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2013 - April - Current Affairs

International Issues

The third SAARC Ministerial Level Meet on Poverty concluded in Nepal on 5 April 2013. The representatives from all the eight members of SAARC attended the meet and pledged to reduce regional poverty through strategic cooperation with each other. The meet that started on 5 April 2013 was inaugurated by the chairman of the Interim Election Government of Nepal Khil Raj Regmi. 

Before the Ministerial level meet, fifth SAARC secretary-level meet was held on 4 April 2013. The decision had taken that the formulation of a Common Poverty Reduction Strategy following the end of UN Millennium Development Goals in 2015. 

South-East Asian leaders were upbeat on 25 April about progress made on an ambitious plan to weld the region into a European Union-style economic community as a counterweight to Asian powerhouse China, while efforts were stalling on South China Sea disputes. Leaders attending the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Brunei had hoped China would soon agree to start talks on a nonaggression pact to prevent a major clash in the disputed territories that could smoke out their region’s robust economies. But China has given no clear indication when it would agree to negotiate such a stopgap accord, known in ASEAN parlance as a “code of conduct.” 

The ASEAN leaders said in a joint statement after the summit that they have asked their foreign ministers “to continue to work actively with China on the way forward for the early conclusion of a code of conduct.” “We all agreed to encourage continuing discussions, dialogues and consultations at all levels, especially claimant countries, and to keep the lines of communication open,” said Brunei’s leader, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, host of this year’s ASEAN summits. 

During the summit, ASEAN leaders also expressed concern about North Korea’s latest threats. Although overshadowed by security issues, an ambitious plan by ASEAN to transform itself into an EU-like community of more than 600 million people by the end of 2015 has sparked more optimism, with diplomats saying the bloc was on track to meet the deadline. 

Turkey Treasury Under secretariat on 26 April 2013 announced that it would close the debt chapter with IMF (International Monetary Fund) by refunding 422.1 million US dollars of capital as part of its 19th Stand-by. This will end Turkey’s 52 years long indebter category from IMF. IMF was established in 1944 for economic cooperation at the UN meeting in the United States. 

At present IMF has 188 members registered with it. Turkey became the part of IMF in 1947 and till date has been successful in completing only two of the 19 stand-by deals. As per the new IMF regulation that was agreed in 2010, Turkey’s quota was increased to 4.6 billion SDRs and will now be the 20th country in the highest quota share within IMF. At present Turkey is ranked 32nd in the listing. 

Turkey will be performing as the Director within IMF from 2014 to 2016 and 2018 to 2020. 

Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn-in as the new President of Kenya on 9 April 2013. He is the fourth president of Kenya. Kenyatta won in a tightly fought race for Kenya's presidency on 9 March 2013 against Raila Odinga. He won with 50.07 percent votes in the election.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad has resigned on 13 April, following a dispute with President Mahmoud Abbas over the limits of the former's authority.

25th Joint Meeting of UNWTO Commissions for South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific was inaugurated by Union Tourism Minister K Chiranjeevi on 13 April 2013 at Hyderabad. The event will enable India to showcase the rich heritage to world. In the year 2012, Asia and the Pacific region saw the highest growth with a rate of over 7 percent. The sub-region of South East Asia recorded the maximum number of arrivals within these regions with a growth of 9 percent. 

The Indian tourism growth of 5.4 percent in terms of foreign tourist arrivals was higher than the world average of 4 percent. During the joint meeting, the delegates shared the market trends of the region in the year 2012 and tourism prospects for the year 2013. Various bilateral meetings took place for developing intra-regional and inter-regional strategies. Apart from this, the issue of development of UNWTO Convention for the protection of tourists and tourism service providers and implementation of Global code of ethics for Tourism was also discussed. 

The meeting identified Visa, Taxation and Connectivity as three important determinants for the growth of tourism. The 25th Joint Meeting of UNWTO Commissions for South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific was attended by delegates from 21 countries, eight UNWTO affiliate members, two regional organizations as well as industry organizations. The next Joint Meeting would be held in Philippines and the 21st Session of General Assembly of UNWTO will be held in Cambodia. 

The International Monetary Fund announced on 12 April that it is recognizing Somalia's new government after a 22-year break in relations with the once-chaotic country, part of a general push by the United States, United Nations and the West toward encouraging rehabilitation there. The US formally recognized the African nation's new government in January, ie. The first time the US had recognized a Somali government since 1991, when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Siad Barre and then turned on one another. 

The UN Security Council in March voted unanimously to partially suspend an arms embargo on Somalia for 12 months for military equipment intended solely to develop the country's security forces and provide security for the Somali people. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama cleared the way for the US to arm and train Somali forces. 

Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first woman Prime Minister who led the Conservative party for more than a decade through one of the most tumultuous periods in modern British history and became a deeply divisive political figure, died on 8 april following a stroke. 

Bangladesh got its first woman Speaker with the election of Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury by the Jatiya Sangsad on 30 April. Dr. Chaudhury, State Minister in the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, was nominated by the ruling Awami League’s parliamentary party. Born in 1966, Dr. Chaudhury is also the country’s youngest Speaker. 

Turkey on 26 April 2013 joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as its dialogue partner. Turkey and SCO signed a memorandum of understanding in the Kazakh city of Almaty. This partnership between the SCO members and Turkey with strengthen the ties between them especially in fields like transportation and Economy. This would also provide maximum opportunities to fight against the threats making a collective effort. 

SCO was formed in 2001 as a regional security bloc to fight against the threats posed by radical Islam and drug trafficking from Afghanistan by China, Russia and four Central Asian nations - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. 

