31 March 2015

Nine organic and exotic agricultural products from Northeast India were accorded geographical indication (GI)

Nine organic and exotic agricultural products from Northeast India were accorded geographical indication (GI) registration tag. GI tag will help to protect these exclusive special local crops and pave way for better branding and marketing of these products both in domestic and international Market. 

Geographical Indication (GI) accorded products are 
Assam Karbi Anglong Ginger. Assam Tezpur Litchi. Meghalaya Khasi Mandarin. Sikkim Large Cardamom. Mizoram Bird Eye Chilly. Manipur Kachai Lemon. Tripura Queen Pineapple. Arunachal Orange. Nagaland Tree Tomato. 

Union Government owned North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation Limited (NERAMAC) had played important role in getting GI registry. North Eastern Council (NEC) provided the financial support to this initiative.    About Geographical Indication (GI) Geographical Indication is an insignia on products having a unique geographical origin and evolution over centuries. It is a mark of authenticity and ensures that registered authorised users (or at least those residing inside the geographic territory) are allowed to use the popular product name. In India GI registration is governed by the Geographical Indications of goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. Darjeeling tea was the first product in India accorded with GI tag.

Decoding the #National #Pension System

Budget 2015 brought the National Pension System (NPS) back into the limelight by announcing an additional deduction of Rs. 50,000 for the same. But before going into those details, let us first understand what NPS is all about.

For starters, the NPS is a defined contribution pension scheme. Originally, only Central Government Employees joining service on or after 1.1.04 were eligible to avail of this scheme. Later, it was extended to employees of any other employer and also to any citizen of India (including an NRI but not a PIO having bank account in India) between the age of 18 and 55. They have to contribute annually 10% of their salary to NPS. A matching contribution would be made by the employer.

In order to give a fillip to this scheme, the FM has proposed a separate deduction of Rs. 50,000 over and above the current deduction of Rs. 1,50,000 available u/s 80CCE for contributions to NPS. Consequently, now it is possible for a taxpayer in the 30% tax bracket to save up to Rs. 15,450 in tax every year over and above what he could do so far.

Salient Features
There are two types of accounts –– Tier-I and Tier-II. Tier-I is geared towards retirement and has restricted liquidity. Withdrawal is possible only between the age of 60 and 70 years except for critical illnesses and for buying or constructing a house. On attaining 60 years of age and up to 70 years, the investor has an option of withdrawing a minimum of 40% of the pension wealth in order to purchase a life annuity. If withdrawal is sought earlier than age 60, say, when the person opts for early VRS or retires at the designated age, 80% of the accumulated capital is to be used to buy a life annuity. At the age of 70, the entire amount may be withdrawn.
Tier-II accounts are add-ons having all the parameters identical with the Tier-I, but there is no restriction on any amount of withdrawals any number of times, provided a minimum balance of Rs. 2,000 is maintained at the end of the FY.

Any individual can opt for such add-on only after he has contributed at least the minimum contribution to Tier-I. This Tier-II is comparable with say a tax saving mutual fund or even a savings bank account.

Low Cost — The investment management fee is as low as 0.0009% p.a., irrespective of the type of portfolio the account holder desires. Yes, there are some small fees charged for various purposes, but it is claimed that all these put together makes NPS having a very low cost for its management.
The corpus will be invested in three asset classes –– Equity (E), Government Securities (G) and Corporate Bonds and Fixed Deposits (C).
The account holder can opt for an active choice (change any time) of the asset mix he desires to have or a default option called Life Stage Fund where the asset mix gets changed automatically depending upon the age of the subscriber. At the age of 18 years, the asset allocation would be 50% in E, 30% in C and 20% in G till the investor turns 35 when the ratio of investment in E and C will then decrease annually, while the proportion of G will rise. At 55 years, G will account for 80% while the share of E and C will fall to 10% each.

Because of the link of NPS with equities, you may stagger your investments in some installments like the SIP of a mutual fund. However, take account of the fact that there is a transaction charge of 0.25% or Rs. 20 (whichever is higher) on every contribution.

Minimum annual contribution is Rs. 6,000 per FY payable in one or more installments of minimum Rs. 500 to Tier-I. For Tier-II the minimum amount is Rs. 250 per contribution and also per FY.
Transparency could be improved. Whereas Mutual Funds have to announce their NAVs on a daily basis NPS would announce NAV on yearly basis.
Tax Treatment
The Finance Act 2011 has clarified that the contribution of the employer to the extent it does not exceed 10% of the employee’s salary is not a part of the limit on contribution of Rs. 1,50,000.

Contributions made by an individual to his NPS account are deductible u/s 80CCD. The ceiling on contribution in the case of an employee is 10% of his salary and in any other case, 10% of his gross total income. Salary includes dearness allowance if the terms of employment so provide, but excludes all other allowances and perquisites.

Unfortunately, NPS withdrawals (including employer’s contributions) are governed by Sec. 80CCD (3) which taxes any amount received by the assessee, including the annuity. It is also taxable in the hands of the nominee who has the option to own the scheme and continue the contributions, if he is eligible to do so.

Consequently, the entire income stream from NPS (the lump sum and the pension) is fully taxable. This essentially makes NPS the first among the EET (Exempt-Exempt-Taxed) kind of instruments. This is the greatest drawback. The other drawback is the compulsion of buying an annuity with 40% of the corpus if withdrawals are effected when the assessee’s age is between 60 and 70 years.

On the plus side, NPS is slated to provide higher returns because a part of its corpus can be parked in equities and moreover, the cost of managing the NPS is very low.

For clarity, assume that you have invested Rs. 50,000 in NPS for 20 years and the returns are 12% p.a., resulting in the corpus rising to Rs. 36.03 lakh. If it is taxed @30.9%, the value will be fall to Rs. 24.89 lakh. The same amount invested in EPF @8.5% will grow to Rs. 25.58 lakh and it is tax-free. Realise that NPS invests maximum 50% of your contributions in equities and that too in Nifty Index whereas the MFs have no such restrictions.

