Rajkumar Dhoot takes over as new president of ASSOCHAM

Rajkumar Dhoot
Rajkumar Dhoot

Rajkumar Dhoot, a member of the Rajya Sabha and managing director of Videocon Industries, took over as president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) here today.

Rana Kapoor, founder, managing director and chief executive officer of Yes Bank, will be the senior vice-president and Sunil Kanoria, vice-chairman of SREI Infrastructure Finance Limited, will be the vice-president.
Dhoot, 56, said ASSOCHAM, established in 1920, would continue to play a leading transformational role nationally and globally. “The lead chamber will empower Indian enterprises by focusing on the most critical and relevant issues in a highly impact-oriented manner.”
Outgoing president Dilip Modi, managing director of Spice Mobility, said it was a memorable experience and a great learning curve to head the organisation representing four lakh members across the country.
Dhoot was first elected to Rajya Sabha in June 2002 and served the parliamentary standing committee on finance, consultative committees for the ministry of commerce and industry, and the ministry of urban development and poverty alleviation. He has been consultative committee member for the ministry of finance and permanent special invitee at the consultative committee for the ministry of petroleum and natural gas.
In May 2008, Dhoot was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha and is currently member of the committee on information technology.
Born on September 11, 1955 at Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, Dhoot is also involved in social work which includes promoting education, running a multi-specialty charitable hospital and constructing roads in Gangapur and Aurangabad.

Govt. denies move to take away Model Code of Conduct violations outside EC purview

The Government today denied that it was contemplating a propoal to give statutory backing to to the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) enforced during elections which, if successful would take away complaints pertaining to violations of the code out of the purview of the Election Commission (EC).
The clarification came after reports in a section of the media which also said that the Union Legislative Secretary had been asked to make a presentation before the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Corruption at its meeting scheduled to be held on February 22 on the issue of giving statutory shape to executive instructions issued by the EC and that such a statutory backing means the code violations would be covered by law and hence be tried in a court rather than being left to the discretion of the Election Commission, as is the case now. 

Mukherjee says development objective has to be to reduce disparities

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Tuesday that the country's developmental objective had to be to reduce and ultimately remove inequalities in all dimensions of human life in society.


Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said that the country's developmental objective had to be to reduce and ultimately remove inequalities in all dimensions of human life in society.

"Ensuring an adequate pace of growth is a necessary condition in this endeavour," he said in his address to the 91st Annual Session of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) here.

"But rapid and sustained poverty reduction requires inclusive development which would enable people from all strata to contribute to and benefit from economic growth," he said.

He said the Government was aware of the significant disparities in the country that relate to an individual’s access to resources, her capabilities and skill-sets and her attainments on socially desired outcomes and well-being.

Mukherjee said that, for growth to be sustainable in the long-term, it had to be broad-based across sectors, regions and among the different population segments of society.

"Then again the effort has to be to provide for the basic needs and create opportunities to enhance capabilities and incomes in meeting the growing aspirations of the people. For it is then alone that each of us will derive the sense of belonging and also become a part of the growth of the country," he said.

The Finance Minister said that, in a globalised world, where the major developed economies were going through a turbulent time, growth could not be taken for granted in any part of the world, including in the emerging market economies.

He said that, over the past months, deep and widespread economic concerns with a complex mix of real and financial problems had surfaced in Europe, which was a setback to the global recovery.

"Even the tepid economic recovery that we have seen so far in some of the advanced economies is stalling. Unemployment in these economies has not recovered from the crisis highs. Several countries have experienced sovereign rating downgrades. The relatively robust revival in emerging market economies is also beginning to falter. The financial markets, which had never fully recovered from the earlier crisis, are under renewed stress," he said.

Mukherjee said the continuing global uncertainty was also affecting India, with the increased volatility in capital flows resulting in heightened fluctuations in stock and currency markets with attendant implications for investor confidence. Moreover, slowdown in external demand has led to deceleration in the growth of exports in recent months leading to widening of the current account deficit, he said.

"Growth has slowed to just under 7 per cent, as per the advance estimates released by the Central Statistical Organisation. Yet, India is still among the global frontrunners in the growth field, but reinventing the growth track is something that we must not lose sight of. India has to target a double digit growth in the not too distant future. We have shown that we can grow fast but we must learn to sustain it over extended period of time," he said.


The Finance Minister said sustained near-double digit level of inflation had been a major policy concern for the Government over the last two years. It is beginning to show signs of moderation of late with WPI headline inflation declining to around 6.5 per cent in January 2011.

"A tight monetary policy has impacted investment and consumption growth through higher cost of credit. Growth has consequently slowed. Nevertheless, we have been able to keep the adverse impact of global slowdown and uncertainty on our economy to the minimum. I expect this slowdown to be temporary and the economy would soon revert to the high growth trajectory," he said.

According to him, the Indian economy is, in some ways, better placed than many other nations to withstand a fresh round of global economic turmoil.

He said India’s resilience resulted from the fact that the bulk of India’s GDP was domestic demand driven. "India’s External Commercial Borrowings Policy has been successful in maintaining external debt at sustainable levels. India’s banking sector is robust. There is unwavering commitment to reforms to further consolidate our economic strengths," he said.

Mukherjee said policy measures have been taken in recent months to further ease capital controls, making available a framework for pooling of debt finances for infrastructure.

"A Direct Investment Scheme was announced on January 1, 2012 under which Qualified Financial Investors (QFIs) will be allowed to invest directly in Indian equity market. This is the first time that we have taken steps to open up direct access to our capital markets for the individual foreign investors other than the institutional investors and foreign venture capital firms. We have further liberalised FDI in single brand retail, and a consensus for operationalising the decision taken to open FDI in multi brand retail trading is being pursued. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows which had considerably slowdown in 2010-11 have bounced back and as of January 2012 FII inflows have also picked up," he said.

