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China launches first aircraft carrier

China’s first aircraft carrier set sail for the first time, steaming out of the northeastern port of Dalian for a long – awaited sea trial. China has bought Russia’s Varyag for $20m and given it its first sea trials. In the late 1990s, China purchased the empty shell of the aircraft carrier from Ukraine. The vessel was built by the Soviet Union in the 1980s but ownership was transferred to Ukraine after the former communist government collapsed. Since then, it has been the source of much speculation and discussion in military circles and highly anticipated by military enthusiasts in China. China’s neighborhood, India and Thailand already have aircraft carriers, and Australia has ordered two multi – purpose carriers. The United States operates 11 carriers.

China maps Brahmaputra, Indus for dams

Chinese scientists have completed a first of its kind study to pinpoint the sources of the Brahmaputra and Indus rivers using satellite images, and have found that the length and drainage areas of both rivers exceeded earlier estimates. Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences ( CAS ), an official think – tank in Beijing, used remote – sensing satellite images and data from several expeditions to the Tibetan plateau to map the sources of the Brahmaputra, Indus, Salween and Irrawaddy rivers. Remote sensing is the acquisition of information about an object or phenomenon, without making physical contact with the object.

In modem usage, the term generally refers to the use of aerial sensor technologies to detect and classify objects on Earth ( both on the surface, and in the atmosphere and oceans ) by means of propagated signals ( e.g. electromagnetic radiation emitted from aircraft or satellites ). The source of the Brahmaputra, or Yarlung Tsangpo as it is known in Tibet, was found – to be located on the Angsi glacier on the northern side of the Himalayas, in the Tibetan country of Burang. The source of the river was earlier thought to be on the Chemayungdung glacier, further south.
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The river’s length has increased to 3,848 km, while earlier studies had estimated its length at 2,900 – 3,350 km. It also measured its drainage area at 712,035 sq km, with earlier estimates ranging from 520,000 sq km to 1.73 million sq km. The Indus River’s head stream was mapped near Mount Kailash in Tibet, 30 km away from where its source was earlier thought to be. The Indus provides the key water resources for the economy of Pakistan – especially the Breadbasket of Punjab province, which accounts for most of the nation’s agricultural production, and Sindh. The Five rivers tributaries of Indus are the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and the Sutlej. The river also supports many heavy industries and provides the main supply of potable water in Pakistan.

Remote – sensing images were provided by the U.S. LANDSAT satellite and the French SPOT satellite to map the Qinghai – Tibet plateau. India and China had signed the implementation agreement for operationalising the MoU on sharing flood – related hydrological data for Brahmaputra in 2010. Under the agreement, China will continue to provide flood – related data of its side of Brahmaputra during June 1 – October 15 period each year till 2012. After 2012,’ both countries will have to renew their MoU and finalize & fresh implementation agreement. India and China will, in coming months, hold talks to renew an agreement on sharing flood – related hydrological data on the Brahmaputra.

Rio Hamza River

The Amazon river is known to be the second longest in the world, shorter only than the Nile but, remarkably, scientists have discovered another river flowing thousands of feet beneath it. Researchers from Brazil’s National Observatory believe the subterranean river is 3,700 miles long, about the same length as the Amazon on the surface.The apparent underground river has been named after Hamza, honouring the scientist who was the head of the research team that found the signs of the flowing water. It is believed to start in the region of Acre, flow through the basins of Solimoes, Amazona and Marajo and reach the sea at Foz do Amazonas. This would explain why large pockets of the sea in this area have low salinity.The average flow of the newly discovered ‘Rio Hamza1 is just two per cent of the Amazon, but this puts it on par with the San Francisco river in California. The average flow of the Amazon River is estimated at about 133,000 m3/s, while the flow of the Rio Hamza is far slower at an estimated at 3090 m3/s.

Food Safety and Standards Act comes into force

On 15th August, 2011, the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 & Rules 2011 came into force all over the country. The Centre had passed the Act in 2006 by repealing the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954.The Act will establish a single statutory regulatory authority for the food sector in the state, named the Commissionerate of Food Safety. The main function of the Authority is to lay down scientific standards for food products and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import.

The main feature of the Act is a shift from multi – level and multi – departmental control to integrated line of command. The Act also provides licensing for manufacturing food products, which is presently granted by the Centered agencies under various Acts and Orders, the Minister said. The Act provided for the graded penalties depending on the gravity of offence and accordingly, civil penalties for minor offenses and punishment for serious violations. The Food Safety and Standards Act focuses on checking the food quality and hygiene at outlets. There is a scope for recall of the product from the market by the manufacturer or wholesaler if it is found to be substandard. The Act also provides imposition of fines up to a maximum of ₹ 10 lakh. The Act provides the appointment of Adjudicating Officer and Food Safety Appellate Tribunal with the powers of the district judge. The Act also provides for imprisonment, including life – term, in case any hazardous adulteration is found.
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6 districts in EAG states achieve MDG target on infant mortality

A few districts in high focus states have excelled by achieving the targets set by the United Nations under the millennium development goals ( MDGs ) as per the findings of the Annual Health Survey ( AHS ) in 284 districts in eight Empowered Action Group States ( Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Rajasthan ) and Assam. These nine States, which account for about 48 percent of the toted population in the country, are the high focus States in view of their relatively higher fertility and mortality indicators. The survey results were released on 10th August, 2011. The Crude Birth Rate ( CBR ), which is measure of live births per 1000 population, in rural areas of districts is generally higher than that in urban areas. Crude Death Rate ( CDR ), which denotes number of deaths per 1000 population, is higher for rural areas than urban areas. Low female death rates have also been observed as compared to male death rates.

Regarding Infant Mortality Rate ( IMR ), which denotes the number of infant deaths ( age below one year ) per 1000 live births, six districts ( Purbi Singhbhum & Dhanbad in Jharkhand, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Pithoragarh & Almora in Uttarakhand ) have already achieved the UN Millennium Development Goal ( MDG ) – 4 National target of 28 by 2015. Female infants in districts experience a higher mortality than male infants. IMR in rural areas of districts is significantly higher than that in urban areas.

Neo – Natal Mortality Rate ( NNMR ) measures the number of infant deaths ( age below 29 days ) per 1,000 live births. Out of every 10 infant deaths 6 – 7 pertain to Neo Natal Deaths. Rural NNMR in districts is significantly higher than the urban.

Under Five Mortality Rate ( U5MR ) denotes the number of children who died before reaching their fifth birthday per 1,000 live births. In all, 7 districts ( Pithoragarh, Almora, Rudraprayag, – Chamoli, Nainital & Bagheswar in Uttarakhand and Purbi Singhbhum in Jharkhand ) have already achieved the MDG – 4 National target of 42 by 2015. Rural U5MR in districts is significantly higher than the urban. The Maternal Mortality Ratio ( MMR ) measuring the proportion, of maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births has been published for a group of districts. The grouping of districts has been done on the basis of existing administrative divisions ( Commissionraits ) in the respective AHS States. In all, there are 62 such divisions across 9 AHS States. Among these divisions, the minimum MMR of 183 has been reported for Kumaon HQ in Uttarakhand and the maximum 451 in Faizabad Mandal in UP.

Sex Ratio at Birth ( SRB ) defined as the number of female live births per 1,000 male live births has been has been found to be higher in rural areas of districts than in urban areas.
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India, Bangladesh sign joint border maps

Bangladesh and India on 26th August, 2011 signed joint border maps, finalizing the 4,156 km – long frontier between the neighbors. The longstanding border – related discord between the two nations was settled through the signing of the maps. The signing ceremony, held at the Department of Land Records and Surveys in Dhaka, was concluded two weeks before the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh. Bangladesh High Commissioner in New Delhi Tariq Ahmad Karim and Indian High Commissioner Rajeet Mitter signed some of the 1,149 maps for five sectors of the 4,156 – km border. While half of the maps were signed in Dhaka, other part will be signed in New Delhi. The signing was seen as a historic event. In 1952, the then Pakistan government initiated the preparation of the map and the effort continued till 1960. In 1967, a joint India – Pakistan survey was conducted, but without much progress. After Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan in 1971, an effort was made in 1986. This also did not work. The final success was seen after two countries undertook a joint move recently. A strip map is an un – scaled drawing of a route to include critical points along the border. It usually incorporates distances, roadside features and town facilities on a simple flip – over style map.

Four New Governors appointed

The Union Government on 27th August, 2011 announced the appointment of the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, K. Rosaiah, as the Tamil Nadu Governor. Rosaiah took over as Chief Minister on September 3, 2009 after the death of the then Chief Minister, YS. Rajasekhara Reddy, in a helicopter crash, and held the post till 24th November, 2010.

