Current Affairs Week: 26 Sep 2011 to 02 Oct 2011
Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) appointed as External Auditor of IAEA & WIPO
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on 30 September 2011 was appointed as external auditor of two major UN organisations, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
It is for the first time that a supreme audit institution from outside Europe has been appointed to these prestigious positions in these two organisations. These appointments were made in the face of competition from other developed countries like the U.K., Spain and Norway. The tenure of these audits could extend up to six years.
The CAG is on the panel of external auditors of the UN and its agencies and also on the Governing Board of the Asian Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions. The audit body is also poised to take over as its Chairman for three years from March 2012.
The appointments for organisations such as IAEA and WIPO recognised the professional capabilities of the CAG's auditing talent pool.
The recognition of the capabilities of the CAG of India in the past manifested has been manifested in his appointment on the Board of Auditors of the United Nations and as external auditor to a number of other major UN agencies like Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), World Health Organisation (WHO), International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The Union Cabinet Approved Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2011
The Union Cabinet approved the proposal to introduce the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill (MMDR Bill), 2011, in terms of National Mineral Policy, 2008 in Parliament and to repeal the existing Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.
The new MMDR Bill, 2011, aims to introduce better legislative environment for attracting investment and technology into the mining sector by the following:
• States may call for applications in notified areas of known mineralization for prospecting based on technical knowledge, value addition, end-use proposed ore -linkage etc. and to invite financial bid;
• States may grant of direct mining concessions through bidding based on a prospecting report and feasibility study in notified areas where data of minerals is adequate for the purpose;
• State Government may set up a minimum floor price for competitive bidding;
• Special provisions for allowing mining of small deposits in cluster, where cooperatives can apply;
• National Mining Regulatory Authority for major minerals - State Governments may set up similar Authority at State level for minor minerals;
• Imposition of a Central cess and a State cess, and setting up of Mineral Funds at National and State Level for capacity creation;
• For the purpose of sharing the benefits of mining with persons or families having occupation, usufruct or traditional rights in mining areas, and for local area infrastructure, creation an amount equal to royalty in case of mineral other than coal, and 26% of net profits, in the case of coal, has been proposed to be credited each year to district Level Mineral Foundation;
• Sustainable and scientific mining through provision for a Sustainable Development Framework;
• Consultation with local community before notifying an area for grant of concession, and for approval of Mine Closure Plans;
• Enhanced penalties for violation of provisions of the Act, including debarment of person convicted of illegal mining for future grants and termination of all mineral concessions held by such person; and
• Establishment of Special Courts at the State level for speedier disposal of the cases of illegal mining.
The new draft MMDR Act would have financial implications in the creation of an independent National Mining Tribunal and National Mining Regulatory Authority at the Central Level, and the expenditure involved in the capacity building of the Indian Bureau of Mines. The funds for this expenditure are likely to be met from levy of cess at the rate of 2.5% on the basis of Customs/Excise Duty.
The new MMDR Act would be implemented immediately after receiving Parliamentary approval and President`s assent, and a date of commencement would be notified separately.
The approval will help in developing the country`s mining sector to its full potential so as to put the nation`s mineral resources to best use for national economic growth, and ensure raw materials security in the long term national interest.
The Government constituted a High Level Committee (HLC) in 2006, which suggested for evolving a mining code adapted to the best international practices, streamlining and simplifying procedures for grant of mineral concessions to reduce delays, etc. Based on the HLC recommendations, the Government had announced National Mineral Policy (NMP) on 13 March 2008. To give effect to the policy directions in NMP, the Government has now evolved a new Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2011, after several rounds of consultations with the stakeholders including State Governments, concerned Ministries and Departments of Central Government, Industry and Civil Society. The MMDR Bill, 2011 was referred to a Group of Ministers (GoM) on 14 June 2010 and which has now, after five rounds of discussion, had recommended the draft Bill to the Cabinet. The GoM in its meeting held on 7 July, 2011 has recommended the draft MMDR Bill, 2011 for introduction in Parliament.
