 2012, Hamid Ansari was pitted against NDA’s nominee Jaswant Singh. He was re-elected as Vice-President for the second term. He won by a margin of 252 votes on 7 August 2012. Ansari becomes the second vice-president to get another stint in office, the first being S. Radhakrishnan.
Of the 736 votes cast, Ansari got 490 votes while Jaswant Singh got 238. Eight votes were declared invalid.
On 20 July 2007, Ansari was named by the UPA-Left combine as its candidate for the post of Vice-President. Ansari won the election by a margin of 233 votes against his nearest rival Najma Heptullah of NDA.
Mohammad Hamid Ansari was born in Kolkata on April 1, 1937, though his family hailed from Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh. The grand nephew of former Congress President Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, a leader of the Indian independence movement, Ansari studied at Shimla’s St. Edwards High School and St. Xavier’s College of the University of Calcutta.
He previously headed the National Commission for Minorities, a body set up to protect the rights of minorities.A two-doctorate degree holder, he joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1961. He was Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and High Commissioner to Australia. He also served as New Delhi’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations based in New York.
Ansari has been a distinguished academic and was Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University and was a Visiting Professor at the Centre for West Asian and African Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University and at the Academy for Third World Studies in Jamia Millia Islamia.
Ansari has written extensively on West Asia and is also known for airing his views on Iraq and Iran. These views were often contrarian to India’s official stance on those issues. In the most famous of them, which was published by the Outlook newsweekly in its October 10, 2005, issue, he questioned India’s vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear programme. He said that New Delhi’s claims to have acted on “its own judgment” was not borne out by facts.
Hamid Ansari was awarded the Padma Shree in 1984. He also took a leading role in pushing for a complete re-look into the relief and rehabilitation for riot victims since 1984 after he became the chairman of the National Commission for Minorities in 2006.
Ansari has authored “Travelling Through Conflict: Essays on the Politics of West Asia” and edited a seminal work on Iran titled “Iran Today: Twenty–five Years after the Islamic Revolution.”
India on 9.08.2012 successfully test-fired its medium range nuclear capable Agni-II missile with a strike range of 2,000 km as part of a user trial by the Army from the Wheeler Island off Odisha coast.
“The trial of the surface-to-surface missile was conducted from a mobile launcher from the Launch Complex-4 of Integrated Test Range (ITR) at around 8.48 am,” Defence sources said.
Describing the launch as a complete success, ITR Director M.V.K.V. Prasad said: “All mission parameters were met during the trial of the indigenously developed missile.”
Agni-II Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) has already been inducted into the services and the test was carried out by the Strategic Forces Command of the Army with logistic support provided by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
“The 2,000-km range versatile missile, already inducted and part of countries arsenal for strategic deterrence, was launched as a training exercise by the armed forces,” a DRDO scientist said.
The two-stage missile equipped with advanced high accuracy navigation system, and guided by a novel scheme of command & control system was propelled by solid rocket propellant system, he said.
The entire trajectory of the trial was tracked by a battery of sophisticated radars, telemetry observation stations, electro-optic instruments and naval ships located near the impact point in the down range area of the sea.
The 20-metre long Agni-II is a two-stage, solid-propelled ballistic missile. It has a launch weight of 17 tonnes and can carry a payload of 1,000 kg over a distance of 2,000 km.
The latest Agni-II missile was developed by Advanced Systems Laboratory along with other DRDO laboratories and integrated by Bharat Dynamics Ltd, Hyderabad, the sources said.
Agni-II is part of the Agni series of missiles which includes Agni-I with a 700 km range, Agni-III with a 3,000 km range, Agni-IV and Agni-V.
The first prototype of Agni-II missile was carried out on April 11, 1999.
Though trial conducted on May 19, 2009 and the first night trial on November 23, 2009 from Wheelers Island could not meet all the parameters, all other trials including the last one carried out on September 30, 2011 from the same base were successful.
Curiosity’s (also known as the Mars Science Laboratory, MSL) journey to Mars spanned eight months and 352 million miles (566 million kilometers). It was launched in November 2011. The rover gently touched down 5.08.2012 night after executing an elaborate and untested landing routine. The size of a compact car, it was too heavy to land using air bags. Instead, it relied on a heat shield, parachute, rockets and cables to lower it to the ground.
During its seven-minute plunge through the atmosphere, Curiosity shed the spacecraft parts. The complicated touchdown NASA designed for the Curiosity rover is so risky that it’s been described as “seven minutes of terror” — the time it takes to go from 20,920 kmph to a complete stop. The eagle-eyed Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had circled over the landing site and spotted Curiosity and the scattered parts.
The parachute appeared to be inflated, and the rocket stage that unspooled the cables crashed 2,100 feet (640 meters) from the landing site.
In the first week of August 2012, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught Curiosity sailing through the Martian skies under a parachute. It was only the second time a spacecraft has been photographed on a parachute; the first was Phoenix during its descent to the surface.
The nuclear-powered, six-wheel Curiosity will spend the next two years chiselling into rocks and scooping up soil at Gale Crater to determine whether the environment ever had the right conditions for microbes to thrive. It will spend a chunk of its time driving to Mount Sharp where images from space reveal signs of past water on the lower flanks.
It’ll be several weeks before it takes its first drive and flexes its robotic arm. Since landing, engineers have been busy performing health checkups on its systems and instruments. Over the next several days, it was poised to send back crisper pictures of its surroundings including a panorama.
With a length of 10 feet and weight of 899 kg, the rover is the largest vehicle humans have sent to other planets. The rover also will be the first to use nuclear power thanks to a radioisotope thermoelectric generator that will utilize the heat of plutonium-238’s radioactive decay. The long-lived power supply will enable Curiosity to operate for at least a full Mars year (687 Earth days, or 1.9 Earth years).
NASA twice tried to record a Mars landing. In 1999, the Mars Polar Lander carried similar gear, but it slammed into the south pole after prematurely shutting off its engines. Another effort was aborted in 2008 during the Phoenix lander’s mission to the northern plains when mission managers decided not to turn it on for fear it would interfere with the landing.
The Curiosity program has cost a total of 2.5 billion dollars, including 1.8 billion dollars for spacecraft development and science investigations.
“Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars- or if the planet can sustain life in the future,” said an ecstatic NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
An Indian scientist who was a part of the NASA team which had identified the landing site of the ‘Curiosity’ rover on the red planet, today described the spot as “very exciting” and holding “great promise”.
The scientist Amitabh Ghosh, chair of the science operations working group at NASA Mars Exploration Rover Mission, was a member of the team that zeroed in on the Gale crater location where the car-sized rover successfully landed on August 6, 2012 GMT (11:00 IST).
Gale crater location, 24,78,38,976 kilometres from home was chosen after observations from orbit identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.
“Clay minerals occur in water related environment, and also we see layering in this crater. On earth, sedimentary rocks show layering and that is again an evidence of water rich environment,” he said.
“And the other thing is you have a central uplift in the crater, which is like a mountain, again you see layering on top of that. So scientifically it is very interesting once you have something like layering, each layer can potentially be a window into the martial environment at a specific point of time and that is what we want,” Ghosh added.
At least six people have been killed and three critically injured by one confirmed gunman at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, a Gurdwara, in what appeared to be a hate crime in Oak Creek, a quiet suburb of Milwaukee on 5.08.2012. The White House confirmed that a police officer killed the lone gunman and “the situation at the Sikh Temple is under control.” Of the victims, five are Sikh men and one woman, ranging in age from 39 to 84.
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards confirmed that Page, who hailed from a neighbouring community, was a “six-year Army enlistee,” who shot the first police officer to arrive on the scene “eight or nine times at close range” after the officer went to assist a victim in a nearby parking lot. After Page continued to fire at arriving police and refused to drop his weapon an officer fatally shot him with a squad rifle, Chief Edwards said.
U.S. President Barack Obama ordered flags to fly at half-staff at the White House and other federal buildings in honour of the victims of the shooting at the Gurdwara.
He added that it would in that case be important for Americans to reaffirm that “regardless of what we look like, where we come from, who we worship, we are all one people, and we look after one another and we respect one another.”
Meanwhile Indian Ambassador to the U.S., Nirupama Rao, confirmed that Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna had spoken with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was on a visit to South Africa.
Mr. Krishna was said to have conveyed the “deep distress felt by the government and people of India on the tragic killings of innocent worshippers at the Gurudwara.” Ms. Clinton expressed her sense of shock, sadness and personal condolence at the tragedy, the embassy added.
Several other political leaders paid tribute to the Sikh community and pledged their support at this difficult time. Congressman Joe Crowley, Democrat of New York, said, “I join the people of Wisconsin and the entire Sikh-American community in mourning. There is no room in any society for such violence.”
As more details emerged about the Wisconsin gurdwara slayer’s ‘neo-Nazi’ leanings, the FBI intensified its probe into his links to white supremacists to ascertain the motive for the former soldier to unleash his hatred on Sikh worshippers.
Wade Michael Page (40), a U.S. Army veteran, has been identified as the suspect in a shooting incident at a gurdwara in Oak Creek. Six members of the Sikh community were killed and dozens injured in the attack. After receiving a “general discharge” from the military, he was “ineligible for reenlistment.” Unconfirmed reports suggested that Page was “demoted” in rank from sergeant to specialist, but no reason for this was given. Earlier they noted that the man behind the killings was a tall, balding, white male with one or more tattoos, some related to the 9/11 terror attacks. Such accounts prompted questions about whether this had been a hate crime.
In particular, media reports mentioned the possibility that the alleged killer had confused Sikhs with Muslims, as was the case in numerous attacks on Sikhs in the U.S. that have occurred since the 2001 terror attack.
Particularly the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of the U.S. was quoted as saying “Much of the slander and hate in the past, was directed under the misapprehension that Sikhs follow the religion of Islam.”
Wade Michael Page’s neighbours said he rarely left his one-bedroom house where he lived alone and never made eye contact, but civil organisations which had been monitoring his actions described the 40-year-old as a “frustrated neo-Nazi” who had been the leader of a white-power band.
The FBI said they were looking into Page’s ties to white supremacist groups but insisted there had been no warning signals for investigators to believe he was plotting something so vicious.
Special Agent Teresa Carlson, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Milwaukee office, said the gunman was the subject of a “domestic terrorism” probe.
It has emerged that the army veteran had regularly attended hate events, was an ardent believer in the white supremacist movement and was associated with rock bands whose violent music talked about murdering Jews and black people.
The director of Southern Poverty Law Center’s intelligence project, Heidi Beirich, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that her group had been tracking Page since 2000, when he tried to purchase goods from well-known hate group National Alliance.
Page said in a 2010 interview posted on the website of the record company Label56 that his music was about “how the value of human life has been degraded by tyranny.” Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a New York Times report that the music that comes from the kind of bands Page was affiliated with is “incredibly violent, and it talks about murdering Jews, black people, gay people and a whole host of other enemies.”
According to SITE Monitoring Service which follows white supremacist trends, Page had an extensive presence on white nationalist websites.
It is to be noted that this shooting incident comes took weeks after a shooting rampage at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado at the screening of “The Dark Knight Rises, the last part of the Batman trilogy.
The Union Cabinet on 3.08.2012 cleared the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) mission to Mars in 201.
The project, which comes on the heels of the Chandrayaan mission to the moon, envisages putting a spacecraft in the red planet’s orbit to study its atmosphere, with the help of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
India joins the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and China in undertaking such an effort.
The launch is slated for November next year from Sriharikota. The Space Commission gave its clearance for the mission in December last.
The spacecraft will have a scientific payload of 25 kg and is proposed to be placed in an orbit of 500×80,000 km around the planet.
Sources in the ISRO said November was chosen, as the planet would be closest to the earth that time. The next such opportunity will come only in the summer of 2018. NASA is also said to be working on a Mars mission in November 2013. The Department of Space (DoS) has indicated to the government that the orbiter will enter Mars’s orbit by September 2014, making it an approximately 300-day voyage.
A team of 185 scientists from different units of the Indian Space Research Organisation will collaborate for this ambitious project.
The main improvisations in the Mars mission over Chandrayaan would be to provide on-board autonomy in communication, enhanced power generation capacity given the large distance from the Sun and in the propulsion systems due to the long distance.
Besides, two ship-borne transportable terminals will be deployed in the Pacific Ocean during the launch phase of the flight. The project will necessitate augmenting the existing Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) to meet the telemetry requirements of this mission.