He is among four new Governors, whose appointments were announced by the Rashtrapati Bhavan. While Jharkhand Governor M.O.H. Farook has been transferred to Kerala for the remainder of his term, Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan was asked to discharge the functions of the Governor of Goa for the remainder of his term in addition to his own duties. The terms of both Sankaranarayanan and Farook ( 73 ) will end in January 2015. The former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Ram Naresh Yadav ( 83 ), was appointed the Madhya Pradesh Governor and the former Kerala Assembly Speaker, V. Purushothaman, has been named as the Governor of Mizoram. Syed Ahmed, a former Maharashtra Minister, has been appointed Jharkhand Governor.

End of Qaddafi Era

Rebel forces seized control over much of Libyan capital city Tripoli on 23rd August, 2011 bringing an end to Muammar Qaddafi’s rule in the North African country – Muammar Qadhafi, who fled into hiding after rebels toppled his regime two months ago in the Arab Spring’s most violent uprising, was killed on 20th October, 2011 as fighters battling the vestiges of his loyalist forces wrested control of his hometown of Sirte. Mahmoud Shammam, the chief spokesman of the National Transitional Council, the interim government that replaced Colonel Qadhafi’s regime after he fled Tripoli in late August, confirmed that the Libyan leader was killed.

The son of a Bedouin farmer, Gaddafi was bom in a tent in the Libyan Desert. He proved a talented student and graduated from the University of Libya in 1963. A devout Muslim and ardent Arab nationalist, Qaddafi early began plotting to overthrow the Libyan monarchy of King Idris I. He graduated from the Libyan military academy in 1965 and thereafter rose steadily through the ranks, all the while continuing to plan a coup with the help of his fellow army officers. Captain Qaddafi seized control of the government in a military coup that deposed King Idris in September, 1969. Qaddafi was named commander in chief of the armed forces and chairman of Libya’s new governing body, the Revolutionary Command Council.

From 1974 onward Qaddafi espoused a form of Islamic socialism as expressed in The Green Book. His government financed a broad spectrum of revolutionary or terrorist groups worldwide. His government was allegedly involved in several bloody terrorist incidents in Europe perpetrated by Palestinian or other Arab extremists. These activities brought him into growing conflict with the U.S. government, and in April, 1986 a force of British – based U.S. warplanes bombed several sites in Libya, killing or wounding several of his children and narrowly missing Qaddafi himself.

Libya’s purported involvement in the destruction of a civilian airliner over Lockerbie, Scot., in 1988, led to United Nations ( UN ) and U.S. sanctions that further isolated Qaddafi from the international community. In the late 1990s, however, Qaddafi turned over the alleged perpetrators of the bombing to international authorities; UN sanctions against Libya were subsequently lifted in 2003, and following Qaddaf is announcement that Libya would cease its unconventional – weapons program; the United States dropped most of its sanctions as well. Although some observers remained critical, these measures provided an opportunity for the rehabilitation of Qaddafi’s image abroad and facilitated his country’s gradual return to the global community. In 2009 Qaddafi was elected chairman of the African Union.

In February, 2011, as an early part of the Arab Spring, a protest movement spread across Libya. Gaddafi responded by dispatching military and plainclothes paramilitary to the streets to attack demonstrators, but many of the soldiers switched sides. The conflict quickly deteriorated into a civil war. Qaddafi was finally ousted on 23rd August, 2011 when capital Tripoli fell to the rebels. The opposition National Transitioned Council ( NTC ) has taken over the administration of the country. The whereabouts of 68 – year – old Qaddafi, who ruled the oil – rich country for over 40 years after seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1969, were still unknown. His three sons have reportedly been detained.

Tony Tan wins Presidential election in Singapore

Singapore’s former Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan has won the country’s Presidential election by a narrow margin. Tan, who was sworn in for a six year term, replaces S R Nathan, who has been in office since 1999. Tan was seen as the preferred candidate of the governing People’s Action Party, which has run Singapore since independence. Singapore’s presidency is a largely ceremonial position. The election was the first of its kind for 18 years. Tony Tan won by just 7,269 votes out of just over two million valid votes cast in the election organised on 27th August, 2011. Tony Tern’s slim margin is seen as a setback for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who had backed him in the run – up to the election. In a general election three months ago, the People’s Action Party won all but six seats, but the opposition made significant gains. Voters expressed their disappointment over immigration, living costs and high government salaries. Singapore – a former British colony with a Westminster – style parliamentary system – instituted the position of president in 1965 when it became a republic. Presidential candidates run as individuals because Singapore’s head of state is supposed to be non – partisan.

Indian banking sector to be the 3rd largest by 2025

The Indian banking sector is poised to become the world’s third largest in asset size over the next 14 years with the growth in “the usage of new channels like mobile phones, propelled by 3G and smart phone technology characterising the next decade in Indian banking”, says a report by Boston Consulting Group on 23rd August, 2011. The domestic banking industry is set for an exponential growth in the coming years with its assets size poised to touch $28,500 billion by the turn of the 2025 from the current asset size of $1,350 billion ( 2010 ). The report was released on the eve of a three – day IBA – FICCI – BCG ( Indian Banks Association, F1CC1 and Boston Consultancy Group ) bank summit organized in Mumbai.

The report further says China will overtake the US as the world’s largest banking industry by 2015, when it is expected that the asset size of Chinese banks will be nearly $30t000 billion, while that of the US will be around $28,000 billion. By 2025, Chinese banks will have an asset size of over $1, 15, 000 – billion, while that of the US it will be around $1,00,000 billion. The report sets out an action agenda for banks, based on insights from an extensive productivity benchmarking exercise conducted across 40 banks which highlights that banks have to strive for excellence on five dimensions : branch sales and service, new channels, lean operations, organizational design and bad debt management.

Committee on Sethusamudram Project visits site

Rajendra K Pachauri, Chairman of the Expert Committee appointed by the Centred Government to study the possibilities of finding an alternative route for the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project ( SSCP ), made an extensive field visit along the Gulf of Mannar, Palk Strait and Palk Bay on 1st September, 2011. Other members of the committee include Directors of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute ( NEERI ), Nagpur, National Institute of Oceanography ( NIO ), Goa, National Institute of Ocean Technology ( NIOT ), Chennai, Vice Admiral V.R. Rao, Chief Hydrographer to the Government of India and A.’ Sundaramurthy, Director General, Geological Survey of India. The SSCP proposes linking the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka by creating a shipping channel through the shallow sea sometimes called Setu Samudram, and through the chain of islands variously known as Ramar Palam, Ram Sethu and Adam’s Bridge. This would provide a continuous navigable sea route around the Indian Peninsula. The project involves digging a 44.9 nautical mile ( 83 km ) long deepwater channel linking the shallow water of the Palk Strait with the Gulf of Mannar. Conceived as early as 1860 by Alfred Dundas Taylor, it recently received approval of the Indian government.

The project was inaugurated in 2005 but later ran into opposition to the idea of dredging ‘Ram Sethu’. Dredging was subsequently suspended in the area. Based on the direction of Supreme Court, an expert committee was constituted to study the possibility of finding an alternative route for Sethu project near Danushkodi, besides going into aspects such as cost benefit analysis, social and cultural impact, environmental impact and other related matters. Travelling in a hovercraft of the Indian Coast Guard, which can sail on water and sand, the team members examined the feasibility of the alternative alignment for the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project between Dhanushkodi and Arichamunai, which will not cut through what the devout believe is the ‘Ram Sethu’, a stone bridge laid by Lord Rama on his way to Sri Lanka. Though various experts from the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, Geological Survey of India and others had already visited the SSCP site to carry out various studies during the last two years, the visit of the Expert Committee headed by Dr. Pachauri, who was also the Chairman of International Group of Climate Change, to the proposed site was the first since their appointment by the Central Government in 2008.

Bhattarai elected new Nepal Prime Minister

Nepal’s Parliament elected Baburam Bhattarai, Vice – Chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal ( Maoist ) as the new Prime Minister on 28th August, 2011. In the House of 594 MPs, 575 members participated in the election and around 340 voted for Dr. Bhattarai, helping him secure a simple majority. The Maoists were supported by the United Democratic Madhesi Front ( UDMF ), an alliance of five Madhesi parties. The other candidate, Nepali Congress Parliamentary Party leader Ram Chandra Pbudel, got 235 votes. The NC was supported by the Communist Party of Nepal ( Unified Marxist Leninist ). President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav administered the oath of office and secrecy to newly elected Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai on 30th August, 2011. Bijay Kumar Gachhedar of the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum ( Democratic ) was sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister. Bhattarai’s predecessor, Jhalanath Khanal of the Unified Marxist Leninist had resigned earlier in the same month after less than seven months in the post.
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Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, 2011 tabled in Lok Sabha

A bill to establish a legal framework to regulate nuclear and radiation safety and establish an authority to carry out the task was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 7th September, 2011. The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, 2011, introduced by Minister of State in the Prime Ministers Office, V Narayanasamy, provides for creation of a Council for Nuclear Safety headed by the Prime Minister, to oversee and review policies relating to radiation safety. It also provides for establishment of a Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority, to regulate radiation and nuclear safety and achieve the highest standards on the basis of scientific approach, operating experience and best practices followed by the nuclear industry, the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill said.