Fortunately, this extra contribution up to Rs. 50,000 under Tier-II is not taxable at its withdrawal. But you need to possess a Tier-I account and contribute minimum of Rs. 6,000 before you go for Tier-II.

To Sum
At the end of the day, NPS has both positives as well as some negatives. On the one hand is the taxability factor at withdrawals (even in the hands of a nominee) and also of annuity receipts but on the other hand is the extremely low cost as compared to any other saving product. Only time will tell which factor would prove to be more decisive.

30 March 2015

#EarthHour 2015 observed across the World

Ninth edition of Earth Hour was observed on 28 March 2015 across the World. Earth Hour 2015 encouraged people to explore and adopt a cleaner and more sustainable lifestyle by embracing renewable energy solutions. In this edition of Earth Hour, millions of people around the world took part in the event for the global climate change awareness campaign. Over 170 countries participated in the event and more than 1,200 landmarks along with 40 UNESCO world heritage sites observed the Earth Hour. Paris’s iconic Eiffel Tower, Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and Hong Kong’s famed skyline also participated in the Earth Hour by switching off their lights. The Eiffel Tower turned off lights for only five minutes due to security reasons. About Earth Hour It is an annual global event organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The initiative began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia and later became global event. Earth Hour’s goal is to raise awareness for sustainable energy use and create a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. This day encourages citizens, communities, businesses and organisations to switch the lights off from 8:30 pm local time for an hour to highlight the plight of the planet.

#Coal Auction Proceeds Cross Rs 193 Lakh Crore; Shining Example of Policy Driven Governance for Developing Graft Free & Transparent System

 India has hit a gold mine with the recently concluded auction of 29 coal mines in two phases. The public exchequer continues to swell on revenue from coal block auctions. The total proceeds from the coal mines auctions have crossed Rs 1.93 lakh crore; surpassing CAG’s estimate of Rs.1.86 lakh crore losses on account of allocation of 206 captive coal blocks without auction since 1993. It is estimated that an additional tariff benefit of around Rs 69,300 crore will accrue to the power consumers through the reverse auction of coal blocks. Moreover greater revenue flows to states from the auctions dovetails with the government’s plans to develop the coal-rich eastern region. It is estimated that Rs 3.35 lakh crore of likely revenue to States through coal mines e-auctions & allotments. Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are likely to receive a total of nearly Rs 1.10 lakh crore each, including royalty over 30 years from just the second phase of auction.
           The sale of mines belonging to two categories, those already producing (19) and those ready-to-produce (14), which started on February 14 ended on 9th March.  The transparency in the auctions has paid rich dividends. Producing blocks saw higher bids than the ready to produce assets. The two rounds of auction would see power rates coming down by Rs 69,300 crore. These rate cuts will be offered by companies bagging coal blocks reserved for the power sector. The lower cost of power would benefit coal bearing states such as Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
              Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi had said earlier this month that CAG’s Rs.1.86 lakh crore loss figure in coal block allocation has raised some doubts initially. But the auction of less than ten per cent of those mines, that is, 19 mines in the first tranche alone garnered around Rs 1.10 lakh crore.
Earlier allocation process, based on discretion & arbitrariness:   
            In the UPA government, the allocations were made by a screening committee set up by the government. Arbitrary and discretionary allocations based on the political connections and financial clout of aspiring companies and individuals were the norm, rather than a rational and economic logic and genuine needs of companies. In other words, there was no well laid down procedure which is objective & transparent system for allocation of coal mines allotment.
            Amendments in the Coal Mines Act though initiated in 2005 were not pursued to its logical end. As a result of this, no fresh coal block allocation could be made during last 4/5 years (2008 onwards). Though milestones were set up for the operation of allocated coal blocks but because of liberal monitoring and repeated extensions given, a very few blocks came in the production.
     CAG findings:
            In a severe indictment of earlier UPA government, the CAG had in 2012 argued that due to the allocation of coal blocks to private firms , the exchequer had lost Rs 1.86 lakh crore on account of improper allocation of coal mines over the years, triggering a nation-wide uproar.
Cancellation of coal mines by Hon’ble Supreme Court
            The matter went to the Supreme Court and in its order dated 24.9.2014 cancelled the allotment of 204 coal mines and held allocation of coal blocks made through the Screening Committee rout and Government dispensation route as arbitrary and illegal.
        New well laid down, clean & Transparent System of auction :
            In order to laid down robust & transparent system after Hon’ble Supreme Court order, an Ordinance was promulgated to legally enable the Government to re-allocate 204 coal mines cancelled the court  and ensure smooth transfer of right, title and interests in the mine along with its land and other associated mining infrastructure to the new allocatee to be selected through an auction or allotment to Government companies, as the case may be.
   The Parliament has passed the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill 2015 on 20th March,2015 . The Bill will replace Ordinance issued by the Government, the first as on 21st October, 2014 and then repromulgated on 26th December, 2014, after the apex court cancelled the allocation of 204 blocks.
           The objectives and salient features of the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill,2015 are as follows :
Objectives of the Bill:
         To provide for allocation of coal mines and vesting of the right, title and interest in and over the land and mine infrastructure to successful bidders and allottees with a view to ensure continuity in coal mining operations and production of coal.
         To take immediate action to auction or allot coal mines to minimise impact on core sectors such as steel, cement and power, which are vital for the development of the nation.
         To amend the Coal Mines (Nationalization) Act, 1973 and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 thereby removing the restriction of end use from the eligibility to undertake coal mining except in the case of certain specified coal blocks.
Salient features of the Bill:
         204 cancelled blocks have been defined as ‘Schedule-I coal mines’.
         42 producing and ready to produce coal mine out of Schedule-I coal mines are defined as ‘Schedule-II coal mines’.
         Other 32 substantially developed coal blocks out of Schedule-I coal mines are defined as ‘Schedule-III coal mines’ meant for specified end-use(more mines can be added to Schedule-III).
         The Central Government has the power to classify mines identified from Schedule I coal mines as earmarked for a class of specified end-uses.
         Allocation shall be made through auction to a company or their JV.
         In case of Government Company or their JV, allotment may be made without auction.
         There shall be no end use restrictions on the eligibility to participate in the auction, other than for Schedule II & III coal mines. 
         ‘Nominated Authority’ shall be appointed for conduct of auction/ allotment and vesting and transfer of all interests, rights and titles of these coal mines in the successful bidder or allottee. Nominated Authority to be assisted by experts and other officers.
         The proceeds of auction shall be received by the Nominated Authority and disbursed to respective States.
         Compensation only for land and immovable mining infrastructure shall be paid to the prior allottee after paying secured creditors.
         The quantum of compensation for the mine infrastructure in relation to Schedule I coal mines is determined as per the written down value reflected in the statutorily audited balance sheet of the previous financial year.
              The quantum of compensation for the land in relation to Schedule I coal mines shall be as per the registered sale deeds together with twelve per cent. simple interest from the date of such purchase or acquisition, till the date of the execution of the vesting order or the allotment order, as the case may be.
         ‘Commissioner of Payments’ shall be appointed for disbursal of compensation.
         The Central Government may appoint Custodian(s) for operation and management of the coal mines till they are allocated through auction or allotment.
         Tribunal constituted under the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development), Act, 1957 will adjudicate any dispute arising out of any action of the Central Government/ nominated authority or any dispute between the successful bidder or allottee and prior allottee arising out of any issue connected with the Act.

