Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Starred Articles

Two-thirds of prison inmates in India are undertrials
India > Prison Inmates > 30 October
According to the new official data, two of every three persons incarcerated in India have not yet been convicted of any crime, and Muslims are over-represented among such undertrials. According to the Prisons Statistics for 2013 released by the National Crime Records Bureau, the jails are filling ever faster despite repeated Supreme Court orders on the rights of undertrials.
Highlights from the statistics:
  • Men make up 96 per cent of all prison inmates. Nearly 2,000 children of women inmates live behind bars, 80 per cent of those women being undertrials.
  • Undertrials are younger than convicts - nearly half are under the age of 30 and over 70 per cent have not completed school. Muslims form 21 per cent of them. On the other hand, 17 per cent of those convicted are Muslims.
  • Among the 2.8 lakh undertrials, over 3,000 have been behind bars for over five years. Most undertrials - 60 per cent of them - have, however, been behind bars for less than six months.
  • While most States have a little over twice as many undertrials as convicts, Bihar has a staggering six times as many.
Pakistan second-worst country in gender equality
World > Gender Equality >30 October
According to the annual Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum, Pakistan has emerged as the world's second-worst country in terms of gender equality. The report, published on Tuesday, measures the size of gender inequality in 142 countries in areas of economic participation and opportunity (salaries, participation and highly-skilled employment), educational attainment (access to basic and higher levels of education), political empowerment (representation in decision-making structures), health and survival (life expectancy and sex ratio).
In terms of equal economic participation and opportunity for women, Pakistan is ranked 141, followed by Yemen, 132 in empowerment terms of education attainment, 119 for health and survival and 85 for political empowerment.
India's ranking fell from 101 out of 136 countries last year to 114 out of 142 countries this year.
According to the report, Iceland tops the list with the most equitable sharing of resources among men and women, followed by Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark in the top five spots. The other countries in the top 10 are Nicaragua, Rwanda, Ireland, the Philippines and Belgium.

Supreme Court tells government to pass order to protect citizens helping road accident victims
India > Law to protect good Samaritans >30 October
The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to pass an executive order to protect good Samaritans, who rush road accident victims to hospitals, from harassment at the hands of police and from being summoned as witnesses in court. The order came following a PIL filed by NGO 'SaveLife Foundation', which claimed that 75% of bystanders do not help a road accident victim fearing harassment at the hands of police, hospital authorities and possibly being made a witness in court. The court said that the order will remain effective till Parliament enacts a law to provide protection to good Samaritans.

Pentagon says Pakistan using militant groups as proxies to counter superior Indian military
World > Indo-Pak > 4 November
The Pentagon has told the US Congress that Pakistan is using militant groups as proxies to safeguard its loss of influence in Afghanistan and to counter the superior Indian military. Afghan and India - focused militants continue to operate from Pakistan territory to the detriment of Afghan and regional stability. The Pentagon also said that the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat ahead of the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India might have been pre-planned as Modi is perceived being close to Hindu nationalist groups. The report further said that India continues to support efforts towards a secure and stable Afghanistan.
Regulators are trying to strengthen the financial system by raising the minimum of core capital banks must hold without weighting loans for riskiness. Britain is following the US in making banks maintain a leverage ratio that exceeds the minimum 3 percent set by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.


Government bars first class travel, five-star hotel meetings for officials
India > Politics and Government > 30 October
Modi government, unveiling an austerity drive to cut non-plan expenditure by 10%, has barred bureaucrats from travelling First Class on overseas visits and have been asked to use video conferencing as much as possible. The "mandatory 10 percent cut" in plan expenditure will exclude interest payments, repayment of debt, defence, capital, salaries, pensions and grants to the state.
With an aim to restrict fiscal deficit to 4.1% of GDP in 2014-15, the Finance Ministry has barred officials from holding meetings in 5-star hotels and put a freeze on fresh appointments and filling up posts lying vacant for over one year.
The Finance Ministry said purchase of new vehicles to meet operational requirement of defence forces, Paramilitary forces and security organisations are permitted but ban on purchase of any other vehicles would continue. The government proposes to lower the fiscal deficit to 3%t of GDP by 2016-17. The deficit which had touched a high of 5.7% in 2011-12, was brought down to 4.8% in 2012-13 and further to 4.5% in 2013-14 by way of austerity measures.

