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WEEKLY CURRENT AFFAIRS BULLETIN

7TH JANUARY, 2013 TO 13TH JANUARY, 2013

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[ 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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2nd December: Infrastructure & Resources 1. Transportation infrastructure: Road and Highway Networks, Mass Transit Systems, Railways, Waterways, Ports.... 2. Energy infrastructure:- Thermal Power Generation, Natural Gas Pipelines & Petroleum Pipelines, Nuclear Energy, Renewable Energy...... 3. Water management infrastructure:- Drinking water supply, Sewage Collection and Disposal of Waste water, Flood Control, Water Harwesting..... 4. Communications infrastructure:- Television and Radio Transmission, Internet, Social Network, Search Engines, Communications Satellites...... 5. Solid Waste Management 6. Economic Infrastructure: Manufacturing Infrastructure, including Industrial Parks and Special Economic zones, Agricultural, Forestry and Fisheries Infrastructure.... 7. Resources: Water Resources, Forest Resources, Land Resources, Energy Resources, Minerals, Resource Management..... 9th December: Demography : Population Composition, Density, Literacy, Sex Ratio... 16th December: Environmental Problems & Global Environmental Governance : Deforestation, Pollution: Air, Water, Land, Noise, Desertification, Biodiversity Depletion, Global Warming, SD.......

Production and productivity, Microirrigation, Urbanization, Government Initiatives...... 6th January: Indian Economy Basics, Planning & Trade 1. Industry Services, Agriculture, Energy..... 2. Balance of Payments. Foreign Direct Investment....... 3. Growth, Development and Other Issues......... 4. Poverty Estimates, Impact of Poverty........ 5. Exchange rate. Role of RBI..... 6. Nature of Planning - Five Year Plan, Planning after 1991 (LPG), Inflation..... 13th January: Governance and Contemporary Political Developments : Development Politics, Political and Administrative Institutions, Good Governance, Internal Security....

23rd December: Human Development, Social Sector Initiatives and Programmes & Policies 1. Concept of Human Development, Development vs. Growth, Human Development Index, MPI, Innovation..... 2. Social Inclusion, Child Welfare, Women Welfare.... 30th December: Agriculture, Urbanisation, Health : Agriculture and GDP, Agricultural Regionalization,

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20th January ... 27th January ... 3rd February .. 10th February . 31st March ...... 7th April ......... 14th April ....... 21st April ........

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Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013 [3]

NATIONAL
20th Law Commission Appointed
Justice D. K. Jain has been appointed as the Chairman of the Law Commission of India which gives advice to the government on complex legal issues. It has a three-year term ending on 31st August, 2015. The Terms of Reference of the Twentieth Law Commission include the following: A. Review/Repeal of obsolete laws: a) Identify laws which are no longer needed or relevant and can be immediately repealed; b) Identify laws which are not in harmony with the existing climate of economic liberalization and need change; c) Identify laws which otherwise require changes or amendments and to make suggestions for their amendment; d) Consider in a wider perspective the suggestions for revision/ amendment given by Expert Groups in various Ministries/Departments with a view to coordinating and harmonizing them; e) Suggest suitable measures for quick redressal of citizens' grievances, in the field of law. B. Law and Poverty: c) Improvement of standards of all concerned with the administration of justice. D. Examine the existing laws in the light of Directive Principles of State Policy and to suggest ways of improvement and reform and also to suggest such legislations as might be necessary to implement the Directive Principles and to attain the objectives set out in the Preamble to the Constitution. E. Examine the existing laws with a view for promoting gender equality and suggesting amendments thereto. F. Revise the Central Acts of general importance so as to simplify them and to remove anomalies, ambiguities and inequities.

a) Examine the Laws which affect the poor and carry out post-audit for socio-economic legislations; b) Take all such measures as may be necessary to harness law and the legal process in the service of the poor.

C. Keep under review the system of judicial administration to ensure that it is responsive to the reasonable demands of the times and in particular to secure: a) Elimination of delays, speedy clearance of arrears and reduction in costs so as to secure quick and economical disposal of cases without affecting the cardinal principle that decision should be just and fair; b) Simplification of procedure to reduce and eliminate technicalities and devices for delay so that it operates not as an end in itself but as a means of achieving justice;
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Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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G. Recommend to the Government measure for making the statute book up-to-date by repealing obsolete laws and enactments or parts thereof which have outlived their utility.

Cabinet enacted legislation to declare Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch of Barak River as a National Waterway

The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of a Bill in the Parliament for declaring LakhipurBhanga stretch (121 kms.) of the Barak River as a National Waterway.

It also gave its approval for preparation of projects/schemes for development of infrastructure facilities on this stretch of the river at an estimated cost of Rs.123 crore with implementation in two phases. Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) set up under IWAI Act, 1985 will be the implementing agency for this project. The first phase of the project would be completed by 2016-17 followed by the second phase which is likely to be completed by 2018-19. The enactment to declare Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch of the Barak River as National Waterway will result in unified development of the waterways for shipping and navigation and transportation of cargo to the North Eastern Region particularly in the states of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Government of India has so far declared five waterways as National Waterways. These are:- (i) Allahabad-Haldia stretch of the Ganga-BhagirathiHooghly river system (1620 km); (ii) Dhubri-Sadiya stretch of Brahmaputra River (891 km); (iii) Kottapuram-Kollam stretch of West Coast Canal along with Udyogmandal and Champakara Canals (205 km); (iv) Kakinada-Puducherry stretch of the canal along with designated stretches of Godavari and Krishna Rivers (1078 km); and (v) designated stretches of East Coast Canal, Brahmani River and Mahanadi Delta (588 km). The Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch of the Barak River would be the sixth National Waterway.

range of electric vehicles, which would result in liquid fuel savings of 2.2 - 2.5 million tonnes by 2020. This will also result in substantial lowering of vehicular emissions and decrease in carbon di-oxide emissions by 1.3% to 1.5% in 2020 as compared to a status quo scenario. However with respect to the barriers in this sector government is aiming to adopt following measures which include - providing initial impetus through demand support measures that facilitate faster consumer acceptance of these expensive newer vehicles. In addition, the government will also facilitate automotive R&D and put in place charging infrastructure. NMEM is amongst the most significant interventions of the Government that promises to transform the automotive paradigm of the future by lessening the dependence on fossil fuels, increasing energy efficiency of vehicles and by providing the means to achieve ultimate objective of cleaner transportation that is compatible with sustainable renewable energy generation. This Intervention will also help encourage the Indian Automotive Industry to shift to newer, cleaner technologies so that it builds its future competitive advantage around environmentally sustainable products, high end technologies, innovation and knowledge. The implementation and roll out of the NEMMP 2020 will be done through various specific schemes, interventions, policies that are currently under formulation and will be considered by the Government in the near future.

Pursuing two degrees simultaneously may become a reality in the near future. The University Grants Commission (UGC) is thinking of introducing a system under which students enrolled in a regular degree course can pursue an additional degree at the same time under open, distance, or part-time basis from the same or different university. The UGC had constituted an expert committee under Prof Furqan Qamar, vice-chancellor, Central University of Himachal Pradesh to look into the feasibility of such a course. The panel has also suggested that similar rule should apply if a student doing a regular course wanted to do a certificate, diploma, advanced diploma or PG diploma programme as an additional course simultaneously either in regular or open and distance mode in the same or other institutions. The committee, however, suggested that the views of the vice-chancellors of all universities in the country should be taken before taking a final decision on implementation of dual degree in the country. The dual degree programme is very common in western countries and in India, IITs already offer such dual degree programmes. To implement it, universities will have to make statutory provisions.

National Electric Mobility Mission Plan Launched

The Hon'ble Prime Minister has unveiled the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020. The Plan seeks to support the creation of necessary eco system for promoting electric mobility, a frontier technology, so as to make it a self-sustaining business in the future. The National Electric Mobility Mission Plan envisages new sales of 6-7 million units of a
Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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UGC plans two degrees at a time

Indian Civil and Administrative Service (Central) Association suggestions for dealing crimes against women

The Indian Civil and Administrative Service (Central) Association submitted their suggestions and recommendations to the J S Verma committee, constituted to suggest changes in the law to deal with growing incidents of crime against women. The association's recommendations include adding a separate section in the IPC to define aggravated rape, including gangrape and violent assault with the intention to cause bodily harm, as well as acid attacks; amending the law to ensure rape proved to be committed by a juvenile attracts the same punishment "after the convict attains majority"; and defining honour killing and punishing it with death.

It has, however, opposed castration of rapists as punishment, terming it as "repugnant to a civilised society". The association has supported a Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems but suggested access to a database, while available to all citizens, should be through due process on individual request. It should not be publicly available. Specifically, the idea of keeping a public naming-and-shaming database of rape convicts or other criminals is strongly rejected by them because it will be a source of undeserved punishment to family members of such convicts. The association's other suggestions to the Verma panel include: make marital rape a punishable offence and rape gender neutral; punish public remarks derogatory to women at par with a statement derogatory to SCs and STs; make gram panchayats responsible for reporting crimes against women in their jurisdiction and tie their funding to their performance in this area. Giving directives on behaviour of individuals by khaps and similar extra legal bodies should be made punishable if these are illegal or contravene fundamental rights.