This Authority would also ensure the use of radiation and atomic energy in all its applications is safe for the health of the radiation workers, the people and the environment. The bill came in the wake of Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s statement in the Lok Sabha, during the Budget Session assuring that India’s nuclear safety regulatory framework would be strengthened. The statement had come after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, including a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and release of radioactive materials, following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March, 2011. The bill also provides for establishment of regulatory bodies for the purpose of national defence and security. It seeks to empower the Council of Nuclear Safety to constitute an Appellate Authority to enable the central government or any person aggrieved by an order of the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority to file an appeal. Government had set up the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board under the Atomic Energy Act 1962 to carry out certain regulatory and safety functions.
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But after the Fukushima disaster, the need was felt to further strengthen regulation of nuclear and radiation safety in the country, with the government attaching “highest importance” to the matter.

Cabinet approves Bill to set up independent N – regulator

The Union Cabinet on 31st August, 2011 approved a Bill that would give more powers to the country’s nuclear regulator by making it a statutory body. The Nuclear Safety and Regulatory Authority Bill that would grant the regulator greater independence.

The Bill seeks to give the proposed Nuclear Regulatory Authority of India ( NRAI ) full power to stop construction work and also order a shutdown of an operating nuclear plant. The NRAI would subsume the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board ( AERB ). The AERB was set up through an Executive Order in 1983 and reports to the Atomic Energy Commission. It is also proposed that the NRAI order cannot be challenged in a court of law. Government plans to raise nuclear power capacity to 63,000 MW by 2032 from the present 4,780 MW. The Government had decided to fast track setting up of the NRAI in the backdrop of the Fukushima nuclear accident’.

Iran’s first nuclear plant inaugurated

Iran has connected its first nuclear plant at Bushehr to the country’s national electricity grid with an initial contribution of 60 megawatts of power. This was announced by the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran ( AEOI ) on 3rd September, 2011. The completion of the Bushehr atomic project, which had commenced prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979, has faced repeated delays. After the revolution, Iran signed in 1995, a deal with Russia for the completion of the plant in the next four years. But the facility could be eventually completed after a delay of three decades. Other factors have also . disrupted the previously set time – lines. In February 2011, Iran was forced to remove fuel from the reactor on account of the attack on the industrial software of the plant by the highly sophisticated Stuxnet computer virus. Iran has allayed fears that the Bushehr facility can be misused for making bombs. Iran will return to Russia all the spent fuel – the material generated by the reactor that can be potentially used for making weapons.

First Meeting of the South Asia Forum organized

The first meeting of South Asia Forum was organised by the Ministry of External Affairs ( MEA ) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Anand Sharma, the Union Minister for Commerce, Industry and Textiles, has announced that India will meet its commitment of reducing tariff lines under sensitive list by 20% for all SAARC countries by October, 2011. This will fulfill a critical requirement of the SAFTA agreement signed by SAARC member countries. The Minister also informed that India has been bringing down the peak tariffs under SAFTA in a very transparent manner for imports from Pakistan and the peak rates would be 8 percent.

The peak tariff rates would be 8% by 1st January 2012 and again by 5% by 1st January, 2013. India has already allowed zero duty access for the SAARC Least Developed Countries, for almost 97% of the total tariff lines. India’s trade with SAARC stands at mere US$ 13 billion at a time when our global trade has expanded to cross US$ 600 billion. Indian companies have stepped out and engaged in foreign shores investing over US$ 100 billion and more than 90% of this investment has been outside South Asia. India investment flows into SAARC have been around US$ 10 billion. The Objective and scope of the South Asia Forum will serve as an open platform for generation of debate, discussion and exchange of ideas on South Asia and its future development; and would provide inputs for charting out the future course of SAARC in the medium and long run. SAARC comprises Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Maldives, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The next summit of the 1985 – formed organization will be at Maldives on November 2010 – 2011.
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Oceansat – 2 Ground Station inaugurated

Oceansat – 2 Ground Station, a facility that will receive and process data from satellites, was commissioned at the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services ( INCOIS ), Hyderabad on 12th September, 2011. This facility will help the institute cover a larger population of fishermen across the country to provide advisory services, apart from strengthening its studies on ocean behaviour and tsunamis. The ground station can cover an area of 5,000 – km diameter circle, encompassing the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. It can generate images of chlorophyll, suspended sediment and aerosol optical depth from the Ocean Colour Monitor on real – time basis. The new facility will facilitate direct reception of data from Oceansat 2 and will help in improving the timelines. It has so far covered 90 per cent of the fishermen population in the southern States and 60 per cent in Orissa and West Bengal. An estimated 65,000 users regularly access this service, which have in the last few years helped them save 60 to 70 per cent of searching time and increased profits by two to four times.

Big drop in child mortality rate worldwide

The number of children under five who die each year has plummeted from 12 million in 1990, to 7.6 million last year, the UN says. The reasons for the change include better access to health care and immunization, says a report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization unveiled on 15th September, 2011.

The report cautions that more needs to be done to reach UN development goals on reducing child mortality. About 21,000 children, are still dying every day from preventable causes. But even the poorest regions have made progress. Child mortality in sub – Saharan Africa is declining twice as fast as it was a decade ago. “Focusing greater investment on the most disadvantaged communities will help us save more lives, more quickly and more cost effectively,” said Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of UNICEF.

Many factors are contributing to reductions in child mortality, including better healthcare for newborns, prevention and treatment of childhood diseases, clean water and better nutrition. Sierra Leone in West Africa – one of the world’s poorest nations – ranks among the top five countries seeing improvements in child mortality in the past decade. The others were Niger, Malawi and Liberia – also in Africa – and East Timor in South East Asia. One of the reasons for Sierra Leone’s success is that the government scrapped all fees for child and maternal health. About half of all deaths among under fives in the world took place in just five countries in 2010 – India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Babies are particularly vulnerable. According to the report, more than 40% of deaths in children under the age of five occur within the first month of life and more than 70% in the first year of life. In sub – Saharan Africa, one in eight children die before reaching the age of five. That compares with one in 143 children dying before five years old in developed countries.
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Mission ‘Poorna Shakti’ launched in Rajasthan

‘Mission Poorna Shakti1 was launched by the National Mission for Empowerment of Women in Rajasthan’s Pali district on 16th September, 2011 in association with the Department of Women & Child Development, Government of Rajasthan. Minister of State for Women & Child Development ( Independent Charge ), Krishna Tirath dedicated the ‘Poorna Shakti Kendra’ to the nation, terming it as a milestone towards holistic empowerment of women. The mission aims to provide a common platform to facilitate convergence of benefits under the programs of the various ministries and departments of the Central government. The mission will also facilitate synergy in implementation of these programs through their convergence at the state, district and sub – district levels. It will deliver services to the women at grassroots through its various centers at the village level, to be called ‘Poorna Shakti Kendra’. In the beginning, the project is going to be implemented in 150 Gram Panchayats, which will later be expanded to the whole state and the nation.

Abbas calls on U.N. to grant Palestine membership

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, has called for his country to be granted full membership of the United Nations – a dramatic declaration that comes against the backdrop of failed peace talks and mounting international criticism of Israel’s aggressive expansion of settlements.

Abbas on presented a formal letter to the United Nations U.N. Secretary – General Ban Ki – moon asking for the Palestinian request to be presented before the Security Council, before his address to the General Assembly in New York on 23rd September, 2011. India’s Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai had earlier said that New Delhi would support the Palestinian bid. Palestinians believe full U.N. membership will put pressure on Israel to return to peace talks aimed at creating two separate States, compelling it to negotiate on terms of parity – one State with another. .

The proposal has been resisted by Israel and the United States, which has threatened to veto the Palestinian bid when it is presented in the Security Council. U.S. President Barack Obama argued against the Palestinian bid in a speech delivered to the General Assembly on September 21. President Obama – who told the United Nations a year ago that he hoped there would be a Palestinian State by now – said he was “frustrated with the lack of progress,” but opposed membership for the country.

