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Lok Sabha approved Constitution (118th Amendment) Bill, 2012 Lok Sabha has approved without debate a Constitution amendment Bill that will grant special status to six backward districts in the Hyderabad Karnataka region, with provision for reservation in education and jobs for local people. The Constitution (118th Amendment) Bill, 2012 seeks to insert a new Article 371-J to provide special recognition for the six backward districts in north Karnataka: Gulbarga, Yadgir, Raichur, Bidar, Koppal and Bellary. The Bill provides for setting up a separate development board and equitable allocation of funds for development of the region. Besides, it will provide a quota in public employment through constitution of local cadres and reservation in education and vocational training institutions for those who belong to the region by birth or domicile. This great move has come 56 years after the Vidharbha and Marathwada regions got special status in 1956, and later Telangana got special status in 1974. Aadhaar card, bank account mandatory for direct cash transfer Set to roll out the direct cash transfer programme from January 1,2013 the Central government has made it clear that money will be transferred to beneficiaries only when they provide an Aadhaar card and a bank account number by the cut-off date in the respective districts. While LPG subsidy is being rolled out separately as per a separate timeline of February 1, 2013, food, fertilizer and kerosene are not included at the moment. For rural development schemes, the postal system has said it will be ready by June 1,2013 in all 43 districts. The scheme will cover 18 States by April 2013. Subhash Joshi new BSF chief, Ajay Chadha to head ITBP Subhash Joshi has been appointed as the new chief of Border Security Force (BSF) while Special Secretary in Home Ministry Ajay Chadha would now head the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). Joshi, who is at present Director General of elite National Security Guard, will lead the 1.8 lakh strong border force BSF as the post had fallen vacant on December 1 due to retirement of U K Bansal. In another appointment cleared by Appointments Committee of Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ajay Chadha, Special Secretary (Internal Security), has been appointed as Director General of ITBP. The post had fallen vacant after Ranjit Sinha was appointed as Director of CBI. Special Director General of BSF Arvind Ranjan has been appointed as Director General, National Security Guard (NSG). India has highest malaria burden in SE Asia With an estimated 24 million cases per year, India has the highest malaria burden in South East Asia. But the good news is that the cases are projected to decline by 50-75% in next three years in India, says a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Defence ministry's boost for Army’s 'mini' air force plan The Army's ambition to progressively build its own "mini'' air force got another boost with the defence ministry approving its proposal to procure 22 Cheetal helicopters. The Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC), headed by defence minister A K Antony, approved the Cheetals for the Army, which is likely to deploy them for logistic support in high-altitude operations like Ladakh and Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region. The Cheetals are an upgraded version of the vintage Cheetah helicopters with more powerful engines manufactured by the defence PSU, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). These choppers are being procured as there is a delay in the acquisition of new light-utility helicopters (LUHs). All the three Services are 'desperate'' to induct as many as 440 new LUHs to replace their ageing Cheetah/Chetak choppers, which were first inducted in the 1970s based on the design of French "Alouettes'' and "Lama SA-315''. Panel finds lapses in development of ‘first indigenous Bt cotton’ In a damning indictment of the way some Bt cotton varieties were developed and commercialised in the country, a committee headed by Prof. S.K. Sopory, Vice-Chancellor of JNU, found that indigenous Bikaneri Nerma (BN) Bt cotton variety was contaminated by a gene patented by Monsanto. Having found lapses in the “BNLA106 event”, the committee has held as “invalid” the data obtained from bio-safety studies and field trials with BNBt as these were conducted with material that contained Monsanto’s “MON531 gene/ event”. The committee’s finding raises disconcerting questions over the claims made by developers, the role of regulatory body, the public sector research institutions and their ethical standards. The BNBt cotton variety and Bt NHH hybrid were developed in a collaborative effort of the National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, New Delhi, the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, and University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad. Page 1 of 3 19th December 2012

Bangalore-made machine to give a fresh coat of film to Russian telescope mirror in Caucasus A made-in-Bangalore machine has been chosen to freshly coat a Russian observatory's giant telescopic mirror in the Caucasus. Hind High Vacuum Co. Pvt. Ltd., said that it would export what it described as a very complex, high technology machine to Russia. It would be used in the Caucasian mountain observatory of the Sternberg Astronomical Institute under the Moscow State University. Astronomical observatories, which peer deep into space, are usually set up in remote areas at great heights. The Indian Institute of Astrophysics’ 2metre Hanle observatory in Ladakh used its coater in 2004. Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences bought a coater for its 3.7-m optical telescope near Nainital for half the price of a leading European supplier.

