2013 - July 31 - Current Affairs


International Issues


In Nepal, UNICEF launched a campaign of violence against children coinciding with the initiation of global campaign for elimination of violence against children on July 31, 2013. 

Addressing the function, the Commissioner of National Human Rights Commission Mr Gauri Pradhan said it is matter of pride that that movement for child rights in Nepal for the last twenty years has given fruit to various movements which has been recognized internationally such as , Shakti Samuha - an organization founded by trafficked women which is one of the recipients of the Magsaysay award . 

UNICEF Nepal’ s representative Ms Hanaa Singer said there are about 16,00,000 children in the age group to 5-17 working, while more than 6,00,000 are engaged in hazardous work. UNICEF has been working in Nepal since 1968 to protect and promote the rights of women and children. 



President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins on 31 July 2013 signed the bill (Government’s Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill) into law. The bill, overwhelmingly passed by both houses of the Irish parliament in July 2013, permits abortions only in cases where doctors deem the woman's life at risk from continued pregnancy. 

The law comes in the wake of the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, 31, on 28 October 2012 of blood poisoning as a result of a miscarriage. Savita was reportedly denied a potentially life-saving abortion. The new legislation, which replaces 146 years old British era law, also permits abortions to alleviate life-threatening conditions, including a woman's own threat to commit suicide if refused a termination. 

Till recently, Ireland's only legislation on abortion was a handed-down British law from 1867, outlawing the practice with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The new maximum sentence is 14 years. Higgins convened a meeting of the Council of State on 29 July 2013 to seek its advice on the bill, which he could have opted to send to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality. The meeting, chaired by the President, was attended by 21 members of the 24-strong council. The 21 persons who attended, including seven members of the judiciary, still made it the biggest council since the Constitution came into effect in 1937. 


National Issues


The government has decided to enhance rate of interest subvention scheme for exports to three per cent to reverse the declining trend in exports. Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma told the media in New Delhi on July 31, 2013, that the scheme will cover the entire MSME besides some other sectors. He said Director General of Foreign Trade and Commerce Secretary are in the process to review widening of the coverage of the benefits. 

Sharma said the government is making available resources to clear all claims of exporters till date. He said the announcments will be effective from August 1st, 2013. On widening trade account deficit, the Commerce Minister hoped that the recent interventions made by the government will get reflected positively in the trade data of the coming months. He also mentioned that the Board of Trade will meet on 27th of August to discuss steps how to improve exports further. 



The Ministry of Steel under Government of India has become the first Central Ministry to be awarded ISO 9001:2008, Quality Management System certification. The Bureau of Indian Standards has conferred the Ministry with the certification for three years, w.e.f. 25.06.2013 to 24.06.2016. 

Shri Sunil Soni, DG-BIS (Directorate General, Bureau of Indian Standards) presented the certificate to the Union Steel Minister, Shri Beni Prasad Verma on July 31,2013. The certificate was handed over in the presence of the Secretary, Ministry of Steel Shri D.R.S. Chaudhary and other officials of the ministry. The Minister lauded the efforts of the officials of the Ministry of Steel in accomplishing the feat and expressed happiness over the Ministry being the first amongst Central Government Ministries to have received the certificate. 

The Ministry of Steel has been conferred with the coveted certification under the able leadership of Minister of Steel, Shri Beni Prasad Verma. The Minister has been laying emphasis on streamlining systems and procedures in the Ministry to improve its working and bring about transparency. Shri Verma has been the guiding force behind the effort and has taken special interest in the matter. ISO 9001 is quality management system which codifies quality standards in every area of organization’s functioning. Many Governments around the World have made ISO 9001 a mandatory requirement. Even developing countries, like Malaysia and Kenya have made it a mandatory requirement in their government organizations. 

In India, Ministry of Steel being first to get the certification has covered all its sections under ISO 9001:2008. The certification will help in developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and will aid in streamlining and improving the quality of services provided by the Ministry. It will help in benchmarking of SOPs and improve quality consciousness by focusing on strategic issues and bring about transparency. The certification involves laying down the work processes, manage and control them with the aim of continuous improvement. ISO certification will result in transparent performance of the Ministry and quick delivery of results to the beneficiaries. 