So far, there have been 42 unmanned missions attempted to Mars, of which 21 have failed in the launch phase itself. However, the DoS has argued that an Indian initiative will “demonstrate our technological capability to reach Martian orbit”. Justifying the mission, the department has also said that the project would bring “strategic advantage” to India in the international decision-making process on matters related to Mars.
The mission is estimated to cost about Rs.450 crore. An initial provision of Rs.125 crore was made in 2012 budget to kick-start the work.
Typhoon Haikui hit eastern China on 8.8.2012, flooding roads, knocking out power and disrupting transport in one of the nation’s most populous regions. It is the 11th Tycoon of the year for China.
The storm came ashore in Zhejiang province bringing heavy rains and winds of up to 150km per hour.
More than 1.5 million people in the eastern province of Zhejiang and 252,000 residents of outlying parts of Shanghai were evacuated ahead of the storm. Shanghai issued a red alert for the typhoon, the highest alert in the country’s four-tier color-coded weather warning system.
Haikui is the third typhoon to hit China’s eastern coast in the same week after storms Saola and Damrey hit the region, causing flooding and landslides.
The rains have also caused 12 townships to lose power, according to the provincial power company. Railway authorities have canceled all passenger trains departing from and arriving at the cities of Hangzhou and Ningbo in Zhejiang. The Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport closed due to strong winds, airport staff said.
Beth Tiu, a humanitarian relief director for World Vision in Manila, tells VOA the situation is worse than in 2009, when Typhoon Ketsana left hundreds dead and $1 billion in damage. World Vision is appealing for $800,000 in funds for humanitarian supplies for some of the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the floods.
India on 8.08.2012 said its first home-built nuclear submarine was set for sea trials, as it detailed billion-dollar projects to arm its navy with warships, aircraft and modern weaponry.
The indigenous 6,000-ton INS Arihant (Destroyer of Enemies) was unveiled in 2009 as part of a project to construct five such vessels which would be armed with nuclear-tipped missiles and torpedoes.
“Arihant is steadily progressing towards operationalisation, and we hope to commence sea trials in the coming months,” Indian Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma told reporters.
“Our maritime and nuclear doctrine will then be aligned to ensure that our nuclear insurance comes from the sea,” Verma said.
Arihant is powered by an 85-megawatt nuclear reactor and can reach 44 kilometres an hour (24 knots), according to defence officials. It will carry a 95-member crew.
The Indian Navy inducted a Russian-leased nuclear submarine (INS Chakra) into service in April 2012, joining China, France, the United States, Britain and Russia in the elite club of countries with nuclear-powered vessels.
Verma said 43 warships were currently under construction at local shipyards while the first of six Franco-Spanish Scorpene submarines under contract would join the Indian navy in 2015 and the sixth by 2018.
The admiral said the navy was also poised to induct eight Boeing long-range maritime reconnaissance P-8I aircraft next year.
Arihant class submarines
The Arihant class submarines are nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarinesunder development by the Indian Navy. The lead vessel of the class, INS Arihant, is expected to complete its harbour acceptance trials in February 2012. Four vessels of the class are under development and expected to be in commission by 2015.
The Arihant class vessels are India’s first indigenously designed and built nuclear submarine.They were developed under the US$2.9 billion Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project to design and build nuclear-powered submarines.
The Arihant class submarines are reported to be comparable to the Charlie II class submarines, which India leased from the Soviet Union between 1988 and 1991. Their crew will have the opportunity to train on INS Chakra, which the Indian Navy leased from Russia.
The Arihant class submarines are powered by an 83 MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) with highly enriched uranium fuel. The miniaturized naval-version of the reactor was designed and built by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) in Kalpakkam. A land-based prototype of the marine PWR was first built at Kalpakkam. It included a 42-meter section of the submarine’s pressure hull containing the shielding tank with water and the reactor, a control room, as well as an auxiliary control room for monitoring safety parameters. The prototype reactor became critical on 11 November 2003 and was declared operational on 22 September 2006. Successful operation of the prototype for three years yielded the data and the confidence that enabled the production version of the reactor for Arihant.
Separately, infrastructure for testing the reactor subsystems was setup at the Machinery Test Centre in Visakhapatnam. Facilities for loading and replacing the fuel cores of the naval reactors in berthed submarines were also established at the Ship Building Centre.
The hulls for this class were built by Larsen and Toubro at their Hazira shipbuilding facility. The hull features twin flank-array sonars and Rafael broadband expendable anti-torpedo countermeasures. Tata Power SED built the control systems for the submarine. The steam turbines and associated systems integrated with the PWR were supplied by Walchandnagar Industries.
The submarines have four launch tubes in their hump. They can carry up to 12 K-15 Sagarika missiles with 8 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV) each (with a range of 750 km), or 4 of the under-development K-4 missiles (with a range of 3,500 km).
INS Chakra-Russia made nuclear submarine
The INS Chakra is a 8,140-tonne (8,010-long-ton) Project 971 Akula class submarine type nuclear-powered attack submarine. Construction was started in 1993, but suspended due to lack of funding. It was launched as the K-152 Nerpa in October 2008 and entered service with the Russian Navy in late 2009. The submarine was leased to the Indian Navy in 2011 and was formally commissioned into service as the INS Chakra II at a ceremony in Visakhapatnam on 4 April, 2012.The INS Chakra joins the Eastern Naval Command at Vishakhapatnam.
Quick facts about Chakra
Unlike conventional submarines that India operates which need to surface to charge their batteries often – sometimes as frequently as 24 hours – INS Chakra can stay under as long as it wants. Its ability to stay underwater is restrained only by human endurance to stay underwater. Also, another problem that the submarine could face is acidity. This is because of a lack of exercise inside due to prolonged deployments.
The Akula Class submarine will carry conventional weapons. The vessel is armed with four 533mm torpedo tubes and four 650mm torpedo tubes. It will be used to hunt and kill enemy ships.
The INS Chakra displaces about 10,000 tons. It can do over 30 knots – more than twice the speed of conventional submarines. It can go up to a depth of 600 metres.
INS Chakra is one of the quietest nuclear submarines around, with noise levels next to zero.