He said the Government had now put in place the New Manufacturing Policy to give a big push to the manufacturing sector with the objective of increasing its share in the GDP to 25 per cent and create 100 million jobs in the next ten years. The Policy encourages the setting-up of New Investments and Manufacturing Zones across the country. These zones would address the problems of infrastructure, would create world class urban centres and also absorb surplus labour by providing them gainful employment, he said.

"We are putting in place an enabling framework for ease of doing business, compliance based on self-regulation, ensuring availability of skills, technology and finance within a supportive environment," he said.

Mukherjee said sustaining India’s growth momentum was critically dependent on improving its factor-productivity through technological innovations and process reengineering. It is also dependent on enhancing the capability of the young population to understand new technology and absorb and simulate it to meet local needs, he said.

"In that context there are at least three areas that we need to focus on. The first area is education and knowledge creation. The second is creating and strengthening of a competitive environment to support private enterprise. The third is to encourage a greater focus on research and design activities (R&D) in our enterprises and in institutions of higher learning. We are making progress in all these areas, though perhaps not at the pace we would ideally like to," he said.

Mukherjee said the path to economic development had to be focused on two parallel objectives.

"On one hand, we have to develop villages, improve agriculture and agro based industries and infrastructure in rural India. On the other hand, we need to empower the rural people and give them new opportunities and provide jobs in keeping with their growing aspirations. They must have the chance to move in step with the modern India, the India that is being talked about around the world. This would take a majority of them into cities and semi-urban areas, where it would be necessary to upscale and improve the infrastructure. The industry and the service sector will have to provide a large share of those opportunities," he said.

"An important requirement for bringing this about is empowerment of labour through skill up-gradation," he said, adding that industry bodies like ASSOCHAM could play a significant role in this and form the bridge between education and industry.

Mukherjee also said there was need to set new benchmarks for implementing initiatives under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). He said he was in favour of voluntary social programmes by the corporate sector to create sustainable industrial development model for the country.

"The Government is receptive to ideas and is committed to making the best efforts to push forward on all these fronts that I have alluded to with a view to create sustainable opportunities for growth. I am also sure that the Indian enterprise that has proved and established itself on the international level will come together to meet the challenges before us and take the economy to new heights," he added.



Ranbaxy launches generic version of cholestorol reducing drug Atorvastatin in Australia

Pharmaceuticals major Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited (RLL) today said that its subsidiary, Ranbaxy Australia Pty. Ltd. (RAPL) has launched Atorvastatin 10mg, 20mg, 40mg and 80mg tablets in the Australian market, after receiving approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the regulatory authority in that country.
The company said in a press release that it had introduced the product under the brand name "Trovas" and the drug will be available in bottles and blister packs, through retail pharmacy chains. 
Atorvastatin, a cholesterol reducing drug, is the most prescribed statin in Australia and represents the largest patent expiry opportunity ever, in the Australian pharmaceutical market (current market size of approximately US $680 million), the release said.

India's new consumer inflation rate at 7.65% for January 2012

India's annual inflation rate based on the all India General Consumer Price Index (CPI) (Combined) for January -- the first such measure in the country of retail prices -- was 7.65 per cent, an official statement said here today, quoting provisional data.
The corresponding inflation rates for rural and urban areas are 7.38 per cent and 8.25 per cent, respectively, it said.
The General Indices for rural, urban and combined are 115, 112.8 and 114.0, the statement said.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has been releasing CPI on base 2010=100 for all-India and States/Union Territories (UTs) separately for rural, urban and combined every month from January, 2011. However, monthly inflation rates were not available so far because of the absence of full-year numbers.
Price data are collected from selected towns by the Field Operations Division of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) and from selected villages by the Department of Posts. Price data are received through web portals being maintained by the National Informatics Centre (NIC).
The consumer price inflation for January was higher than the headline annual rate of inflation of 6.55 per cent based on the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) for January - the slowest rise since November 2009, but, with indications that prices are moderating, all eyes will now be on the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to see if it will cut interest rates.
The RBI had signalled last month that it might reduce rates to stimulate the economy if there was a sustained fall in the inflation rate.
The new CPI data, released for the first time today, meets a long-standing demand from various Ministries and other uses for a comprehensive consumer inflation rate. It also captures price movements in services and provides decision-makers a better picture about prices at the consumer level. The new index is expected to eventually replace the WPI as the country's main inflation measure.
The data showed that the food inflation rate was 4.11 per cent in the year to January while the inflation rate for fuel and light was 13.13 per cent.
Most countries use consumer price-based inflation to frame their monetary policies but the RBI has been using WPI-based inflation because of the absence of such a consumer index until now. The RBI may continue to use the WPI-based numbers for the present, though it can now also take into account the CPI-based inflation data.
The data covers five major groups: food and beverages; fuel and light; clothing, bedding and footwear; housing; and miscellaneous (education, medical care, recreation & amusement; transport & communication; personal care and effects; and household requisites).
Monthly price data for the new index is collected from 310 towns and 1,181 villages. 

ADB extends deadline for entries in "MyView" video contest to March 23

The Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) today extended the deadline for its "My View" video contest until March 23 to give aspiring filmmakers more time to submit entries on the topic of "Energy for All" and a chance to win a share of $ 10,000 in prizes.
The annual competition provides a showcase for short films that can creatively illustrate the energy-related development challenges facing Asia and the Pacific. Providing clean, stable energy to the smallest village and largest city is a crucially important goal in a region where 800 million people still lack access to electricity, an ADB press release said.
“We want to encourage people to tell their stories about how and why sustainable energy matters using video as their medium.  Videos can be highly effective in helping to understand the important role that energy plays in the development of the Asia-Pacific region,” said Ann Quon, Principal Director of ADB’s Department of External Relations.

