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2013 - December 16 to 22 - Current Affairs


International 

Michelle Bachelet on 15th December elected as the Chile President for a second time. Michelle Bachelet got 62 percent votes against 38 percent votes for Evelyn Matthei, a former minister from the governing centre-right coalition. 

Michelle Bachelet, candidate for a centre-left coalition of parties, first served from 2006 to 2010, but under Chile's constitution she could not stand for a second consecutive term. Michelle Bachelet will succeed the present president Sebastián Piñera. The term of the president is for four years. She became Chile's first female president in 2006.



Somali lawmakers on 22 December overwhelmingly endorsed Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed who was appointed by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud. Ahmed replaces outgoing premier Abdi Farah Shirdon, who was ousted last month by parliament following a rift with the Somali president over policy differences, media sources reported. Somali Parliament speakers Mohamed Sheikh Osman Jawari announced the result of the vote by show of hand to endorse the new prime minister. 

Out of the 243 lawmakers present, 239 voted in favour of the nomination of Abdiweli as prime minister. The new prime minister pledged his government will honour international agreements signed by the country, vowing to strengthen relations with the international community, particularly "with neighboring states".


National 

The Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Paban Singh Ghatowar in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on 17th December, that the North East Rural Livelihood Project (NERLP) is being implemented in four North Eastern States of Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. 

NERLP is implemented in Aizawl and Lunglei Districts of Mizoram State, Peren and Tuensang Districts of Nagaland State, South Sikkim, West Sikkim Districts and 15 poorest Panchayat wards of East Sikkim of Sikkim and undivided North and West Districts of Tripura State (now 5 Districts). It will cover three lakh households in 1624 villages in the above mentioned districts. 

As the objective of NERLP is to improve livelihoods of the poor, especially that of women and the disadvantaged people in the project area, identification of Districts for the project was done by the State Governments based on social and economic backwardness. There is no plan to extend NERLP to other Districts except to the newly carved districts out of the existing 8 districts.



The Minister of State for Civil Aviation, K.C. Venugopal informed the Rajya Sabha on 17th December, that the Government has granted "in principle" approval for the setting up of the following Greenfield airports across the country: Mopa in Goa, Navi Mumbai, Shirdi and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra, Bijapur, Gulbarga, Hasan and Shimoga in Karanataka, Kannur and Aranmula in Kerala, Durgapur in West Bengal, Dabra in Madhya Pradesh, Pakyong in Sikkim, Karaikal in Pudducherry and Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh. 

The Government has a vision to establish low-cost small airports which may include existing airports also for providing connectivity to the tier-II and tier-III cities in the country including in the state of Jharkhand.



The Minister of Culture Smt. Chandresh Kumari Katoch has said that- as the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is an attached office to the Ministry of Culture, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with other countries to promote cultural exchange development expert relationship, exchange of experience and mutual awareness and understanding of cultural diversity etc. are signed as per approval of Ministry of Culture and Ministry of External Affairs. At present ASI has MoU with one country, namely National Museum of the Czech Republic. 

In a written reply in the Lok Sabha on 17 December Smt. Katoch said, the Ministry of Culture has signed 126 cultural agreements with foreign countries and enters into Cultural Exchange Programmes with various countries from time to time for specific periods. It is also exploring possibilities of having Cultural Agreements and entering into Cultural Exchange Programmes with remaining countries in consultation with our Missions abroad.



Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare in a written reply to -the Rajya Sabha on 17th December, stated that, As per Office of Registrar General of India SRS reports, the Infant mortality rate has declined from 50 per 1000 live births in 2009 to 42 per 1000 live births in 2012. 

Under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) the following programmes/schemes and awareness campaign is launched by the Government to reduce infant mortality rate: 

-- Establishment of Sick New Born Care Units at District Hospitals, newborn stabilization Units at Community Health Centres (CHCs) and New Born Care corners at 24x7 Primary Health Centres (PHCs) to provide new born and child care services. 

-- Navjaat Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (NSSK), a programme for training health care providers on essential newborn care and resuscitation. 

-- Home Based New Born Care (HBNC) through ASHAs with series of home visits. 

-- Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illness (IMNCI) and Facility Based Integrate Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illnesses (F-IMNCI). 

-- Early identification and appropriate management of Diarrhoea disease and Acute Respiratory Infections. 

-- Establishment of Nutritional Rehabilitation Centres to address severe and acute malnutrition 

-- Promotion of institutional deliveries through JananiSurakshaYojana (JSY) 

-- Mother and Child Protection Card in collaboration with the Ministry of Women and Child Development to monitor service delivery for mothers and children. 

-- Antenatal, Intra-natal and Postnatal care including Iron and Folic Acid supplementation to pregnant & lactating women for prevention and treatment of anaemia. 

-- Engagement of more than 8.8lakhs Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) to generate demand and facilitate accessing of health care services by the community. 

-- Village Health and Nutrition Days in rural areas as an outreach activity, for provision of maternal and child health services. 

-- Health and nutrition education to promote dietary diversification, inclusion of iron and foliate rich food as well as food items that promote iron absorption. 

 -- Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK) has been launched on 1st June, 2011, which entitles all pregnant women delivering in public health institutions to absolutely free and no expense delivery including Caesarean section. The initiative stipulates free drugs, diagnostics, blood and diet, besides free transport from home to institution, between facilities in case of a referral and drop back home. Similar entitlements have been put in place for all sick infants accessing public health institutions for treatment. 

--Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK), an introduction of child health screening for 4Ds i.e. defects at birth, deficiencies, diseases, development delays and their management among the children 0-18 years of age.



The Rajya Sabha passed the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011 on December 17th and the Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha on 18th December. Some of the important features in the Bill are as below: 

--Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the level of the States. 

--The Lokpal will consist of a Chairperson and a maximum of eight Members, of which fifty percent shall be judicial members. 

--Fifty per cent of members of Lokpal shall be from amongst SC/ST/OBCs, Minorities and Women. 

--The selection of Chairperson and Members of Lokpal shall be through a Selection Committee consisting of:- Prime Minister; Speaker of Lok Sabha; Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; Chief Justice of India or a sitting Supreme Court judge nominated by CJI; Eminent jurist to be nominated by the President of India on the basis of recommendations of the first four members of the Selection Committee. 

-- Prime Minister has been brought under the purview of the Lokpal. 

-- Lokpal’s jurisdiction will cover all categories of public servants. 

--All entities receiving donations from foreign source in the context of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in excess of Rs. 10 lakhs per year are brought under the jurisdiction of Lokpal. 

-- Provides adequate protection for honest and upright Public Servants. 

-- Lokpal will have power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by Lokpal. 

 --A high powered Committee chaired by the Prime Minister will recommend selection of the Director, CBI. --Directorate of Prosecution headed by a Director of Prosecution under the overall control of Director; 

--The appointment of the Director of Prosecution, CBI on the recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission; 

--Transfer of officers of CBI investigating cases referred by Lokpal with the approval of Lokpal; 

--The Bill also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while prosecution is pending. 

--The Bill lays down clear time lines for Preliminary enquiry & investigation and trial and towards this end, the Bill provides for setting up of Special Courts. 

-- A mandate for setting up of the institution of Lokayukta through enactment of a law by the State Legislature within a period of 365 days from the date of commencement of the Act.



The Union Cabinet on 19th December approved the following as suggested by the Group of Ministers. Jats are already included in the State List of OBCs in nine States. Formal reports of the State Backward Class Commissions on the subject for the States of Haryana (2012) and Himachal Pradesh (2002) and books relating to socio economic status of farming communities in northern India and caste, land and political power in Uttar Pradesh are available. 

These may contain valuable and relevant material which can be utilized by the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) to give its advice on the demand for inclusion of Jats in the Central List of OBCs in the States of Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan (two districts), Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Bihar. 

This decision would enable the Jat Community to avail the benefits of reservation available to the Other Backward Classes for employment/ admission in /to Central Government services and posts/ educational Institutions. Jat Community has been demanding inclusion in the Central List of Other Backward Classes for various states. 