It has about 80 crew members on board. The entire crew of INS Chakra has been trained in Russia for over a year. Facilities for the crew on board INS Chakra include a large recreation area, a gymnasium and a sauna as well.
INS Chakra has been taken on lease from Russia for 10 years and would provide the Navy the opportunity to train personnel and operate such nuclear-powered vessels. In 2004, India had signed a deal with Russia worth over $900 million for leasing the submarine. INS Chakra was expected to be inducted into Indian Navy a couple of years ago, but after an on-board accident in 2008, in which several Russian sailors died, the delivery schedule was changed.
The induction of the nuclear-powered submarine clearly indicates India’s intentions in the Indian Ocean Region and South East Asia which has recently seen increasing assertive Chinese presence in the last few months. It will also a send a strong reassuring message to south east Asian nations like Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia who want India to play a more active role in the region to counter the assertiveness of China in the area.
Torrential rain triggered landslides and flooding across Taiwan on 2.08.2012, as Typhoon Saola skirted the island’s east and north coasts and headed towards China. Saola, locally called Gener, had battered the northern and central Philippines since 28.07.2012. Saola weakened into a tropical storm before making landfall on 3.08.2012 morning in China’s south-eastern province of Fujian with winds of 90 kph at its centre, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported. It was the second tropical cyclone to make landfall in China in little more than nine hours after Damrey hit 2.08.2012 night in the eastern province of Jiangsu and affected neighbouring Shandong province.
The death toll from Typhoon Saola rose on 3.08.2012 to 44 in the Philippines and Taiwan as storms and Typhoon Damrey made landfall in China, where two died and about 770,000 were evacuated.
The military helped more than 1,000 people flee from the less-populated mountainous north and east of the island, while in main cities including the capital, Taipei, most businesses, schools and financial markets were closed. About 100 domestic and international flights were cancelled, train services disrupted and roads closed. The National Fire Agency said that five people had been killed and 15 injured. Two people were missing.
Three of Taiwan’s top technology exporters, chipmakers TSMC (2330.TW) and Nanya Tech (2408.TW), and LCD panel maker AU Optronics (2409.TW), said none of their facilities were affected and they were running as normal.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has told authorities to be on the highest alert.
Wen, who usually leaves more junior leaders to oversee arrangements before storms, told authorities to step up preparations and “put people’s lives first”, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The Philippines recorded 39 deaths in floods and accidents caused by Saola’s torrential rains and strong winds, the Office of Civil Defence said.
The Fujian provincial government said it had evacuated 306,000 people by 3.08.2012 morning while the Ministry of Civil Affairs said the three eastern provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Shandong evacuated 461,000 people.
The Shandong provincial government said Damrey damaged nearly 30,000 buildings, killed two people and injured 29 in Rizhao. At least two people died and about 1,000 buildings were destroyed in Shandong’s worst-hit Rizhao area, which recorded 174 millimetres of rain brought by Typhoon Damrey on 3.08.2012 morning, the ministry said.
In the eastern coastal county of Hualien, authorities airlifted food and supplies to 279 residents of three villages isolated by washed-out roads, local reports said.
Agricultural losses were estimated at 218 million Taiwan dollars (7.3 million US dollars).
Google Inc made its foray into the market for bundled Internet and television services on 02.08.2012, promising access speeds more than 100 times faster than those of traditional US cable and telecommunications companies.
The Web search leader unveiled its ultra-high speed Google Fiber service in Kansas City, Missouri, and could start installations in September, 2012 executives said. Google hopes to roll out the service to other cities later.
Here is a look at 10 ten things you would want to know about Google Fiber:
1) Google Fiber’s ultra high-speed connections and television offerings are aimed at surpassing those of current providers, allowing users to search live channels, Netflix, YouTube, recorded shows and tens of thousands of hours of on-demand programming. However, no phone service is available.
2) Google said it also intends to roll out product packages for businesses, but would not provide details.
3) Google Fiber includes more than 100 networks and costs $120 a month for a package of TV, 1 gigabit per second Internet speeds and 1 terabit of cloud storage.
4) Google is also offering an Internet-only package priced at $70 a month. The download speeds would be around 1 gigabit a second, according to Google executives.
5) The package includes popular networks owned by major media companies such as Comcast Corp’s NBC Universal, Discovery Communications and Viacom Inc. Premium movie networks are available from Liberty Media’s Starz for an extra fee. But it excludes several major TV names, such as News Corp’s Fox cable channels; Time Warner networks like CNN, TNT and TBS, as well as Walt Disney Co cable channels like ESPN and Disney children networks.
6) Google is charging a $300 installation fee, saying consumers should treat it as a “home improvement” cost.
7) The initial service area includes central Kansas City, Missouri and all of the city of neighboring Kansas City, Kansas.
Consumers must pay $10 to register their household online for service. About 50 “neighbors” will need to register in order for their area to be eligible for installation services, according to Google executives.
9) Google Fiber includes such features as the ability to record eight TV shows at a time and store up to 500 hours of high definition programming. Users can choose to use a tablet or smartphone as a voice-activated remote control.
10) Google is offering its Nexus 7 tablet with the Google TV app to early users of the service.
Thirty one people were killed in the flash floods in Uttarakhand on 4.08.2012 and at least six missing from Gangori, which bore the brunt of nature’s fury.
Heart-wrenching scenes were witnessed at Gangori, where the maximum number of deaths was reported, with relatives and villagers crying for help.
Efforts were on to move about 700 Char Dham pilgrims stranded at various places to safer spots on foot, as the roads were completely damaged and the hostile weather was not allowing airlifting of the people.
The State government released Rs. 20 crore from the disaster mitigation fund for immediate relief work and urged civil society organisations to rush help to the victims.
The weather department has sounded an alert for heavy rains and flash floods.
Returning after an aerial survey with Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Agriculture Harish Rawat, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna issued instructions to immediately restore power supply, drinking water and road connectivity in Uttarkashi and surrounding areas.
“Adequate food supplies are available and the officials have been ordered to provide ‘pocket money’ of Rs. 2,700 per family besides cooked food and dry rations. Doctors have been asked to provide medical aid to the victims,” Mr. Bahuguna said.
Earlier, presiding over a high level disaster management and mitigation meeting, he ordered the officials to immediately restore the road link between Bhatwari and Uttarkashi, erect makeshift bridges wherever required, restore power and telephone lines.
