DISMISSAL OF LT. GEN. AVADESH PRAKASH RATIFIED
Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh on 21 May 2012 ratified a court martial’s decision to dismiss former military secretary Lt. Gen. Avadesh Prakash from service after he was found guiltyby an army court for his role in the Sukna land scam case. The dismissal will deprive Lt. Gen. Prakash of all the benefits like pension and any privilege attached with military service. Prakash is the senior-most officer to have been awarded this punishment by the army. The General Court Martial (GCM) had announced its decision to dismiss Lt. Gen. (retired) Prakash in December 2011. He was found guilty of abusing his position under Section 45 (conduct unbecoming of his position as an officer) and Section 52 (intent to defraud) of the Army Act by the General Court Martial at 51 sub-area of the Army station at Narengi in Guwahati. The court martial was conducted when an Army court found Lt. Gen. Prakash guilty of misusing his post in the land scam. Prakash was accused of illegal transfer of 71 acres of land adjacent to the Sukna military station near Siliguri in West Bengal to a private realtor for constructing an educational institution in 2008. Lt. Gen. Prakash is the third Lt Gen rank officer to have been given the punishment in a corruption-related case. Earlier Lt Gen S.K. Sahni was removed from service given his role in the ration scam and Lt Gen P.K. Rath was given a punishment for his involvement in the Sukna case. While Prakash and Sahni were punished after their retirement, Rath was in service when he was
rebuked. Sukna land scam came into public notice in 2008 when the alleged move to transfer the land in Siliguri to a private educational trust came out in the open. Following the grave allegations against the top army officials the army began disciplinary proceedings against Lt. Gen. Prakash and Lt. Gen. Rath among other top officials.
IT IS MANDATORY TO LABEL GM FOODS
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs in its gazette notification published on 5 June 2012 made it mandatory to make labelling of every package containing genetically modified food from 1 January 2013. The ministry in the notification noted that every package containing the genetically modified food shall bear at the top of its principal display panel the words ‘GM’. The ministry’s move will affect the numerous GM products which enters into the Indian market for sale. The move is aimed at educating consumers and make them aware of GM products, much in the manner that there is labelling to distinguish nonvegetarian food from vegetarian. Under the current practice Importers or exporters rarely display the GM label on the product. Under the new rule the consumers will have the liberty to make a choice on whether they want to buy the GM products or not.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS
Genetically modified foods also known as GM foods or biotech foods are foods derived from genetically modified organisms. The process includes the introduction of certain specific changes into the DNA of Genetically modified organisms by genetic engineering techniques.The GM foods were first introduced in the market in year 1996.
SUPREME COURT REFUSED TO STAY ON ANDHRA PRADESH HIGH COURT ORDER
The Supreme Court of India on 11 June 2012 refused to entertain the Union Government’s petition seeking a stay on an Andhra Pradesh high court order which quashed a 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities in educational institutions and government jobs in the existing OBC quota. The twojudge Supreme Court bench of Justices K.S.Radhakrishnan and J.S.Khehar refused to stay the Andhra Pradesh High Court order as it observed the government did not present any material to show how it had arrived at a figure of 4.5 percent reservation. As per the bench’s directions the reports by the Union Government are to be produced on 13 June 2012. The Congress-led UPA government on 22 December 2011, ahead of the key assembly polls in the five states including UP in February-March 2012, had announced the 4.5 per cent subquota for socially and educationally backward minority communities. It envisaged carving this sub-quota out of the existing 27 per cent quota for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). On 28 May 2012, an Andhra Pradesh High Court’s division bench had struck down the government’s sub quota for minorities, and held that the Centre acted in a “casual manner”. The High Court said that the government Office Memorandum (OM) creating the sub-quota was based on religious grounds and not on any other intelligible consideration.
RS. 1,500-CR. PLAN FOR CENSUS TOWNS
If a rural area boasts a high population — well above 5,000, sometimes as high as 20,000 — with most of its workforce in nonfarm jobs, is it a village or a town? For almost 4,000 such areas, the definition is unclear: the census calls them towns, but since they have gram panchayats rather than municipal corporations, the government seems to consider them rural. The government has now launched a Rs. 1,500-crore revamp of the PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities for Rural Areas) scheme to bring basic infrastructure to these areas that are falling through the cracks of the rural-urban divide.
“This is the big phenomenon of the 2011 Census,” says Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh. “The number of statutory towns [with a municipal corporation] has stayed almost the same from 2001. The number of
villages is almost the same. But the number of so-called census towns has grown from just 1,362 in 2001 to 3,894 now.” A census town is defined as a place with a population of over 5,000, a population density of more than 400 per square kilometre, with three-fourths of its male workforce employed in non-agricultural jobs. “We have schemes for rural infrastructure, and schemes for urban infrastructure, but neither of them apply for these trishanku — caught in the middle areas,” added Mr. Ramesh. The Planning Commission has now agreed to grant Rs. 1,500 crore during the 12th Five Year Plan period to fund a public-private partnership scheme to bring water supply, sewerage, drainage, solid waste management and street lighting to such unofficial urban clusters, mostly in the six States — Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala — which have seen the highest growth of census towns.
