February 2012 - Daily Current Affairs

February 29 Current Affairs

International Issues

South Korea to continue Naval Base construction in Jeju. Construction for the base that can accommodate up to 20 naval vessels began last year in Gangjeong, a small town that turned into a scene of fierce protests by politicians and activists opposed to the plan.


The largest rough pink diamond ever found in Australia was discovered in a West Australian mine owned by Rio Tinto. The 12.76-carat rough pink diamond was christened the Argyle Pink Jubilee.

Natural pink diamonds are considered one of the most valuable types of diamonds.



USA on 28 February 2012 refused to change its Afghanistan strategy in view of the recent violence. The American servicemen were killed following the burning of Qurans at a military base.

USA appreciated the effort of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and other senior leaders who called for an end to violent protests.



North Korea agreed to suspend its nuclear and uranium enrichment programme in return for US food aid. USA had promised North Korea 240000 tonnes of nutritional assistance and food aid following breakthrough in talks with the latter.

North Korea also agreed to allow UN inspectors to monitor its reactor in Yongbyon so that compliance with the measures could be verified and the disablement of the 5-MW reactor and associated facilities could be confirmed.


As per Unicef’s State of the World’s Children Report 2012, 18 per cent of those below 15 years and 47 per cent of those below 18 years are married in India. 

Thirty percent of Indian girls aged between 15 and 19 are married. The Unicef’s report presented a dark picture of child marriage and marital rights awareness among adolescents in India.

Twenty-two per cent women in India aged between 20 and 24 years were found to have become mothers before the legal marriageable age of 18. Among 15 to 19 year olds, 57 per cent boys andm53 per cent girls believed that a husband is justified in beating his wife under certain circumstances.


National Issues

Madhya Pradesh emerged victorious by bagging maximum number of awards in National Tourism Awards 2010-11, which was conferred on 29 February 2012 in New Delhi by the president of India Pratibha Devisingh Patil. Madhya Pradesh won awards in four different categories closely followed by north eastern state Sikkim which bagged three awards at the award ceremony.

Madhya Pradesh won the National Tourism Award for the enhancement of tourism related infrastructure in the state. It also bagged award in Best Tourism Film and Best Tourism Promotion Publicity Material category.

Rajsthan, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala also got their name figured in the list of award winners.



The government decided to increase its total health expenditure to 2.5 per cent of GDP by the end of the 12th Plan, from the current 1.4 per cent.



The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh offered floral tributes to former Prime Minister Morarji Desai on his 116th birth anniversary. Desai was Prime Minister of the country between March 1977 and July 1979.



Haryana Government has constituted a State Level Committee for implementation of Prime Minister's New 15 Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities and the Multi-Sectoral Development Programme in Minority Concentration districts.



The government has decided to offload 5 per cent stake in the state-owned company Oil and Natural Gas Corporation- ONGC through the auction route on the 1st of next month. It may fetch the exchequer about 12,000 crore rupees.



Arunachal Pradesh will soon be included in the railway map of the country with the North East Frontier Railway (NEFR) planning to flag off the first train service from Naharlagun on December 12 and North Lakhimpur-Murkongselek by March 2013.



Rice procurement in the Kharif marketing season 2011-12 (October-September) has crossed the mark of 258 lakh tonne. According to statistics 2,58,97,802 tonne rice has been procured by the various government agencies by February 29, 2012.

Punjab procured 77,31,325 tonne followed by Chhatisgarh 40,73,977 Andhra Pradesh 38,72,090 and Haryana 19,73,875 tonne of rice. This procurement is 73,123 tonne more than the corresponding day of last marketing season. 


India took over the chair of assembly and governing board of Association of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI). Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Mr. Vinod Rai is the new chairman of the 45 nation strong Asian Organization of the Institutions of the Accountants General.

ASOSAI is the largest regional organization of the government auditors. Mr. Rai takes over the prestigious post from Pakistan. In his speech delivered at the 12th ASOSAI meeting year the outgoing chairman of ASOSAI and Auditor General of Pakistan Mr. Muhammad Akhtar Buland Rana expressed the hope that Mr. Rai will take the Auditors institution to new heights.



Under the Merit-cum-Means Scholarship Scheme of the Ministry of Minority Affairs, a total of 35,181 scholarships have been released up to 31st January 2012 during the current Financial Year. 

As per the latest data available with the Ministry of Minority Affairs, as on 31st January 2012, a total of 19,487 ‘fresh’ scholarships (out of a Target of 20,000 fresh scholarships) and 15,694 ‘renewal’ scholarships had been released during the current FY 11-12. 

For awarding these 35,181 scholarships, an amount of over Rs. 96.27 crore has been released by the Ministry of Minority Affairs. The Scheme now covers all the States and Union Territories.

The objective of the Merit-cum-Means Scholarship Scheme is to provide financial assistance to the poor and meritorious students belonging to minority communities to enable them to pursue professional and technical courses. These scholarships are available for studies in India only and are awarded through an Agency designated by the State Government/UT Administration for this purpose. The scheme was launched in the year 2007-08 As per the general guidelines for the Scheme, 30% Scholarships are reserved for the girl students.



The Supreme Court of India on 27 February 2012 directed the union government of India to implement the ambitious interlinking of rivers project in a time-bound manner. Observing that the project has already been delayed resulting in an increase in its cost, a three-judge bench, headed by S H Kapadia, appointed a high-powered committee to chart out and execute the project.



The Odisha Government on 25 February 2012 imposed restriction on the visit of foreign tourists and researchers to the areas inhabited by primitive vulnerable tribals groups like Bondas, Dongaria Kandhas and other such communities. 

The decision was taken following the controversy over the human safari in the tribal areas of Odisha.The state government also decided not to give permission in any form of amusement or entertainment by the primitive vulnerable tribal groups for the tourists.



Delhi government on 28 February 2012 hiked the reservation for OBC [Other Backward Classes] in higher education institutions from 21 percent to 27 percent. The new quota is set to be effective from academic year 2012-13.



According to data released by the ministry of commerce and industry on 28 February 2012, output of eight core segments that comprise the manufacturing sector dipped to 0.5% in January 2012, marking the slowest growth in three months. 

Cumulative core sector growth for the April to January period was pegged at 4.1% against 5.7% in the April-January period of 2010-11.



The union government decided to boost public spending in the health sector to 2.5 per cent of GDP from the current 1.4 per cent over five years (12th Five Year Plan period begining 2012).



As per the data released by the Controller General of Accounts on 29 February 2012, fiscal deficit stood at Rs 4.34 lakh crore, or 105 per cent of the total annual target in the April-January period of 2011-12. 

The government had estimated the fiscal deficit for 2011-12 at 4.6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).



The Union cabinet of India on 1 March 2012 approved the proposed changes in the Motor Vehicle Act 1988, which includes longer jail terms and higher fines for repeat traffic violations. 

The new act has a provision of 500 rupees fine if one does not wear seat belt and helmet or jumps a red light. Anybody caught using mobile phone while driving will be fined.



India handed over 20 million Dollars standby loan to Maldives in view of the difficult financial situation there.

Moreover, the 50 million dollar treasury bonds owed to the State Bank of India by Maldives was extended for another year.



Union government on 29 February 2012 gave its approval to the long-pending drainage basin flood control project. The project which involves the Kaliaghai, Kapaleswari and Baghai rivers in the flood-prone East and West Midnapore districts in West Bengal would cost 650.38 crore Rupees to get completed.

Union government would bear 75 per cent of the total project cost while the rest amount would be borne by the West Bengal government.


Business

India’s leading telecom company Airtel on 28 February 2012 joined hand with IT major Infosys for its Mobile Wallet service across the country.

As per this multiyear deal Infosys would provide the mobile wallet service, to the customers of Airtel across the country. According to the agreement both the companies will jointly create a business model which would enable the customers to do cashless transactions using Infosys' WalletEdge mobile commerce platform.



Tata Capital on 28 February 2012 joined hand with private sector lender Axis Bank to launch a travel card. With the travel card Tata Capital would provide its customers with travel and foreign exchange related services.

The prepaid card would be available in nine currencies viz. the US dollar, the euro, the pound, Canadian dollar, Swedish kroner, Swiss franc, Singapore dollar, the yen, and UAE dirham.



Kotak Securities, the stock broking and distribution body of the Kotak Mahindra Group, on 28 February 2012 unveiled a ready to trade kit aimed at on-the-spot broking. The kit which has been named My Box would cost 750 Rupees.

First of its kind in India, the ready to trade kit comprises a CD, user id and password for registration, guide, security key and an account activation card.



Online shopping major Flipkart on 27 February 2012 unveiled its digital music store Flyte. With the launch of Flyte, Flipkart has entered into the digital content market.

Flyte would enable its users to select and download music in the form of individual songs or entire albums. The digital music store would provide a massive collection of songs to its users backed by leading Indian and international music companies.



Indian IT major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) on 28 February 2012 joined hand with US based business application software services firm Infor Global Solutions to expand its geographical reach.

As per the agreement both the companies would cooperate with each other in their respective business territory.

Under the newly formed business alliance TCS would provide services to Infor and its affiliate like Lawson Software, in various sectors viz. Food, beverages, healthcare etc.



Fujitsu India, Indian subsidiary of Japanese IT equipment and services company Fujitsu, launched its new notebook series on 28 February 2012.

With this new range of notebooks the Fujitsu is trying to get a foothold in the growing notebook market in India. The notebook which has a starting price of 21995 Rupees would cater to the need of small and medium business enterprises in the country. The newly launched series of notebook includes LH531, SH531, AH 531 and E751.



MindTree Limited on 29 February 2012 appointed Subroto Bagchi as its chairman. Bagchi who is also the co-founder of Mindtree Limited would replace Ashok Soota who had announced his resignation in January 2012.

The international information technology consulting and implementation company also appointed Albert Heironimus as the Vice Chairman of the company.



James Murdoch on 29 February 2012 stepped down as Executive Chairman of News International, UK news paper arm of News Corporation.

Murdoch would, however, continue to be the deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation. Murdoch was under heavy political pressure given his alleged role in the phone-hacking scandal in UK. His role in the scandal is still under scrutiny.



Varun Berry, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PepsiCo India Food resigned from the company on 29 February 2012.

Berry, who had been attached with PepsiCo for last 18 years, was instrumental in company’s businesses in businesses in India, Asia and the Middle East.

As the CEO of PepsiCo India Foods, he was at the helm of company’s popular brands such as Lay’s, Quaker, Kurkure and Lehar.


Bilateral Issues

Norwegian Telecom company Telenor and its Indian joint venture partner Unitech on 27 February 2012 moved a fresh petition before Company Law Board [CLB].

While Telenor in its petition to CLB requested for the "exclusion" and "removal" of Unitech MD Sanjay Chandra and his two other nominees from the "management and administrative affairs of Uninor, Unitech in its petition urged CLB to maintain the status quo of Uninor, and not allow the transfer its assets to any other company without its consent.The CLB is set to hear the cross petition of both the companies on 1 March 2012.

The two companies have been at loggerhead since Supreme Court’s verdict of 2 February 2012 of quashing all the 122 2G licences allocated by A Raja, the then telecom Minister. Both the companies are trying hard to protect their interest in the joint Venture Uninor which has a strong customer base in the country with nearly 4 crore people are using the brand at present.

Economic Issues

India's economic growth rate slipped to 6.1 per cent in the third quarter this fiscal, lowest in more than 2 years due to poor performance of the manufacturing, mining and farm sectors.

The Gross domestic product (GDP) growth the in third quarter (October-December) last fiscal was 8.3 per cent



Russian conglomerate Sistema had asked the Indian government to honour the ‘Bilateral Investment Treaty' (BIT) to protect its investments to the tune of $3.1 billion in the telecom joint venture, Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd. (SSTL), with the Shyam Group, setting a six-month deadline. 

The company is also planning to file a review petition in the Supreme Court against cancellation of its telecom licences.



US banking major Citi group on 25 February 2012 sold its 9.85 percent stake in HDFC, India’s biggest mortgage lender, for around 1.9 billion dollars.

Citi group, the third largest lender of US by assets, was in alliance with the HDFC for last seven years. The sale of stake has come as the part of company’s strategy to disinvest in order to raise the capital as Citigroup faces a potential multi-billion-dollar writedown of its minority stake in Morgan Stanley Smith Barney brokerage.



India’s largest bank, State Bank of India on 27 February 2012, announced to reduce its interest rate on education loan by 1 percent.

Under the new rate regime the interest rate on education loans of amount between 4 lakh Rupees to 7.5 lakh Rupees will stand at 3.25 per cent over the bank's Base Rate as against 4.25 percent earlier.

The bank has also reduced the Interest rates on loans over 7.5 lakh Rupees by 0.25 percent. The interest rate on loans given to students who are studying at premium institutes like IITs, IIMs have also been reduced by 0.25 percent to 2 percent over the Base Rate.

SBI has the lowest base rate among the leading banks in the country. It's Base Rate at present stands at 10 per cent.