Government has launched LPG portability

Government raises assistance to rural poor for housing

The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Rural Development to provide a quality and affordable house to the rural poor keeping in view the steep increase in cost of materials. The Government has raised the amount of assistance from Rs 45,000 to Rs 70,000 for construction of a dwelling unit in Indira Awaas Yojana. For hilly and other difficult areas, the grants for constructing houses have been increased from Rs 48,500 crore to Rs 75,000. There will also be a provision now of loan up to Rs 20,000 - up from Rs 10,000 - with four per cent interest for buying land for the house. The IAY is a flagship scheme of the Ministry of Rural Development and aims at addressing rural housing issues by providing grant for construction / upgradation of dwelling units of BPL families especially giving priority to Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, freed bonded labourers and physically challenged persons with financial assistance of Rs. 45,000/ - in plain areas and Rs. 48,500/- in hilly / difficult areas.
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Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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The Government of India has launched a scheme offering portability for LPG connections. This means if a customer is not satisfied with his present distributor, he has the choice to shift his connection to another dealer. However, unlike mobile services where you could change the service provider or the mobile company, an LPG consumer will have the option to change the dealer within the same distribution company but not the oil company. For example, a consumer of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) will have the option to choose from other IOC dealers but will not be able to switch to dealers of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) or Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL). The pilot project has been launched in Chandigarh. The service would be extended to 25 more districts in the next fiscal. This will help in providing better services to 13.5 crore customers and end the monopolistic practices of the cooking gas distributors GOI has also launched new IT/web-enabled initiative, 'Lakshya' to enable consumers book and track refills online as well on mobile phone. It would enhance transparency in distribution of cylinders. Under the new initiative, customers can rate their distributors on service and anybody found wanting could possibly face termination of dealership. Now each distributor is being automatically rated from 5 stars to no star on a graded scale using transaction data. The distributor who supplies 85 per cent of cylinders booked in less than two days is rated 5 stars and the distributor who supplies 85 per cent of cylinders beyond 10 days is rated with no star. Others are rated in between according to their delivery pattern. The rating will help consumers select distributorships once portability is available.

IIT education gets costlier

The IITs has approved a hike in tuition fee for undergraduate students from Rs 50,000 to Rs 90,000 per year with effect from this year. However, education at IITs will remain free for students from the Scheduled Caste and Tribes. The move was seen necessary for the IITs to become self-sustainable like the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). The fee structure for the premier institutes will now be reviewed every year. The IITs have started to receive research grants from the industry, which is helping the institutes garner more funds and is also seen as beneficial for

the industry. It is estimated that only 20 per cent of the IITs' funds is generated from student fees, while the rest is financed by the Government. Recurring cost on each student at IIT is about Rs 2.5 lakh a year, while the student pays Rs 50,000. It was also decided at the meeting that 25 per cent of the students from economically backward segment (where parental income is less than Rs 4.5 lakh per annum) would be provided with 100 per cent scholarships. Members of Council of IITs stressed that easy loan facility will be available to students and no student, who has qualified JEE, is denied entry into IITs due to financial constraints. Further, it was decided to not only make IITs more research-oriented but also include external peer review for quality improvement.

programmes to cut carbon footprint, and also carry out regular green audit.

GOI delaying proposal of laws against leaders accused of rape

The other key decisions taken by the Council include increasing the number of doctoral students, enhancing teacher capacity and developing strong industry-academia linkages. The Council has also decided to create a framework by which students will be able to pursue doctoral studies at IIT without giving the GATE exam, if they fall in their marks fall in the top percentile.

Further, IITs will also include green technologyrelated courses in the curriculum, implement

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Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013 [7]

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The government appears to have slowed down on the proposal to disqualify candidates with criminal charges, such as rape and murder, framed by courts from contesting Parliament and assembly elections. Even after consulting with the state governments, NGOs and the election commission more than 16 months ago, the law ministry's draft to amend the six-decade-old People's Representation Act is gathering dust. The ministry covered all the offences that carried a jail term of more than five years and also sought to debar those facing corruption charges. But this provision was not to apply in cases where "charges were framed in less than a year from the date of filing nominations for elections". The draft bill allows those who feel that charges have been wrongly framed to move the high court concerned, "which will refer the matter to a special tribunal for disposal within 15 days".

INTERNATIONAL
Syrian President outlines new peace plan
Syrian President Bashar Assad has outlined a new peace initiative that includes a national reconciliation conference and a new government and constitution but demanded regional and Western countries stop funding and arming rebels first. Assad ignored international demands for him to step down and proposed to hold a dialogue with those "who have not betrayed Syria." This effort will help retain talented professionals who are valued by U.S. employers and who seek to contribute to US economy. Calls for relaxing the restrictions placed on H4 visa holders have come amidst growing expectations that President Barack Obama may address the complex issue of comprehensive immigration reform during his second term in office. While opposition to reform has primarily been rooted in concerns over further loss in American jobs to new immigrants, proponents have made the case that fewer work restrictions for H-4 dependent spouses, for example, might encourage "professionals with high demand skills to remain in the country and help spur the innovation and growth of U.S. companies," and the DHS appeared to support this view in its notes. What is H-1B visa?

He called for a national reconciliation conference, and the drawing up of a National Charter that reinforces Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity, rejects interference in its domestic affairs, and abandons terror. The National Charter will then be submitted to a popular referendum.

Members of the Syrian opposition, however, have rejected Assad's proposal.

Palestinian Authority is now 'State of Palestine'

The Palestinian president has ordered his government to officially change the name of the Palestinian Authority to "State of Palestine." The move follows the November decision by the United Nations to upgrade the Palestinians' status to that of a "non-member observer state."

According to a presidential decree, the 'State of Palestine' will be used instead of the PNA in all official correspondence passports, ID cards, drivers' licences, stamps and by all Palestinian embassies in countries which recognize Palestine.

U.S. may allow H-4 visa holders to work

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it was proposing to provide employment authorisation to H-4 visa holders, who are spouse-dependents of principal H-1B "nonimmigrant" visa holders. The DHS has however clarified that it planned to extend employment authorization only to those within the H4 population who "have begun the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment and have extended their authorized period of admission" in the U.S.
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Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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What is H-4 visa?

The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows US employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. If a foreign worker in H-1B status quits or is dismissed from the sponsoring employer, the worker must either apply for and be granted a change of status to another nonimmigrant status, find another employer (subject to application for adjustment of status and/or change of visa), or leave the US.

An H-4 visa is a visa issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the H-1B visa holders. H-4 visa holders can hold a driver's license, open bank accounts, and get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number for US tax purposes.

Sri Lankan Parliament impeaches Chief Justice

Sri Lankan Parliament voted overwhelmingly to impeach the country's first woman Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, deepening a standoff between the judiciary and the government.

The PSC report, on which the impeachment motion was debated, had probed allegations of misconduct by the top judge, but it was earlier quashed by The Court of Appeal. Parliament, nevertheless, went ahead with the debate. After a two-day debate, which saw charges and countercharges being levelled on a host of issues, Parliament voted on the motion moved by the Leader of the House, Nimal Siripala de Silva. In Sri Lanka, the Speaker can entertain a motion of impeachment against a sitting Chief Justice if demanded by one-third of the 225 members. The motion is required to be passed by a simple majority -113 votes. In Ms. Bandaranayake's case, as many as 117 MPs had signed the impeachment motion and handed it over to the Speaker.

Saudi women appointed in Shura Council for first time

Saudi King Abdullah appointed 30 women to the previously all-male consultative Shura Council in decrees, marking a historic first as he pushes reforms in the ultra-conservative kingdom. The decrees give women a 20-per-cent quota in the Shura Council, a body appointed by the king to advise him on policy and legislation. One decree amended an article in the council's statute to give women representation on the body while the other named the 150 members, among them 30 women. The new appointees were chosen based on their academic and administrative achievements. King Abdullah took the decisions following consultations with religious leaders in the kingdom, where women are subjected to many restrictions and are not allowed to mix with men. They stipulate that men and women will be segregated inside the council, with a special area designated for females who will enter through a separate door so as not to mix with their male colleagues. King Abdullah had been carefully treading towards change, introducing municipal elections for the first time in Saudi Arabia in 2005. In September 2011 he granted women the right to cast ballots and run as candidates in the next local vote, set for 2015.

Despite the impeachment, Ms. Bandaranayake is still some distance away from being thrown out. The President has to make a formal proclamation to this effect. Also, since the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) report itself is void, the judiciary cannot accept the impeachment. In effect, Ms. Bandaranayake can continue as CJ till the executive implements the orders of the legislature.