Powerful Typhoon Roke Hit the Central and Western Japan
Roke: A Powerful Typhoon which Hit Japan on 21 September 2011
A powerful typhoon struck Japan on 21 September 2011, bringing torrential rains and floods. The typhoon, packing winds of 162 km per hour passed near Tokyo.The Typhoon was named Roke.
This is the second time in less than a month that Japan was lashed by a typhoon. Talasripped through the west of the country on 4 September 2011, leaving about 90 people dead or missing.
Scientists Discovered that Universe is Bound by Cosmic Thread
Planetary Scientists discovered that the universe is bound by cosmic thread. Scientists have got evidence of the vast filament of material connecting the Milky Way galaxy to nearby clusters of galaxies, which are similarly interconnected to the rest of the universe.
According to the scientists, there were two types of matter that made up the Universe; the dominant, enigmatic dark matter and ordinary matter in the form of galaxies, stars and planets.
Unlike a sponge, however, gravity draws the material over these interconnecting filaments towards the largest lumps of matter, and the scientific findings show that the globular clusters and satellite galaxies of the Milky Way trace the cosmic filament.
World's Cheapest Computer Cum Access Device, Aakash Launched
The World's cheapest computer cum access device, Aakash was launched on 5 October 2011. Aakash is a part of the Indian Government's National Mission on Education's Sakshat Project. It is one of the main agendas of the Mission which aimed to link all higher education institutions in India.
Aakash has three fold purpose of access, equity and quality. It is designed to revolutionize the education system in the country. Open source materials from IITs are to be created by Aakash. The government's endeavour is to ensure that every student in any part India has access to technology and they can access lectures.
The software for the tablet was developed indigenously by the Indian Institute of Technology, Rajasthan. The device is seven inch touch screen, equipped with wi-fi Internet, media player, 3 hours battery power and several other multimedia applications. This device is to be sold only through colleges and universities.
Myanmar was Banned by FIFA for the 2018 World Cup Football
Myanmar was banned from taking part in qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup and fined 25000 Swiss francs (28000 US dollars) by FIFA on 30 September 2011. FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) banned Myanmar because of the trouble caused by the crowd in 2014 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers against Oman on 28 July 2011.
Myanmar was trailing 2-0 in the second leg in its capital Yangon when the crowd became violent just before the end of the first half. FIFA immediately awarded Oman a 2-0 victory over Myanmar. The game was stopped after the fans threw rocks and glass bottles at the Oman football coach Paul Le Guen and the Oman players.
The matter was subsequently referred to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, and their decision is as follows:
1. The Myanmar Football Federation is regarded as having breached art. 65 b) and c) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code and being liable for the improper conduct of supporters in violation of art. 4 par. 5 lit a) and 6 par. 5 of the Regulations 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil and art. 65 b) and c) as well as art. 67 par. 1 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code.
2. The Myanmar Football Federation is excluded from taking part in the matches of the preliminary competition for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.
3. The costs of these proceedings of 2,000 Swiss francs are to be borne by the Myanmar Football Federation.
The 2018 world cup football is scheduled to take place in Russia.
Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports Announced the Decision to Set Up NISSM
The ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports on 1 October 2011 announced the decision to set up the National Institute of Sports Science and Medicine (NISSM). NISSM will have its premises at the Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium in New Delhi. The institute will aim at fostering disciplines like Physiology, Nutrition, Psychology, Anthropometry, Nutrition, Biochemistry and Sports medicine.
NISSM is modeled on the lines of China Institute of Sports Sciences (CISS). The decision to set up the institute was taken during the visit of Indian President to China on 27 May 2010.
NISSM will be registered as Society under Societies Registration Act by 1 November 2011. This institute will be headed by a Director equivalent to a Vice- Chancellor of a Central University. A search committee will be appointed to identify and recommend the name of person to Head this Institute. The NISSM will work in close partnership with national and international partners from USA, UK, China, South Korea, Australia, Germany and South Africa.
NISSM will function under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. It will also provide evaluation, performance and assessment related advice to sportspersons and start high quality research in the field of sports medicine and sports sciences.