           As per provisions of the Ordinance and Rules framed , the auction of coal blocks was decided to be carried out in e-auction mode in order to keep the process transparent.  110 coal blocks were earmarked with specific end-use for auction and allotment. The process of e- auction commenced with the publication of Notice Inviting Tenders (NIT) on 25-12-2014 for 23 running coal mines appearing in Schedule II. Out of these 23 coal mine/blocks, e-auction of 19 coal mines has been successfully completed in the first tranche. In the second tranche, e- auction of another 23 coal blocks from Schedule III have been put for auction with the publication of Notice Inviting Tenders (NIT) on 07-01-2015. Out of these, e-auction of 14 coal blocks in 13 packages has been completed as on 8-03-2015. The total estimated amount of revenue likely to be raised in respect of 29 coal mines already auctioned is Rs.1.93 lakh crore. The auction proceeds shall be transferred to the respective state governments.  Eastern states would be the biggest beneficiary and would financially empower them.
           The Government on scrutiny of auction observed that fair value had not be obtained in respect of 4 coal mines namely Gare Palma IV/1, Gare Palma IV/2&3 and Tara in comparison of other mines put on auction. The government therefore decided to allot Gare Palma IV/1, Gare Palma IV/2&3 to Coal India Limited.
            There were apprehensions about the likely response of the bidders to the new system but it is now clear that they are enthusiastic about it. For companies that need an important resource like coal , the best option is securing it through a clean & legal procedure. The auction saw very competitive and robust bidding by companies which were ready to pay high prices to ensure fuel security.
 Allotment of 38 coal mines to Central & State PSUs :
            The government also allotted 38 mines to central and state public sector units including NTPC, DVC and SAIL. Among these are power generating companies of West Bengal, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharastra , Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Punjab, Gujarat and Telangana. All the mines allotted are for the power sector except Sitanala mine given to SAIL. It is estimated that Rs1.41 lakh crore of likely revenue to States from royalty over 30 years from these 38 coal mines allotments.
            As Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi aptly pointed out, “fetching of over Rs 2 lakh crore from auction of just 33 coal blocks has shown that policy-driven governance can rid the system of corruption. If we run the country based on policies, if we run it efficiently, the system can be rid of corruption. We can develop graft-free system. We have taken this burden and are going ahead in that direction.”

India’s secularism under siege

The Constitution of India guarantees the fundamental right to freedom of religion. The Article 25(1) affirms that “…all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.” For India, secularism is an article of faith. The bitter experience of Partition made our founding fathers want India to be a secular state, where religion is separate from politics and the state does not patronise any particular religion.

Having said which, we are a predominantly religious people. India is the birthplace of four leading religions – Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Freedom of religion and religious tolerance is central to the Indian ethos and civilisation from times immemorial.  As Nehru said in his autobiography, “Religion has been the inner development of the individual, the evolution of his consciousness in a certain direction which is considered good…”

For Gandhiji, “Hinduism is the religion of truth.”  That Hinduism has pantheons of gods, is a demonstration of the fact that it believes in diversity and tolerance. And unlike Christianity and Islam, it is not an organized, monolithic religion. A Hindu is free to choose his own God and may or may not practise any religious tenets. Nothing is binding on the follower.  And therein lays the beauty of Hinduism.

Indian thought had universal appeal. French philosopher Romain Rolland said: “If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.” Renowned British historian Arnold Toynbee said, “The spirit of mutual goodwill, esteem and veritable love…is the traditional spirit in the religions of the Indian family. This is one of India’s gifts to the world.” The advent of the right-wing government after the general election in 2014 has witnessed the polarisation of the people along communal lines. Religion has taken centre stage in Indian politics. The RSS and its affiliates, particularly the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, appear to think the vote for the BJP is the endorsement of Hindutva agenda. The RSS ideologue Ram Madhav and Subramanian Swamy have openly admitted this on television debates. They see no contradiction between development and the Hindutva agenda. Their reasoning is that after all, the people who voted the BJP to power knew its ideological leanings. The hawks in the BJP and the fringe elements in the Sangh Parivar feel emboldened to carry out the Hindutva agenda.