Two minor quakes jolt Kashmir-China border region

Two earthquakes of slight intensity, measuring 4.9 and 5.0 on the Richter scale, shook the Kashmir-China border region within half an hour of each other tonight, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
The first quake of magnitude 4.9 had its epicentre at latitude 35.8 degrees North and longitude 79.7 degrees East and occurred at 1929 hours at a depth of 10 km.
The second tremor, measuring 5 on the Richter scale, had its epicentre at latitude 35.8 degrees North and longitude 79.8 degrees East at 1948 hours at a depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin added.

Patnaik writes to PM again on NCTC, calls for urgent dialogue between Centre and States

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who has been leading several non-Congress Chief Ministers in opposing the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre, on Monday wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh again, urging him to urgently initiate the process of consultation with the States on the issue.

File photo of Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
File photo of Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who has been leading several non-Congress Chief Ministers in opposing the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), today wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh again, urging him to urgently initiate the process of consultation with the States on the issue.
"The order, with modifications as necessary, should come into force only after due consultation with us...," he said.
As per an order issued by the Home Minister on February 3, the NCTC would start functioning from March 1 with the mandate to plan and coordinate actions for counter terrorism and powers to make arrests and conduct search operations.
The agency is meant to be the single and effective point of control and coordination of all counter terrorism measures in the country.
The order said the NCTC would derive its powers from the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), under which Central government agencies can make arrests or conduct searches in terrorism-related cases.
Patnaik and the other Chief Ministers, including Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, an ally of the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at the Centre, opposed to the agency said it infringed on the rights of the States and was not in tune with the federal structure of the country.
In today's letter, Patnaik made it clear that terrorism and extremism were scourges which needed to be fought by the nation unitedly. "I strongly oppose terrorism and extremism in any form and have always been with the Central Government in fighting against them," he said.
"My primary objection to the NCTC is the high-handed manner in which the Government of India has tried to address such an important issue. Prior consultation with the States would have greatly strengthened this process of national security in which our aims are identical," he said.
According to Patnaik, the creation of the NCTC with its Director as the Designated Authority under the UAPA and empowering its officers to arrest and search under section 43-A of the UAPA did not have legitimacy in the absence of consultation with the State Governments for incorporating their views on such a critical subject.
"One has to be cautious that such orders never translate into the suspension of democratic rights as happened in the country during the 'Emergency' period of the 1970s," he said.
"As the Chief Minister of Odisha and a citizen of India, the security of the nation is my prime concern as I am sure it is of all the Chief Ministers in our country. Let me assure you that I have no intention to 'politicize the campaign against terror' as has been stated by some of your Ministers and senior officers to the media," he said.
Patnaik said he was surprised to have received no response from the Prime Minister's Office or the Ministry of Home Affairs to his letter of February 13 on this issue.

ASSOCHAM calls for drawback benefits in SEZs against payment in rupees

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) has called for the duty drawback facility to be extended for supplies even if the payment is made in Indian rupeees so that special economic zone (SEZ) units are encouraged to procure from domestic suppliers and ensure that they are able to maintain export competitiveness.
Exporters are currently entitled for duty drawback benefit only if exports are made in freely convertible currency. However, reimbursement of duties is available in case of supply to SEZ developer or co-developer even if the payment is realised in rupees.
The industry body noted that some manufacturers in SEZs prefer to source some of their inputs from the domestic tariff area (DTA) when suppliers are competitive and can adhere to stringent global standards, instead of duty free imports that they are permitted.

PM says agricultural growth needs to be stepped to 4% in 12th Plan

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Monday that agricultural growth, which was likely to be 3.5 per cent per annum in the 11th Five Year Plan, much better than in the 10th Plan, needed to be raised to 4 per cent or even higher in the 12th Plan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the Golden Jubilee Convocation of the Post Graduate School of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, in New Delhi on February 20, 2012.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the Golden Jubilee Convocation of the Post Graduate School of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, in New Delhi on February 20, 2012.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said agricultural growth, which was likely to be 3.5 per cent per annum in the 11th Five Year Plan, much better than in the 10th Plan, needed to be raised to 4 per cent  or even higher in the 12th Plan.