This impeachment calls into question issues about the separation of powers in Sri Lanka and the impact of its absence on democratic institutions.

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Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013 [9]

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CHRONICLE IAS ACADEMY IAS 2013 PT Crash Course Starts from 10th Feb. 2013. Call : 9582948810
[10] Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013 [11]

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ECONOMY
Crisil sees 6.7% growth in 2013-14
The SAT was set up under Section 15K of the SEBI Act, 1992 to adjudicate upon the appeals against the decisions of SEBI. The SEBI Act 1992, inter-alia, under Section 15M specifies that a person shall not be qualified for appointment as the Presiding Officer of Securities Appellate Tribunal, unless he is a sitting or retired Judge of the Supreme Court or a sitting or retired Chief Justice of a High Court. The existing prescribed qualifications made selection to the post of PO, SAT difficult. As a result, filling up the post of PO, SAT had been pending for quite some time. After the decision now, it would be easier to fill up the vacancy, without diluting the expertise or experience required for the post. India is expected to grow at a higher rate of 6.7 per cent in 2013-14 on the back of a pick-up in the agriculture sector, lower interest rates and higher government spending. Whereas Indian economy will grow at an estimated 5.5 per cent this fiscal. According to the report, a normal monsoon would boost agricultural GDP growth to an above-trend rate of 3.5 per cent in 2013-14, also gaining from a lower base of 2012-13.

In addition to increased growth, the agency has also predicted a reduction in wholesale price inflation (WPI), despite higher consumption growth, to around 7 per cent from the current 7.7 per cent projected for 2012-13. The major factors pointing towards lower WPI are improved agricultural output, a stronger rupee and lower crude oil prices. However the likely upward revision of fuel prices and persistent excess demand for food articles are likely to limit the further decline in WPI inflation.

With easing of inflation, the agency expects the Reserve Bank of India to cut interest rates by 75-100 basis points this month, thereby lowering retail lending rates and boosting demand in interestsensitive sectors. Further, improved external demand, as a result of global growth, could raise India's exports especially in the IT/ITes sector. Therefore, the services sector will remain healthy at 8 per cent in the next fiscal.

Amendment to Section 15M of Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) Act, 1992

The Cabinet has approved the proposal of the Department of Economic Affairs for amendment to Section 15M of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) Act, 1992, to enlarge the field of selection for the post of Presiding Officer (PO) of the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), by including sitting or retired judge of a High Court with a minimum seven years of service, as a Judge of a High Court as one of the qualifications.
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Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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TAPI pipeline: India, fellow promoters to float SPV

Struggling to get the TAPI gas pipeline underway, its four squabbling promoters have decided to float a special purpose vehicle, pumping in $5 million equity each, to keep the transnational project alive until a multinational corporation takes charge. While Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan were of the view that the four promoters could build and operate the pipeline on their own, India has been steadfast that the project could be started only if a multinational leads it. The multinational leadership can act as a stabilizing factor as pipeline security remains the biggest concern as it passes through Afghanistan and Balochistan in Pakistan, both unstable areas. Besides the complex and difficult relationships among the participating nations, none of the nominee companies of the four countries has the financial and managerial capability to execute the project The four countries will float a Dubai-based SPV, which would scout for a consortium leader as well as a credible financier while the US government does its bit to veer around Turkmen law to get upstream equity for its multinational. Global majors Exxon Mobil and Chevron have put a pre-condition of a share in the upstream Turkmenistan gas field to lead the project and to

commit a lion's share of the $9 billion required to construct the 1,680 km pipeline from Turkmenistan, crossing Afghanistan and Pakistan, to India. However, Turkmenistan has refused as its national laws do not permit foreign equity in oil and gas fields on land. It agreed to grant service contracts to the overseas investors but that did not impress the global majors unwilling to take financial and operational risks for a less profitable construction and service contract. The TAPI pipeline will run from the Turkmenistan gas fields to Afghanistan. It will start from the Dauletabad gas fields and run into Afghanistan alongside the highway running from Heart to Kandahar and then via Quetta and Multan in Pakistan. The final destination of the pipeline will be Fazilka near the India-Pakistan border.

It will have a capacity to carry 90 million metric standard cubic metres a day (mmscmd) of gas for a 30-year period and is likely to become operational by 2018. India and Pakistan would get 38 mmscmd each, while the remaining 14 mmscmd will be supplied to Afghanistan.

The economic benefits of the TAPI Gas Pipeline will be immense for the energystarved economies such as India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The flow of natural gas will bring in industrial and economic development. This will not only enhance prosperity through employment generation, but more importantly, also provide socio-political stabilization in this region.

Pharma companies to adopt tough ethical norms

The pharma industry has decided to adopt strict guidelines to bring in transparency in clinical drug trials, and break the nexus between companies and doctors by adopting stringent MCI (Medical Council of India) guidelines which ban all gifts to doctors. The "Code of Pharmaceutical Practices" adopted recently bans all trials conducted for "disguised promotion" of medicines, while laying down that companies need to disclose all trials conducted in the country. A new code drawn up recently by the MNC-led industry body, Organization of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) seeks to ensure that companies' interactions with HCPs and other stakeholders such as medical institutions and patient organizations, are appropriate and transparent.
Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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In India, there is lack of transparency in conducting clinical trials for drugs, with a view that the rules were not being followed. Recently, the Supreme Court rapped the government asking it to regulate "illegal" drug trials. Globally, the pharma industry has been under fire due to its aggressive marketing and unethical promotion of drugs and the nexus it enjoys with healthcare professionals. In the US, certain legislations have already been adopted to break this nexus, while in India, the Medical Council of India, earlier brought in stringent guidelines. Though the OPPI code is stringent and plugs certain gaps, it is not mandatory on companies. Also, a majority of the pharma industry - represented by domestic companies -has still not finalized its code. The Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), which represents the domestic companies' interests, is working on a code which will be transparent, practical and include all relevant disclosures from drug companies. After being flooded with complaints about the pharma-doctor nexus and unethical promotions, the government initiated an exercise to bring in a uniform code for drug companies four years back. But, nothing has been finalized and only a draft exists. Experts say that the code for pharma companies needs to be made mandatory, otherwise it is not effective. The OPPI code has been adopted from the code of ethics of Geneva-based IFPMA (International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations) of which OPPI is a member. One of the significant guidelines incorporated says that no pharmaceutical product shall be promoted for use until the requisite approval for marketing for such use has been given. This plugs the gap on clinical trials of off-label use of medicines-- a practice which drug companies have been increasingly resorting to, over recent years.

EGoM recommends cut in CDMA spectrum price

An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) has recommended reducing minimum price for sale of spectrum used by CDMA mobile operators by up to 50 per cent in the second round of auction planned to begin on March 11, 2013 to raise a minimum of Rs 45,000 crore. A 50 per cent reduction would mean that the companies will have to pay Rs 9,100 crore for 5 MHz pan-India CDMA spectrum. This will address the complaints of various CDMA operators, who raised

the issue of higher base price. With this cut, the base price of GSM spectrum will become more than the price of CDMA spectrum, which was earlier 1.3 times higher than that of GSM spectrum in the 1,800 MHz band. The pan-India base price of GSM spectrum was Rs 14,000 crore, and at Rs 18,200 crore for CDMA spectrum. The Cabinet had also announced reduction in the base price for 2G spectrum by 30 per cent for Delhi, Mumbai, Karnataka and Rajasthan circles, which did not receive any bids in the November auctions. Earlier, telecom operators were given 4.4 Mhz of spectrum with licence at price of Rs 1,658 crore for pan-India operations and later they were entitled to get 1.8 Mhz spectrum on fulfillment of certain subscriber base criteria.

2012, and also increased shareholding of the government in PSBs to 58 percent".

New investment policy for urea to check spurt in gas prices

The new investment policy announced by the Union Government may result in substantial urea capacity addition in the next three to four years. The policy benchmarks realization of urea for new projects to import parity prices, subject to floating floor and ceiling prices, which are in turn linked to gas prices. As per the policy, the floor prices of urea increase are in line with the gas price of $14 (about Rs 770) million British thermal units (mBtu). If the gas price crosses $14/mBtu, urea producers are to be reimbursed the entire gas cost. This ensures new projects are protected from a sharp spike in gas prices. The new policy is in line with the demand of the industry to do away with the gas price ceiling of $14 mBtu in the earlier proposed policy. Further, it provides a downside risk protection through a costplus mechanism and upside benefit through import parity price (IPP)-linked pricing mechanism for new projects. India currently consumes 29 million tonnes of urea, while the domestic production stands at 22 million tonnes leading to import of about seven million tonnes. The policy may help creation of incremental capacities to the extent of 8-10 million tonnes a year over five years, although it may not eliminate urea imports altogether.

Cabinet approves capital infusion in PSU banks

The Union Cabinet has approved a capital infusion package of Rs 12,517 crore for about 10 public sector banks.