Hinduism, as practised, discriminates between people on the basis of birth. As the eminent sociologist M N Srinivas rightly observed, Hinduism without caste system cannot survive. It is heartening to hear RSS Awadh Prant Sanghchaalak Prabhu Narayan Srivastava admit that “untouchability and discrimination on caste lines promoted by the Hindu religion and society…pushed the deprived sections to convert to other religions and Christians and Muslims are not to be blamed for the conversion of Hindus.”  And 82 per cent of Indians believe this to be true. It is therefore important that the Sangh Parivar work towards establishing an egalitarian society and a just social order. It must address squarely the issues like gender inequality, dowry system, child marriage, female infanticide, honour killings and other evils that plague the Hindu community. The caste system and discrimination should be abolished, if religious conversions have to be stopped.

Pakistan, created on the basis of the two-nation theory, was divided into East and West Pakistan, with East Pakistan breaking away in 1971 to become an independent Bangladesh. Pakistan today has become a hotbed of Islamic religious fanatics and today faces an existential crisis. It is falling apart.  Does the Sangh Parivar want India to go the Pakistan way? And if we are able to showcase our achievements, it is because India has been a successful, secular and liberal democracy.

It is important to recognise that India is a multi-religious country with a composite culture. Any attempt to impose a monolithic religious culture will have devastating effects. Vice President Hamid Ansari, while inaugurating the 75th session of the Indian History Congress on December 28, 2014, had cautioned against pitching for a homogenous national cultural identity. According to the Anthropological Survey of India, we have 4,635 communities.  How can we talk of homogeneity in so massively a diverse country like ours? The pluralistic structure of Indian society has stood the test of time.  It is indeed strange that in the era of internet and the social media networking, when the world is getting closer, the religious fundamentalists speak of exclusiveness.
The rise of majoritarianism is dangerous. As the US president, Barack Obama, said in his address at the Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi, on January 27, “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along lines of religious faith; so long as it is not splintered along any lines and is unified as one nation.” India is an example for other countries, including Communist China, of holding together as a free and democratic society, despite so many differences. It is what makes us world leaders, not the size of our economy or the number of weapons we have. Secular India is under siege. It is the duty of the state to protect religious minorities so that they feel safe and secure and live as free citizens with dignity.  The repeated attacks on churches are doing irreparable damage to the secular image of India.

29 March 2015

‪#‎Rajasthan‬ government on 27 March 2015 passed Rajasthan‪#‎Panchayati‬ Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2015 in state assembly.

‪#‎Rajasthan‬ government on 27 March 2015 passed Rajasthan‪#‎Panchayati‬ Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2015 in state assembly.
With this Rajasthan has become ‪#‎first‬ Indian state to fix a minimum educational qualification for contesting elections to the Panchayati Raj Institutions. The Bill amends the Rajasthan Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 to add provisions related minimum educational qualification for Panchayati elections. Key provisions of the bill Contestant for Zila Parishad or Panchayat Samiti elections should have the minimum qualification of secondary education i.e. Class 10 from the state board or any approved institution or board. Contestant for the Sarpanch elections must have passed Class VIII from any school in case of general category. In case of the scheduled area of Panchayat, the contestant should have passed Class 5 from a school to become a Sarpanch. The provision of mandatory functional toilet in the house of a contestant also added in the parent act by amending section 19

#‎CWC15Final‬ :ऑस्ट्रेलिया ने न्यूजीलैंड को 7 विकेट से हराकर पांचवीं बार वर्ल्ड कप जीता।

Australia defeat New Zealand by 7 wickets at the MCG to win their 5th World Cup crown.
Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc was named the player of the tournament after his team beat New Zealand by seven wickets to win the World Cup at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.
The 25-year-old left-arm quick finished with 22 wickets in the tournament, tied with New Zealand left-arm seamer Trent Boult though having played a match lesser than his Tasmanian rival.
Starc bowled fast and swung the ball both ways during the tournament and his wickets came at an average of just over 10.
His best bowling display came in Australia's pool stage loss against New Zealand in Auckland when he almost won his team the match with figures of 6/28.
Fast-bowling all-rounder James Faulkner was named man-of-the-match for his devastating spell which helped set up a seven-wicket victory for Australia on Sunday.
The 24-year-old struck on the first ball of the second powerplay in the 36th over to end a 111-run fourth-wicket partnership between Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott by dismissing the former with a slower delivery.
Faulkner then removed the dangerous Corey Anderson in the same over for a second-ball duck with a fast full-length delivery.
He capped his game-changing spell by removing Elliott for 83 and finished with figures of three for 36 from nine overs.

#DRDO to develop indigenous #AWACS

#DRDO to develop indigenous #AWACS

The Air Force is currently operating three Israeli Phalcons based on Russian Il-76 aircraft.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, which met on Saturday, approved the development of an indigenous Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The council allocated Rs. 5,113 crore for two systems based on the A-330 aircraft, which will be procured from Airbus. Eventually, six systems will be built for use by the Air Force. In all, the DAC cleared deals estimated at Rs.7,400 crore.

AWACS are radars mounted on an aircraft to provide seamless 360-degree coverage of the airspace. The Air Force is currently operating three Israeli Phalcons based on Russian Il-76 aircraft. In addition, the DRDO is developing two smaller Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) based on the Embraer aircraft, scheduled to be delivered this year.

BEL gets Rs. 1,605 cr. defence order for radars

The DAC on Saturday cleared the procurement of 30 weapon-locating radars from Bharat Electronics Limited for Rs.1,605 crore, Defence Ministry officials said. Each system is mounted on two high mobility vehicles.

The DAC has also sanctioned two other projects for the Army. Tenders will be issued for 1,512 mine ploughs for the T-90 main battle tanks; the ploughs are systems fitted on existing tanks to clear mines on the path of the tanks. The second project was for procurement of 220 truck-mounted lifting devices for Rs.24 crore.

