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2012 - October 29 & 30 Current Affairs

International Issues

The International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA has begun operational safety review of 3rd and 4th units of Rawatbhata Nuclear Power Plant. A 12 Members team consisting of experts from IAEA and Nuclear Power Plants of Canada, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden are part of review team. It will continue till 15th Nov.

This is the first review Mission in India being conducted on request of centre. IAEA has been conducting the safety review missions since 1982 and 170 such Missions have been conducted so far. 

An Australian university has announced a scholarship named after legendary cricketer Donald Bradman for Indian students. The scholarship is to be awarded to an Indian student who wants to play the game and undergo study also. 

The scholarship would be given to a student who demonstrates strong participation in cricket.He will have half his or her tuition fees paid for the duration of a degree at the University of Wollongong, near Sydney. The university is offering the scholarship with the Bradman Foundation, a charitable trust established in 1987 to promote cricket as a cultural and sporting force. 

In United States, people killed in New Jersey, New York, Mary Land and Pennsylvania and Connecticut when devastating superstorm Sandy hit eastern coast line and hurled a record-breaking 13-foot (4-meter) surge of seawater at New York City. 

Saudi Arabia will build a massive Islamic Center in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul. Afghanistan’s Hajj and Religious Affairs minister Dayi-ul-Haq Abed said that the project was agreed last week in Jeddah and the construction of around 100 million dollar complex will start next year. He said the Islamic Center will cover 24 hectares of land on Maranjan Hill in central Kabul and will be named after Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. 

The Islamic Center will be grand and unique and will house a university, a hospital, a sports complex and a mosque with a capacity to accommodate 15,000 worshipers The center will be run jointly by the religious affairs ministries of Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. 

National Issues 

The government has asked all telecom services providers to ensure that necessary systems are in place by December the 31st for legal interception of Blackberry services. The Department of Telecom, (DoT), said, intensive discussions have taken place on the issue of intercepting the services provided by the Canada-based Research-In-Motion, (RIM), but the Telecom Services Providers have not been implementing the interception solution in respect of the Blackberry services offered by them. 

The DoT said, RIM has been asked to provide resolution and web-browsing requirements in respect of Blackberry Internet Service in consultation with Telecom Service Providers and their lawful interception vendors. RIM has agreed to place a server in Mumbai in this connection. 

Finance Minster P Chidambaram said, the government has planned fiscal consolidation measures to boost investor confidence, achieve higher economic growth and low inflation in the long term. The Finance Minister said, the government will also ensure that the poor are protected and the financial burden of welfare schemes is shared equally. Mr. Chidambaram said, the government seeks the support of all sections of people for fiscal consolidation to strengthen the Indian economy. He said, the global economic crisis has brought stress on the Indian economy. 

The Finance Minister also said, the Centre's flagship schemes will be protected under the fiscal consolidation measures to provide relief to the poor and weaker sections of the society. He said, the subsidies government will rely on Unique Identity number Aadhar for ensuring the subsidies reach the poor and to root out duplicacy. The Finance Minister said, the government has accepted the recommendations of Kelkar Committee on fiscal consolidation. He said, the fiscal deficit of 5.3% in 2012-13 is expected to be brought down to 3 percent by the end of the 12 plan period. 

The first ever coal museum of North-East region was inaugurated at mineral rich Margherita in Tinsukia district of Assam. It was inaugurated by Mr. N Kumar, Technical Director of Coal India Limited. The project, both in indoor and outdoor pattern, perhaps the first in the country of its kind, was taken up by the North Eastern Coal Fields. 

In Andhra Pradesh, a state-wide eye-sight screening drive has been launched. About 60 lakh school children between 6-14 years age from 73 thousand Government Schools across the state will be screened to detect eye-sight problems under the 60-day long programme and treatment will be provided to those who have problems. The state division of the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan jointly with National Rural Health Mission and the State Health Ministry has taken up the massive programme which costs about 20 crore rupees. 

Finance Minister P Chidambaram unveiled a five-year roadmap for fiscal consolidation while accepting Kelkar Committee's recommendations on the same. Expecting the fiscal deficit to remain at 5.3 per cent of GDP in 2012-13, Chidambaram said that a high fiscal deficit is unacceptable. He said the government will continue efforts to restrict fiscal deficit in the current financial year to 5.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and reduce it to 3 per cent by 2016-17.