KALAM SCHEME REVISITED- PURA
The scheme is a revamp of the former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s brainchild, PURA, which was initially aimed at providing city amenities to villages. In its latest avatar, PURA 2.0 is focussing on the development of 50 to 60 potential growth centres such as census towns. Initial pilot projects have begun in Kerala, with eight other projects awaiting final approvals from State governments. Earlier this week, the Rural Development Ministry invited expressions of interest for 10 to 15 more projects. Under the scheme, the Central government will grant Rs. 40 crore for each project with the private player expected to invest Rs. 20-30 crore. Another Rs. 80 crore is expected to come from the convergence of existing schemes. Gram panchayats will sign agreements with private players to build and maintain the infrastructure for a 10-year period during which they can recoup their investment, says the Ministry’s advertisement.
DHARMADHIKARI COMMITTEE REPORT
The Union Government of India on 1 June 2012 announced to constitute an implementation panel to look into the ways of implementing the Dharmadhikari committee report on Air India and erstwhile Indian Airlines merger. The implementation panel will suggest the government of ways to implement the recommendations of Dharmadhikari Committee on issues including pay, allowances and career progression structure. The implementation committee will submit its report within 45 days of its constitution. The committee will also be given the task of ‘level mapping’ of employees of Air India and erstwhile Indian Airlines. The four-member
Dharmadhikari committee on integration of nearly 29000 employees of Air India and Indian Airlines was headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice D. M. Dharmadhikari. The committee had submitted its report in January 2012. The committee had consulted all the concerned parties including pilots and management staffs before submitting its findings. The committee was constituted in March 2011. Some of the major recommendations of Dharmadhikari committee are as follows:
- Air India should continue to maintain two separate lines of seniority for pilots belonging to the pre-merger Indian Airlines and Air India
- Pilots of both erstwhile carriers must be allowed to fly aircraft of all types
- A 10-15 per cent salary cut for pilots and engineers to bring their salaries on par with industry standards
- Uniform salaries for both sets of pilots
- Cross-utilisation of pilots, which means Indian Airlines pilots can fly Dreamliners, and Air India pilots can fly Airbus aircraft after obtaining requisite endorsements and training The Government of India in 2007 announced the merger of Air
- India with Indian Airlines. Subsequently a new company called the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL) was established, into which both Air India (along with Air India Express) and Indian Airlines (along with Alliance Air) was merged. On 27 February 2011, Air India and Indian Airlines merged along with their subsidiaries to form Air India Limited. The merger did not go down well with the national carrier as it got trapped under a huge debt of 10 billion dollar. Besides the post merger days have also been marred with the reports of controversies and rifts among the management. The pilots of Air India have been on indefinite strike since 8 May 2012.
14TH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
The date for the 14th Presidential election was notified by the Election Commission of India on 11 June 2012. In accordance with the sub-section (1) of section (4) of the Presidential and Vice Presidential Elections Act,1952, the Election Commission of India fixed the schedule for the presidential election 2012. Article 52 of the Indian constitution states that there shall be a President of India. The executive powers of the Union shall be vested in the President. He, as the head of a state, symbolises the nation. Article 55 (3) of the Indian Constitution provides for the manner of the Presidential election in India. The presidential election is held in accordance with the system of Proportional representation by means of Single transferable vote method. The Voting takes place by secret ballot system. Article 324 of the Constitution read with the Presidential and Vice –Presidential Elections Act, 1952, and the Presidential and Vice- Presidential Elections Rules, 1974 vests the superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of election to the office of the President of India in the Election Commission of India. The Election Commission is mandated to ensure that the election to the office of the President of India, which is the highest elective office in the nation, must be a free and fair election and the Commission is taking all necessary steps for discharging its constitutional responsibility. However, in case of any dispute regarding the Presidential election, the Supreme Court of India decidesthe matter. As per the article 54 of the Indian constitution, the President is elected by electoral college comprising the elected members of both Houses of Parliament, and elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of all States including National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Territory of Puducherry. The nominated members of Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies of the States cannot participate in the election. The Electoral College for the Presidential poll 2012 is 4896. A total of 776 Members of Parliament and 4120 Members of Legislative Assemblies will participate in presidential election 2012.
An electoral college is a set of electors who collectively elect the President of India. It consists of elected members of both Houses of Parliament, and elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of all States including National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION SYSTEM
In the ordinary straight voting system a candidate who secures the highest number of votes is declared elected, while under the Proportional Representation system any member who secures the necessary quota of votes is
declared elected. There are several ways of finding out the quota, but the most common method is to divide the total number of valid votes cast by the total number of seats in the constituency plus one and add one to the quotient.