The Serbian government on 22 April, approved a landmark agreement to normalise relations with breakaway Kosovo, but thousands of Kosovo Serb demonstrators rejected the deal. Up to 10,000 flag-waving protesters gathered in the divided northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica, demanding that the EU-brokered agreement be annulled and branding the Serbian officials who endorsed it “traitors”. 

The Serbian government approved the deal unanimously at an extraordinary session and ordered ministries to implement it, said government spokesman Milivoje Mihajlovic. The agreement could end years of tensions and put the Balkan rivals on a path to EU membership. The Prime Ministers of Serbia and Kosovo reached a tentative EU-mediated deal in Brussels on 18 April that would give Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leadership authority over rebel Kosovo Serbs. In return, the minority Serbs would get wide autonomy within Kosovo. 

Italian Centre Left Politician, Enrico Letta on 27 April 2013 formed a new coalition Government in Italy by winning the support of other parties. He will be the new Prime Minister of Italy. The newly formed Government will include former Prime Minister’s Silvio Berlusconi's closest allies as deputy prime minister.

NASA has successfully launched three smart phones into space to snap images of Earth and the handsets may prove to be the lowest-cost satellites ever flown into space. Each Smartphone is housed in a standard cubesat structure, measuring about four inches square. The Smartphone acts as the satellite’s onboard computer. Its sensors are used for attitude determination and its camera for Earth observation. The smart phones destined to become low-cost satellites rode to space on 21 April, aboard the maiden flight of Orbital Science Corporation’s Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia. The trio of “PhoneSats” is operating in orbit, and may prove to be the lowest-cost satellites ever flown in space. 

The goal of NASA’s PhoneSat mission is to determine whether a consumer-grade Smartphone can be used as the main flight avionics of a capable, yet very inexpensive, satellite. Transmissions from all three PhoneSats have been received at multiple ground stations on Earth, indicating they are operating normally. The PhoneSat team at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, will continue to monitor the satellites in the coming days. The satellites are expected to remain in orbit for as long as two weeks. The spacecraft also will attempt to take pictures of Earth using their cameras. The hardware for this mission is the Google-HTC Nexus One Smartphone running the Android operating system. 

French lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex marriage on 23 April, despite vocal protests from some conservatives opposed to the step. The nation's lower house approved a marriage bill, which would also give same-sex couples the right to adopt, in a 331-to-225 final vote.

National Issues

Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh on 3 April, said that the scheme Himayat launched in Jammu and Kashmir in 2011 is progressing well to realize the goal of providing training and jobs to one lakh youth in five year period ( 2011-12 to 2016-17).

The Union Government of India on 5 April 2013 sanctioned 4065.81 crore rupees for pollution abatement schemes of rivers and lakes in different states. 

Of all the states, Uttar Pradesh received 1385.95 crore rupees. The sanction cost of projects and expenditure includes the State Governments share under the National River Conservation Programme (NRCP) and the National Lake Conservation Programme (NLCP). 

National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP) started in June 2001 with a funding scheme of 70:30 fund sharing between centre and state. The main objective of the scheme is to restore and conserve the urban and semi-urban lakes of the country degraded due to waste water discharge into the lake and other unique freshwater eco systems, through an integrated ecosystem approach. 

National River Conservation Programme (NRCP) is the centrally sponsored Scheme implemented by the central Government jointly with the State Government on a cost-sharing basis. The pollution abatement works under NRCP presently cover identified polluted stretches of 39 major rivers in 185 towns spread over 20 States in the country. 

The Supreme Court of India on 1 April 2013 rejected the plea of Novartis, the Swiss drug maker, to patent the updated version of cancer drug called Glivec. 

Sushil Kumar Shinde, Union Home Minister on 30 April, released the Primary Census Abstract-Data Highlights of Census 2011 in a function organized by the Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India in New Delhi. On the occasion, Union Home Minister distributed Census Medals to G. K. Pillai, former Union Home Secretary and the officers of the Census Organization in recognition to the outstanding services rendered by them during Census 2011. 

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh inaugurated the National conference to celebrate the National Panchayati Raj Day in New Delhi on 24 April. On the occasion, annual awards under “Panchayat Empowerment and Accountability Incentive Scheme” (PEAIS) and “Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Puraskar” (RGGSP)) were conferred upon the best performing States and Panchayats. 18 top ranking Gram Panchayats were awarded with “Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Purskar. 193 Panchayats were also received awards for best performance. The Panchayat Strengthening Index Awards (PSI) were given to States this year. 

Under the Cumulative PSI Awards 1st Prize is won by Maharashtra, while 2nd Prize is bagged by Karnataka, 3rd Prize Kerala and 4th Prize Tripura. Under the Incremental PSI Awards 1st Prize is won by Karnataka, 2nd Prize Rajasthan, 3rd Prize Maharashtra and 4th Prize is won by Odisha. 

The prize money for “Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Puraskar” award is Rs. 10 lakhs. The Award money will be utilized by the Panchayats for public purposes such as augmentation of civic services like primary education, primary health care, safe drinking water, public utilities; provision rural infrastructure in the Panchayat jurisdiction. 

The Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said that there is a need to take immediate action by the non life insurance sector to increase penetration and coverage of the non life insurance in the country. 

He said that India is one of the most under insured country in the world as non life insurance sector has a penetration of only 0.7 percent in the country. 

The Finance Minister said that there is a need to increase insurance density in the country as well. 

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation has proposed to launch a “National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM)” in 12th Five Year Plan, which will replace the existing Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY). 

NULM would focus on the primary issues pertaining to urban poverty such as imparting skill training, enabling entrepreneurship development, providing wage employment and self-employment opportunities to the urban poor. This was stated by Ajay Maken, Union Minister of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA), in the Rajya Sabha on 25 April, in a written reply to a question by Shri Nand Kumar Sai. 

