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September 04, 2012

Current Affairs - National - August

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Union Government, Shipping Minister G K Vasan, as part of efforts to enhance maritime security, on 3 August launched the Rs 132 crore National Automatic Identification System (NAIS), which will ensure effective search and co-ordination besides broadcasting warnings to merchant ships. Authorities describing the project as the most important component of coastal surveillance, and it will enhance safe navigation along the 7,500—km long Indian coastline.
The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA), headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on 3 August, approved the longstanding demand of the people of Karnataka to provide special status, under Article 371-D of the Constitution, to develop six backward districts of the Hyderabad Karnataka region in the State. This will be on the lines of special status given to the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. The six districts that will benefit in Karnataka are Bidar, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Koppal, Raichur and Bellary.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has swept the first-ever elections to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) winning all 45 seats in the regional autonomous body. The GJM had gained control of the body with its candidates winning from 28 constituencies unopposed. Elections to the remaining 17 constituencies were held on July 29 and the results were announced on 2 August. West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee announced on July 21 the withdrawal of her party candidates from the fray, making things easier for the GJM.

Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s 1955 classic ’Pather Panchali’ has featured in the 50 greatest films of all time list, which was dominated by Alfred Hichcock’s thriller ’Vertigo’. ‘Pather Panchali’ (Song of the Road) was made on a budget of Rs. 1,50,000. With 31 votes ‘Pather Panchali’ came 42nd in the Sight & Sound poll. The film is a lyrical, closely observed story of a peasant family in 1920s rural India.

A top official of ONGC said, Tripura will emerge as the biggest on—land natural gas producing state in the country by 2014 with the capacity of producing 50 lakh cubic meter natural gas (5 MMSCMD) per day, Now 18 lakh cubic meter gas (1.83 MMSCMD) is produced daily from the operational wells in Tripura. Sources said, 15 wells have been drilled across the state and there are plans to drill 15 more wells during 2012-13.The 726 MW gas based thermal power project at Palatana in Gomati district would start producing power this year. It was set up by ONGC Tripura Power Corporation (OTPC) .The Prime Minister had laid the foundation stone for the project at Palatana, 60 km from Agartala in 2005. 

The Centre has decided to frame a new National Water Framework Act with guiding principles on water laws the States may adopt, which will have far-reaching implications. States that adopt and reform will be incentivised for water projects. That such a law would be made is buried in the pages of the draft new national water policy that is yet to be considered by the National Water Council, the supreme policy body chaired by the Prime Minister.

The Union Cabinet on 3 August, fixed a reserve (minimum) price of Rs. 14,000 crore for 5 MHz of pan-India 2G spectrum in the 1800-MHz GSM band for auctioning spectrum to be vacated by companies whose 122 licences were cancelled by the Supreme Court on February 2, 2012. The reserve price for 5 MHz of CDMA spectrum has been put at Rs. 18,200 crore, 1.3 times the price of GSM spectrum. Only two slots of 5 MHz each will be put on the block, though spectrum will be available for bidding in multiple blocks of 1.25 MHz. Taking a bold political decision, the government shaved $750 million, or roughly Rs. 4,100 crore, off the roughly Rs 18,000-crore reserve price recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 2 August, approved relaxations in the land transfer policy by Clearing bottlenecks in transfer of Government land, which would also remove any delays in awarding concessions for infrastructure projects. The decision to relax the ban imposed on all transfer of government owned land for certain categories would speed up the award of PPP projects from this month onwards significantly. Early last year, a ban had been imposed on all transfer of government owned land to any entity except in cases where land was to be transferred from one government department to another. With this decision, all cases of land transfer from Ministries to statutory authorities or PSUs will be allowed as also development and use of railway land by the Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA). All PPP infrastructure projects — roads, railways, ports, civil aviation and metros have some element of land alienation as the projects are often built on government owned land. The government continues to own the land that is leased or licensed out. 