India eases rules for property development by foreigners
India > Rules for Property Development > 30 October
India has eased rules for foreign investment in property development and construction to boost economic growth, develop smart cities and build every citizen a home by 2019. Companies now need a minimum project-size of 20,000 square meters to invite overseas investors instead of the 50,000 square meters mandated earlier. A previous condition on the minimum size of plots for housing construction was removed. The cabinet also halved the paid-up capital requirement for projects to $5 million.
India has attracted foreign direct investment of $23.7 billion for the construction of houses and towns since April 2000, about 10 percent of total inflows. India conditionally permits overseas companies to fully own local units.

Switzerland clarifies terms of disclosure of information shared with India on Swiss bank accounts
India > Black Money > 30 October
Switzerland on Thursday clarified that information exchanged with India under its tax treaty cannot be disclosed ‘in principle’ to a court or any other body outside the proceedings of a “specific and relevant” case related to tax matters. This Swiss clarification came a day after the government was ordered by the Supreme Court to hand over all the 627 names of Indian account holders in HSBC Bank, Geneva, forcing the government to opt out from the signing of the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement — which provides for automatic information exchange, starting 2017. India’s last minute withdrawal from the agreement can stop the flow of vital data to tax authorities and hinder the government’s efforts to act against black money stashed abroad. The government had earlier protested the Supreme Court’s order saying that all countries which have legally shared information with India have done so under treaties, which contain a confidentiality clause.

50 nations, including China and US, back Modi's call for International Yoga Day
World > International Yoga Day > 31 October
50 nations have signed up for co-sponsorship of a draft resolution which India's UN mission is preparing for declaring June 21 as international Yoga day, a proposed by Indian PM Narendra Modi in his UNGA speech in New York on September 26. The government will aggressively push for its adoption before the end of this year. The list of co-sponsors includes Asian heavyweights China, Japan, Indonesia and South Korea and also South Africa and Nigeria in Africa. Neighbours such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka were amongst the earliest to sign on. Latin American giants Brazil and Argentina too have committed support. With USA and Canada joining recently, the EU members are expected to also join as co-sponsors. Countries like Iran and Cuba have also expressed support. The resolution is aimed at building better and healthier lifestyle patterns.

Warren Anderson of Bhopal gas tragedy infamy passes away
World > Bhopal Gas Tragedy > 31 October
Warren M Anderson, who was the chairman of the US-based Union Carbide Corporation when a poisonous gas leak at the company’s plant in Bhopal killed thousands, is dead. He died at a nursing home in Vero Beach, Florida. He was 92. His death, which was not announced by his family, was confirmed from public records.
The poisonous gas leak from the Union Carbide plant killed more than 5,000 people on the night of December 2-3, 1984, in Bhopal. It remains one of the world’s worst industrial accidents.

Pankaj Advani clinches World Billiards title, bags 3 Grand Doubles
Sports > Billiards > 31 October
Indian cueist Pankaj Advani clinched the World Billiards Championship (time format) title to bag a record 12th world crown and also complete a rare 'Grand Double' post his third win in both the long and short formats in the same year.
The third grand double makes him the only billiards player to achieve this feat. Advani, 29, surpassed Mike Russell, who had won the double in 2010 and 2011.
Advani's previous grand doubles were in Malta in 2005 and in his hometown in 2008.

Hyundai, Kia to pay $100M fine for overstating mileage
Corporate > Hyundai, Kia > 31 October
According to a settlement with the federal government, Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia overstated the gas mileage on many of their vehicles and understated the amount of greenhouse gases they would emit. The companies will pay a $100 million civil fine, the largest in the history of the Clean Air Act. The brands also will give up greenhouse gas emissions credits — estimated by the EPA as worth $200 million — because of the lower mileage ratings added up to 4.75 million more metric tons of greenhouse gases. They also agreed to spend $50 million on an independent unit to set their future mileage estimates.
The fines and penalties resolve a lawsuit filed against the automakers in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by the United States and the California Air Resources Board.

BOE sets leverage ratio for biggest banks at 4.5 percent, up from 3 percent
Economy > Britain > 31 October
The Bank of England’s Financial Committee has said that Britain’s biggest banks will face a basic leverage ratio of 4.05 percent from 2019 onwards, which could rise to 4.95 percent if needed to cool excess credit or balance-sheet growth. Currently the leverage requirement is 3 percent. The announcement prompted relief because some bankers had worried that the leverage ratio could be set well above 5%. Among other effects, a higher leverage ratio could have prompted more expensive home-loans. Global regulators have turned to leverage ratios, the minimum of core capital banks must hold without weighting categories of loans by their riskiness, to avoid future financial crises. According to them, big banks have their own internal modes to assess the risk in their portfolios and they use these to control the system. The leverage ratio helps avoid this. In the US, the Leverage Ratio is set at 5 percent and in Switzerland banks are required to meet a leverage ratio of at least 4 percent by 2019.