Indian Railways carried 1009.73 million tonnes of revenue earning freight traffic during the financial year 2012-13 as per the data released by Ministry of Railways. 

The freight carried shows an increase of 39.95 million tonnes over the freight traffic of 969.78 million tonnes actually carried during the corresponding period last year, registering an increase of 4.12 per cent. 

During the month of March 2013, the revenue earning freight traffic carried by Indian Railways was 98.20 million tonnes. There is an increase of 4.35 million tonnes over the actual freight traffic of 93.85 million tonnes carried by the Indian Railways during the same period last year, showing an increase of 4.64 per cent. 

The World Bank in the second week of April 2013 announced a multi-million dollar four-year plan that is to be initiated in seven low-income states of India to bring down the poverty levels. The World Bank’s Country Partnership Strategy for India proposed to lend 3 billion to 5 billion US dollars every year for a period of next four years. 

The recognized states are Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. The states have been identified depending upon the number of poor’s that live in these states. 

President PranabMukherjee has given his assent to the Anti-rape Bill which provides for life term and even death sentence for rape convicts besides stringent punishment for offences like acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism. 

Mukherjee accorded his assent to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill-2013 on 2 April, brought against the backdrop of the country-wide outrage over Delhi gang-rape case, and it will now be called the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. 

The law, passed by Lok Sabha on March 19 and by Rajya Sabha on March 21, has replaced an ordinance promulgated on February 3. It amends various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. With an aim of providing a strong deterrent against crimes like rapes, the new law states that an offender can be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life, meaning imprisonment for the remainder of the convict's natural life and with a fine. 

It has provisions for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted earlier for such crimes. 

The law, for the first time, defines stalking and voyeurism as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time. Perpetrators of acid attack will attract a 10-year jail. 

It also defines acid attack as a crime besides granting a victim the right to self-defense. 

It also has provisions for imposing a minimum 10-year jail term for perpetrators of such acts. The law has fixed age for consensual sex at 18 years. 

Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to the Anti-rape Bill, providing enhanced punishment for rape, making stalking and voyeurism criminal offences and fixing the age of consent for sex at 18. 

The Bill incorporates suggestions of the Justice JS Verma Committee, formed after the brutal Delhi gang-rape of Dec 16 last year, to make anti-rape laws stronger. 

It provides for rigorous imprisonment for a minimum of 20 years, extendable to life imprisonment, to those convicted for the offence of gang-rape, and also defines and prescribes punishment for stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment. 

Smt. Chandresh Kumari Katoch, Minister of Culture, Government of India inaugurated the Tagore Centre for Global Thought at India Institute, King’s College, London on 2nd April, 2013.

The Indian Railways reduced the advanced booking period of the tickets from four months duration to two months, with effect from 1 May 2013. This has been done to prevent the enormous amount of cancellations after the booking process. The Railway notification issued on 25 April 2013 declared that the advance reservation period (ARP) in order to book the reserved train tickets was being reduced from 120 days to 60 days from 1 May 2013.

India and United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed an MoU on Air Services, following the two-day bilateral negotiation at Abu Dhabi on 24 April. The UAE had urged India to allocate additional 40,000 seats per week, grant Goa, Pune, Amritsar and Lucknow as additional points of calls, remove the maximum cap prescribed from each point of call in-term of seats/ frequency per week and allow 3rd country /domestic code share facility.

India and Saudi Arabia on 28 April 2013 decided to set up a joint working group to address the concerns of expatriate Indian workers in Saudi Arabia on the Nitaqat law. The India-Saudi Arabia Joint Working Group on Labour will discuss a Memorandum of Understanding on labour co-operation and other issues. The decisions were taken at a meeting of a high level Indian delegation led by the Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vyalar Ravi with the Saudi Labour Minister Adel Fakieh in Jeddah. 

The first meeting of the group will be held in Riyadh on 1 May 2013. The Joint working group led by a Saudi Deputy Minister and India’s Deputy Chief of Mission in Saudi Arabia will discuss and evolve mechanism to address all immediate problems facing the NRI community including issues related to overstaying Indian workers.

With a view to create awareness amongst masses in general and youth in particular about the exceptional biodiversity of India, the Union Minister of Railways, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Minister of Environment & Forests, Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan and Smt. Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi flagged off “Science Express Biodiversity Special (SEBS) Train from Safdarjung Railway Station in New Delhi on 9 April. 

It has been a collaborative initiative of the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) & Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India, the Indian Railways, the Vikram Sarabhai Community Science Centre, and the Centre for Environment Education. 

It has also engaged a large number of knowledge partners, State Biodiversity Boards, State Education Agencies, State Nodal Agencies on NGC and NEAC, Government officials, Peoples’ Representatives, colleges and academia, civil society organizations and the media. Participation of school children and teachers has stood out. Under the second phase of programme, the SEBS will cover 62 stations over next 6 months.

The High Court of Delhi on 9 April 2013 recommended the Union Government of India to constitute a Statutory Regulatory Body to control Electronic Media.

The Government has approved a project to create National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) connecting all the 2, 50,000 Gram Panchayats (GPs) in the country through Optical Cable (OFC). The Central Government, through Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), is funding the project while the contribution of State Government would be by providing free Right of Way (RoW) for laying OFC. The project envisages signing a tripartite MoU for free Right of Way (RoW) among Central Government, State Government and Bharat Broadband Network Limited, BBNL (the SPV incorporated for execution of the project). 

16 States/UTs have already signed MoUs on 26.10.2012: Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Manipur, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and 3 Union Territories viz. Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu and Puducherry. 

This arrangement covers 1, 40,727 GPs to be provided with Optical Fibre Network in these States and UTs. Tripartite MoU were signed on 12 April, in the presence of Union Minister of Communications & IT, Shri Kapil Sibal with further 10 States /UTs on 12 april: Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Odisha, Punjab and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. 