The NCBC which was set up under the NCBC Act 1993, has been entrusted with the function of examining requests for inclusion of any Class of citizens as a backward class in the lists (Central List of Other Backward Classes) and hear complaints of over inclusion or under inclusion of any backward class in such lists, and tender advice to the Central Government as desired appropriate. 

At present, the Jat Community is included, in the Central List of OBCs for the States of Gujarat - Jat (Muslim) and Rajasthan (except in Bharatpur and Dhaulpur districts). They are, at present, included in the State Lists of nine States. The requests of Jats for inclusion in the Central List of OBCs for the States of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur and Dhaulpur districts of Rajasthan was earlier rejected by NCBC in 1997. 

The NCBC under the NCBC (Power to Review Advice) Rules 2011, decided to consider requests for inclusion of the Jat community after collecting additional socio-economic data through the ICSSR, in addition to data from the SECC. A GoM was constituted on 20.8.2013 to (i) engage with the representatives of the Jat community periodically; and (ii) apprise itself of the progress of the survey being conducted by NCBC through ICSSR in six states.



The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the twenty-eighth Indian Engineering Congress on the theme “Engineering Advancements and Accelerated Nation Building” on 20 December, 2013 at Chennai. The Congress is convened by The Institution of Engineers (India). Speaking on the occasion, the President said our immediate challenge is to reverse the economic deceleration and nurse our growth back to the eight per cent plus levels clocked by us in the past. 

Positive factors such as continuing rise in per capita incomes, expanding middle-class consumers, and a young and energetic workforce gives confidence that as the global economy revives, we will be able to secure faster growth. 

The President called upon every engineering and technical institution in the country to make an all-out effort to help India develop a large pool of proficient scientific and technical manpower. He also asked the Institution of Engineers (India) to think of establishing an Institute of Excellence in Engineering and Technology to create synergy between industry and academia through high quality engineering education and innovative research.


Bilateral 

India and China have taken the first step towards pushing forward an ambitious corridor linking the two countries with Bangladesh and Myanmar, as representatives from the four nations held the first ever official-level discussions about the project. The four nations have for the first time drawn up a specific timetable on taking forward the long discussed plan, emphasizing the need to quickly improve physical connectivity in the region, over two days of talks in the south-western Chinese city of Kunming – the provincial capital of Yunnan, which borders Myanmar – on 18 and 19 December. The corridor, it was agreed, will run from Kunming to Kolkata, linking Mandalay in Myanmar as well as Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh. 

The plan would “advance multi-modal connectivity, harness the economic complementarities, promote investment and trade and facilitate people-to-people contacts”, the four nations said following the Joint Study Group session. The BCIM project, which has been the subject of discussions and debates for more than a decade among scholars from the four countries, finally received official support earlier this year, highlighted as a key initiative during two meetings between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang, in New Delhi in May and in Beijing in October. 

China, officials say, sees the corridor as a platform to not only boost strategic ties with India, but also as a means to inject vitality into its landlocked southwestern provinces, which have the highest poverty rates in China. As a first step, the four countries will identify realistic and achievable infrastructure projects to boost physical connectivity. Officials suggested that improving the road networks would likely be a first priority. Earlier this year, a first ever BCIM car rally was held between Kolkata and Kunming.



The first ever Japan-India Maritime Exercise (JIMEX) to be conducted in waters off the Indian coast is scheduled in the Bay of Bengal from 19th December to 22nd December 2013. The Indian Navy will be represented by the indigenously built stealth frigate INS Satpura, the Guided Missile Destroyer INS Ranvijay and missile corvette INS Kuthar. From the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) two Guided Missile destroyers, JS Ariake (with Commander Escort Division – 7 embarked), and JS Setogiri will participate. The exercise focuses on Maritime Security Cooperation. 

Spread over four days, the exercise will comprise harbour and sea phases of two days each. During the harbour phase, the ships crews’ will exchange experiences through professional interactions and will undertake planning for joint operations for the sea phase. It may be recalled that India and Japan agreed upon conduct of bilateral naval exercises during Defence Minister AK Antony’s visit to Japan in Nov 2011. The maiden JIMEX was conducted off Japan in Jan 2012. This is the second round of the bilateral JIMEX and the first to be conducted in Indian waters.