As per the data released by the Central Statistical organisation (CSO) on 29 February 2012, India’s economic growth rate dipped to 6.1% in the third quarter (October-December ) of 2011-12 due to poor performance of the manufacturing, mining and farm sectors. 

GDP in April-December period of 2011-12 also moderated to 6.9% from 8.1% in the April-December period 2010-11.

Persons

James Murdoch has stepped down as executive chairman of News International, the UK newspaper business that owns the Sun and the Times titles. 

The move comes as News International continues to be mired in a phone hacking scandal.



Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Mr. Vinod Rai is the new chairman of Association of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI), the 45 nation strong Asian Organization of the Institutions of the Accountants General.



Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik was on 24 February 2012 was charged by a local court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) for allegedly raising funds to strengthen armed activity. 

Additional sessions judge, Sanjay Parihar charged Malik with raising funds to strengthen armed activity in the state and to strike terror among people.



Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd, a Navratna company owned by the government, on 28 February 2012 appointed R.P. Singh as the Director (Personnel) of the company. He would assume the charge from 1 April 2012.

The Ministry of Power confirmed the appointment of Mr Singh who holds the position of Executive Director of the company at present.



Public sector lender Syndicate Bank on 29 February 2012 appointed Madhukant Girdharlal Sanghvi as its new Chairman and Managing Director. Sanghvi would take the charge on 1 March 2012 after the superannuation of incumbent chairman Basant Seth.

Sanghvi, before this appointment, was the Executive Director of Bank of Maharashtra. In his 31- year long career in banking he has been attached with various banking organisation in different capacities.


Awards


The National Tourism Awards 2010-11 were conferred by the President of India Pratibha Devisingh Patil on 29 February 2012 in New Delhi. A total of 78 awardees from 50 various categories received the award.

Three new award categories named; The Best State: Campaign Clean India, Best Heritage City and Best Heritage Walk were also introduced this year.

Madhya Pradesh received the National Tourism Award for its effort in developing tourism related infrastructure and programmes in the state. It also received awards for Best Tourism Film and Best Tourism Promotion Publicity Material category.

North-Eastern state Sikkim bagged the award for the best among Northeast states and J&K category. It also got the new award under Campaign Clean India.

Hyderabad airport received the award in the Best Airport award category. New Delhi railway station named the most tourist friendly railway station.

The Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation also received the National Tourism Awards.

The Oberoi Rajvilas emerged the Best Five Star Deluxe hotel while Neemrana Hotel in Alwar bagged the Best Heritage hotel award.


sports

Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina clinched Marseille Open final by beating Michael Llodra on 26 February 2012.

Del Potro who turned a professional tennis player in 2005 has won total ten ATP titles in his career.

Del Potro claimed his first Grand Slam title at the 2009 US Open, defeating Nadal in the semifinal, and Roger Federer in the final. Potro’s highest ATP ranking was four.


February 24 to 28 Current Affairs
International Issues

The representatives from Armenia, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Republic of Belarus, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Chili, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Malaysia, Nigeria, Paraguay, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Uganda and United States of America of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) met in Moscow on February21 and 22, 2012 and reaffirmed the importance of the role of the ICAO in addressing international
civil aviation emissions, including pursuant to the request from the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The countries gathered in Moscow reiterated the importance of Kyoto Protocol to its Parties aswell as importance of Chicago Convention and the need to ensure full compliance with its provisions. 



World Book Fair inaugurated in Delhi. It is the 20th World Book Fair. It is also celebrating 100years of Indian cinema, themed on the relationship between literature and cinema. 1,300 exhibitors are participating in the fair at Pragati Maidan.



China successfully launched a satellite into space, the 11th of its indigenous global navigation and positioning network known as Beidou, or Compass system.

The satellite, launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern Sichuan Province, was boosted by a Long March-3C carrier rocket into a geosynchronous orbit. It was also the 158th launch of the Long March carrier rockets.

The Beidou system is being used in transportation, weather forecasting, marine fisheries,hydrological monitoring, and mapping. China began to build the Beidou system in 2000 with a goal of breaking its dependence on the U.S. Global Positioning System and creating its own global positioning system by 2020.



Beijing is to build a new airport in the south-east of the city, which is likely to be the world's largest in terms of passenger traffic.



Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard emphatically won the Labor leadership ballot, handing her arch-rival Kevin Rudd a resounding defeat by 71 votes to 31.



Syrian President Bashar al-Assad endorsed the new Constitution, which was approved a day earlier by 89 per cent of eligible voters.


National Issues

The Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Dr. D. Purandeswari launched a web portal for implementation of the National Scheme of Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education,NSIGSE, in New Delhi. The Scheme's objective is to establish an enabling environment to reduce the drop-outs and to promote the enrolment of girl child belonging mainly to Schedule Cast andSchedule Tribe communities in the country.

Under the scheme a sum of three thousands rupees is deposited in the name of eligible girls as fixed deposit, who are entitled to withdraw it along with interest on reaching 18 years of age and after passing out in 10th class examination. The portal of the NSIGSE will facilitate online submission of data of the beneficiaries and online disbursement of the amount on the day of the maturity into their accounts directly. It will also ensure total transparency and quicker disbursement of benefits to the beneficiary girls across the country.



The Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia called for integration of Defence Research and Development Organisation's, DRDO's Aahaar project with Mid-Day Meal and Integrated Child Development Scheme for enhancing child nutrition in the country. 

A DRDO project, Aahaar has developed high shelf life dal and roti packs to cater to the needs of the Aam Aadmi. It can be used during long journeys, nutritional feeding, catering programmes and other similar civilian applications.



The 24-hour country-wide strike called by major trade unions to protest anti-labour policies of the govt and rising prices evoked a mixed response with the banking and transport sector hit in some parts.



India and ADB Sign Loan Agreement for US $ 50 Million to Support Electricity Transmission and Distribution Capacity in Assam.

This is the third and last tranche of total $ 320.6 million MFF, out of which loan assistance from ADB is $ 200 million and financing by Government of Assam is US$ 120.6 million. Tranches 1 and 2 are already under implementation. 


The Expert Group for Modernisation of Indian Railways, constituted by the Ministry of Railways under the Chairmanship of Shri Sam Pitroada, Advisor to the Prime Minister, presented its report to the Minister of Railways, Shri Dinesh Trivedi.



India, which has been polio-free for over a year now, was taken off the list of polio endemic countries by the World Health Organisation.

This announcement was made by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad at the polio summit 2012 in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.



A meeting of the Consultative Committee of Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment was held on 23.02.2012 in the Parliament House Annexe under the Chairmanship of Shri Mukul Wasnik, Union Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment to discuss the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of “Post-Matric Scholarship for Scheduled Caste Students”.

The Post Matric Scholarship for SC Students Scheme is a single largest intervention by Government of India for educational development of scheduled caste students. It is a flagship Scheme of the Ministry, in operation since 1944, which provides financial assistance to Scheduled Caste students studying at post matriculation level in the country. There is no upper limit on the number of scholarships and all the SC students fulfilling the eligibility criteria are covered under the Scheme. About 48 lakh students are anticipated to be covered during 2011-12. 

During X FY Plan, an amount of Rs. 1826.91 Crore was released to cover 113.82 lakh beneficiaries. It has increased sharply in XI FY Plan and Rs.6780.52 crore has been released so far to cover 196.16 lakh beneficiaries.



The centre has launched two new rural development schemes from the Thrissur district of Kerala aimed at helping the women working in farm sector through the intervention and integration of other such schemes. 

The second scheme launched from Thrissur and Malapuram districts is rechristened as new PURA( Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas), which is aimed at creating physical infrastructure in rural areas of the country in the Public-Private Partnership mode.

The first project called Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Yojana has two components with a budgetary provision of Rs 80 crore each and is designed for improving the economic status of about three lakh women workers in the state of Kerala.

Shri Ramesh said, initially there will be eight PURA projects in the country which can be extended to 500 centres known as census towns (semi-urban & semi-rural) as the latest census talks about over 3500 such areas in the country.



Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh inaugurated of the two day Polio Summit 2012 in New Delhi. 

The Polio Summit organised jointly by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Rotary International.


Confederation of Indian Industry, CII called for a comprehensive package for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises MSMEs to unshackle their growth potential. As part of its pre-Budget recommendations to the Government, the apex industry body outlined a 16-point agenda for the MSME sector. 

CII has strongly recommended that the new Direct Tax Code, which is slated to offer investment-linked tax incentives, should instead link tax rates to employment. 

Mr. Banerjee said this approach, espoused by many countries, would create more jobs. It will also help MSME which by definition have limited capital investments and are employment-intensive.



A Group of Ministers, approved a new investment policy for the urea sector, to make the nation self-sufficient in the key soil nutrient. The GoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, approved the policy as per the Committee of Secretaries, CoS recommendations.

In the draft policy, the CoS has suggested incentives for setting up of greenfield (new plants) and brownfield (expansion of existing plants) facilities. At present, the country faces a shortfall of 7 million tonnes, which is met through imports. Domestic urea production is estimated at 22 million tonnes, while the consumption is pegged at 29 million tonnes.

The government in 2008, had announced a New Investment Policy to boost urea production, but the scheme failed to attract fresh investments. With demand-supply gap of urea widening, the government in 2010 decided to frame a new policy. Last year, a CoS headed by Planning Commission Member Soumitra Choudhary, was set up for this purpose.



The government is committed to increase the budgetary allocations for social services in the country. Addressing the concluding Diamond Jubilee function of Employees' State Insurance Corporation, ESIC in New Delhi, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that expenditure of social services has been increased to 7.3 per cent of GDP in 2010-11 from 5.6 per cent in 2006-07. He emphasized the need for the appropriate skill development , education and robust health of workers.



The Central Excise Day is observed across the country on February 24th. The day marks the day of enactment of the central excise & salt act, 1944.



In Assam, Governor J B Patnaik has taken initiative to launch a white revolution. It will cover Tinsukia in the first phase as a few places of the district have already achieved success in milk production.



Global beverages and snacks major PepsiCo expects the number of Indian farmers, from whom it sources different produce, to reach 30,000 by the end of next year, up 25 pc from the existing pool.



The Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on 23 February 2012 directed the Union Government to issue broadband licence to Qualcomm within a week.

Qualcomm on 22 February 2012 had made an offer to the Telecom Ministry to pay Rupees 410 crore dues on behalf of its joint venture partner Tulip Telecom on the condition that the Government will allot it the licence and spectrum for wireless broadband services.

The TDSAT Bench, headed by the Chairman, Mr Justice S.B. Sinha directed the the US chipmaker to deposit the money to the Department of Telecom. Earlier the Department of Telecom had rejected the Qualcomm’s application to get the broadband licence given the dues pending with its partner Tulip Telecom.



Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram inaugurated the fourth and final regional hub of the National Security Guard (NSG) in Marol, Mumbai on 23 February 2012. At the inauguration, Chidambaram the Centre allotted Rs. 1200 crore for the modernisation and development of the National Security Guard during the 12th Five Year plan.

The Mumbai regional hub spread across 20.28 acres was constructed at a cost of Rs. 56.10 crore by the National Building Construction Corporation Limited. The permanent regional hub was an important addition to the fortification of the country's defence against terror, insurgencies and separatist acts of violence.

The regional hubs at Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai were set up to reduce the response time and reach the area of operation as quickly as possible.




Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, DERC, has decided to introduce a smart metering system in the national capital to bringing next-generation reforms in the power sector. Through the initiative, consumers can make informed choices about electricity use based on varying cost and availability during the course of a day.



A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) setting out the performance targets for 2012-13 for Ennore Port was signed between the Ministry of Shipping and Ennore Port Limited (EPL) in New Delhi.



The Department of Science & Technology, Government ofIndia declared February 28 as National Science Day (NSD) 1987. It is the celebration of excellence in Indian Science, in memory of acceptance of “Raman Effects” Sir C.V. Raman who got the Nobel Prize in Physics later. 

After the declaration of February 28 National Science Day (NSD), celebrated throughout the country with great enthusiasm.



The Rural Development Minister Shri Jairam Ramesh said that National Social Assisstance Programme, NSAP will be completely restructured and all payments under the scheme will be done through Aadhar-based payment system.


Bilateral Issues

In Punjab, a four day Indo-Pak Trade Fair IPEX-12 commenced at Ludhiana. Organised by PHD Chamber of Commerce it is the seventh such trade fair to boost trade and industry in the region besides providing a platform to showcase Indian goods at the international level.



The President of India Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil addressed the Chinese Youth Delegation comprising of 500 members led by Ms. Luo Mei, Secretary, Secretariat, Central Committee, Communist Youth League of China at Rashtrapati Bhawan today. Also present at the occasion was Shri Ajay Maken, Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports.



The Union Minister of Commerce, Industry and Textiles Shri Anand Sharma said that India is committed to deepen and elevate its relations with Iraq. He proposed during his meeting with the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Dr Rowsch N Shaways, that “the Joint Business Council between India-Iraq needs to be activated so that the interaction between businessmen of both the countries
could be maintained regularly.

Indian Ambassador in Iraq informed the meeting that every day about 160 medical visas are issued to Iraqi citizens. The people to people contacts are developing fast as are also the academic linkages between the two countries particularly in the medical and engineering fields.

