Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 24/03/2015

Dadasaheb Phalke award for Shashi Kapoor
  • Charming Shashi Kapoor, whose nuanced acts in memorable films like Deewar , Satyam Shivam Sundaram , Trishul and Kabhi Kabhie captivated Hindi film buffs, will be conferred the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for 2014.
  • The veteran actor-producer, 77, is the 46th winner of the honour, conferred by the government for outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema.
Shashi Kapoor, the actor and producer

Andhra's capital to be named Amaravathi
  • As the date for submission of the master plan for the core capital region is fast approaching, Andhra Pradesh is contemplating to name the capital as Amaravathi, the seat of power during the reign of Satavahanas.
Madhav Gadgil wins Tyler Prize
  • At a time when the Union government has junked his crucial report on the conservation of the Western Ghats, ecologist Madhav Gadgil has been chosen for the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement for 2015.
  • The prize, instituted in 1973, is awarded by the Tyler Prize Executive Committee with the administrative support of the University of Southern California.
  • Dr. Gadgil, who was chairman of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), will share the $200,000 cash prize with American marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco for their work in changing policy and especially for their “leadership and engagement in the development of conservation and sustainability policies in the United States, India and internationally,” said a release issued by Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement Executive Committee on March 23.
Madhav Gadgil, an Indian ecologist

India plays down Hurriyat-Basit meeting
  • The External Affairs Ministry issued a strong but measured response earlier on March 23, that there is no role for a third party, reiterating India’s long-held position that the Kashmir issue should be addressed bilaterally.
  • Union Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. V.K. Singh did not interact with several Hurriyat leaders including Syed Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Omar Farooq who were present for the Pakistan National Day celebrations.
  • Gen. Singh later tweeted “#Duty A job or service allocated” and added “#Disgust To sicken or fill with loathing.” He also said while it was “#Duty A task or action that a person is bound to perform for moral or legal reasons”, it was “#Disgust To offend the moral sense, principles or taste of..”
  • Mr. Geelani told reporters that there was no terrorism in Kashmir, “only Indian atrocity.’’
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had tweeted that “It is my firm conviction that all outstanding issues can be resolved through bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror & violence.” In another tweet, Mr. Modi said: “I have written to Pakistan PM Mr. Nawaz Sharif, conveying my greetings on the National Day of Pakistan.”
  • The official response of India to the Hurriyat interaction with the Pakistan High Commission was seen as a nuanced departure from the earlier tough stand the government took in August last year when it cancelled Foreign Secretary-level talks after Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit met Kashmiri separatist leaders ahead of the talks despite calls by India to not go ahead with it.
Liberating black gold
  • The passing of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015 and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015 marks a significant step forward in the Central government’s reforms push. It effectively ends government monopoly over the extraction of coal, which has existed after coal mining was nationalised in 1973. 
  • Parliamentary approval for the auction of coal blocks — effected through an ordinance that the Bill now replaces — also provides closure to one of the biggest scandals to have rocked the country in recent times: the allocation of 204 coal blocks to private parties, which the Supreme Court had cancelled on the grounds that the allocation process was arbitrary and illegal. 
  • The auctions have helped the coal-bearing States realise over Rs.2 lakh crore by way of royalties over a 30-year period from the 33 blocks auctioned in the first round. According to media reports, internal government estimates place revenues from all the 204 blocks to exceed Rs.15 lakh crore over 30 years. 
  • Quite apart from the windfall revenue to the States, the passage of the Bills is a game changer in other ways. It has opened up the path for foreign investments in the sector, since Indian arms of foreign companies are entitled to bid for blocks, as well as for commercial mining of coal, which can have a salutary effect on prices going forward. Despite having reserves of 301 billion tonnes of coal — the fifth largest in the world — India has been plagued by chronic coal shortages, leading to costly imports by power and metal producers. This has led to severe power shortages, with downstream impact on both industry and individual consumers. With 90 million tonnes of coal expected to be produced from just the 42 operational mines in the blocks auctioned so far, such shortages may well be a thing of the past. The move is also beneficial to the state-owned Coal India Limited, which may now get the elbow room to bring in some much needed technology and best practices, while opening up prospects of a better future for millions of mine workers.
  • The passage of the Bills also marks a significant political victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. With the exception of the contentious Land Acquisition Act, the government has now won parliamentary approval for three of the four major reform moves initiated via the ordinance route, sending a strong message to political parties on the economic advantages of reforms. With the exception of the Congress, the Left and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, all other major Opposition parties had reversed their initial opposition to the coal bill, after seeing the enormous revenue potential unlocked by the auctions. This augurs(augur - signfy, indicate) well for future reform measures.
Financial SEZs: move for capital a/c convertibility
  • India will allow greater capital account convertibility in financial special economic zones (SEZs). The first such notified SEZ to benefit from the reform will be the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City), coming up near Ahmedabad, said Union Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher. “The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Reserve Bank of India are looking at drafting the regulations that will make greater capital account convertibility possible in notified financial SEZs...GIFT will be the first to benefit,” Mr. Kher told reporters.
  • It will be possible for the corporate sector to raise foreign currency loans in such SEZs the way they do overseas right now, he said giving an example.
  • The proposal is based on the Percy Mistry Committee report in 2007, which had recommended a slew of reforms to enable India to set up financial districts on the lines of those in London and New York. 
  • The sharp decline in exports growth has put out of reach the $340-billion target India had set for 2014-15.

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