"This will call for very determined effort on the part of both the central government and the state governments ranging over many areas including investment in irrigation, investment in watershed management, provision of credit, provision of marketing support etc.," he said in his address at the Golden Jubilee Convocation of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) here.
"One of the key elements in that effort must be the contribution of agricultural research," he stresed.
Singh said his Government had always recognised that a prosperous, productive and sustainable farm economy was the corner stone of equitable and inclusive growth of the country. It had, therefore, pursued policies to bring about a comprehensive reform and revitalisation of the agrarian economy, he said.
He said the Government had adopted a multi-pronged strategy to improve returns to farming and step up investment in rural infrastructure. He said its flagship programme Bharat Nirman had focussed on increasing investment in rural roads, rural electrification, irrigation, rural housing and rural communications. 
"Over the past seven years we have engineered a shift in the terms of trade in favour of agriculture by raising significantly support and procurement prices. We financed a massive debt write off for indebted farmers of our country. We launched the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme which is both a safety net for the poor and also a powerful instrument for undertaking works that will enhance land productivity. We launched the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and the Rainfed Areas Development Programme," he said.
The Prime Minister said these policies had begun to pay off and the country had reached new plateaus in foodgrain production. 
"Food production at the end of the 11th Plan will exceed 250 million tonnes, an all time record. Our pulse production, at 18 million tonnes, is well about the previous barrier of 15 million tonnes. We are producing today more milk, more fruits, more vegetables, more sugarcane, more oilseeds and more cotton than ever before. Last year production of vegetables went up by 9.57% and nearly 2 million tonnes of cold storage capacity was created," he said.
He said he was aware that, at any given time, there is a gap between the yield per hectare that is observed in the field and the yields that can be achieved under ideal farming conditions. 
"That difference is quite substantial at present and it represents the failure of the system to exploit the yield potential which our scientists have given us. In the short run it is the job of the administration to close this gap and our agricultural strategy must give high priority to this effort. This is not the job of research scientists but it does involve close collaboration between our scientific and technical manpower and the administration on the ground. We must do better in this area than we have done thus far," he said.
Singh said one of the major concerns had been the worry that the extension services system was no longer sufficiently robust. The First Green Revolution was carried out on the back of an effective rural extension and research infrastructure, he pointed out.
"The joining of hands between panchayats, rural agricultural staff, agricultural scientists and district level officials created the foundation of a robust extension services system. The Indian Agricultural Research Institute and state level institutions were very much a part of this system," he noted.
He said this infrastructure of support at the district level needed to be revitalised now. The Krishi Vigyan Kendras which now cover virtually the entirelength and breadth of the country and Agricultural Technology Management Agencies (ATMA) have to play a major role in this process of revitalization and transformation of extension network, he said.
He also said that the farm economy needed much greater injection of science and a knowledge-based approach to increasing incomes and productivity. 
"Both land and water are limited and it is vital that we make progress in agricultural technology which raises land productivity while also allowing a significant reduction in water use per unit of agricultural output. We need to develop varieties which can ensure high yield while economising on water and are also capable of withstanding water stress. This is as true of crop production as for livestock. We need to develop improved breeds which can flourish in our agro climatic conditions and do not require high value inputs which our farmers cannot afford," he said.
Singh said this depended critically upon the health and vitality of the agricultural research system, centring on the ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) system and state agricultural universities. 
"We should not rest on our laurels. We have a long way to go down this road if we want to assure our farmers of prosperity from the fruits of the land they till," he said.
He said the National Agricultural Research System needed to be further strengthened to meet the challenges of the years ahead. He said the Government was committed to raising R&D spending as a whole to at least 2% of the GDP by the end of the XII Plan from the current level of about 1%. 
"Given the importance that agriculture has in achieving our national goals, we have to ensure that a significant proportion of increased R&D spending is directed to agriculture and related activities," he said.
Singh said the agricultural research system also needed to look inward to see whether it is keeping up with developments globally. He said the Government had established two Committees to examine the system and make recommendations on how to strengthen it. One of these Committees was headed by Dr R A Mashelkar and the other by Dr M S Swaminathan. 
"We need to review the implementation of the recommendations of these committees to see whether all the recommendations they made have been implemented in letter and spirit," he said.
He said he was particularly keen to ensure that research funding was based on clearly defined research goals which are linked to achieving productivity increases in the field.
The Prime Minister also stressed the need for much greater private sector investment and involvement in agriculture, particularly in R&D.
"Indeed, it is unlikely that the goal of 2% of GDP in research can be achieved unless a significant part of this is financed by the private sector. Further, greater integration of the agricultural, industrial and Science and Technology sectors of our economy alone can yield large productivity gains based on new innovations and technologies," he said.
He said there was need to promote structured public private partnerships, to foster better synergy among institutions and disciplines. He said there was need to expand the mode of scientific research by funding not just institutions but also research platforms that cut across institutions.
He said individual researchers and research groups, whether in the National Agricultural Research System, universities, CSIR, scientific establishments or the private sector, should be enabled to form platforms for joint research in key priority areas. These should be funded subject to quality peer review, he said.
He said he was happy that ICAR had proposed some extra mural funding along these lines in the XIIth Plan. 
Singh said the institutionalization of an intellectual property rights regime was important for this to happen. 
"Not only must our scientists be rewarded for their innovative work, but an effective IPR regime will also facilitate research partnerships on the basis of sharing of costs and benefits in the larger interest of our economy and society at large. For example, the public sector has invested in a very large collection of genetic material which is of value to private seed producers. Commercial arrangements could be worked out for use of such knowledge, whose proceeds could be ploughed back into scientific research for public good," he said.
He also spoke about the importance of linkage with farming communities and the role of women in the farm sector.
"Women have historically been the source of much traditional knowledge. Thus special efforts have to be made to make the entire R&D chain more gender sensitive and give priority to technological options that reduce the drudgery of women working on the farm," he said.
Singh said the increase in demand for food as well as the changing composition of that demand had to be kept in mind.
"It is estimated that we would need an addition of nearly 50 million tonnes of food grains in the next 10 years to meet domestic demand. Increased production of foodgrains is certainly an important plank of food security and our efforts to rid the country of the scourge of malnutrition," he said.
"But proper nutrition also requires a balanced diet. We would need to produce more fruits & vegetables and protein rich products such as milk, eggs, fish and meat. The demand for these products is expected to grow substantially with rising incomes and changing dietary habits and preferences. Therefore we have to pursue a multi-pronged strategy which seeks to boost productivity and production through product-specific interventions," he said.
The Prime Minister touched on the threat of climate change and said this and the rising demand for commercial energy were expected to have a significant impact on agriculture in India.
"Rise in energy demand and continued dependence on fossil-fuel based energy will lead to higher costs of cultivation and also lead to increased carbon emissions," he said and noted that the IARI had recently set up a new Centre for Environment Science and Climate Resilient Agriculture to address these issues. 
Singh told the IARI students that their generation faced even bigger challenges that the ones his own generation of students faced in the 1940s and 1950s.
"We achieved higher agricultural productivity through means that used water very intensively and relied heavily on chemical inputs. And we did not have a looming concern on climate change. Your generation has to tackle all these tasks. Fortunately our economy is now much stronger and we are in a position to support research much more than was the case earlier. I assure you that we will do our bit," he said.
"The glorious history of institutions such as the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, and the quality of the young minds being trained in it today shows that we have the intellectual and institutional capacity to overcome all challenges," he added.