India and Republic of Macedonia signed the new Agreement for the avoidance Of Double Taxation and the prevention of Fiscal Evasion (DTAA) with respect to taxes on income. The Agreement was signed in New Delhi on 17 December, by Salman Khurshid, the Minister of External Affairs and Nikola Poposki, the Foreign Minister of Macedonia. 

Once the DTAA enters into force, it will provide relief to taxpayers from double taxation and thereby, stimulate the flow of capital, technology and personnel between both the countries and will further strengthen the economic relationship between the two countries. 

The Salient features of this agreement are as under: 
  • The agreement provides relief from double taxation to residents of India earning income in Macedonia and residents of Macedonia earning income in India. The agreement provides that taxation of dividend, interest and royalty in the source country will not exceed 10 %. 
  • The agreement provides for taxation of business income in the source country if the taxpayer has a permanent establishment there The agreement provides for taxation of capital gains from securities in the source country. 
  • The agreement has a ‘limitation’ of benefit article which provides that the benefit of this agreement will not be available to entity which has formed mainly to obtain benefits under this agreement. 
  • The agreement is based on international standard of transparency and exchange of information and provides for exchange of information (including banking information) concerning taxes. 
  • The Agreement provides for mutual assistance in collection of taxes due in other country. This agreement is expected to boost economic relationship between India and Macedonia.




Three academic institutes viz- (i). Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad; (ii) Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi and (iii) International Management Institute, New Delhi separately signed MoU with the International Centre for Promotion of Enterprises (ICPE). 

The Acting Director General, ICPE, who is visiting India signed the MoU with the Heads of these Institutes in the presence of Praful Patel, Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises. Secretary, Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), is currently the ex-officio President of ICPE Council. 

At the initiative of DPE, the academic / research ties between ICPE and some reputed Indian institutes have been strengthened. ICPE was established in Ljubljana, Slovenia, at the initiative of the United Nations in 1974. Nineteen countries including India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are currently members of ICPE. 

One of the main objectives of ICPE is to promote and support enterprises in developing countries to foster their economic development, and in pursuit thereof share and undertake research, education, training, consultancy, documentation and publication of management related information. It is expected that the signing of MoUs will go a long way in promoting professionalism and executive development in Public Enterprises of India and Slovenia, and will also open new avenues of co-operation and collaboration between them. 

The Heads of all three Institutes present for the signing of MoU with ICPE expressed the desire to have short-term and long-term courses with a part of the academic curriculum / research programmes shared by the Indian Institutes and part of the course be conducted in India. The Institute of Public Enterprises, Hyderabad, already has a Memorandum of Understanding with ICPE.



India and Venezuela on 20th December, signed a Programme on Cultural Exchange, in New Delhi. The programme was signed by the Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, Ravindra Singh and Minister of State for the Promotion of Cultural Economy, Ministry of People’s Power for Culture, Venezuela Mr Javier Sarabia after delegation level talks between the two countries. Programme on Cultural Exchange shall be valid for three years. Thereafter, it shall be renewed automatically for a term of three years at a time unless either Party gives in writing an advance notice of its intention to terminate. 

According to the Programme of Cultural Exchange both the countries have decided to: Promote the exchange of bilingual publications (traditional and contemporary stories). Participation of the Republic of India in the Venezuela’s International Book Fair on a reciprocal basis. Facilitate, in accordance with their domestic legislation, the customs and tax conditions in order to provide assistance to the International Book Fairs in their respective countries. 

Encourage the participation of Venezuelan and Indian poets and writers in the literature festivals organized by both countries. Encourage the participation of the Republic of India in the Venezuela’s World Festival of Poetry. Make an issue of the magazine ‘’Actualidades” (a CELARG publication) on the Republic of India or on Indian writers.



India and San Marino signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) at Rome, Italy on 19th December. The Agreement has been signed on behalf of India by Mr.Basant K. Gupta, Ambassador of India to Italy with concurrent accreditation to San Marino and Ms. Daniela Rotondaro, Ambassador of San Marino to Italy on behalf of San Marino. 