Ex gratia announced
Mr. Bahuguna announced an ex gratia of Rs. 3 lakh to the next of kin of those killed, Rs.1 lakh each to the owners of nearly 200 houses damaged completely and Rs.1 lakh each to the over 50 shopkeepers who lost everything in the flood fury. ITBP jawans were trying to provide relief to the residents of the worst-hit Mathali village.
Disaster Management Minister Yashpal Arya, who visited the area, could not proceed beyond Chinyalisaud as the roads were either completely damaged or washed away.
Meanwhile, Shanti Kunj Haridwar dispatched a 35-member team including an ambulance, doctors and specially trained volunteers to Uttarkashi on 05.08.2012. The team is carrying over 50 quintals of food grains, medicines, clothes, utensils kit, tea, sugar, clothes, kerosene, a portable generator and water.
The team will create a base camp at Uttarkashi, conduct a quick survey with the help of local Gayatri Parivar members and distribute the material, Gauri Shankar Sharma, manager Shanti Kunj said.
The relief and rescue operations are being supervised by Shail Didi and Pranab Pandya, international heads of Gayatri Parivar.
Flood and Flash flood
Flood: An overflow of water onto normally dry land. The inundation of a normally dry area caused by rising water in an existing waterway, such as a river, stream, or drainage ditch. Ponding of water at or near the point where the rain fell. Flooding is a longer term event than flash flooding: it may last days or weeks.
Flash flood: A flood caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, generally less than 6 hours. Flash floods are usually characterized by raging torrents after heavy rains that rip through river beds, urban streets, or mountain canyons sweeping everything before them. They can occur within minutes or a few hours of excessive rainfall. They can also occur even if no rain has fallen, for instance after a levee or dam has failed, or after a sudden release of water by a debris or ice jam.
Worst flash flood so far: 1889: Johnstown Flood, more than 2,200 people dead.
The United States National Weather Service gives the advice “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” for flash floods; that is, it recommends that people get out of the area of a flash flood, rather than trying to cross it. Many people tend to underestimate the dangers of flash floods. What makes flash floods most dangerous is their sudden nature and fast moving water. A vehicle provides little to no protection against being swept away; it may make people overconfident and less likely to avoid the flash flood. More than half of the fatalities attributed to flash floods are people swept away in vehicles when trying to cross flooded intersections.As little as 2 feet (0.61 m) of water is enough to carry away most SUV-sized vehicles. The U.S. National Weather Service reported in 2005 that, using a national 30-year average, more people die yearly in floods, 127 on average, than by lightning (73), tornadoes (65), or hurricanes.
Kofi Annan has resigned from his post as the UN-Arab League peace envoy for Syria, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on August 2, 2012.
Mr. Annan asked that his mandate not be renewed when it expires August 31, 2012.
“I wish to express my deepest gratitude to Mr. Annan for the determined and courageous efforts he has made as the joint special envoy for Syria,” Mr. Ban said.
UNGA resolution adopted
The U.N. General Assembly on 3.08.2012 overwhelmingly adopted a Saudi-drafted resolution on Syria that expressed “grave concern” at the escalating violence but India was among the 31 nations that abstained.
The 193-member General Assembly passed the resolution that denounced Syria’s crackdown on its people and demanded that the country lockdown its chemical and biological weapons. The resolution also deplored “the failure of the Security Council to agree on measures to ensure the compliance of Syrian authorities with its decisions”.
The resolution got 133 votes in favour, while 12 countries voted against. Thirty one countries, including India, abstained.
An earlier draft of the resolution had provisions that demanded regime change; called on President Bashar Al-Assad to resign; and asked countries to place sanctions against the country for the violence and killing.
India was not in favour of these provisions and a senior member of Indian delegation had said that officials “worked over time” to get these demands dropped from the resolution.
Others countries like Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa too were not in support of the provisions demanding regime change and sanctions.
Indian Ambassador to the U.N. Hardeep Singh Puri had also held several rounds of discussion with his Saudi and Qatari counterparts over the provisions of regime change and sanctions in the resolution. Unlike a U.N. Security Council resolution, the General Assembly resolution is not legally binding. It is only moral and symbolic in nature. The resolution strongly condemns “the continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities and pro-governmental militias“.
Addressing the 193-member General Assembly before the vote on the resolution, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the violence and acts of brutality being reported in Syrian cities may constitute “crimes against humanity or war crimes”.
He said despite repeated verbal acceptances of the international envoy and six-point plan endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, the Syrian government and the opposition continue to rely on weapons and not diplomacy — believing that they would win through violence.
The Syrian crisis has escalated in the last 17 months when the uprising against President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime began.
More than 10,000 people have been killed and thousands others displaced by the fighting between government and rebel forces.
Efforts to restore peace and stability in the troubled nation were dealt a huge blow when the United Nations -Arab League envoy Kofi Annan announced that he was resigning from his post — six months after his efforts to end the violence and find a political solution to the Syrian crisis yielded no results.
Mr. Ban said the violence and bloodshed in Syria was “avoidable” if the Syrian government had from the beginning of the uprising not responded to peaceful demonstrations with brutal force, including mass round-ups and torture.
He said observers had predicted at the start of the conflict that unchecked spread of violence in Syria would lead to a rise of radicalisation, extremism and terrorism.
“The next step was also forewarned: a proxy war, with regional and international players arming one side or the other.”
“Now, we face the grim possibility of long-term civil war destroying Syria’s rich tapestry of interwoven communities. This would have tragic implications for Syria’s people and could affect stability across the region. We must not let this prediction come true,” Mr. Ban said.
He said mediation to solve the Syrian crisis can only succeed if there is a commitment to solving conflict through dialogue and real leverage to back it up.
Mr. Annan too had blamed a divided international community and U.N. Security Council for lack of action to stop the violence.
Situation worsening in Aleppo
The main focus of fighting in Aleppo has been the Salaheddine district, a gateway into the city of 2.5 million people, where Reuters witnessed heavy fighting.
Tanks pounded alleyways where rebels sought cover. One shell hit a building next to the Reuters reporting team, pouring rubble on to the street and sending billows of smoke and dust into the sky.