Iraq is an important trading partner of India in West Asia. Bilateral trade has registered a 100% increase over the last five years. The total trade has increased from US$ 5.7 billion in 2006-07 to US$ 9.7 billion in 2010-11. The exports from India have gone up from US$ 203.99 million in 2006-07 to US$ 738.65 million in 2010-11. Similarly, imports from Iraq have gone up from US$ 5.5billion in 2006-07 to US$ 9.0 billion 2010-11. 

The top five exportable items from India to Iraq are Manufactures of Metals , Electronic Goods, Rice-Basmati, Meat & Preparations ,Machinery & Instruments etc. Similarly top five importable items from Iraq to India are Petroleum Crude &
Products(99.88 %) Fruits & Nuts Excl Cashew Nuts, Sulphr & Unrosted Iron Pyrts, Wool Raw, Organic Chemicals etc. Both the leaders agreed that the bilateral trade does not reflect the full potential and can be further exploited to mutual advantage of both the countries.


Economic Issues


Corporate India is expected to see a 9.4 percent rise in net profits in fourth quarter of the current financial year, after suffering a steep fall for two consecutive quarters, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) said in its monthly review.


Persons

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has approved the appointment of Shri J.Sathyanarayana, IAS (AP:77), against the post of secretary, department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology that has been taken out of the Central Staffing scheme. 

The appointment of Shri Sathyanarayana as Secretary (Information Technology) would be for a period of two years.



The United Nations has appointed the former Secretary General Kofi Annan as its Special envoy to try to end the bloodshed in Syria.



Nepal’s Chandra Bahadur Dangi, seventy two years old has been declared as the shortest man in the world by Guinness world Records officials. He officially measures 54.6 cm and weighs twelve kilograms. Dangi hails from Dang district of South-western Nepal replaces Junrey Balawing of Philippines who measures 59.9 cm.



Noted footballer Sailen Manna died in Kolkata after prolonged illness. He was 87. Manna was awarded the best footballer of the Century by the FIFA.

He was member of the world winning Indian team of the Asian camp in 1951. Manna also got the Padma Shri Award in 1971.


Sports

Poland’s Agnieskza Radawanska has won the women’s singles title at the WTA Dubai Open Tennis Championship. In the final in Dubai yesterday, Radawanska beat Germany’s Julia Goerges 7-5, 6-4 in straight sets.

In the women’s doubles final, Indo Russian pair of Sania Mirza and Yelena Vesnina lost out tamely to the top seed Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond.

The Huber-Raymond pair defeated Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-1 in straight sets in a one sided affair.



IAF and Afghanistan Air Force Football team play freindship Football Match.



The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) has incurred a total expenditure of Rs. 18.09 crore on men’s and women’s hockey teams since March 2011 for preparation of London Olympics, 2012.



Michael Clarke took away the Allan Border Medal for the third time in his career to cap off a sensational opening year as Australia captain.

Awards

Iconic Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar became the first overseas player to be presented with the honorary life membership of the Sydney Cricket Ground.



Six eminent people have been conferred National Award on the occasion of National Science Day in various categories at a function in New Delhi. The awards were given to them by Minister of State for Science and Technology, Ashwani Kumar, for their outstanding contribution in the field of Science and Technology Communication. Mr N.S Chidambaram and Arpan Dutta were selected for their efforts in this field through their books and magazine.

While Mr V.T Santhosh Kumar received the award for translation of popular Science and Technology literature in various languages. Dr Balram Sahu and K.K Vasu were also given awards for their contribution in this field.


science & Technology

One of the major recommendations made by NDMA in the National Guidelines of Management of Cyclones was the establishment of the Aircraft Probing of Cyclones facility to significantly reduce errors to the extent of 30% in terms of landfall, intensity and storm surge. 

Govt. of India is taking steps to acquire a Hercules C-130J for this purpose alongwith an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). With this capability all, all countries of the Indian Ocean Region would also be able to benefit greatly.


February 21 to 23 Current Affairs
International Issues

World’s largest two wheeler manufacturer Hero MotoCorp on 22 February 2012 inked a pact with US-based Erik Buell Racing [EBR]. 

As per the pact the EBR would provide technological assistance to the Hero MotoCorp to develop high speed motorcycles.

National Issues

More than 25 agriculture and allied activities have been included in the new version of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gaurantee Act, MGNREGA, which will be implemented from 1 st of April this year.

Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh said that new version of MGNREGA will lead to better farm output. Rebutting the claims that MGNREGA is leading to fall in agricultural productivity,he said, on the contrary the studies done by independent bodies suggest the rural job scheme has led to better farm output.

After recieving a report on revised Operational Guidelines for MGNREGA, Mr. Ramesh said the new guidelines will also respond to demands of the states for location specific flexibility in permissible works as valuable suggestions from the states are incorporated in the guidelines. The Report was prepared by a committee headed by Planning Commission Member Mihir Shah.



Hindustan Copper Limited and the Rajasthan Government propose to start joint ventures to explore and exploit copper and other mineral deposits in the State. The initiative is part of Hindustan Copper Limited's plan to consolidate its mining business, especially in Rajasthan.

The company is planning to execute as many as eight mining projects across the country at an estimated capital expenditure of Rs.3,435 crore to quadruple its mining capacity over the next five years, said Hindustan Copper Limited Chairman & Managing Director Shakeel Ahmed during a visit to the Khetri Copper Complex in Jhunjhunu district in Rajasthan over the weekend. It is the only copper mining company in India.



The Union Home Ministry has okayed construction of 85 anti-Naxalite police stations in Bihar.

This is the largest number of such police stations okayed by the Centre for any state.


The National Tiger Conservation Authority has started camera-trapping of tigers in the world-famous Kaziranga National Park in Assam. 

Nearly 135 cameras have been installed in the tiger hubs of the 430 square- kilometre Park along the river Brahmaputra.


The Italian vessel Enrica Lexie has been brought back to Cochin Port for ballistic examination and inspection of weapons on board. The vessel which was anchored off the Kochi coast, is now berthed at one of the oil tanker jetties at the harbour.



Arunachal celebrates 25yrs of statehood and Centre announces developmental projects



Salaried employees earning up to 5 lakh rupees a year will not be required to file income tax returns from this year.

A Finance Ministry notification said that the exemption from filing will be permitted only if the person has received a certificate of tax deduction in Form 16 from his or her employer. To claim income tax refund, however, such persons will have to file returns.

There are about 85 lakh salaried persons in the country whose yearly income, including earnings from other sources like bank deposits, does not exceed 5 lakh rupees. Prior to the notification, it was obligatory for all salaried persons to file income tax returns under the Income Tax Act, 1961.



Assam has become the first state to successfully conduct five thousand cleft lip and palette deformity surgeries.

It is an initiative of National Rural Health Mission in association with Operation Smile India and Sir Dorabji Tata Trust. To mark the success, a commemoration programme was organized at Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital in Guwahati.



The Minister of State for Statistics and Programme implementation, Mr. Srikant Kumar Jena inaugurated the two day National Seminar on Social Group Statistics and Present Statistical system, in New Delhi.



The country plans to produce 63,000 Mega Watt nuclear power generation in the next 20 years. The atomic power is advantageous in terms of transportation and storage. Addressing a seminar in New Delhi, Mr Shinde said India plans to have a total installed nuclear capacity of 63,000 megawatt electric by the year 2032 .

Both indigenous technology and the imported reactors will be used for the purpose. He said nuclear technology is greener than all other technologies of power generation.



Competition Commission of India [CCI] on 20 February 2012 gave its nod to the proposed merger of Netizen Rajsthan with Reliance Infratel. Netizen Rajsthan, is a 100% subsidiary of Reliance Infratel which is in the business of providing passive telecom infrastructure devices like telecom towers and optic fibres.

Under the Competition Act, 2002, companies with a turnover of more than Rs 1,500 crore will have to take the nod of CCI before merging with another firm. Companies with combined assets of Rs 1,000 crore or more, or a combined turnover of Rs 3,000 crore or more, would also require the CCI’s approval to get merged.


Bilateral Issues

Jordan has invited the captains of industry from India for investment and trade with the country. At a meeting of the representatives of the Indian and Jordanian Business Councils in Dubai the two sides agreed to work together to enhance trade and commerce between the two countries.

The move will give a boost to Indo-Jordanian trade and investment. The CEO of the Jordanian Development Corporation, Yarob Al Qdha said Jordan is the gateway to Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt and any entry will facilitate entry into the regional markets. The meeting was also attended by a delegation of Jordanian trade and business leaders.

The meeting was organized by the Jordanian Consulate in Dubai. During the meet it was stated that concerns regarding security and stability in Jordan is not an issue. Around 20 big companies in Jordan are owned by the Indians with a trade worh $50 million and it has the potential to grow bigger and better.



SIBUR, Russia and Eastern Europe's largest petrochemical company, and Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) have agreed to form a joint venture — Reliance Sibur Elastomers Private Limited — to produce one lakh tonnes of butyl rubber a year in Jamnagar.

The joint venture will be the first manufacturer of butyl rubber in India and the fourth largest supplier of butyl rubber in the world.

The joint venture will cater to the demand for synthetic rubber from the Indian automotive industry of over 75,000 tonnes a year, which is now satisfied by imports. Investment in the joint venture is in line with Reliance's vision of emerging as a significant player in the global synthetic rubber market.



Abudhabi based Etisalat on 22 February 2012 announced to close down its India operation. Etisalat was providing its service in 15 circles. It was operating in India through a joint venture with Dynamics Balwas group.



India has sought up to 5 million tonnes of extra crude oil from Saudi Arabia, to replace some of the Iranian crude being bought by Mangalore Refinery and Indian Oil Corp (IOC).

Mangalore Refinery, which is the largest buyer of Iranian crude oil at 7.1 million tonnes, is desperately looking at diversifying its basket as an insurance against disruption in supplies from the Persian Gulf nation which is facing slew of economic sanctions from US and the European Union.



India has asked Somalia to bring in a national anti-piracy legislation for investigation and prosecution of suspected pirates.

Addressing the UN Security Council India's deputy Permanent Representative Ambassador Manjeev Singh Puri said that Somalia should itself give a solution to the piracy problem. He said any imposition of external solutions will not work in the long run.

Mr Puri said that piracy off the coast of Somalia continues to be high and the geographic spread of pirate activities has expanded into the Red Sea, the Somali Basin and into the western Indian Ocean.



Parliamentarians from India and Pakistan are in agreement on the need to enhance bilateral relations and to resolve all disputes through negotiations and dialogue.

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar made the remarks while addressing a reception hosted by Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal in Islamabad.

In her speech in Urdu she said parliamentarians from both countries are playing a key role in promoting bilateral relations and enhancing people-to-people contact.



Japanese power equipment giant Toshiba JSW Turbine and Generator on 20 February 2012 bagged an order of Rs. 2300 crore from the NTPC.

The company will supply three 800 MW supercritical steam turbine and generator island packages for NTPC's Kudgi super thermal power project, Stage-I, in Kudgi. Delivery of the equipments is expected to start in 2013.
Karnataka government and the NTPC had inked a memorandum of understanding [MoU] in 2009 for the Kudgi super thermal power project. Kudgi project is the maiden project of NTPC in Karnataka.



India and Pakistan on 21 February 2012 agreed to extend the agreement to reduce the risk from accidents related to nuclear weapons for another five years (till 21 February 2017), in accordance with Article 8 of the agreement between the two countries. The agreement had come into force on 21 February 2007 for an initial duration of five years.

The agreement on extension was finalised during the sixth round of bilateral talks on nuclear confidence building measures held in Islamabad on 27 December, 2011.



National Australia Bank on 22 February 2012 opened its maiden branch in India. Bank opened its first branch in Mumbai which will support the bank’s existing business in the country. The new branch will also provide a link for Indian clients aspiring to expand their business in Australia or New zealand.



India and the USA discussed ways of expanding their growing strategic partnership and cooperation at the 12th Defence Policy Group meeting held in New Delhi.

The meeting was co-chaired by Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and US Acting Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Jim Miller. The next meeting of the Defence Policy Group will be held in 2012 in the USA.

Persons

In a tribute to Father of Indian Comics, Anant Pai, the Amar Chitra Katha Media (ACK) is launching a biography of the veteran storey teller who transformed the way folklores and mythological stories were told.



Union government on 23 February 2012 nominated DK Mittal on the central board of Reserve Bank of India, the apex Indian bank.
Mr D. K. Mittal is the Secretary of  Department of Financial Services of  Ministry of Finance. He is the second government nominee on the RBI board. This is for the first time that the Union Government has got two of its nominees on the central board of RBI.

Mr. R Gopal, Secretary of Department of Economic Affairs of Ministry of Finance is the other government nominee on the RBI central board. With Mr. DK Mittal being included in the Board of Directors of RBI the total number of RBI directors has reached to 18.
Mittal's nomination follows the recent amendment to the RBI Act, 1934, which allowed the Central Government to nominate two Government officials to the central board of RBI in place of one. This new move is likely to enhance the Union government’s stake in the functioning of RBI.