Salient features of the agreement with San Marino are: 
1) The agreement is based on international standard of transparency and exchange of information. 
2) The agreement provides for exchange of information that is foreseeable relevant to the administration and enforcement of the domestic tax laws. 3)The agreement has a specific provision that the requested Party shall use its information-gathering measures to obtain the requested information even though that Party may not need such information for its own tax purposes. 
4) The agreement provides for exchange of banking and ownership information. 
5) The agreement provides for the representatives of the competent authority of the requesting Party to enter the territory of the requested Party to interview individuals and examine records. 6) The Agreement is expected to further strengthen tax cooperation between India and San Marino.



Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Dr. Nabil Elaraby, paid an official visit to India, at the invitation of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, from 16-18 December 2013. During the visit, Elaraby met with Vice President M. Hamid Ansari and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and exchanged views on a wide gamut of bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest including Syria and the Middle East Peace Process. 

The new Memorandum of Cooperation between India and the League of Arab States and the new Executive Programme for the years 2014-15 were signed during the visit. These documents are aimed at imparting fresh momentum to the institutional links by providing for a structured engagement between India and the 22-member Arab States at the senior official and ministerial levels. It also envisages cooperation in diverse areas like trade & investment, energy, small and medium enterprises, culture, capacity building, etc. 

India and the Arab world share deep historical, cultural and civilization links. The shared belief in anti-colonialism and south-south cooperation together with the staunch commitment to achieve, preserve and enhance international peace and security through dialogue and consultation forms the basic framework of the cooperation.


Economy 

The Union Cabinet on 19th December approved the stand taken by India at the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the WTO held in Bali, Indonesia during 3-7 December 2013. The two key issues for the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the WTO were Trade Facilitation and a proposal on Food Security. While the accumulation and holding of public stocks for food security purposes is classified as non trade-distorting, procurement at administered prices (Minimum Support Prices in India) is considered to be implicitly trade distorting and is, therefore, subject to a limit under WTO rules. Since the limit can be a constraint on the procurement operations of developing countries, India, along with other developing countries submitted a proposal in the WTO for a suitable amendment in the rules to address this issue. 

During the conference, ministers agreed on a decision that provides for an interim period of protection to public stockholding programmes for food security purposes of developing country members from being challenged in the WTO, on the grounds of exceeding the support which they are entitled to provide. It further provides that members must agree on a permanent solution on this issue for adoption by the 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO. This Decision ensures that trade rules in respect of agriculture do not come in the way of initiatives aimed at self-sufficiency in food and stabilization of domestic prices. 

As a result of the decision, procurement operations of developing countries will not be constrained by their existing farm support limits. Developing countries will be able to run food security programmes for their under-nourished and hungry populations without the fear of violating WTO rules under the Agreement on Agriculture. Prior to the Bali Ministerial Conference, the Cabinet had provided directions to the Commerce and Industry Minister on the stand to be taken by India. Acting on these directions, India took the position from the beginning that food security was non-negotiable and maintained its position that until a permanent solution to the issue was found, the interim mechanism must not be terminated. As a result of its unwavering stand and the support it was able to muster, India succeeded in getting the text on Food Security appropriately amended. 

The final agreed text addresses India`s core concerns. It has a firm commitment from members to work on a permanent resolution. In the interim, until a permanent solution is found, eligible members will be protected against challenge in the WTO, under the Agreement on Agriculture in respect of public stockholding programmes for food security purposes. By implication, until a permanent solution is found, countries like India will have the flexibility of providing support to its farmers without the apprehension of breaching its entitlements. Since most of India`s demands and concerns were appropriately addressed in the Trade Facilitation Agreement, India endorsed the proposed Trade Facilitation Agreement. 

The new agreement will create a set of disciplines that would ensure that all WTO Members not only simplify their rules and procedures, but also follow modern techniques for facilitating clearance of goods across international borders. This was a landmark Ministerial Conference as the WTO has been able to conclude a multilateral agreement for the first time since its establishment.



The Cabinet on 19th December approved a free trade agreement (FTA) in trade and services with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The proposal was approved after a discussion between Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma. The Agreement on Trade in Services and Agreement is to be signed under the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (CECA) between India and the Asean. 