Total of 85731 GPs will get covered by Optical Fibre Network in these States and UTs. With the availability of NOFN at 2,50,000 Gram Panchayats a minimum bandwidth of 100 Mbps will be available at each of GP and will lead to proliferation of broadband services. 

Odisha on 8 April 2013 decided to set up the first public health university in India. This university will be set up under Public-Private Partnership mode at Gramadiha village in Jatni tehsil on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. A MoU has been signed in this regard by State Health Department and Asian Institute of Public Health in Bhubaneshwar. In the first phase, 100 crore rupees will be invested in this University. The University will offer master and postdoctoral degree, diplomas and certificates courses in public health and public health management to both medical and non-medical professionals. 

Bilateral Issues

India and Mauritius on 12 April, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in New Delhi, for cooperation in the field of election management and administration. The MoU was signed by the Chief Election Commissioner of India, V.S. Sampath and the Electoral Commissioner of Mauritius, Mr. Mohammad Irfan Abdool Rahman. Election Commissioners of India, H. S. Brahma and Dr. Nasim Zaidi; diplomats and senior officials of the Election Commission of India and Government of India were present at the signing ceremony. 

The major aims of MoU are: 
  • promotion of exchanges of knowledge and experience in electoral processes
  • exchange of information, materials, expertise and training of personnel
  • production and distribution of materials pertaining to electoral systems, voting technology, voters’ education and awareness, and participation of women and minorities in electoral process. 

Election Commission of India has so far signed seventeen MOUs with Election Management Bodies and international organizations across the world. Some of the MoU signed recently are with Egypt, Venezuela, Republic of Korea and UNDP. A Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters was signed between India and Azerbaijan on 4th April, 2013 in New Delhi. 

The Treaty was signed by Sushilkumar Shinde, Home Minister, on behalf of the Republic of India and by Mr.Fikrat Mammadov, Minister of Justice, on behalf of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty is one of the significant legal instruments to improve and facilitate effectiveness of the contracting states in investigation and prosecution of transnational crime including terrorism by providing the necessary legal framework for rendering/receiving legal assistance in criminal matters. 

Dr. Ashwani Kumar, Union Minister of Law & Justice and Fikrat Mammadov, Minister of Justice of Republic of Azerbaijan, on 4 April signed a Treaty in New Delhi, between the two nations on Legal and Judicial Cooperation in Civil and Commercial Matters. The two sides also had delegation- level talks. The two Ministers hailed the close cooperation between India and Azerbaijan and hoped that the bonds between the two countries will strengthen further. 

This Treaty between the two countries in Civil matters is a comprehensive agreement for reciprocal arrangement with foreign countries for service of summons, for issuing Letters of Request, for taking of evidence, for execution of civil decrees and for enforcement of arbitral awards. 

As per provisions of the Treaty, requests for legal assistance shall be made through the Central Authorities of the Contracting Parties. In India, the Central Authority is the Ministry of Law and Justice and in the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Central Authority is the Ministry of Justice. 

The Treaty aims to benefit the citizens of the respective States seeking Legal Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters in the requested State irrespective of any gender, class or income bias. This Treaty will open the avenues of cooperation between both the countries in other sectors/spheres also. Similar Treaties on Civil and Commercial Matters have already been signed with France, U.A.E., Russia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Mongolia, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan. 

India and Singapore on 2 April 2013 signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on bilateral air services arrangement during the visit of Civil Aviation Minister, Ajit Singh to Singapore. It rationalizes the capacity entitlements of both countries in terms of seats per week in each direction with a route specific cap for Singapore on each route. 

The MoU also enhances, by 10%, the capacity entitlement with India now entitled to operate 29,400 weekly passenger seats from India to Singapore and the designated airlines of Singapore entitled to operate 28,700 weekly passenger seats from Singapore to India. No additional point of call has been given to Singapore. India also did not agree to the demand of Singapore for additional point of calls from Pune and Madurai. 

Government of India and the Government of Tanzania signed a Letter of Intent(LoI) on 6 April 2013 at De res Salaam during the visit of Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma to the latter. The LoI aims to promote and expand bilateral relations between the two countries in the mineral sector with focus on strengthening supply chain for growth of the steel industry in both the countries. 

The LoI aims to encourage investment opportunities in India and Tanzania in the iron & steel related businesses, facilitates exchange of technical know-how in developing iron and steel production and other steel related raw materials, including pelletisation plants and other associated industries. LoI aims that both the Governments jointly work for developing the steel industry and exchange technically qualified manpower for sustainable growth of iron & steel industry. The LoI will not only strengthen relations between India and Tanzania. It will also give added thrust to the possibility of exploration and development of mineral assets in the country. 

India and Germany on 11 April, inked six key MoUs including that for putting together 7 million for next four years towards joint research in the field of Higher Education and a pact for a soft loan of 1 billion for strengthening the green energy corridor. 

A pact to promote German as a foreign language was also signed by the two sides following the 2nd round of inter-governmental consultations in Berlin. 

Under pacts signed, both Germany and India have committed to 3.5 million each towards working on joint research and innovation programmes. 

According to officials, under the strengthening of German language collaboration, currently 30,000 children in Kendriya Vidalia are learning German and under the pact they will try to increase the capacity. 

A pact regarding the establishment of green energy corridor was also signed besides one in agriculture and establishment of a working group in infrastructure, cooperation in standardization, conformity assessment and product safety. 

Under the pact for the green energy corridor, the grid system in several states will be used to transmit energy produced by renewable and non-conventional means. 

Another pact for India-German civil security research was also signed. Minister for human resources development Pallam Raju, who is accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on three-day bilateral visit in Berlin, said the two countries knew each other's strengths and have identified some areas for the joint research. 