Vice President of India M. Hamid Ansari released a book entitled Sufism and Indian Mysticism edited by Prof. Akhtarul Wasey and Farhat Ehsas (Farhatullah Khan) on 23 February 2012.

Awards

Rahul Bhatia, Managing Director of InterGlobe Enterprises group on 23 February 2012 chosen for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2011. 

InterGlobe Enterprises is a travelling company which has in its fold India's largest low-cost carrier Indigo Airlines.


Economic Issues

The government will endeavour to raise the economic growth rate to 7.5 -8 per cent in the next fiscal from about 7 per cent currently, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said.



The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) panel on priority sector lending  proposed that the target (priority sector) for foreign banks may be increased to 40 per cent of net bank credit from the current level of 32 per cent with sub-targets of 15 per cent for exports and 15 per cent for the MSE sector, within which 7 per cent may be earmarked for micro enterprises.

The target of domestic scheduled commercial banks for lending to the priority sector may be retained at 40 per cent of net bank credit. The committee, under the chairmanship of M. V. Nair, Chairman, Union Bank of India, has re-examined the existing classification and suggested revised guidelines with regard to priority sector lending and related issues.



Inflation based on the all India Consumer Price Index stood at 7.65 per cent in January, as per the first nationwide retail inflation data released by the government.

While ‘food and beverages' reported a moderate rate of price rise of 4.11 per cent year-on-year in January, the inflation numbers for fuel and light, and clothing, bedding and footwear segments were in double-digits.

Overall retail inflation in rural and urban areas stood at 7.38 per cent and 8.25 per cent in January, respectively.



State Bank of India (SBI) has said it will issue fresh shares to the Government of India on preferential basis to raise about Rs 7,900 crore.

The board has approved preferential allotment of equity shares of face value of Rs 10 each to Government of India at Rs 2,181.69, including a premium.

In this connection, it said, based on the floor price of Rs 2,191.69 per share in accordance with the SEBI regulations, the Executive Committee of Central Board of the bank fixed the issue price at Rs 2,191.69.



The Prime Minister's economic advisory panel on projected 7.5 - 8 per cent growth rate for the next fiscal.

Highlights of the Review of Economy, 2011-12:
  • Economy to grow by 7.5 - 8 per cent in 2012-13
  • Growth rate estimated at 7.1 per cent in 2011-12
  • Inflation to ease to 5-6 per cent in next fiscal
  • Keep vigil on food prices, farm output, exchange rate
  • Adjustments of petrol prices needed to cut subsidy
  • Fiscal deficit a matter of concern, road map required
  • Current account deficit to be 3 per cent of GDP
  • Global economic condition to remain under pressure
  • Farm sector growth likely to be 3 per cent in 2011-12
  • Mining to report negative growth in current fiscal



The government will release the nation-wide Consumer Price Index on a monthly basis. It will better reflect the retail price movement and will help the RBI take effective monetary policy steps to deal with inflation.

The new Consumer Price Index, according to experts, will eventually replace the Wholesale Price Index, WPI for policy actions to deal with the price situation. As of now, Inflation is calculated on the basis of Wholesale Price Index as the bench mark. But experts said, the Consumer Price Index uses defined basket of goods and services that represents purchasing pattern of a particular household. Since this is driven from the consumption side, it provides a relatively realistic view on how consumers are affected.



A Reserve Bank of India panel has called for a steep 8 percentage points rise in the priority sector lending, PSL, target for foreign banks to 40 per cent to bring them at par with the domestic banks.

The PSL re-examining committee also came up with a slew of other recommendations such as doing away with the distinction between direct and indirect lending to the farm sector, whose total target has been retained at 18 per cent for commercial banks.



The first environment friendly equity index 'BSE-Greenex' was launched in Mumbai. Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily inaugurated the Bombay Stock Exchange’s new initiative by striking

the gong yesterday. The BSE-Greenex is a first of its kind benchmark index, which includes top 20 companies based on Green House Gas Numbers, Free Float Market capitalization and turnover.

This index has been developed by BSE in association with ‘gTrade’ so as to promote green investing, with emphasis on financial performance and long-term viability of companies.



The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) panel on priority sector lending on 21 February 2012 proposed increment in the target (priority sector) for foreign banks to 40% of net bank credit from the current level of 32 per cent with sub-targets of 15 per cent for exports and 15 per cent for the MSE sector. In the MSE sector 7 per cent of net bank credit is to be earmarked for micro enterprises.

Science & Technology

Researchers at the Harvard Smithsonian centre for Astrophysics discovered that the planet GJ1214b was largely covered in water. They used Hubble Space Telescope to discover the water on planet. GJ1214b was discovered in 2009 by the ground-based MEarth Project. GJ1214b was described as a super-Earth. It is approximately 2.7 times Earth’s diameter and weighs almost 7 times as much.
   
This presence of water on the planet was confirmed when it crossed in front of its host star. The light of the star, filtered through the planet’s atmosphere, provided clues to the mix of gasses, supporting the water vapor theory.


February 19 to 20 Current Affairs
International Issues

According to a poll conducted by global research company Ipsos, the happiest people of the world reside in Indonesia, India and Mexico. The survey measured comparative depth and intensity of happiness among country citizens and the world. The poll of 18687 adults was conducted from November 1 to 15 2011.

According to the survey, world was a happier place than in 2007 as 22% (up 2 points) of global citizens were found to be in a happy state of mind. Indians were among the happiest on this planet.

While eight in 10 (77%) citizens in 24 countries surveyed stated they were happy in their lives, one quarter (22%) mentioned they were very happy.

National Issues

The All-India Consumer Price Index Numbers for Agricultural Labourers and Rural Labourers(Base: 1986-87=100) for January, 2012 remained stationary at 618 (Six hundred and eighteen) points for Agricultural Labourers and 619 ( Six hundred and nineteen) points for Rural Labourers.

The rise/fall in index varied from State to State. In case of Agricultural Labourers, it recorded an increase between 1 to 5 points in 14 States and a decrease between 2 and 12 points in 5 States.

It, however, remained stationary in 1 State. Maharashtra with 690 points topped the index table whereas Himachal Pradesh with the index level of 514 points stood at the bottom.



Assam Government prepared a draft proposal to revise minimum wages for workers and employees engaged under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The wages are to be revised under the relevant provisions of Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

The minimum rates of wages fixed for different categories included- 208 rupees per day for skilled work and 150 rupees per day for semi-skilled and unskilled supervisory work. 

A minimum rate of 130 rupees per day has been proposed for unskilled workers who are engaged in agriculture, construction or maintenance of roads, building operation, stone breaking, flood control, irrigation and public health engineering.



Retirement fund body EPFO may take a final decision on fixing the minimum pension for its subscribers at Rs 1,000 per month, during a meeting of the Central Board of Trustees (CBT) scheduled on 22nd February.


Economic

Share Market Regulator, SEBI [Security and Exchange Board of India] on 10 February 2012 gave its approval to the listing of 64.27 lakh shares of MCX[Multi Commodity Exchange of India in the capital market.

The approval would remain effective for the next one year. The IPO [Initial Public Offering] will first be listed with BSE [Bombay Stock Exchange] followed by NSE[National Stock Exchange]. Price of IPO is expected to be around Rs. 1200 per share.

MCX is the sixth largest commodity exchange in the world which occupies number one ranking in silver and number two in gold. With SEBI’s approval MCX would become the first exchange in India to have got listed in Capital market.



Numeric Power Systems Limited, the Indian power electronics major sold its UPS [Uninterrupted Power Supply] business to Legrand in a deal worth Rs. 829 cr. 

The announcement about the top notched deal was made by Numeric Power Systems Limited on 9 February 2012.

The deal comprises Numeric's subsidiaries in Sri Lanka (Numeric Lanka Technologies Pvt Ltd) and Singapore (Numeric Power System Pte Ltd). Numeric would also transfer three of its nine manufacturing and trading facilities — two in Puducherry and one in Parvanoo (in Himachal Pradesh), to Legrand.



Facebook, the world’s largest social networking site on 19 February 2012 integrated the music site from Indiatimes Gaana.com as an application into its new Timeline.

With this development Facebook users would be able to share the music of their choice with their Facebook friends.

The social networking site recently launched timeline apps with 60 applications to begin with.Timeline apps allow for real-world activities to be shared with friends.


Persons

Winner of Six Grammy Awards, Singer & Actor Whitney Houston died in California.


Veteran Tamil actress S N Lakshmi is dead. She was 85. S.N.Lakshmi, who donned the role of a 'mother' in several films, died in Chennai.

Awards


India's Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen the receipient of the 2011 US National Humanities Medal. Amartya Sen, who retains his Indian citizenship, is the first Indian to be honored with the medal that is typically awarded to US nationals. 

While Indian scholars and experts of Indian-origin had previously won White House recognition in science and engineering in the form of National Medals, this is a first in humanities.



Directors Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani received the Golden Bear award out of 18 contenders at the the Berlin film festival.



Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has bagged the fifth ESPNcricinfo best batting performance award in Tests beating the likes of his compatriot Rahul Dravid and Australian skipper Michael Clarke. 

Tendulkar, whose 146 in Cape Town last year came in testing conditions and in the face of some sublime swing bowling by Dale Steyn, became the No. 1 choice of seven jurors out of the 11 who had him in their top three. 

It was Tendulkar's second ESPNcricinfo Award. He had won the best ODI batting performance award in 2009 for his 175 against Australia in Hyderabad.


Veteran Hindi film music composer Rajesh Roshan was honoured with the Lata Manageshkar award by the Madhya Pradesh government on 8 February 2012. 

The Lata Manageshkar award for 2010-11 contained Rs two lakh in cash and a scroll of honour. During his career spanning 36 years, he had never before accepted an award from any state government.



A team of scientists from the National Institute of Ocean Technology in Pallikaranai has won the prestigious National Geo Science Award from the Ministry of Mines under Oil and Natural Gas Exploration and Disaster Management categories.

The team comprising scientists M.A. Atmanand, Director of NIOT, G.A. Ramadass, Project Director and S. Ramesh, A.N. Subramanian, D. Sathianarayanan, R. Ramesh, and G.Harikrishnan won the award for the successful development of a Remotely Operable Vehicle (ROV). They received the award at a function in New Delhi

Sports

South African Golfer James Barry Kruger won Avantha Masters Golf tournament in New Delhi on 19 February 2012. Popularly called Jbe Cruger, it was his maiden European Tour title. The 25-year-old Kruger made four birdies and overcame a bogey on the 17th to finish with a 14-under total of 274 in New Delhi.

Jorge Campillo of Spain and Marcel Siem of Germany jointly secured the second position.Campillo and Siem were two shots back in the match.



Madhya Pradesh has emerged as overall champion with 100 points in the 30th National Senior Taekwondo Championship.

This is for the fifth consecutive time that Madhya Pradesh has emerged as the national champion. 


The 19th National Veterans Table Tennis Championship started at Paljor Indoor Stadium in Gangtok. The Sports Minister N.K. Pradhan inaugurated the the six-day event organized by the Sikkim Veterans Table Tennis Association. 

Thirty-eight teams from 24 states, Union Territory of Chandigarh and 4 institutions from across the country are taking part in the championship.


February 17 and 18 Current Affairs
International Issues

The Plenary Meeting of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) being held in Paris approved the revised recommendations for combating money laundering and financing of terrorism. The plenary also discussed the fourth follow-up report on India’s progress with reference to the Action Plan that it had committed to in June 2010.

The plenary appreciated the actions taken by India and the commitment of India to the international Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) standards.

The FATF is an inter-governmental body that sets international standards for combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism. India became a member of FATF in June 2010.

A number of FATF member countries including theRussian Federation, South Korea, Japan, China, Brazil, Argentina, the USA, the UK, Italy, Germany, Australia, and the Eurasian Group on combating money laundering and financing of terrorism, lauded and congratulated India on its achievements in fulfilling the Action Plan.



Against the backdrop of Western sanctions imposed on Tehran for its nuclear programme and Kabul's concerns about US efforts to engage the Afghan Taliban, the Presidents of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan called for "non-interference and non-intervention" in their internal affairs.



The US has roped-in Bangladesh and four other nations under a new six-country global initiative to combat climate change, protect health, improve agricultural productivity and strengthen energy security.

Announcing the 'Climate and Clean Air Coalition' in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the world has not done enough to fight climate change and the coalition of the United States,

Bangladesh, Canada, Mexico, Sweden and Ghana will work to curb black carbon, methane and hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs).



The World Health Organization recommended that two reports on avian flu studies by Japanese and European researchers be fully published, following a US call on two leading scientific journals not to print them completely over fears that detailed information about the lethal virus could be used in bioterrorism.


Pope Benedict XVI has created 22 new cardinals - his closest aides - at a ceremony in Rome's St Peter's Basilica. The new cardinals of the church were presented with red hats called birettas and gold rings at the consistory. The archbishops of New York and Hong Kong are among those joining the prestigious group that will one day choose the pontiff's successor. Pope Benedict, who is nearly 85, is visibly slowing down.

