NPCIL, Westinghouse to sign ‘early’ N-agreement
- Following clearance from the Atomic Energy Commission and the Cabinet Committee on Security on Tuesday, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd is all set to sign a ‘pre-early works agreement’ for six 1,000 MWe reactors with Westinghouse.
- On Washington’s insistence, the signing has been rushed to demonstrate the commitment of the Manmohan Singh government to fulfilling its end of the nuclear bargain struck with the U.S.
- The agreement marks the first concrete step towards a full-fledged commercial deal and will involve NPCIL paying approximately Rs. 100 crore to the American company in exchange for the proprietary information needed to plan the proposed nuclear park in Mithi Virdi, Gujarat, and secure clearances from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.
- Though a lot of hard negotiations are still required to move to the next stage, Indian atomic energy officials are concerned at the “upper limit calculation” for the price of power in the proposed agreement.
- According to a report, this stands at approximately Rs. 12 per kilowatt/hour, or more than double the price at which the Russian reactors at Kudankulam will produce electricity.
- Liability issue would be one of the reasons for keeping the price high.
Forcible land acquisition a thing of the past: Jairam
- The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 will prevent forced acquisition and protect the rights of farmers and tribal people, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Wednesday.
- The new law would ensure that no land was acquired in Scheduled areas or tribal-dominated areas without the consent of the Gram Sabha.
- In non-Scheduled area, land acquisition could take place only with the consent of 70 per cent of the affected families.
- Unlike the old Acquisition Act which was “undemocratic,” resulting in denial of justice to farmers and tribals, the new law is historic and revolutionary.
- Now owners would be paid four times the market value for land acquired in rural areas, while in urban areas they would get two times the market value.
- The Maoists were taking advantage of the People’s movements over land acquisition in the states.
- But now, there could not be any land acquisition by force once the new law came into force. For instance the decision of tribals of Niyamgiri in Odisha who had rejected the proposed mining of bauxite for Vedanta Aluminium’s alumina refinery, the new law would give tribals and farmers legal rights to reject or accept any such project.
7th pay panel award likely to be implemented from January 2016
- The government on Wednesday announced the constitution of the Seventh Pay Commission to revise salary and pension for about 80 lakh staff and pensioners.
- Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approved the constitution of the 7th Pay Commission. Its recommendations are likely to be implemented with effect from January 1, 2016.
- The government constitutes the pay commission almost once in every 10 years to revise the pay scales of its employees and often these are adopted by the States after some modification.
- The sixth Pay Commission was implemented from January 1, 2006, the fifth one from January 1, 1996, and the fourth from January 1, 1986.
Pakistan violates ceasefire again
- In a fresh ceasefire violation, Pakistan’s army opened unprovoked firing on Indian posts along the Line of Control in the Bhimbhergali sub-sector of Poonch district in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday night.
UGC puts foreign university collaborations regulations in public domain
- The “University Grants Commission (UGC) (Promotion and Maintenance of Standards of Academic Collaborations between Indian and Foreign Educational Institutes) Regulations 2012” has been put in the public domain, which would allow Indian educational institutions to enter into collaboration with foreign universities.
- According to the Regulations, Indian institutes with grade B accreditation can now also enter into collaboration with foreign institutions which should mandatorily have the highest grade of accreditation in its parent country.
- At the time for agreement for collaboration, Indian educational institution shall have accreditation by National Assessment and Accreditation Council with a grade not less than B or its equivalent grade.
- Foreign collaboration with Indian institutions would enable these institutes improve quality. Indian educational institutions already having a collaborative arrangement shall comply with these regulations within six months.
- Indian institutes collaborating with foreign institutes should have experience of at least five years offering educational programmes at the level of degree and post graduate diplomas.
- But universities and institutions run by the Centre, State and Union Territories have been exempted from mandatory accreditation and five years’ experience of granting degrees and diplomas.
- Violations of the rules could lead to termination of the MoU entered into for collaboration.
- Technical institutes would not come under the purview of the regulations while government institutes shall be exempted from accreditation for the purpose of these regulations.
- Statistics reveal that presently about 50 foreign institutes are operating in India through twinning arrangement. Twinning programmes not only promise an international degree but an exposure to foreign campuses.
- No programme and research will be offered which is against national security.
Gulf returnee gets U.S. patent
- M.C. David, a Gulf returnee settled at Kayamkulam in Alappuzha district, has secured a U.S. patent for an invention that generates electricity from gravitational energy.
- The patent has been issued by the director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the invention of an apparatus for power production employing buoyancy, gravity and kinetic energy.
- Mr. David claimed that, it can generate pollution-free energy ‘anywhere anytime’ without the need for sophisticated infrastructure or expertise.
- However, the majority of scientists remain skeptical about the workability of the concept.
