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Thursday, January 12, 2006



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Business & Economy

  • In a major blow to Indian plans procure gas and transport them through trans-national pipelines, Myanmar has spurned an Indian offer in favor of China. This is the third time in the last five months that Petrochina had beaten Indian bid for securing gas supply. India had planned to build a USD 1 billion gas pipeline through Bangladesh to West Bengal and also transpo rt stranded gas in India's North East. India is also pursuing procuring gas from Iran and Turkmenistan; those plans are also highly speculative and unlikely to take off. 

  • Agriculture experts say that adoption of modern farming practices will double agricultural productivity in India. Speaking at a conference organized by Industrial Economist magazine, they recommended adopting scientific techniques such as comprehensive soil testing, proper use of fertilizer, water management, and pest control, and farm management as requisites to double productivity in the next four years. The growth in the farm sector will lead to collateral benefits such as increased agro-processing industries, improved living standards in rural areas, and additional purchasing power of the farmer. This growth will lead to an additional USD 200 billion to the Indian economy. .

Democracy, Politics and Judiciary

  • The Federal Home Minister Shivraj Patil said that the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill is likely to be implemented in three months. The concept of this Bill is not to prevent communal violence but to empower district level administration officials to provide grants to victims of such violence without waiting for court judgments. This bill will even cover victims of terrorism and also provide the right to the victim to participate in the trial. A base figure of Rs.7 lakhs is being targeted as compensation for victims. Opponents to this bill say that this will provide extra jurisdiction to the Federal Government over the State Governments and therefore eroded the federal nature of governance. Other also say that these funds may be misused by district and state level politicians to create vote banks, provide entitlements for supporters, and means to buy support of certain sections of the populations thereby exacerbating the problem of communal disharmony. Further, this law may also short-change due process by empowering State Governments to harass opponents using bogus charges. Previous communal violence in the country are pending before courts as investigative and prosecution agencies are unable to identify perpetrators, prove culpability and effect justice. It is unclear how this bill will solve this basic problem. 
    In order to reduce the confusion and 100 odd lawsuits around educational institutions, the Supreme Court (SC) asked the Government to outline the implication of its earlier judgment. The SC had earlier ruled that admissions to Government-aided minority and non-minority educational institutions be regulated through a common entrance tests. It had also ruled the unaided institutions had an unfettered Constitutional right to choose the students appropriate to its requirements as long as the admission process was fair. It had also banned a capitation fee, a large deposit by students admitted to the school, in aided institutions. Last month, in a virtual unanimous consent, the Parliament passed a Bill that allowed reservation for scheduled castes and scheduled tribe candidates in non-minority unaided colleges. The Constitutional propriety of that bill is still being debated. 

  • For the first time, the Communist party which has controlled politics in West Bengal for over 25 years has admitted the pervasive existence of false voter ID and ration cards. Following initial investigation from the Election Commission (EC), the party has admitted to poll malpractices in the past. The cards belong to people who are either dead, non-existent, or temporary Bangladeshi migrants imported to participate in elections. Spurred on by the opposition parties, the EC has appointed a 19-member observer team to monitor elections in West Bengal and to further investigate allegations of malpractice.

Environment, Society & Health

  • A new study of 45000 humans in Vietnam has revealed that upto 750 cases of human infection of the dreaded H5N1 bird flu virus. The Stockholm based Karolinska Institute's study says that the potential number of victims could run into the thousands. Doctors had estimated that the bird flu will die, but the study shows that hundreds of thousands of people may be infected but with only minor symptoms. Since they do not admit themselves or seek professional help, it is likely that these cases do not end up in Government statistics. Reporting the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the scientists say that the transmission to virus may be more frequent that thought earlier. University College London Professor Peter Dunhill, believed to be an expert on bird flu, says that it is likely that the population in Vietnam and even Turkey, living with the virus for over a decade, may have developed an immunity to this disease over time. However, European nations with no exposure to this virus may be facing a major threat and threat of epidemic higher.
 

Hot Topics

Tiger Census

Patenting Indian Knowledge 

Recent Supreme Court Verdicts

Forest Management

IISc Terrorist Attack

Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations

Iran - Russia Talks

ASEAN Summit

UNSC Expansion Plan

Featured Analyses

The Saga of the Jemaah Islamiah

Indonesia has continuously been embarrassed by the terror acts of a handful of terrorists from the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a group with definite Indonesian origins and made up mostly by members of Indonesian nationality.

Will Kashmir go the way of Aceh?
A Cry for Help
Watch the Dragon
Cage This "Tiger"
Dalits in India
Was Jinnah a Secularist?
Burying the Howitzer?
Smoking Out Smoking
The French Non

Featured Edits

A pipedream?
All gas in the pipeline
Listen, Mr Chidambaram
Hysteria and hypocrisy
Musharraf and his self-governance
CBMs are going nowhere
How America kept Blair out of the loop
Inscription
South Indian Inscriptions

Ancient Indian dynasties documented their administration, significant developments, grants, and milestones as inscriptions in temples. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has documented these inscriptions from 1886. These pages contain inscriptions from Pallava, Chola, Pandya, Western Chalukya, Eastern Chalukya, Rashtrakuta, Hoyasala, Vijayanagara, Vishnukundin, Kakatiya, Reddi, Vaidumba, Chinda, Eastern Ganga, Gajapathi, Kalchurya, Qutb-Shahi of Golkonda, and Moghul,  dynasties.