Eighteen of the 22 newcomers are under the age of 80, meaning they can join the group of 125 cardinals who are eligible to take part in the conclave that will meet to elect a new pope once Benedict dies.


Indian companies have invested more than 26 billion dollars in the US in the last five years. Stating this, Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao said the IT companies employ more than one lakh people in that country.

National

The President of India Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil administered Polio vaccine drops to eight children at Rashtrapati Bhawan. The President was launching the National Pulse Polio Programme for 2012 on February 18th.


The President, in the presence of Shri Kapil Sibal, Minister of Human Resource Development and Smt. (Dr.) D.Purandeswari, Minister of State (HRD) flagged off the Saakshar Bharat Yatra at Rashtrapati Bhavan on February 18th, 2012.

The Saakshar Bharat Mission launched by the Prime Minister on International Literacy Day on 8th September, 2009, has completed nearly two and a half years. The Mission is primarily focussing on women, SCs, STs, Minorities and other disadvantaged groups in rural areas. The programme is being implemented in 1.6 lakh Gram Panchayats in 372 districts, including some of the Left Wing Extremism affected Districts. Nearly 13.5 million learners are already enrolled in the programme.


The Second National Community Radio Sammelan commenced with the objective of carving out a new roadmap for mainstreaming Community Radio as an effective outreach tool for community empowerment.

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has organised the three day sammelan from 18th February to 20th February 2012 in association with Commonwealth Educational Media centre for Asia (CEMCA). 



In a major initiative to promote the ‘Incredible India Campaign’ and Cinemas of India as a sub brand of Incredible India at various international film festivals and markets abroad, the Min of Information & Broadcasting and Min of Tourism signed a MoU.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is expected to enhance the reach of “Incredible India” through the Medium of Cinema, develop synergy between tourism and film industry and provide a platform for enabling partnerships between the Indian and global film industry.



In order to promote export of engineering and auto components from Madhya Pradesh, an expo has been organised in Bhopal from 20th February to showcase the State's strength and provide a platform to buyers and sellers for negotiating business opportunities.


The country's biggest blast furnace will be made operational at the Rourkela Steel Plant in Odisha by July of this year. This was stated by Chairman of public sector steel giant Steel Authority of India Chandra Sekhar Verma in Bhubaneshwar.



Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar is leading first ever Indian Parliamentary delegation to Pakistan. The delegation will be in Pakistan for four days.

During its visit, the  delegation will call on President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Chairman of the Senate Farooq Hamid Naek, Speaker of National Assembly of Pakistan Fehmida Mirza and Foreign Affairs Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

Bilateral

India and China has decided to promote export of Indian handmade carpets to China to diversify the trade basket and address the imbalance in the trade between the two countries. Union Minister of Commerce, Industry and Textiles Shri Anand Sharma met the Governor of Qinghai Province of China Mr Luo Huining.

Indian Handmade Carpet Industry is ranked No. 1 in the international market having market share of around 35% of total world import of Handmade Carpets. Carpet City, Xining in Qinghai Province is the major centre from the point of view of Indian Handmade Carpet Industry.

Economic

China could well displace India as the country with the greatest appetite for gold in 2012. Its jewellery and investment demand reached 769.8 tonnes in 2011, representing 82 per cent of India's level of demand for gold which was at 933.4 tonnes, according to World Gold Council (WGC).

Awards

India-born biologist Kamal Bawa has bagged the world's first international award for outstanding scientific work that promotes sustainable development globally.

Dr Bawa, distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, will receive the Gunnerus Sustainability Award from the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (DKNVS) at a function in Trondheim, Norway on 17th April.


French black and white drama 'The Artist' won gold at the 65th British Film Academy Awards winning seven prizes including Best Picture, while Meryl Streep continued with her winning streak grabbing the best leading actress gong.

The film's star Jean Dujardin took home the Best Leading Actor award, leaving behind the likes of Hollywood bigwigs like Brad Pitt (Moneyball), George Clooney (The Descendants) and Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).



India-born music conductor Zubin Mehta has been honoured with Israel's first Presidential Awards of Distinction, the country's version of the French Legion of Honour or the Order of Canada.


National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO) has bagged three prestigious awards such as ‘CEO with HR Orientation', ‘HR Leadership Award', and ‘Organisation with Innovative HR Practices' at the Global HR Excellence Awards ceremony during World HRD Congress – 2012, being held at Mumbai. 


Manisha Malhotra, a former India tennis player and Busan Asian Games silver medallist, was chosen as winner of the IOC Women and Sport Awards World Trophy by the International Olympic Committee for promoting women in sports.

Malhotra, who competed for India in the doubles at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, was one of six winners at the Women and Sports Awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

Sports

The tournament schedule of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2012 to be held in Queensland from August 11-26 is all set to be announced in Brisbane.

The event will be attended by Angelo Mathews, who was a member of the Sri Lanka side in the ICC U-19 CWC 2004 in Bangladesh, David Warner, who represented Australia in the ICC U19 CWC 2006 in Sri Lanka, and India's Virat Kolhi, who lifted the ICC U19 CWC 2008 trophy in Malaysia.



The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has appreciated Indian Olympic Association's (IOA) concern for the victims of 1984 Bhopal Tragedy but maintained that Dow Chemicals had no ownership stakes in Union Carbide till 2000.

IOC also said that its relationship with Dow Chemicals is well over 30 years and "we were aware of the Bhopal tragedy when discussing the partnership with Dow".

Persons

Centre had appointed Sushobhan Sarkar as new Managing Director of LIC.


Whitney Houston, the Grammy winning legendary singer-actress and heart throb of the 80's, whose once sparkling career was torn apart by drug abuse and personal problems, was found dead at a hotel in Los Angeles.


Anthony Shadid, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent who died at 43.


Geevarghese Mar Osthathios, senior-most Metropolitan of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, passed away at St. Gregorios Mission Hospital at Parumala . He was 94.

Science & Technology


Multi-Purpose Mi-17 V5 Helicopter Inducted into Air Force. The multi-purpose Mi-17 V 5 helicopters will add to the flexibility and operational muscle, as well as capabilities of the Indian Air Force. It will help the IAF in meeting its growing mandate.


February 15 and 16 Current Affairs
International Issues

As per the worldwide 'cost of living' survey by Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Mumbai is the second least expensive city globally, while New Delhi is ranked fourth.

Karachi in Pakistan has been named as the cheapest destination globally, while Zurich in Switzerland is the most expensive place across the world, as per the survey.

In the EIU survey, three of the four cheapest locations globally -- Karachi, Mumbai, Tehran and New Delhi -- are from the Indian subcontinent.

In the list of ten most expensive cities, Zurich and Tokyo are followed by Geneva, Osaka Kobe, Oslo, Paris, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore and Frankfurt.



Iran launched three nuclear projects including a fourth generation Ultra Centrifuge, which is capable of enriching the Uranium faster than its earlier models.

At a function in Teheran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled three nuclear projects. The first one was at the Iranian Atomic Organization Research Center in Tehran where Iran's first home-made nuclear fuel rods were loaded into a medical reactor.

This would be used for production of isotopes used in treatment of cancer patients. Ahmedinejad unveiled by Video Conference link-up, two other projects in the Natanz plant in central Iran.

National Issues

Ch. Ajit Singh, the Minister of Civil Aviation has formed a three member committee to examine the recommendations of Justice Dharmadhikari Committee on various HR issues after the merger of the two national carriers Air India and Indian Airlines and give its report by the first week of March 2012. 

The committee has also been asked to give the schedule of implementation of the recommendations of Justice Dharmadhikari Committee. Earlier the Ministry of Civil Aviation constituted a committee under the Chairmanship of Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari, Former Judge of the Supreme Court of India to address various industrial relations (IR) issues submitted its report to the Minister of Civil Aviation on January 31, 2012.



Central Bank of India, the third largest public sector bank having network of nearly 4000 branches pan India has launched a special scheme CENT VAYUSHAKTI for promoting a defence salary package. The scheme is envisaged to provide high end range of banking facilities to the serving and retired Air Force personnel across the country. 

The scheme was launched by Air Marshal JN Burma, Air Officer-in-Charge Administration at Vayu Bhavan. AVM (Retd) Ratan Bir Kalra, Defence Banking Advisor was present during the ceremony.



Government has announced a uniform telecom license fee policy. Briefing the newsmen in New Delhi, the Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said that all future licenses would be unified and telecom spectrum in each city would be allotted separately to operators.

The uniform license fee will be upto eight per cent of adjusted gross revenue of the telecom company. Mr. Sibal said, a new telecom policy will come in force from the next financial year. He said that the telecom regulator, TRAI, will announce a migration path for existing license holders to the uniform license regime.



The 44th Indian Labour Conference concluded at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi. The Conference was inaugurated by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India. The Conference was attended by Labour Ministers from 14 State Governments. 

All the major 12 Central Trade Union Organisations and 6 major employers’ organisation participated in the Conference. Besides, senior officials from 23 Central Ministries and all State Governments/UTs attended the Conference.

Key Recommendations of 44th Session of Indian Labour Conference:
  • Minimum Wages Act Coverage for all Employments.
  • Raising The Wage Ceiling in the Employees Provident Fund, Enhancement of Pension Under Employees Pension Scheme 95, Portability of PF Account, Reduction in the
  • Requirement of Minimum Continuous Service, Etc.
  • Stress on Matching the Large Scale Skilling Targets with Creating Similar Number of Openings in the Area of Employment
  • Maternity Leave Under the Maternity Benefit Act be Increased from the Present Level of 12 Weeks to 24 Weeks.



The Union Cabinet on february 16th approved the setting up of a new Rail Coach Manufacturing unit at Palakkad in Kerala to manufacture 400 coaches per annum at an estimated cost of Rs.550 crore (excluding the cost of land) as a Joint Venture in which Railways shall contribute 26% of the equity.

The new coach building plant will be set up at Palakkad in Kerala where land to the extent of about 239 acres is available for use which will be purchased by the
Railways from the Government of Kerala.



The Railways have generated Rs. 55382.80 crore of revenue earnings from commodity-wise freight traffic during April 2011 to January 2012 as compared to Rs. 50487.91 crore during the corresponding period last year, registering an increase of 9.70 per cent. Railways carried 791.84 million tonnes of commodity-wise freight traffic during April 2011 to January 2012 as compared to 755.86 million tonnes carried during the corresponding period last year, registering an increase of 4.76 per cent. 

The Net Tonne Kilo Metres (NTKM) went up from 498014 million during April 2010 to January 2011 to 524186 million during April 2011 to January 2012, showing an increase of 5.26 per cent. 



Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Shri V.Narayanasamy, launched Minister’s Office Interface in Centralised Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) in New Delhi. 

Department of Administrative Reforms& Public Grievances (DARPG) has developed an interface for Minister’s Office in CPGRAMS for lodging /registering of such grievances and online forwarding thereof to the concerned Departments in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions for timely redress action.



To promote the ‘Incredible India Campaign’ and Cinemas of India as a sub brand of Incredible India at various international film festivals and markets abroad, the Minister of Information & Broadcasting and Min of Tourism signed a MoU.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is expected to enhance the reach of “Incredible India” through the Medium of Cinema, develop synergy between tourism and film industry and provide a platform for enabling partnerships between the Indian and global film industry.



The 42nd All India Police Science Congress is beginning in Gangtok in Sikkim. The Chief Minister Mr. Pawan Chamling will inaugurate it. It is for the first time that Sikkim is hosting the Congress, held annually under the aegis of the Bureau of Police Research and Development under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.

AIR Gangtok correspondent reports that the Congress is aimed at suggesting measures and remedies to improve the structure and functioning of the police forces across the country.



The New Telecom Policy was announced by communications minister Kapil Sibal on 15 February 2012.

The key policy measures are aimed at reassuring incumbent operators who had been seeking clarity in rules at a time when the government is making every possible effort to put the scam-tainted telecom sector back on track.



Assam contributed more than 50 percent of the country’s total tea production in 2011. Assam produced around 509 million kg tea which also led the India’s total tea output to 988.32 million kg in this period.

It is for the third time that the state has crossed the 500 million kg mark in terms of tea production.


Bilateral Issues

India and Saudi Arabia have decided to set up a Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation to work out the contours of the relationship. The decision was taken at the delegation level talks between the two countries in Riyadh.



The first Meeting of the India-Nepal Joint Ministerial Commission on Water Resources was held in New Delhi. The meeting was jointly led by Union Minister of Water Resources and Parliamentary Affairs Shri Pawan Kumar Bansal, Minister of Energy of Nepal Shri Posta Bahadur Bogati and Minister of Irrigation of Nepal Shri Mahendra Prasad Yadav.

Union Minister of State for Water Resources and Minority Affairs Shri Vincent H. Pala, Minister of Water Resources Department of Bihar Shri Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, senior officers of the Government of India, State Governments of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal were present in the meeting.

Persons

The Public Enterprises Selection Board on 15 February 2012 short-listed Mr S. Narsing Rao to head the Coal India Ltd. Mr S. Narsing Rao, an Andhra Pradesh cadre IAS officer is currently the CMD of the state-controlled Singareni Collieries Company (SCCL). He has been holding this position since 2006.

