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Companies BillOn November 24, 2011, the Union Cabinet approved the Companies Bill, 2011, which aims to update corporate laws in the country and introduce modern concepts like mandatory CSR and class action suits.

Intended to replace the existing half-a-century-old Companies Act, the Bill has undergone several modifications in view of the Rs 14,000-crore Satyam accounting fraud.

Besides strengthening the provisions to check fraud, the Bill has introduced ideas like mandatory corporate social responsibility (CSR), class action suits and a fixed term for independent directors.

Among other things, it also proposes to tighten laws for raising money from the public. The Bill also seeks to prohibit any insider trading by company directors or key managerial personnel by treating such activities as a criminal offence.

Further, it has proposed that companies should earmark two per cent of their average profits of the preceding three years for CSR activities and make a disclosure to shareholders about the policy adopted in the process.

Pension Bill gets Cabinet nod
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, which seeks to establish an authority that will develop, promote and regulate old-age income security. The Bill doesn't mention the extent of foreign ownership to be allowed in Indian pension funds and in a central record-keeping agency. But in August 2011, the Finance Ministry had proposed to cap foreign investment in the pension sector at 26%, a suggestion accepted by a Parliamentary panel that was examining the Bill.

Allowing 26% foreign direct investment in pension management would help the government claim its economic liberalization is proceeding. The process, begun in 1991, has dramatically changed India by allowing formerly State-owned industries to flourish in private hands. But many restrictions remain in place in key sectors, including finance where restrictions on foreign ownership remain.

India also is eager to expand pension coverage to more of its 1.2 billion citizens and to create a market for longer-term debt that pension funds often like to hold.

Benefits from FDI in Retail
While allowing FDI in retail sector, the Union government put out a strong defence of its decision to allow up to 51 per cent foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and up to 100 per cent in single-brand retail. The move, it said, would generate about 10 million jobs over three years and help farmers get more for their produce, while dampening the prices of products.

In its defence the government has claimed that 4 million jobs will be created in areas like sorting, packaging etc; another 4-5 million jobs will be created in logistics.

India lacks cold storage chains. At present there are only 5,386 standalone cold storages and 80% of these are used only for potatoes. Around 35-40% of perishable farm produce gets rotten in post-harvesting period. With allowance of 100% FDI in cold storage chains is expected to take care of the problem.

Farmers today get only up to one-third of what consumers pay in food-grains and realise just 12-15% of what consumers pay for vegetables and fruits. With the coming of organised retail sector the farmers will get better margins, according to the government.

Gender inequality problem of India
Close on the heels of the world population crossing the 7 billion-mark, the new Human Development Report of UNDP has revealed a major reason behind India’s growing numbers. While we are worrying about high total fertility rates (TFRs) of 2.6, new data points out that our adolescent fertility rates (AFR) are even more shocking at 86.3.

Adolescent fertility rate—defined as the number of births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19—is among the highest for India in South Asia. Only Nepal and Afghanistan have higher rates at 103.4 and 118.7.

One of the main drivers of high gender inequality in India, which has the poorest (129th) Gender Inequality Index rank in South Asia (leaving aside Afghanistan which is poorer at 141), high adolescent fertility rate reflects that our child marriage prevention laws have simply not worked and our contraception prevalence rate remains poor at 54%. Even Sri Lanka has a higher contraception prevalence rate at 68%.

On gender equality, India lags far behind China which is ranked a handsome 35 in the world (lower the rank on GII, better the state of gender equality). In China adolescent fertility rate is just 8.4, while TFR is also low at 1.6.

Even on the other two major components that drive gender equality—women’s representation in national Parliament and the participation of age 25 years plus women in economic activities—India is far behind many even in South Asia. Nepal is the best in this category with 33.2% women in Parliament, while China and Pakistan have 21.3% and 21%, respectively—much better than India’s 10.7%.

As far as people who have attained secondary education are concerned, in India the percentage is 26.6 for women as against 50.4 for men—indicating a wide gap, which is also seen in labour force participation, where women make up 32.8% workforce as against 81.1% men.