The CECA between India and ASEAN was signed in 2003. The Cabinet approved the Agreement on Trade Goods under the CECA with the ASEAN in July 2009. The agreement the Cabinet approved on Thursday is aimed at boosting the movement of Indian professionals in the 10-nation ASEAN. Member countries include countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. 

The Agreement on Investment the Cabinet approved on 19th December would protect, promote and increase foreign investment flows into the country and also removes and barriers, said the sources. The pact was to be signed in Bali earlier this month during Mr. Sharma’s visit to the Indonesian island for the Ninth World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference.



The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved 6600 crore rupees interest-free loans to cash starved sugar industry on 19 December 2013. The loans will be provided by banks to sugar mills exclusively for making payments to sugarcane farmers, including arrears. The loans are equivalent to the excise duty paid by the mills in the past three years. 

The Interest subvention will be 12 percent which will be borne by the Centre and Sugar Development Fund. Mills have to repay the loans in five years and can avail of a moratorium on repayment for the first two years. The loans will help the industry reduce around 500 crore rupees annually of interest burden in the next 5 years. 

The informal Group of Ministers (GoM) set up by the Prime Minister under the chairmanship of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar recommended the proposal to address the cash crunch of the sugar industry.



The Government of India on 18th December approved the enhancement of the bilateral -currency swap arrangement between the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Bank of Japan from US $ 15 billion to US $ 50 billion. The terms of the Agreement have been agreed between the Indian and the Japanese side in this regard. 

The Government of India has authorized Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to sign the agreement. This measure will further strengthen the bilateral financial cooperation between Japan and India.



Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan surprised markets in his maiden policy review on 20th December, by raising interest rates to ward off rising inflation while scaling back some emergency measures put in place to support the rupee. 

Following are highlights from the monetary policy statement: 

POLICY MEASURES:
* Lowers marginal standing facility rate by 75 bps to 9.50 per cent 
* Raises repo rate (lending rate) by 25 bps to 7.50 per cent 
* Reverse repo rises to 6.50 per cent. 
* Cash reserve ratio (CRR) unchanged at 4.00 per cent 
* Partially relaxes minimum daily cash balance requirement to 95 per cent of deposits from 99 per cent 

POLICY STANCE:
* Bringing down inflation to more tolerable levels warrants raising the repo rate by 25 basis points immediately 
* To contemplate easing cash tightening measures in a calibrated manner 
* Policy steps to mitigate exchange market pressures, create a conducive environment for revitalisation of sustainable growth 
* Steps intended to address inflationary pressures so as to provide a stable nominal anchor for the economy.


Awards 

The prestigious CSI Nihilent National e-Governance Awards 2012-13 was awarded to the Project Lakshya - EMPOWERING CONSUMERS: Transparent Supply Chain and Efficient Subsidy Administration on 14th Dec 2013, at Vishakhapatnam as part of 48th Annual Convention of Computer Society of India (CSI-2013). 

The award was received by Dr. Neeraj Mittal, Joint Secretary Marketing, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, at the ceremony along with the team of officers from the Oil Marketing Companies. 

This award is recognition of the IT initiatives undertaken by ministry to improve LPG distribution system efficiency by bringing transparency and competition in LPG marketing and by plugging the subsidy leakages in LPG Supply Chain.



Eminent historian Bipan Chandra on 17 December 2013 was awarded Itihas Ratna from Asiatic Society Bihar. He was honoured by O.P. Jaiswal, the Secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bihar in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Campus, New Delhi. Some of his books are: India after Independence, 

In the Name of Democracy: JP Movement and Emergency, Essays on Colonialism, Nationalism and Colonialism in Modern India, Communalism and the Writing of Indian History, History of Modern India, The Epic Struggle, Essays on Indian Nationalism. 

Bipan Chandra is the fourth historian to be honored with the Itihas Ratna by the society. The three others, who have been honoured with the Itihas Ratna are: Ram Sharan Sharma, Irfan Habib, J S Grewal.



