May 31st Current Affairs

International Issues


'World No Tobacco Day' is observed every year on May 31 to raise awareness about the lethal effects of tobacco and to encourage the public to abstain from all forms of tobacco consumption. As the country observes this day, moves to make cancer a notifiable disease are making progress with two states Kerala and Punjab agreeing to such a proposal.


National Issues


The Centre launched an austerity drive to contain expenditure in Government Departments. The Finance Ministry has asked all ministries and departments to reduce non-Plan expenditure by 10 per cent in the current financial year. It has banned creation of new posts in government departments, holding of meetings and conferences in five-star hotels, purchase of vehicles besides imposing curbs on foreign travel by the officials.

The office memorandum on 'Expenditure Management -Economy Measures and Rationalisation of Expenditure' also said that holding of exhibitions, seminars and conferences abroad is strongly discouraged. It said, foreign visits should be so regulated as to ensure that each ministry remains within the allocated budget , after 10 per cent cut, for the same. Re-appropriation proposals on this would not be approved.

The Ministry further said, no amount should be released to any entity, including state governments, which has defaulted in furnishing utilisation certificates for grants-in-aid released by the central government without prior approval of the Finance Ministry.





The Cabinet approved a new telecom policy, NTP 2012, that proposes to abolish roaming charges on mobile phones and allow users to retain the same number across the country. Briefing the media the Telecom Minister Mr. Kapil Sibal that the spectrum allocation will be delinked from licensing.

The Minister said that the new Telecom Policy aims at increasing teledensity in rural areas. The NTP 2012 aims to provide free roaming to telecom users and allow them to retain the mobile number even outside their circles without having to pay any extra charge.

At present, users have to pay extra when they receive or make a call in a circle outside their home network, called roaming charges.Also mobile number portability is not permitted outside
circle.





The Bill Gates Foundation has appreciated India’s achievement in health sector. In a meeting with Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad in New Delhi, Mr. Bill Gates said India’s achievements in containing AIDS infections, Polio management and Reproductive Health initiatives are remarkable. 

Mr. Azad thanked the Bill Gates Foundation for extending help in bringing about innovations in health, development and learning to the Indian community. He said that 2012 has been declared the year of intensification of routine immunization programme and recently the mission steering group of National Rural Health Mission has endorsed the introduction of Pentavalent vaccine in six more states. These states include Gujarat, Goa, Pondicherry, Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir and Haryana. In the meeting, the issues relating to immunization programme, pentavalent vaccine, HIV- AIDS, infectious as well as non-communicable Diseases were discussed.





Centre has appointed a five member committee to look into the design of future production sharing contracts in hydrocarbon exploration in the country. The committee appointed by the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, will be headed by Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council Chairman, Dr C Rangarajan. 

The Committee is to look into all modifications necessary for future Production Sharing Contracts so as to enhance production of oil and gas and the Government's share of this while minimizing procedures for monitoring the expenditure of producers. It will also prepare structure and elements of the Guidelines for determining the basis or formula for the price of domestically produced gas, and for monitoring actual price fixation.





The growth rate of eight infrastructure sectors in the country slowed down to 2.2 per cent in April because of poor performance of crude oil, natural gas, petroleum refinery products and fertilisers. The eight core sectors that also include coal, electricity, cement and finished steel, and have a eightage of 37.9 per cent in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), had grown by 4.2 per cent in April 2011. 

According to the data released by the commerce and industry ministry, the cumulative growth rate of infrastructure industries during 2011-12 also slowed down to 4.4 percent, from 6.6 per cent in 2010-11.

Natural gas and crude oil production contracted by 11.3 per cent and 1.3 per cent during April. Petroleum refinery products and fertiliser production shrunk 2.8 per cent and 9.3 per cent during the month.

Coal, Steel and cement output grew by 3.8 per cent, 5.8 per cent and 8.6 percent in April 2012. In the same month last year, coal output had grown 2.7 per cent, steel - 2.9 percent and cement - 0.1 per cent.

However, electricity generation slowed down by 4.6 per cent, from 6.4 per cent in April 2011.





The government has constituted a committee to review the functioning of Petroleum Service Companies, PSCs in the country. The committee, headed by the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisor C. Rangarajan, will review the existing PSCs, including in respect of the current profit-sharing mechanism with the Pre-Tax Investment Multiple and will also give recommendation for necessary modification for the future PSCs.