The ‘Indian Electrical Equipment Industry Mission Plan 2022’ points to the fact that one of the major reasons for the shortfall in planned versus achieved capacity addition in power generation is the problem of land acquisition. Half of the loans sanctioned for power projects remain unutilised because of delays in land acquisition, forest and other clearances. 

As a result, banks are not prepared to increase their exposure to the power sector, which leads to further delays in project completion. This negatively impacts the growth of Boiler Turbine Generator (BTG) and Transmission & Distribution (T&D) equipment industry, the Mission Plan 2022 document says. It further points that the acquisition of government forest and private land is very cumbersome and a long drawn process. 

The existing Land Acquisition Act has several flaws. In case of power plants awarded to IPPs (Independent Power Producers), land is to be acquired by them. Because of the outdated Land Acquisition Act, private developers face a number of problems so that there is a gap of years between the time the project is conceived, tendered and awarded and land is acquired. 

During this period, the cost of construction, cost of power plant equipment, etc., shoots up and at times, the project itself becomes unviable at the quoted tariff. In the light of this, the ‘Indian Electrical Equipment Industry Mission Plan 2022’, which was recently launched by Minister of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises, Shri Praful Patel, recommends enactment at the earliest of a Land Acquisition Act, which will make land acquisition process fair and fast. 

The Mission Plan also says that in the light of the fact that the State Governments are able to generally acquire land much quicker for the development of industrial estates, SEZs, Metros and highway projects and power plants as people do not raise many objections, hence the State Government should, inter alia: 

(i) Acquire the land (government / private / forest) for the power project being constructed by the IPP (like they are doing for other purposes) and also negotiate at its own terms with land owners as per the policy adopted by respective State Governments; 

(ii) Solve issues of resettlement and rehabilitation associated with projects through the developer. 

Once the State Government decides on the land compensation and R&R policy for the project site, the cost of same with overhead cost and escalation provision, etc., can be indicated in the tender so that developers can pay the State Government upfront on being awarded the power project. The Mission Plan further suggests that if a developer wants to acquire more land than that estimated by Central Electricity Authority (CEA) then the additional land should be acquired by the developers on their own. 



The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting will be working to mainstream a synchronized ‘Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)’ for obtaining permissions for films shooting in India for both Indian and foreign film producers. This would lead to institutionalization and standardized benchmarks for each critical stakeholder involved in the process. 

The benchmarks identified in the SOP would clearly identify the responsibility of critical stakeholders in terms of clearances / timelines/ permissions required for films shooting. This was stated by Secretary (I&B), Shri Bimal Julka while delivering his inaugural address at the National Workshop on ‘Single Window Clearance for Film Shooting in India’ on July 31, 2013. Regarding the initiative of the Ministry, Secretary mentioned that the Ministry was in the process of developing a dedicated online portal for operationalising the ‘Single Window Clearance’ System. 

The website would include the data on various requirements such as custom clearances, visas, cultural sensibilities etc. A Production Resource Guide highlighting different aspects of production as well as logistics and a digital location library of panaromic images of potential production locations would also form an important component of the online portal. The website will also include information on state-wise facilities like transport, hospitality, medical and other local information for the applicants. 



The book entitled An Agenda for India’s Growth: Essays in Honour of P. Chidambaram, was released in New Delhi on 31 July 2013 by Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. The book, which is edited by Sameer Kochhar of the Skoch Foundation, encompasses various excellent essays by well known distinguished experts. 

In the book, all the authors dated their association with P. Chidambaram from 1991, when he was the Minister of Commerce as well as a key reformer initiating trade policy reform. In one essay of this book, Montek Ahluwalia gave detailed account of P. Chidambaram’s role in trade policy reforms of 1991. During that time, he was the Commerce Secretary of Chidambaram. 



The Union Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas, M. Veerappa Moily as well as Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, on 31 July 2013 launched the IGL Suraksha Yojana in Delhi. 

IGL Suraksha Yojana is the group accident insurance scheme for around 2.5 lakh drivers of CNG-run public transport vehicles in Delhi. The function for the launch of the Scheme was organised jointly by Transport Department, Govt. of NCT of Delhi and Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) in Delhi Secretariat. Schemes like IGL Suraksha Yojana are required for benefit of the common man in India. 


