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2013 - May - Current Affairs

International Issues


China, on 2 May 2013, successfully launched a communications satellite called Zhongxing-11 from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest Sichuan province. The satellite was launched into its present orbit from Long March-3B rocket. 

Zhongxing-11 is mainly to provide services for the commercial communications and broadcasting. The satellite is also responsible for meeting needs of digital broadband multimedia, streaming media for clients, Direct-to-Home as well as data transmission for the Asia-Pacific region. 



Ireland’s government on 1 May 2013 unveiled the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill. It explains when life-saving abortions can be performed. Moreover, it’s a clarification of rights within the ambit of Current law. 

The bill mentioned clearly that anyone illegally involved in abortion could face a maximum 14-year prison sentence whether he is a doctor or a patient. The bill was unveiled following the death of an Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar in 2012. 



Maryland, the U.S. state located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, on 2 May 2013 became the first southern US state to abolish the death penalty. The measure on it was signed by Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley on 2 May 2013. The person who was attended was former Maryland death row inmate Kirk Bloodsworth. He will be the first person in the country freed from death penalty because of DNA evidence after being convicted in a death penalty case. 



The US Senate on 23 May 2013 approved Srikanth Srinivasan was as the most senior US Judge of the South Asian descent to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The unanimous approval of Srinivasan gave birth to speculations that one day he may be tapped for the Supreme Court. 

Srinivasan born in Chandigarh, India and raised in Kansas is the first justice who has been confirmed to the Washington court since 2006 a year after Chief Justice John Roberts’ elevation created a vacancy. He is the Principle Deputy Solicitor General and defends the policies of US President Barack Obama before the Supreme Court. Earlier he has also worked under the former President, George W. Bush. He is a proud recipient of the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Furthering US National Security in 2003. 



President Robert Mugabe on 22 May 2013 signed Zimbabwe's new constitution into law, clearing the path to crucial elections later this year. The constitution was unopposed through both houses of parliament. The new constitution was approved overwhelmingly in a referendum in March 2013.The constitution cut short the powers of the president, limits presidential tenures to two five-year terms and does away with the post of prime minister. 

However, it does not apply retroactively so the 89-year-old Mugabe could technically extend his three decades in office by another 10 years. A new constitution is one of the pre-conditions for elections to pick a successor to the power-sharing government Mugabe formed four years ago with Tsvangirai. The date for the elections is yet to be announced. 



China has indicated it will go ahead with building infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) despite India’s concerns, signing a memorandum of understanding with Pakistan on a transport corridor expected to pass through the disputed region. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who on 24 May, wrapped up a two-day visit to Pakistan following his trip to India, called on both countries to “start formulating a long-term plan for the China-Pakistan economic corridor project and gradually push forward its construction”, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Both countries signed an MoU to cooperate on a “long-term” plan on the corridor, among 11 agreements announced during Mr. Li’s visit. 

Chinese planners have called for a transport and economic corridor to link China’s far-western Xinjiang region to the port of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea, which China helped build and is now managing. The corridor, they hope, will speed up development in Xinjiang, which has seen intermittent unrest, and also open up a new route for China’s energy imports from West Asia. The corridor will pass through PoK, which borders Xinjiang and provides the only feasible transport link between China and Pakistan. 



Pakistan's new parliament sworn in the capital on 31 May, Islamabad, in that country's first-ever democratic transition of power. The swearing-in ceremony took place amid tight security around the city's "Red Zone," where key government buildings are located. A new speaker should be elected by secret ballot on June 3.The new Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League (N) party won May’s elections, should be formally elected by the lower house and sworn in two days later. 



France's President Francois Hollande on 17 May 2013 signed the bill to legalize gay marriage. It makes France the ninth in Europe, and 14th in the world to do so. The move was opposed by many conservatives and the Catholic Church in France. As of May 2013, thirteen countries (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Norway, Spain, South Africa, Sweden), and several sub-national jurisdictions (parts of Mexico and the USA), allow same-sex couples to marry. 



Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak began a second term on 6 May, after his Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition, which has ruled for 56 years, held on to power in elections branded as fraudulent by a bitter opposition. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim terming the victory “worst electoral fraud in our history” called for a protest rally. 



Russia and the US on 8 May, have agreed to work together to bring the warring sides in Syria to the negotiating table, raising hopes for an end to carnage in the war-torn country and a thaw in frosty relations between Moscow and Washington.



Arab countries on 1 May, have collectively agreed to accept an arrangement that would allow Israelis and Palestinians to go ahead with land swaps to resolve differences, rather than strictly sticking to the pre-1967-war position. Speaking on behalf of the 22-nation Arab League (AL), Qatar Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasem Al Thani, appeared to concede land swaps following a meeting in Washington of Arab officials and John Kerry, the U.S. 



Libya’s parliament on 5 May 2013 passed a comprehensive law, which bans anyone who served as a senior official under Muammar Gaddafi during his 42 year-long rule from working in government. 

The passing of such Political Isolation Law possibly will lead to the dismissal of many current leaders, some of whom had defected to the rebel side during the country’s 2011 civil war or had been elected to office since Gaddafi’s ouster and killing. The move is also likely to further stall the country’s already unsteady transition to democracy by ousting elected lawmakers. The General National Congress, Libya’s elected parliament, voted overpoweringly in favour of the law.



Almost 260,000 people, half of them young children, died of hunger during the last famine in Somalia, according to a U.N. report on 1 May, which admitted the world body should have done more to prevent the tragedy. 

The toll is much higher than was feared at the time of the 2010-2012 food crisis in the troubled Horn of Africa country and also exceeds the 220,000 who starved to death in the 1992 famine. Half of those who died were children under five, according to the joint report by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the U.S.-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network.



In a historic milestone for the Sikhs in Pakistan, Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora has become the first person from the minority community to enter the Punjab province assembly, since the country's independence in 1947. Arora belongs to Narowal district, 80 km from Lahore, and is associated with the Pakistan Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee. He took oath along with 340 other lawmakers during the first session of the new Punjab Assembly on 1 June. He was nominated to a seat reserved for minority communities by the PML-N, which has formed governments in Punjab and at the centre after its victory in the May 11 polls.



According to World Health Organization, World No-Tobacco day is observed every year on 31 May 2013. The Theme this year is “Ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship”. WHO urged Governments (with its message free yourself) everywhere to address this needless threat to public health. The day is meant to highlight the risks associated with tobacco usage and reduce its consumption. 

Tobacco is the single largest cause of preventable death globally and approximately 5.5 million people die around the world every year - with India accounting for nearly a fifth of this. The primary risk of tobacco usage includes many forms of cancers. The ultimate goal is to contribute to protect present and future generations not only from these devastating health consequences, but also against the social, environmental and economic scourges of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. 



The President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas on 2 June 2013 named Rami Hamdallah as his new Prime Minister. Rami Hamdallah replaced Western-favored economist Salam Fayyad who had left the office of Prime Minister in April 2013 and formally quit now. Rami Hamdallah is a member of Fatah Palestinian National Authority which is headed by Mahmoud Abbas. 



More Indians have stopped believing in God, according to the latest Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism. The report has found that the number of non religious people in India has risen. As against 87% saying they were religious in the same survey in 2005, the percentage has fallen to 81% in 2013. 

The survey found a 1% dip in the number of people calling themselves as an atheist. In 2005, 4% people said they didn't believe in God. In 2012, that had dipped to 3%. Globally, the trend is similar. Religiosity has dropped by 9%, while atheism has risen by 3%. 

The report says there is a notable decline across the globe in self-description of being religious. Pakistan is among the few countries which have seen an increase in the number of people who call themselves religious - by 6%. South Africa has seen a 19% dip in those calling themselves religious, US 13%, Switzerland and France 21% and Vietnam 23%.



Australia is the world happiest nation, according to Better Life Index by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It has once again topped the world as the Happiest Industrialised Nation in the OECD report, which was released on 28th May, 2013. 

The OECD Better Life Index compares the well-being of 34 developed and emerging countries based on eleven categories including housing, income, jobs, education, life satisfaction and work-life balance. The Better Life Index found that 84 % of Australians are satisfied with their lives -- better than the OECD average of 80 %.



The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has declared and designated the Nicobar Islands in India as a world biosphere reserve under its Man and the Biosphere Programme. Member countries establish such reserves. UNESCO recognizes them under the programme to promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science. 



The International Monetary Fund on 15 May 2013 approved a three-year, $ 1.3 billion loan for supporting Cyprus’ attempts to stabilize its financial sector and to bring the Government’s deficit under control and restore economic growth. The IMF loan to Cyprus is basically a part of a rescue package of 10 billion Euros (US $ 12.9 billion) counterfeit in March 2013 with the Eurozone’s bailout fund. The loan was approved by IMF’s Executive Board which also includes an immediate disbursement of US $ 110.7 million. 