External Affairs Minister of India, Salman Khurshid visited Japan on 26-27 March, 2013 to co-chair the 7th annual India–Japan Strategic Dialogue with the Japanese Foreign Minister. Both nations reviewed all aspects of the India-Japan Strategic & Global Partnership including bilateral, regional and international issues. India and Japan also discussed the possibility of convening the Annual Summit between the Prime Ministers of India and Japan in the coming months. 

India and Japan also agreed to expand cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. It was agreed during this visit that India and Japan will coordinate their actions more closely within the East Asia Summit process. 

The Government of India and Government of Russian Federation have signed on April 10, 2013 in Moscow a Regulation defining the structure, functions and procedure of the Joint Commission which has been established by an Agreement signed on December 21, 2010 in New Delhi in the field of Emergency Management. 

Sushilkumar Shinde, Union Minister of Home Affairs and Mr.Vladimir Puchkov, Minister of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters have singed this agreement. The agreement will enable both the countries to help each other in the field of prevention and elimination of the consequences of emergency situations. It will further strengthen the bond of friendship between the two countries and enhance the Indo-Russian Co-operation. 

The Indo-Russian Commission will ensure the implementation of the Agreement which was signed on December 21, 2010 in New Delhi for catalyzing cooperation in the field of Emergency Management and contribute to the well being and safety of the people of both the countries in the event of disasters and also to exchange mutually beneficial scientific and technical information in the area of Emergency Management. The meetings of the Joint Commission will be alternatively held in India and Russia. 

Minister of Information & Broadcasting, Manish Tewari on 11 april met the Bangladesh Minister for Information & Broadcasting Mr. Hasanul Haq Inu in Nerw Delhi and had extensive discussions on critical issues related to Information and Broadcasting Sector. 

During the discussions, both the Ministers agreed to consider a joint collaboration for production of a mega film depicting the “War of Liberation”. In this context, it was agreed to work towards a roadmap to finalize the proposal shortly. In this context, the Information Minister of Bangladesh also requested that the Government of India could consider providing the names of the soldiers who had laid down their lives during the War of Liberation. He reiterated that the Government of Bangladesh would like to recognize their contribution made during this historical event. 

During the discussions, both the Ministers also agreed to explore the possibility of setting up of a Joint Working Group on the critical sectors of the Information and Broadcasting domain. The Working Group would provide a roadmap for future collaborations between the two countries. 

The Bangladesh Information Minister also requested the Minister for Information and Broadcasting to facilitate the down linking of Bangladesh TV Channels through the private distribution network. Both Ministers also agreed to intensify the collaboration between Prasar Bharti and Bangladesh State Television in view of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two entities in 2011. 

The MoU had focused on mutual cooperation in the broadcast of television programmes between the two broadcasters. It was also mentioned that both countries could consider exchange of programmes and also explore the possibility of executive TV co-production. During the discussions, both Ministers also agreed to facilitate the exchange of archival material between the two countries. 

Economic Issues

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), on 9 April, maintained that the Indian economy could grow at an improved rate of 6 per cent during the current fiscal, provided reforms are put in place at a faster pace to sort out the structural bottlenecks and stem the deteriorating investment situation and a strong external demand is able to facilitate a turnaround in the worsening current account deficit (CAD).

In its report ‘Asian Development Outlook 2013’ released in New Delhi, the Manila-based multilateral lending agency, however, cautioned that its India projections on improvement in the economy were subject to a number of downside risks such as another bad monsoon, a slow pace of reforms and fiscal consolidation and a continued sluggishness in the global economic environment.

According to ADB Country Director Narhari Rao, supply and policy obstacles have seen India’s economic growth decelerate and investment and industrial output slump, with the statistics compounded by weak global demand.

The Food Corporation of India (FCI) raised 5000 crore Rupees by issuing taxable bonds backed by Government of India Guarantee in order to meet the additional working capital requirement. The issue of bonds was opened on 21 March 2013 and closed on 22 March 2013.

These bonds are of two tenures- 10 years (300 crore Rupees) and 15 years (4700 crore Rupees).

The coupon rate for 10 years was 8.62 percent per annum and 8.80 percent per annum for 15 years. Food Corporation of India (FCI) has the Cash Credit Limit with Consortium of 62 banks.

At present, the Cash Credit Limit is 54495 crore Rupees which is secured by mortgaging entire stock of FCI and guaranteed by Government of India.

At present, the interest rate on Cash Credit Limit is 10.79 percent monthly which eventually translates into 11.34 on annual basis. Annual interest saving through issue of this bond will be 127.54 crore Rupees.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) on 10 April, slashed its forecast for trade growth in 2013, saying it feared protectionism was on the increase. It cut its forecast for global trade growth in 2013 to 3.3 per cent from 4.5 per cent and said trade grew only 2 per cent in 2012. That was the smallest annual rise since records began in 1981 and the second weakest figure on record after 2009, when trade shrank.

WTO Director General Pascal Lamy warned that 2013 could turn out even weaker than expected, especially because of risks from the euro crisis, and countries might try to restrict trade further in a desperate attempt to shore up domestic growth.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 4 April 2013 decided to de-control sugar and did away the levy on sugar mills and regulated release mechanism. This de-control will raise the subsidy burden to 5300 crore rupees from previous 2700 crore rupees. De-control on sugar will not have an impact on the sugar made available in the Public Distribution System. The de-control of sugar will abolish the rule for sugar mills that makes it mandatory for sugar millers to sell sugar to the Government at a discounted price as well as the limitation on the amount they choose to sell in the open market .

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed on 4 April, in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala between Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), and Government of Kerala PSEs, Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) and Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd (KMML), for setting up a Titanium Project in Joint Venture in Kerala.