Science & Technology & Education

  • The Vikram Sarabhai Space Center of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced the successful testing of indigenously designed and developed Supersonic Combustion Ramjet (Scramjet). Using oxygen from the air around, this experiment achieved propulsion of Mach-6 (six times the speed of sound) for nearly 7 seconds. This nascent technology, called air-breathing propulsion because it uses natural air and not forced induction of oxygen, has been tested only in the United States while other countries such as Japan, China, Australia, Russia, and EU are known to be in their initial phase of setting up this technology. As a logical second step, ISRO is planning a flight test of this technology in a two-stage cost-effective sounding rocket. By using available atmospheric oxygen, this technology will bring down the cost of space research which requires on-board stored oxygen to burn fuel to achieve propulsion. India is actively pursuing the lucratic satellite launch market and any reduction in costs will significantly help in increasing its competitiveness. The cost of this test is currently 15 times lower than those done in the United States. 

  • The Indian Human Resources Ministry has requested an increased allotment of Rs.8.8 billion to invest in engineering and management education. The need for this massive investment is necessitated by the exponential growth of private technical colleges and demand for such talent. Currently, the Government spends only .4% of its total spend and 4% on education spend on technical education. The Government plans to allocate a lot of this money to second rung institutions to increase equity, access, and quality. There is also a proposal to increase investments in specialized institutes such as the Indian School of Mines at Dhanbad, National Institute of Industrial Engineering, National Institute of Foundry and Forge Technology, School of Planning and Architecture, and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research at Pune and Kolkata. New schools of bio-sciences and medicine at the Indian Institute of Technology at Khagpur and Kanpur are being considered..

Terrorism

  • The Federal Home Minister Shivaraj Patil announced plans to create 300 new battalions of special troops to fight terror. He said these elite troops will be equipped with advanced counter-terrorism devices including helicopters, boats, and armored vehicles. They would also have access to an integrated intelligence data base. He also said that India was working with several neighboring countries including Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and other Asian nations apart from Western powers and Australia to coordinate operations against terrorism. 
    In a major breakthrough, Spanish police arrested 20 people and busted a terrorist cell suspected to be recruiting fighters and raising money for the Iraqi resistance. This cell had inter-connect well organized sub-cells that spanned across the nation. The Villlanova i la Geltru cell may have been responsible for a suicide attack in 2003 that killed 19 Italian military personnel and civilians in Iraqi town of Nasiriyah. 

  • Extradited gangster Abu Salem's former driver has allegedly confessed to his role in the murder of Mumbai businessman Pradip Jain in 1995 over a real-estate dispute. Salem himself and another accused had earlier confessed to this murder. Salem is also accused in the Mumbai serial bomb case which was a prelude to the globalization of terrorism.

Neighbors

  • After a 2 1/2 year gap and disregarding world opinion asking it to stop its nuclear enriching aspirations, Iran has broken UN seals on its nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz. This facility, located in Iran, was concealed by Iran from UN inspectors until an Iranian rebel group abroad revealed its existence. Iran denies wanting to enrich fuel to make bombs and insists that the enrichment facility is only to generate power to meet its growing demand. While its publicly stated that it has come to an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on what it would do, no specifics were produced on what these activities would be. It is also unclear if Iran plans to merely test equipment or actually enrich fuel. Diplomats say that Iran is planning to get 164 centrifuges, equipment that spin at supersonic speeds to enrich uranium, running at the Nantz plant to begin mastering the art of producing nuclear fuel. However, such a small facility will take years to produce bomb-grade uranium for even a single bomb. Low-level enriched fuel can be used at power plants. European Union (EU) officials quickly accused Iran of breaking the Paris Agreement that required Iran to stop enrichment and it looks likely that the EU and the United States will take Iran to the United Nations Security Council to impose punitive sanctions. Russia opposes this move calling for political and diplomatic dialogue to resolve the standoff. Iran and Russia are expected to hold fresh talks February 16, 2006. 

  • Pakistan's Inter Service Public Relations office acknowledged that 7 Pakistani paramilitary troops died along with 14 "miscreants" in a major skirmish near the Miranshah checkpoint in the Waziristan belt bordering Afghanistan. Pakistan has 75000 troops stationed in this region to capture suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters sheltered in this inhospitable region. The US led coalition has mounted immense pressure on Pakistan to engage these terrorists. Afghanistan has had numerous diplomatic rows with Pakistan over its inaction to capture fleeing terrorists who use Pakistan as a base with impunity. In an intimidation campaign, Taliban terrorists have recently burnt several non-Islamic schools in Afghanistan and even beheaded the headmaster of one of these schools. Taliban believes that educating women and any education other than religion is un-Islamic. 

  • Indian and China concluded the second round of strategic dialogue agreeing to find an early resolution to their border disputes. The seventh round of discussions around the border dispute is scheduled late February will be held in India and both sides vowed to go beyond stated positions to explore a framework for resolution. India also asked for and obtained China's support at the Nuclear Suppliers Group for its nuclear deal with the United States. The Indo-US agreement on resumption of nuclear material supply to India by the US for civilian power generation had initially faced Chinese opposition. China also agreed to support the Indian bid to be a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Parallely, the Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar called for co-operation and not confrontation from China in global bids for gas and oil reserves. 

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