Coal India Ltd is the leading coal company under the government of India. It acquired the status of Maharatna in year 2011. Coal India Limited is also the world's largest coal miner with revenue exceeding 60,245 Crore (FY2010-11). The company does not have any full time Chairman since March 2011.


Economic Issues

The U.S. and European regulators have approved Google’s USD 12.5 bn acquisition of cell-phone maker Motorola Mobility Inc, a move that will boost the technology giant’s efforts to strengthen its position in the mobile market.



The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to increase the Bank Rate by 350 basis points from 6 per cent to 9.50 per cent per annum with immediate effect.



The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 14 February 2012, issued the ‘Draft Circular for Deployment of White Label Automated Teller Machines (WLAs) from non-bank entities.

The central bank also announced its plans. The central banks’d issuance of the draft reflected the bank’s intention to accelerate the growth and penetration of ATMs in the country. ATMs rolled out by non-banks will be like White Label ATMs (WLA) and will provide ATM services to customers of all banks. WLA means ATM owned, run and maintained by third parties on a contract basis from a financial institution.



Gujarat topped the list of most preferred business destination in India in year 2011. According to Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India[ASSOCHAM] report, released on 13 February 2012, Gujarat at the end of 2011 got the total investment proposal worth Rs. 16.28 lakh crore.

Gujarat recorded 13.52 per cent stake in the total live investment proposals worth Rs 120.34 lakh crore in the country at the end of the year 2011.Maharashtra, which came second after Gujarat, drew total investment proposals worth Rs.14.14 lakh crore, followed by Andhra Pradesh (Rs. 12.09 lakh crore), Odisha (Rs. 12.09 lakh crore), Karnataka (Rs 9.85 lakh crore) and Tamil Nadu (Rs 9.13 lakh crore).Top five states witnessed maximum investment in Electricity and Manufacturing sectors.


Awards

Olympic champions Zhu Qinan of China and Olena Kostevych of Ukraine were declared the ‘shooters of the year' for 2011 by the ISSF.



Serbian tennis star, Novak Djokovic was awarded with the highest Serbian award, the Gold Star of Karadjordje on 15 February 2012. The award was conferred upon him by the Serbian President Boris Tadic.

The Star of Karadjordje, the topmost award conferred by Serbian government, was first introduced in 1904 by King Peter but was discontinued later in the aftermath of Second World War. It was reintroduced in 2010 by the present government.

The award is named after Karadjordje, the founder of the Serbian royal family. He had successfully revolted against the Ottoman Empire in 1804 and established the modern Serbian state subsequently.


Science & Technology

Mi-17 V5 helicopter would be inducted into the IAF on 17 February 2012. This helicopter falls in the category of armed helicopter, with substantial and effective firepower with the latest and more powerful engines that will greatly enhance its payload carriage capability at higher altitudes.

Mi-17 V5, an upgrade of Mi-17 in the medium -lift category, is equipped with state-of-the-art avionics and onboard Navigation Systems. It is a glass cockpit variant;the first of its kind to get inducted into the IAF. It has onboard weather radar, state of the art autopilot and is compatible with the latest Generation (Gen-III)

Night vision Goggles. With this, the helicopter can undertake all-weather, day and night operations in any kind of terrain. The helicopter is also equipped with a Bambi-Bucket that can be used for fire fighting. It is also fitted with a powerful winch – a feature useful in the Disaster Relief Operations in restricted areas where landing is not possible.



In Gujarat, India’s first highly sophisticated vessel traffic service was dedicated to the nation in Kandla. Sixteen thousand square kilometres of Gulf of Kutch are now under strict vigilance by this ultra modern radar system which is the first and the largest radar surveillance system on Indian coast.

The very sensitive and strategically most important, the Gulf of Kutch, is now more safe, with the dedication of ultra-modern vesel management service at Kandla this morning. Approximately, 16500 sq. km. of Gulf of Kutch areas are under the surveillance of high-tech radars and other navigational systems.


February 13 to 14 Current Affairs

National Issues

AYUSH to be included in national health schemes. The Centre is planning to launch a special scheme for delivery of healthcare services in 100 out of 264 focus districts across the country where the health indicators are very low, by integrating allopathic and other Indian systems of medicine soon.

Under the scheme, joint teams of doctors of allopathy, Ayurveda, yoga andnaturopathy, Unani, Siddha and homoeopathy systems of medicine will visit villages frequently to bring about an improvement in the general health condition of people.

This was stated here on Monday by Mr. Anil Kumar, Secretary, Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), here on Monday while inaugurating a national workshop on ‘Clinical Research Methodology in Unani Medicine'. Modalities were being worked out to include AYUSH systems of medicine in all national health programmes within two years.

Bilateral


Anti-piracy surveillance to ensure safety of the Indian Ocean region and security ties were among the issues discussed between India and Seychelles in New Delhi.

Both the countries also inked two pacts for the supply of Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems and Dornier Aircraft to the island nation. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his counterpart from Seychelles Jean-Paul Adam held comprehensive discussions on international, regional and bilateral issues and took stock of the current status of the ties between the countries.


Economic


The Reserve Bank of India has decided to increase the bank rate to 9.5 per cent with immediate effect. RBI said in a notification that this increase should be viewed and understood as one-time technical adjustment to align the Bank Rate with the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate rather than a change in the monetary policy stance.

The Bank Rate, which is the standard rate at which the RBI buys or re-discounts bills of exchange or other commercial paper, is presently used as a penal rate, which the banks have to pay for their failure to meet the mandatory Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) and Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR).

The Bank Rate, which has been increased to 9.50 per cent, was kept unchanged since April 2003. 



Cheaper food items pulled down overall inflation to a 26-month low of 6.55 percent in January 2012. Headline inflation, as measured by the Wholesale Price Index, WPI, had stood at 7.47 per cent in December 2011, and at 9.47 per cent in January 2011.

As per the official data released, food inflation stood at minus 0.52 percent in January 2012, against 0.74 per cent in December 2011. Vegetables were cheaper by 43.13 per cent, and wheat cheaper by 3.48 per cent, on an annual basis. Potato prices fell 23.15 per cent, and onion prices dropped 75.57 per cent, year-on-year, in January. Prices of manufactured items, which have a weight of around 65 per cent in the WPI basket, rose 6.49 per cent in January 2012, as against 7.41 per cent in December 2011.


Awards

India-born Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has been felicitated with the prestigious National Medals of Arts and Humanities award by US President Barrack Obama.

Sen has been given the award for his efforts to increase the understanding of fighting hunger and poverty. The Nobel laureate was given the award at a glittering function at White House in Washington.



French black and white drama 'The Artist' won gold at the 65th British Film Academy Awards  winning seven prizes including Best Picture, while Meryl Streep continued with her winning streak grabbing the best leading actress gong.

The film's star Jean Dujardin took home the Best Leading Actor award, leaving behind the likes of Hollywood bigwigs like Brad Pitt (Moneyball), George Clooney (The Descendants) and Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).



India-born music conductor Zubin Mehta has been honoured with Israel's first Presidential Awards of Distinction, the country's version of the French Legion of Honour or the Order of Canada.

The award is being bestowed upon those "who have made an outstanding contribution to the state of Israel or to humanity, through their talents, services, or in any other form," a statement from the Israeli Presidency said.



Noted Hindi writer Professor Ramdarash Mishra has been selected for the 21st Vyas Samman for his poetry collection “ Aam Ke Patte ”. The collection was published in 2004.

The award, instituted by the K.K. Birla Foundation, is given annually for an outstanding literary work in Hindi published during the past 10 years. The award
carries a cash purse of Rs. 2.5 lakh.


Sports

India's Saurabh Ghoshal has won the Windi-city Open Squash tournament in Chicago, United States.

In a thrilling match, top seed Ghoshal defeated Pakistan's Yassir Butt 11-8, 15-13, 10-12, 11-5.



Former Australian first-class pacer Joe Dawes will take over as the Indian cricket team's bowling coach after Eric Simons' tenure comes to an end at the completion of the ongoing tour of Australia.

Persons

Noted urdu poet and Jnanpith awardee Akhlaq Mohammed Khan, who shot to fame for penning ghazals in Bollywood classics like 'Umrao Jaan', passed away in Aligarh after a protracted illness. He was 76.



Whitney Houston, the Grammy winning legendary singer-actress and heart throb of the 80's, whose once sparkling career was torn apart by drug abuse and personal problems, was found dead at a hotel in Los Angeles.



S.V. Sangameswaran, former Deputy Director, Central Food and Technological Research Institute, Mysore, passed away. He was 87.


February 12th Current Affairs

National Issues

Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh has said that the Centre has decided to bring all rural development schemes under CAG Audit to ensure greater transparency and accountability.

Bilateral Issues


Pakistan and Sri Lanka have signed three agreements to promote cooperation in trade‚ technical education and media.

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and the visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa witnessed the signing ceremony in Islamabad.

Under the agreements, they will step up exchange of news stories‚ special programme and important publications through radio‚ television‚ news agencies and information establishments.

Pakistan will extend a credit of $200 million dollars to Sri Lanka for improving its exports. They will also step up cooperation in technical training in different
fields.



India and the European Union (EU) have decided to work together to improve energy security and collaborate in research and innovation and hoped to clinch soon the free trade pact whose contours were emerging.

India and the European Union have been negotiating a broad-based trade and investment deal since 2007.

Economic Issues

The Government approved 20 foreign direct investment proposals amounting to around Rs 1,034 crore. The proposals were cleared following recommendations of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board.

According to the Ministry of Finance release, the Government cleared Singapore-based Fluke South East Asia Pte's Rs 400-crore proposal to incorporate an investing company to make downstream investments in other Indian firms engaged in wholesale trading and related activities. Besides, the Board also cleared a proposal of Rs 300-crore for a Mauritius-based company.

Persons

The former secretary-general of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), Harish Sharma, died on Feb 12th, after prolonged illness. He was 53.

Awards

India-born music conductor Zubin Mehta has been honoured with Israel's first Presidential Awards of Distinction, the country's version of the French Legion of Honour or the Order of Canada.



The rising star of Indian cricket team, Virat Kohli, has won an unusual accolade. He has been named as one of the 10 best dressed international men in a list that includes US President Barack Obama.

The 23-year-old Kohli, the only Indian batsman to have done very well during the current tour of Australia, has been put at number three in the list published by well-known men's fashion magazine 'GQ'.

The latest issue of the magazine says that Kohli is famous in India for his style as he is for his batting.

The list is headed by Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender and includes Canadian actor Ryan Gosling, actor Vincent Cassel and Obama, who figures last.

Ratan Tata is among the 10 best dressed businessmen by GQ which says that he looks "every bit as sharp as one of his Jaguar" supercars.


Sports

Facing heavy fine for alleged promotion of tobacco, Cricket Australia has withdrawn a Hindi advertisement from the ongoing tri-series.

An Indian brand of mouthwash featured on the boundary ropes during the four-Test series, two Twenty20 Internationals and the first tri-series match between India and Australia.


February 11th Current Affairs

International Issues

Sudan and South Sudan has signed a "treaty of non-aggression" on their disputed border in Addis Ababa, where African Union-led negotiations between the two sides are being held. 

The deal was signed by the head of South Sudan's intelligence bureau, Thomas Douth, and Sudan's director of national intelligence and security, Mohammed Atta.

National Issues

The Sikkim Government has ordered closure of two controversial hydro-electric projects being undertaken in Yuksom area under the Tashiding State Legislative Assembly Constituency in West Sikkim district.

The State Government has ordered the closure of the 99 MW Ting Ting and 96 MW Lethang hydro-electric projects in public interest with immediate effect.



DRDO conducted a successful test launch of the interceptor missile. DRDO’s Air Defence Missile AAD-05 has successfully hit the ballistic missile and destroyed it at a height of 15 kms off the Coast of Orissa near the Wheelers Island.

India is the fifth nation to have these ballistic missile defence capabilities in the world.



Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) celebrated its 25th Foundation Day on Feb 10th. Bharat Ratna Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, former President of India, was the Chief Guest and Dr. Ashwani Kumar, Minister of State for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Ministry of Planning, presided over the function.

Dr. Kalam conferred the ‘National Award for Commercializable Patents’ to 8 patentees, whose inventions have been selected by TIFAC as potential one that could be commercialized thereby contributing to the socio-economic benefits.

Bilateral Issues

India and the European Union (EU) have decided to work together to improve energy security and collaborate in research and innovation and hoped to clinch soon the free trade pact whose contours were emerging.

India and the European Union have been negotiating a broad-based trade and investment deal since 2007.



India -Nepal are to hold the first ministerial level meeting on Water resources and energy in New Delhi on 15th Feb.

India and Nepal have agreed to carry out joint feasibility study on the Sapta Koshi multi-purpose project which will be completed by the end of 2013. The project will combine irrigation facilities , flood control system, power generation of 3000 megwatt, a 269 metre waterway.