The Finance Minister also said that the government is reviewing Direct Tax Code Bill and it will be introduced in Parliament after taking into account the recommendations of Parliamentary Standing Committee. He said, while amending the bill, he will take into account the recommendations of the parliamentry standing committee as well as current economic situation. 

Defence Minister A K Antony cautioned the three Services chiefs to be transparent in the process of weapon trials and procurement as he cleared proposals worth around 6,000 crore rupees for the Armed Forces. At the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting, the Ministry cleared proposals for procurement of 3,000 Light Support Vehicles (LSVs) for the Army at a cost of 1,500 crore rupees and Special Operations Vessels (SOVs) for the Marine Commandos of the Navy at a cost of 1,700 crore rupees. 

The meeting also cleared proposals for purchase of Search and Rescue (SAR) equipment for IAF choppers at a cost of 1,000 crore rupees, 3,000 Hand-held Thermal Imagers for the Army at 800 crore Rupeess and a Cadet Training Ship for the Navy at 480 crore rupees which will be built by private sector ABG Shipyard. The DAC, which is the top decision-making body of the Defence Ministry, also cleared an IAF proposal to procure two Dornier surveillance and transport aircraft from the HAL. 

Vice President Hamid Ansari said, the government and institutional action is needed for ensuring a clean and healthy environment which is a basic requirement for human wellbeing and economic growth. Inaugurating an international conference in New Delhi on Strengthening Green Federalism, Sharing International Practices in New Delhi he said that serious reflection and action is required on the issues of governance and institutional design wherein environment and development are concerned. 

Mr Ansari said, the 13th Finance Commission urged the need to manage ecology, environment and climate change consistent with sustainable development and to incentivise states towards improved environmental performance. Stressing the need for a change in approach for interlinking of rivers, he said, Inter-state rivers are source of conflicts and acrimony between countries and between states around the sharing and use of water. Mr Ansari said that the importance of strengthening federal relations to protect the environment has been pointed out by the Punchhi Commission on Centre-State Relations also. 

In Uttar Pradesh the benefit of JNNURM ( Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) scheme will be extended to Army Cantonment areas. Chairing a biennial coordination meeting in Central Command of Army and Civil Administration in Lucknow, Chief Minsiter Akhilesh Yadav announced to waive the VAT from two and four wheelers supplied by CSD canteens to its staff. 

The government has made fresh changes in the draft Land Acquisition Bill. Under the change , the level of consent of landowners for acquiring land for private purpose has been made stiffer following a suggestion from UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Disclosing the changes in the measure in New Delhi, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who heads Group of Ministers on the bill, said that the percentage of land owners, whose consent is a must for acquiring land for private purpose, has been raised from 67 per cent to 80 in the proposed bill. He said , consent of land owners was not required for acquiring land for public purpose. 

The proposed changes will soon be circulated among 14 members of the GoM for their views and consent. In the last meeting on October 16, GoM had approved for a provision for consent of two-third (67 per cent) of land owners for acquiring land for private purpose. 

The Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said that country's foodgrains production is expected to fall by nearly 3 per cent at 250 million tonnes in 2012-13 crop year after making up with better prospects in rabi season. Foodgrains production stood at an all-time high of 257.44 million tonnes in 2011-12 crop year ,July-June, on the back of record output of wheat and rice. 

The production of foodgrains is estimated to decline due to drought in parts of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan In initial estimate, the Agriculture Ministry has projected 10 per cent fall in Kharif output at 117.18 million tonnes, but it hopes to make up some of the shortfall in rabi. At a conference of Food Ministers to improve PDS, Mr Pawar said, although initial kharif estimates point towards marginal drop in total foodgrains output this year, they are hopeful of achieving a total of 250 million tonnes during 2012-13 with good prospects of rabi crop. 

The Centre has asked the States to make Public Distribution System (PDS) efficient along with social audit. Addressing the two-day Conference of State Food Ministers in New Delhi, the Minister of State for Food and PDS, Prof. K V Thomas said the processes for strengthening of Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) also needs to be expedited. He said with the active and willing cooperation of States and Union Territories, the government will make a grand success of the proposed National Food Security Bill. Prof Thomas said the States must ensure that the subsidised foodgrains reached the people. He said it is the duty of the states to ensure distribution of quality foodgrains. He said the country is in a comfortable position in terms of foodgrains stocks in the Central pool, which stands at over 66 million tonnes till this month against the buffer stock norm of over 21 million tonnes. 