Bangladesh hit by nationwide blackout as national power grid link from India fails
World > Bangladesh > 01 November
Bangladesh was hit by a nationwide blackout on Saturday after a transmission line bringing electricity from neighboring India failed. The Power Grid Company of Bangladesh Ltd. said that the blackout was caused by a technical glitch. Officials tried to restore electricity with powerful generators while they worked to restore the system. Bangladesh began importing electricity from India in October 2013 through a 400-kilovolt transmission line that runs from Baharampur in the Indian state of West Bengal to the town of Bheramara in southwestern Bangladesh. Bangladesh has only a meager 11,500-megawatt generating capacity and more than a third of Bangladesh's 166 million people have no access to electricity.

CCI helps protect consumer interest by punishing anti-competitive practices of big companies
India > Competition Commission of India > 02 November
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) established only 5 years ago has been effective enough and passed some landmark orders to protect consumer interests. One such landmark case is when the CCI, following complaint from a group of apartment allottees of DLF’s Belaire housing project in Gurgaon, found DLF guilty of abusing its dominant position and fined it Rs. 630 crore. There are numerous similar instances such as the CCI imposed a fine of Rs. 6300 crore on 11 big cement companies and the Cement Manufacturers’ Association (CMA) for forming a cartel to coordinate pricing and output decisions at the expense of the consumer. The CCI had also taken similar actions against Dr L.H. Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai, the Bengal Chemist and Druggist Association and slapped a fine of 2,545 crore (2 per cent of the companies’ turnover) on 14 major automobile companies after holding them guilty of abusing their dominance in the aftermarket for sale of spare parts. The CCI’s power is not restricted to the private sector. Recently it passed two orders against Coal India for imposing unfair conditions. Although most of these companies have appealed in court against these orders, consumers have benefitted in many cases and a hefty penalty against anti-competitive practices has increased consumer awareness. For instance, the Belaire flat buyers have got possession of the apartments and several other complaints have been filed — against other DLF projects and also other builders.

IPCC issues severest warning on global warming and the lack of serious policy to tackle it
World > Global Warming > 02 November
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations in its latest report said that if greenhouse emissions continued at the present pace, it could lead to more food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a drastic change in the climate which might make it dangerous to work outside during the hottest times of the year. This global situation is further accentuated as developing countries join the West in burning huge amounts of fossil fuels. Despite growing efforts in the area, there is absence of any serious policy to tackle global warming. Energy companies continue to search for more energy reserves and build coal-fired power plants and refineries, and governments are spending another $600 billion or so directly subsidizing the consumption of fossil fuels. By contrast, the report found, less than $400 billion a year is being spent around the world to reduce emissions or otherwise cope with climate change. Yet governments are unwilling to talk about the carbon budget and are instead moving towards a relatively weak agreement that would essentially allow a country to decide the extent of its efforts to limit global warming, and even that document would not take effect until 2020.

Sex was 'forceful' but not rape: Delhi Court's controversial verdict
India > Delhi HC Verdict > 04 November
The Delhi High Court has acquitted Achey Lal an accused in the 2010 rape and murder of a 65-year-old woman, because it was not convinced of the proof and instead termed the intercourse as "forceful". The judgement led to some outrage because media reports say that the court assumed that the victim could not have been raped as she had crossed menopause.
The court, while allowing the appeal of Achey Lal against his conviction and sentence, also acquitted him of the charges of rape saying, "As regards the offence punishable under Section 376 (rape) of the IPC, the woman was aged over 60 years, thus beyond the age of menopause. We find force in the contention of the counsel for the appellant (Achey) that even if the sexual intercourse was forceful, it was not forcible and contrary to the wishes and consent of the deceased. Hence, we are of the opinion that it has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant committed sexual intercourse with the deceased contrary to her wishes or her consent. Consequently, he is also acquitted of the rape charge," the bench said.
The trial court had, in 2011, awarded rigorous life imprisonment to Achey Lal and also imposed a fine of Rs. 10,000 on him, saying, "He committed forceful sexual intercourse upon a lady older than his age whom he used to call his mother".


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