The Security Council was likely to delay consideration of the Palestinian request to give the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations time to persuade both sides to resume negotiations. For all the contention caused by the Palestinian bid, the fact is that that the U.N. has long recognized its right to a State. The U.N. had first resolved to create a Palestinian State alongside Israel in 1947, when it passed Resolution 181, partitioning the region. From 1969, a string of other resolutions followed, culminating in 1974 with Resolution 3236, recognizing the Palestinian “right to national independence and sovereignty.”

Observer status : The Palestine Liberation Organization was granted observer status at the U.N. on the basis of Resolution 3236, and in 1977, the Security Council agreed that it could join in its debates. In 1998, five years after Israel and the Palestinians accepted a road map for peace leading to a two – State solution, the PLO was awarded a permanent mission to the U.N.
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PM Manmohan Singh addresses UN General Assembly

The sixty – sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on 13th September, 2011 and is presided over by former Qatari permanent representative to the UN Nassir Abdulaziz Al – Nasser. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the UN General Assembly on 1st October, 2011.

On regime change in the pretext of promoting democracy : PM Singh strongly criticized Western powers for using force to change regimes in other countries, a reference to Libya amid calls for a similar intervention in Syria, cautioning that societies cannot be re engineered by outsiders. In a direct criticism of Western military operations, he asserted at the UN General Assembly in New York that absence of democracy and rule of law cannot be a pretext to violate sovereignty and integrity of countries. ‘The observance of the rule of law is as important in international affairs as it is within countries. Societies cannot be reordered from outside through military force. People in all countries have the right to choose their own destiny and decide their own future,” he said in a speech which also drew applause for a strong call for expanding the UN Security Council.

On recession and protectionism : The PM said the traditional engines of the global economy such as the US, Europe and Japan, which are also the sources of global economic and financial stability, are faced with continued economic slowdown. Recessionary trends in these countries were affecting confidence in world financial and capital markets. These developments, he said, are bound to have a negative impact on developing countries which also have to bear the additional burden of inflationary pressures.
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The Prime Minister said countries should not allow the globed economic slowdown to become a trigger for building walls around themselves through protectionism or erecting barriers to movement of people, services and capital. “Effective ways and means must be deployed to promote coordination of macro economic policies of major economies. The reform of governance systems of international financial institutions ought to be pursued with speed and efficiency,” he said.

On Security Council expansion : G – 4 countries ( India, Brazil, German and Japan ) have been pushing for reform of the UNSC in which India wants to be a permanent member. The Prime Minister said the world needed a stronger and more effective UN. “We need a United Nations that is sensitive to the aspirations of everyone – rich or poor, big or small. For this the United Nations and its principal organs, the General Assembly and the Security Council, must be revitalized and reformed.11 ‘The reform and expansion of the Security Council are essential if it is to reflect contemporary reality. Such an outcome will enhance the Council’s credibility and effectiveness in dealing with global issues. Early reform of the Security Council must be pursued with renewed vigour and urgently enacted,” Singh said in his 15 – minute address.

Improving relations with Teheran : The Prime Minister on September 30 accepted an invitation from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after their discussions on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. India’s foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai said the two countries would soon work out dates for Singh’s visit. India, which irked Iran with its vote at the IAEA against the Islamic republic’s refusal to clear suspicions about the objective of its nuclear program, has since conspicuously tried to mend ties with the regime in Tehran. The fact that the Prime Minister intends to visit Iran now signals India’s concerns about the future of the region, and the belief that Iran needs to be engaged more intensively. The confidence between the two has also increased after an oil payments crisis earlier this year which both countries resolved together.

India – Pakistan trade negotiations conclude

The trade talks between India and Pakistan in New Delhi ended without any significant progress on 29th September, 2011 when commerce ministers from both the countries failed to iron out the long – standing irritants that hamper smooth flow of goods and investment even as both sides decided to double bilateral trade to $6 billion from the current level of $2.7 billion by 2014.

Liberal visa regime : They two countries have decided to put in place a liberalized visa regime from November 2011 for business communities of both nations. The new business visa regime is expected to allow multiple – entry and could be for a period up to one year. The Ministers expressed hope that such a new visa regime would rapidly expand the vistas of bilateral commerce. They emphasized that a more secure regional environment would progressively help both countries to keep liberalizing the visa arrangements for business persons.

MFN status & negative list : Pakistan gave no indication to grant the most – favoured nation ( MFN ) status to India or trimming its negative list of items during talks between Commerce and Industry and Textiles Minister Anand Sharma and his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Mohammad Amin Fahim. Under the World Trade Organization ( WTO ) rules, trading partners offer MFN status to each other so as to not discriminate between their trading partners. Granting of MFN status means lowering of tariffs and customs duties for products traded between them. At present, more them 12,000 items are on Pakistan’s negative list while 1,948 items come under the positive list. India wants Pakistan to prune its negative list.
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SAFTA : India had been demanding proper implementation and ratification of the provisions under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement ( SAFTA ) that would ensure greater access for Indian products in the Pakistani markets with reduced tariffs while Pakistan called for removed of several non – tariff barriers that hamper the entry of its goods into India.

MoU signed : Both the countries also inked a memorandum of understanding ( MoU ) between the India Trade Promotion Organization and the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan to promote trade and investment. The MoU shall foster better trade promotional activities for the benefit of business communities of both countries.

Joint statement : “The ministers agreed their countries would cooperate for a high ambition of preferential trade relations under the framework of the SAFTA. They noted with satisfaction the joint and collaborative efforts already being made by India and Pakistan to liberalise trade in goods and services under SAFTA. They agreed all mutual obligations contracted under SAFTA will be implemented with full sincerity /’ scud the joint press, statement. This is the first such visit by a Pakistani commerce minister to India in the last 35 years. It was decided that the Commerce Secretaries of the two nations would meet in November to take forward what had been agreed at the talks.

Delhi Metro is world’s first to get UN carbon credit certification

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation was certified by the United Nations as the first metro rail and rail – based system in the world to get “carbon credits for reducing green house gas emissions” and helping in reducing pollution levels in the city by 6.3 lakh tonne every year. With this certification, the Delhi Metro has earned carbon credits worth about Rs.47 crore annually for the next seven years and with the increase in number of passengers, this figure will only increase. About 18 lakh people travel by the metro rail which is completely non – polluting and environment – friendly. But for the metro, these people would have traveled by cars, buses, two or three – wheelers which would have resulted in emission of green house gases. Thus, the DMRC has helped in reduction in emission of harmful gases into the atmosphere and the United Nations – body administering the Clean Development Mechanism ( CDM ) under the Kyoto Protocol has certified that DMRC has reduced emissions.

According to the DMRC, no other metro in the world could get the carbon credit because of stringent requirement of the United Nations – body to provide conclusive documentary proof of reduction in emissions. The Delhi Metro proposed an innovative method of proving the emissions using sampling techniques. After rigorous persuasion, the UN – body has filial agreed with this technique as it is scientific in nature.

First woman jawan of India

Another barrier has been broken in the Army with a mother of two becoming the first woman jawan. Outperforming her male counterparts in the physical test, 35 – year – old Sapper Shanti Tigga on 3rd October, 2011 joined the 969 Railway Engineer Regiment of Territorial Army ( TA ) . Women are allowed to join the armed, forces only as officers in the non – combat units but Tigga has earned the unique distinction of being the first lady jawan in the 1.3 million strong defence forces. She performed exceedingly well in all the physical tests. She took five seconds less than her male counterparts to complete 1.5 – km run. Employed with the Railways as a points – man and posted at Chalsa station in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district, Tigga volunteered for the TA last year. She joined Railways in 2005, on compensatory ground after her husband passed away.
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India and Russia to step up Defence ties

India and Russia held their annual meeting to review the defence ties in Moscow on 4th October, 2011 and expressed ‘readiness to take all necessary measures to further expand the cooperation on a mutually beneficial basis’. A Protocol signed after the Eleventh meeting of the India – Russia Inter – governmental Commission on Military Technical, co – chaired by the Defence Minister AK. Antony and his Russian counterpart AE Serdyukov noted various steps taken ‘to deepen interaction in the development of defence technologies, modernization of military equipment and joint manufacture of military – purpose products’.