According to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), the move will enable the banks to maintain a minimum tier-1 CRAR (capital to risk weighted assets ratio) at comfortable level under international bank capital adequacy standard norm BASEL-III. This will ensure compliance to the regulatory norms on capital adequacy and will cater to the credit needs of productive sectors of the economy, as well as, to withstand the impact of stress in the economy. This additional availability of credit will cater to the credit needs of our economy and will also benefit employment oriented sectors, especially agriculture, micro and small enterprises, export, entrepreneurs."

Earlier the government has infused about Rs 20,117 crore in public sector banks during 2010-11, and Rs 12,000 crore in 2011-12. According to the Economic Survey for 2011-12, the capital infusion had enabled PSBs to "maintain a minimum tier 1 CRAR at eight percent on 31st March,

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[14] Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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The policy is favourable for various stakeholders. While the industry would benefit through implicit pass-through of gas prices, the Union Government would benefit through reduction of subsidy outflows, as reliance on imports would reduce and international prices may also correct due to lower demand from India. Further, lower subsidy receivables should also lead to an improvement in the working capital cycle of the urea players, which should lead to a decline in the interest costs of these companies.

INDIA AND THE WORLD


Visa-on-arrival at Attari for senior citizens
The visa-on-arrival facility at the Attari-Wagah check post to Pakistani nationals over 65 years of age will begin from January 15. Under the new liberalized visa regime, the senior citizen will be able to make two visits in a calendar year for 45 days each with a gap of two months. But the Pakistani nationals would not be allowed to stay in Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, restricted and prohibited areas (that include parts of Rajasthan, Manipur, Sikkim, Uttaranchal, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh and others). In all, the visitors would be able to visit five places. The visa would also not be applicable for travel by air or sea. The visa fee has been revised to Rs. 100 or $2. The move comes as a step towards actualizing the September 2012 agreement inked by the then External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik after the conclusion of the Foreign Minister-level engagement at the end of the second round of the resumed dialogue. payment of salaries had also been reported. The government was pursuing the bilateral cooperation initiatives for diversifying the overseas destination base for Indian workers with developed countries.

IFC proposed to invest $25 mn in India 2020 Fund

The new visa regime - first major overhaul since 1974 - is expected to ease travel restrictions for business persons and will introduce a new category of group tourism, expected to be implemented soon.

Welfare initiatives for expatriates

India had signed Memorandums of Understanding on manpower with the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, and Malaysia for the protection and welfare of the expatriate Indian workers. The government had also created the Indian Community Welfare Fund enabling the Heads of the Missions to provide on-site relief to the distressed workers. The Indian Diaspora in West Asia, which constituted mostly of workers, faced issues related to contractual disputes with recruiters. Cases of employers holding back the passports and nonWeekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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Global development institution IFC is proposing an equity investment of up to $25 million in 'India 2020' fund that aims to provide capital and strategic assistance to SMEs in the country. The investment has been proposed in the 'India 2020 Fund II', has a target fund size of $125 million; which is a successor to India 2020 Fund I. The earlier fund with a size of $100 million had earned an estimated gross internal rate of return of 30%. India 2020 Fund-II aims to invest in sectors that benefit from and promote consumer demand and purchasing power like healthcare and education, as well as rural consumption and agribusiness. The India 2020 Fund-II will invest nearly $5-15 million per investment for acquiring minority stakes in its target entities. Its investment focus will be on high growth businesses with a track record of product and process innovation and which are well positioned to bring about transformation in their respective sectors. MUSE Capital Advisors Limited, a private limited liability company, will act as the investment manager of the fund. The fund will be a Mauritius-registered company and will operate primarily through one or more subsidiaries formed in the Republic of Mauritius, which will acquire, own and operate the portfolio of investments. The proposed support will further catalyze interest in equity funding for capital constrained Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) looking for growth equity to scale up.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is an international financial institution which offers investment, advisory, and asset management services to encourage private sector development in developing countries. The objectives are: a) Mobilizing other sources of finance for private enterprise development b) Promoting open and competitive markets in developing countries c) Supporting companies and other private sector partners where there is a gap d) Helping generate productive jobs and deliver essential services to the poor and the vulnerable

facilitate common access to technologies developed or under development in the BRICS countries. The meeting has adopted Delhi Communique, which will see concrete plans on issues like integrated management of non-communicable prevention, coordination and financing of research and development for medical products, strengthening health surveillance and drug discovery and development along with emphasizes on the child survival through progressive reduction in the maternal mortality, infant mortality, neo-natal mortality and under-five mortality, to achieve Millennium Development Goals. This is the second meeting of BRICS health ministers following the first at Beijing in July 2011. The Beijing Declaration emphasised the need for technology transfer as a means to empower developing countries, and the importance of generic medicines in realizing the right to health. It also emphasised the fostering of cooperation among BRICS countries to make available and improve medical technology. It was agreed to establish a technical working group to discuss specific proposals. The following are the Agreed Action Plans of BRICS Health Ministers Meet on strengthening Health Surveillance System:a) The Member countries will nominate their respective Nodal officers to jointly form a Technical Working Group (TWG). This TWG will exchange information regarding the prevailing systems and institutional mechanisms through meetings and/or other means. b) Best practices and models will be identified along with the potential areas of mutual benefit and collaboration among member countries. Visit to Member countries will be undertaken as necessary. c) A plan of collaboration will emerge pursuant to the deliberations. This can include, inter alia, detection and notification mechanisms, standard operating procedures, risk assessment processes, response to public health emergencies and disaster, collaboration on identified areas / diseases. d) A report will be placed before the next meeting of the Health Ministers of BRICS countries.

BRICS countries agreed to strengthen cooperation in health sector

Health officials of the BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - during the 2nd BRICS Health Ministers' Meeting - has come to the conclusion that multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (TB) is a major public health problem in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) due to its high prevalence and incidence mostly among the marginalized and vulnerable sections of society, thus agreed to strengthen cooperation in areas of manufacturing affordable health products and developing advanced health technologies. The health ministers during the meet also resolved to reduce the prevalence of TB through innovation for new drugs/vaccine, diagnostics and promotion of consortia of tuberculosis researchers to collaborate on clinical trials of drugs and strengthening access to affordable medicines and delivery of quality care.

The Ministers also agreed to adopt and improve systems for notification of TB patients, availability of anti-TB drugs at facilities by improving supplier performance, procurement systems and logistics and management of HIV-associated tuberculosis in the primary health care. They resolved to share experience and expertise in the areas of surveillance, existing and new strategies to prevent the spread of HIV, and in rapid scale up of affordable treatment. Importantly, the nations committed to strengthen cooperation to combat malaria through enhanced diagnostics, research and development and to

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[16] Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY


Kilogramme has put on weight
The official kilogramme - a cylinder-shaped hunk of metal that defines the fundamental unit of mass - has itself gained weight. Scientists have found that due to surface contamination the original kilogramme is likely to be tens of microgrammes heavier than it was when the first standard was set in 1875. As a result, each country that has one of these standard masses has a slightly different definition of the kilogramme, which could throw off science experiments or international trade. collaborations and therefore new models would need to be developed involving global alliances. g) Youthful leadership in science sector is a key to the objective of shaping the future of India through science. Leadership pipeline for science is of high priority. h) Mobile telephony and other products of the ICT revolution need to be mobilized for conveying the needed information on weather, market prices, problems relating to health on the basis of a reaching the unreached approach.

100th Session of Indian Science Congress

The 100th Session of Indian Science Congress concluded with a call to bring forward the youth to work for the promotion of science as the youth leadership is a key to the objective of shaping the future of India. Important recommendations are:

a) Special effort are needed to attract talent and develop Human Resource for science, technology and innovation in a mission b) Special drive to readjust governance processes in the university systems for rejuvenation of research in academic sector by implementation of recommendations of several committees which have made excellent recommendations needed. c) Strengthening of Public and Private Partnerships in Research and Development sector and create a policy environment for increasing significantly the investment of the private sector into R&D. d) Enhance the public outreach of science through effective communication with a focus on Public and political understanding of science and the ramifications of new and emerging technologies of relevance to social problems. e) Interconnect various arms of Indian science sector and link discovery processes in science to problem solving responsibilities of the research and development activities of the country. f) Indian science sector needs to develop a suitable strategy and road map, Climate change and other global issues would require worldwide
Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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Floating ice on Saturn's moon Titan

Nasa scientists have discovered blocks of hydrocarbon ice in seas and lakes on Saturn's moon Titan that may host exotic forms of life. The formation of floating hydrocarbon ice will provide an opportunity for interesting chemistry along the boundary between liquid and solid, a boundary that may have been important in the origin of terrestrial life. Titan is the only other body besides Earth in our solar system with stable bodies of liquid on its surface. While our planet's cycle of precipitation and evaporation involves water, Titan's cycle involves hydrocarbons like ethane and methane. Ethane and methane are organic molecules, which scientists think can be building blocks for the more complex chemistry from which life arose.