GAIL India became the First Public Sector Entity to acquire Shale Gas Assets Abroad
State-run gas utility GAIL India become the first public sector entity and the second Indian firm after Mukesh Ambani’s RIL to acquire shale gas assets abroad. GAIL India on 29 September 2011 on 29 September 2011 announced a deal with USbased Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc for acquiring a 20% interest in the latter’s Eagle Ford Shale acreage.
The deal will involve an estimated investment of $300 million over the next five years. The deal includes an upfront cash payment of $63.7 million and a carry amount of $31.3 million linked to Carrizo’s future drilling and development costs.
GAIL will make the acquisition through its wholly owned US subsidiary, GAIL Global (USA), formed on 26 September 2011. The subsidiary will fund a major part of the investments in Eagle Ford Shale out of its earnings.
India's largest gas transmission company by volume, GAIL acquired the stake through its US based subsidiary GAIL Global (USA) for $95 million. GAIL India, the country’s largest marketer and transporter of natural gas, became the first government-owned energy company to get a foothold in the US market.
Boeing's P-8I built for the Indian Navy completed First Flight in Seattle
Boeing's first long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft P-8I for the Indian Navy completed its initial flight on 29 September 2011 at the Boeing Field in Seattle, USA.
Test pilots performed airborne systems checks including engine accelerations and decelerations and autopilot flight modes during the flight. The plane was taken to an altitude of 41,000 ft and stayed airborne for two and half hours.
India awarded a $2.1-billion (around Rs9450 crore) contract to Boeing in January 2009 for eight such planes to replace the ageing fleet of Soviet-era Tu-142s.
A military derivative of Boeing's 737 commercial plane, the P-8I submarine hunter is the Indian Navy's variant of the P-8A Poseidon being developed for the US Navy.
Poseidon is internationally acknowledged as the benchmark in maritime patrol. It marries a tried and tested sensor and weapons suite with a specially developed Boeing 737 aircraft. Given that reliability and endurance are crucial, it was logical to base the Poseidon on the world’s most widely flown airliner (a 737 lands or takes off somewhere in the world every three seconds). The Poseidon is a 737-800, specially modified with a 737-900 wing.
The P-8I is built by a Boeing-led industry team that includes CFM International, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Spirit AeroSystems, BAE Systems and GE Aviation.
The CFM-56 engines power the Poseidon. These are modified with larger generators that churn out the power needed for the MMA’s sensors and control systems. In addition, there is an auxiliary power unit that provides electricity even when the main engines are switched off.
Boeing was instructed by the Indian Navyto install certain capabilities not provided for the P8A.
This includes aft-looking radar, custom-designed by US company Telefonic, which functions like an electronic rearview mirror, scanning the water behind the aircraft.
The P-8I is the first of eight long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft Boeing is building for India as part of a contract awarded in January 2009.
China Successfully Launched Tiangong-1, its First Unmanned Space Laboratory
China on 29 September 2011 successfully launched its first unmanned space laboratoryTiangong-1 from a site in the Gobi Desert. Tiangong-1 means heavenly palace. This launch makes China the third country after Russia and USA to operate a permanent space station. The space lab launched by China is expected to be operational by 2020.
The Tiangong-1 will orbit on its own for a month after which it will be joined by another spaceship, Shenzhou-8. Both will then carry out the first space docking.
The Tiangong-1 will help China establish a manned space test platform capable of long term unmanned operation in space with temporary human attendance.
Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) received SEBI’s Approval to set up SME Exchange
Asia’s oldest bourse Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) on 28 September 2011 got an approval to set up an exchange for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from the capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
The permission from SEBI is likely to boost BSE's efforts in offering multiple asset classes to Indian investors. The permission to set up SME will enable BSE to contribute towards the governmental agenda of greater financial inclusion and allowing promising enterprises of the future to access retail capital.
The new exchange set up by BSE will allow small unlisted domestic companies, with less than Rs 10 crore capital base, to raise money from the primary market.