Indian delegation to the talks included the Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma, Secretary Defence Production Shekhar Aggarwal, Indian Ambassador Ajai Malhotra, Lt Gen MS Buttar, Air MarshalRK Sharma, Vice Admiral NN Kumar, Chief Controller of Research & Development of DRDO Dr. Avinash Chander, CMD Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Ashok Nayak and DG Acquisition Vivek Rae. Listing some of the projects where both sides have put in years of effort to bring success, Antony referred to the joint development and production of the Fifth Generation fighter Aircraft, BrahMos missile system, licensed production in India of T – 90 tanks and SU – 30 MKI aircraft. Antony said India was keenly awaiting the induction of the Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya into the Indian Navy. The Defence Minister also drew the attention of the Russian side to the vexing issue of delayed export clearances for vital repair equipment for already contracted weapons systems. This has been affecting supplies of defence equipment and spares. Antony also expressed India’s concern at the tardy progress made in the design and development of the Multi – Role Transport Aircraft ( MTA ) .

Draft National Policy on Information Technology 2011 unveiled

The Draft National Policy on Information Technology, 2011 was released on 7th October, 2011. The draft National Policy on IT 2011 envisages to increase revenues of IT and 1TES Industry from 88 Billion USD at present to 300 Billion USD by 2020. IT sector has made a significant contribution to the growth of Indian economy over last decade which registered a growth rate of 8 per cent. Since, of a USD 88 Billion IT industry in 2010 – 2011, 80 per cent of the revenues comes from exports, the policy proposes to encourage growth of indigenous demands and market. It also aims at formulating fiscal and other incentives to attract investment in this sector in Tier II and Tier HI cities. The Indian IT and ITES sector currently employs over.2.5 million skilled people and has been one of the major employment generators in the last two decades.

The focus of the IT Policy is on deployment of ICT in all sectors of the economy and providing IT solutions to the world. It aims to strengthen and enhance India’s position as the Global IT hub and to use IT as ah engine for rapid, inclusive and sustainable growth in the national economy.

The thrust areas of the policy include to :

  • Increase revenues of IT and ITES Industry from 88 Billion USD at present to 300 Billion USD by 2020.
  • Formulate fiscal and other policies to attract investment in IT Industry in Tier II & Tier III cities.
  • Promote innovation and R&D in cutting edge technologies and development of applications and solutions in areas like localization, location based services, mobile value added services, Cloud Computing, Social Media and Utility models.
  • Provide fiscal benefits to SMEs and start ups in the key industrial sectors for adoption of IT in value creation.
  • Leverage Internet, Web and mobile technologies for developing new products, technologies and businesses.
  • Integrate Internet based and mobile based delivery of services onto a common platform to enable seamless, ubiquitous, secure and personalized delivery of government and non – government services throughout the country
  • Integrate Aadhaar, financial and location – based services into this integrated platform to foster an ecosystem for innovation in services
  • Create a pool of 10 million additional skilled manpower in ICT.
  • Make at least one individual in every household e – literate.
  • Extend the National e – Governance Plan ( NeGP ) and mandate provision of all Government services through Electronic mode within a fixed time frame by enactment of the Electronic Delivery of Services ( EDS ) Bill.
  • Enhance transparency, accountability, efficiency, reliability and decentralization in Government and in particular, in delivery of public services.
  • Leverage ICT for key social sector initiatives like Education, Health, Rural Development and Financial Services to promote equity and quality.
  • Make India globed hub for development of language technologies to encourage and facilitate development of content accessible in all Indian languages and thereby help bridge the digital divide.
  • Enable access of content and ICT applications by differently abled people to foster inclusive development.
  • Facilitate adoption of ICTs in key economic and strategic sectors to improve their competitiveness and productivity.
  • Strengthen the Regulatory and Security Framework for ensuring a Secure Cyberspace ecosystem.

The draft is now open for public consultation, and is expected to be finalised by December.

Highlights

  • Increase revenues of 1T / ITES industry to $30 billion from the current $88 billion jSlfe.
  • Formulate fiscal policies to attract investment in Tier II, Tier III cities.
  • Provide incentives to SMEs, start – ups in the key industrial sectors for IT adoption.
  • Create 10 million additional skilled manpower in IT sector.
  • Make at least one individual in every household literate.
  • Enactment of the Electronic Delivery of services Bill mandating provision of Govt services through e – mode within a fixed time frame.

Massive quake rocks Japan

The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, also known as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake or the Great East Japan Earthquake, was a magnitude 9.0 undersea mega thrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at on 11th March, 2011 with the epicenter approximately 70 kilometres east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tohoku. The biggest earthquake on record triggered a 10 – metre tsunami that killed hundreds of people and swept away everything in its path, including houses, ships and cars. A tsunami warning was issued for almost the entire Pacific basin. Up to 300 bodies were found in the coastal city of Sendai. The extent of the destruction along a lengthy stretch of coastline suggested the death toll could rise significantly. Some 3,000 residents living near a nuclear plant in Fiikushima prefecture, north of Tokyo, were told to evacuate but the government said there was no radiation leak. It said the evacuation was a precaution after a reactor cooling malfunction. Other nuclear power plants and oil refineries were shut down after the 8.9 magnitude quake, while one refinery was ablaze. An explosion hit a petrochemical complex in Miyagi prefecture after the quake. The quake, the most powerful since Japan started keeping records 140 years ago, sparked at least 80 fires in towns along the coast. The quake, the most powerful since Japan started keeping records 140 years ago, sparked at least 80 fires in cities and towns along the coast.

The tsunami alerts revived memories of the giant waves which struck Asia in 2004. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued alerts for countries to the west and across the Pacific as far away as Colombia and Peru. The earthquake was the fifth most powerful to hit the world in the past century.

Follow – up

Engineers in Japan are working to prevent a nuclear catastrophe at a power plant damaged by the huge earthquake that struck on March 11. At Fukushima 1, more than 200km ( 124 miles ) north – east of Tokyo, crews have been pumping sea water into two reactors in a last – ditch effort to control their temperatures and stop a meltdown. Japan’s central bank has injected a record 7 trillion yen ( $85.5bn ) into money markets and the Tokyo stock market plummeted on the first business day since the earthquake.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has called on his country to unite and rebuild as it struggles to cope with the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami. He said Japan was facing its worst crisis since World War II. Food, water and fuel are reported to be running short in some parts of Japan and, as large swathes of the country remain without power, the government is beginning a programme of rolling electricity blackouts.. Police say more than 10,000 people may have lost their lives in one of the worst affected regions, the northern coastal area of Miyagi. Huge numbers of survivors are gathered in emergency shelters, some with no heat.

What causes Tsunamis?

Tsunamis are caused by earthquakes at sea. Earthquakes happen when the plates that make up the Earth’s surface suddenly move against each other. A tsunami forms when energy from an earthquake vertically jolts the seabed by several metres, displacing hundreds of cubic kilometres of water. Large waves begin moving through the ocean, away from the earthquake’s epicentre. In deep water, the tsunami moves at great speeds. When it reaches shallow water near coastal areas, the tsunami slows but increases in height. In the devastating tsunami of December, 2004, many coastal areas in the Indian Ocean had almost no warning of the approaching tsunami. The only sign came just before it struck, when the waterline suddenly retreated, exposing hundreds of metres of beach and seabed.

The Worst Quakes in History

  1. Valdivia, Chile, 22nd March, 1960 ( magnitude of 9.5 )
  2. Sumatra, Indonesia, 26th December, 2004 ( 9.1 )
  3. Arica, Chile ( then Peru ), 13th August, 1868 ( 9.0 )
  4. Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA, 27th March, 1964 ( 9.2 )
  5. Kamchatka, Russia, 4th November, 1952 ( 9.0 )
  6. Sendai, Japan, 11th March, 2011 ( 8.9 )

Can nuclear plants withstand quakes?

Will a nuclear reactor explode like an atom bomb? This question must have loomed large in the minds of everyone who watched Tsunami waves engulf the Japanese urbanscape on 11th March, 2011.

An atomic bomb uses 100 per cent U235 or Pu239 whereas in the reactors it is either natural Uranium which contains only 0.7% U235 or enriched Uranium of 1.5% to 4.5% enrichment that are used.

Various controls are put in place to ensure that the power generated is within its capacity at all times. The fear that a nuclear reactor can explode during an earthquake is not misplaced given the huge amount of radioactive material. To avoid this, reactors are usually located far away from an earthquake – prone area and are designed in such a way that they can withstand the impact to some reasonable level. During a tsunami, how can one ensure that the spread of radioactivity is contained at the nuclear site? The immediate step is to close down the reactor. By inserting cadmium rods into the fuel base, the chain reaction is immediately brought to an end. But it will be some hours before the temperature of the fuel rods as well as the cooling system dips. Depending on the size of the reactor, this period could be anywhere between a couple of days to a week.