State television said Assad’s forces were “cleansing the terrorist filth” from the country, which has been sucked into an increasingly sectarian conflict that has killed about 18,000 people and could spill into neighboring states.
In Damascus, troops backed by fighter jets have kept up an offensive against the last rebel bastion there in recent days.
Syria’s two main cities had been relatively free of violence until last month when fighters poured into them, transforming the war. The government largely repelled the assault on Damascus but has had more difficulty recapturing Aleppo.
Rebel commanders say they anticipate a major Syrian army offensive in Aleppo and one fighter said they had already had to pull back from some streets after army snipers advanced on 4.8.2012 under cover of the fierce aerial and tank bombardment.
Syrian PM sacked
President Bashar al-Assad appointed Riyad Hijab, a former agriculture minister, as prime minister only in June following a parliamentary election which authorities said was a step towards political reform but which opponents dismissed as a sham.
A bomb blast hit the Damascus headquarters of Syria’s state broadcaster on 6.08.2012 as troops backed by fighter jets kept up an offensive against the last rebel bastion in the capital.
The bomb exploded on the third floor of the state television and radio building, state TV said. However, while the rebels may have struck a symbolic blow in their 17-month-old uprising against Assad, Information Minister Omran Zoabi said none of the injuries was serious, and state TV continued broadcasting.
Rebels in districts of Aleppo visited by Reuters journalists seemed battered, overwhelmed and running low on ammunition after days of intense tank shelling and helicopter gunships strafing their positions with heavy machinegun fire.
Emboldened by an audacious bomb attack in Damascus that killed four of Assad’s top security officials last month, the rebels had tried to overrun the Damascus and Aleppo, the country’s commercial hub.
Damascus has criticised Gulf Arab states and Turkey for calling for the rebels to be armed, and state TV has described the rebels as a “Turkish-Gulf militia”, saying dead Turkish and Afghan fighters had been found in Aleppo.
The violence has already shown elements of a proxy war between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam which could spill beyond Syria’s border. The rebels claimed responsibility for capturing 48 Iranians in Syria, forcing Tehran to call on Turkey and Qatar – major supporters of the rebels – to help secure their release.
On 6.08.2012, Syrian army tanks shelled alleyways in Aleppo where rebels sought cover a helicopter gunship fired heavy machinegun fire.
Snipers ran on rooftops targeting rebels, and one of them shot at a rebel car filled with bombs, setting the vehicle on fire. Women and children fled the city, some crammed in the back of pickup trucks, while others walked on foot, heading to relatively safer rural areas.
A meeting of a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) committee that includes India to support a Palestinian bid for upgraded U.N. membership was cancelled at the last minute on 5.08.2012 after Israel refused to allow representatives of five countries to enter West Bank.
The meeting of 12 representatives of the committee with Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership was scheduled for 6.08.2012.
Ministers and representatives were to meet in the West Bank city of Ramallah and sign a declaration in support of a fresh Palestinian bid, seeking upgrading of its status from observer to non-member state.
Ministers and representatives from Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cuba and Malaysia were denied permits to enter Ramallah.
“Officials from other countries, like India, which have diplomatic ties with Israel can attend the same without any problems,” Ilana Shtein, deputy spokesperson at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told PTI.
India Opposes Cancellation
New Delhi: Strongly objecting to cancellation of the NAM panel meeting in Ramallah, India on Monday said the move strengthened its resolve to assist Palestinian people in their legitimate quest to dignity and right to statehood.
“We have taken strong objection to the fact that we were unable to express solidarity with the Palestinian people by holding this meeting in Ramallah,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told.
He was replying to questions on the last minute cancellation of a meeting of the NAM committee to support the Palestinian bid for upgraded UN membership after Israel refused to allow representatives of five countries to enter the occupied West Bank.
“This only strengthens our resolve to assist the Palestinian people in their legitimate quest to dignity and their inalienable right to statehood,” Akbaruddin said.
India’s representative on the committee Sanjay Singh, Secretary (East) in the External Affairs Ministry, was in Amman enroute Ramallah when the cancellation of the meeting was announced 5.08.2012.
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a group of states considering themselves not aligned formally with or against any major power bloc. As of 2012, the movement had 120 members and 21 observer countries.
The organization was founded in Belgrade in 1961, and was largely the brainchild of Yugoslavia’s president, Josip Broz Tito, India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Egypt’s second president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah, and Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno. All five leaders were prominent advocates of a middle course for states in the Developing World between the Western and Eastern blocs in the Cold War. The phrase itself was first used to represent the doctrine by Indian diplomat and statesman V.K. Krishna Menon in 1953, at the United Nations.
In a speech given during the Havana Declaration of 1979, Fidel Castro said the purpose of the organization is to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics”. The countries of the Non-Aligned Movement represent nearly two-thirds of the United Nations’s members and contain 55% of the world population. Membership is particularly concentrated in countries considered to be developing or part of the Third World.
Members have at times included the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Argentina, the South West Africa People’s Organization, Cyprus, and Malta. Brazil has never been a formal member of the movement, but shares many of the aims of Non-Aligned Movement and frequently sends observers to the Non-Aligned Movement’s summits. While many of the Non-Aligned Movement’s members were actually quite closely aligned with one or another of the super powers, the movement still maintained surprising amounts of cohesion throughout the Cold War. Some members were involved in serious conflicts with other members (e.g., India and Pakistan, Iran and Iraq). The movement fractured from its own internal contradictions when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. While the Soviet allies supported the invasion, other members of the movement (particularly predominantly Muslim states) condemned it.
Because the Non-Aligned Movement was formed as an attempt to thwart the Cold War it has struggled to find relevance since the Cold War ended. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, a founding member, its membership was suspended in 1992 at the regular Ministerial Meeting of the Movement, held in New York during the regular yearly session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. The successor states of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have expressed little interest in membership, though some have observer status. In 2004, Malta and Cyprus ceased to be members and joined the European Union. Belarus remains the sole member of the Movement in Europe. Turkmenistan, Belarus and the Dominican Republic are the most recent entrants. The applications of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Costa Rica were rejected in 1995 and 1998.
The next NAM summit will take place in August 2012 in Tehran Iran, but they are some concerns regarding the willingness of heads of states to attend the summit due to the growing criticism to the support of Iran to the Syrian government and the reports on involvement of Iran in a terror attack in New Delhi in February 2012.