The Navy is set to acquire Harpoon anti-ship missiles for its HDW submarines with the DAC approving certain deviations in the offset requirements for the 22 Harpoon missiles worth Rs.913 crore. The deal was approved last year in a government-to-government deal with the U.S. for around $ 200 million.In this file photo, an Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft lands at the Kalaikunda airbase in West Bengal.

uppcs exam is cancelled due to paper leaks

#uppcs exam is cancelled due to paper leaks

यूपीपीएससी का एग्जाम कैंसल, वॉट्सऐप पर बिक रहा था पेपर

पेपर लीक होने की खबर सामने आने की वजह से उत्तर प्रदेश पब्लिस सर्विस कमिशन (UPPSC) की परीक्षा को रद्द कर दिया गया है ।

एग्जाम से ठीक एक घंटे पहले खबर आई थी कि यूपीपीएससी के पेपर लीक हो चुके हैं। रिपोर्ट्स के मुताबिक एक पेपर की एक कॉपी के बदले परीक्षार्थियों से 5 लाख रुपये लिए गए थे।

यूपी के डीजीपी ए.के. जैन ने न्यूज चैनल्स से बात करते हुए कहा, 'एग्जाम कैंसल कर दिया गया है। जो लोग भी दोषी होंगे, उन्हें सजा जरूर मिलेगी।' उन्होंने बताया कि पेपर वॉट्सऐप पर डिस्ट्रीब्यूट हो रहा था।

एग्जाम रद्द होने की वजह से लखनऊ में विरोध प्रदर्शनों का दौर भी शुरू हो चुका है।


28 March 2015

For a renaissance in Indian S&T

The apathy of successive Central governments towards science and technology continues in numerous ways. The premier national scientific agencies have been made to languish, and no effort has been made either to formulate a national S&T policy

No one would doubt that #science and technology (S&T) are an intrinsic part of the socio-politico-economic fabric of our society, yet the cold fact is that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government has paid scant attention to science in particular, which has been the basis of all technologies that have transformed lives through history. This is not to say that the United Progressive Alliance government did better. Let me look at the new government’s apathy towards S&T, exemplified in these ways:
No direction

Three of the leading scientific agencies in the country have been without a head for various periods. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has been without a regular director-general since January 2014; he/she would also hold the position of Secretary, Department of Scientific & Industrial Research. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has been without a director-general since March 1, 2015; he/she would also be the Secretary, Department of Health Research. And, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been without a director-general — he/she would also be the scientific adviser to the Defence Minister — since January 14, 2015, when the person-in-charge was removed. Between them, these organisations oversee 120 out of some 280 national S&T institutions. Till recently, another leading scientific agency, the Department of Science and Technology (DST), was also without a head for quite some time. The post of Secretary, DST, was filled only recently.
In addition, several premier research and development (R&D) laboratories function without a regular director, examples being the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi.
There is more. The last Union Budget speech had virtually no reference to science. Personally, I am aware of the erosion of excellence built painstakingly over the years in laboratories such as the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad. Its library can no longer subscribe to evenCurrent Contents leave alone other scientific journals as there is no money. I know that the ICMR cannot even pay appropriate travel allowance to those attending its meetings. I have not seen such situations arise in my scientific career spanning over six decades. The resource crunch that S&T labs face today is something unknown and is painful.
For a viable policy

No effort has been made to formulate a national S&T policy, especially when the country needs a framework and a statement on such a policy. It also needs a document that would clearly and unambiguously state a workable way to implement this policy.
Once this is done, one must then identify our unqualified successes in the fields of science and technology since Independence and give their reasons so that one knows what one has to build upon, and also identify our failures and their reasons. We can then know what needs to be taken care of in future.
At this point, I would like to give the example of Israel and highlight the quality and worldwide impact of basic scientific research done there. As an independent nation, Israel has existed for about the same period as India has. Unlike India, it has had to start from scratch. It did not inherit natural resources like India did. There is just one reservoir of fresh water, the Sea of Galilee. Its entire population is much smaller than the population of even the smallest of our four largest metropolitan cities. Yet, its output of all basic research outpaces that done in most of our 280 national research institutions. One only needs to analyse the citations of the scientific work done in the two countries and follow the worldwide technological impact of Israel’s work to understand what I am trying to highlight.
There must be a recognition of the differences between science and technology. For this, one can refer to Science and Technology Policy in the 1980s and Beyond, 1984.
The use of validated, indigenous, traditional knowledge hardly needs emphasis. For example, traditional knowledge in the area of water conservation has been well documented by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in Delhi. Where used, as in Rajasthan, the excellent results are there for all to see. Yet, in contrast, is the way in which our numerous, tribal, plant-based, traditional medical formulations, for which substantial social validation exists, have not even been documented. An example of social validation in this area is the regulation of conception in the Nicobar Islands.
New links

The documents must also recognise and identify new linkages that science has come to establish with areas such as economics, sociology, politics and law; deal with the new ethical questions that have arisen as a consequence of advances in science and technology, and work out strategies which ensure that they are dealt with appropriately in the Indian context.
We must also ensure that the cultivation of a scientific temper does not exist merely on paper but finds life and expression in practice. All actions that the government takes or supported by the people must be in line with scientific temper.
We must take a stand on those clauses of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) which have a scientific component and which are not in India’s interests. This would involve utilising existing provisions in these agreements to our advantage and passing appropriate pieces of national legislation and seeking changes to specific provisions at the international level. This was dealt with in an article in this daily (February 20, 2002) titled “Patenting India’s interests”.
There must be a definitive but liberal policy on providing venture capital for start-ups in new areas of technology. This must be through government-funded agencies such as the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India and the Industrial Development Bank of India.
The mechanism governing the release of genetically engineered organisms is unsatisfactory and ineffective. Similarly, infertility clinics have mushroomed in the last decade and may be responsible for an infructuous expenditure of several thousand crores of rupees every year, besides creating ethical problems. I advocate appropriate and workable regulatory mechanisms in these two areas.
There must be an emphasis on national security which would include sustainable development and a factoring in of interests in conservation, food, ecology, social security (including health), and defence.
A forecasting system which would enable one to project socio-economic-political scenarios against the background of developments in science and technology on a continuing basis is a must.
Basic research