India ranked 134th on UN Human Development Index
India is ranked 134th among the 187 countries assessed for their performance in three key areas of human development—education, health and income. The UNDP Global Human Development Index (HDI) 2011 places Norway, Australia and The Netherlands on top of the charts, while Congo, Niger and Burundi fare the worst in the annual rankings.

India’s place remains unchanged because the index includes 18 new countries this time as against just 169 in 2010, when India stood at rank 119. This year, though, India is placed behind all its partners in BRICS, where Russia is the leader at number 66, followed by Brazil at 84; China at 101 and South Africa at 123.

Within the South Asian Region, too, India is not in the lead, whereas Iran, at 88th position, fares at the top. Bhutan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan are placed below India in HDI rankings and values.

On Gender Inequality Index (GII), India is ranked a poor 129th in the world. It is ahead of only Afghanistan in South Asia on an indicator which measures gender parity in education, reproductive health (maternal mortality and adolescent fertility rate) and representation of women in national Parliaments and participation of women aged above 25 years in the country’s labour force.

On the inequality adjusted indices for education and health, India fares poorly in BRICS nations and South Asia’s Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It loses substantial HDI value—28.3 per cent—when internal inequalities in health, education and income are calculated.

Roadmap to boost ties with Maldives
During his visit to Male, on November 12, 2011, viewing the Indian Ocean region as part of India's “extended neighbourhood”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh  spelt out initiatives spanning student scholarships, banking and finance credit lines worth $100 million, infrastructure projects and security and climate change cooperation in his address to People’sMajlis, the Maldivian Parliament.

Making clear India’s interests in this strategic chain of islands straddling key shipping and trade routes, Prime Minister Singh told People’s Majlis that “The President and I have signed a historic framework agreement on cooperation for development”.

The 70-odd members of Maldivian Parliament heard Singh in pin-drop silence as he outlined a powerful vision to integrate India and Maldives politically and economically.

With China also perusing aggressive diplomacy in the island nation, India's footprint in this archipelago has vital foreign policy dimensions.


According to a global survey, “Quality of living survey, 2011” Bangalore has emerged as the best city to live in India. Vienna has been ranked as the world’s best city to live in, followed by Zurich, Auckland, Munich and Dusseldorf.

World Aids Day is observed on December 1.

The island nation of Kirabati has become the first to declare that its territory has become uninhabitable due to global warming. They have asked for help to evacuate the population.

The employee engagement initiative of NASDAQ-listed IT company iGate, “Thank God it’s Monday”, has entered the Limca Book of Records as the longest running corporate show. As part of the programme, in-house band of iGate, Rubberband, presents live musical performances every Monday afternoon at its Whitefield Campus in Bangalore.

Buddhist sites in Sanchi have become the first blind-friendly world heritage monuments of India. Special tactical walk-ways, signages in Braille, beepers and Braile map will make the monuments, including the Stupa, come alive for the visually-challenged, who will also be allowed to “feel” the grandeur in every sense.

The East Asia Summit, 2011 was held in Bali, Indonesia.

A metal has been developed by a team of researchers from University of California at Irvine, HRL Laboratories and the California Institute of Technology with a density of 0.9 mg/cc. The metal, which is about 100 times lighter than styrofoam, is the world’s lightest material. The scientists were able to make a material, that consists of 99.99% air, by designing the 0.01% solid at the nanometre, micron and millimetre scales.

National Integration Day is observed on November 19.

Vivek Express is the new weekly train that covers India’s longest rail route from Dibrugarh in Assam to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, covering the distance of 4,286 km in approximately 83 hours. The train was flagged-off on November 19, 2011.

The Union Finance Ministry has increased the investment limit for Foreign Institutional Investors (FII) in government securities (G-secs) and corporate bonds by $5 billion each, a move that will enhance capital flows and increase the availability of resources for Indian corporate. FIIs can now invest up to $15 billion in G-secs and $20 billion in corporate bonds.

The Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows (PMRDF) scheme has been launched to reach out to talented young professionals willing to be part of a larger change. After selection, these professionals will work in districts where the Central government is implementing Integrated Action Plan to deal with left wing extremists. They will support the district administration in providing socio-economic situation analysis, identifying critical gaps in development programmes.