Counting the IMF disbursement, Cyprus has received about US $ 2.7 billion in the third week of May from its international lenders. The Luxembourg-based European Stability Mechanism, which is a Eurozone bailout fund, on 13 May, announced that it had approved its first bailout tranche for Cyprus and transferred an initial 2 billion euros (US $ 2.6 billion). The rest of the tranche — up to 1 billion Euros — will be transferred by 30 June 2013. 



On the eve of a major international donors’ conference, the European Union on 14 May, announced that it was pledging €520 million (US $ 674.8 million) over the next two years to help rebuild the west African country of Mali as a functioning state. The announcement was made by Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, who said the investment would benefit Europe as well as Africa. Until a military intervention by France, followed by the engagement of other African countries, many international officials were concerned that Mali’s vast, ungoverned north was a haven for terrorist groups that, unhindered by government control, could feel free to plot attacks anywhere in the world.



India’s bid for observer status in the Arctic Council was successful on 15 May 2013, along with that of five other countries — China, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Singapore — at a meeting in Kiruna, Sweden. Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, welcomed India’s admission. An MEA official spokesperson said India would contribute its scientific expertise, particularly in polar research capabilities, to the work of the Arctic Council to support its objectives. 



North Korea on 19 May 2013 test-fired a short-range missile off its east coast, counted as fourth test firing in two days. The missile was fired into the Sea of Japan. Earlier on 18 May, the country fired three short-range missiles off its east coast, considered as part of a military drill. The launching of missile by North Korea is not usual but it came at a time of sensitive alert on the peninsula followed by the Pyongyang’s nuclear test in February 2013 which had led to tougher UN Sanctions. 

The launch of missile by North Korea was to demonstrate its military ambitions in rebelliousness of international sanctions and diplomatic efforts to convince the totalitarian state to return to talks. 



The first phase of Sri Lanka’s northern railway project, funded by a line of credit facilitated by India, was commissioned on 14 May. Coaches in chugged along from Medawachchiya in Anuradhapura, the North Central Province, to Madhu Road, marking the return of a crucial transportation link.

Tracks along the 43 km-stretch were reconstructed as part of the $800 million-project, being executed by the Indian Railway Ministry’s IRCON International Limited to restore the 252 km-railway line that would connect different parts of the country. Commissioning the service, Minister for Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa said India had been with Sri Lanka at every stage of rehabilitation and reconstruction of the north. 


National Issues


The Minister for Women & Child Development, Krishna Tirath on 9 May 2013 launched the World Bank assisted ICDS Systems strengthening and Nutrition Improvement Project (ISSNIP). The aim of the programme is improvement of child development and nutritional outcomes for children in selected districts having higher proportional of child under nutrition. The project is worth Rs. 2893 crore with 70 percent IDA share of Rs. 2025 crore over the time duration of 7 years. 

The cost of phase-I of the project is estimated to be around Rs. 682 crore. The project received an initial support of US $ 106 million from theWorld Bank, which is payable over the time of 25 years. This will be followed by the support for second phase of US $ 344 million, which will be subject to assessment of phase-I. 

ISSNIP is designed to supplement and provide value addition on the existing ICDS programme, through systems strengthening for better service delivery, as well as to allow the selected states and districts to experiment, innovate and conduct pilots of potentially more effective approaches for ICDS in order to achieve early childhood education and nutrition outcomes. The additional support through the project is catalytic and is an important dimension of MWCD’s overall efforts to strengthen and restructure the ICDS programme. 

Four major components of the project are: 
(i) institutional and systems strengthening in ICDS 
(ii) community mobilization and behaviour change communication 
(iii) piloting multi-sectoral nutrition actions, and 
(iv) Project Management, Technical Assistance and Monitoring & Evaluation.



K. Siddaramaiah is the new Chief Minister of Karnataka. He was elected for the post by 75 of 121 Congress MLAs, who voted in secret ballot election here on 10th May, 2013.



The Union Cabinet on 1 May, has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Railways for setting up of an Electric Locomotive Factory at Madhepura, Bihar and a Diesel Locomotive Factory at Marhowra, Bihar, to start afresh the bidding processes for these projects. Estimated costs for setting up the Electric Locomotive Factory and Diesel Locomotive Factory, as approved by CCEA and included in the Railway Budget are Rs. 1293.57 crore and Rs. 2052.58 crore respectively, with limited equity contribution by Ministry of Railways. Over a ten-year period, the factories will provide Indian Railways with 800 electric locomotives of 12,000 horse power (h.p.) each and a mix of 1,000 diesel locomotives of 4,500 and 6,000 h.p. with high level performance guarantees similar to international practices. 



The Union Cabinet on 1 May gave its approval to launch a National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) as a new sub-mission under the over-arching National Health Mission (NHM). 

Under the Scheme, the following proposals have been approved: 
  • One Urban Primary Health Centre (U-PHC) for every fifty to sixty thousand population. 
  • One Urban Community Health Centre (U-CHC) for five to six U-PHCs in big cities. 
  • One Auxiliary Nursing Midwives (ANM) for 10,000 population. 
  • One Accredited Social Health Activist ASHA (community link worker) for 200 to 500 households. 
The estimated cost of NUHM for 5 years period is Rs.22, 507 crore with the Central Government share of Rs.16, 955 crore. Centre-State funding pattern will be 75:25 except for North Eastern states and other special category states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand for whom the funding pattern will be 90:10. 

The scheme will focus on primary health care needs of the urban poor. This Mission will be implemented in 779 cities and towns with more than 50,000 population and cover about 7.75 crore people. NUHM aims to improve the health status of the urban population in general, particularly the poor and other disadvantaged sections by facilitating equitable access to quality health care, through a revamped primary public health care system, targeted outreach services and involvement of the community and urban local bodies. 

The Union Cabinet in its meeting held in April 2012 has already approved the continuation of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and the other sub-mission under NHM till 31.3.2017. 



The Expert Committee on Leveraging Panchayat Raj Institutions for the more efficient delivery of public good and services on 4 May called on the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan and made a presentation on the contents of its 20th anniversary Report. 

The Committee was constituted by the Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj on August 27, 2012 under the chairmanship of Mani Shankar Aiyar. Other members of Committee who called on the President included Peelipose Thomas, Manabendra Nath Roy and Member Secretary M.V. Rao. 

The Committee has in its recommendations said that there is a need to constitute a National Panchayat Commission to oversee the cooperative effort of the Centre and States to strengthen Panchayati Raj. 

The Committee also said that there is a need to provide for District Councils through an appropriate amendment of the Constitution as a single local government at the district level for better urban-rural convergence and equal treatment of urban and rural people. 



Vice President of India inaugurated the International Centre for Environment Audit & Sustainable Development at Jaipur on 4 May. The Vice President of India M. Hamid Ansari has said that India has been active in international forums relating to environmental protection, and is party to 94 multilaterals environmental agreements such as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), among many others. 



The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) under the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh approved 11000 crore Rupees project on 1 May 2013 for modernization of central paramilitary forces. These forces include ITBP as well, which is responsible for guarding the Sino-Indian border. 

The approval will be implemented in five years duration, beginning 2013-14 fiscal years. 

The approval of the project is followed by altercation along Sino-Indian border in Ladakh. 

The approval will also benefit Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), National Security Guard (NSG), Assam Rifles and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). 

Modernization will make sure that all these forces get better night vision devices, arms, vehicles, patrolling equipment and ammunition along with infrastructural upgrade. 



The Economist magazine's Index of Democracy 2012 ranks India 38th among 165 nations with an overall score of 7.52. 

India also gets high scores for electoral process and pluralism (9.58) and Civil liberties (9.41). 

The top three positions go to Norway (9.93) Sweden (9.73) and Iceland 9.65, while the United States is ranked 21st with an overall score of 8.11 in the fifth edition of the Index prepared by the London weekly focusing on international politics and business.



The Union Government of India on 3 May 2013 revised the production estimates of the food grains upwards by 5.22 million tones for 2012-13, over earlier expectation of 254.24 million tones due to the higher output of wheat, rice and coarse cereals. With this revision, the total cereal output estimation has gone up to 255.36 million tones. 

The wheat and rice production pegged at 93.62 million tones and 104.22 million tones respectively.



The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh on 23 May 2013 laid the foundation stone of the Indian National Defence University (INDU) at Binola, Gurgaon. The university is going to be an autonomous institution of national importance. 

The Defence University came up following the recommendation of the Review Committee constituted after the Kargil Conflict by the Government for the establishment of a University that deals exclusively with defence and strategic matters. 

The review committee was headed by eminent strategic expert K Subrahmanyam. INDU aims to provide knowledge based higher education for management of the defence of India to the military leadership and other concerned civilian officials.



The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on 23 May 2013 approved the proposal of Department of AIDS Control, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for the implementation of National AIDS Control Support Project (NACSP) under the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP). 

The amount for this would be 2550 crore Rupees. The Government of India as well as the World Bank will finance the NACP in equal proportions. 

The main objective of the project is increasing the safe behavior among high risk groups in pursuance of the national goal of accelerated reversal of the HIV epidemic by 2017. 

The focus of the activities of this project would be on strengthening as well as scaling up prevention interventions and related BCC strategies for sub-groups of population identified to be most-at-risk by the NACP. 



Government of India decided to launch Direct Benefit Transfer for LPG (DBTL) Scheme in 20 high Aadhaar coverage districts from 1 June 2013. The scheme aims to curb leakages and prevent black-marketing and provide subsidy to consumers in their bank accounts. All LPG consumers are advised to immediately do the following to avail of subsidy in their bank accounts. 

For the benefit of LPG consumers, who cannot complete formalities by 1 June 2013, a grace period of three months is being given to complete the formalities. After this period, all consumers who have not completed the formality will get LPG cylinders at market price, without any subsidy, till they complete the same. 



The Union Government on 15 May 2013 had set up an Expert Committee under the supervision Raghuram G Rajan, Chief Economic Adviser to evolve a composite index to measure backwardness of states. The panel is set up in consistent to the Budget announcement, and it can also invite other experts as Special Invitees for discussions. The decision was taken amid demands for special category status by Bihar. The backwardness of the States will be consider in terms of measures like distance of the State from the national average under criteria such as per capita income and other human development indicators and for evolving a Composite Development Index of States. 



The Union Cabinet of India on 16 May 2013 approved the establishment of the Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission. The objective behind this approval is to conserve and restore the heritage sites associated with the Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. 

Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission will be assigned with the identification, collation and assessment of the information on Gandhi Heritage material, its management and deployment. 

The mission will also be responsible for identifying the conservation methodology as well as the priorities for documents and objects, with its point of view of archival storage and museology and for physical structures and sites, as also guidelines for their subsequent maintenance. 

The mission will also preserve the 2000 important sites identified by the panel that was chaired by Gopalkrishna Gandhi, ex-Governor of West Bengal along with the other 39 core sites. 



Kapil Sibal on 13th May assumed the charge of the Union Law Ministry, taking over from Ashwani Kumar who resigned last week after he came under attack in the Supreme Court for vetting the CBI report on the allocation of coal blocks. Sibal will hold additional charge of law along with the communications and information technology ministry. Ashwani Kumar resigned on 10th May. 



The Union Cabinet of India on 9 May decided to declare the year 2013 as Water Conservation Year. Following the theme of the year, the Government has proposed to conduct several mass awareness activities to sensitize masses on water issues and to encourage water conservation among them. The national awareness programs launched by the Government will aim towards achieving the identified objectives of the National Water Policy 2012 and National Water Mission. 

National Water Policy 2012 was adopted by the National Water Resources Council headed by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 28 December 2012. The Policy takes cognizance of the existing situation and proposes a framework for creation of a system of laws and institutions and a plan of action with a unified national perspective. 



The Election Commission of India and the National Literacy Mission Authority, Ministry of Human Resource Development, on 21 May 2013 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Electoral Literacy and Greater Participation for a Stronger and Inclusive Democracy in New Delhi. The MOU is the first ever by the Election Commission of India with a Government Department. Under the MoU, ECI and NLMA will work jointly to sensitize citizens, especially the vulnerable and disadvantaged including women, SCs, STs, Minorities, in NLMA covered districts, about their electoral rights and about exercise of franchise. 

Electoral Literacy will form part of curriculum for adult Literacy and Basic education. NLMA will spread electoral literacy during its environment Building and mass mobilization campaigns, with specific focus on electoral registration and informed and ethical voting in co-ordination with the Election Commission. 



Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha from Assam for the fifth consecutive time on 30th May, 2013. Another Congress nominee, Santiuse Kujur, also won the second Rajya Sabha seat from the State, polling for which took place in the Assembly. Dr. Singh polled 49 first preference votes and Mr. Kujur 45 first preference votes. All India United Democratic Front nominee Aminul Islam polled 18 votes. Nine legislators of the Asom Gana Parishad and five BJP MLAs in the 126-member House abstained from voting. 



The HRD Ministry on 30 May has constituted a seven-member Task Force under former IIT Kanpur Director Sanjay Dhande to set up a national testing agency for conducting various kinds of national-level exams. It will prepare a blue print for creating a special purpose vehicle to take the concept of National Testing Agency (NTA) forward. The Central Advisory Board for Education (CABE), the highest decision-making body on education, had earlier endorsed the proposal, as the move would relieve different bodies such as the UGC and the IIT from the responsibility of holding national-level tests.



The Indian telecom sector became the second largest telephone network in the world, after China by registering exceptional growth during last nine years. The reasons for growth of telecom sector including the sectoral reforms initiated by the Union Government, active participation of the private sector and development of wireless technology.



Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA), operated by GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (GHIAL), has been accorded 5-star rating by the British Safety Council for its health & safety management system. The BSC 5-star rating is a significant safety award globally and RGIA is the only Airport in the whole world to receive this coveted award.

The achievement clearly demonstrates RGIA’s commitment towards health and safety of its employees, passengers, and the entire airport community; and I thank all for their contribution,” said S.G.K. Kishore, CEO, GHIAL. The award criterion is very stringent. There are 995 safety compliance requirements for the health and safety management system covering 57 elements. In order to get a 5-Star rating, a minimum of 92 per cent has to be obtained out of a total score of 5000, and RGIA scored 96 per cent.



Sahara India Pariwar created a new Guinness World Record on 6 May 2013 when its 121653 staff and workers sang India’s national anthem Jana Gana Mana in union at Lucknow, UP. Hitherto, the world record in this category has been held by Pakistan where a crowd of 42813 sang national anthem in a group at one place.
 


The Supreme Court has cleared the decks for the commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear plant on 6 may. A bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra, in concurring judgments, however, made it clear that the plant should not be made operational unless the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) gave their final clearances.
 


A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between National Commission of Women (NCW) and the Housing and Urban Development Corporation Ltd. (HUDCO) in the presence of the Minister of Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath and the Minister of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Ajay Maken.
 

Bilateral Issues


India and Netherlands on 14 May 2013 signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Technical Cooperation in the field of Spatial Planning, Water Management, and Mobility Management at Hague, Netherlands during the visit of Kamal Nath, Minister for Urban Development and Parliamentary Affairs.

The Memorandum of Understanding will enable greater cooperation in the areas of -
  • Spatial planning, urban and regional planning and development and architecture; 
  • Water management in terms of Water supply and sanitation and governance structures; 
  • Transport management and transport systems and infrastructure; 
  • Energy-efficient and sustainable built forms. 

Under the MoU, a Joint Working Group would be set up that would prepare annual work programmes. It was decided that the first seminar under the MoU would take place in June 2013 at Rotterdam to be followed by another seminar in India later in the year.
 


Minister for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath on 16 May, signed the fifth India Brazil South Africa (IBSA) women’s forum resolution in New Delhi. Also signing the resolution were Lulama Xingwana, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Republic of South Africa, and Maria do Carmo Godinho Delgado, Secretary of Evaluation of Policies and Economic Autonomy of Women, on behalf of the Minister, Chief of the Secretariat of Policies for Women, Presidency of the Federative Republic of Brazil.

The joint resolution stated that the three countries are committed to recognizing the key role of government with the support of civil society to ensure and accelerate all efforts towards achieving gender equality and empowerment of women.It also acknowledges the Forum’s shared commitment to various international conventions on rights of women and girls.The resolution recommends the following- to end violence against women and girls; to work towards economic empowerment of women, especially rural and marginalized women; to promote gender responsive budgeting, and equitable and sustainable development.
 


External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid, paid an official visit to the People’s Republic of China on 09-10 May 2013. The two nations discussed bilateral, regional and global issues of concern to both sides. They also discussed the proposed visit to India of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

India and China also discussed Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor and regional trading arrangement. They also discussed their recent problem on the Line of Control during this visit. Both countries signed a new protocol to enhance cooperation between their foreign ministries, while working on a mechanism to step up coordination for providing timely information to the media.

The protocol that was signed by Salman Khurshid and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on 9 May 2013 was essentially an upgradation of a similar protocol signed in 2006. The 2006 protocol the two countries listed various new dialogue mechanisms that has been in existence between the two sides, since then. The two countries reviewed the fallout of the recent stand-off in the Depsang Valley in Daulat Beig Oldi sector of Ladakh.

The two sides also tried to make existing mechanisms more effective to respond with greater urgency in dealing with border violations and recent episode on the border on the Line of Actual Control, LAC was also discussed. The two sides also discussed upon the Visit of the Chinese Premier to India.
 


The eighth India-Seychelles Joint Commission Meeting was held on 8 May 2013 in New Delhi. The Joint Commission exchanged views on bilateral, regional and international matters of mutual interest during the meet. Review of the ongoing cooperation between the two nations in different fields was also done and views were exchanged for expanding and strengthening the perimeter of the cooperation between the two sides.

The Indian Delegation to the meeting was led by Sudhir Vyas, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs and the Seychelles delegation was headed by H.E. Ambassador Maurice Jean Leonard Loustau-Lalane, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Seychelles. The next meeting of the Joint Commission will be held in Seychelles at mutually convenient date.
 


The second US-India Homeland Security Dialogue was held in Washington on 21 May 2013. At the end of the dialogue, the two nations reaffirmed the commitment to, and importance of, bilateral homeland security cooperation between the US and India on common challenges faced such as terrorism, and countering violent extremism. It was decided to strengthen the global strategic partnership between the United States and India on issues ranging from cyber-security and megacity policing, to counterterrorism and countering violent extremism.
 


India and USA reaffirmed the commitment of the two nations to work cooperatively on law enforcement issues, to combat common threats, improve bilateral cooperation through the development and application of innovative technology, combat the flow of illicit finances and currency counterfeiting, and to work closely to counter terrorism and promote cyber-security.

The United States and India will explore areas in which to share best practices and lessons learned by both countries on how to enhance the ability of federal, state and local police to better detect, prevent and respond to acts of violent extremism. In May 2011, the first Homeland security dialogue between India and USA was held in India.
 


India and Thailand signed a treaty for the extradition of runaways wanted for terrorism, transnational crimes, economic offences and other serious crimes which will shortly eliminate a safe refuge for criminals wanted in India and Thailand. The extradition treaty between India and Thailand was signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's first bilateral visit to Thailand.

The treaty will help both the countries in expedited extradition of fugitives. This Treaty would further strengthen the relationship between two law enforcement agencies by providing a firm legal basis for their bilateral cooperation.

The extradition treaty concluded after two decades of negotiations, and a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in anti-money laundering, gives a major signal of India’s shared commitment in combating terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking and counterfeiting.
 


China's new premier Li Keqiang’s visited India on his first foreign trip to India from 19-22, May 2013 since taking his office in March 2013. Both the countries are looking for speeding up their efforts to settle a decades-old border dispute and strengthen economic ties. The leaders of both the countries had a thorough exchange of views on bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common interest in a sincere and cordial atmosphere and reached broad consensus. Here is the list of Documents signed during the State Visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India.

1) Protocol between Indian and China on Indian Official Pilgrimage (the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra) to the Tibet Autonomous Region of China- With the signing of Protocol both the countries have agreed to conduct the Yatra every year from May to September. China will make further advancements in the existing facilities on the route of the pilgrims and to maintain even communication. They have also agreed to assist in renting wireless sets and local SIM cards.

2) Agreement on Work Programmes of the Three Working Groups under Joint Economic Group between Ministry of Commerce & Industry of India and China. The three working groups under the Joint Economic Group are:
i) Services Trade Promotion Working Group
ii) Economic and Trade Planning Cooperation
iii) Trade Statistical Analysis

3)MoU on Buffalo Meat, Fishery Products and Agreement on Feed and Feed Ingredients between Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority of India and China It is directly aimed at strengthening mutual cooperation in trade and safety of buffalo meat, fishery products and feed and feed ingredients, and to meet the regulatory requirements with respect to safety & hygiene & quarantine and is also supposed to deal with the growing trade deficit between the two countries.

4) MoU between the Ministry of Urban Development of India and National Development and Reform Commission of China on Cooperation in the field of Sewage Treatment The MoU signed by the Urban Development will enhance cooperation in the field of Sewage Treatment and ideas and knowledge sharing in the areas of mutual interest in the urban sectors.

5) MoU between the Ministry of Water Resources of India and The National Development and Reform Commission, of China on Cooperation in the field of Water Efficient Irrigation The MoU directly aims at enhancing bilateral cooperation in the field of water efficient technology with applicability in the area of agriculture and exchange of best practices.

6) MoU between the India and the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of China on Cooperation in Mutual Translation and Publication of Classic and Contemporary Work As per the MoU a Joint Working Group will formed which will coordinate translation and publication of 25 books of Classic and Contemporary Works of each side over a period of 5 years in to Chinese and Indian languages respectively.

7) MoU between the Ministry of Water Resources of the India and the Ministry of Water Resources of China upon Provision of Hydrological Information of the Yaluzangbu/Brahmaputra River in Flood Season by China to India As per the Memorandum of Understanding China is supposed to provide India with information of water level, discharge and rainfall of 8:00 hrs and 20:00 hrs(Beijing Time) twice a day from 1st June to 15 October each day in respect of three hydrological stations on the mainstream Brahmaputra river.

8) Agreement between the Ministry of External Affairs, of India and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of China to facilitate cooperation and linkages between Indian and Chinese cities & states/provinces.


A bilateral meeting between Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, India, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Minister of Health Switzerland, Alain Berset, was concluded on 20 May 2013 at Geneva. The meeting was held on the sidelines of World Health Assembly at Geneva. The aim of the meeting was to give further impetus to cooperation in the field of healthcare.

In the past, various bilateral institutional arrangements between India and Switzerland have been signed and these include Indo-Swiss Joint Commission, Swiss- India Chamber of Commerce, Indo-Swiss Joint Committee on Science & technology and many more.

In the meeting, it was decided that an MoU between the two countries will be inked soon for broadening the scope of bilateral ties. In the meeting, it was exuded that Switzerland will extend full support to India on global platforms in order to carry forward the pursuits of providing high quality generic medicines at affordable prices.


An MoU was signed between Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare India, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Secretary of State for Health, UK, Jeremy Richard Hunt on cooperation in the field of health sector on 19 May 2013 at Geneva between the Government of India and the Government of the United Kingdom.

The aim of the agreement is promotion of wide-ranging cooperation in the health sector between the two countries. The main areas identified for cooperation in the MOU include:
1)Promoting exchange on healthcare policy in India and the UK;
2)Human resources for Health;
3)Regulatory issues;
4)Health technology development:
5)Primary healthcare;
6)Strengthening of public infrastructure and capacity;
7)Health security, including cooperation on infectious diseases, emerging infections and drug resistance.

India, at present, is the strategic partner to the UK and has been a recipient of UK’s bilateral assistance in the form of grants since 1975. The aid agency of the UK is Department for International Development (DFID). The priority for DFID and Government of India partnership is improvement of maternal & child health and reducing the burden of communicable diseases. 
 


India and the US on 16 May 2013 decided to expand co-operation in knowledge sector. This was announced during a round table discussion on Advances in US-India Academic Partnership in Washington. It was also stated during the discussion that eight more awards finalized under the Singh-Obama Knowledge Initiative.
 

Economic Issues


The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on 2 May, gave its approval to the proposal of Ingka Holding B.V., Netherlands, as recommended by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). The approval would result in FDI inflows amounting to Rs.10, 500 crore approximately into the country.
 


The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on 2 May, approved the setting up of a Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE) Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), which would comprise CPSE stocks (from amongst the listed CPSE stocks). Each stock would have a fixed weightage in the basket. The composition of the basket, the launch of the New Fund Offer (NFO), the discount to be provided and other issues relating to contribution and pricing of the ETF would be decided by the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM).

This will help in minimizing market disruptions seen in public offerings of listed CPSEs; increase ability of the Government to monetize partial stakes in listed CPSEs, some of which have low liquidity and free float; broad base retails participation of shares of CPSEs, and moreover, help to deepen the market for equity-based products; beneficial to the Government from a pricing perspective as part of the discounts could be back-ended; in the perspective of success of ETFs globally, a CPSE ETF will boost the ETF product in the country, and will help fulfill the domestic investors’ appetite for an equity ETF products as the domestic Indian investor is vastly under-served vis-a-vis the foreign investor community.

CPSE ETF is made up of a basket of shares of different CPSEs that tracks an index fund, but trades like a stock on the exchange.
 


Asian Development Bank (ADB) on 5 May 2013 announced that it is going to provide about 6 billion dollars loan to India over the next three years which was decided at the concluding day of the 46th annual meeting of the funding agency. Although, the ADB is facing the challenge of raising resources, the basic idea behind providing loan is to maintain its lending level to India.

The bank is working on partnership strategy and is planning to maintain the level of lending to India. It is important here to note that India is the biggest borrower of ADB and ADB had extended a 2.4 billion dollars loan to India in 2012 across sectors like transport, energy, commerce, industry, trade and finance. The bank will also continue to lend10 billion dollars a year across the member-nations despite generating lower return from investments.
 


The Supreme Court of India on 1 May 2013 upheld the constitutional validity of Government’s decision allowing 51 percent foreign direct Investment in the multi-brand retail sector. A bench of Justices R M Lodha, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph gave the ruling. The bench observed that there was no harm in giving the policy a chance. It saw merit in the policy that it would eliminate intermediaries and help provide farmers a better price for their produce. It dismissed the petition filed against the 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail. As per the court, the policy will affect the lives of only 13.3% of the country's population living in 53 cities.
 


According to TRAI data, Uttar Pradesh, accounted for the largest number of mobile subscribers in India followed by Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. Uttar Pradesh has a total of 121.60 million mobile phone connections, while, Tamil Nadu has 71.81 million subscribers. Maharashtra is at the third position, with a subscriber base of 67.73 million followed by Andhra Pradesh and Bihar at 64.12 million and 60.73 million, respectively.

These five states together account 366 million mobile subscribers, which is 45 per cent of the total cell phone connections in the country. Karnataka stands sixth with 52.45 million mobile subscribers followed by the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh with 51.43 million subscribers. Gujarat, fast rising as the most industry-friendly state, came eighth with 51.23 million cell phone connections, while Rajasthan, the largest state in terms of area, has 47.83 million mobile subscribers. India, which is the world's second largest mobile phone market in terms of subscribers, had 861.66 million mobile connections as on February 2013, data from telecom regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) showed.

Mobile subscriber base in the country declined by 0.11 percent to 861.66 million at the end of February 2013 from 862.6 million in January 2013 India's total telecom subscriber base, which includes mobile and landline connections, declined marginally to 892 million in February 2013 from 893.1 million at the end of January this year. India's telecom subscriber base had touched an all-time high of 965.5 million in June 2012.



The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 3 May cut the key interest rate by just 0.25 per cent to 7.25 per cent and kept the liquidity enhancing cash reserve requirement unchanged, disappointing the industry and stock market. The RBI in its annual monetary policy statement said there would be modest improvement in the country’s economic growth to 5.7 per cent in the current fiscal, as against the decade’s low of 5 per cent in 2012-13.
 


Following the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Finance Ministry on May, has been pushed to release nearly Rs.1 lakh crore in petroleum subsidy for 2012-13 for the three oil marketing companies (OMCs) with a caveat that the Petroleum Ministry would shift to export parity price (EPP) for pricing of petroleum products. This move is likely to save Rs.18,000 crore in subsidy outgo. The move to shift to a new formula for pricing of petroleum products would be done soon after the submission of a report by Kirit Parekh panel, which is looking into the issue.

The Finance Ministry is of the view that petrol and diesel should be priced at a rate they can get in export market, rather than the present practice of pricing the fuels after adding transportation cost and customs duty to the international price. The subsidy issue was resolved after a meeting between the Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, and Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Veerappa Moily in the presence of Dr. Singh.
 


Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) are set to form a joint venture (JV) for taking up various initiatives in the oil and gas sector, including supply of LNG to Sri Lanka by Petronet LNG Limited (PLL) to feed power plants in that country. The decision to form the joint venture was taken following a meeting between the Petroleum Secretary, Vivek Rae, and the Ministry of Finance and Planning and Secretary, Ministry of Economic Development, Sri Lanka, P. B. Jayasundara, recently.

Seeking to put the co-operation in the oil and gas sector on the fast track, the government has asked IOC to formalize a proposal within this month, and submit the same to CPC to facilitate further discussions. While acknowledging that there were pending issues of Lanka IOC, the Sri Lankan side suggested that the best way forward was to carry the initiative for enhancing co-operation between the two countries. It was decided during the meeting that IOC would submit a comprehensive proposal on the structure of the proposed JV that would address all concerns of IOC.
 


According to data released by the Central Statistical Organization (CSO) on 31 May 2013, economic growth slowed to 4.8 % in the January-March quarter and fell to a decade's low of 5 % for the entire 2012-13 fiscal due to poor performance of farm, manufacturing and mining sectors. The economic growth or GDP had expanded by 5.1 % in January-March quarter of 2012-13.The Indian economy had grown by 5.4 per cent, 5.2 % and 4.7 & in the first, second and third quarters, respectively, of 2012-13.

The country had clocked 6.2 % growth in 2011-12 fiscal. In January-March quarter of 2012-13, manufacturing sector grew marginally by 2.6 %, against 0.1 % growth in the same period of the earlier fiscal. During 2012-13, the sector grew by a meagre one per cent compared to 2.7 % in the previous fiscal. Mining and quarrying sector contracted by 3.1 % during the fourth quarter of last fiscal. Farm sector output expanded by just 1.4 % in January-March this year, as against 2 % in the same quarter of 2011-12. The agriculture sector also grew at a slower rate of just 1.9 % in 2012-13 compared to 3.6 % in 2011-12.
 


The Reserve Bank of India on 27 May 2013 imposed restrictions on banks and NBFCs for providing loans against gold coins as well as units of gold ETFs and mutual funds to curb demands for gold. Also banks were asked to ensure that the amount of loan to any customer against gold ornaments, gold jewellery and gold coins (weighing up to 50 grams) should be within the board approved limit. Banks are currently permitted to grant advances against gold ornaments and other jewellery and against specially minted gold coins sold by banks.
 


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered its forecast for China’s economic growth at 7.75 % for the year 2013, citing a weak world economy and exports in Washington on May 29th. Earlier, it had forecasted 8 % growth. Annual economic growth of China fell to 7.8 % in 2012, the slowest since 1999 because of its decreasing export demand and increasing costs, the euro-zone debt crisis and uncertainty over the US economic recovery. China is world’s second largest economy. The IMF advised that China should put priority on reining in social financing growth, or else the country's fast credit supply may fuel inflation in future.
 


Pursuant to the announcement made in the Union Budget for 2013-14, the Government of India in consultation with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to launch Inflation Index Bonds (IIBs) as instruments that will protect savings of the poor and middle classes from inflation and incentivise the household sector to save in financial instruments rather than buy gold.

An official press release on 16 May said that, for appropriate price discovery and market development, however, it is necessary to issue comparable instruments through auctions to the institutional investors such as Pension Funds, Insurance, and Mutual Funds.
 

Opening up the prospects of export of shale gas to energy-starved India, the U.S. on 17 May, has granted conditional authorisation to export domestically-produced liquefied natural gas (LNG) to countries that do not have a free trade agreement (FTA) with it. In a decision, which has major implications for India, the Department of Energy (DoE), on 17 May, announced that it had conditionally authorised Freeport LNG Expansion, LP and FLNG Liquefaction, LLC (Freeport) to export domestically-produced LNG to non-FTA countries from the Freeport Terminal on Quintana Island in Texas. Given that the companies from countries such as China, Japan and Britain have already an overwhelming stake in this Texas company, India is unlikely to benefit immediately from this grant of licence.
 


The RBI on 12 May 2013 imposed restrictions on gold import by banks in order to moderate the demand of gold for domestic use. The RBI decided to restrict the import of gold on consignment basis by banks, only to meet the genuine needs of exporters of gold jewellery. The RBI stated that the decision is based on the recommendations of the Working Group on Gold that had suggested aligning gold import regulations with the rest of the imports for creating a level playing field between gold imports and other imports. The restrictions have come into effect immediately.
 


The Union Government in Month of May 2013 has proposed stronger powers to Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) enabling it to carry out search and seizure operations and for attachment of assets. With this a Special power has also been proposed to SEBI with which it can seek information on telephone call data records, from any persons or entities in respect to any securities transaction being examined by it. It is worth mentioning here that Proposals to make required amendments in the SEBI Act and other relevant regulations have been finalized after detailed consultations with the market regulator and are being presented before the Union Cabinet for its approval.

The Government is planning to introduce the Securities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2013 in Parliament to carry out the proposed changes for grant of stronger powers to SEBI. The Government has come up with the decision of accepting most of the proposals made by SEBI in this regard and the amendments would be carried out after the Cabinet approves them and the required amendment Bill is passed by Parliament.
 


The Union Government on 13 May 2013 hiked the monetary assistance by 25,000 rupees under the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), the housing scheme for the poor, giving priority to the scheduled castes, tribes and minorities. The cost for 250 square foot housing unit has gone up to 70,000 rupees in plain areas and 75,000 rupees in hilly and difficult areas from 45,000 rupees.

The Union Government under the new guidelines of the Indira Awas Yojna has decided to transfer the share of its funds to the State Governments rather than making a district based allocation. The Union Government’s assistance got procurement of a homestead site to the states has been doubled for landless poor from 10,000 rupees to 20,000 rupees.

The changes has been brought in following the agreement reached between the Government and the Jan Satyagraha on 11 October 2012 at Agra, also known as the Agra Agreement on Land Reforms in which 10-point agreement was signed by the Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh at Agra.
 


The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 9 May 2013 approved the proposal of the Ministry of Shipping for setting up of two major ports in the country. The two ports will come up in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal each through Public Private Partnership mode.

As per the proposal approved, one port is expected to come up at Dugarajapatnam, Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh and looked forward to find out the techno-economic feasibility report for commissioning of the port.

Another port will be developed at Sagar Island in West Bengal after obtaining environmental clearances and following exact procedures for development of the project. The cabinet also agreed for appointment of the transaction advisers and legal consultants and finalization of the project structure in consultation with the State Government of West Bengal and the Planning Commission.
 


National Stock Exchange launched the country’s first dedicated debt trading platform on 11 May, 2013. The new Platform launched is awaiting the market regulator Securities and Exchanges Board of Indis’s (SEBI) guidelines for allowing participation of mutual funds, insurance companies and pension funds. NSE had recently received approval from SEBI to launch the debt segment.

The debt trading platform is supposed to provide retail investors an opportunity to invest in corporate bonds on a liquid and transparent exchange platform. Banks and primary dealers are the first to enter and they will provide enough liquidity in the debt segment. The mutual funds, insurance companies and pension funds are also expected to participate after guidelines for the same are issued.

The Debt Trading exchange platform is an innovation, which has been launched after intensive feedback from market participants. It is similar to RBI’s NDS-OM, where Government securities are traded on a transparent platform.
 

Awards


The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee presented the Asom Ratna Award for the year 2012 to Indira Goswami (posthumously) on 13 May 2013 at a function at Guwahati, Assam. Indira Goswamy was a legendary story teller and prolific novelist who courageously advocated social change in a very volatile period in Assam’s history. She would be particularly remembered for her role as a mediator in talks between armed militants in Assam and the Government of India.
 


The Ministry for Information & Broadcasting, on 10 May 2013 presented the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke award for life time achievement to Pran Kishan Sikand, popularly known as Pran, at his residence in Mumbai. Pran is the 44th recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award that was instituted in 1969, the birth centenary year Dadasaheb Phalke, who is considered to be the Father of Indian Cinema. Pran has acted in over 400 films in a career spanning six decades. In 2001, the Government of India had honored Pran with the Padma Bhushan award.
 


Senegalese singer Youssou Ndour and Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho were named as the recipients of Polar Music Prize 2013. Each winner will get one million kronor (98,600 Euros) from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. The awards will be presented at a Stockholm ceremony on 27 August 2013 by King Carl XVI Gustaf. Sweden's highest musical honor is awarded annually to both a pop performer and classical artist.

The prize is awarded for exceptional achievements in the creation and advancement of music. The academy recognized Ndour as a singer, poet, storyteller, singer of praise, entertainer and verbal historian.
 


A young Indian biologist, Dr. Aparajita Datta was honored with the Whitley award, also known as Green Oscar, in London on 2 May 2013. Aparajita Datta, the Indian wildlife biologist was conferred with the award by Princess Anne, at the Royal Geographical Society in London for her efforts in order to save the endangered hornbills in Eastern Himalayas.

Aparajita Datta is the head of the program for conservation of the hornbills in dense tropical forests of Arunachal Pradesh, at Nature Conservation Foundation. The tropical forests of Arunachal Pradesh are an abode to five hornbill species. Aparajita Datta set up the community-based conservation program along with tribal hunters in order to protect hornbills. The focus of the program was to bring down the poaching activities.

The Whitley awards are given every year in order to honor exceptional individuals for the efforts in conservation of nature in the developing countries. Aparajit Datta won the award along with eighth other conservationists who belonged to different countries. They shared the prize money worth 295000 pounds.
 


Jenita Mary Nongkynrih, A young woman scientist from Meghalaya was selected for ISRO Young Scientist Award 2013 for her urban information system project in the North East. The award for Jenita Mary Nongkynrih carries a citation and cash of 50000 rupees. Jenita Mary Nongkynrih is currently working as a scientist at the North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC), Umiam, Nongkynrih.


Anish Kapoor, the Indian-origin sculptor was honoured with Knighthood, which is the highest honour of Britain. He was conferred the award by the Queen Elizabeth II in her birthday honours list 2013 for Visual Arts services. Anish Kapoor is said to be the pioneering sculptors of his generation and is known for enigmatic sculptural forms as well as monumental public sculptures.


The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been awarded the country's National Journalism Prize (The Simón Bolívar National Award of Journalism 2013) even though he was accused of persecuting the press during his 14 years in power.


The US has honored three Indian-Americans with the prestigious Champions of Change awards for their achievements as immigrant innovators and entrepreneurs. The three -- Shradha Agarwal from Chicago, Riddhiman Das from Kansas and Amar Sawhney from Massachusetts -- were presented with the award at the White House on 29 May. They were among 11 people honored.

The Indian-Americans and others were felicitated at the "Champions of Change" event at the White House that highlighted immigrant innovators and entrepreneurs - the best and brightest from around the world who are helping create American jobs, grow the economy, and make the US more competitive, an official statement said. The Champions of Change programme was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature groups of Americans - individuals, businesses and organisations - who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.


Physicists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert and the European Organization for Nuclear Research will share the 2013 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research in recognition of their work establishing the existence of the so-called God particle, the Asturias Foundation said on 29 May.


Blue is the Warmest Color, directed by French-Tunisian filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche won the top honor - the Palme d'Or - at the 66th Cannes Film Festival.
 


Cottage and Village Industry Department of the Madhya Pradesh Government on 16 May 2013 bagged United Nations Public Service Award for year 2013 for their initiative named Graamin Haat. The United Nations honours outstanding public welfare works at international level under different categories every year.

The initiative of Graamin Haat was started in the state with the aim of strengthening and empowering the women's self-help groups. The initiative has helped the self help group in becoming more self-reliant economically and ensured participation of women in social decisions. The award will be presented to Kanchan Jain, the Principal Secretary of the Department on 27 June 2013 in Manama, the Kingdom of Bahrain at the United Nations Public Service Forum Day and Awards ceremony between 24 and 27 June.

This year theme is – “Transformative e-Government and Innovation: Creating a Better Future for All.” 


U.S. author AM Homes has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction for her book, May We Be Forgiven. The 30,000-pound award, formerly known as the Orange Prize, was presented at a ceremony in London on 10 June, by actress Miranda Richardson, chairwoman of the judging panel.


American writer Lydia Davis won 2013 Man Booker International Prize for her innovative and influential writing. The winner of the Prize was announced at the awards ceremony at Victoria and Albert Museum in London on 22 may 2013. This was the fifth Man Booker International Prize. Well-known Kannada author UR Ananthamurthy was the only Indian to be shortlisted for the prestigious award.

The Man Booker International Prize recognizes one writer for his or her achievement in fiction. Worth 60000 ponds, the prize is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. The winner is chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel and there are no submissions from publishers.


US singer-songwriter Carole King became the first woman to receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The President of America, Barack Obama conferred upon her, the Gershwin Prize that is given as a lifetime achievement in popular music. The award was given away at the White House in Washington. Carole King is 71 years of age.

Carole King has won the Grammy Award four times. The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, also known as, Gershwin Prize is conferred upon the performer or composer for lifetime contribution to popular music. The award was created in 2007 by the Library of Congress.


The Chief Minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy won United Nation's Public Service Award for his Mass Contact Programme on 22 May 2013. In the Mass Contact Programme, he engaged with masses of Kerala to address the grievances. He was conferred with the first prize from the Asia Pacific region along with other awardees that are selected on yearly basis from five different zones of the world. Since the year 2003, United Nations has been awarding people as part of the programme for Public Service Day that is celebrated on 23 June.