Naresh Chandra Committee, a 14-member task force on national security, submitted its report to the government on 8 August 2012. The committee was set up by the Union government on 21 June 2012 to suggest ways to revamp of defence management in the country. Naresh Chandra, a former bureaucrat, headed the committee which members included former military officers, intelligence chiefs, diplomats and strategic analysts. The main objective behind the constitution of the committee was to contemporarise the Kargil Review Committee’s recommendations, which was tabled in the Parliament on 23 February 2000. Besides, the task force was also asked to examine the state of country's border management and restructuring system.

Former Chief Minister of Gujarat, Keshubhai Patel launched Gujarat Parivartan (GPP) Party on 6 August 2012. Keshubhai Patel and the former union textile minister Kanshiram Rana resigned from Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) on 4 August 2012. This Party would contest all the 182 seats in Gujarat assembly elections which will be held by the end of 2012.

A parliamentary panel on agriculture asked the government to ban all field trials of GM crops until it develops a better system of monitoring and oversight. In the 389-page report submitted in the parliament on 9 August 2012, the panel also demanded a complete probe into how permission was granted in 2009 for the commercialisation of Bt brinjal (also known as aubergine, or eggplant). Experts say that, it will be a major setback to the production of genetically modified (GM) foods in the country.Bt Brinjal was developed by Pune-based Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Company) in a joint venture with US seed giant Monsanto. The Genetic Engeneering Appraisal Committee had cleared the commercialization of Bt Brinjal on 14 October 2009, though soon after its clearance it was caught amidst bitter controversies ranging from its environmental impacts to ethical concerns such as corporate control of the food supply and intellectual property rights. Bt cotton was the only GM crop before Bt Brinjal which had got clearance for commercialization.

The re-designed website of the President of India was launched at Rashtrapati Bhavan on 3 August. The re-designed website has some new features, which include direct connectivity from the website to social networking media of the President i.e. Facebook and You-Tube. These two features have been initiated after assumption of charge by the President Pranab Mukherjee. The new website also has a Video Gallery. Citizens can connect to the President directly by clicking the button ‘Write to the President’, which will take them directly to the helpline portal. Moreover, visuals have been conceptualized and made user friendly. Launching the website, Secretary to the President, Ms. Omita Paul expressed the hope that it would be a step forward to bring the President of India closer to the people. She also said that efforts would be made to ensure that the website is in line with the best global practices.

Members of Parliament, cutting across party lines, on 18 august, sent out a strong message to the northeast people that the whole country was for them and with them and that, they need not have any apprehension about their safety. Like any other citizen, they have every right to study, work and reside in any part of India.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intervened in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha when the Houses took up for discussion, by suspending question hour, attacks on the northeast people and their exodus. He said the growing sense of insecurity among the northeast people was “more reprehensible”. Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh said that to check rumours, bulk SMSs and MMSs have been banned for 15 dayswith immediate effect. No one would be allowed to send more than 5 SMSs at a time and more than 20 KB of data through mobile phones.

Government has given an ultimatum on 21 August, to social networking site Twitter to block nearly 30 of its webpages which continue to host morphed and inflammatory contents or face punitive action.The move comes after Union Home Secretary RK Singh asked the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEIT) to serve the ultimatum on Twitter as it failed to comply with the government order to block 28 WebPages in its site. Government had already ordered blocking of 310 webpages where morphed and inflammatory contents were uploaded with the aim to incite Muslims in India leading to the mass exodus of people of the northeastern region from places in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. 

India's ruling United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi has been ranked sixth, in the Forbes magazine list of 100 powerful women. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is ranked the most powerful in the world for the second year in a row. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is placed second, followed by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, making the top three spots unchanged from that of last year. US first lady Michelle Obama, who had topped the list in 2010, was ranked No.7. Also in the top five were Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and wife of Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates, and Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times. Besides Sonia Gandhi, the list released on 21 august features three other Indians. Padmasree Warrior, chief technology and strategy officer, Cisco Systems, and Chanda Kochhar, managing director and CEO, ICICI Bank, are ranked 58th and 59th, while Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, founder and chair, Biocon Ltd, is placed 80th. PepsiCo's Indian-American chairperson and CEO Indra Nooyi is ranked 12th. The list named women involved in policymaking, entertainment, technology and nonprofit organisations, among other fields. They were ranked according to influence, the amount of money they control or earn, and media presence. 

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