461 new planets, billions of Earth-size planets in Milky Way: Stud

Nasa's Kepler space telescope has uncovered another 461 potential new planets, most of which are the size of Earth or a few times larger. The announcement brings Kepler's head count to 2740 candidate new worlds, 105 of which have been confirmed. The new targets include what appears to be a planet about 1.5 times bigger than Earth circling its sun-like parent star in a 242-day orbit - a distance where liquid water, believed to be necessary for life, could exist on its surface.

In related research, astronomers have determined that about one in six sun-like stars have Earth-sized planets circling their parent stars closer than Mercury's 88-day day orbit around the sun. The goal of the Kepler mission, which began in 2009, is to determine how many stars in the Milky Way galaxy have an Earth-sized planet orbiting in so-called habitable zones, where water can exist on its surface. The Kepler telescope works by tracking slight decreases in the amount of light coming from 160 000 target stars caused by a planet or planets passing by, or transiting, relative to the telescope's point of view. Earth-sized planets located about where Earth orbits the sun would take 365 days to circle their parent star. Those located closer, in Mercury-like 88day orbits, transit more frequently. Scientists need at least two and preferably three or more cycles to determine whether an apparent transit is real or some other phenomena.

Organisation (ISRO) is a "technology demonstrator" project aiming to develop the technologies required for design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission. ISRO will scale experimental payload to less than 15 kg as against 25 kg planned originally. The Mars Orbiter Mission will carry five experimental payloads with a total weight of 14.49 kg. The Methane Sensor for Mars, which will be capable of scanning the entire Martian disc within six minutes, will weigh 3.59 kg. Earlier missions to Mars had detected Methane in the thin Martian atmosphere, but the discovery is yet to be corroborated. Methane is known to be released by some microbes as part of their digestive process. Another instrument -Thermal Infrared Spectrometer - weighing 4 kg will be used to map the surface composition of Mars. The Mars Colour Camera has a mass of 1.4 kg, while the Lyman-alpha photometer, weighing 1.5 kg, will measure atomic hydrogen in the Martian atmosphere. The Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA) which will study the Martian atmosphere weighs about 4 kg. The Mars orbiter will go around the planet once in three days. The Mars mission will propel India to the elite club of five nations comprising the US, Russia, Europe, China and Japan which have launched similar missions.

The Kepler roster also boosts the number of multiplanet systems. Of the 2740 objects, 299 are in dualplanet systems, 112 are in triplets, 44 are part of fourplanet systems, 11 systems have five planets and one system has six planets.

Mars Orbiter Mission payloads revealed

The Mangalyaan project to be launched in November 2013 by the Indian Space Research

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[18] Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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2 - MARKERS
President confers the Honorary Rank of General of the Indian Army on General of Nepal
The ship will enhance the Indian Coast Guard's capability to undertake operations to further Maritime Safety and Security and Coastal Security on the Eastern Seaboard. With the commissioning of ICGS Rajkamal, the force level of ICG has gone up to 77 ships and boats and with the planned inductions the force level would be doubling by 2018. The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee conferred the Honorary Rank of the Indian Army on Suprabal Jana Sewa Shree General Gaurav Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, Chief of the Army Staff, Nepalese Army, for his commendable military prowess and immeasurable contribution to further fostering the long and friendly association with India. Over his 39 years of illustrious career, General Rana has distinguished himself by exceptionally meritorious service in succession of positions of great importance and responsibility to the Army, culminating as various coveted staff appointments.

General Rana throughout his exemplary career has demonstrated dynamic leadership, outstanding professionalism and also has been a key advocate of subsisting modernization process of the Nepalese Army. He is decorated with the prestigious 'Suprabal Jana Sewa Shree' along with many other decorations, medals and insignias.

Commissioning of inshore Patrol Vessel (IPV)ICGS Rajkamal

Indian Coast Guard Ship 'ICGS-Rajkamal', designed and built by M/s Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Kolkata, was commissioned at Chennai.

The 50 meter indigenous IPV, displaces 300 tonnes and can achieve a maximum speed of 34 knots, with an endurance of 1500 nautical miles at an economical speed of 16 knots. Equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry and advanced communication and navigational equipment, it makes an ideal platform for undertaking multifarious close-coast missions such as surveillance, interdiction, Search and Rescue, and medical evacuation. The special features of the ship include an Integrated Bridge Management System (IBMS), Integrated Machinery Control System (IMCS) and an integrated gun mount with indigenous Fire Control system (FCS).
Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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Kargil gets first civil air connectivity

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has launched the first ever civil aviation service between Kargil and Jammu. The service has been launched by Mantra. Kargil is one the world's coldest towns, frozen under a minus 20 degree Celsius temperature..

The Indian Air Force has been operating an AN32 aircraft three times a week in the Jammu-Kargil sector and once a week between Srinagar and Kargil. It carries 40 to 45 passengers. However, the service has been highly erratic, with passengers often complaining of cancellation of flights on flimsy grounds. Yet it is a cheaper service; the rate per passenger between Jammu and Kargil stands fixed at Rs. 1,450 and at Rs. 1,100 between Srinagar and Kargil. Mantra Airlines has fixed a stupendous Rs. 10,000 per passenger in the Jammu-Kargil sector.

Indian-origin politician to be Singapore's first woman speaker

Indian-origin politician Halimah Yacob (58) is set to become the first woman Speaker of Singapore's Parliament replacing Michael Palmer. Ms. Halimah, a former labour lawyer, is a Member of Parliament from the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and has extensive experience in the labour movement, social work and pre-school education.

2013 UNESCO International Jos Mart Prize

The United Nations has awarded the Jos Mart Prize to a Brazilian Dominican friar, Frei Betto, for his "exceptional contribution" to building a universal

culture of peace, social justice and human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. Frei Betto is one of the exponents of Liberation Theology and was a key player in the Government of Brazilian President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva from 2003 to 2004, as Coordinator of the Social Mobilization Project in the Zero Hunger Programme. The UNESCO International Jos Mart Prize was created in November 1994 by the UN agency's Executive Board at the initiative of the Government of Cuba. According to UNESCO, it rewards outstanding contributions by organizations and individuals to the cause of Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration, based on respect for cultural traditions and humanist values. It was also established to raise awareness of equity and human rights, particularly among decision-makers.

Obaidullah Sindhi and Maulana Mahmood Hasan were two important leaders of this movement. The plot was uncovered by Punjab CID with the capture of letters from Ubaidullah Sindhi, one of the Deobandi leaders then in Afghanistan, to Mahmud al Hasan another leaders then in Persia. The letters were written in Silk cloth, hence known as silk letter movement.

What are census medals?

What was Silk Letter Movement?

'Silk Letter Movement', constitute a glorious chapter of India's history of freedom struggle. The movement was a plan to mobilise the support of the governments of Afghanistan and Turkey in organising a revolt within India to overthrow the British rule. It was organized by Deobandi leaders.

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[20] Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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The President of India confers the Census Medals for extraordinary performance at the Census procedures. Ever since the holding of the first Census of India after Independence, it has been the tradition with the Census Organization to award Silver and Bronze medals and Certificate(s) of Honour from the President of India to various Census functionaries, viz., Enumerators, Supervisors, Charge Officers etc. in recognition of their outstanding zeal, high quality of work and devotion to duty during the Census taking. The unique feature of Census 2011 is that Schedules for preparation of National Population Register (NPR) were also canvassed along with House-listing Schedules.

EDITORIALS
Crime And Punishment
Revisit the legislation that allows juveniles to escape the consequences of their actions The gang rape in Delhi has - finally - galvanised the entire country to demand greater protection from the sexual violence that impacts innumerable women every day. The horrific nature of this crime has shocked the entire nation; people are on the streets demanding stricter laws for dealing with crimes involving sexual violence. juveniles who had somehow failed to raise the claim of their juvenility at the stage of trial or at the stage of appeal for some reasons. The courts accepted their plea even after the disposal of their appeals. The effect of the Act was so widespread that hundreds of trials were transferred from normal courts to juvenile courts. With the intervention of various high courts and the Supreme Court, hundreds of juveniles were released on bail and the sentences passed against them were set aside. The sole objective of the legislation is to give children who have gone astray a chance to realise their mistake, rehabilitate themselves, rebuild their lives and become useful citizens of society instead of degenerating into hardened criminals. This kind of benefit should be given to a child who is mentally immature and does not have a sense of criminal responsibility. Using these criteria, the enhancement of the age of a juvenile from 16 years to 18 years in 2000 was without any basis. The growth of a child is a continuous process. The changes which start around puberty reach a level at the age of 16 where their prefrontal cortex (a part of the brain) is developed to an extent that it helps them to inhibit impulses and to plan and organise their behaviour to reach a goal. They are in a position to decide what is right and wrong. Parliament should consider amending this Act and reducing the age of a juvenile to be less than 18 years. Instead of prescribing a minimum age, what should be considered is the criminal bent of mind and the accused's intention to commit the offence. The amended legislation could create age groups starting from 10 years and above and impose punishment after considering the mental growth of a juvenile and his capacity to understand criminal responsibility. Juveniles could he held accountable for the offences committed by them but dealt with separately from the adults. In Australia, the statutory minimum age of criminal responsibility is now 10 years. Between the
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One of the accused in this particular case - who, according to reports, is said to have been the most brutal of all the attackers - is a juvenile and thus, shall be tried as per the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. If his age is determined to be less than 18 years at the time of commission of offence, he will be tried by a juvenile court and, if convicted, can only receive a sentence of up to three years. We need to relook at the provisions of the Act and ask whether enhancing the age to qualify as a juvenile from 16 years to 18 years was justified. The Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 was enacted to deal with offences committed by juveniles (a boy of less than 16 years and girl of less than 18 years) in a manner which was different from normal laws applicable to adults.