Initiative of five
The Non-Aligned movement was never established as a formal organization, but became the name to refer to the participants of the Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries first held in 1961. The term “non-alignment” itself was coined by V.K. Krishna Menon in 1953 remarks at the United Nations. Menon’s friend, Jawaharlal Nehru used the phrase in a 1954 speech in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In his speech, Nehru described the five pillars to be used as a guide for Sino-Indian relations, which were first put forth by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. Called Panchsheel (five restraints), these principles would later serve as the basis of the Non-Aligned Movement. The five principles were:
Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty
Mutual non-interference in domestic affairs
Equality and mutual benefit
A significant milestone in the development of the Non-Aligned Movement was the 1955 Bandung Conference, a conference of Asian and African states hosted by Indonesian president Sukarno, who gave a significant contribution to promote this movement. The attending nations declared their desire not to become involved in the Cold War and adopted a “declaration on promotion of world peace and cooperation”, which included Nehru’s five principles. Six years after Bandung, an initiative of Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito led to the first Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries, which was held in September 1961 in Belgrade.The term non aligned movement appears first in the fifth conference in 1976, where participating countries are denoted as members of the movement.
At the Lusaka Conference in September 1970, the member nations added as aims of the movement the peaceful resolution of disputes and the abstention from the big power military alliances and pacts. Another added aim was opposition to stationing of military bases in foreign countries.
The founding fathers of the Non-aligned movement were: Sukarno of Indonesia, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. Their actions were known as ‘The Initiative of Five’.
The chairmanship rotates between countries and changes at every summit of heads of state or government to the country organizing the summit.
The current requirements are that the candidate country has displayed practices in accordance with the ten “Bandung principles”:
Respect for fundamental human rights and for the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
Recognition of the movements for national independence.
Recognition of the equality of all races and of the equality of all nations, large and small.
Abstention from intervention or interference in the internal affairs of another country.
Respect for the right of each nation to defend itself singly or collectively, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
Refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country.
Settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
Promotion of mutual interests and co-operation.
Respect for justice and international obligations.
Role after the Cold War
Since the end of the Cold War and the formal end of colonialism, the Non-Aligned Movement has been forced to redefine itself and reinvent its purpose in the current world system. A major question has been whether many of its foundational ideologies, principally national independence, territorial integrity, and the struggle against colonialism and imperialism, can be applied to contemporary issues. The movement has emphasised its principles of multilateralism, equality, and mutual non-aggression in attempting to become a stronger voice for the global South, and an instrument that can be utilised to promote the needs of member nations at the international level and strengthen their political leverage when negotiating with developed nations. In its efforts to advance Southern interests, the movement has stressed the importance of cooperation and unity amongst member states, but as in the past, cohesion remains a problem since the size of the organisation and the divergence of agendas and allegiances present the ongoing potential for fragmentation. While agreement on basic principles has been smooth, taking definitive action vis-à-vis particular international issues has been rare, with the movement preferring to assert its criticism or support rather than pass hard-line resolutions. The movement continues to see a role for itself, as in its view, the world’s poorest nations remain exploited and marginalised, no longer by opposing superpowers, but rather in a uni-polar world and it is Western hegemony and neo-colonialism that the movement has really re-aligned itself against. It opposes foreign occupation, interference in internal affairs, and aggressive unilateral measures, but it has also shifted to focus on the socio-economic challenges facing member states, especially the inequalities manifested by globalization and the implications of neo-liberal policies.
NonAlignment 2.0 is an attempt to identify the basic principles that should guide India’s foreign and strategic policy over the next decade. The views it sets out are rooted in the conviction that the success of India’s own internal development will depend decisively on how effectively we manage our global opportunities in order to maximize our choices—thereby enlarging our domestic options to the benefit of all Indians.
The purposes of the present strategy document are three-fold:
to lay out the opportunitiesthat India enjoys in the international sphere;
to identify the challenges and threats it is likely to confront; and
to define the broad perspective and approach that India should adopt as it works to enhance its strategic autonomy in global circumstances that, for some time to come, are likely to remain volatile and uncertain.
NonAlignment 2.0 is the product of collective deliberat ion, debate and report writing involvinga diverse and independent group of analysts and policy makers, namely: Sunil Khilnani, Rajiv Kumar, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Prakash Menon, Nandan Nilekani, Srinath Raghavan, Shyam Saran, Siddharth Varadarajan. The group was convened in November 2010 and met at regular intervals for over a year, until January 2012. Also present at some of the meetings were the National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon, and the Deputy NationalSecurity Advisors, Alok Prasad and Latha Reddy. The meetings were invariably lively and full of argument and constructive critique: the resulting text therefore, should not be seen as one with whose every line all members of the group would agree. Rather than offer bland consensus, we have preferred a document that we hope will prompt further discussion and elaboration. It is the case, however, that all members of the group fully endorse the basic principles and perspectives embodied in NonAlignment 2.0.
A South African politician has become the first female leader of the African Union (AU), ending months of bitter deadlock at the continental body.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s home affairs minister, was elected chair of the African Union Commission on 5.08.2012 at a summit of heads of state and government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Dlamini-Zuma secured the votes of 37 of the 54 African Union nations to win.
Dlamini-Zuma is the former wife of South African President Jacob Zuma.
Cheering broke out at the AU’s headquarters as supporters of Dlamini-Zuma, 63, celebrated her victory over the incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon.
“We made it!” a grinning Zimbabwean delegate shouted, reflecting the strong support Dlamini-Zuma’s candidacy received from fellow members of the Southern African Development Community.
The South African president, Jacob Zuma, former husband of the winning candidate, emerged from the conference hall where the voting had taken place to announce that “Africa is happy!” Her victory would empower women, he added.
Dlamini-Zuma is the first woman to lead the continent since the Organisation of African Unity, later the AU, was founded in 1963. She is also the first from southern Africa. She faces the challenge of revitalising a body often criticised for its slow and ineffective response to crises such as those in Ivory Coast and Libya last year.
Erastus Mwencha, a Kenyan, the vice-chairman of the AU commission, was re-elected to serve a second term. His support was almost unanimous, with 50 out of a possible 51 votes, and his victory breaks another unwritten convention that dictates that the chair and vice-chair are held by one francophone and one anglophone country. At a press conference before the election, Dlamini-Zuma said that if appointed chair she would assess “what is not working well and what can be strengthened”.