Queensland’s Gold Coast in Australia has been named as 2018 Commonwealth Games host.

Interest rate on post office savings has been hiked to 4%. PPF will now fetch 8.6% return and investment limit has also been increased to Rs one lakh per year.

State-run mineral giant NMDC has struck it rich by unearthing a 37.68 carat diamond, the biggest-ever gem produced from the legendry diamond mines in Panna, Madhya Pradesh.

India is among the nine new members elected to the prestigious World Heritage Committee (WHC) for the next four years. This gives India the authority of a final say on whether a property can be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

To stop encroachment around monuments and sites of archaeological importance, the Union government has established the National Monument Authority (NMA) under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment & Validation) Act.

National Education Day is observed on November 11, birthday of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.

November 7 is observed as the National Cancer Awareness Day.

Yingluck Shinawatra, first woman Prime Minister of Thailand, will be thr chief gust for India’s 2012 Republic Day celebrations.

From April 1, 2012, the Reserve Bank of India has cut the validity of Cheques and bank drafts to three months instead of the six months earlier.

Himachal Pradesh has become the first State of India to drop the use of surnames of its police officers. They are now referred to by their first names only.

The Reserve Bank of India has issued a notification making it mandatory for all demand drafts above Rs 20,000 to be account payee only. The step has been taken following reports that a lot of black money was being transacted within the country using bank channel.

The sixth G20 Summit was held at Cannes, on November 3-4, 2011.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi (11th) and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (19th) figure among the top 20 most powerful people on earth in the latest Forbes list that is topped by US President Barack Obama.

The Union Cabinet has cleared a new public procurement policy under which central government departments and public sector undertakings will give preference to small scale enterprises, including those belonging to scheduled castes and tribes. The policy has set an annual target of 20% procurement from micro, small and medium enterprises.

India is ranked 134th on UN Human Development Index,  among the 187 countries assessed for their performance in three key areas of human development—education, health and income.


Tunisia enters new era of democracyOn November 22, 2011, Tunisia entered a new era of democracy with the inaugural session of its democratically elected Constituent Assembly, ten months after a popular uprising ended years of dictatorship.

The 217-member Assembly is the first elected body produced by the Arab Spring. At the inauguration, the lawmakers, who will be tasked with drafting a new constitution and paving the way to fresh elections, sang the national anthem as the session got under way in the Bardo palace.

“This event is like a second independence for Tunisia,” said Ahmed Mestiri, an iconic figure in the struggle for Tunisia’s 1956 independence from France.

Despite assurances, some Tunisians have expressed concern that an Islamist-dominated Tunisia could roll back hard-earned rights such as the Code of Personal Status, seen notably as one of the Arab world’s most progressive sets of laws on women.

US Secretary of State Hillary on historic visit to Myanmar
On November 30, 2011, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Myanmar on the first top-level US visit for half a century, seeking to encourage a “movement for change” in the military-dominated nation.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has surprised observers with a series of reformist moves in the past year, including releasing opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and nominally ending decades of military rule.

President Barack Obama had personally announced Clinton’s trip during a visit to Asia earlier, citing “flickers” of hope. But his administration has sought to keep expectations low, mindful of other false dawns in Myanmar. Hillary said the United States and other nations hoped that the flickers “will be ignited into a movement for change that will benefit the people of the country”.

India pips China to UN post
India beat China fair and square in a rare direct fight for a key post in the UN, signalling that for all the display of Chinese hard power, India retains a fair bit of international clout. India will now serve a five-year term in the Joint Inspection Unit, the UN’s only external oversight body.

India’s candidate A. Gopinathan, envoy to the UN in Geneva, convincingly defeated the Chinese candidate, Zhang Yan, China’s envoy to New Delhi, winning 106 votes against Zhang’s 77. China has held the post for the past 10 years. India will get the post after 35 years.