The Parliament created the Act to achieve the constitutional goals contemplated in Article 15(3), 39 (e) and (f), 45 and 47. They impose on the state a responsibility to ensure that all the needs of children are met and that their basic human rights are protected completely. Thus, the Juvenile Justice Act was rehabilitatory in nature and not adversarial. In 2000, Parliament brought a new Act enhancing the age of juvenile males to be at par with females at 18 years. Parliament later amended the Act and framed rules in 2007, clarifying that its benefits would be extended to all juveniles up to the age of 18 years with retrospective effect. The Supreme Court also extended the benefits of the new Act to those

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Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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ages of 10 and 14 years, a further rebuttable presumption operates to deem a child between the ages of 10 and 14 incapable of committing a criminal act. Only if the prosecution can rebut this presumption, by showing that the accused child was able at the relevant time to adequately distinguish between right and wrong can a contested trial result in conviction. From 14 to 18 years, young offenders may be held fully responsible for their criminal acts but are subject to a different range of criminal sanctions than adults committing the same offences. In India, under the present set-up, a 17-and-ahalf-year-old rapist and killer can go scotfree. It is difficult to see how he would have become wiser in the next six months. His being 17 and a half is only a technicality; what needs to be done is to assess his mental criminal responsibility and not his age. The law was framed to protect juveniles, but should be used judiciously and not mechanically. Society needs to be protected too. Source: Times of India

dwindling capital flows, and a conventionallydefined current account deficit of more than 4%, the sustainability of the current account deficit is a matter of serious concern for all stakeholders of the Indian economy. The current account deficit has been cushioned by two outliers: workers' remittances and software services. India's adjusted current account deficit (current account minus workers' remittances) stands at 8% of GDP, indicating a high absorption capacity through the external sector. This should have facilitated higher GDP growth. However, the predominance of gold imports (3% of GDP) had a dampening effect on the contribution of imports to growth. A misplaced comfort has been derived as workers' remittances have shown counter-cyclical trends. With global business cycles becoming prolonged, the wherewithal of these counter-cyclical influences is likely to fade away. So, the solution lies in improving India's export competitiveness. Enhancing export competitiveness: The issue is to enhance competitiveness in terms of expansion of the country's goods and non-software services exports on a sustained basis. Evidence suggests there have been a structural shift in both commodity composition as well as product and market diversification in India's merchandise exports. The revealed comparative advantage for India (India's exports of commodity 'a' to world exports of commodity 'a'/share of commodity 'a' in world exports) is higher in chemicals, agricultural products, mining products, iron and steel and textiles. There has been an improvement in India's net barter terms of trade (export price index as ratio to import price index) due to diversification of India's exports from low value to high-value services and manufacturing exports. This, however, has not improved the trade balance (currently -10% of GDP) because the volume of imports has been rising faster than the volume of exports. Also, a depreciation of the real effective exchange rate has not helped because of the low elasticity of demand for exports and even lower elasticity of demand for imports. A true indicator of export competitiveness in these commodity groups is, therefore, a high value of exports combined with a high volume.
Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

Enhance Export Competitiveness

India's external sector position is worsening. This is evident in the vulnerability indicators. Particularly, the short term (residual maturity) debt-to-total debt is 43%, ratio of short-term debt-to reserves is 28%, reserve cover of imports is seven months and the ratio of reserves-to-total debt is 83%. In addition, net international investment position is 12% of GDP. Thus, over the years, these indicators that had an 'L'-shaped trend have currently taken a 'U' shape, leading to a need for appropriate policy interventions.

Factors of vulnerability: The root cause of vulnerability is an unsustainable current account deficit emanating from a large trade deficit backed by inelastic oil imports. Sustainability of the current account is defined as the ability to finance the current account on a continuous basis without resulting in any external payments difficulties. In this context, the RBI report suggests that as long as the GDP growth varies between 7% and 9%, inflation is around 5%, interest rate on external liabilities is 23.5% and capital flows range 4-4.5% and three/fifth of the flows being non-debt creating inflows, India is in a comfortable and sustainable current account position. These imposing conditions are far-fetched in the current scenario. With a massive slowdown in growth, high and stubborn inflation and
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Data for recent years indicates that the commodity structure of India's exports has begun to shift towards higher technology-intensive manufactures. Krugman's index of structural similarity shows there is divergence between India's exports and the manufacturing base of developed countries, indicating a potential for India's exports to meet the demand of these economies if given essential support. But there are structural bottlenecks in India's manufacturing sector related to labour market regulation, infrastructure and land legislation. Thus, India's export competitiveness in merchandise exports is largely a function of an elimination of these hurdles. In case of service trade, India's growth in services exports is more than double the growth of world service exports. Compared to a share of India's merchandise trade of 1.5%, in total world trade, India's share in world services trade is 3.3%. With respect to the composition of India's services exports, however, there has been an increase in the share of modern services like software and business services as compared to traditional services like travel, insurance and transport. This is because of the availability of a skilled workforce, relevant infrastructure development like telecommunication services and tax benefits in SEZs. A greater focus now on traditional services through similar policy thrusts in these service categories will help facilitate enhanced export competitiveness. Empirical studies by scholars suggest the bulk of India's service exports are concentrated in the US, UK and continental Europe, and only 9% goes to the rest of the world. There is scope to diversify to other destinations and reduce the vulnerability of India's exports to business cycles in the advanced economies. From the perspective of enhancing further strengths in India's balance of payments, two important points are worth consideration as suggested by the former RBI governor, Dr Reddy. One, "improvements in infrastructure assume critical importance for maintaining and improving our competitiveness. We can no longer view external sector competitiveness in isolation from the domestic economy". And, two, "the benchmark for our competitiveness in the future is not our past but the emerging best in the field globally". Source: Economic Times

2010. That is the day when the law's main parts will take effect, including the mandate to buy insurance and the expansion of Medicaid, the health programme for the poor. But recent years have been rather hectic. Republicans hoped to gut "Obamacare" first in court, then by electing a Republican president. But Mr Obama is still in the White House. Obamacare, as even the president now calls it, is still law. And January 1st 2014 is still the date when its main parts must go into effect. The next 12 months will be busy. Even without controversy, implementation would be complex. The law tries to reform a sector that accounts for nearly one-fifth of America's GDP. Its 906 pages invite even more pages of regulation from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). But implementation will be much harder than Democrats imagined. Bickering has consumed precious time. HHS has delayed issuing essential regulations. Most important, many state governors remain uncooperative. The big question is how the reality of reform will differ from the Democrats' vision of it. The huge law contains many provisions, but its main goal is to expand health insurance. Beginning in 2014, insurers can no longer refuse coverage to the sick. The cost of insuring them will be paid out of insurance fees from cheap, healthy consumers-the law requires everyone to buy insurance or pay a penalty. The law also sought to extend Medicaid to all those earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level ($15,415 for one adult in 2012). From 2014, those with incomes of 100-400% of the poverty level will qualify for subsidies on new state health exchanges, where individuals can shop for insurance. The law's opponents hoped the Supreme Court would scrap all this. It did not, except one piece. States may choose whether to expand Medicaid. Some measures have already taken effect. HHS has started to reward hospitals for providing good care, rather than lots of it. But some employers are contesting the law's requirement that insurance should cover contraception, and the future of two main provisions, the health exchanges and the Medicaid expansion, is blurry. The exchanges must be ready by October 2013, so consumers can choose insurance beginning in 2014. Some states, most led by Democrats, have prepared diligently. HHS has doled out $1.8 billion to help. Many Republican governors have done nothing. But
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The 12-month countdown

JANUARY 1st 2014 seemed far away when Barack Obama signed his health-care law back in
Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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even enthusiastic states will struggle to meet the deadline. HHS waited until after the election to propose important rules, such as the types of insurance that may be sold. The final regulations are still to come. Republican governors who sat on their hands during the law's first years are now wagging their fingers at HHS for being slow. Many want nothing to do with the exchanges, anyway. "For any state who's running an exchange, it is 'state' in name only," scoffed Scott Walker, Wisconsin's governor, in November. Opposition to Obamacare is impeding even some Democratic governors. In Missouri voters passed a ballot measure to prevent their governor from moving forward. Democrats in Washington had hoped that each state would build its own exchange. On December 17th HHS said that only 18 states had applied to do so. Of these, just five are led by Republicans. The remaining states will have exchanges either wholly or partly run by the federal government. HHS is scurrying to prepare. A lawsuit in Oklahoma seeks to scuttle this effort, claiming that a legislative glitch prohibits subsidies on the federal exchanges. But if the suit fails, as seems likely, conservatives will have achieved an odd result: the federal government will have a greater role in health care.