Working out a policy for basic research where all worthwhile ideas that would allow India to become a leader in basic research should be pursued with vigour. Second or third-rate research that is repetitive or a trivial follow-up of leads provided elsewhere in the world must be discouraged. This will ensure that the quality-to-quantity ratio in the country in respect of basic research goes up by at least two-orders of magnitude in the next two decades.
Areas that relate to technology where the country would lay special emphasis in the next two decades must be identified. These could be in space technology, energy (especially renewable sources of energy, and increasing efficiency in the use and conservation of energy), new materials, biotechnology (including marine biotechnology), information technology, microelectronics, computers, nanotechnologies, artificial intelligence, automation and robotics, meteorology, and disaster prevention and management.
An incident in the past comes to mind. In 1982, the first robot in the country was produced by a private science society, the Hyderabad Science Society, which was founded in 1948; it received rave reviews and was met with applause when first demonstrated to the public. However, the society, which has an excellent record of public service, has faced problems, some of which affect its survival. Such a situation would never have been allowed to happen or even arisen in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea, leave alone Japan, the United Kingdom or the United States.
Finally, our national science academies must be made socially accountable. I hope all these points will help usher in ‘Achche Din’ for Indian science and technology and make eminent sense to our political masters.

#Saina makes history, becomes world no.1

While the official rankings will be out on Thursday, reigning champion Carolina Marin's India Open semifinal loss on Saturday made Saina Nehwal the first Indian woman to reach the top spot.

#SainaNehwal on Saturday scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman shuttler to attain the number one spot in world rankings, reaffirming her status as the country’s most consistent performer in the international circuit.
The 25-year-old zoomed to the top after her closest challenger for the position, Spain’s Carolina Marin, lost in the India Open Super Series semifinal here.
Though the official rankings will be out only on Thursday next week, Saina has been assured of her ascent to the top owing to the reigning world champion’s 19-21 23-21 20-22 loss to third seed Thai Ratchanok Intanon.
Saina thus becomes only the second Indian overall to be world number one after Prakash Padukone had the distinction of being the numero uno men’s badminton player.
Saina plays Japan’s Yui Hashimoto in the second semifinal but the Indian ace will be No. 1 irrespective of her result on Saturday.
The London Olympic bronze-medallist has won a staggering 14 international titles in her glorious career and most recently she became the first Indian woman to make the finals of the prestigious All England Championships in Manchester.

#PSLV-C27 Successfully Launches India's Fourth Navigation Satellite IRNSS-1D

ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C27, successfully launched the 1425 kg IRNSS-1D, the fourth satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) today evening (March 28, 2015) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. This is the twenty eighth consecutively successful mission of the PSLV. The 'XL' configuration of PSLV was used for this mission. Previously, the same configuration of the vehicle was successfully used seven times.

After the PSLV-C27 lift-off at 1719 hrs IST from the Second Launch Pad with the ignition of the first stage, the subsequent important flight events, namely, strap-on ignitions and separations, first stage separation, second stage ignition, heat-shield separation, second stage separation, third stage ignition and separation, fourth stage ignition and satellite injection, took place as planned. After a flight of about 19 minutes 25 seconds, IRNSS-1D Satellite was injected to an elliptical orbit of 282.52 km X 20,644 km (very close to the intended orbit) and successfully separated from the PSLV fourth stage.

After injection, the solar panels of IRNSS-1D were deployed automatically. ISRO's Master Control Facility (at Hassan, Karnataka) took over the control of the satellite. In the coming days, four orbit manoeuvres will be conducted from Master Control Facility to position the satellite in the Geosynchronous Orbit at 111.75 deg East longitude with 30.5 deg inclination. IRNSS-1D is the fourth of the seven satellites constituting the space segment of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System. IRNSS-1A, 1B and 1C, the first three satellites of the constellation, were successfully launched by PSLV on July 02, 2013, April 04, 2014 and October 16, 2014 respectively. All the three satellites are functioning satisfactorily from their designated orbital positions.

IRNSS is an independent regional navigation satellite system designed to provide position information in the Indian region and 1500 km around the Indian mainland. IRNSS would provide two types of services, namely, Standard Positioning Services (SPS) - provided to all users - and Restricted Services (RS), provided to authorised users.

A number of ground stations responsible for the generation and transmission of navigation parameters, satellite control, satellite ranging and monitoring, etc., have been established in many locations across the country.

In the coming months, the next satellite of this constellation, namely, IRNSS-1E, is scheduled to be launched by PSLV. The entire IRNSS constellation of seven satellites is planned to be completed by 2016

Applications of IRNSS 
Terrestrial, Aerial and Marine Navigation. Disaster Management. Vehicle tracking and fleet management. Integration with mobile phones. Precise Timing. Mapping and Geodetic data capture. Terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travellers. Visual and voice navigation for drivers.

Government #transparencyindex

 India ranks 37 out of 102 countries on the Open Government Index 2015, which ranks countries on how transparent their governments are and the ease with which citizens can hold their government accountable.

The report, released on Thursday by Washington-based World Justice Project, is a perception survey on a random sample in three cities in each country, and has also interviewed experts in the field of transparency.

Those that topped the list were high income countries such as Sweden, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark and Netherlands. "Richer countries rank higher as they have more resources and more people connected to the internet. But on removing high-income countries from the list, the correlation between a country's per capita gross domestic product and its rank on the Open Government Index disappears," says Juan Carlos Botero, one of the authors of the report, told TOI.

This is evident when one compares India with China. While China is on the list of upper middle income countries and India is on the list of lower middle income countries, India outperforms China by 50 ranks when it comes to transparency in governance, with China ranking 87 on the list.

Incidentally, US ranked 11 on the index, despite it facing heat over spying on its citizens. "In other studies, such as the Rule of Law Index, the US does not fare well on privacy," says Botero.