Union Tourism Minister K Chiranjeevi on 3 April launched a web based Public Service Delivery System for Hotel approval and classification with a view to bring in transparency in granting approvals for hotel projects and classification status to functioning hotels. Speaking on the occasion the Minister said that with the help of this system, all applicants seeking hotel project approvals, hotel classification and approvals for other related services will be able to track the progress of their cases online on a real time basis.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs(CCEA) on 2 April 2013 approved the proposal of the Ministry of Home Affairs for continuation of the Scheme for Special Infrastructure (SIS) in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected states during the 12th Plan period. 

The proposal includes an added objective of up gradation and critical gap filling of training infrastructure, residential infrastructure, weaponry, vehicles and any other related items pertaining to Special Forces of LWE affected states.

The total cost would be 373 crore rupees comprising 280 crore rupees as central government share and 93 crore rupees as state government share on a 75 (central): 25 (state) funding pattern.

The scheme will enhance the security in the region which would provide an enabling environment for development.

The scheme was being implemented from the year 2008-09 with the broad objective to adequately provide for critical infrastructure requirements that are critical to the policing and security needs in the field, but are not adequately or otherwise provided for in any other scheme.

During the 11th Plan period 100 percent funding was provided by the Central Government to the 9 LWE affected states for implementing various projects under the scheme. The total funds were released under the scheme by the central government to the 9 LWE affected states during the 11th Plan period is 445.82 crore rupees.

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) on 30 April has launched an Islamic equity index based on the wide-measure S&P BSE 500 index, providing a new benchmark for Islamic investors in one of the world's largest stock exchanges. 

The new index comprises the largest 500 companies in the BSE, out of more than 5,000 listed, which fit Islamic finance principles such as bans on investing in alcohol, tobacco and gambling-related businesses.

The country's first Islamic index was launched in 2010, also by the BSE, tracking the 50 largest and most liquid stocks.

The Mumbai exchange had a total market capitalization of $1.32 trillion as of January 2013. In order to cater to an estimated 177 million Muslims in India, the largest Muslim minority population in the world, the industry is hoping to develop investment products that work around this requirement, but political and legal obstacles mean progress has been slow.

World Bank on 30 April scaled down India's growth forecast to 6.1 per cent for the current fiscal from 7 per cent projected six months ago. The decline in the growth forecast is largely due to the decline in agriculture sector which is expected to grow at 2 per cent during 2013-14 against the previous estimate of 2.7 per cent despite normal monsoon projection. However, the multi-lateral funding agency said that India is regaining economic momentum and growth is expected to recover gradually to its high long-term potential. As per the latest India Development Update of the World Bank, Indian economy would grow by 6.1 per cent in 2013-14 on account of robust domestic demand, strong savings and investment rate. Growth projections for 2013-14 have been arrived at by taking into account present internal and external factors.

The Union Minister for Commerce, Industry and Textiles, Anand Sharma launched 21 New Textile Parks approved under Scheme for Integrated Textile Parks (SITP) in New Delhi on 23 April. These new parks take the total number to 61 parks as 40 Parks were sanctioned earlier. The Scheme for Integrated Textiles Parks (SITP) has been instrumental in development of wide range of models for green field clusters from a 1000 acre FDI driven integrated cluster, to a 100 acre power loom cluster and a 20 acre handloom cluster.

Union Tourism Minister K Chiranjeevi inaugurated the new campus of Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management (IITTM) at Noida on 23 April.

Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management (IITTM) is an autonomous organization of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India and is one of the premier institutes in South Asia offering education, training, research and consultancy in sustainable management of tourism, travel and other allied sectors.

The Cabinet Committee on Investment on 22 April 2013 cleared 13 power projects that involves investment of 33000 crore rupees. The meet was headed by the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. The projects on which the investments will be made include one hydro and two thermal project as well as ten transmission projects. 25 oil and gas blocks with investment commitment of about seven billion US dollars also got approval during the same meet. Of these 16 blocks were given conditional clearances, while nine blocks were approved without any condition.

Minister of State (I/C) for Power Jyotiraditya M Scindia along with Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on 26 April dedicated to the nation the Indira Gandhi Super Thermal Power Project at Jhajjar in Haryana. The minister lauded the efforts of NTPC, Government of Haryana and Delhi Government for making this Project a success.

The Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) under the Chairmanship of C Rangarajan on 23 January 2013 presented the Economic review 2012-13. Some of the highlights are-

India’s economy is expected to grow 6.4 percent in the new financial year that began on 1 April 2013.

PMEAC pegged the WPI inflation at around 6 percent and food inflation, at 8 percent. Net FDI at 18 billion dollars in FY13. FII inflows at 24 billion dollar in FY13 We expect net FDI inflow at 24 billion dollars and FII at 18 billion dollars for FY14

The fiscal deficit of the Centre for 2012-13 is estimated to be 5.2% of GDP. It was 520924 crores Rupees in 2012-13 as per revised estimates, and is expected to be 542499 crores Rupees in 2013-14 as per budget estimates.

Current Account Deficit is estimated to be 94 billion dollars (5.1% of GDP) in 2012-13 and is projected to be 100 billion dollars (4.7% of GDP) in 2013-14. Worried over widening trade gap, the government On 27 April, has set up a six-member inter-ministerial committee under the chairmanship of Finance Secretary R S Gujral that will suggest measures to boost MSME exports. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector contributes about 40% in the country's total exports and over 8% to India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

India's exports declined by about 2% to $300.5 billion in 2012-13, way below the $360 billion targeted at the beginning of the year, due to the global demand slowdown.The widening trade gap is adding woes on the the Current Account Deficit (CAD) front, which has emerged as a tough policy challenge for the government. CAD crossed 6.7% of the GDP in the third quarter of last fiscal.