But these steps do reduce the possibility of blast from external effects. The double shield container type structure of the reactor also helps protect it. In case of an eventuality, nuclear fuel is trapped in the first shield and there is little chance for it to escape through the second shield. The design has been conceived anticipating such natural calamities. Japanese reactors surely have such designs. But then, a tsunami of this magnitude still poses a danger as the safety parameters are drawn up on the basis of Richter Scale readings and not the height of Tsunami waves.
{tab=WEF}
WEF Summit organised at Davos

The annual World Economic Forum ( WEF ) meeting was organised at Davos, Switzerland from 26 – 30 January, 2011. A 130 – member delegation from India comprising high – ranking government officials, CEOs of major Indian companies, media and civil society representatives participated in the Summit. The theme of the WEF annual meeting 2011 was “Shared Norms for a New Reality”. Over 1,400 business leaders from the Forum’s 1,000 member companies took part in the meeting. Participants included over 35 heads of state or government, with 19 of the G20 governments represented at ministerial level or higher. This year’s meeting dealt with global risks, developed risk mitigation strategies and captured related opportunities. The World Economic Forum ( WEF ) launched a Risk Response Network ( RRN ) in Davos to facilitate collective response to complex and interconnected global risks.

The Risk Response Network :

The goal of the Risk Response Network is to create a more resilient world by identifying and mitigating global risk while finding opportunities and engaging in collective response. The Network offers :
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  • The most relevant global decision – makers – through a new and unique community of Risk Officers from top corporations, governments and international regulating bodies;
  • The most compelling insights – drawn from the World Economic Forum’s own knowledge capture and insights; including the Global Agenda Councils and a network of the world’s top universities and private sector content providers;
  • The most suitable tools and services – by developing proprietary, custom – designed risk analytics and risk management processes to enable decision – makers not only to better understand key risks in depth and in context, but also to respond to them proactively in times of crisis.

The World Economic Forum supports the Network with a permanent staff, through face – to – face and virtual meetings, a proprietary online platform to better enable ongoing virtual collaboration and a dedicated knowledge curation capability.

World Economic Situation and Prospects 2011 unveiled

World Economic Situation and Prospects 2011 – a report jointly prepared by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs ( DESA ), UNCTAD and United Nations Regional Commissions was unveiled. The report warns that the outlook remains uncertain and surrounded by serious risks. Highlights of the report are as follows :

  • After a year of fragile and uneven recovery, global economic growth started to decelerate on a broad front in mid – 2010. The slowdown is expected to continue into 2011 and 2012.
  • The outlook is shrouded in great uncertainty and serious downside risks remain. The United Nations baseline forecast for the growth of world gross product ( WGP ) is 3.1 per cent for 2011 and 3.5 per cent for 2012, which is below the 3.6 per cent estimated for 2010. The recovery may suffer further setbacks if some downside risks take shape. In such a pessimistic scenario, the world economy could slow significantly, to 1.7 per cent in 2011 and 2.3 per cent in 2012.
  • USA : Among the developed economies, the United States of America has been on the mend from its longest and deepest recession since the Second World War. Yet, the pace of the recovery has been the weakest in the country’s post – recession experience. At 2.6 per cent in 2010, growth is expected to moderate further to 2.2 per cent in 2011 and to improve slightly to 2.8 per cent in 2012.
  • European Union : GDP growth in the euro area is forecast to virtually stagnate at 1.3 per cent in 2011 and 1.7 per cent in 2012 ( growth in 2010 was 1.6 per cent ).
  • Japan : Japan’s initially strong rebound, fueled by net export growth, started to falter in the course of 2010. Challenged by persistent deflation and elevated public debt, the economy is expected to grow by a meager 1.1 per cent in 2011 and 1.4 per cent in 2012.

Developing countries : Developing countries continue to drive the globed recovery, but their output growth is also expected to moderate to 6.0 in 2011 and 6.1 in 2012, down from 7.1 per cent in 2010. India is projected to grow at 8.4, 8.2 and 8.4 in 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Latin America : Growth in Latin America, particularly that in the South American economies, is projected to remain relatively robust at about 4.1 per cent in the baseline forecast.

Medical examination and IIT JEE counselling for qualified PD Candidates
( the schedule will be announced on the IIT websites : http://www.jee.iitb.ac.in/ )
Monday to WednesdayJune, 2012
Last date for receiving IIT JEE admission form and medical certificate at zonal IITsFridayJune, 2012
Web Release of IIT JEE First Course AllotmentThursdayJune, 2012
Web Release of IIT JEE Second Course AllotmentMondayJune, 2012
Web Release of IIT JEE Third Course AllotmentFridayJuly, 2012

The Cancun Accords

Overall 26 agreements were reached in Cancun, ranging from the crucial outcomes from the working groups on Kyoto and Long – term Co­operative Action ( LCA ), to somewhat arcane reforms such as Kazakhstan’s proposal to amend annex B to the Kyoto Protocol, to housekeeping measures such as the resolution thanking the people of Cancun for their hospitality. Business Green runs down the main areas of progress, the on – going road­blocks, and the business implications :
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Emission targets

Agreement : The emission targets and action plans put forward by both developed and developing countries in the Copenhagen Accord have been officially recognized under the UN negotiating process for the first time. In addition, countries’ have reiterated their intention to limit average global temperature rises to 20C. Crucially, they have also agreed to review this goal and have acknowledged that a “giga tonne gap” exists between emission targets pledged and the cuts required to stand a reasonable chance of limiting temperature increases.

Implications : This is a major step towards a treaty as it moves developing countries and the US a step closer to accepting some form of “binding” emissions targets in the future, albeit targets they put forward themselves. For businesses it solidifies the voluntary emission targets already adopted by many governments and provides further evidence that if these targets do change they are only going to get more demanding. As the LCA text reaffirms, the world’s governments are in agreement that “climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time” and are prepared to take action to tackle it. In other words, this is not a fad.

Monitoring, Verification and Reporting

Agreement : Developing countries will provide updates every two years on their progress against their climate change action plans. Crucially, all parties also agreed that “internationally supported mitigation actions will be measured, reported and verified domestically and will be subject to international measurement, reporting and verification in accordance with guidelines to be developed under the Convention”

Implications : A huge victory for the US, The details are yet to be finalized, but developing countries will submit to a regime of international verification for their emissions targets in return for access to climate finance. This was one of the major barriers to a deal and it looks to have been overcome after China and India appeared to accept the need for some form of monitoring. For businesses it means they will inevitably come under more and more legal pressure to report on their greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate funding

Agreement : Countries will start a process to design a new “Green Climate Fund”, with a board with “equal representation” from developed and developing countries. Crucially, it will be run by the UN and not the World Bank. The timeline for the formation of the fund remains unclear, but the agreement also reiterated the commitment to deliver $30bn of funding between 2010 and 2012 and $100bn a year from 2020. The agreement will also see the launch of a registry to record and match developing country mitigation action plans to the finance and technology support they require from industrialised countries.

Implications : A significant breakthrough and a sizable victory for developing countries who were adamant that any new fund should not be run by the World Bank. The formation of a single fund should drastically simplify the labyrinthine world of climate financing and make it easier to avoid double counting of aid payments. It should also ensure that investment is more clearly focused on projects that work.

However, negotiators have agreed a fund, but are no closer to agreeing where the money will come from to pay in to that fund. The main issues for businesses will come when next year when governments begin to address which fund raising mechanisms should be used post – 2012. It will be interesting to see if the negotiations can continue to move forward as smoothly when proposals such as levies on aviation and shipping are being discussed.

Carbon trading

Agreement : The Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism ( CDM ) offsetting .scheme will be strengthened and extended. In particular, Carbon Capture and Storage projects will be eligible for the scheme for the first time and registration processes will be streamlined to ensure emission reduction projects are approved quicker. There were also some indications the scheme could continue post – 2012, despite on – going uncertainty over the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

Implications : A major boost for CCS projects in the developing world, but analysts in the carbon market remain concerned that the scheme is not being reformed fast enough and a number of key decisions are not now expected until next year. A lot still depends on the Kyoto negotiations.

Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation ( REDD )

Agreement : Governments once again agreed to step up action to curb emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. More specifically the agreement calls on developing countries to begin laying the groundwork for the proposed Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation ( REDD ) mechanism by establishing forestry base lines and developing national forest protection action plans and monitoring methodologies. It also calls upon industrialised countries to reach bi – lateral and multi – lateral agreements to help fund this “capacity building”.

Implications : REDD edges ever closer. Reports suggest most of the fine print for a full blown global forest protection mechanism based on a carbon offset model is pretty much agreed. It could still be scuppered by the failure to agree other parts of the deal, but the chances of a whole new adjunct to the carbon market being launched within the next few years look healthier than ever.