Of the four parameters used to rank countries, India ranked 27 for publicized laws and government data. But it ranked 66 on Right to Information index. In India, the survey was carried out in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, and only 1% of those studied had requested information under the Act. Botero points out that there is no correlation between a country having a RTI law and implementing it. "Countries, like Germany, do not have a freedom of information law, but score well on open governance. India, on the other hand, has a strong transparency law. It now needs to implement it," he adds. The study showed that worldwide 40% of those surveyed were aware of laws supporting their right to access government data.

Mission #Indradhanush to Put #Vaccination Efforts on High Speed 90% Children to Be Covered in Next Five Years By 2020

Vaccination is a proven and one of the most cost effective child survival interventions. All countries in the world have an immunization programme to deliver selected vaccines to the targeted beneficiaries, specially focusing on pregnant women, infants and children, who are at a high risk of diseases preventable by vaccines. The number of vaccines in the immunization programmes varies from country to country; however, there are a few selected vaccines against Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Poliomyelitis, Measles, and Hepatitis-B which are part of immunization programmes in most of the countries in the world.
Though a proven cost-effective preventive intervention, the benefits of immunization is not reaching many children who are at the maximum risk of the diseases preventable by these vaccines. Majority of the children who do not receive these vaccines live in developing countries. Studies have revealed that children are left uncovered by the routine immunisation programme either because the parents and guardians are unaware of the drive, or there is some element of apprehension or fear due to vaccination. Both these can be effectively addressed through an awareness campaign which underlines the critical importance of vaccination, and removes any apprehension harboured by the parent or the guardian.
Indian Scenario
2.7 Crore children are born in India every year. Approximately 18.3 lakhs children die before their fifth birthday. It is the low income families who lose the most children to disease. India records 5 lakh child deaths annually due to vaccine preventable diseases. Despite high childhood mortality rates due to vaccine preventable diseases, 30 percent of Indian children miss the benefits of full immunization every year. That is, an estimated 89 lakhs children across the country that either get only a few vaccines or no vaccines at all. One out of every 3 children in India does not receive all vaccines that are available under UIP.  Five percent of children in urban areas and 8 percent in rural areas are unimmunized.
 The Government of India recognizes immunization as one of the most cost effective interventions to prevent child deaths. India’s Universal Immunization Programme is one of the largest public health interventions in the country with an extensive vaccine delivery system with 27000 vaccine storage units in 35 states across the country. 80% of vaccination takes place in the outreach sessions, held in thousands each year in more than 6 lakh villages and other urban belts.
Universal Immunisation Programme (U.I.P.)
It is one of the largest in the world in terms of quantities of vaccine used, the number of beneficiaries, the number of Immunisation session organised, the geographical spread and diversity of areas covered. The national policy of Immunisation of all children during the first year of life with DPT, OPV and BCG to complete the series of primary vaccination before reaching the age of one year was adopted in 1978 with the lunching of EPI to increase the Immunisation coverage in infancy to 80%. Universal Immunisation programme UIP was launched in 1985 in a phased manner. The measles vaccine was added in 1985 and in 1990 Vitamin A supplementation was added to the program.
The Vaccination Schedule under the UIP
1. BCG (Bacillus Calmette Guerin) 1 dose at Birth (upto 1 year if not given earlier)
2. DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus Toxoid) 5 doses; Three primary doses at 6weeks,10weeks and 14 weeks and two booster doses at 16-24 months and 5 Years of age
3. OPV (Oral Polio Vaccine) 5 doses; 0 dose at birth, three primary doses at 6,10 and 14 weeks and one booster dose at 16-24 months of age
4. Hepatitis B vaccine 4 doses; 0 dose within 24 hours of birth and three doses at 6, 10 and 14 weeks of age.
5. Measles 2 doses; first dose at 9-12 months and second dose at 16-24months of age
6. TT (Tetanus Toxoid) 2 doses at 10 years and 16 years of age
7. TT – for pregnant woman two doses or one dose if previously vaccinated within 3 Year
8.  In addition, Japanese Encephalitis (JE vaccine) vaccine was introduced in 112 endemic districts in campaign mode in phased manner from 2006-10 and has now been incorporated under the Routine Immunisation Programme.
India expanded its immunization programme with the introduction of three new vaccines in 2014. There is an urgent need to ensure that the benefit of complete vaccination is provided to all children in the country.
In spite of all positive changes, there are ongoing challenges and shortcoming in the programme. The coverage with vaccines in National Immunization Programme is suboptimal and there are inter- and intra-state variations in the coverage. There are wide variations in the proportion of partially immunized and unimmunized children within states and districts. Data recording and reporting is suboptimal and disease surveillance system desires improvement. It is critical to address these reasons and identify the districts where focused efforts, systematic immunization drive and additional resources will be required for reaching all children with all available life-saving vaccines.
The challenges faced in delivering lifesaving vaccines to the targeted beneficiaries need to be addressed from the existing knowledge and learning from the past. Though the preventive efforts from diseases were practiced in India, the reluctance, opposition and a slow acceptance of vaccination have been the characteristic of vaccination history in the country. The operational challenges keep the coverage inequitable in the country. The lessons from the past events have been analysed and interpreted to guide immunization efforts.
Mission Indradhanush
The result is the ‘Mission Indradhanush’ launched on 25th December, 2014 with an aim to cover all those children who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated. ‘Mission Indradhanush’ is a nationwide initiative with a special focus on 201 high focus districts. These districts account for nearly 50% of the total partially vaccinated or unvaccinated children in the country. Mission Indradhanush will provide protection against seven life-threatening diseases (Diphtheria, Whooping Cough, Tetanus, Polio, Tuberculosis, Measles and Hepatitis B). In addition, vaccination against Japanese Encephalitis and Haemophilus influenza type B will be provided in selected districts of the country. Vaccination against tetanus will be provided to the pregnant women.
Between 2009-2013 immunisation coverage has increased from 61% to 65%, indicating only 1% increase in coverage every year. To accelerate the process of immunization by covering 5% and more children every year, the Mission Mode has been adopted to achieve target of full coverage by 2020. High-focus 201 districts will be taken up for implementation in the first phase. Of these, 82 districts are in just four states of UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and nearly 25% of the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children of India are in these 82 districts of four states. Moreover, 297 will be targeted for the second phase. The Mission focuses on interventions to rapidly increase full immunization coverage of children by approximately 5% annually and to expand full immunization coverage from 65% in 2014 to at least 90% children in the next five years. Four special vaccination campaigns will be conducted between March and June 2015 and this will cover all children less than two years of age and pregnant women for Tetanus Toxoid vaccine. This immunization campaign will be conducted for a period of 7-10 days every month for four consecutive months.
Micro plans developed to make the Mission mode successful will draw on the lessons learned from the Polio eradication towards systems strengthening, vaccine cold chain management, regular surveillance and monitoring of the plans to reach each and every left out and uncovered child. The government has sought technical support from various external agencies like WHO, UNICEF and Rotary to achieve the goals of this programme.
Understandably, the implementation of vaccination programme and ensuring that the benefits of vaccines reach to each and every possible beneficiary is a challenging task.  Mission Indradhanush depicting seven colours of the rainbow, aims to cover all those children by 2020 who are either unvaccinated or are partially vaccinated against seven vaccine preventable diseases which include diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B. The Mission Indradhanush initiative is a call for action by the Government of India to intensify efforts to expedite the full immunization coverage in the country. Full immunization will rescues lakhs of children from disease mortality and morbidity and is essential for social development.

