Current Affairs -- as given by competition master.com--January 2012
State of Education ReportAccording to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2011, the grim tale of India’s school education has got grimmer, with new evidence surfacing to show that families across rural India have been ignoring the guaranteed Right to Education to seek private paid education.
Though a whopping 96.8 per cent children aged 6 to 14 years (the age group the RTE Act covers) are now enrolled in school, children’s attendance is declining and so is their ability to read simple text and do simple mathematical calculations.
Almost half (48.1 per cent) of India’s rural primary school students are either attending private schools or seeking paid tuition. Across the nation, private school enrolment for children aged 6 to 14 years rose from 18.7 per cent in 2006 to 25.6 per cent in 2011.
The survey, which covered 6.5 lakh children in 16,000 villages of 558 districts, found that one in every four rural children was attending private schools. In Kerala and Manipur, over 60 per cent children go to private schools. The percentage of students going to private schools is 71.1 for Manipur; 39.6 for Punjab, 43.4 for Haryana, 37.7 for Jammu and Kashmir and 29.6 for Himachal.
In UP, 45 per cent students were found to be going to private schools in 2011, as against 22 per cent in 2005. In Tamil Nadu, 35 per cent are attending private schools as against 16 per cent in 2005. And the percentage of students seeking paid tuitions is rising. The figure was 22.5 in 2010 and is 23.3 per cent today.
The ASER report further found levels of reading abilities to have declined in several States. Except in Punjab, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, reading abilities declined pan India, where the percentage of fifth graders able to read Class II text dropped across the nation from 53.7 per cent in 2010 to 48.2 per cent in 2011. Except in Himachal, Standard III children showed decline in ability to read Class I text across India.
In arithmetic, the situation is worse. As for the nation, the percentage of Class III graders who can do two-digit subtractions with borrowing dropped from 36.3 per cent in 2010 to 29.9 per cent in 2011. The decline was seen everywhere except in Andhra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, where the situation improved. The percentage of Class V children who can solve subtraction problems declined from 70.9 in 2010 to 61 this year.
SC sets deadline for government nod for prosecution of civil servant
In a landmark verdict, Supreme Court, on January 31, 2012, upheld the right of a private citizen to seek sanction for prosecution of a public servant for corruption, while setting a deadline of four months for the government to decide the issue of giving sanction for prosecution of public servants facing corruption charges.
A bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and and A.K. Ganguly said, “There is no provision either in the 1988 Act (Prevention of Corruption Act) or the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) which bars a citizen from filing a complaint for prosecution of a public servant who is alleged to have committed an offence.”
The two judges also turned down the argument that the issue of sanction for prosecution of a public servant arises only at the stage of taking cognizance of the case by the court.
While prescribing a four month time-limit for deciding whether to grant sanction for prosecution of a public servant, Justices Singhvi and Ganguly, who wrote separate judgments, said sanction would be deemed to have been granted if the competent authority failed to take a decision within the period.
The order coincided with a growing feeling that sanction for prosecution of public servants facing corruption charges are deliberately delayed to kill the probe.
100% FDI in single-brand a reality now
On January 11, 2012, the Union government notified the rules allowing 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in single-brand retail, paving the way for international furniture maker Ikea and several fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton to set up stores in the country, and also boost sourcing from local manufacturers. Before this, 51% FDI was permitted in this segment of retailing which was opened to foreign players almost six years ago.
Apart from the entry of new players into the market, the decision is also expected to result in several existing players, who are operating via tie-ups with Indian companies, to convert their existing ventures into wholly-owned subsidiaries.
Visit of Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, during her visit to Agartala on January 11, 2012, urged the Indian government to be liberal in the efforts to resolve water issues between the two countries, as well as to remove the prevailing bilateral trade imbalance.
Addressing the India-Bangladesh conclave, Hasina, said, “Improved bilateral trade relations hold the key to remove poverty, the common problem of both the countries”.
She said the trade imbalance between the countries was in favour of India and this needs to be balanced. Bangladesh imports goods worth about $4.5 billion from India every year, compared to Indian import from Bangladesh worth about $521 million.
Calling upon Indian businessmen to invest more in various sectors like power, telecommunication, textiles, health care etc, Hasina, at the same time, appealed to Bangladesh industry captains to improve their output to make inroads into the vast Indian market at this juncture when the government of India was opening it up for them.
With the current regime in Bangladesh showing keen interest in consolidating economic cooperation with India, it is advantage Tripura, that shares an 856-kilometre-long land boundary with Bangladesh.
Tripura was economically hard hit by the Partition of India as back then, its surface and sea routes linking the State with the rest of the country had, all of a sudden, snapped. Twelve-hour-long Agartala-Kolkata road journeys became more than 24-hour-long journeys via Guwahati and North Bengal.
Now, with Sheikh Hasina making it clear during her visit to Agartala that her government wants to pay India, especially Tripura and its people back for the support they provided to the liberation war of Bangladesh, it is a great opportunity for the government of India to restore landlocked N-E States’ old communication links with mainland India through Bangladesh.
Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar publicly announced his government’s proposal to provide Bangladesh with 100 MW power to be generated by the upcoming 726 MW Palatana power project of the ONGC, out of Tripura’s allotted share of 196 MW power.
Hasina offered to buy all surplus power, if any, from Tripura and proposed Bangladesh’s investment joint venture in future power projects in Tripura.