- Scientist and former president of the Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad R.V.G. Menon said the invention could not work in theory because it violated the fundamental principles of thermodynamics.
- The chance of getting an Indian patent is grim as the Indian Patent Act does not allow patenting of an invention which is frivolous or which claims anything obviously contrary to well established natural laws.
Ready for talks, says Rouhani
- In the first major address to the global audience, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that he was prepared to engage in “time-bound and results-oriented” talks on Iran’s nuclear programme.
- Though he emphaised on the two-pronged message –first , that Tehran’s nuclear programme ‘has been, and will always be’, exclusively for peaceful purposes; and second, that it would retain the right to uranium enrichment and reject “illegitimate pressures” to impede that right.
- Mr. Rouhani said that nuclear weapon and weapons of mass destruction had no place in Iran’s security and defence doctrine, and it contradicts the fundamental religious and ethical convictions of the country.
- However, he cautioned that respect for Iran’s right to implementing enrichment activities domestically and its enjoyment of related nuclear rights would be the ‘only path towards achieving the first objective’ of nuclear negotiations.
Syria: rebel groups reject West-backed SNC’s authority
- Several Syrian rebel groups, including a powerful al-Qaeda-linked faction, rejected the authority of the Western-backed opposition coalition, as U.N. inspectors returned to the country to continue their probe into chemical weapons attacks.
- In a joint statement, 13 rebel groups led by the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front slammed the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, as it no longer represents their interests.
- The statement reflected the lack of unity between the political opposition, based in exile, and the disparate rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria’s civil war, which has killed over 100,000 people so far.
- It also highlights the growing irrelevance of the Coalition and its military arm headed by Gen. Salim Idris, who heads the Supreme Military Council supported by the West, amid increasing radicalisation in Syria.
Declaration against sexual violence signed
- Ministers from 113 countries have signed a declaration pledging new action to end sexual violence in conflict.
- The declaration prohibited amnesties for sexual violence in peace agreements. It also pledged to adopt a new International Protocol in 2014 to help ensure that evidence collected can stand up in court.
TRAI for pan-India number portability in six months
- The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), on Wednesday, recommended implementation of mobile number portability across the country within six months. When implemented, this will allow users to retain their mobile numbers even when they shift their service area.
- Presently, mobile number portability (MNP) is available within the same service area.
- Post implementation, subscribers in Andhra Pradesh, for example, will be able to port their numbers to Karnataka, Maharashtra, Haryana, and so on.
- The move will unlikely have any significant impact on the revenues of the operator as India is mostly a prepaid market.
Banks told to end zero interest EMI schemes
- With the festival season fast approaching and with banks and merchant establishments falling head over heels to woo clients, the Reserve Bank of India dealt a severe blow to them on Wednesday.
- The Central Bank has instructed banks to stop offering zero interest EMI (equated monthly installment) schemes for the purchase of consumer goods in a move to discourage them from offering such schemes or products.
- It has instead told banks to offer uniform interest rates and processing fee on EMI-based credit card schemes for retail products.
- The interest rate charged is camouflaged. It is passed on to the customer as processing fee by banks offering zero per cent EMI schemes on credit card outstanding for purchasing retail products. The very concept of zero per cent interest “is non-existent”.
- Fair practice demands that the processing charge and RoI (rate of interest) charged be kept uniform, product and segment-wise, irrespective of the sourcing channel.
- The RBI pointed out that, such schemes only served the purpose of “alluring and exploiting vulnerable customers”. The only factor that could justify differential RoI for the same product, with tenor being the same, was the risk rating of the customer.
- The RBI also asked banks to terminate their relationships with merchant establishments which levied a fee on customers who make payments for goods and services through debit cards.
WGC new Chairman
- Randall Oliphant is the new Chairman of the World Gold Council (WGC), he succeeds Ian Telfer.
- The U.K.-based WGC is the market development organization for the gold industry working within the investment, jewellery and technology sectors, as well as engaging in government affairs, whilst stimulating and sustaining demand for gold.
1. Global capital flows to developing countries increased significantly during the nineties. In view of the East Asian financial crisis and Latin American experience, which type of inflow is good for the host country?
a. Commercial loans
b. Foreign Direct Investment
c. Foreign Portfolio Investment
d. External Commercial borrowings
2. The growth rate of per capita income at current prices is higher than that of per capita income at constant prices, because the latter takes into account the rate of:
a. growth of population
b. increase in price level
c. growth of money supply
d. increase in the wage rate
3. Consider the following statements:
The Indian rupee is fully convertible:
I. in respect of Current Account of Balance of payment
II. in respect of Capital Account of Balance of payment
III. into gold
Which of these statements is/are correct?
a. I alone
b. III alone
c. I and II
d. I, II and III