USIEF invites applications for Fulbright-Nehru Fellowships for study, research, teaching in US


The United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) today announced the opening of its annual competition for Fulbright-Nehru and other Fulbright fellowship opportunities for study, research, teaching, and professional development in the United States.

A press release from the US Embassy in Delhi said outstanding Indian students, academics, teachers, policy planners, administrators, and professionals in all disciplines are encouraged to apply.
The India-U.S. bilateral Fulbright agreement has resulted in a significant increase in the number of fellowships awarded each year -- USIEF expects to offer approximately 100 Fulbright-Nehru fellowships for Indians in 2013.
The release said fellowship details are posted on the USIEF website. Each type of fellowship opportunity has a different application deadline; the earliest programme application deadline is July 16, 2012.
For more information, applicants may contact the USIEF offices in New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, or Mumbai through the USIEF website, the release added.

A wreath at Shaheed Smarak

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne laying a wreath at Shaheed Smarak, Noida, Uttar Pradesh on February 18, 2012.Read story.

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne laying a wreath at Shaheed Smarak, Noida, Uttar Pradesh on February 18, 2012.
Read story.The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne laying a wreath at Shaheed Smarak, Noida, Uttar Pradesh on February 18, 2012.

SC Commission launches probe into chopping off of hand of Dalit youth in Haryana

National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) chairman P L Punia today said the Commission had taken serious note of the incident in Haryana in which the hand of a Dalit labourer had been chopped off and declared that those responsible would not be spared.

In a statement here, he said he had immediately contacted the District Magistrate Amit Agrawal and Superintendent of Police Ashwin Shenvi of Hisar in Haryana after he received information about the incident in Daulatpur village.
He said he had enquired about the incident and later deputed a Central team under Joint Secretary T thhethan to meet the victim and for detailed investigations.
He said the District Magistrate had told him that the victim had been provided monetary assistance of Rs 50,000 and was being provided free treatment at a private hospital The State Government had sanctioned Rs 3 lakhs as part of a rehabilitation package.

Radio Namaskar of Odisha wins two top prizes at National Community Radio Awards

Radio Namaskar, based in Konark, Odisha has won the first prize in Thematic and Community Engagement categories of the fist National Community Awards presented here today.
Radio 7 of Jaipur won the first prize for Promoting Local Culture while PGP of Namakkal bagged the first prize for the Most Creative/Innovative Programme Content. Radio Mewat got the Sustainability Model award.
The awards were presented by Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting S Jagathrakrakshan at the Second National Community Radio Sammelan, which commenced here today.
The event has been organised by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in association with the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) to work out a roadmap for mainstreaming community radio as an effective outreach tool for community empowerment.
Jagathrakrakshakan said community radio stations provided a platform to people to create their individual and collective identities. As a medium of communication, it empowered the masses and gave them a sense of belonging, he said.
He said there was need to connect the aspirations of the people to the information highway and thereby bridge the digital divide. Community radio not only bridged the divide, it very effectively facilitated the growth of peoples’ empowerment in the far and remote corners of the country.
Information & Broadcasting Secretary Uday Kumar Varma stressed the importance of spreading the community radio movement to uncovered areas in the country coupled with a cost-effective and operational business model. 
He urged the participants to avoid delays in  operationalising the licences  in view of the scarcity and squatting over spectrum . For the movement to reach a sizeable target it was critical to be innovative,  encourage out of the box thinking and learn from the best practices, he said.
Varma said a critical factor determining the growth of the movement was the need to focus on cost effective technology and research. 
The following were the winners of the awards:
A)    Thematic Award Category
1.       Radio Namaskar, Konark
2.      CMS CR, Gomati Nagar
3.      Radio Active CR, Bangalore
B)     Community engagement award category 
1.      Radio Namaskar, Konark
2.      CR Benzigar, Kollam
3.      Kalpakam CR, Kalpakam
C)     Promoting Local Culture Award category 
1.      Radio 7, Jaipur 
2.      Radio Sarang, Mangalore 
3.      Gurgoan Awaaz, Gurgaon
D)    Most Creative /Innovative  Programme content award
1.      PGP CR, Namakkal 
2.      Rudino CR, Ahmedabad 
3.      Radio JU, Kolkata
E)     Sustainability model award
1.      Radio Mewat
Community Radio is one of the thrust areas for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.  The Ministry has so far issued 363 permissions to set up Community Radio Stations in the country. Out of this, 126 stations have become operational while others are in the pipeline.
The Sammelan has brought together more than 150 stakeholders including community radio operators, UN partners, activists, Government departments and experts from various countries like United States, United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa.

EC issues notice to Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma for quota promise during campaign


The Election Commission today issued notice to Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma asking him to explain why action should not be taken against him for violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by promising a quota for Muslims during an election rally in Uttar Pradesh where elections are being held in seven phases to elect a new legislative assembly.