The African Union (abbreviated AU in English, and UA in its other official languages) is a union consisting of 54 African states. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. Established on 9 July 2002,the AU was formed as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states. The AU’s secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Current Chairperson – Yayi Boni, Benin.
Vision of the African Union
The vision of the African Union is that of: “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.”
The AU faces many challenges, including health issues such as combating malaria and the AIDS/HIV epidemic; political issues such as confronting undemocratic regimes and mediating in the many civil wars; economic issues such as improving the standard of living of millions of impoverished, uneducated Africans; ecological issues such as dealing with recurring famines, desertification, and lack of ecological sustainability; as well as the legal issues regarding Western Sahara.
According to the Indian Metrological department, India faces an ‘El Nino’ weather situation, meaning that the average rainfall this year has been lesser than the average 90% of previous years. This will directly impact the seasonal food grain prices, as a large quantity may have to be sourced from other countries at higher prices than those produced within the country.
Monsoon rains will not be enough to save the country from its first drought in three years, the weather office said on 2.08.2012 as it forecast that the El Nino weather pattern should reduce rains again in the second half of the June to September season.
India, one of the world’s largest food producers and consumers with a population of 1.2 billion, last suffered a drought in 2009, which forced it to import sugar, pushing global prices higher.
This time around, global grain prices are soaring as the United States wilts in its own drought – the worst in the country for half a century.
Monsoon rains are considered deficient – a drought in layman’s terms – if they fall below 90 percent of a 50 year average.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said rains over the entire June to September season were now expected to be less than 90 percent of long-term averages. This is the first time it has forecast deficient rains at this point in the season.
Between June 1 and August 1, rainfall was about 19 percent below average, close to the 23 percent shortfall in the 2009 season.
States likely to be seriously hit
DS Pai, Director-Long Range Forecast, India Met Department (IMD) has mentioned in an interview as follows– “If you divide the country by using a 75 degree east, most of the states west of the 75 degree along the west coast and the northwestern region they are most likely to have less rainfall. Particularly, the northwestern region starting from Gujarat, West Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi will have more deficiency.
In the south, Karnataka and Marathwada region in Maharashtra will be okay, the Madhya Maharashtra. So, for these parts we are expecting to have a relatively more deficiency of rain.
Gold, silver sales to drop
Any major shortfall in monsoon rains can hit rural incomes and reduce demand for gold and silver in India, one of the world’s top consumers of the precious metals.
“Scrap will flood the market and gold imports could drop by 50 percent,” said Prithviraj Kothari, president of Bombay Bullion Association.
The IMD had at first forecast a normal monsoon, with rains at 96 percent of averages.
“We expect normal rains in August, but they could be about 5-6 percent below average in September due to the possibility of El Nino, which has not influenced the monsoon so far,” D.S. Pai, lead forecaster of the IMD, told Reuters.
“We expect the effect of El Nino in September and October, and not before,” Pai said.
What is El Nino?
El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is a quasiperiodic climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean roughly every five years. The Southern Oscillation refers to variations in the temperature of the surface of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean (warming and cooling known as El Niño and La Niña respectively) and in air surface pressure in the tropical western Pacific. The two variations are coupled: the warm oceanic phase, El Niño, accompanies high air surface pressure in the western Pacific, while the cold phase, La Niña, accompanies low air surface pressure in the eastern Pacific. Mechanisms that cause the oscillation remain under study.
The extremes of this climate pattern’s oscillations, El Niño and La Niña, cause extreme weather (such as floods and droughts) in many regions of the world. Developing countries dependent upon agriculture and fishing, particularly those bordering the Pacific Ocean, are the most affected. In popular usage, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation is often called just “El Niño”. El Niño is Spanish for “the little boy” and refers to the Christ child, because periodic warming in the Pacific near South America is usually noticed around Christmas.
Signs of El Nino
The first signs of an El Niño are:
Rise in surface pressure over the Indian Ocean, Indonesia, and Australia
Fall in air pressure over Tahiti and the rest of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean
Trade winds in the south Pacific weaken or head east
Warm air rises near Peru, causing rain in the northern Peruvian deserts
Warm water spreads from the west Pacific and the Indian Ocean to the east Pacific. It takes the rain with it, causing extensive drought in the western Pacific and rainfall in the normally dry eastern Pacific.
El Nino as opposed to La Nina
La Niña is the name for the cold phase of ENSO, during which the cold pool in the eastern Pacific intensifies and the trade winds strengthen. The name La Niña originates from Spanish, meaning “the girl”, analogous to El Niño meaning “the boy”. It has also in the past been called anti-El Niño, and El Viejo (meaning “the old man”).
La Niña, sometimes informally called “anti-El Niño”, is the opposite of El Niño, where the latter corresponds instead to a higher sea surface temperature by a deviation of at least 0.5 °C, and its effects are often the reverse of those of El Niño. El Niño is famous due to its potentially catastrophic impact on the weather along both the Chilean, Peruvian, New Zealand, and Australian coasts, among others. It has extensive effects on the weather in North America, even affecting the Atlantic Hurricane Season. La Niña is often, though not always, preceded by an El Niño.
Impacts of El Nino
Extreme weather conditions related to the El Niño cycle correlate with changes in the incidence of epidemic diseases. For example, the El Niño cycle is associated with increased risks of some of the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, such as malaria, dengue, and Rift Valley fever. Cycles of malaria in India, Venezuela, and Colombia have now been linked to El Niño. Outbreaks of another mosquito-transmitted disease, Australian encephalitis (Murray Valley encephalitis – MVE), occur in temperate south-east Australia after heavy rainfall and flooding, which are associated with La Niña events. A severe outbreak of Rift Valley fever occurred after extreme rainfall in north-eastern Kenya and southern Somalia during the 1997-98 El Niño.
ENSO may be linked to civil conflicts. Scientists at the Earth Institute of Columbia University have analyzed data from 1950 to 2004 and suggest that ENSO may have had a role in 21% of all civil conflicts since 1950, with the risk of annual civil conflict doubling from 3% to 6% in countries affected by ENSO during El Niño years relative to La Niña years.