In this context, he underlined the need for creation of adequate storage facilities at all levels. He said under the Scheme of Private Entrepreneurs Guarantee (PEG) Scheme, the Centre is creating over 181 lakh tonnes capacity of storage through private entrepreneurs, Central and State Warehousing Corporations. The Minister said the government is considering an alternate model of direct transfer of food subsidy to check the leakage and diversions. 

 Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who also addressed the conference, said that the country's foodgrains production is expected to fall by nearly 3 per cent at 250 million tonnes in 2012-13 crop year. He said foodgrains production stood at an all-time high of 257.44 million tonnes in 2011-12 crop year (July-June) on the back of record output of wheat and rice. The production of foodgrains is estimated to decline due to drought in parts of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. 

In initial estimate, the Agriculture Ministry has projected 10 per cent fall in Kharif output at 117.18 million tonnes, but it hopes to make up some of the shortfall in rabi. The Agriculture Minister said that the programme of Bringing Green Revolution in Eastern India is showing commendable progress. He added that the paddy production in the country is poised to steadily increase in the coming years. The minister said that the overall availability of foodgrains and its efficient distribution is key for country's food security. 

The Meeting of Technical Committee of Direction for Improvement of Animal Husbandry and Dairying Statistics (TCD) for the year 2012 began on October 29, 2012. The meeting emphasised the importance of the livestock sector to the nation and how important it was to collect the precise information at the base or field level in this sector. 

The meeting highlighted the timely collection and compilation of data and the intensive use of technology for the purpose. It also highlighted the need to reduce the time-gap between the collection and collation of data. Highlighting the importance of livestock wealth in the country, Animal Husbandry Secretary, Shri G.C. Pati said that livestock is crucial as it has the capacity to contribute to agricultural growth and also the income derived from it can be a stabilising factor for the farmers in case of hardships such as drought. 

Delivering inaugural address at the International Conference on ‘Strengthening Green Federalism: Sharing International practices’ organized by The Energy and Resources Research Institute in partnership with and supported by Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Inter-State Council Secretariat, Government of India; the World Bank and the Forum of Federations, Ottawa, the Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari said that despite immediate preoccupation with the global financial crisis and its implications for the development agenda, most governments acknowledge that a judicious balance between development and environment would be the key to comprehensive human security in the long run. 

In some countries, however, the debate around this balance is still built around contestation and conflict, because the inter-linkages between eco-systems and the economy, between eco-systems and quality of life, between human and national security, are still not properly understood or perhaps not better articulated. 

The observance of Vigilance Awareness Week 2012 commenced all over Indian Railways with a pledge taking ceremony by officers and staff on October 30, 2012. A special function was organized at the Railway Board where Shri Vinay Mittal, Chairman, Railway Board, administered the Pledge to a gathering of Railway staff and officers. Similar pledge has been taken at various Zonal Railway Headquarters and other important offices of Indian Railways. 

The pledge is aimed to sensitize and educate the public servants about the dangers of corruption, as corruption is anti-national, anti-poor and anti-economic development. Banners and multi-coloured posters with catchy slogans have been displayed for creating vigilance awareness amongst railway men. 

Minister for Women and Child Development, Smt Krishna Tirath, has called for evolving an Early Childhood Care and Education Policy that promotes optimal development and active learning capacity of all children below 6 years of age. She was addressing a gathering of eminent child experts, policy makers, senior government officials from child development and education departments and representatives from non-government sector who discussed the draft national policy (called ECCE Policy) over a full day and came out with a number of recommendations last evening. The major planks of the draft national policy, as the Minister outlined, are universal access, equity and quality and strengthening capacity building. 