President confers #BharatRatna on #Vajpayee

Veteran Parliamentarian and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, founder member of the Bharatiya Janata Party who is held in high esteem across the political spectrum, was on Friday conferred with Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award, by President Pranab Mukherjee

In a departure from protocol, Mr. Mukherjee drove to Mr. Vajpayee’s residence at Krishna Memon marg in Lutyens’ Delhi and presented to the ailing BJP leader the prestigious award, the country’s highest civilian honour.

The event, which was attended by Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh along with some close family members, was kept away from the media glare.

Mr. Vajpayee, who was Prime Minister from 1998 to 2004, and has faded from public life due to age-related illness, is lauded as a statesman and has been often described as the moderate face of BJP.

He has been credited with taking bold initiatives, notable among them being the historic bus journey to Lahore in 1999 when he signed the landmark Lahore Declaration with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with both sides pledging to push for peace and security.

Later, a tea party was hosted in the lawns of the residence which was attended by union ministers and state Chief Ministers including Jammu and Kashmir’s Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.

The announcement for a Bharat Ratna for Mr. Vajpayee, the first Prime Minister from outside the Congress party to serve a full five-year term, came on December 24, a day before he turned 90.

Mr. Vajpayee’s detractors called him the “mask” of RSS but still always had good words for him.

Regarded as one of the most charismatic leaders, he was lauded as a statesman politician whose acceptability across the board broke barriers and brought BJP to centre stage of politics in the late 1980s.

'Mother India's dear son'

The Prime Minister expressed his happiness over the award that was conferred on Mr. Vajpayee by the President and said he was leader who had dedicated his entire life for the nation.

“One who dedicated his life, such Mother India’s dear son, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, we have got the privilege to confer the Bharat Ratna Award on him today.

“I express my gratitude to the President who himself came here and personally bestowed upon him, the Bharat Ratna award.

“Atalji’s life was dedicated to the nation, he lived and thought for the nation for every second. In India there are crores of workers like me in whose life Vajpayee ji is an inspiration.

“The upcoming generations will continue to be inspired by him. I will pray to God for this only that Bharat Ratna Awardee Vajpayee ji’s life continues to inspire and guide us forever,” he said.

Emerging from Mr. Vajpayee’s residence, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters that Bharat Ratna was conferred on the former Prime Minister by the President at a brief ceremony because of “Vajpayee does not go out on account of his health reasons.”

The honour is in recoognition of his services to the country as a “powerful nationalist leader, one of the longest serving Parliamentarians, a poet and a thinker who was not leader of his own party but of the entire country,” he said.

A veteran Parliamentarian, he was not only a leader of India but of the whole world. He left an indelible imprint as a philosopher, poet and Prime Minister, Mr. Jaitley said, adding, “it is an occasion of joy for each one of us.”

He said the function held at Mr. Vajpayee’s residence was on behalf of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, BJP patron L K Advani, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, Chief Ministers Prakash Singh Badal (Punjab), Vasundhra Raje (Rajasthan), Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Madhya Pradesh) and N Chnadrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh) besides JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav were among those present.

Known for bold decisions

An orator par excellence and known for taking bold initiatives, Mr. Vajpayee was widely respected within the country and abroad as a statesman of the genre of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Vajpayee’s tenure from 1998-99 as Prime Minister saw his boldness as during this period India conducted a series of successive nuclear tests at Pokhran in May 1998.

He always wanted to improve relations with Pakistan ever since he became foreign minister in the Morarji Desai Government in the late seventies.

After the Lahore bus peace overtures failed to move forward, another initiative was the historic Agra summit with General Pervez Musharraf in 2001 but that too made little headway.

A bachelor and a poet of some repute, Vajpayee was born on December 25, 1924 at Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh to Krishna Bihari Vajpayee and Krishna Devi, a Brahmin family.

With his Parliamentary career spanning over five decades, Vajpayee was first elected to Lok Sabha in 1957 on Bhartiya Jan Sangh ticket.

Since its inception, 43 people including former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bhadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi besides singing legend Lata Mangeshkar and the batting mastreo have received the prestigious award.

The President will also confer the Bharat Ratna on Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (posthumously) on March 30, 2015 at Rashtrapati Bhavan along with the Civil Investiture Ceremony for the Padma Awards, it said.

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