Economic Issues

The govt approved 20 foreign direct investment proposals, including that of Fluke South East Asia Pte, APF II India Investments Mauritius and Edict Pharmaceuticals, that envisage a total investment of Rs 1,034.37 crore.

The proposals were cleared following recommendations of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).



The Quick Estimates of Index of Industrial Production (IIP) with base 2004-05 for the month of December 2011 have been released by the Central Statistics Office of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. 

The General Index for the month of December 2011 stands at 178.8, which is 1.8% higher as compared to the level in

the month of December 2010. The cumulative growth for the period April-December 2011-12 stands at 3.6% over the corresponding period of the previous year.

Persons


Veteran Bollywood writer-filmmaker O. P. Dutta has passed away.

The film-maker, who was in his late 80s, began his career as a director with ‘Pyaar Ki Jeet' in 1948, followed by ‘Surajmukhi' (1950), ‘Ek Nazar' (1951), ‘Malkin'(1953), ‘Aangan' (1959) and others. Later he turned writer for his son J. P. Dutta with films like ‘Ghulami' (1985), ‘Hathyar' (1989), ‘Border' (1997), ‘Refugee'(2000), ‘LoC Kargil' (2003) and, his last film as a writer, ‘Umrao Jaan' (2006).



February 9 to 10 Current Affairs

International


SAARC Meeting on Strengthening Anti-Terror Mechanism begins on February 9th. A Meeting of High Level Group of Eminent Experts from SAARC countries to strengthen Anti-Terror Mechanism got underway in New Delhi. The Two day meeting is attended by delegates from Bhutan, India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the SAARC Secretariat. Indian delegation was led by Director, Intelligence Bureau, Shri Nehchal Sandhu.

Issues relating to further improving the functioning of SAARC Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk (STOMD) and the SAARC Drug Offences Monitoring Desk (SDOMD) based in Colombo, Sri Lanka, review of the enabling legislation enacted by the Member States on SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol as well as the SAARC Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and to further enhance the implementation process of these Conventions by the Member States are being discussed at this Meeting. The Meeting considered the SAARC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters as well.

Exchange of information among the Member States on a real time basis for better coordination to counter terrorism and drug related activities, developing cooperation, capacity and relationship building among the SAARC Police authorities were identified, among others, as possible methods of strengthening the SAARC anti-terrorism mechanism.



Three-day BioAsia conclave begins on February 9th in Hyderabad, India. Representatives from 35 countries and over 250 companies will be participating in the ninth edition of the three-day BioAsia.

Major delegations from Sri Lanka, Korea, Iran, Germany, Belgium, Singapore, Egypt, Thailand and Nepal as also regulators from 10 countries will be attending the event.

This year, Bharat Biotech International Limited and GVK Biosciences will be the industry host and co-host respectively.


National



The government on february 9th approved the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP-2012) to facilitate access to central government owned shareable data and information.

The data can be shared in both human readable and machine readable formats through a network across the country.

The NDSAP policy is designed to promote data sharing and enable access to central government owned data for national planning and development.


The number of foreign tourists availing Visa on Arrival, VoA scheme has registered 72 per cent increase in the month of January this year as against the same period last year.

A total of 1359 tourists were issued VoA as compared to the 790 foreigners who availed the facility under the scheme during the same period last year.As a facilitative measure to attract more foreign tourists, the government had launched Visa on Arrival scheme in January 2010 for citizens of five countries including Finland, Japan, Luxembourg and Singapore.




Haryana government has implemented e-salary project in the state through the Department of Treasuries and Accounts to have an effective control on salary disbursement to its employees and have a complete database of such payments.

The project has already been implemented at Treasury level from the month of January, 2012 and would be extended up to Sub Treasury level within the current financial year.



Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda announced to launch a "State Urban Health Mission" to provide comprehensive health services in the urban areas particularly targeting the slum areas, thus making Haryana the first State in the country implement such a mission.



The government on February 9th approved setting up of a national centre for cold chain development and allocated a one-time grant of Rs 25 crore for its corpus fund.

The decision comes in the wake of post harvest losses to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore annually in absence of proper storage facilities.

India -- the world's second largest producer of horticulture products -- accounts for 71.5 million tonnes (MT) of fruits, 133.7 MT of vegetables and 17.8 MT of other commodities like flowers, spices, coconut, cashew, mushroom, honey, etc.

However, a significant portion of the produce like fruits, vegetables, flowers goes waste due to post harvest losses in absence of proper cold storage facilities.



A bill aimed at digitalisation of cable TV was passed by the Lok Sabha with the government saying it would not harm cable operators as it would provide only those channels a person wanted to watch and at affordable cost.


A 1000-feet high rocky hill cluster at Chadayamangalam in south Kerala, believed to be connected with mythical character 'Jatayu' in epic Ramayana, will woo tourists as the country's first 'Rock Theme Park'.

According to local tradition, the rock, 'Jatayupara' in Kollam district, is the place where the mythical bird 'Jatayu' fell after its wings were slain by the ten-headed Ravana by his lethal sword 'Chandrahasam'.


President Smt.Pratibha Devisingh Patil released a postage stamp on India International Centre to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of IIC.


Business


Exports grew by 10.1 percent year-on-year to USD 25.4 billion, while imports increased by 20.3 percent in January.

Imports stood at USD 40.1 billion in January 2012, resulting in a trade deficit of USD 14.7 billion.

During April-January 2011-12, the country's exports increased by 23.5 percent to USD 242.8 billion.

Imports grew by 29.4 percent to USD 391.5 billion during the 10 months period. The trade deficit stood at USD 148.7 billion for the period.


According to the Advanced Estimates released by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), the economic growth is likely to fall to a three-year low of 6.9 per cent in 2011-12, mainly due to sharp slowdown in manufacturing, agriculture and mining sectors, against 8.4 per cent expansion in the last fiscal.

Agriculture and allied activities are likely to grow at 2.5 per cent in 2011-12, compared to a robust growth of 7 per cent in 2010-11.


The Central Government released the seventh report, pertaining to the quarter October-December 2011 on Public Debt Management. Since September 2010, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance has been bringing out a quarterly report on debt management.

The report is divided into five sections. Section 1 briefly describes the macroeconomic environment during the quarter – growth, inflation, capital flows etc.,- that have a bearing on debt markets. Section 2 details debt management operations in the primary market during the quarter – Government’s financing requirement, auction details, cost and maturity of borrowings, etc. The cash management operations during the quarter and their rationale are explained in Section 3. Section 4 provides an account of outstanding debt – cost and risk character, holding pattern and maturity profile. Finally, Section 5 details the secondary market activity in the Government securities market.

This report will be published every quarter. The complete report of this quarter is enclosed.

Persons


Mr. Pankaj Saran has been appointed as the next High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh. He succeeds Mr. Rajeet Mitter. Mr. Saran is presently Joint Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office. He is expected to take up his assignment shortly.


Awards


M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Jeypore, has been declared winner of the “National Water Award for 2010” by the Ministry of Water Resources under the NGO category.


Prof. Tapas Kumar Kundu of Bangalore-based Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research has won the G. D. Birla Award for his contributions in the field of bio-chemistry. 

The award, instituted by the K. K. Birla Foundation to accord recognition to high-calibre scientific research undertaken by Indian scientists below the age of 50, carries Rs.1.50 lakh in cash.


Tapas Kumar Kundu of Bangalore-based Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research has been selected for the G.D. Birla award for his contribution in biochemistry.

The award, instituted by the K.K. Birla Foundation for according recognition to high calibre scientific research undertaken by Indian scientists below the age of 50, carries a purse of Rs 1.5 lakh.

Mr. Kundu, who has one US and three Indian patents to his credit, has been selected for his contribution in the area of human gene expression and its links to disease and therapeutics.


February 8th, 2012 Current Affairs

International Issues

Maldives' first democratically elected president resigned on Feb 7th after a police mutiny described by his office as an attempted coup, capping three weeks of political upheaval in the holiday paradise.



Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have agreed to name President Mahmoud Abbas as Head of a Unity Government that will oversee preparations for presidential and legislative elections.

As per the agreement Mahmoud Abbas will be the interim Prime Minister until elections are held.



UN chief Ban Ki-moon has appealed to eight countries, including India, to ratify the CTBT to bring the global nuclear test ban into force.

The UN secretary general made the appeal after Indonesia became the 157th country to adopt the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Besides India, China, North Korea, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the US are the other nations in a core group of 44 nuclear countries which did not ratify the treaty.

The 44 nations which must ratify the CTBT to bring it into force all have nuclear weapons or atomic programmes.

This would accelerate the entry of CTBT into force, Ban said after his meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa at the UN headquarters.


National Issues


The opening of the Indian Embassy's $10 million compound, which will be formally presided over by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on February 8th, was delayed by over a year on account of concerns over security.

The building, which was scheduled to open in 2010, had to undergo a half- year-long security review in the wake of concerns expressed by some officials over inadequate security arrangements following the 2009 attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

The building's exteriors were subsequently redesigned, with its walls and gates bolstered to provide greater protection after security officials from New Delhi spent weeks reviewing the structure and combing the compound in several visits to Beijing last year. Concerns over security have cast a shadow over the expansive new embassy compound. Indian officials have also taken precautions to ensure greater information security, amid growing concerns over cyber intrusions by China-based hackers and repeated hacking attacks faced by diplomats in the old Ritan Park embassy compound.



The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Chief Nandan Nilekani on February 7th  said Aadhaar numbers will be used for streamlining the Public Distribution System (PDS) and plugging leakages in it. 



Union Minister for Defence, A.K. Antony inaugurated the Joint Naval Fleet Exercises,”TROPEX 2012” at sea in Bay of Bengal, off Visakhapatnam coast. AIR Correspondent reports, the major annual exercise is aimed at testing the Navy’s preparedness in dealing with contingencies. 



Government decided to allow airlines to directly import jet fuel to enable them save on high incidence of tax. It also allowed national carrier Air India to raise 7,400 crore rupees by issuing bonds or other means. The decision was taken by a Group of Ministers, GoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The GoM was also apprised of the decision to allow foreign airlines pick up 49 per cent stake in Indian carriers.

Bilateral Issues

Iran has agreed to accept 45 per cent of the payment for its crude imports in rupees through three Indian banks to beat the effect of western sanctions.

Under the agreement, 45 per cent of the payment would be made in rupees through three Indian banks and Iran could utilise this for buying Indian machinery, metal products, iron, steel, minerals, clothes, fibre, sugar, tea, wood and automobile spare parts. Indian companies can also invest in projects in Iran like developing its oil and gas fields, extraction of iron ore and building roads and railways.

Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Indian Oil hold 80 per cent stake in the block and Oil India the remaining 20 per cent. 


Science and Technology


Punjab University archaeologists claim to have unearthed a seal of Indus Valley Civilisation vintage from the Cholistan desert of South Punjab that borders Rajasthan.

According to a report in The Dawn newspaper, the seal in steatite material with the carved figure of ibex and two pictographs was discovered during a survey of different sites near the Derawar Fort along the ancient bed of the Hakra river. The seal is more or less square-shaped and slightly broken from the right side but the image of the ibex is intact.

The seal is said to date back to 2500-2000 B.C. and, according to the chairman of Punjab University's Archaeology Department, Farzand Masih, is different from Harappan seals. This, according to him, could be reflective of a regional influence and possibly even a separate identity in the Harappan domain.

The seal was discovered during the Sui-Vihar Excavations and Archaeological Reconnaissance of Southern Punjab — a project funded by UNESCO to explore sites along the Hakra river. The project aimed at learning more about Buddhist influence in this region which has its own distinctive features as opposed to the Gandhara school of art further north. The team also conducted excavations at Sui-Vihar which is billed as the only existing example of Sankhya doctrines in Pakistan.



Indigenously developed micro-light and pilot-less target aircraft Lakshya-1 was successfully test flown from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur near Balasore on Feb 7th.

'Lakshya-1, fitted with an advanced digitally controlled engine was successfully test flown at about 11.40 AM to check the validity of its engine and duration enhancement.


Awards


The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve (NBR), spread over 5,500 sq km in three states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, has been nominated for the prestigious Michael Batisse Award under the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme of the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Tamil Nadu has a lion's share of NBR with over 2,500 sq km lying within the State boundary. In Tamil Nadu, it largely lies in Coimbatore division, part of Erode district and in the Nilgiris division. The NBR includes tropical moist forests and tropical dry forests. The rainfall here ranges from 500 mm to 7,000 mm per year. The reserve encompasses the South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests, South Western Ghats montane rain forest, semi evergreen moist forest, thorn forest and scrub, montane grassland and high elevation shola forests.

NBR is a home for rich flora, fauna and a well-known bio diversity hot spot. It has rich orchids, 3,238 species of angio perms, 71 species of gymno sperms, 300 species of butterflies, 285 vertebrates endemic to Western Ghats, 100 species of mammals, 350 birds and as many as 1,1680 reptiles and amphibians besides unique shola grass lands and eco systems.



Three IITians are among the eight young scientists who have won the prestigious Scopus award, instituted by the National Academy of Sciences and Elsevier, a leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services.