As per estimates, the share of MSME exports has fallen from 40% to 36% to the country's total exports.The sector accounts for around 45% of the manufacturing output and provides employment to about 60 million persons through 26 million enterprises. President PranabMukherjee on 8 April, has conferred the status of 'Miniratna - Category 1' on the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (Neepco).


NTPC has been awarded as Business Leader in the Power Sector at the NDTV Business Leadership Awards held in New Delhi on 9 april. The award was presented by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission of India in the presence of Dr Prannoy Roy to Arup Roy Choudhury, CMD, NTPC. India’s top business leaders were awarded on the occasion.

Chairman of the Awards Jury of the ICSI (Institute of Company Secretaries of India) and former Chief Justice of India Justice M. N. Venkatachaliah in New Delhi on 5 April, presented the ‘ICSI National Awards for Excellence in Corporate Governance -2012’ to two ‘Best Governed Companies’:

1) Indian Oil Corporation Limited; and

2) HCL Technologies Limited.

The Awards were presented during the ongoing 2nd CSIA International Corporate Governance Conference. The Company Secretaries of the awardee companies, Raju Ranganathan, Company Secretary, Indian Oil Corporation Limited; and Manish Anand, Company Secretary, HCL Technologies Limited were also honored for their contribution in adhering to good corporate governance practices. ICSI Life Time Achievement Award for the year 2012 was presented to Deepak S. Parekh, Chairman, Housing Development Finance Corporation Ltd for translating excellence in Corporate Governance into reality.

In recognition of its strong fundamentals and dynamic growth model, J & K Bank won the prestigious FE (Financial Express) India’s Best Banks Award for 2012-13. It Ranked as No. 1 in ‘Best Old Private Sector Bank’ category. It got 3rd in the overall banking industry in terms of ‘Profitability’ and 1st in terms of ‘Profitability’ in the category of ‘Old private sector banks’.

Jai Chandiram, the former Deputy Director-General of Doordarshan and renowned media person on 26 April 2013 was awarded with the lifetime achievement award by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT). Jai Chandiram is known for the contributions that she made towards Women’s Right. She was the first Asian President of the IAWRT.

Yash Chopra, Rajesh Khanna and Asha Bhosale are to be honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Awards 2013 to be given on 30 April 2013 at Bhaidas Auditorium in Mumbai. Asha Bhosle will be honoured with the Phalke Ratna Award for the contributions made by her in the field of music for over a period of five decades. Late Yash Chopra for his contributions to Indian Film Industry will be posthumously awarded with the Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Award. Pamela the wife of the iconic filmmaker Yash Chopra will receive the Saraswatibai Phalke Award. Rajesh Khanna will be honoured with the first superstar of Indian Cinema Award.

Dada Saheb Phalke is known as the Father of Indian Cinema and was the first producer, director and screen-writer of India for the silver screen. His first film was Raja Harishchandra in 1913. The Dada Saheb Phalke Academy Awards are presented annually to celebrate the jayanti of Dada Saheb Phalke. On this occasion different people from Bollywood are honoured with trophies for their outstanding contribution to the Indian Film Industry.

Legendary actor, Pran Krishan Sikand, 93, on 12 April 2013 was awarded with Bollywood’s highest honour in Indian Cinema Dada Saheb Phalke Award 2012. He is the 44th Dada Saheb Phalke Award Winner. He gave a different and unique frame to the negative and character roles of Indian Cinema with his impressive performances.


At the final round of ASBC Asian Confederation Junior Boxing Championships in Kazakhstan, Prayag Chauhan defeated Azat Ilyubayev in the lightweight category (60kg) on 22 April 2013 to win a gold medal. In an overall performance, India stood at the third position in team rankings. The Indian boxers completed Asian meet with three bronze and one gold medal. Prayag Chauhan, 16, won the match in 60 kg category. On the other hand, the sub-junior national champion Aditya Maan (66kg) grabbed bronze medal at the Asian Championships. He lost to Uzbek boxer, Merjanev Eldar. Pradeep (63 kg) finished the tournament with third position. He lost to Kazakhstan’s Stolbovskiy Vladislav in semi-finals.

In the 27th edition of North-East Games played at Imphal, the host state- Manipur claimed the title of overall team champion on 11 April 2013. The North-East Games were played from 8 April 2013 to 11 April 2013. The North-East games included eight states.

These games also include Sikkim. Manipur emerged as overall champion with the medal tally of 127. This included 74 gold, 31 silver and 22 bronze. Assam came at the second place with 101 medals which included 31 gold, 30 silver and 40 bronze. Mizoram was at the third place with 72 medals including 20 gold, 19 silver and 33 bronze. Nagaland finished at fourth position with 49 medals and Arunachal Pradesh got 45 medals. At the lowest rank were Meghalaya with 37 medals, Tripura with 36 medals and Sikkim 11 medals.

North East Games were earlier known as North East Sports Festival. The North East Games were started with an aim of promoting the sports and games in the North East region. First edition of North East Games was held in Imphal in 1986-87.

Adam Scott of Australia won the Augusta Masters Golf championship on 14 April 2013. He beat Angel Cabrera in the play-off for the title. It was his maiden major title. He became the first Australian to win Augusta Masters.

The Indian Tennis Players Association (ITPA) Secretary, Karti P Chidambaram on 14 April 2013 announced that the tennis star player, Sania Mirza became one of the Vice-Presidents of ITPA. Sania Mirza now became one of the four Vice-Presidents of Indian Tennis Players Association, which is a newly-formed body. Other three Vice-Presidents of the body are Somdev Devvarman, Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes. Former Davis Cup captain Jaideep Mukherjea is the President of the Association.