All this uncertainty is difficult for state bureaucrats, not to mention hospitals and insurers. During negotiations over reform, hospitals accepted lower payment rates in exchange for the promise of more insured patients. If states don't expand Medicaid, this is a bum deal. Most aggrieved, however, are the patients the law is supposed to benefit. Those with incomes below 100% of the poverty line will not qualify for subsidies on the exchanges. If states do not expand Medicaid, 11.5m poor adults will be left without insurance. The exchanges raise more questions. Will employers stop sponsoring insurance for their workers, leaving them to the exchanges? The insurance lobby says the law's strict requirements will raise prices-for example, a limit on fees for the old will drive up fees for the young. But how expensive will insurance become? HHS says it may delay some requirements, to prevent a spike in prices. But which restrictions would it postpone? And if young consumers pay a penalty, rather than buy insurance, will prices go up for everyone else? By this time next year, at least some of these questions will have answers. Source: The Economist

Medicaid is an even bigger source of uncertainty. In January state legislatures will meet for the first time since the Supreme Court ruling. They must decide whether to expand Medicaid for 2014. Obamacare promises to pay for 100% of costs from 2014 to 2016, inching down to 90% in 2020 and after. This is a good deal for states, according to scholars at the Urban Institute. An extra 21.3m people would enroll in Medicaid by 2022. The expansion itself would require states to spend an extra $8.2 billion from 2013 to 2022, compared with an $800 billion jump in spending by the federal government. Savings from a drop in uncompensated care might even save some states money. At present the uninsured receive "free" treatment at hospitals, with states picking up part of the bill. But states are still wary. Federal funding is not reliable. Mr Obama's own budget suggested cutting the federal share of Medicaid spending. In the midst of talks over the fiscal cliff, HHS said that idea had been scrapped. But Medicaid cuts may loom in future.
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Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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'Cash transfers can help make India less unequal, but are not a magic bullet'

The Union Government has launched the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) programme to give benefits like scholarships, pensions, NREGA wages, etc. directly to the bank or post office accounts of beneficiaries. There are also talks of direct transfer of subsidies for food, fertilizer and kerosene at a later stage. Will the scheme work? Cash transfer can be a good way of helping the poor in many circumstances. Indeed, many schemes that are not directly cash transfer schemes also work mainly through cash transfer, such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee programme, which certainly has helped the poor through creating jobs and generating cash income for a great many poor people in rural India. Cash is easy to handle and can be, in many cases, easily monitored. It cannot be sensible to be generically against cash transfer schemes, in a country with a lot of poverty and a commitment to use public money to make the very poor a bit less poor. However, the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) programme is a particular scheme of cash transfer,

and we have to ask what it may be displacing and whether the losers will not be plunged into more poverty. It is not the modality of cash transfer that is the only issue, but also how much, and for whom, and also, instead of what. If, for example, it is instead of subsidised food, we have to make sure that the people who depend on cheaper food will have enough cash to buy the unsubsidised food. There is also another issue - that of the distributional effects of different kinds of benefits within the family. There is a good deal of empirical evidence to suggest that direct access to food tends to favour children rather than only the adults, and also girls rather than only the boys, working against biased social priorities, common in the subcontinent, favouring adults over children, and boys over girls, which is a long-standing problem in Indian society. If the cash transfer is not additional to food subsidies, and is given "instead of" food subsidies, it would be important to make sure that the money given would be used for nutritional purposes and, equally importantly, that it would be divided within the family in a way that addresses the manifest problems of undernourishment and deprivation of young girls. Further, even if it is made sure that cash transfers will work in a way that meets these difficulties, there may still be a serious problem of transition, especially if there is a time lag in opening an account in a bank, or in a post office, to receive the cash transferred. If, meanwhile, the subsidized food disappears, the poor who fail to open an account adequately fast, for one reason or another, will lose doubly through not having the cash yet, and through the fact that others will have the cash to buy food which would keep the food prices high. The transition problem need not be impossible to handle, but attention will have to be paid to that, bearing in mind that many of the poorer Indians lead a life of hand-to-mouth existence, and any delay in the period of transition may plunge some people into extreme hardship. All this is in addition to the long-run problems of the modality of cash transfer, including distributional issues, as well as the adequacy of the amounts of cash transferred. Cash transfer can be a very useful system to supplement other ways of making India a less unequal society, but it is not a magic bullet, and its pros and cons have to be assessed and scrutinized with an open mind.
Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

The Government's decision to allow FDI in multibrand retail is being hotly debated in the country. While the Congress favours it saying it would give a much-needed boost to the economy and help farmers, the BJP and its allies are against it saying it would badly hurt small retailers and farmers. What precautions does the government need to take while allowing FDI in multi-brand retail? The first thing to note is that FDI is neither an evil in itself nor a boon in every form. The case for it depends on its actual impact, and that in turn will depend on the choice of field, the amount of money that might come this way, and how it would influence the priorities of economic policies in India. It is not a question of having some abstract principle of "no FDI" - nor one of "any FDI of any kind, anywhere," irrespective of the impact of any particular FDI on the lives of the people involved. So the issue absolutely is not one of having a generic attitude of being against FDI or being in favour of FDI. It is not like favouring "motherhood" or opposing "Satanism." I can see many areas in which FDI has done good work - and can do more - and other areas in which its effect may be far from beneficial. As far as multi-brand retail is concerned, it is a difficult field, and it is a pity that the broader issue of the attitude to FDI has taken the particular form of asking whether one is in favour of, or against, Walmart and other large foreign retail firms becoming a dominant part of the Indian retail distribution. This change would certainly help marketing many types of products and would tend to be favoured by, I would expect, farmers and others seeking a large retail outlet. On the other hand, it is very likely that many smaller outlets, like local grocer shops will be hit adversely by the large competition from organised - and sometimes predatory - retail giants. When there are both arguments that are "pro" and some that are "con" about a particular policy change, a good policymaker has to take into account both kinds of effects and evaluate whether the overall impact benefits or harms the Indian people. That is not an easy issue to resolve, but of course all planning and all policymaking involve such evaluation. I don't have a strong view in favour of some fixed conclusion on this particular subject, but I do have a firm conviction that the subject demands public reasoning and critical scrutiny. The issue cannot be resolved by taking a generally "pro" or "anti" attitude
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about FDI in general. A really serious scrutiny is needed rather than just saying "I am in favour of FDI in retail distribution" or "I am against it." Recent months have seen widespread anticorruption demonstrations. How should corruption be tackled? It is wonderful that people are taking the issue of corruption seriously. That is a very positive achievement. The fact that people have been coming out in the streets protesting and recognising this to be a problem is very important because along with that can come a better understanding of how bad things are in India, and out of that can come the search for a better identification of how corruption can be stopped or checked. Corruption need not be an inescapable part of Indian life, and we should not accept it on some fatalistic ground that this is the way things are in our country. If you have to give money in order to get something to which you are really entitled, then that certainly calls for protest and exposure of the crooks, not for any kind of quiet acceptance. However, street protest is one thing, and street justice is quite another. The punitive system has to work through our judicial system. There couldn't be someone who is above the law, above the courts someone whom even the Indian Supreme Court cannot touch. It is a question of how the anticorruption measures can be integrated into the democratic legal structure of India.