The vote was a shot in the arm for India’s multilateral diplomacy, but more specifically, for India’s UN diplomats, particularly the UN mission in New York under Hardeep Puri. India had put a well-oiled election and lobbying machine to work, told all its heads of missions to go all out to pitch for its candidate and demarched other missions at least three times.

Gopinathan is one of India’s finest diplomats and he enjoys a great deal of support within the cadre.

According to Indian diplomats, the significance of the vote is that for the first time, India challenged a post considered a pocket borough by a P-5 member, and won. The US candidate on the JIU was replaced by an American and the Russian by a Russian. India, quite inadvertently, has shown that P-5 countries cannot always corner plum posts by virtue of their status.

China ready for ‘code of conduct’ in South China Sea
On the back-foot after most ASEAN countries, including India, pressed for a discussion on the South China Sea disputes at the East Asia Summit in Bali, China has said it is willing to work out a code of conduct with them, pending settlement of the row.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao signalled the climb-down after two days of wrangling, which included unsuccessfully pressuring India to resolve the issue bilaterally.

The topic had been a thorny issue, with China laying claim to all of the resource-rich South China Sea, while Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia, among others, claim parts of it.

China and ASEAN countries signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, testifying to the fact that the freedom of navigation in the area “has not been affected whatsoever”, Wen said.

In a remark aimed at keeping US out, Chinese assistant foreign minister Liu Zhenmin said China insisted the issue be confined to talks between the parties directly involved, through negotiation.

ASEAN rewards Myanmar for reforms
Myanmar has won approval of ASEAN to chair Southeast Asia’s regional bloc in 2014, in a reward for hints of reform from its new government after decades of military rule.

Despite warnings from the US that the move was pre-mature, leaders of ASEAN handed Myanmar the diplomatic prize at their summit held on the Indonesian island of Bali.

In 2006, Myanmar was forced to renounce the ASEAN rotating presidency in the face of criticism over its human rights record and the ruling junta’s failure to shift to democracy.

But since elections a year ago, the military-backed government has held direct talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, freed 200 dissidents and frozen work on an unpopular mega-dam.

Rights campaigners say they fear that the reform drive could be reversed now that the government has won the coveted chairmanship, removing the incentive for more fundamental change. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, however, said that southeast Asian leaders were satisfied with the momentum in Myanmar.

Along with the ASEAN chairmanship, the decision means Myanmar will host the East Asia Summit in 2014, which brings ASEAN members together with US, China and Russia, among others.

China warns Australia against military pact with US
On November 17, 2011, China has warned Australia that it may be “caught in the crossfire” if the US uses new Australia-based military forces to threaten its interests, a day after Canberra and Washington renewed a defence pact.

US President Barack Obama, on his first official visit to Australia, had met Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and unveiled plans to station 2,500 US marines in the Northern Territory within five years.

He confirmed Australia’s strategic importance in an Asia-Pacific century, dominated by the growing power of China and India.

Istanbul conference on Afghan situation
A decade after the Taliban government was ousted from power, regional leaders, on November 2, 2011, pledged to find ways to improve security and economic development in Afghanistan as international combat forces prepare to leave by the end of 2014.

The one-day conference in Istanbul followed the September assassination of an Afghan peace envoy and other high-profile assaults in Afghanistan that have diminished prospects for a negotiated settlement and intensified suspicion of Pakistani support for the insurgency, an allegation that the Pakistan’s government denies.

In an opulent hall on the shores of the Bosporus Strait, delegates delivered speeches promising support for Afghan sovereignty, and endorsed a transition to Afghan security leadership, efforts for a political solution to the war and economic development.

As a show of solidarity, the meeting was a success, but it was also a reminder of how much remains unsolved.

In all 14 countries agreed at the conference to cooperate in building the future of war-torn Afghanistan. Among the countries involved are Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, China, Russia and India, and several Arab States.

Demanding an end to external interference in Afghan internal affairs, India stressed on the need to eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries, a stand that was reflected in the outcome document.

On its part, Afghanistan termed the cooperation with New Delhi as a “turning point” and pitched for a bigger role for India in the region for desirable reasons.

SAARC Summit, 2011
The 17th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was held at the Add

u atoll in Maldives.
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