The Commission gave time until 5 pm on February 20 to Verma to respond to the notice, failing which it would decide the matter without any further reference to him.
The Commission said that, it had after receiving a complaint about the Minister's remarks, obtained a copy of the video recordings of the meeting and, having seen it, was "prima facie satisfied" that he had violated the relevant provisions of the MCC.
It also said that it was evident from the statements of Verma that he was "well aware that by making such utterances, he was violating the model code of conduct and yet he deliberately and willfully did the same."
The Commission pointed out that the Model Code of Conduct for the Guidance of Political Parties and Candidates laid down that, among other things, there shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes.
It also stipulates that the party in power at the Centre or in the State(s) concerned shall ensure that no cause is given for any complaint that it has used its official position for the purpose of its election campaign.
The code also says that, from the time elections are announced by the Commission, Ministers and other authorities shall not announce any financial grants in any form or promises thereof……, which may have the effect of influencing the votes in favour of the party in power”.
The notice said the Commission had received a complaint that Verma had, during an election meeting in Farrukhabad at Kayamganj on February 15 said that there would be a quota in jobs for Muslims and appealed for votes for the Congress. He also said that if the Election Commission gave him any notice, he would deal with it.
The Commission's notice to Verma came just three days after it had decided not to take any further action in a similar violation of the MCC by Law and Justice Minister Salman Khurshid and his subsequent remarks on the issue after he wrote to it regretting his statement.
"Based on the Minister’s clear change of position as conveyed directly to the Commission, it has been decided not to take any further action in the matter," the Commission had said in a statement here on February 15.
The Commission had, at that time, advised all contending parties and those campaigning in elections, particularly those persons holding public offices, to be extremely careful, so that a situation as in this case did not recur.

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President launches 2012 Pulse Polio campaign by giving vaccine to eight children

President Pratibha Patil administering polio vaccine drops to a child in Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on February 18, 2012 to launcPresident Pratibha Patil administering polio vaccine drops to a child in Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on February 18, 2012 to launch the National Pulse Polio Campaign 2012. Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is also seen.h the National Pulse Polio Campaign 2012. Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is also seen.
President Pratibha Patil administering polio vaccine drops to a child in Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on February 18, 2012 to launch the National Pulse Polio Campaign 2012. Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is also seen.

President Pratibha Patil administered polio vaccine drops to eight children at Rashtrapati Bhavan here today to launch the National Pulse Polio Programme for 2012.

Speaking on the occasion, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said that India was making history in its fight against polio. 
“It is indeed a remarkable achievement that for the last one year, the country has remained completely free from polio without witnessing even a single case. In the past, India had a rather large share of global polio cases and only two years ago in 2009, we accounted for half of the total polio cases in the world," he said.
He said that, seen against this backdrop, today’s achievement of one full year of zero polio case was extremely impressive.
Azad said his Ministry had taken major steps to reach virtually every child in the country, even in the remotest and hardest to reach areas and making sure, that mobile and migratory populations are also not left uncovered. The coverage of children even in the most endemic states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh had crossed 99%, he said.
"This level of coverage is unprecedented, not witnessed anywhere in the world," he said.
He hoped that the campaign could be carried on with the same degree of vigour for at least the next two years, so that India could be declared as a polio-free country in January, 2014.
Azad said that, despite the present success, the Government was highly mindful of the risks that persisted not only on account of indigenous transmission but also importations from other endemic countries. 
“We have therefore put in place an emergency preparedness and response plan, which we are committed to implementing in all States across the country. Under this plan, there is
going to be zero tolerance for any new polio case and any such case will be declared as a public health emergency,” he stated. 
Rapid response teams have already been formed in all States and Union Territories to rapidly respond to any polio case in the country. In addition, all the States bordering the neighbouring countries have been alerted to strengthen surveillance for early detection of any imported polio case, he said.
Special booths have been established in the bordering areas like Wagah border and Attari train station in Punjab and Munabo train station in Barmer district of Rajasthan to ensure, that all children under five years of age coming from across the border are given polio drops, he said.
The nationwide immunization campaign for polio will start tomorrow in which more than 17 crore children of less than 5 years of age will be given polio drops. More than 23 lakh
volunteers will participate in this massive national effort and more than 1.5 lakh supervisors will monitor quality and coverage of the Immunization activity. Nowhere in the world is a  campaign of such scale and size undertaken in a single round, he said.

14 Indian basketball coaches to visit US for 10-day exchange programme

The United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced today a basketball Sports Visitor exchange will take place February 17-27, with 14 Indian basketball coaches traveling to the US for a 10-day people-to-people exchange.
The Sports Visitor programme will begin in Washington, D.C. where the delegation will meet with US basketball coaches, work with young American athletes, participate in a basketball clinic with Special Olympics athletes, and engage in activities focused on teambuilding and injury prevention. 
For the final days of their programme, the delegation will travel to Orlando, Florida to attend NBA coaching clinics and sessions surrounding NBA All-Star 2012, a press release from the US Embassy in Delhi said.

Delhi Metro launches drive against unauthorised entry into ladies' coaches

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has launched a special drive to prevent unlawful entry and activities of male passengers inside ladies' coaches of its trains.
Eleven squads, each comprising one Station Manager, one Delhi Metro Rail Police staff, one Security Controller and two Group-4 Security Guards have been set up for all the six lines of Delhi Metro which will keep a vigil on unauthorized entry of male passengers into the ladies coaches or misbehaviour with them especially during morning (09:00 am to 11:30 am) and evening (7:00 pm to 10:00 pm) peak hours. 
This special checking drive started from today and will continue for  a whole week on all Metro lines. As part of the drive, the squads will travel in trains and conduct surprise checks to ensure that women commuters feel safe and comfortable while travelling in the Metro, even during late hours.

FATF okays revised recommendations for combating money laundering, terror finance

The Plenary Meeting of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) being held in Paris yesterday approved the revised recommendations for combating money laundering and financing of terrorism. 
The meeting also discussed the fourth follow-up report on India’s progress with reference to the Action Plan that it had committed to in June 2010. The plenary appreciated the actions taken by India and the commitment of India to the international Anti-Money Laundering/ Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) standards. 
An Indian delegation led by Bimal Julka, Additional Secretary & Director General (Currency) of the Department of Economic Affairs,Ministry of Finance is attending the meeting.
The FATF is an inter-governmental body that sets international standards for combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism. India became a member of FATF in June 2010. 