Tripura government is also looking forward to regular uninterrupted Agartala-Dhaka-Kolkata bus service, perpetual transit facilities through Bangladesh via Tripura to mainland India and more Land Customs Stations (LCS) to come up along the border with Bangladesh.
India, China set up border mechanism
Seeking to end flare-ups on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) from time to time, India and China, on January 17, 2012, established a working mechanism for consultation and coordination on the boundary issue to maintain peace and tranquility along their border.
The agreement was signed between the two sides at the end of the 15th round of talks between the Special Representatives (SRs) of the two countries. The Indian delegation was led by National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon while the Chinese team was headed by State Councillor Dai Bingguo.
The working mechanism, to be headed by a Joint Secretary- level official from the Ministry of External Affairs and a Director General level official from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, will comprise diplomatic and military officials from the two sides.
It was agreed that the working mechanism, which was mooted by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, would study ways and means to conduct and strengthen exchanges and cooperation between military personnel and establishments of the two sides in the border areas and will also explore the possibility of cooperation in the border areas.
Both sides also agreed that the working mechanism would undertake other tasks that are mutually agreed upon by the two sides, but would not discuss the resolution of the boundary question or affect the SR mechanism.
It will hold consultations once or twice every year alternately in India and China. Emergency consultations, if required, may be convened after mutual agreement.
Visit of Prime Minister of Thailand
On January 25, 2012, India and Thailand signed six accords, including one on defence cooperation, as the Southeast Asian nation acknowledged India’s credentials for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. The accords were inked after wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was also the Chief Guest at the 2012 Republic Day Parade.
The other accords were: treaty on transfer of sentenced prisoners; second protocol to amend the framework agreement for establishing a free trade area between the two countries; programme of cooperation in science and technology; cultural exchange programme for 2012-2014 and an MoU between Chulalongkorn University and ICCR for setting up a chair at the India Studies Centre of the university.
In a joint statement the two leaders unequivocally condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stressed that there could be no justification for the menace. Both sides also expressed desire to further enhance their valued partnership and cooperation in the context of India-ASEAN relations.
Counter-terrorism centre gets government nod
More than three years after the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, the Union government, on January 12, 2012, finally cleared the much-awaited National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), albeit a watered-down version of the original plan that was to subsume all intelligence agencies and even have an operational wing.
The NCTC is an ambitious plan of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram to set up an intelligence hub to collate and analyse inputs on terror activities in India.
This body will be the fourth major anti-terror setup after the National Investigation Agency (NIA), National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) and additional hubs of the National Security Guard (NSG). The NCTC, modelled on the US NCTC, is aimed at combating terrorism by analyzing threats, sharing the inputs and information with other agencies and converting these into actionable data.
The counter-terrorism agency will be a separate body under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The NCTC will be the nodal agency for all counter-terrorism activities and will coordinate with intelligence agencies such as Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and State intelligence agencies.
The NCTC will connect the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC), which would be subsumed into the NCTC, and all agencies reporting to it in Delhi and State capitals.
The NCTC will not have any foot soldier to collect information, but will depend on other agencies.
The head of the body, an additional Director General-level police officer, will report to the Union Home Secretary.
India inks global pact to check tax evasion
India has signed a multilateral convention on mutual administrative assistance in tax matters aimed at combating tax avoidance and evasion. The convention not only facilitates the exchange of information, but also provides for assistance in the recovery of taxes. This will give a fillip to the government’s efforts in bringing the Indian money illegally stashed abroad.
This instrument, earlier available for the members of OECD and Europe, was amended in 2010 and opened for all countries in June 2011.
By signing the convention, India and the other 31 signatories encourage more countries to join, sending a strong signal that countries are acting together to ensure that individuals and multinational enterprises pay the right amount of tax, at the right time and in the right place.
The multilateral convention provides for simultaneous tax examinations and participation in tax examinations in other countries. This will allow tax officials to enter into the territory of the other country to interview individuals and examine records.
The convention also provides for automatic exchange of information and spontaneous exchange of information, as also allows exchange of past information in criminal tax matters.
Present signatories to the amended convention are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Dutch government approves burqa banOn January 28, 2012, the Dutch government approved a ban on face-covering clothing, such as a burqa, a niqab, a forage cap, or a full face helmet. People going on the streets with one of these now risk being fined for up to 380 euros ($499).
“It is very important that people in an open society meet each other in an open way,” Minister of Interior Affairs Liesbeth Spies said after the cabinet meeting.
In April 2011, France had introduced a burqa ban and become the first European country to ban people from concealing their faces in public in any manner.
IMF seeks $500-billion boost to lending resources
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is proposing to raise its lending capacity by $500 billion to insulate the global economy against any worsening of Europe’s debt crisis.
The Washington-based lender currently has about $385 billion available to lend and wants to lift that to $885 billion after identifying the potential for a $1 trillion global financing gap in the next two years. To incorporate a cash buffer, that means asking its membership for $600 billion.
The Washington-based lender is pushing China, Brazil, Russia, India, Japan and oil-exporting nations to be the top contributors.
Options for raising the IMF’s resources include opening a trust fund or not rolling back a 2009 increase.
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Current Affairs -- as given by competition master.com--January 2012 Reviewed by sambasivan srinivasan on 6:27:00 PM Rating: