July 3 to 7 Current Affairs

International Issues


Russia has unveiled the world's longest cable-stayed bridge as it put the finishing touches on a troubled multi-billion investment aimed at revitalising the country's distant Far East. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev opened the 1,104-metre link from Vladivostok to Russky Island during a personal spot-check of preparations for hosting September's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, APEC. 

Russia is spending 20 billion US dollars in pursuit of its Soviet-era dream of turning the port into a Russian version of San Francisco to attract massive investment.





The International Monetary Fund, IMF has sanctioned 18.2 million dollar disbursement to Afghanistan. The executive board approved the amount after reviewing the economic performance of Afghanistan. It observed that Afghanistan has begun a transition toward greater macro economic stability and self-reliance in a very difficult environment. 

Under the IMF-supported economic program the Afghan authorities are pursuing important structural reforms. It further said that the IMF program in Afghanistan will continue to focus on safeguarding the financial sector, strengthening economic governance, and moving toward fiscal sustainability. The IMF had suspended the Afghan loan program in 2010 after reports of corruption, bad loans, and the mismanagement at Kabul Bank.





India has once again emerged as the largest trading partner of United Arab Emirates. According to the reports released by the National Bureau of Statistics in Abu Dhabi, India is the top non-oil exporting nation to UAE. The export volume from India to UAE went up by 33.7 percent in 2011-12. Switzerland came second followed by South Africa in the third place. India was also the largest importer for UAE. 

The imports were around 17.3 percent followed by China and US. Over the years, India has consistently been the largest trading partner of UAE reflecting the strength of bilateral trade and economic ties between the two countries.





India has called for evolving a strategy to promote greater educational cooperation among East Asian countries. This was stated by Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Dr. D Purandeswari while addressing the first East Asia Summit - Education Ministers Meeting, EAS-EMM, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. 

Dr. Purandeswari said that time has come to foster such a cooperation to harness credit transfer, mutual recognition of degrees, free flow of highly qualified people and earmarking of seats for students from member countries in reputed institutions in the region.





Myanmar and the United States have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level. Myanmar has agreed to the appointment of Derek J Mitchell as US Ambassador Extraordinary to the country. Mitchell will be the first ambassador of the U.S. to Myanmar in 22 years following the country's historic election in April. 

Myanmar's acceptance of the appointment of Mitchell, who has been serving as US Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Myanmar, signified the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. 





The United States has given Afghanistan a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) status in the wake of draw down of the international forces from the country. The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced this in a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. Ms Clinton arrived on an unscheduled visit to Kabul and held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The major non-NATO ally status will provide for a long term security and defence cooperation between the two countries after the departure of international forces from Afghanistan. The two leaders are leaving for Tokyo to attend the donor’s conference on Afghanistan.

The Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) status symbolizes deepening strategic partnership between Afghanistan and the United States. The two countries had signed long term strategic partnership agreement in May this year which also includes commitments on promoting democracy, good governance, advancing long-term security with the provision of foreign funds for the Afghan forces. The US President Barak Obama signed a Presidential order designating Afghanistan a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA).


National Issues


The Centre has launched a special programme in the current Kharif season to achieve more than 19 million tonnes of pulse production in the country. According to an official release, the programme focuses on inter-cropping of pulse crops over other crops and accelerating productivity through adoption of innovative technologies relating to plan nutrition and water use.


Three crops - pigeon pea (arhar), green gram (moong) and black gram (urad) have been selected for the programme. It will promote planting of pigeon pea with groundnut, soyabean or cotton. Besides this, emphasis will be on inter-cropping of moong and urad with maize, jowar or bajra. The production of pulses during the kharif season in the past two years has been hovering around 18 million tonnes.





The Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure has approved Special Assistance to Bodwad Parisar Sinchan Yojana of Maharashtra in the form of a one time Grant of Rs.500 crore. An official release said, considering the backwardness of the Vidarbha region and the water scarcity in Jalgaon district, this additional assistance in the shape of one time Grant would assist the Government of Maharashtra to impart sufficient momentum to this project for speedy execution.

The project was approved by Planning Commission in May, 2011 with the estimated cost at Rs.2178.67 crore and likely to be completed by 2016.

The Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure also approved the enhancement of budget by Rs.5236 crore for laying of alternate communication network for defence services for release of spectrum over and above Rs.8098 crore already approved by the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure.

The objective of this financial approval is to get the Defence Optical Fibre Cable network implemented for which the cost estimate has escalated by Rs.5236 crore due to change in specifications and other requirements emanating from the user.

This includes the network for Army, Navy and Tri-services backbone. This network will be implemented by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited in 36 months.





The Government is considering a proposal of creating venture capital fund of 2,000 crore rupees to promote Research and Development, R&D, in the Pharmaceutical sector. Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma told reporters in New Delhi that his ministry is in talks with Exim Bank for this purpose.

Mr Sharma reviewed the pharma sector. In the meeting, the pharma industry representatives raised issues like problems in getting approvals from the Health Ministry. The Minister said all the concerns of the industry will be discussed by a committee of secretaries.





The government has approved disposal of about 350 metric tonnes of Union Carbide toxic waste in Bhopal to Germany.

The approval was given following recommendations from a Group of Ministers, GoM, on the Bhopal Gas tragedy chaired by Home Minister P Chidambaram.

Officials said, as per the proposal, the Centre will pay 25 crore rupees towards the cost of airlifting the waste, to be carried out by German agency-GIZ IS.





The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal for extending the scheme of interest subversion of one percent on housing loans up to 15 lakh rupees for the year 2012-13. The cost of the house should not be exceed 25 lakh rupees. Briefing the decision of Cabinet meeting to media persons in New Delhi, Home Minister P.Chidambaram said that a budgetary provision of four hundred crore rupees has been made for financial year 2012-13 for implementing the scheme. The extended scheme will benefit all housing loans availed in financial year 2012-13.
In a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Cabinet also gave its nod to the proposal to offer financial support for the development of Electronics Manufacturing Clusters, EMCs. The proposed EMCs scheme will support setting up of Greenfield and Brown field EMCs and will help in developing of entrepreneurial ecosystem.





In Assam, Pulinaharani under Narayanpur Revenue Circle in Lakhimpur district became the second village in the country to have full life insurance coverage. The village has achieved this success under the Ministry of Finance’s Financial Inclusion plan which is being implemented by various Banks in association with insurance companies.

It is the second instance of the Narayanpur branch of the Assam Grameen Bikash Bank.Earlier, in January this all the adult villagers of 18 to 65 age group had been covered under Financial Inclusion programme. With this, Rangati Misamara became the first village in the country to do so .This time 625 people of 201 families of Pulinaharani have been covered under the purview of insurance facilities.





The Planning Commission is setting a target of reducing poverty by 10 per cent by the end of 12th plan. The Commission had set a similar target during the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12). Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a conference in New Delhi Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said that this needs more work to achieve the target.

As per the data, the rate of poverty reduction between 2004-05 to 2009-10 was 1.5 per cent every year whereas it was 0.7 per cent between 1993-94 to 2004-05.Later, the Commission had admitted there was discrepancy in NSSO data and national accounts which led to fixing such a poverty criteria.In May this year, the Commission constituted an expert group headed by noted economist C Rangarajan to review the Tendulkar Committee methodology for estimating poverty.The expert group is expected to give its report in 7-9 months.





Union Rural Development Minister Mr. Jai Ram Ramesh has promised that whole country will become 'clean ' by 2022. Addressing a press conference in Chandigarh he said that Sikkim is the first state which has got the status of a nirmal state and Kerala will be second such state by next year.Minister discussed drinking water facilities and sanitation programme in Chandigarh with the representatives of Punjab, Haryana, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim. He said that for total sanitation besides providing toilets there is also a need to change the mindset of people to stop open defacation. Minister said that with total sanitation health problems will be solved.

Mr. Jairam Ramesh said that Punjab is the only state where Uranium content has been found in the underground water while its causes are not yet known and Centre Government is providing assistance to the state to tackle this problem. Minister announced that a laboratory will be set up in Mohali near Chandigarh to suggest measures to treat Uranium contaminated water in Malwa region of Punjab. This laboratory will start functioning with in 6 to 8 months and Centre Government will provide rupees 4 crore for this laboratory. Minister promised that centre will provide all possible assistance to punjab with the help of scientists of Bhaba Atomic Research Centre. It may be mentioned that recently Uranium was found in half of the 2400 water samples filled in Punjab.





The Ministry of tourism signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Railway ministry for implementing Clean India campaign in the Indian Railways to promote the country as a preferred tourist destination overseas. The MoU was signed in the presence of Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay and Railway Minister Mukul Roy.

Speaking on the ocassion, Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahay said, convergence with Railways is very important for developing tourism within the country and abroad. He said, the Indian Railways runs 12000 trains every day moving 20 million people and better facilities and cleanliness in Railway Stations and trains will go a long way in boosting tourism. He said, 24 stations have been identified to be jointly developed by the Railways and Tourism ministry. He also said, efforts are on to connect the Golden triangle tourist circuit of Delhi-Jaipur- Agra through Sathabdi trains.

Railway minister Mukul Roy said, the Railways will jointly work with the Tourism ministry for ensuring greater cleanliness at Railway premises and trains. He also said, the good future of railways largely depends on tourism.
Messages on Cleanliness as part of the Clean India campaign will also be printed on Railway tickets to spread awareness.





The National Handicapped Finance & Development Corporation (NHFDC) has announced two Scholarship schemes for students with disabilities for the year 2012-2013. According to an official release, 1000 scholarships under Trust Fund can be availed by students whose total family income is less than three lakh rupees per annum for professional courses at Graduate and Post Graduate level.

Another 500 scholarships under National Fund are allotted to students for higher academic, professional or technical courses with a total family income up to nearly lakh rupees per annum. Students pursuing correspondence courses are also eligible under this scheme.

For further details, interested candidates can visit NHFDC's official website - www.nhfdc.nic.in .






New Delhi is extending one-million US Dollar fund for participation of ministerial level representatives from the least developed countries in the High Level Segment of Convention of Parties to Nagoya Protocol to be held in October in Hyderabad.

The announcement came at the second meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for Nagoya Protocol, ICNP-2, on Access and Benefit Sharing which concluded in New Delhi. India expressed satisfaction on the good progress made on several issues during the course of the ICNP-2.

It felt that the conference moved efficiently and made substantial advancement. More than 500 delegates from 193 countries participated in the week-long consultations as part of efforts to push for early implementation of the Nagoya Protocol aimed at ensuring that benefits of natural resources and their derivatives are shared with local communities.





The Union Cabinet approved the proposal to offer financial support for the development of Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMCs) as these EMCs would aid the growth of the Electronics Systems Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector, help development of entrepreneurial ecosystem, drive innovation and catalyze the economic growth of the region by increasing employment opportunities and tax revenues.

The proposed EMCs scheme would support setting up of both Greenfield and Brownfield EMCs. The main features of the proposed EMC Scheme are as follows:

(i) The assistance would be provided to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which should be a legal entity duly registered for this purpose. The SPV may be promoted by private companies, industry associations, financial institutions, R&D institutions, State or Local governments or their agencies and units within the EMC. The SPV should consider including an academic/research institution to be part of the proposed SPV for suitable academic-industry linkages.

(ii) The financial assistance to the SPV shall be in the form of grant-in-aid only. For Greenfield EMCs the assistance will be restricted to 50% of the project cost subject to a ceiling of Rs. 50 crore for every 100 acres of land. For Brownfield EMCs the assistance will be restricted to 75% of the project cost subject to a ceiling of Rs. 50 crore.

(iii) The scheme will be open for applications for five years from the date of notification.

(iv) This is a policy decision with no automatic financial commitment. The financial assistance under the policy would be subject to approval by the Competent Authority following due process.

The proposed scheme is expected to help flow of investment for the development of world-class infrastructure specifically targeted towards attracting investment in the ESDM sector.

Nearly 28 million persons are expected to be employed, directly or indirectly for the ESDM turnover to reach USD 400 billion. The policy covers all States and districts and provides them an opportunity to attract investments in electronics manufacturing.




The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the export of 2 million tonnes of wheat from the Central Pool stocks at a floor price of US$228 (approximately Rs. 12400/-) per ton. The CCEA has decided to set up an Empowered Committee under the Chairmanship of Commerce Secretary.

The Empowered Committee shall be authorised to decide the modalities of export such as determining the export price from tender to tender and other operational issues. The exports will be done by CPSUs of Department of Commerce i.e. STC, MMTC, PEC and these have to be completed by 31.3.2013.

The proposal for wheat exports of 2 million tonnes is one of the series of actions already initiated by the Department of Food & Public Distribution for managing the over-flowing wheat stocks in the Central Pool. The Department has, with the approval of EGOM, already allocated additional 5 million tonnes of foodgrains to BPL population and also allowed sale under Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) of 3 million tonnes of wheat.

The decision of the CCEA to allow 2 million tonnes of wheat exports besides the aforesaid other actions taken by the Department is going to help in disposing of the excess wheat stocks from the Central Pool so as to make space available for the forthcoming kharif crop of paddy and then wheat crop in the Rabi Season.






The Ministry of Power, the Honorable Union Minister of Power, Shri Sushilkumar Shinde, launched the Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme under the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE).

The launch of PAT scheme added another feather in the cap of BEE , along with other ongoing popular schemes. The Government of India notified the targets under the Energy Conservation Act, 2001 for 478 industrial units in India on 30th March, 2012. These targets are to be achieved by the units up to 2014-15.

The Ministry of Power and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) have been in the vanguard of promoting the efficient use of energy and its conservation. This is further supplemented by the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE) which is one of the missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). The PAT Mechanism is one of the initiatives under NMEEE programme. It is a market based mechanism to further accelerate as well as incentivize energy efficiency in the large energy-intensive industries. The scheme provides the option to trade any additional certified energy savings with other designated consumers to comply with the Specific Energy Consumption reduction targets. The Energy Savings Certificates (ESCerts) so issued will be tradable on special trading platforms to be created in the two power exchanges -- Indian Energy Exchange and Power Exchange India.


Bilateral Issues


India and Poland have signed an audio-visual co-production agreement to enhance bilateral cooperation in the films sector. The agreement establishes a legal framework for relations about audio visual co-production, especially films including animation and documentary films for cinema and television and those solely intended for dissemination on analogue or digital data carriers.

The agreement, which was signed between Information and Broadcasting minister Ms Ambika Soni and Polish Minister for Culture and National Heritage, B Zdrojewski in Warsaw, also covers laboratory processing activities and facilitates movement of film equipment and associated infrastructure required for co-production.

According to an official release, the agreement will also facilitate producers, screenwriters, directors, technicians and actors to enter and briefly stay in each other’s country. The agreement will be valid for a period of five years.





The Union Minister of Commerce, Industry and Textiles Shri Anand Sharma met Mr. Arvin Bollel, Mauritian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade. During the meeting it was informed that the first meeting of the Joint Committee on Cooperation about the textile and clothing industry to India will be held from July 23, 2012 here.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed earlier this year between the two countries which envisaged the consolidation of the textile and clothing industry, enhancing the trade and economic relations by expanding business and cooperation in the sphere of textiles, clothing and fashion industries, exchange of information and documents, transfer of technology and sharing and adopting best practices in production, productivity and quality improvement, fashion and design, product development and executive development programmes between the two countries.

The two Ministers also agreed to hasten the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) negotiations. They also agreed to deepen economic engagement between the two countries. Shri Sharma said that “the bilateral economic and commercial ties have shown a healthy upward trajectory, but there is still a lot of untapped potential in diversifying our commercial exchanges.” India has been the largest source of imports for Mauritius since 2007. However, in sectors like agro-processing, manufacturing, drugs and pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, seafood, automobile parts, tourism and hospitality, IT and IT enabled services, Ayurveda, etc there is scope to further deepen the ties, said the Indian Minister.

The bilateral trade between India and Mauritius in 2011 was US$ 1.395 billion as compared to US$ 0.687 billion in 2010. While the exports in 2010 were US$ 0.671 billion which increased to US$ 1.361 billion in 2011, the imports of US$ 0.015 billion in 2010 has increased to US$ 0.034 billion in 2011. During January-May 2012, exports have been US$ 0.517 billion, while imports have been US$ 0.012 billion.


Economic Issues



People with income of ten lakh rupees per annum will have to file their tax returns electronically beginning 2011-12 Financial year. The Central Board of Direct Taxes has issued a notification making E-filing compulsory for assessment year 2012-13 onwards for an individual or a Hindu undivided family if his or its total income exceeds ten lakh rupees. 

However, digital signature will not be mandatory for these tax payers. E-filing for such assesses was optional till 2010-11. A Finance Ministry statement said that the Income Tax Department had received record 1.64 crore E-returns in 2011-12 financial year.





In order to attract new customers, State Bank of India (SBI) has done away with minimum balance criteria for saving banks account. SBI said in an advertisement that the bank will not levy any charge for breaching minimum balance criteria. It said that the facility is available to existing customers also.

For the normal SBI savings account with cheque book facility, a customer had to maintain a minimum balance of Rs 1,000 in his or her account failing which it attracted penalty.

There are certain saving account products of the bank where the minimum monthly balance is as low as Rs 50. Depending on features and facility, the minimum average monthly balance varies.





The Union Cabinet approved the proposal for extending the scheme of interest subvention of 1% on housing loans upto Rs.15 lakh where the cost of the house does not exceed Rs.25 lakh for the year 2012-13 and to amend the operational part of guidelines for release of funds.

A budgetary provision of Rs.400 crore has been made for Financial Year 2012-13 for implementing the scheme.

Consequent upon the extension of scheme, the limit of subsidy for an individual borrower would be Rs.14,912 for a loan of Rs.15 lakh and Rs.9925 for a loan of Rs.10 lakh. The extended scheme will benefit all house loans availed in Financial Year 2012-13.

The original scheme of 1% Interest Subvention on Housing Loans upto Rs.10 lakh, provided the cost of the housing unit does not exceed Rs.20 lakh was approved by the Cabinet in September, 2009. The scheme was revised by iberalizing the limit of housing loan upto Rs.15 lakh where cost of house does not exceed Rs.25 lakh in financial year 2011-12 which was approved by the Cabinet in October 2011. The scheme is further extended for another year that is financial year 2012-13. National Housing Bank (NHB) is the nodal agency for implementing the scheme both for Scheduled Commercial Banks and Housing Finance Companies.


Sports



The 58th National Junior Ball Badminton tournament held at Dindigul, Tamil Nadu. 





India's rising badminton star P V Sindhu has won the Asian Junior Championship title. In a closely contested final at Gimcheon in Korea, she defeated her Japanese opponent and second seed Okuhara Nozomi 18-21, 21-17,22-20 in 59-minutes.


Awards


The President Mrs Pratibha Devisingh Patil presented the ‘Brain Hunt-2012: National Level Creative Competition’ awards to students at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The competition was organized by Dainik Bhaskar Group for students.


Persons



Mr. Jawahar Thakur, a 1979-batch Indian Civil Accounts Service officer, has taken over as Controller General of Accounts, CGA, from July 1st, 2012. 

According to an official release, Mr Thakur has taken several initiatives in the area of development of an effective financial management information system.





Renowned Assamese poet, Sahitya Akademi awardee Hiren Bhattacharyya has passed away in Guwahati.

Born in 1932 in Jorhat, Hiren Bhattacharyya, popularly known as Hiruda received the Sahitya Akademi award in 1992 for Shoichar Pathar Manuh. He was also conferred Soviet Desh Nehru Purashkar for Sugandhi Pakhila.He became the Vice-President of All India Progressive Writers Association. His published anthologies of poetry include Roudro Kamona,Kobitar Rod, Tumar Bahi,Bhalpuwa Buka Mati etc.


Science & Technology


Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, claim to have found preliminary but strong proof of the existence of the Higgs Boson particle, also known as the ‘god particle’. The discovery was made using a 10-billion dollar atom smasher that could reveal why objects have mass and why some have more than the other as well as the big bang theory. CERN held a scientific seminar this afternoon in Geneva providing updates on its research on the God particle. 

The Higgs Boson is a hypothetical elementary particle and the Higgs field is believed to be an electromagnetic field through which all matter passes and gets heavier. Very high energy is required for this particle to be visible.

According to the theory, Higgs boson was the agent that made the stars, planets and life possible by giving mass to most elementary particles, the building blocks of the universe; hence the nickname "God Particle." The elementary particle of boson is named after Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose whose study changed the way Particle Physics has been studied ever since. Bose was a part of the golden troika of Indian physicists, including CV Raman and Meghnad Saha, whose works have left permanent impressions on the study of fundamental physics.



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