The winners are Sanjib Senapathi, IIT-Madras; Sagnik Dey, IIT-Delhi; Satyajit Banerjee, IIT-Kanpur; Partha Sarathi Mukherjee, IISc, Bangalore; Prahladh Harsha, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai; Sundergopal Sridhar, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad; Ritesh Agarwal, P.G. Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh; and S.B. Shivachandra, Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.



Manipal University was awarded for having the best hostel facility for students along with BITS Pilani at the India Today Aspire Education Summit 2012 in New Delhi recently.

The best of India's education sector were honoured at the India Today Aspire Education Summit 2012 in New Delhi.



The dominant forces in tennis and football were honored, with Novak Djokovic winning the top individual prize and Barcelona capturing the team trophy at the 2012 Laureus Sports Awards.

The top-ranked Djokovic won sportsman of the year at the ceremony in London, one week after the Serbian triumphed at the Australian Open to become the fifth man in the Open Era to win three Grand Slam titles in a row.



Indian director Shonali Bose and three other filmmakers have won the prestigious 2012 Sundance Institute-Mahindra Global Filmmaking award, which recognises and supports independent talent from around the world.



Indian music maestro A R Rahman has been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 8th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) in Dubai. 

Persons

Science communicator R.D. Sharma (73), who was a senior officer in the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, has passed away.

A former media consultant at the India office of the International Rice Research Institute, he was known for his insightful writings on different aspects of science for the benefit of the common man.

Among other things, he is a winner of the Indian National Science Academy's Indira Gandhi Prize for Popularisation of Science. He has scripted, anchored, directed and produced more than 500 television programmes.


Business


The economic growth is likely to fall to a three-year low of 6.9 per cent in 2011-12, mainly due to sharp slowdown in manufacturing, agriculture and mining sectors, against 8.4 per cent expansion in the last fiscal.

Agriculture and allied activities are likely to grow at 2.5 per cent in 2011-12, compared to a robust growth of 7 per cent in 2010-11, according to the Advanced Estimates released on Feb 7th by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO).



The Indian IT industry in the US has contributed USD 15 billion in taxes alone in the last five years, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said, stressing on the need to eliminate discriminatory actions. 

Mathai, on his first bilateral visit to the US in his capacity as the Foreign Secretary, expressed hope that the economic challenges in the US would not lead to protectionism and concerns of the Indian IT industry will be addressed. 





February 1 to 7 Current Affairs

International

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of the central Philippines in the narrow strait between the heavily populated islands of Negros and Cebu on 6 February 2012. Soil and rocks buried homes in a neighbourhood in Guihulngan City near the quake's epicentre, which had also seen heavy rain in the days before the earthquake.

The powerful quake which struck near Tayasan town in the central Philippine island of Negros caused buildings to collapse, resulted in ther cracking of roads and bridges, and shut down the power supply.



Russia and China on 4 February 2012 vetoed the UN Security Council resolution for the second time in four months. The resolution condemns the Syrian regime’s crackdown on public uprising and calls upon President Bashar Al Assad to abide by the Arab League time-frame for political reforms in the country. 13 members of the 15-member Security Council, including India voted in favour of the resolution.

The draft resolution was prepared by European Union and Arab nations and revised amidst stiff opposition by Russia. From the original draft several major demands were dropped. 

The time-frame for implementation of the resolution by Syria was increased from 15 days to 21 days.



Bangladesh High Commissioner Tariq Ahmed Karim and the president of Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Dr. Karan Singh, released Dhaka-based author Anisul Hoque's latest book, Freedom's Mother in New Delhi on 4 February 2012. Hoque is also the Deputy Editor of Dhaka's leading newspaper, Prothom Alo.

The release of Freedom's Mother came soon after activists launched controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen's latest work despite protests by certain religious extremist groups in Kolkata.

The book, Freedom's Mother is a fiction based on a true story. The idea of freedom and the sacrifices made by people in the fight for independence underlined the theme of the book. Bangladesh is presently commemorating the 40th anniversary of its liberation. Termed it as soul-stirring, thought-provoking story, the book speaks of the price one has to pay to aceive freedom.



The fifth edition of the World Future Energy Summit was held in Abu Dhabi, capital of UAE from 16 to 19 January 2012. The theme of this year’s World Future Energy Summit was - Sustainable Energy for All.

The summit discussed the need to harness the alternative sources like solar, wind, small hydro energy, tidal energy etc.

National


The Union government decided to operationalise the ambitious National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) from 1 March 2012. A pet project of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, the NCTC got approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in January 2012.

The operations division of the counter-terrorism body were powers to arrest and carry out searches under Section 43A of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The NCTC is to be located in the Intelligence Bureau and headed by a Director who will be an officer in the rank of Additional Director, IB. It will have three units — gathering intelligence, analysis of intelligence and carrying out operations. Each of these divisions will be headed by a joint director of the IB.



Delhi became the first State in the country to issue e-stamp papers in all denominations after the Cabinet decided to bring non-judicial stamp papers of Rs.500 denomination and below under the ambit of e-stamp mode on 6 February 2012. The complete switchover to e-stamp mode is expected to prevent all fraudulent practices in this field.

The Delhi Government had earlier implemented e-stamping of non-judicial stamp papers of denominations of Rs 501 and above with effect from 1 April 2008, through M/s Stock Holding Corporation of India Ltd. (SHCIL) to provide this service through its offices and authorised collection centres.



The Union Government of India on 1 February 2012 gave the approval for setting up a National Council for Senior Citizens. It will be headed by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment. It will advice the Central and State Governments on issues related to welfare of senior citizens. The Council will suggest special policies and programmes for the physical and financial security of the senior citizens in the country.

The Council will comprise of 20 members including the Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment along with the oldest members from both the Houses of Parliament and distinguished personalities from different fields.



National Infant Mortality Rate Reduced Further to Forty-Seven Infant Deaths per 1000 Live Births.

As per the latest Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin, December 2011 released by the Registrar General of India (RGI), it is noted that Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) has dropped further by 3 points from 50 to 47 infants deaths per 1000 live births during 2010. The IMR for rural areas has dropped by 4 points from 55 to 51 infant deaths per 1000 live births while the Urban rate now stands at 31 from the previous 34/1000.

State of Goa still has the lowest IMR of 10 infant deaths followed by Kerala with 13 infant deaths per 1000 live births (as against 12/1000 in January 2011 figures) – the Urban IMR in Kerala has however reduced to 10 against 11 of previous figures. Madhya Pradesh has the highest IMR of 62/1000 followed by UP and Odisha with 61/1000 IMR. States/UTs of Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Meghalaya still have IMRs more than the national average of 47.



The Enforcement Directorate on 2 February 2012 filed a complaint against former Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi for alleged financial irregularities in the conduct of the Queen’s Baton Relay (QBR) of the Commonwealth Games.  The ED also named him for violations under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (Fema).

The ED named five other officials, including former secretary general Lalit Bhanot, director general V K Verma, deputy director general Sanjay Mahindroo, joint director general (accounts and finance) M Jaychandran and A K Mattoo.

Bilateral


India and the United States of America on 3 February 2012 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Washington to co-operate on Labour and employment issues during the visit of labour and employment minister Mallikarjun Khagre.

It establishes a framework for dialogue and bilateral co-operative activities, which include skill development, youth employment, occupational and mine safety and health.



India signed TIEA with Guernsey in the third week of December 2011. This is the 13th bilateral TIEA for Guernsey with a G20 nation. The TIEA will help Indian tax authorities get information on tax evasion cases.

The Island of Guernsey is located in the English Channel, 70 miles from the South coast of London. Guernsey is a British crown dependency. Its defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom, but Guernsey is not part of the UK.



SHADE- The pact signed by India, japan and China to achieve the most efficient use of Naval forces present in the Indian ocean region.

India, Japan and China signed a pact to share data to achieve the most efficient use of Naval Forces present in the Indian Ocean Region. This initiative is called the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE). The initiative began functioning from 1 January 2012.

The SHADE mechanism is likely to check sea piracy in Indian Ocean.


Economic Issues


The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of shipping costs for dry bulk goods plunged to its lowest level after it touched 647 points on 3 February 2012. The lowest level was nearly 20 points lower than the previous low of 663 points recorded during the 2008 global financial meltdown. In the past 26 years since the Baltic index came into being, the index had never slipped below 650 points.

The current fall recorded on 3 February 2012 in the Baltic raised serious concerns among shipping companies.

The Baltic dry index was noticed to have fallen even in January 2012 though shipping analysts had predicted a recovery for the shipping sector in 2012. Sea-borne traffic was expected to rise 20-25% in 2012 from the 1500 level in 2011. However, the sea borne traffic that plunged by more than 62% in 2012 left analysts clueless about the much-expected recovery.



The Reserve Bank of India partially lifted the curbs on banks’ foreign exchange transactions which it had imposed in December 2011. Several banks, including large lenders such as State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank and some public sector institutions were allowed to run higher net overnight open positions (NOP) in foreign exchange. The revised NOP caps are however still way below the earlier limits banks enjoyed before the restrictions were imposed in December 2011.

Banks use the open position limits to carry out proprietary trades or buy and sell dollars to meet requirements of corporate clients. The open position limits differ from lender to lender depending on the size and level of treasury activity. Open positions also help banks meet customer needs.



HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index — a headline index designed to measure the overall health of the manufacturing sector registered a reading of 57.5 in January 2012 up from 54.2 in December 2011. 

As per survey released on 1 February 2012, India’s manufacturing sector expanded at its fastest pace in eight months in January on the back of a sharp increase in new orders.


Sports


Egypt defeated India 2-1 in the final of the SDAT-WSF Under-21 Squash World Cup on 5 February 2012. Marwan El Shorbagy defeated Ravi Dixit 11-4, 11-7, 7-11, 11-7 while Karim Abdel Gawad bt Ramit Tandon 12-10, 11-4, 6-11, 11-8. However Dipika Pallikal manged to score a point by defeating Nour El Sherbini 11-7, 4-11, 8-11, 14-12, 11-5.

England defeated France 2-0 (Charles Sharpes bt Lucas Serme 14-12, 7-11, 5-11, 11-6, 11-6; Emily Whitlock bt Cyrielle Peltier 11-5, 11-7, 11-7) to finish third.



Haryana’s Ajay Mittal won the gold medal at the 55th National Shooting Championships for shotgun on 1 February 2012 by defeating stalwarts like Sodhi and Athens Olympics silver medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in the final.


Persons


Renowned historian and author of several books on the history and culture of Mumbai Sharada Dwivedi passed away in Mumbai on 5 February 2012. Her name was synonymous with the city's old-world charm.

She authored many books on art, architecture, urban history, heritage and conservation: Bombay, the Cities Within (1995), Banganga, Sacred Tank (1996), Fort Walks (1999), Anchoring a City Line the History of the Western Suburban Railway and its Headquarters in Bombay (2000), The Jehangir Art Gallery (2002), The Victoria Memorial School for the Blind (2002).

She served as a member of the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee and was a part of the executive committee of the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI).



Bollywood producer-director Raj Kanwar passed away in Singapore on 3 February 2012 following kidney transplant complications. Raj Kanwar directed Bollywood films like Deewana, Laadla, Daag: The Fire, Har Dil Jo Pyaar Karega, Andaaz and many other films.


Awards


Veteran environmental filmmaker Mike Pandey was honoured with the prestigious V. Shantaram Life Time Achievement Award at the Mumbai International Film Festival 2012 on 3 February 2012. The award was presented by Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan. He received the award for his documentaries on wildlife conservation and environment.

Mike Pandey is one of India’s foremost wildlife and environmental filmmakers. He hasd won over 300 national and international awards. His list of films include Shores of Silence, The Last Migration, Broken Wings and The Timeless Traveller.



Union minister for labour and employment Mallikarjun Kharge was presented with Pride of India award by the Indian-American community in Washington on 1 February 2012. He was honoured with the award for his over four decades of public service.

The award was presented jointly by the Indian American Friendship Council (IAFC) and India Association of North Texas (IANT) at a reception hosted in honour of the visiting union minister, Kharge in Dallas.


Science and Technology


Astronomers found the fourth habitable planet outside our solar system called GJ667Cc. The planet is 22 light years from Earth. The newly found planet is rocky in nature. It orbits its star every 28.15 days. It has a mass at least 4.5 times that of earth.

The team of astronomers analysed data from the European Southern Observatory.



Iran on 3 February 2012 successfully launched an observation satellite called navid satellite into orbit above Earth. It will be placed into an orbit at an altitude between 250 and 370 kilometres. The weight of the satellite is 50-kilogram and it is meant to stay in orbit for 18 months.



The inaugural defence dialogue between the Defence Secretaries of India and Sri Lanka was held in New Delhi on 31 January 2012. Defence Secretary Shri Shashikant Sharma and the Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Shri Gotabhaya Rajapaksa co-chaired the meeting alongwith their delegations, comprising the officers of the Defence Ministries and the Armed Forces of the respective countries. Regional security situation including issues of maritime security in the Indian Ocean region dominated the inaugural Annual Defence Dialogue.

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