Delivery lies in the detail

Chhattisgarh's new law refers to most food security issues in broad terms and is short on specifics Targeting and improving food security is essential for Chhattisgarh, a state that has one of the highest hunger indices in the country. That is why it is good news that the CSI-Nihilent award for effective implementation of Centralised Online Real-time Electronic (Core) PDS (Public Distribution System), based on smart cards, was given to the Chhattisgarh state government. It is a worthwhile natural transition to build on recent improvements in the performance of its PDS and take it to the next level by enacting the Chhattisgarh Food Security Act, 2012. The act identifies targeted groups to improve nutritional status, such as children, pregnant women and lactating mothers, destitutes, migrants, the homeless and particularly vulnerable social groups. It mentions its modus operandi and the financial responsibility of the state is laid out. But though the act addresses most relevant issues, they are referred to in very broad terms, without much detail. As a result, the act appears to be aspirational, rather than a guarantee of efficient and successful implementation. The key challenges for food distribution programmes in India have been ensuring that the supply is of adequate quality and nutritional level. This act refers to food standards generally, but does not provide any detail of the nutritional levels to be met. Nor does it elaborate the quality of the provisions that would be provided. The state government proposes mechanisms for internal grievance redressal. The reforms suggested include efficient methods of delivery to fair price shops; use of technology to improve transparency and prevention of leakages and diversion of resources; and leveraging the "aadhaar" card for efficient identification of target groups. The act provides for the establishment of vigilance committees to ensure transparency. However, the processes required to ensure transparency and implementation are not clear. While entitlements are specified in the legislation, it is important to make sure that the people being targeted are aware of their entitlements in order for them to access what is on offer. Information regarding the programmes needs to be clearly
Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

The remedy of corruption must involve, first, making the institutions and decisional practices such that they do not encourage - or tolerate - corruption. There is also a need for making the practical morality of day-to-day work more responsive to the ethical demands of social living - there is no reason why corruption should generate less stigma and less public shame in India than in other countries where such behaviour is far less common. Informational availability is very important to fight corruption, and there is much greater opportunity to make use of Indian democratic means, including the "Right to Information" to bring about the kind of change that would be effective (rather than only satisfy the desire "to punish the guilty"). There is a very strong case for paying much more attention to the possibilities of institutional change and also to steps towards attitudinal reorientation. We need more than just a system of punishment. Source: The Hindu
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communicated through media, counselling and other methods. This will also help empower the individuals eligible for the schemes to claim what is due to them and perhaps also enable them to rebuff attempts by intermediaries to deprive them of said benefits. The responsibility of identifying and administering is being assigned to local bodies. Collaboration between local communities and local bodies will ensure better implementation of the programmes. Chhattisgarh has successfully used technology in the past to improve performance, and scaling up technical approaches can enhance performance further. Voluntary participation by community leaders, civil society, student volunteers and religious groups in design and implementation will enable better performance. This is because, where the person responsible for implementation is corrupt, the hierarchical system creates a model of malpractices that become a norm across various ranks. It also disallows those located under corrupt governance to rectify the system. An explanation often given is that when people are poorly paid, they are tempted into misappropriation. Empowering people through information and communication, providing fair wages and creating greater awareness about corruption could help reduce malpractice. Strong political will and administrative commitment for efficient implementation, greater monitoring and evaluation and regular reform can help improve the performance of the PDS. Ensuring efficient implementation of the PDS and prevention of misuse of public funds is crucial to ensure that the needy have access to food.

recent record of success in implementation of the PDS can be sustained and enhanced to ensure effective implementation of the mechanisms proposed by the act. Regions such as Chhattisgarh, which are now trying to tackle and overcome their poor development indicators, can learn from best practices and successes in other states in India. Tamil Nadu has had experience of programmes for food security for at least 25 years. This state has, over the years, learned to improve its performance through technological interventions, innovation and effective delivery mechanisms, monitoring and responsibly involving multiple bodies at the local level. The Tamil Nadu model can provide a template to ensure that the aspiration of the Chhattisgarh Food Security Act is successfully implemented in all its aspects. Source: Indian Express

Chhattisgarh is taking responsibility for better implementation of the PDS, and this shows strong leadership, which is commendable. The state is working closely with local bodies to achieve greater successes. Responsible governance with greater collaboration between the Centre and state for managing resources will enhance performance and help fulfil common goals. While the act has been passed, the date(s) for when the various provisions will be enacted has not yet been specified. Introducing acts using elections as a timeline is not necessarily bad policy if it is followed up by ensuring efficient and sustainable delivery of the provisions. The state can ensure that its hunger index is reduced and improve the nutritional levels of its people if its
Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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Cash transfers: Food for thought

Direct cash transfers are a priority in food and fertilisers, yet the status quo in these sectors continues. The 'Direct Cash Transfer' (DCT) of funds into bank accounts of beneficiaries began this month in 20 districts. It will cover the entire country by April 2014. But food and fertiliser have been kept out of its ambit. There are complex issues to be sorted out, the Finance Minister has said, without really giving an indication as to when the rollout in these critical areas will actually take place. Payments are estimated to be Rs 3,20,000 crore annually. The scheme is being bandied as a revolutionary reform that will bring transparency, enhance reach, empower poor, improve fiscal deficit and reduce corruption. The implementation if done in a manner as contemplated - correct identification of beneficiaries, inclusion of all deserving persons, timely reach - shall unambiguously yield the intended results. The raison d'etre of DCT is to reach subsidy only to the 'poor'. Under the existing dispensation for disbursing food, fertiliser and oil subsidy, the nonpoor too get 'unintended' benefit, and on an unprecedented scale. A major slice of these subsidies is also filling the coffers of manufacturers/traders/input suppliers. DCT is intended to stop this, too.

Fertiliser Subsidy Reform The existing scheme for giving fertiliser subsidy viz., control on MRP at low level and compensating producers for excess of cost over this has led to serious distortions in prices and imbalance in nutrient use ratio. The Government is well aware of the deleterious consequences for crop yield, soil health and environment. Punjab, Haryana, hitherto grain bowls of the country, could soon turn into 'dry patches' if these trends are not checked. Therefore, the extant subsidy dispensation must be dismantled. The Expenditure Reforms Commission (ERC) had recommended this way back in 2000. What is preventing us from doing it even now?

on food subsidy. Farmers will get better prices. Consumers will get quality food. And, exports will be boosted. But, the Government's decision to keep 'food subsidy' out of the DCT ambit has dashed these hopes. Reacting to reports as to what would happen to PDS under DCT dispensation, it says 'PDS will stay'. What does this connote? Tens of thousands of ration shops spread all over are the bedrock of the food supply chain to meet food needs of millions. No one will disagree that these shall stay. But, Government's intention goes much beyond that! Under Food Security Bill (FSB), it seeks to entitle 75 per cent of rural populace and 50 per cent of urban population to specified quantities of food grains at 'throwaway' price. This is illogical and untenable. You cannot have direct cash transfer and yet, give food at subsidised price. The Delhi Government has begun DCT for those not covered by the PDS/BPL and the very poor under 'Antyodaya'. This will ruin the exchequer. FSB is the 'flagship' programme of UPA II. Having gone ahead, it would be embarrassing to retreat. But, it is better to face it upfront rather than making the country pay a huge price. What Government seeks to achieve through FSB can be suitably enmeshed into DCT. It may seek to make food available to the poor in every nook and corner of the country. But, ration shops will have to 'stand on their own' without any subsidy support. Aadhaar Misuse

Then, lack of technology to reach out benefits directly to millions of poor could be an argument for not moving forward. But, in today's context, this does not hold water as the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is giving all that is needed. Subsidy Burden

FCI et al hold double the stocks required for PDS and strategic reserves. This colossal waste/ inefficiencies result in proliferating food subsidy under a protective regime that 'fully' reimburses excess of cost incurred over its collection from selling at low price. This regime is also a major stumbling block in the way of reforms viz., putting a 'cap' on how much FCI should procure; permitting private sector in procurement; dismantling of APMC; and removal of State-level taxes. Charge must be given to DCT. This will enable the poor to buy their food at market price. They need not have to go to a Government authorised/ration shop. They can buy from any outlet of their choice. We should aspire for all stakeholders from public, private, and cooperatives sectors freely getting into buying and selling of food grains, optimising cost and making these available to consumers at best prices. The benefits will be phenomenal. Wastages will be drastically reduced. Government will save hugely
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Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013

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The number of Aadhaar cards issued thus far is around 20 crore., The penetration varies widely among States viz., above 50 per cent in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and a low of 5 per cent in UP. The Government should put its machinery into a proactive mode to ensure that all persons are issued Aadhaar cards. The card should have 'credible' information on income and other relevant details. Without this, the scheme will be a flop show. Since ownership of a card 'automatically' entitles a person to flow of funds into his account, vested interests are bound to proliferate. Those deserving may be left out and undeserving (or even fictitious) may get cards.

The State must have safeguards to prevent all this. There are millions (mostly poor) who do not have a bank account. In vast stretches, there are no bank branches. Filling this void is going to be a mammoth task. All relevant players viz., banking correspondent (BC), self-help groups (SHGs) etc., will have to be mobilised for this. The hurried launch (only 16 per cent coverage and less than 5 per cent in some States makes a mockery of the scheme). Exclusion of 'food and

fertilisers', most critical areas craving for reforms, shows that 'political expediency' has overpowered economic logic. A 'half-baked' attempt on reform such as DCT that is intended to be a game-changer and put Indian economy on a trajectory of healthy and inclusive growth can boomerang. The Government should put this in place only after it has made 'fool proof' arrangements. Source: Business Line

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Weekly Current Affairs 7th January to 13th January, 2013 [29]

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