Non-Congress CMs led by Naveen Patnaik oppose NCTC, say it infringes on states' rights

The UPA Government at the Centre on Friday found itself facing strong opposition from several non-Congress Chief Ministers against the proposed NCTC, which has been given the mandate to plan and coordinate actions for counter terrroism and powers to make arrests and conduct search operations.

File photo of Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
File photo of Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at the Centre today found itself facing strong opposition from several non-Congress Chief Ministers against the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which would start functioning from March 1 with the mandate to plan and coordinate actions for counter terrroism and powers to make arrests and conduct search operations.
The agency is meant to be the single and effective point of control and coordination of all counter terrorism measures in the country.
An order issued earlier this month said the NCTC would derive its powers from the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), under which Central government agencies can make arrests or conduct searchs in terrorism-related cases.
The Congress-led UPA, however, downplayed the issue, despite the fact that one of its own partners in the alliance, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, joining the other Chief Ministers in writing to the Prime Minister against the NCTC, saying it infinged on the rights of the states and was not in tune with the federal structure of the country.
The opposition to the NCTC was led by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a few days ago. Patnaik told mediapersons today that he was in touch with, among others, Banerjee, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on the issue.
Naidu, the leader of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), also shot off a letter to Singh today, as did Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Other BJP Chief Ministers such as Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh and Prem Kumar Dhumal of Himachal Pradesh also spoke out against the NCTC today, as did BJP allies such as Nitish Kumar of Bihar.
Patnaik said he was opposed to the NCTC because the Centre had not consulted the States or political parties on the new anti-terror agency.
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the main trouble-shooter of the UPA, who was in West Bengal today, said the Government would take into account the objections raised by the States and address them.
Union Communications Minister Kapil Sibal said the fight against terrorism was not a battle that had to be fought by the Centre alone, but a struggle in which the States also had to play a very important role. 
A file photograph of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerji. UNI PHOTO
A file photograph of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. UNI PHOTO
Union Home Secretary R K Singh said the Government was not passing a new law and that many of the provisions had been on the statute books for years. 
Banerjee said in her letter to the Prime Minister that, under the order relating to the NCTC, extensive powers had been given to the agency to be located in the Intelligence Bureau, including the powers to search and arrest.
"Also, all authorities including the functionaries of the State Governments are required to provide information/documents to the NCTC," she said.
Banerjee said the State Governments had been implementing the UAPA in all seriousness. "The order does not require the NCTC would discharge its functions in coordination and consultation with the State Police or the State Government. The order, therefore, appears to be an infringement on the powers of State Governments in matters of investigation and maintenance of order," she said.
"In a federal structure like ours, any decision of the Central Government, which infringes upon the powers and rights of the State Governments should be taken only after adequate consultation and with the consent of the State Governments. This has not been done in the instant case. It is difficult for the State Government to accept such arbitrary exercise of powers by the Central Government/Central agencies which have a bearing on the rights and privileges of the State as enshrined in the Constitution of India," she said.
File photo of Narendra Modi
File photo of Narendra Modi
"I would, therefore, request your intervention for review and withdrawal of the order dated February 3, 2012," Banerjee added.
Modi, in his letter to Singh, demanded that the order on setting up the NCTC be annulled with immediate effect, describing it as a clear violation of the provisions of federal structure and an attack on the rights of States.
According to him, the order will adversely affect the rights given to the States for the maintenance of law and order.  
He said the notification implied that all the intelligence and investigating agencies of the nation would have to carry out an assisting role to NCTC. 
He said law and order was in the State list and the implementation of the order was a "clear swoop on the rights of state governments."
According to him, the Centre had not discussed the matter with the State Governments before issuing the order. He said there was a need to develop trust among States and to have a single strategy with political will power to battle with problems like terrorism and Naxalism.
Naidu, a former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, said the order smacked of authoritarianism and was against the spirit of cooperative federalism enshrined in the Constitution. He urged the Prime Minister to direct the Home Ministry to rescind the order and initiate debate with political parties and state governments and in Parliament on this vital issue affecting Centre-State relations.

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Multi-Purpose MI-17 V5 Helicopter

Defence Minister A. K. Antony inducted the Multi-Purpose MI-17 V5 Helicopter into the Indian Air Force, at a function, in New Delhi on February 17, 2012. Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne is also seen.Read story.

Defence Minister A. K. Antony inducted the Multi-Purpose MI-17 V5 Helicopter into the Indian Air Force, at a function, in New Delhi on February 17, 2012. Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne is also seen.
Read story.Defence Minister A. K. Antony inducted the Multi-Purpose MI-17 V5 Helicopter into the Indian Air Force, at a function, in New Delhi on February 17, 2012. Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne is also seen.