The committee, constituted by the Petroleum Ministry, will suggest a suitable mechanism for managing the contract implementation of the companies. It will also review the structure and elements of the guidelines for determining the formula for the price of domestically produced gas and for monitoring actual price fixation. The committee will submit their report by the end of August this year.





Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Ajay Maken unveiled the exposure draft of the National Youth Policy, 2012.

Maken announced that the Draft NYP 2012 is first of its kind as it recognises youth not as a homogenous group and has numerous differentials based on habitat, environment, socio-economic status of their families and their own life styles.

In addition, the Draft Policy proposes to change the target age group from the existing 13-35 years to 16-30 years, Maken said during a press conference in New Delhi. The definition of youth as per UN is 15-24 years and as per Commonwealth is 15-29 years.





The Union Cabinet approved the proposal for promulgation of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Amendment Regulation 2012 under Article 240 of the Constitution.

This will cover the entire Union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Tourist establishments would be prohibited and other commercial establishments would be regulated in the `Buffer Zone`, which would protect the aboriginal tribes from the undesirable outside influences. Further, the stringent penal provisions would act as a deterrent to check the menace of unauthorized entry in the `reserved area`.





Pawan Hans Helicopter Ltd (PHHL) of India plans to connect the neighbouring cities to the national capital through helicopter services. The Vrindavan and Mathura figure at top of the list of cities to be connected with the capital by helicopter services in keeping with high potential of religious tourism of the twin cities.





The Government has notified guidelines for short-term (i.e. for a period of less than or equal to one year) procurement of electricity by Distribution Licensees under section 63 of the Electricity Act, 2003. The new guidelines will promote competitive procurement of short-term power requirement by the Distribution Licensees and are also expected to reduce the overall cost of procurement of power leading to significant benefits for consumers. 

The specific objectives of these Guidelines are as follows:

(i) Promote competitive procurement of electricity by Distribution Licensees for their short term demand (less than or equal to one year);

(ii) Reduce the Power Purchase Bill of Discoms through a process of planned procurement based on transparent guidelines;

(iii) Provide benefit to consumers;

(iv) Facilitate transparency and fairness in procurement processes.


Economic Issues


India's economic growth rate slipped to 5.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2011-12. This is the lowest in nearly 9 years due to poor performance of the manufacturing and farm sectors.

According to the government data released, the Gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the January- March quarter of 2010-11 was 9.2 per cent. GDP in 2011-12 also moderated to 6.5 per cent from 8.4 per cent in the 2010-11.

During the quarter ending March 31, growth in the manufacturing sector contracted to 0.3 per cent, from 7.3 per cent in the corresponding period of 2010-11.Farm output also exhibited a similar trend and expanded by just 1.7 per cent during the quarter, compared to 7.5 per cent in the Q4, 2010-11.

However, mining and quarrying production growth stood at 4.3 cent during the quarter under review, as against a growth of meagre 0.6 per cent in Q4 of in 2010-11.

Growth in the construction sector slowed to 4.8 per cent during the January-March quarter of 2011-12, from 8.9 per cent in the year-ago period.
The trade, hotels, transport and communications segment grew by 7 per cent during in the quarter under review, as against 11.6 per cent expansion in the year-ago period.

However, electricity, gas and water supply grew by 4.9 per cent in the January-March period, compared to 5.1 per cent growth in the corresponding period last fiscal.The growth of the services sector, including insurance and real estate remained unchanged at 10 per cent in the fourth quarter ended March.


Persons


General Bikram Singh, a veteran infantry officer, took over as the 25th Chief of the Indian Army. He succeeded Gen V K Singh whose 26-month tenure was mired by controversies. Fifty nine year-old Gen Bikram Singh will have a tenure of two years and three months in the top post.

Prior to his appointment as Army Chief, Gen Bikram was commanding the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command. He has held several important appointments in counter insurgency areas as the Corps Commander of Srinagar-based 15 Corps and Akhnoor-based 10 Division as Major General.


Sports


England batsman Kevin Pietersen has retired from all forms of one-day international cricket. The England and Wales Cricket Board said this in London.

The 31-year-old, who will continue to play tests, cited the increasing demands of international cricket on his body for his decision to quit one-dayers.



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