BSE was committed to deliver the best products, services, and asset classes to all our stakeholders and look forward to the success of the SME segment. While the government has taken several measures to ease access to credit, giving them easier access to equity is the next step in that process. The new exchange will be a facilitator in raising funds for SMEs.
BSE SME Exchange conducted several seminars for educating the SMEs on the benefits of listing and the preparations required for listing on the BSE SME Platform across the country. BSE SME tied up with channel partners, who include various institutions and associations engaged in the development of SMEs. More seminars are lined up in this year.
BSE SME planned for sectoral seminars for auto ancillaries, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, agro-based industries, suppliers to OEMS and the like.
National Stock Exchange (NSE), India’s largest exchange, is currently awaiting a formal Sebi approval to start a similar SME exchange. In May 2011 Sebi had given an in-principle approval to both BSE and NSE to set up SME exchanges.
Sebi had on 2 June 2011 allowed exchanges to introduce programmes to enhance liquidity of thinly-traded securities in their equity derivatives segments. NSE currently controls almost the entire equity derivatives market, with a turnover of about Rs 29.63 trillion in August. BSE’s comparable turnover was Rs 34.09 crore.
IGNOU conferred Rajiv Gandhi International Prize on the Azim Premji Foundation
The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) on 28 September 2011 conferred the Rajiv Gandhi International Prize for Technology in Education and Development on the Azim Premji Foundation. The award instituted by the university in its silver jubilee year was presented to Azim Premji by Communications and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal.
Azim Premji, upon receiving the awaerd stressed on the need of integrating IT with mainstream education which would then prove far more useful in disseminating education among adults than children. Azim Hashim Premji is an Indian business tycoon and philanthropist who is the chairman of Wipro Limited. He founded Azim Premji foundation in 2001.
Azim Premji Foundation is a not-for-profit organization, operational since 2001, with a vision to significantly contribute towards a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society. The Foundation has been active in supporting the primary education sector. It has partnered with state governments across India to pilot initiatives that have the potential for systemic reform to enhance the quality of elementary education within government run school systems.
According to IGNOU, the award comprising of Rs.five lakh cash and a citation is given to individual or institution that contributed significantly in education, particularly educational technology, for development in developing countries across the world.
Three distinguished Indian Americans named for National Medal of Science, Technology & Innovation
Three distinguished Indian Americans, two inventors and a researcher were named by US President Barack Obama on 27 September 2011 as recipients of National Medal of Science, and for Technology and Innovation.
The Indian American scientists figured in a celebrated White House honours list for 2011, broadly underscoring India’s continued contribution to American advances. Two of them are IIT-ians, alumni of the academically elite Indian Institute of Technology.
New York University’s Srinivasa SR Vardhan, Purdue University’s Rakesh Agarwal, and North Carolina State University’s B Jayant Baliga were the three Indians selected dozen to receive the National Medal of Science, and for Technology and Innovation, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists, engineers as well as inventors.
For the first time that three have been recognized in a single year in a list typically dominated by USborn and US-educated geeks.
The award, which is an annual one, has honoured 468 distinguished scientists and engineers to date.
Other recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation award included Donald Bateman (Honeywell), Yvonne C. Brill (RCA Astro Electronics) and Michael F. Tompsett (TheraManager).
Legendary Playback Singer Lata Mangeshkar was honoured with the First Hridaynath Award
Legendary playback singer Lata Mangeshkar was honoured with the first Hridaynath award for her contribution to Indian music on 28 September 2011. On 28 September, which also happened to be Lata Mangeshakar’s (82) birthda, she was presented a cheque of Rs one lakh, a trophy and a shawl by megastar Amitabh Bachchan.
The award has been instituted by Hridayesh Art, a Mumbai- based socio-cultural organisation in honour of Lata Mangeshkar’s brother, Hridaynath Mangeshkar.
Lata took the occasion to also felicitate filmmaker Yash Chopra, in whose films she has sung innumerable famous songs. She also presented mementos to singers like Sunidhi Chauhan, Kavitha Krishnamurthy, Sonu Nigam, Suresh Wadkar, Sudesh Bhosale and Bela Shende.