Coalgate: CAG report slams Union government on allocation of coal blocks
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its report on coal block allocations, has alleged that government’s failure to introduce competitive bidding process in the allocation had caused financial gains of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore to private coal block allottees.
The CAG report, titled “Allocation of Coal Blocks and Augmentation of Coal Production” was tabled in the Parliament on August 17, 2012. It said a part of this financial gain could have come to the government.
“The process of bringing in transparency and objectivity in the allocation process of coal blocks, which commenced from 28 June 2004 got delayed at various stages and the same is yet to materialise (as on February 2012) even after a lapse of seven years,” the report said.
The auditor further rapped the government and said that a part of the lost finances could have accrued to the national exchequer by operationalising the decision taken years earlier, to introduce competitive bidding for allocation of coal blocks.
The loss figure of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore was arrived at by the auditor in respect of 57 open cast or mixed coal mines allocated to private parties. The report names 25 companies that were beneficiaries and include the names such as Essar Power, Jindal Steel and Power, Hindalco, Tata Power, DB Power, Adani Power, CESC, Monnet Ispat, Rungta Mines, Mukund and Tata Steel.
DO YOU KNOW
With 19 medals, Michael Phelps now holds the record for most Olympic medals won by an individual.
Saina Nehwal’s bronze medal at London Olympics was India’s first Olympic medal in the sport. Nehwal is only the second Indian woman to win an Olympic medal after weightlifter K. Malleswari.
Mary Kom, who created history by becoming the first Indian woman boxer to win an Olympic medal, was India’s flag-bearer at the closing ceremony of the London Olympics.
Oscar Pistorius became the first double amputee to compete at Olympics when he participated in the 400m race in London Olympics.
The Union Cabinet has set the reserve price for auction of 2G spectrum at Rs 14,000 crore for the 5 megahertz pan-India spectrum in 1800 megahertz band. The price is expected to lead to hike in tariffs for consumers. The operators who bag the spectrum will have to pay one-third of the payment upfront and balance in 10 equal yearly installments after a moratorium of two years.
International Youth Day is observed on August 12.
World Photography Day is celebrated on August 19.
According to World Bank data, India’s proportion of public expenditure to total spending on health is at 29.2 per cent, much lower than the global average of 62.8 per cent, as also sub-Saharan Africa’s 45.3 per cent. India spends only 4.1 per cent of its GDP on health, against a global average of 10.4 per cent.
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit, 2012 was hosted by Iran.
Apple-Samsung Patents dispute
A US court jury has ordered Samsung to pay USD one billion to Apple Inc. for ripping off Apple technology.
The Silicon Valley jury found that some of Samsung’s products illegally copied features and designs exclusive to Apple’s iPhone and iPad. The verdict was narrowly tailored to only Samsung, which sold more than 22 million smartphones and tablets that Apple claimed used its technology, including the “bounce-back” feature when a user scrolls to an end image, and the ability to zoom text with a tap of a finger.
According to analysts, the popular zooming and bounce-back functions the jury said Samsung stole from Apple will be hard to replicate.
The companies could opt to pay Apple licensing fees for access to the technology or develop smarter technology to create similar features that don’t violate the patent—at a cost likely to be passed onto consumers.
Apple lawyers are planning to ask that the two dozen Samsung devices found to have infringed its patents be barred from the US market. Most of those devices are “legacy” products with almost non-existent new sales in the United States. Apple lawyers will also ask that the judge triple the damage award to $3 billion since the jury found Samsung “wilfully” copied Apple’s patents.
A loss to the Android-based market would represent a big hit for Google as well. Google relies on Android devices to drive mobile traffic to its search engine, which in turn generates increased advertising revenue. Android is becoming increasingly more important to Google’s bottom line because Apple is phasing out reliance on Google services such as YouTube and mapping as built-in features on the iPhone and iPad.
Some experts cautioned that the decision might not be final, noting the California lawsuit is one of nine similar legal actions across the globe between the two leading smartphone makers.
Samsung has vowed to appeal the verdict all the way to the US Supreme Court, arguing that Apple’s patents for such “obvious” things as rounded rectangle were wrongly granted.
The $1 billion represents about 1.5 percent of Samsung’s annual revenue. Jerome Schaufield, a technology professor at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute said the verdict wouldn’t upend a multibillion-dollar global industry.
The dispute also centres on Apple’s dissatisfaction with Google’s entry into the phone market when it released Android operating system and announced any company could use it free of cost.
Threat to Water and Food Security
A new report, released by The Stockholm International Water Institute, “Feeding a thirsty world: Challenges and opportunities for a water and food secure world”, outlines major threats and opportunities for water and food security.
The report provided official input into the discussions that took place at the 2012 World Water Week in Stockholm, on August 26-31.
Authored by a dozen experts from SIWI, the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the report provides new evidence that shows how continuing current trends in food production could lead to increased shortages and intense competition for scarce water resources in many regions across the world.
The report notes that 900 million people are hungry and two billion more people are under nourished in spite of the fact that per capita production continues to increase. With 70 per cent of all water withdrawals used in agriculture, growing more food to feed an additional 2 billion people by 2050 will place greater pressure on available water and land.
“Feeding everyone well is a primary challenge for this century. Overeating, under-nourishment and waste are all on the rise and increased food production may face future constraints from water scarcity,” said report editor Dr. Anders Jägerskog. “We will need a new recipe to feed the world in the future.”
The authors spotlight a number of essential and largely overlooked challenges where dedicated action can help ensure food security to a growing global population with available water resources. These include improvements in on-farm water efficiency, reductions in losses and waste in the food supply chain, enhanced response networks to early warning systems for agricultural emergencies, and increased investment to close the gender gap in agricultural production.
The report also investigates the impact of the recent surge in foreign direct investment to lease land in developing countries on local and regional water resources, a phenomenon that requires more stringent regulation to ensure that the water and land rights of local farming communities are upheld.
Syria: Blame game over resignation of international peace envoy
On August 3, 2012, world powers traded blame after Kofi Annan quit as international peace envoy to Syria, complaining that his initiative to end the bloodshed there never received the support it deserved.
As Syria’s government deployed fighter jets against rebels armed with tanks around the commercial capital Aleppo, the outgoing UN-Arab League envoy voiced regret at the “increasing militarisation” of the nearly 17-month conflict.
He hit out at “continuous finger-pointing and name-calling” at the UN Security Council, which he said had prevented coordinated action.
Annan’s resignation sparked a new round of recriminations among the council’s five permanent members, with the United States blaming Russia and China for vetoing three separate UN resolutions on the conflict.
But Russia’s envoy to the world body insisted Moscow had supported Annan “very strongly”, and Putin called his resignation a “great shame”.
India urged the international community to remain engaged in Syria. “India would have liked Annan to “persevere”, but if he is giving up, the international community must not consider that as the end of the road, as some people seem to be suggesting.”
As a temporary member of the Security Council, India has been for an inclusive political solution, arguing against outside intervention. India supported Annan’s mission and his six-point plan. But, it is loathe supporting any attempt by outside forces to take sides in the conflict.
The US and its allies, however, have repeatedly called for Bashar al-Assad’s ouster and are backing the rebels with non-lethal aid and support.
The 16th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit, attended by 118 member-States, concluded in the Iranian capital of Tehran on August 31, 2012, after the adoption of the outcome documents which lay emphasis on peace. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the rotating chairman of the summit, read part of the final documents at the closing ceremony of the event, and said that the participants unanimously expressed their commitments to the principles and objectives of the NAM.
Leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) rejected any foreign military interference in Syria, by approving the Final Declaration of the 16th Summit.
The 688-paragraph text and attached documents also included a condemnation of the US economic blockade against Cuba, support for Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the Falkland Islands, and repudiation of the constitutional coup d’etat in Paraguay.
They also expressed support for Ecuador in its diplomatic argument with Great Britain, following the asylum granted to the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and endorsed Venezuela as the venue for the 17th NAM Summit.
The rejection of terrorism and western double standards on that issue, food security, the fight against poverty, and the impact of diseases and natural phenomena in the economy of developing nations, were also included in the closing document.
The text also called for reform of the United Nations system, particularly of the Security Council, the peaceful settlement of disputes and global peace defence and dialogue among civilizations, religions, and cultural diversity.
Decolonization, the fight against terrorism, promotion of democracy, and North-South and South-South cooperation were all clearly discussed, along with the Palestinian cause and other conflicts taking place in Middle Eastern countries, in addition to the aforementioned conflict in Syria.
The oversight panel for India’s showcase KG Basin gas field off the Andhra coast has given Reliance industries (RIL) and BP Plc permission to pump over $1 billion into the flagging field, but with a rider that three satellite gas finds would be declared viable only if they drill more wells at their own expense.
Karl Slym, former GM India Managing Director, has taken over as the Managing Director of Tata Motors.
Apple has become the world’s most valuable company, ever. Its surging stock has propelled the company’s value to $623 billion, beating the record for market capitalization set by Microsoft in the heady days of the internet boom.