Adaptation

Agreement : Countries have agreed to establish a new Cancun Adaptation Framework to ensure improved planning and access for finance for adaptation projects in developing countries. They have also agreed to continue work with the insurance industry to better understand climate losses and damage and have stressed that “adaptation must be addressed with the same priority as mitigation and requires appropriate institutional arrangements to .enhance adaptation action and support”.

Implications : It has been under – reported, but this is one of the defining outcomes from Cancun. No one is turning away from the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but focus is increasing on the urgent need to invest in adaptation.

More and more countries will begin to produce formal climate adaptation plans and will increase investment in climate resilience, opening up huge opportunities and risks for businesses.

Technology Transfer

Agreement : Negotiators have agreed to establish a new Technology Executive Committee and Climate Technology Centre and Network to help foster technology cooperation on adaptation and mitigation projects.

Implications : Again the timeline remains unclear, but this could have sizable implications for businesses, particularly those working on cutting edge clean tech projects. Expect more bi – lateral and multi – lateral technology sharing agreements over the next few years.

The future of Kyoto

Agreement : In the end countries agreed to kick the most contentious issue at the Cancun Summit into next year. The two page agreement on Kyoto simply states that countries will agree on the future of Kyoto “as early as possible and in time to ensure that there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods”, which means before the end of next year.

Implications : Who knows. Japan, Russia and others insist they will not sign up to a second commitment period; China, India and virtually every other developing country insists they must sign on to extend the deal or the talks will collapse. It is shaping up to be the defining issue in the run upto next year’s summit in South Africa. The EU looks set to act as a go – between in an attempt to broker a deal, although both sides are currently adamant that they will not compromise. One mooted proposal is that Kyoto is extended for just two years, while a parallel binding treaty is finalized covering all nations. That way industrialised countries will remain covered by a legal instrument for cutting emissions, while developing countries will also be folded into an agreement with binding targets for all It is a long shot, but it is currently the best idea in circulation.

Global Zero Summit 2011

Eminent international leaders and experts convened for the Global Zero Summit in London where they called on the heads of nuclear powers to hold a Nuclear Weapons Summit to launch the first in history multilateral nuclear arms negotiations, and announced an international grassroots campaign focusing on the $1 trillion per decade cost of nuclear arsenals.

Globed Zero issued its groundbreaking report that world spending on nuclear arsenals will top $1 trillion over the next decade, and launched an interactive petition calling on governments to cut nuclear weapons instead of education, health care and other essentials. The first phase from 2010 to 2013 envisages reduction of the US and Russian nuclear arsenals to 1000 nuclear weapons each and the beginning of multilateral negotiations. During the second phase between 2014 and 2018, US and Russian arsenals are to be reduced to 500 weapons each.

Negotiations on a Globed Zero accord are to occur in the third phase ( 2019 – 2023 ), and finally complete the phased, verified, proportionate dismantlement of all nuclear arsenals to zero toted warheads by 2030.

About Global Zero Summit :

The international Globed Zero movement was launched in December 2008 for the phased, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide. But the Global Zero got going in late 2006 itself. Its two founders were Bruce Blair, a former. Minuteman ballistic – missile launch – control officer and fellow of Brookings Institution who had set up the World Security Institute, a think – tank in Washington, DC, a few years earlier and Matt Brown, who had served as a youthful secretary of state for Rhode Island.

In January 2007 a seminal article in the Wall Street Journal by Henry Kissinger, Bill Perry, George Shultz and Sam Nunn, all veterans of America’s cold – war security establishment with impeccable credentials as believers in nuclear deterrence, asserted that nuclear weapons had become a source of intolerable risk. The authors became known as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”. They argued that the terrifying risk of accidents, misjudgments or unauthorised launches could only be reversed by a concerted effort to free the world of nuclear weapons. Suddenly, Globed Zero was able to recruit people who were a far cry from the old “ban the bomb” crowd. Global. Zero announced itself with & meeting in December, 2008 that drew together more than 100 international political, diplomatic, military and academic bigwigs. They agreed to set up a commission that would draw up a practical, step – by – step plan.

India’s stand

India has pledged support for the vision of the Globed Zero movement, with Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in. his message to the London conference asserting that “India has been steadfast in its support for global, non – discriminatory, verifiable nuclear disarmament.” India’s clean record gives her more say than her actual global status in such an international initiative. India has been steadfast in its support for global, nondiscriminatory, verifiable nuclear disarmament. “Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi presented a visionary – Action Plan for a Nuclear – Weapon – Free and Non – Violent World Order. This Action Plan sets out a roadmap for achieving nuclear disarmament in a time – bound, universal, non – discriminatory, phased and verifiable manner. Global Zero Action Plan is based on similar principle and that, like India, it has supported the global elimination of nuclear weapons in a time – bound framework.

The goal of nuclear disarmament can be achieved by a step – by – step process underwritten by a universal commitment and an agreed multilateral framework that is global and non – discriminatory. Progressive steps are needed for the de – legitimization of nuclear weapons. Measures to reduce nuclear dangers arising from accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons, increasing restraints on the use of nuclear weapons and de – alerting of nuclear weapons are essential steps.

There is need for a meaningful dialogue among all states possessing nuclear weapons to build trust and confidence and for reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrines.

Despite the success of the Global Zero campaign in getting a large number of people on board, the politics surrounding the New START ratification in December 2010 prominently displayed the challenges in realising Global Zero’s vision. A June 2011 study by Globed Zero conservatively estimates that the nine nuclear weapons powers ( including North Korea ) would spend over $1 trillion in nuclear weapons – related expenditure over the next decade. Bruce Blair, a co – founder of the movement, terms the sceptre of “two huge nuclear arsenals ( US and Russia’s ) locked in mutually reinforcing hair – trigger alert” as “residual deterrence” which is the “the residue of minds trapped in the past”. Though Global Zero’s ‘umbrella activism’ involving current and past policy practitioners and the general public alike can be expected to gain further momentum in the near future, its continued vitality may however be captive to the pressures of the timeline within which its vision is intended to be achieved.

Rotterdam Convention – 2011

The Rotterdam Convention is a global international agreement aimed at protecting human health and the environment from the potentially harmful effects of certain hazardous chemicals, including some pesticides and industrial chemicals. The Convention works by promoting shared responsibilities and cooperative efforts associated with the international trade of these chemicals and by facilitating the exchange of information about chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted in certain countries. In June 2011, the 5th Conference of the Parties ( COP5 ) to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade ( Rotterdam Convention ) held in Geneva, Switzerland. The objective of the Rotterdam Convention, a United Nations initiative, “is to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm.” Its theme is : Chemical Challenges, Sustainable Solutions. The Convention was adopted on 22nd May, 2001. It came into force on 17th May, 2004.

The chemicals on the Rotterdam Convention’s PIC list includes the following 29 hazardous pesticides : 2,4,5 – T, aldrin, binapacryl, captafol, chlordane, chlordimeform, chlorobenzilate, DDT, DNOC and its salts, ethylene dichloride, ethylene oxide 1,2 – dibromoethane ( EDB ), dieldrin, dinoseb, fluoroacetamide, HCH, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, lindane, mercury compounds, monocrotophos, parathion, pentachlorophenol, toxaphene and tributyl tin, plus certain formulations of methamidophos, methyl – parathion, and phosphamidon, as well as dustable – powder formulations containing a combination of benomyl at or above 7 per cent, carbofuran at or above 10 per cent and thiram at or above 15 per cent that are listed – as severely hazardous pesticide formulations.

The Convention also covers eleven industrial chemicals : five forms of asbestos ( actinolite, anthophyllite, amosite, crocidolite and tremolite ), polybrominated biphenyls ( PBB ), polychlorinated biphenyls ( PCB ), polychlorinated terphenyls ( PCT ) tetraethyl lead, tetramethyl lead and tris ( 2,3 dibromopropyl ) phosphate. Ban Asbestos Network of India ( BANI ) has been advocating relentlessly for the inclusion of chrysotlle asbestos in the PIC list which is facing resistance from countries like Russia, Canada and India although Chemical Review Committee has recommended its inclusion in the list.

On 1st April, 2011, after the conclusion of the seventh meeting of the Chemical Review Committee ( CRC 7 ) held in Rome, Italy, the UN chemical experts recommended that two pesticides – endosulfan and azinphos methyl – and one severely hazardous pesticide formulation – Gramoxone Super – be included in the Rotterdam Convention’s Prior Informed Consent procedure. Three industrial chemicals – perfluorooctane sulfonate ( PFOS ), its salts and precursors; pentaBDE commercial mixtures; and octaBDE commercial mixtures – were also recommended for inclusion. ToxicsWatch Alliance ( TWA ) supports CRCs recommendations and urges Government of India to pay heed to the recommendations of CRC in the interest of the public health of Indian citizens of present and future generations.