IRCON International Limited, the country’s largest construction, Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) of Ministry of Railways, has been awarded the prestigious India Pride Awards for Excellence in Central PSUs in India Image Enhancement. The Award was received by Mohan Tiwari, CMD, IRCON, from Dr. M.M. Pallam Raju, Union Minister for Human Resources Development at a function in the capital. 

The Award was instituted by Dainik Bhaskar group in 2009 to honour the PSUs in their areas of excellence. IRCON had achieved a PBT of more than Rs. 1,000 crore in the fiscal 2012-13. 

During the last five years, the Company has achieved phenomenal growth and has recorded a compounded annual growth rate of 44.61% in terms of PBT with five-fold increase in foreign share of business. The Company has earned total foreign exchange of Rs. 2,117 crore in the last five years. IRCON has so far completed over 100 projects in more than 20 countries.



Bollywood lyricist Javed Akhtar, Bengali poet Subodh Sarkar, and Bodo poet Anil Boro are among those selected for this year's Sahitya Akademi Awards, which were announced on 19 December. In all there are eight poetry books, four essays, three novels, two short stories and travelogues each, and one each of autobiography, memoirs and plays selected for this prestigious literary award, an Akademi statement said. 

The awarded poetry books include Akhtar's "Lava" (collection of Urdu poetry), Sarkar's "Dwaipayan Hrader Dhare" (Bengali), Boro's "Delphini Onthai Mwdai Arw Gubun Gubun Khonthai" (Bodo), Sitaram Sapolia's "Doha Satsai" (Dogri), and Radhakant Thakur's "Chaladuravani" (Sanskrit). The awards were recommended by jury members representing 22 Indian languages and approved by the executive board of the Sahitya Akademi which met on 18th December, under the chairmanship of Academy president Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari. 

The winners of the Akademi awards in Assamese and Gujarati languages will be declared later. The authors will be awarded March 11 next year during the Festival of Letters organised by the Sahitya Akademi. They will be honoured with an engraved-copper plaque, a shawl, and a cheque of Rs.100,000. 

Temsula Ao's Laburnum for My Head (English) and Mohi-ud-Din Reshi's "Aina Aatash" (Kashmiri) won in the short story section while M.N. Paloor was awarded for his autobiography "Kathayillathavante Katha" (Malayalam). Satish Kalsekar won the award for his essay "Vachanaryachi Rojanishee" (Marathi). This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.


Sports 

Germany on 15th December 2013 lifted the Men's Junior Hockey World Cup for a record sixth time. In the title clash at New Delhi, defending champions Germany defeated France, 5-2 to retain the title. In another match, the Netherlands beat Malaysia, 7-2 to finish third in the tournament. 

The Indian team finished at the 10th spot, after losing to Pakistan in penalties in the 9th-10th position match on 14 December 2013. The Junior Hockey world Cup 2013 was held in New Delhi, India from 6-15 December 2013. 

A total of 16 teams were participated in this tournament. The Men's Junior Hockey World Cup also known as the Roger Danet Trophy is an international field hockey competition organized by the International Hockey Federation (FIH). 

The tournament was first held at France in 1979. Since 1985 it has been held every four years. Competitors must be under the age of 21 as of December 31 in the year before the tournament is held.



Kapil Dev, the Former Captain and legendary All-rounder of Indian Cricket Team on 18 December 2013 selected for the BCCI’s prestigious Col. CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement award for the year 2013. Kapil Dev had played 131 Tests for India taking 434 wickets. He was the first player to complete 5000 runs and 400 wickets in Tests. He played 225 ODIs, in which he took 253 wickets and scored 3783 runs. His most memorable contribution to Indian cricket was the victory in the 1983 World Cup. Sunil Gavaskar won this award for the year 2012. 

Other cricketers to have bagged the coveted award include, Mohinder Amarnath, Ajit Wadekar, Mohinder Amarnath, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Lala Amarnath, Syed Mushtaq Ali and Capt. Vijay Hazare. Col. CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award, comprises a trophy, a citation and a cheque of 25 lakh Rupees. This award, named after India's first Test captain, is given to individuals whose contribution to Indian cricket, on and off the field by BCCI.