The United Nation's Public Service Award was instituted through the UN resolution and is announced after the three-tier security as well as meticulous examination. The UN Public Service Day ceremonies are scheduled to be organized from 24 June 2013 to 27 June 2013 in Bahrain. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will confer the awards on the awardees on 27 June 2013.


Singer Hariharan was conferred with the Lata Mangeshkar Samman Alankaran in Indore on 20 May 2013. The Madhya Pradesh government honoured the playback singer with the award. The award distribution was a part of three-day cultural event held in Indore. Madhya Pradesh government instituted the award in 1984. Hariharan, a Padma Shri recipient, sung many songs in different languages such as Hindi, Telugu, Bhojpuri, Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Marathi.

Persons

Laxman Singh Rathore-The Director General of Meteorology & Permanent Representative of India with World Meteorological Organization (WMO) was elected as the Member of Executive Council of WMO during the 65th Executive Council of WMO meeting, which is ongoing at Geneva. He had served a term as the Vice President of Commission of Agriculture Meteorology of WMO and was also elected to serve the Executive Council in an individual capacity. 
The council includes 37 Heads/Directors/Director Generals of National Meteorological Services and also the President and three Vice-Presidents who are elected by Congress. The Executive Council of WMO is an executive body of this organisation. The council meets yearly to implement the decisions of Congress, coordinate the programmes, examine the utilization of budgetary resources, consider and take action on recommendations of Regional Associations and Technical Commissions and guide their work programme, provide technical information, counsel and assistance in the fields of activity of the Organization and study and take actions on matters affecting international meteorology and related activities. 


The Chennai-born Mittu Chandilya named as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AirAsia’s Indian operations on 15 May. Air Asia India (Private) Ltd., a joint venture between Air Asia, Tata Sons and Telstra, will start a low cost airline in India by the year-end with Chennai as its hub. Mr. Chandilya will assume office effective June 1, 2013.


Raha Moharrak became the first Saudi woman and also the youngest Arab to make it to the top of Everest. She is 25 years old. She is part of a four-person expedition which comprises the first Qatari man and the first Palestinian man as well who are attempting to reach the summit. The expedition is trying to raise fund for education projects in Nepal.


Samina Baig - on 19 May 2013 became the first Pakistani woman to scale Mount Everest. She did this along with Nunshi and Tashi Malik, the first Indian twin sisters to scale the Everest.After reaching to the top of Everest, all three women hoisted Indian and Pakistani flags along side, depicting a message of collaborative action, friendship and peace.


Nunshi and Tashi Malik- two 21-year old Indians from Dehrahdun became first twins to scale Mount Everest on 19 May 2013. They were among 135 other people, who reached the top of the Mount Everest, which is the highest mountain of the world at 8,848 meter above sea level. It is interesting to note that these twins reached the top of Mount Everest with two sherpas, who were also twins. Both these twin sisters were staying on mountains in that region in order to get acquainted with the atmosphere. Along with them, 11-member joint Indian and Nepal army expedition reached that summit.


Roberto Azevedo of Brazil on 8 May 2013 was named as the Head of the World Trade Organisation. He will take charge of his office from Pascal Lamy of France in the Geneva-based Body in September 2013. Azevedo is the first Latin American to be appointed as the head of the WTO since it was created in 1995.

The process of electing the WTO Head took a period of about six months. WTO was established with the signing of the Marrakesh Agreement/ Marrakesh Declaration at Marrakesh, Morrocco in 1994.

WTO came up as a replacement of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was overseeing the rules of commerce since 1948. GATT covered only the trade of goods, whereas WTO deals with trade of inventions, designs and services too.


G. Satheesh Reddy, a navigation scientist, has been appointed Director, Research Centre Imarat (RCI), a premier missile laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).


Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa was elected as the new president of Asian Football Confederation on 2 May 2013. He replaced Mohamed Bin Hammam. Bahraini Sheikh Salman won 33 votes out of 46 in Malaysia to beat his rival Yousuf Al Serkal of the United Arab Emirates as well as Worawi Makudi of Thailand. Sheikh Salman claimed the vacant seat on executive committee of FIFA as well, which was held by Bin Hammam.


The President of Indian Union, Pranab Mukherjee on 21 May 2013 appointed Shashi Kant Sharma as the new Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. Shashi Kant Sharma will succeed Vinod Rai who superannuates on 21 May 2013 after completing tenure of five and a half years as the Head of the Constitutional Financial body. He is the IAS officer of 1976 Bihar Cadre and at present was holding the post of Defence Secretary in the Ministry of Defense, Government of India.


Yuichiro Miura (80)-The 80-year old mountaineer from Japan reached Mount Everest’s summit on 23 May 2013. With this, he became the oldest man to climb the highest mountain peak of the world. Yuichiro Miura climbed the Everest at the age of 70 and 75 as well. As the oldest man to climb Mount Everest, he replaced Nepal's Min Bahadur Sherchan who climbed the Everest at the age of 76 years in 2008.


Arunima Sinha (25) became the first Indian amputee to conquer Mount Everest on 21 may 2013. Arunima Sinha is former national level volleyball player and had lost one of her legs after being thrown off a moving train of Padmawati Express for resisting a chain-snatching attempt by some criminals, when she was travelling from Lucknow to Delhi on 12 April 2011. She scaled the 8848 metre-high summit of the world’s highest peak at 10.55 a.m. as IST on 21 May 2013.


Avinash Chander – The man behind India’s 5,000-km range Agni missile and its smaller range variants on 31 May, was appointed as the new Director General of Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). A former director of Advanced System Laboratory in Hyderabad and project director of Agni, he was the chief controller in charge of missiles and strategic systems at DRDO headquarters before taking over as the DRDO chief from V K Saraswat, who spearheaded the surface-to-surface Prithvi missile programme. Chander has successfully delivered three long-range weapon systems in the Agni series, which are under various stages of induction in the armed forces. 



The Ministry of Women and Child Development appointed Kushal Singh as the Chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in New Delhi on May 29. She was selected by the Committee that was headed by Krishna Tirath, Minister of Women and Child Development. Kushal Singh held various high level posts in the Central Government as well as the Government of Rajasthan. She was the Chief Secretary of the Government of Rajasthan. She also held the post of the Chairperson Board of Revenue, Rajasthan Pollution Control Board and the Commissioner for Disabled Persons, Government of Rajasthan.

Sports


Jamjang Deru of Arunachal Pradesh won three medals, two gold and one silver, on the opening day of 15th Asian Youth Weightlifting Championships here in Doha on 28 May 2013. He won the medals in the boy's 50kg category.

Deru won a silver with 87 kg lift and bagged a gold with 113 kg lift. Finally, he signed off with the gold with a total of 200 kg. Previously he had secured fourth position at the IWF Youth World Championships at Tashkent in April 2013 with an overall lift of 195 kilograms.


Ragala Venkat Rahul swept all the three gold in the boys 77kg category as India continued to shine at the 15th Asian Youth Weightlifting Championships on the fourth day in Doha on 30 May. Rahul lifted 132kg in snatch and 157kg in clean and jerk for a total lift of 289kg enroute to winning all the gold medals on offer in the weight category.


44 Years old Ang Dami Sherpa from Nepal won the Everest Marathon on 29 May 2013 in women’s category of Year 2013. Ang Dami Sherpa,won the women’s title in 11th Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon in a timeline of 6 hours, 2 minutes and 10 seconds. This win is counted as Sherpa’s second title at the 42.2 km race, as she already won another title in year 2006.


Indian Girl's team won the Gold medal while the Boy's team won the silver medal in the Slovak Junior ITTF Open Table Tennis tournament held in Senec, Slovakia on 31 May 2013. In the title clash, the Indian Girls, led by Sutirtha Mukherjee beat Serbia-A, 3-2. The other members of the team were Monika Batra and Reath Tennison. In the boy's section, the Czeck Republic-A beat India 3-1 to win the gold. The Indian team, consisting of Shudanshu Grover, Abhishek Yadav and Rohit Rajshekhar, had to settle for silver.


Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federar in the final match played on 19 May 2013 to lift his seventh Italian Open title. He defeated Federar in straight sets 6-1, 6-3 in the clay court match. This was Nadal’s 20th victory against Federar. While in women s category, Serena Williams won the title after thrashing out the former world number one Victoria Azarenka 6-1 6-3 to take the Italian Open on the Rome Clay. This is the second Rome Open title won by Serena, before this Serena won the Rom title 11 years ago in 2002. And this is her fourth consecutive tennis title this year.