Rotterdam Convention helps member Governments to improve their national capacity for chemicals management, and to protect human health and the environment. It also encourages all stakeholders to identify and promote safer alternatives.

SCO Astana summit 2011

Leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization ( SCO ) member states converged at the Palace of Independence in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on June 15 to celebrate its 10th anniversary by summing up its achievements and outlining its future direction. The SCO has contributed much in promoting the economic and social development of its member states, who have engaged in pragmatic cooperation in finance, energy, transportation, telecommunications and agriculture, made concerted efforts to counter financial crises and address challenges brought by globalization, and made substantial progress in trade and investment facilitation and connectivity.

The 10 year anniversary summit concluded with signing of the Astana Declaration by leaders of the six SCO member states, including Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Hu Jintao of China, Roza Otunbayeva of Kyrgyzstan, Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, Emomali Rakhmon of Tajikistan, and Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan. At the summit, a number of important decisions has been approved and signed, including the Antidrug Strategy for 2011 – 2016, the Action Plan for implementation of the Antidrug Strategy, memorandum of obligations of a country applying to obtain the status of the SCO member state. President Nazarbayev put forward several proposals, I such as the establishment of an SCO council for settling territorial and regional conflicts, the creation of an SCO Emergency Situations Centre, the development of common transport and power space, the creation of a new SCO mechanism for closer economic cooperation and further financing of joint projects. China has pledged a total of more than 12 billion U.S. dollars in concessional loans to other member states.

Over the past decade, the SCO member states have signed more than 100 cooperative documents and established multi – tiered, wide – ranging consultative mechanisms, playing an irreplaceable role in the Euro – Asian geopolitical structure. Under the guidance of the “Shanghai Spirit”, which endorses mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for cultural diversity and pursuit of common development, the SCO has expanded cooperation in political, security, economic, cultural and other fields. On adopting the Astana Declaration, the leaders vowed to strengthen efforts to deal with traditional and non – traditional security challenges and threats. Standing on a new historic starting point, the new concept of security, state relations and regional cooperation model initiated by the SCO is expected to have a greater impact on the world.

Global Green Growth Summit 20 – 21st June, 2011

The first Global Green Growth Summit 2011 held between 20 – 21 June, 2011 in Seoul, jointly hosted by the Korean Government and the OECD in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the OECD and the first anniversary of the Globed Green Growth Institute ( GGGI ). The theme was “Building Planet – Responsible Civilization”. Under this theme, the Summit focused on initiatives for promoting green growth, enhancing global governance and exploring enhanced cooperation between Korea and OECD as we move towards a new partnership and leadership.

Headquartered in Seoul, the Global Green Growth Institute was launched on 16th June, 2010 with the aim of developing a green – growth economic development model. The event also coincides with the 15th anniversary of South Korea’s becoming a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The participants discussed ways to promote green growth strategies, and to strengthen cooperation between concerned parties.

The OECD has contributed in substantial ways in addressing key tasks on the international agenda for the last 50 years by promoting “Better Fblicies for Better Lives.” With the adoption of the OECD Green Growth Strategy Synthesis Report at the 2011 Ministerial Council Meeting of OECD. Green growth aims to foster economic growth and development while coping with the concerns over lack of natural resources, environmental depredation, and climate change. As such, green growth aims to catalyze investment and innovation, which will underpin sustained growth and give rise to new economic opportunities and change for enhanced well – being.

Launch of the Green Growth Strategy : The four reports below were published on 25 May during a public session of the 2011 OECD Ministerial Council Meeting.

  • Towards Green Growth provides a practical framework for governments in developed and developing countries to boo§t economic growth and protect the environment.
  • Tools for Delivering on Green Growth outlines some of the options available to policy makers for developing green growth strategies.
  • Towards Green Growth : Monitoring Progress – OECD Indicators outlines a framework and monitoring tools that can help governments measure progress towards green growth.
  • Towards Green Growth : A summary for policy makers will give an overview of the key messages.

These reports respond to a request from Ministers of the 34 countries who signed a Green Growth Declaration in 2009, committing to strengthen their efforts to pursue green growth strategies as part of their responses to the crisis. In June 2012, the international community will gather in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development ( Rio+20 ). Marking the 20th anniversary of the UN Conference on Environment and Development – commonly known as the Rio Earth Summit – and the 10th anniversary of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, Rio+20 aims to 1 ) secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, 2 ) assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and 3 ) address new and emerging challenges. The Conference will focus on the two themes of 1 ) green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and 2 ) institutional framework for sustainable development.

UN Summit Resolves to Set Specific Targets to Eliminate HIV / AIDS

The High Level Meeting on AIDS was convened by the Secretary General of UN General Assembly from 8th to 10th June, 2011 at New York to charter the future course of action in the battle against HIV / AIDS. The UN General Assembly meeting for HIV / AIDS has resolved to set specific targets on elimination of HIV / AIDS through reduction in sexual transmission, elimination of mother to child transmission and put more number of patients on Anti Retroviral Therapy by 2015. The member countries adopted the resolution on “Intensifying our efforts to Eliminate HIV / AIDS”.

The major highlights of the resolution are as under :

  1. The Heads of State and Government and representatives of States and Governments reviewed the progress achieved in realizing the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV / AIDS and the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV / AIDS, with a view to guiding and intensifying the global response to HIV and AIDS by promoting continued political commitment and engagement of leaders in a comprehensive response at community, local, national, regional and international levels to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic and mitigate its impact.
  2. The members expressed deep concern that funding devoted to HIV and AIDS responses is still not commensurate with the magnitude of the epidemic – either nationally or internationally, and that the globed financial and economic crises continue to have a negative impact on the HIV and AIDS response at all.
  3. The countries noted that many national HIV prevention strategies inadequately focus on populations that epidemiological evidence shows are at higher risk, specifically men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and sex workers, and further note however that each country should define the specific populations that are key to its epidemic and response, based on the epidemiological and national context
  4. The countries committed to redouble efforts to achieve, by 2015, universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support as a critical step towards ending the global HIV epidemic, with a view to achieving Millennium Development Goal 6, in particular to halt and begin to reverse by 2015 the spread of HIV.
  5. The countries reaffirmed that prevention of HIV must be the cornerstone of national, regional and international responses to the HIV epidemic.
  6. The countries committed to ensure that national prevention strategies comprehensively target populations at higher risk; ensure that systems of data collection and analysis about these populations are strengthened; and take measures to ensure that HIV services, including voluntary and confidential HIV testing and counseling, are accessible to these populations so that they are encouraged to access HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
  7. The countries committed to working towards reducing sexual transmission of HIV by 50 per cent by 2015.
  8. The countries committed to working towards reducing transmission of HIV among people who inject drugs by 50 per cent by 2015.
  9. The countries committed to working towards the elimination of mother – to – child transmission of HIV by 2015 and substantially reducing AIDS – related maternal deaths.
  10. The countries committed to accelerate efforts to achieve the goal of universal access to anti – retroviral treatment for those eligible based on WHO HIV treatment guidelines that indicate timely initiation of quality assured treatment for its maximum benefit, with the target of working towards 15 million people living with HIV on antiviral treatment by 2015.
  11. The countries committed to promote services that integrate prevention, treatment and care of co – occurring conditions including tuberculosis.
  12. The countries committed to remove before 2015, where feasible, obstacles which limit the capacity of low – and middle – income countries to provide affordable and effective HIV prevention and treatment products, diagnostics, medicines and commodities.
  13. The countries agreed to use, to the hill, of existing flexibilities under the Trade – Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights ( TRIPS ) Agreement specifically geared to promoting access to and trade of medicines; and ensure that intellectual property rights provisions in trade agreements do not undermine these existing flexibilities, as confirmed by the Doha Declaration on TRIPS Agreement.
  14. The countries committed to expand efforts to combat tuberculosis, which is a leading cause of death among people living with HIV, by improving TB screening, TB prevention, access to diagnosis and treatment of TB and drug – resistant TB and access to antiviral therapy, through more integrated delivery of HIV and TB.
  15. The countries committed by 2015, through a series of incremental steps and through our shared responsibility, to reach a significant level of annual global expenditure on HIV and AIDS, by increasing national ownership of HIV and AIDS responses through greater allocations from national resources and traditional sources of funding including official development assistance.
  16. The countries committed to accelerate research and development for a safe, affordable, effective and accessible vaccine and for a cure for HIV, while ensuring that sustainable systems for vaccine procurement and equitable distribution are also developed.

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