India won the boy’s and girl’s team titles in the Asia-Pacific junior golf championship at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC). It was India’s first ever victory in the Asia Pacific Junior Golf Championship.In the boy’s category, the team of Viraj Madappa and Manu Gandas took India ‘A’ to win the team title. 

On the other hand, in the girl’s category, the team of Aditi and Ridhima Dilawari fashioned India ‘B’ to win the team title. In the individual category, Aditi Ashok lifted the individual title in the girls’ category after a thrilling play-off with second-placed Min-Jou Chen of Chinese Taipei.



India defeated Pakistan 48-39 in the Kabaddi World Cup in the final played at Guru Nanak Dev Stadium in Ludhiana, Punjab on 14th December 2013. With this win, India retained the title for fourth consecutive time. Hardavinder Singh Dulla and Balbir Singh from India were named as the Best Raider and Best Stopper of the tournament, respectively. In the semi-finals, hosts India crushed England 63-32 while Pakistan beat USA 51-33. 

The winning team India was presented with a cash reward of two crore rupees and the runner-up team, Pakistan won a cash prize of one crore rupees. Earlier on 13 December 2013, the Indian women Kabbadi team defeated New Zealand by 49-21 and received 51 lakh rupees as winning amount.


Persons 

Dr Harsh Kumar Bhanwala on 18th December took charge as Chairman of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). He succeeded Dr. Prakash Bakshi, who retired in September 2013. 

Prior to this appointment, Dr Bhanwala was the Executive Director(ED) at India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd (IIFCL), a state-owned infrastructure lender. He was also holding the charge of CMD, IIFCL for about six months. He was earlier looking after the Corporate Planning, Human Resource Development and Credit Enhancement initiatives as Chief General Manager at IIFCL. 

During his tenure at IIFCL, he also held the Chairmanship of the two subsidiaries of the company — IIFC (UK) Ltd., London, and IIFCL Projects Ltd., New Delhi.



The Vice President of India, M. Hamid Ansari launched a music album “Braveheart” brought out by Dr. Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust and Ustadgah Foundation at a function in New Delhi. The music album is a tribute to the Girl Child. The poetry is written by Salman Khurshid, the Union Minister for External Affairs and composed and sung by Ustad Maa Zila Khan. 



The President Pranab Mukherjee administered the oath of office of the Chief Information Commissioner to Smt. Sushma Singh on 19 December. She is the fifth Chief Information Commissioner of the Central Information Commission (CIC). 

Sushma Singh joined the CIC as Information Commissioner on September 23, 2009. Prior to joining CIC, Smt. Sushma Singh served as Secretary to the Govt. of India in the Ministries of Information & Broadcasting, Panchyati Raj and the Development of the North East Region (DONER).



Sis Ram Ola (83), The Union Labour Minister, died on 15 December 2013 after a prolonged illness in Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon, Haryana. He took over as the Labour Minister in June 2013 after Mallikarjun Kharge was shifted to Railways. 

Under the UPA 1 Government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he served as the as Labour Minister and Union Cabinet Minister of Mines. He was a member of the 15th Lok Sabha of India and elected in 2009. He was a Senior Rajasthan Congress leader and represented, the Juunjhunu constituency of the state.


Science and Technology 

The fourth generation Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas received its second operational clearance on 20th December 2013 in Bangalore. Union Defence Minister A. K. Anthony and Chief Air Marshal Browne attended the occasion. 

Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) II of Tejas is to replace the Mig21 fleet of IAF, which was decommissioned on 11 December 2013. The attainment of initial operational clearance is an important milestone towards indigenization through self-reliance and several programs like inclusion of fifth generation of fighter aircrafts. 

The Production of Tejas was taken up by Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) and it would be ready for battle by December 2014.The salient features of IOC-II include Safe flying up to High angle of Attack as mandated and enhance the combat performance of the aircraft. 

The Initial Operational Clearance-I of Tejas was achieved on 10 Jan 2011. India indigenously designed and developed frontline fighter Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) was christened Tejas. Tejas is the smallest, light weight, single engine, single seat and supersonic, multirole, combat aircraft. LCA Tejas is capable of flying non-stop to destinations over 1700 km away.


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