India won 2 Silver and 7 Bronze in the 19th Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships that concluded in New Delhi on 10 May 2013. One silver medal was won by Soumyajit Ghosh and Mouma Das in the mixed doubles event, and the other one was won by the men's team earlier in the tournament.
Singapore men and women won the gold. The title for the Singapore women was seventh in succession since 1997. The Singapore men completed a hat-trick of success that began in 2007 at Jaipur and continued at Glasgow in 2009. 


India's rising shuttler PV Sindhu on 4 May 2013 won her maiden Grand Prix Gold title winning Malaysia Open women's final. In a thrilling clash held in Kaulalampur, top seed Sindhu defeated lower seed, Gu Juan of Singapore, 21-17, 17-21, 21-19. With this, the World Number 13 Sindhu has become the second Indian girl to win the Grand Prix Gold competition, after India's shuttle queen and London Olympics bronze medalist; Saina Nehwal achieved the feat in 2006. PV Sindhu was the only Indian who had made it to the final stage of this tournament. Saina Nehwal did not take part in the tournament.


At the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Jamaica, Kingston, US-based discus thrower, Vikas Gowda clinched Gold on 5 May 2013 with the throw of 61.38 metres. US-based discus thrower, Vikas Gowda, representing India, clinched gold in the World Challenge Meeting at Kingston on 5 May, with a throw of 61.38 metres. He pushed Jason Morgan and Fedrick Dacres (both Jamaica), with throws of 60.96 and 59.30 metres, to second and third spots respectively.In the 100 metres sprint, US’s Tyson Gay recorded 9.86 and secured the top most position. In women category, the best performance was that of US Gia Lewis-Smallwood with 62.41 metres. The IAAF World Challenge meeting in Jamaica was organized at the Kingston's National Stadium.


Indian boxers won the 2013 Invitational FXTM International Limassol Boxing Cup held in Limassol, Cyprus on 19 May 2013. They won 10 medals which included four gold medals, three silver medals and three bronze medals which ensured them the first rank. Indian boxers won the tournament on the European circuit for the first time.


Preeti Beniwal on 22 May 2013 bagged the gold medal in Senior National Women's Boxing Championship. In the event held at Khatima, uttarakhand, Preeti out-punched Manipur's Y Sandhya 22-9 in the final of the 60kg category. Preeti Beniwal hails from Hisar.

Science and Technology


India on 14 May 2013 unveiled its indigenously developed Rotavirus Vaccine named Rotavac after the Phase-III clinical trial of low cost rotavirus Vaccine. The Rotavac that has demonstrated strong efficacy and excellent safety profile; if gets its approval by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) than will be made available in the market at a rate of Rs. 54 per dose. Approximately 4,53,000 children across the world die every year due to rotavirus diarrhea. According the recent reports, about one lakh children below five years are dying in India due to severe diarrhea that is caused due to Rotavirus bacteria. India accounts for 22 percent of the global deaths that occurs due to diarrhoea-causing rotavirus.

Rotavac vaccine has been developed under a public-private partnership. So far, two similar vaccines are available in Indian market and they cost around Rs. 1,000 per dose and thus remain out of reach from millions of people in developing and third world nations. It is an oral vaccine that is administered in infants in three dose course at ages of six, ten and fourteen weeks, which is given to a child along with the recommended Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) to the children.


Indian Naval Aviation received a major fillip with the arrival of the first of eight Boeing P-8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine Warfare (LRMRASW) Aircraft at Naval Air Station Rajali (Arakkonam) on 15 May 2013. The remaining seven aircrafts would be delivered over the next two years.

The P-8I aircraft, based on the Boeing 737-800(NG) airframe, is the Indian Naval variant of the P-8A Poseidon that Boeing has developed for the US Navy. The aircraft is equipped with foreign & indigenous sensors for Maritime Reconnaissance, Anti Submarine operations and Electronic Intelligence missions. The aircraft is fully integrated with state of the art sensors and highly potent Anti Surface and Anti Submarine weapons.

These LRMRASW aircraft have been procured under the contract signed in 2009. The Indian Navy is in process of procuring an additional four P-8I aircraft under the option clause. The P-8I aircraft would greatly enhance India's maritime surveillance capability in the Indian Ocean Region. Vice Admiral Bimal Kumar Verma, Chief of Staff (Eastern Naval Command) received the aircraft in a function organized at INS Rajali.


The Department of Yoga Therapy and Training of MDNIY has been designated as WHO Collaborating Centre in Traditional Medicine for a period of four years recently. This is the result of the efforts initiated in 2008 when MDNIY started collaborating with WHO Country Office under the biennium programme of traditional medicine and developed Yoga Resource Centre and brought out disease-specific booklets of Yogic interventions for healthcare. WHO does not have its own institutional network but identifies institutions from member countries to work in specific areas of health and designate them as WHO Collaborating Centres.

There are 21 WHO Collaborating Centres for Traditional Medicine across the globe, but none in India in spite of having a large number of AYUSH institutions and 32 Collaborating Centres for Modern Medicine. The matter was taken up by the Department of AYUSH with WHO. Two AYUSH institutions namely Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, New Delhi, and Institute of Postgraduate Teaching & Research in Ayurveda, Jamnagar, Gujarat have now been designated as WHO collaborating centres in traditional medicine.

The network of 23 designated WHO Collaborating Centres for Traditional Medicine is meant to assist in implementing WHO strategies and resolutions relating to traditional medicine. The priority area of work for WHO Collaborating Centres of Traditional Medicine is to generate evidence-based information on the safety, quality, and cost-effectiveness of traditional medicine products and therapies.


India on 22 May 2013 successfully test fired the 290-km range BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from the Navy's latest guided missile frigate INS Tarkash off the coast of Goa. The missile performed the high-level 'C' manoeuvre in the pre-determined flight path and successfully hit the target. Jointly developed by India and Russia, the BrahMos is capable of carrying a conventional warhead of 300 kg. India is readying several different versions of the missile which includes land attack, anti-ship and submarine- launched versions.


Swiss-made Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II turbo trainer aircraft was inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) in a ceremony held at the Air Force Academy at Dundigal near Hyderabad on 30 May. The aircraft, which meets all basic training functions of ab-initio pilots including aerobatics, tactical and night flying, has been customised to meet the requirements of IAF.

Addressing the media later, Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal N.A.K. Browne described the induction as an important event in the history of IAF. He said 12 aircraft had so far been delivered and all the 75 were expected to be delivered by Pilatus company by August 2015. Since there was a requirement for 173 trainer aircraft the IAF might exercise the option of procuring another 37 PC-7 Mk-II aircraft. Replying to a question he said the initial operational clearance (IOC)–II for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) was expected by November this year and it would be with the Air Force by the end of next year.


Defence Ministry on 27 May 2013 inaugurated the first fighter aircraft base at Thanjavur in southern India. Su-30MKI combat aircraft will be stationed here. Thanjavur airbase can be another strategically important airbase of the Indian Air Force. IAF can protect vast area of interests by stationing frontline fighter aircraft Sukhoi at Thanjavur. The setting up of the premier fighter base is important because of current geo-political scenario and threat perception in the Indian peninsula and in the Indian Ocean.


Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) on 28 May 2013 launched its third Fast Patrol Vessel (FPV) which is built for the Indian Coast Guard. The vessel was launched by Nina Paul Antony, the Chairman of Cochin Port Trust. This vessel was named Abhinav. This vessel is third in series of 20 numbers FPVs contracted by CSL. The primary objective of the vessel is monitoring, fisheries protection as well as patrolling within Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Also, the objective of this vessel is coastal patrolling and involvement in patrolling for anti-smuggling, search and rescue operations and for anti piracy operations. The secondary role of the vessel is to provide communication link as well as escort convoys during the war time as well as hostilities.



NASA is sending a six feet-tall solar-powered rover prototype for ice exploration on highest part of Greenland’s massive ice sheet. The space agency’s newest scientific rover is set for testing in the highest part of Greenland, NASA said. The robot, known as Grover, which stands for both Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, will roam the frigid landscape collecting measurements to help scientists better understand changes in the massive ice sheet. This autonomous, solar-powered robot carries a ground-penetrating radar to study how snow accumulates, adding layer upon layer to the ice sheet over time.


The ISRO Navigation Centre (INC), established at Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) complex at Byalalu, about 40 km from Bangalore, was inaugurated on May 28, 2013 by Mr. V. Narayanasamy, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions. 

INC is an important element of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), an independent navigation satellite system being developed by India. IRNSS will have a constellation of seven satellites and enables its users to determine their location and time accurately. These satellites will positioned in geostationary and inclined geosynchronous orbits 36,000 km above the earth’s surface. IRNSS coverage will extend over India and its neighborhood and the satellites are equipped with high precision atomic clocks and continuously transmit navigation signals to users. 


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