Sania Mirza is the first female player from India who won a Grand Slam. She now plays in doubles only.

India won a 5-0 victory against Indonesia in the Asia-Oceania Group I Davis Cup relegation play-off tie in Bangalore on 7 April 2013 as Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri posted straight-set wins in their respective reverse singles.

Reigning world champion Rupesh Shah added another feather in his cap by clinching the 12th Asian Billiards championship with win over compatriot Alok Kumar in the fiercely fought final, held in Indore on 7 April. Rupesh Shah finished at 101, 95 and 100 to defeat Alok Kumar. This is India's 10th Asian Billiards title and Rupesh is new entrant in this elite club. He follows previous champions Geet Sethi, Ashok Shandilya, Devendra Joshi,Pankaj Adwani and Alok Kumar.


Lt Cdr Abhilash Tomy of Indian Navy, who on 6 April 2013 became the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe, solo and non-stop, in a sail boat over a 150-day voyage. This voyage of Lt Cdr Tony placed India in the list of few selected nations, whose citizens were successful in completion of such an arduous voyage. The voyage of Lt Cdr Abhilash Tomy ended at the Gateway of India. He started his voyage across the oceans of the world from the same place from in his boat INSV Mhadei on 1 November 2012. The Voyage was conducted under the Sagar Parikrama Project, which was sanctioned by Pranab Mukherjee, when he was the Defence Minister of India.

Narendra Kumar Verma on 4 April 2013 was appointed as the new director of the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp’s (ONGC) Exploration. 54 year old Narendra Kumar Verma would be replacing S.V. Rao, who term super-annuated on 31 March 2013.

Takehiko Nakao, on 27 April 2013 was appointed as the President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) by the Board of Governors at New Delhi. He succeeded Haruhiko Kuroda, who resigned from his office in March 2013 to take up an assignment as the Governor of the Bank of Japan. Nakao is the former Vice Minister of Finance for International Affairs of Japan. He will be the ninth President and will assume the charge of his office on 28 April 2013. He is appointed to complete the unexpired term of his predecessor that is supposed to end in November 2016.

Justice JS Verma (80)-The former Chief Justice of India, died on 22 April 2013 in New Delhi after multiple organ failure. He was the 27th Chief Justice of India on 25 March 1997 and retired on 18 January 1998.

K.Natarajan, CEO and Director of Mindtree on 8 April 2013 was appointed as the Chairman of Nasscom for the year 2013-14. He succeeded N Chandrasekaran, MD and CEO of TCS, who was the Chairman for the year 2012-13. R. Chandrasekaran, Cognizant Group Chief Executive (Technology & Operations) was appointed as the Vice Chairman of the Executive Council. NASSCOM Foundation is a non-profit organization that represents the Indian IT BPO industry and it played a leading role in developing the Indian IT-BPO industry to reach mark of 100 billion dollar industry. 

P.J.Kurien-Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, on 11 April 2013 was unanimously elected as the Chairman of the prestigious Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) during the 73rd Executive Committee Meeting of AFPPD at Bangkok. He replaced Yasuo Fukuda, former Prime Minister of Japan as the Chairman of AFPPD. PJ Kurien at present is also the Chairman of the Indian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development.

Dr Hilary Koprowski(96)-A Polish researcher who developed the first successful oral vaccination for polio died on 11 April 2013 in Philadelphia. Koprowski developed an oral vaccine using the live polio virus that was first used on humans in 1950.

Robert Edwards (87) - The British Nobel Laureate who pioneered the development of in vitro fertilization (IVF ) that led to the birth of the world’s first “test tube baby” , died in London, on 9 April, after a long illness.

Science & Technology

The medium range nuclear capable Agni-II missile was on 7 April 2013 successfully test-fired with a strike range of more than 2000 km from the Wheeler Island off Odisha coast. The two-stage missile equipped with advanced high accuracy navigation system, guided by a novel scheme of state of the earth command and control system was propelled by solid rocket propellant system. 

The 20-metre long Agni-II is a two-stage, solid-propelled ballistic missile. It has a launch weight of 17 tones and can carry a payload of 1000 kg over a distance of 2000 km. 

The state-of-the-art Agni-II missile was developed by Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) and integrated by the Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), Hyderabad. 

Agni-II is part of the Agni series of missiles developed by DRDO which includes Agni-I with a 700 km range, Agni-III with a 3000 km range, Agni-IV with 4000 km range and Agni-V more than 5000 km range. 

World health day was celebrated on 7 April 2013. The theme for 2013 was “high blood pressure”. This day marks the anniversary of the founding of WHO (World Health Organization) in 1948. Each year a theme is selected for World Health Day that highlights a priority area of public health concern in the world.

High blood pressure also known as raised blood pressure or hypertension increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. The ultimate goal of World Health Day 2013 is to reduce heart attacks and strokes. According to the World Health Organization, High Blood Pressure affects one in three adults worldwide and leads to more than nine million deaths globally every year.

Central Medical Services Society (CMSS), a Central Procurement Agency of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has been registered under Societies Registration Act, 1860 on 22-03-2012. CMSS will be responsible for procuring health sector goods in a transparent and cost-effective manner and distributing them to the State/UT Governments by setting up IT enabled supply chain infrastructure including State warehouses in 50 locations. The main objective of CMSS will be to ensure uninterrupted supply of health sector goods to the State Governments. Rules and Regulations of CMSS have been framed.

Indian Coast Guard Ship H-191, the fifth of the series of twelve Air Cushion Vehicles (ACVs) was commissioned at Mumbai by Director General Indian Coast Guard Vice Admiral Anurag G Thapliyal on 10 april. The 21 metres long Air Cushion Vehicle with 31 tonnes displacement can achieve a maximum speed of 45 knots.



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