Bilateral Issues


Afghanistan and India have signed memoranda of understanding, MoUs for implementing 60 projects in ten Afghan provinces under the Small Development Projects, SDP scheme. 

The MoUs signed by Afghan Minister of Economy Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal and Indian Ambassador Amar Sinha in Kabul on July 30, 2013 are related to the third phase of the SDP scheme and will be completed in the next four years. 100 million dollar SDP scheme was announced during Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to Afghanistan in May 2011. 

The first two phases of the scheme with a total outlay of 20 million dollars are nearing completion. The scheme has been designed by Indian government to address the developmental needs of mainly rural communities in far-flung areas of Afghanistan. 


Economic Issues


Finance Minister P Chidambaram has expressed confidence that economy will register a 5.5 to 6 per cent growth in the current fiscal moving up from last year's 5 per cent. He also asserted that the government will ensure fiscal consolidation by containing deficit. 

Mr Chidambaram, told that the government will further liberalise the FDI policy and encourage public sector undertakings, which have strong balance sheets, to raise funds from overseas markets. He said the government was also looking at raising import duty on non-essential luxury items and promoting exports to contain Current Account Deficit (CAD). 

The Finance Minister said the government is looking at some compression in non-oil and non-gold import to curb the demand for non-essential luxury items. 

The other steps being considered to deal with the CAD include relaxing the External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) norms, attracting investments from sovereign wealth and pension funds and NRI deposits. 


Business Issues


Prasar Bharati and the Australian Network on 30 July 2013 signed an agreement to strengthen the partnership between the two public broadcasters. The accord was signed by Prasar Bharti CEO Jawahar Sircar and ABC International CEO Lynley Marshall in New Delhi. With the agreement, ABC International will be available on DD Direct plus from 1 November 2013. It will allow the channel to be shown along with 59 other channels on Doordarshan's DTH platform. 

The partnership between the two public broadcasters will help build better understanding between people of both the countries. The partnership between Prasar Bharati and the Australian broadcaster will cover other areas like co-production activities, exchange of TV programmes, exchange of radio programmes and aspects. 



Yes Bank became the first lender to hike lending and deposit rates. Others may follow as the RBI move has tightened liquidity in the markets. Yes Bank said it would hike its deposit rates by 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent in select tenors effective from 1 August 2013. 

Yes Bank took this step following the RBI’s decision to keep key policy rates unchanged and cut growth forecast. This provides an opportunity for retail depositors to lock in higher rates on term deposits. The bank has also decided to hike its base rate by a quarter percent to 10.75 percent effective from Thursday. This will make lending by the bank costlier. In the first quarter review of the monetary policy, the RBI had left all key policy rates unchanged to support the Rupee to stay stable. 

The repurchase, or the repo rate, the interest that commercial banks pay to the RBI on short-term borrowings, has been left unchanged at 7.25 percent, and so has the reverse repo rate at 6.25 percent. The cash reserve ratio (CRR), or the share of deposits banks must keep with the central bank, is also maintained at 4 percent. Earlier this month, the central bank had taken a number of measures to squeeze liquidity out of the banking system, in order to ensure stability in the currency markets. Yes bank is India’s fourth largest private sector lender. 


Sports


India wins the second edition of the South Asian Football Federation Championship defeating Nepal 1-0. In the final match played at Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu, Jerry Lalrimzuala scored the lone goal which proved decisive for India. 



India's number one snooker player, Aditya Mehta on 31 July 2013 clinched the gold medal in the World Games, beating China's Liang Wenbo, 3-0, in the final of the quadrennial event at Cali, Columbia. Aditya Mehta hails from Mumbai. 

Mehta had earlier defeated Thailand`s Dechawat Poomjaeng 3-1 in the semifinal. 

Poomjaeng defeated another Indian and eight-time world champion Pankaj Advani 3-1 in the quarterfinals. Poomjaeng won the bronze medal after securing a 3-2 win over Brazil`s Igor Figueiredo in his third-place play-off match. 


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