SINGLE TRANSFERABLE VOTE SYSTEM
The Single Transferable Vote means that each elector has only one vote, irrespective of the number of seats to be filled up. For instance, if there are six seats to be filled up, the elector does not cast six votes but indicates six successive preferences, by marking his first preference and the succeeding preferences with the appropriate numerals against the name of candidates printed on his ballot paper.
SINGUR LAND REHABILITATION AND DEVELOPMENT ACT, 2011 SCRAPPED
The Calcutta High Court on 22 June 2012, held the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011 as unconstitutional and void. The legislation enabled the government to recover the disputed Singur land from Tata Motors, who was leased 997 acre of land at Singur in Hooghly district by previous left front government in the state. The Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act was passed by the West Bengal state assembly in 2011 when Mamata Banrjee led Trinamool Congress swept to power in May 2011. The legislation which justified the state government’s land re-acquisition drive, empowered the government to recover 1000 acres of land at the abandoned Tata Nano factory site in Singur.
SINGUR LAND DISPUTE
Singur land dispute surfaced in May 2006, following the left front government’s decision to lease 997 acre land for 99 years, at Singur in Hooghly district, about 40 km from Kolkata, for The Tata Motors’ Nano car project. The party demanded the return of 400 acre of land to farmers reluctant to give land for the project. Following the dispute and the political hindrances occurring in the project the Tata Motors decided to move to Sanand in Gujarat in 2008 to keep its ambitious Nano project going. The company, however, kept possession of the leased land at Singur. When the Trinmool Congress swept to the power in May 2011, throwing long
standing left front government out of power, the Chief Minister Mamata Banarjee passed the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, which enabled the government to reclaim the Singur land from the Tata Motors. Tata Motors moved to the Calcutta High Court against the legislation. The single judge bench of Calcutta High Court upheld her decision in its ruling held on 28 June 2011. Perturbed of the ruling, Tata Motors challenged the verdict before the Division Bench of Calcutta High Court comprising Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta and Justice Joymalya Bagchi on 1 November 2011.
4.5 PER CENT SUB-QUOTA FOR MINORITIES SET ASIDE
The Andhra Pradesh High Court on 28 May 2012 invalidated the 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities carved out of the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs by the Union government. A high court division bench of Chief Justice Madan Lokur and Justice P V Sanjay Kumar quashed the subquota as it observed that the Union government’s move was based on religious lines and not any other consideration. The court was hearing to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by backward class’s leader R Krishnaiah against the sub-quota. The Union Government will move to the Supreme Court against the high court verdict. The court also refuted the Union Government’s claim that the decision to provide sub-quota to the minorities was based on their backwardness and not on religious grounds. The bench observed that the very use of the words “belonging to minorities” or “for minorities” indicates that the subquota has been carved out only on religious grounds and not on any other intelligible basis.
GUIDELINES FOR THE FOREIGN UNIVERSITIES ENTERING INDIA
According to the new set of guidelines approved by University Grants Commission (UGC) on 2 June 2012, only global top 500 universities will be allowed to start their operation in India. The new guidelines set the norms for the foreign universities aspiring to enter into agreement with Indian universities for offering education programmes in the country. As per the new guidelines the foreign varsities entering into tie-ups with Indian partners should be ranked among the top 500 by the Times Higher Education World University Ranking or by Shanghai Jiaotong University of the top 500 universities. Institutes who fail to abide by the new UGC guidelines would be suitably penalised which also includes stoppage of grants from the UGC. The UGC came up with the new guidelines following the rising concerns among the educationists in the country over the quality of foreign institutions which is tying up with Indian colleges offering separate education programmes.
20000 CRORE RUPEES PROPOSAL APPROVED BY MOD
The Union Ministry of Defense (MoD) on 22 June 2012 approved defense proposals worth over 20000 crore rupees for the procurement of defense equipments for the Indian army. The proposals were given the nod of the government in a meeting chaired by Defense Minister AK Antony. The government in the meeting cleared an IAF proposals worth over 8500 crore rupees for procuring 14 Dornier aircraft and setting up a nationwide communication network and guns for navy and the coast guard ships. Besides, the proposal for procuring eight regiments of QR-SAMs worth over 10000 crore rupees was also approved by the defense ministry. The decision to accelerate the defense procurements came following the former Army Chief Gen VK Singh’s letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in which he had raised serious questions over the preparedness of India’s defense system. In his letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the former Army Chief had blamed the extensive process for arms procurement for the poor operational capabilities of the 1.13 million-strong Indian army.General Singh had pointed out that 97 per cent of the equipment with the Army Air Defense was outdated.