Kakodkar Committee on Safety on Railways presents its report to Trivedi

The High-Level Safety Review Committee, constituted by the Ministry of Railways under the chairmanship of former Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar, has made a  series of recommendations with a total financial implication of Rs 100,000 crore over a five-year period in its report submitted to the Government today.
Among other things, the committee has suggested the elimination of all level crossings, both manned and unmanned, in the country at an estimated cost of Rs 50,000 crore over the next five years.
In the report presented to Railways Minister Dinesh Trivedi here, the committee has also recommended the implementation of an Advanced Signalling System through a special purpose vehicle (SPV) and an export group for technical isses with an estimated cost of Rs 20,000 crore for 19,000 kilometres on trunk routes.
The reort has recommended that all new coaches should only of LHB design, which are much safer for present speeds and train lengths, at a total cost of Rs 10,000 crore.
It has recommended maintenance of safety related infrastructural and other items with total cost of Rs. 20000 crore.
The committee also suggested mode of funding, which includes safety cess on passengers, deferred dividend, road cess and matching grant by the Centre.
The committee included N. Vedachalam of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram; Sanjay Dhande, Director, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur; and G.P. Srivastava Director E&I Group, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.  
E. Sreedharan, until recently the Managing Director, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation acted as the Adviser to the Committee.
Trivedi said on the occasion that passengers' safety was given the highest priority by the Indian Railways.
The committee, comprising of eminent persons/experts in technical and high end technology related fields with experience and expertise in managing innovation in technology and change, was constituted in September 2011 to provide a valuable independent outsiders’ view in respect of the system and protocols. 
Kakodkar said that though data of consequential train accidents over the years had been showing declining trend despite phenomenal growth of traffic, safety on Indian Railways remains to be a mater of serious concern. 
He said that, while preparing the report, the committee held interactions and meetings with Divisions, Zones, Railway Board, the Railway Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), Commissioner of Railway Safety, some retired railway officials and representatives of recognized staff federations. 
He said that the Committee members also visited some of the Zonal Railways for having a first hand experience of the field conditions and also invited suggestions for general public through Railways’ official website. 
He said that a total of 53 suggestions were received from Railway personnel and general public which had been appropriately considered by the committee. Kakodkar said that in the process, the committee noted that Railway officials at all levels are dedicated, committed and have deep passion to work.

Multi-purpose Mi-17 V5 helicopter inducted into Indian Air Force

Defence Minister A K Antony today said India had always strived for peace and stability in its neighbourhood but developments around it in the region had necessitated the building of its defence capabilities.
Speaking after inducting the advaced multi-purpose Mi-17 V5 helicopter into the Indian Air Force (IAF) fleet, Antony said the Government was committed to providing the latest and best possible equipments to the armed forces.
He said the Mi-17 V5 helicopters would add to the flexibility and operational muscle as well as the capabilities of the IAF and help the force i meeting its growing mandate.
"The helicopter fleet of the IAF has been rendering useful service to the nation by operating in remote, inaccessible and inhospitable parts of our country. The role played by these helicopters in providing humanitarian assistance and carrying out relief and rescue efforts in the wake of natural disasters, or accidents has received widespread appreciation. They are operating at the heights of Siachen glacier and have also proved their professionalism in UN missions," he said.
Antony said India's economic growth was quite impressive and the growth opportunities had brought with them greater regional and global aspirations.
"We have always done our best in fulfilling our national commitments in a manner befitting our stature. We have always strived for peace and stability in our immediate and extended neighbourhood," he said.
"India has always been a votary of building an atmosphere of peace, trust and cooperation between different countries of our region. However, the developments around us necessitate that we build our defence capabilities and continue to work towards maintaining peace and stability in the region," he said.
He said the Government wanted the IAF to retain its qualitative edge at all times and said the helicopter was an instance of the best product in its class.
"The helicopter is expected to take the IAF’s combat support capabilities to newer heights. I am sure that the IAF will utilise the machine to its fullest potential," he said.
Antony urged the men in the forces to strive to keep pace with the latest technological advances and provide training from time to time.

Keep paper, paperboards in negative list while signing FTAs: ASSOCHAM

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) today urged the government to protect the paper and paperboard industry by keeping its products in the negative list while signing bilateral and multilateral trade treaties.
In various free trade agreements that India plans to sign in future, the import duty is sought to be reduced in a phased manner. The industry’s output is used in educational, printing and packaging sectors.
"It is important to keep paper and paperboard industry belonging to the core sector outside the ambit of FTAs and recognise it as sensitive deserving special treatment," the industry body said.

Ministries of I&B, Tourism sign MoU to promote India as filming destination

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and the Ministry of Tourism signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) here yesterday as part of an initiative to promote Indian cinema as a sub-brand of the "Incredible India" campaign at various international film festivals and markets abroad.
The MoU is expected to enhance the reach of “Incredible India” through the medium of cinema, develop synergy between tourism and the film industry and provide a platform for enabling partnerships between the Indian and global film industry. 
The MoU was signed in the presence of Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni and Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay.
An official press release said the MoU aims to create and build upon a Film Tourism vertical of the Incredible India campaign by promoting Cinemas of India as a sub-brand of Incredible India. 
The emphasis will be on its linguistic, cultural and regional diversity. The MoU will also provide an impetus to frame policies and guidelines for facilitating shooting of International films in India and promote India as a filming destination, both for international and domestic film producers. 
Another key objective of the MoU is to initiate dialogue with State Governments and Union Territories for development of locations for film shootings and promotion of tourism. At the institutional level, the MoU attempts to constitute a National Level Committee for coordination with various stakeholders for promotion of India as a film and tourism destination and for facilitating visas for films units from overseas. On some of the key aspects, the roadmap will be charted out through mutual consultations between the two ministries. 
As per the MoU, the Ministry of Tourism would provide budgetary support for identified film festivals, markets and events. The Ministry would facilitate publicity through the available content based on existing audio visual material and print designs. The joint participation of the two ministries would cover the Cannes Film Festival and Market, International Film Festival of India in Goa and the European Film Market in Berlin. 
The MoU reiterates the branding of Incredible India at critical outreach positions at the identified film festivals markets and events. This includes the display of the logo of Incredible India, including display through wall hoardings, stalls and the screening of the promotional film. 
The release said that it is expected that this innovative partnership will facilitate the promotion of India as a filming destination for foreign producers. 
In 2009-10, 23 permissions were granted for shooting in India, in 2010-11, 21 permissions were granted and in 2011-12, 20 permissions were granted. 
The MoU is expected to also enable the increase of India’s share in world tourist arrivals in the country from 0.6% to 1.0 % by the end of XII Five Year Plan. This would result in achieving 11.37 million foreign tourist arrivals by 2016, as compared to 6.29 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2011, it added.
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