Ireland to allow abortion to save mother’s life The Irish government has announced that it would bring in legislation to allow for abortion in cases where the mother’s life was at risk. The decision follows widespread outrage over the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died after being denied abortion by doctors at a government hospital despite repeated requests, though her life appeared to be at risk. At present, abortion is illegal in Ireland except when the mother’s life, as distinct from health, is at risk. But a lack of clear guidelines has meant that doctors refuse it even in genuine cases. Queen attends Cabinet meeting Queen Elizabeth II scripted history, becoming the first British monarch since 1781 to do so. Zuma re-elected ANC leader South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) voted overwhelmingly to keep President Jacob Zuma as the head of the nation’s dominant political force, more than likely guaranteeing the politician another five years as the President. Mr. Zuma trounced Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, his only challenger who ran a largely muted and reluctant campaign, getting 2,983 votes to Mr. Motlanthe’s 991. United Kingdom renames part of Antarctica after the Queen The southern portion of British Antarctic Territory has been named Queen Elizabeth Land in honour of the monarch's 60 years on the throne. The announcement was made as Queen Elizabeth II attended her final diamond jubilee event with a visit to the Foreign Office, which handles Britain's overseas territories. The previously unnamed area now called Queen Elizabeth Land is around 169,000 square miles (437,000 square kilometres). It makes up just under a third of the British Antarctic Territory land mass and is an area almost twice the size of Britain. British Antarctic Territory stretches from a longitude of 20 degrees to 80 degrees west. Britain operates three research stations there. It is not the first time that a patch of the icy continent has been named after Queen Elizabeth. A sector of Australian Antarctic Territory was named Princess Elizabeth Land upon its discovery in 1931, when her grandfather king George V was on the throne.

Business & Economy:
India will overtake U.S. in coal use by 2017 Coal will nearly overtake oil as the dominant energy source by 2017, and India will pass the U.S. in coal usage becoming the biggest coal importer in the world, the International Energy Agency has said. China will use more coal than the rest of the world put together. Coal now accounts for 28 per cent of total primary energy consumption, and its demand for the fossil fuel rose 4.3 per cent in 2011, compared with 2010. Without a major shift away from coal, average global temperatures could rise by six degrees Celsius by 2050, leading to devastating climate change. Parliament passes Appropriation Bill Parliament has approved the Appropriation Bill, 2012 amidst government's assertion that it intends to bring down fiscal deficit to three per cent of the GDP by 2016-17 from the projected 5.3 per cent in the current fiscal. Page 2 of 3 19th December 2012

FTA with Bangladesh can boost trade World Bank report said a free trade agreement (FTA) between Bangladesh and India could push bilateral trade by over 100 per cent. “An FTA between the two nations would increase Bangladesh's exports to India by 182 per cent and that of India's to Bangladesh by 126 per cent,” World Bank lead economist Sanjay Kathuria said, while releasing a report titled ‘Unlocking Bangladesh-India Trade’. During 2011-12, the twoway trade stood at $4.3 billion. Bangladesh has long complained that trade with India was unequal, with India selling goods worth over $3.5 billion to Bangladesh against the latter's export to India of about $0.6 billion. New panel to vet coal block applications The Coal Ministry has set up an inter-Ministerial group (IMG) to look into, and scrutinise applications for coal blocks from government companies. The 14-member IMG will function under the leadership of Coal Secretary. It will have representatives from Power, Steel, Law & Justice and Planning Commission. An InterMinisterial Committee under the Chairmanship of Secretary (Coal) is constituted with the approval of competent authority. The panel shall co-opt the representatives of the concerned state governments where the coal block and the end-use plant would be located. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to donate $500 mn Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg donated nearly USD 500 million in stock to a Silicon Valley charity to focus on health and education issues. The gift of 18 million Facebook shares is valued at USD 498.8 million, when Zuckerberg, made the donation. The beneficiary is the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, a nonprofit that works with donors to allocate their gifts. US fines Toyota $17.4 million for delay in safety reports The US has slapped a record 17.35 million fine on the world’s biggest automaker, Toyota Motor Corporation, for “failing” to report safety defects to regulators within five days as required by federal law. The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that Toyota has agreed to pay $17.35 million, the maximum fine allowable under the law, in response to the agency’s assertion that the Japanese automaker “failed to report a safety defect to the federal government in a timely manner.”

McIlroy ends year as World No. 1 Rory McIlroy has ended the year as World No. 1 for the first time with a comfortable lead at the top of the official rankings No Indian in Top-20 Test batsmen, Sachin Tendulkar slips to 22nd Sachin Tendulkar slipped out of the list of top-20 Test batsmen after his awful run in the just-concluded fourmatch series against England while Australia skipper Michael Clarke regained the number one position. Tendulkar, who dropped three places to 22nd, managed to aggregate a mere 112 runs with a lone halfcentury in the Kolkata Test. The other notable Indian batsmen like Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara also slipped in the rankings, dropping a notch to 25th and 26th respectively. Virat Kohli gained four places to be ranked 37th while skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni remained static at 38th. The bowlers table is still headed by South Africa's Dale Steyn while Sri Lanka's spinner Rangana Herath dropped two places to fourth.

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