The minister emphasised that ECCE provisions will be governed by a strong quality framework. The policy seeks to universalize the provisions of ECCE for all children mainly through ICDS, which has a network in all nooks and corners of the country. Special plans will be developed for the most marginalised and vulnerable groups besides repositioning of anganwadi centre (AWC) as a vibrant child-friendly ECD centre with adequate infrastructure, financial and human resources for ensuring a continuum of ECCE in a life cycle approach and child-related outcomes. AWC cum crèches with provision of full range of services, including care, planned early stimulation; health, nutrition and interactive environment for children below 3 years will be developed, piloted and scaled up in response to the community needs. The minister added that the national ECCE policy will be the guiding light for ICDS and ECCE provisions across the country. 

The ECCE proposes early stimulation for under 3’s largely through parental involvement and a joyful learning programme for 3-6 years old children. She added that context-specific curricula may be developed within these broad parameters. The recommendations of the day-long National Consultation included creation of an enabling environment for private sector involvement to achieve Access, Quality and Equity, espousing an approach of convergence between policy, curriculum, training and other relevant standards, strengthening of institutional capacity building, rationalising child trainer ratio and distance from centre, fine-tuning the assessment & accreditation and grievance redressal mechanism, and time line for each activity of the programme. It also called for closely working with the Ministry of Human Resource Development to address the specific problems of the disabled and linking of early childhood education with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). 

Centre will roll out within two months the direct cash transfer of food subsidies on a pilot basis in six Union Territories through the public distribution system. Briefing newsmen on the outcome of the State food ministers conference that concluded in New Delhi, Food and Public Distribution Minister, K.V Thomas said, the Centre has also sought the views of state governments on the alternate model. He said, the pilot scheme in the UT's will be tested in the meantime. 

The alternative model involves movement of foodgrains at near market prices up to the ration shops levels and transfer of food subsidy to the beneficiaries bank accounts so that food subsidy reaches the intended beneficiaries and is not cornered by vested interests. Mr. Thomas said, the move would go long way in curbing leakages of foodgrains meant for ration shops. The government's food subsidy given to run the public distribution system (PDS) is estimated to be 75,000 crore rupees in the current fiscal, against 72,823 crore rupees in 2011-12. 

Mr. Thomas said, the Centre has asked the States to shore up their storage facilities to meet the requirements following the passage of the Food Security Bill in Parliament. Mr. Thomas said, the Cabinet has approved full computerisation of Public distribution system under which Central assistance will be given to states on a fifty fifty ratio, while it would be Ninety is to ten ratio for the North eastern region. 

Bilateral Issues 

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Bangladesh Opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia agreed to cooperate in combating terrorism and insurgent groups with the visiting dignitary assuring that she and her party will not allow her country to be used for anti-India acts. Begum Zia, who is on a three day visit to India, called on Dr Singh and held discussions on a variety of issues including bilateral matters, including border management. Begum Khaleda Zia was very appreciative of various Indian initiatives which had been taken by the Prime Minister including liberalization of trade and efforts to provide power. 

Economic Issues 

Indicating that a cut in interest rate is likely, the Reserve Bank has said despite high inflation it would take steps to support growth in the half- yearly review of monetary policy. RBI said the Survey of Professional Forecasters has lowered the GDP growth projection to 5.7 per cent from 6.5 per cent for the current fiscal. Average wholesale price based inflation forecast is revised upwards to 7.7 per cent from 7.3 per cent. 

It said the global growth prospects, both in advanced and emerging economies, have weakened and the euro zone troubles have affected business confidence and caused deceleration in global trade. It said sustaining the reform initiatives of the government would be the precursor for a turnaround in economic activity.The government has in the recent past undertaken a host of reform initiatives including hiking diesel prices by over 5 Rs a litre and foreign investment norms for retail, pension, insurance, information and broadcasting sector. 


India’s Pankaj Advani won his seventh World Billiards title when he outclassed defending champion Mike Russell in the final at Leeds in UK. Leading at the half-way mark in the five-hour match, the 27-year old Advani displayed greater consistency than Russell to repeat his 2009 victory against the 43-year-old Qatar-based Englishman, winner of 10 titles himself. Advani’s triumph completed a fine outing for the Indians, Rupesh Shah won the title in the 150-up points format defeating Australia’s Matthew Bolton 6-2 in the final. 

Indian ace shuttler, Saina Nehwal has finished as runner-up in the French Open Super Series Badminton tournament. In the final at Paris, the London Olympic bronze medallist lost to Minatsu Mitani of Japan in straight games 19-21, 11-21.



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