India’s poor progress in population stabilisation
The Annual Health Survey (AHS), 2011, reveals India’s poor progress in population stabilisation. It also questions target delivery under the multi-crore National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) that is supposed to meet contraception needs of women. It shows that one in five women in the country’s nine high population States has no access to contraceptives though they need these.
Resultantly, in six of the eight high population States, women continue to bear more than three children each. Total Fertility Rate (average number of children born to a woman during her reproductive lifespan) is higher than the national average of 2.5 in these six States. Uttarakhand and Odisha are exceptions with 2.3 TFR each. The rest of the States have higher TFRs than the national average of 2.5—Bihar (3.7), UP (3.6); Rajasthan (3.2), Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh (3.1 each); Chhattisgarh (2.9) and Assam (2.6).
The Annual Health Survey covered 20.1 million persons in 284 districts and gives data for 161 indicators, including child marriage and abortion. It found child marriage rampant—every 4th marriage of women in rural Rajasthan and every 5th in Bihar and Jharkhand is before the legal age of 18. Only 20 of the 284 districts in high population States have so far met population stabilisation goals.
RBI’s First Quarter Review 2012-13
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), on July 30, 2012, said that the outlook for the Indian economy remained weak, indicated by lowered growth projections by professional forecasters and external agencies.
“In an uncertain global economic environment, factors like the interplay between growth slowdown, high inflation, wide current account, fiscal gaps and falling investment have weakened the economy,” said RBI in its Macroeconomic and Monetary Developments First Quarter Review 2012-13.
The central bank said various surveys of business expectations confirmed confidence levels are low. It pointed out that the NCAER Business Confidence Index, which registered an improvement in business environment during April 2012, slid back during July 2012.
Similarly, it noted that the Dun & Bradstreet Business Optimism Index for July-September 2012, conducted in June 2012, indicated increased pessimism, with a quarter-on-quarter decline in volume of sales, net profits, new orders, inventory and employee levels.
RBI said the revised gross domestic product (GDP) growth estimate for 2011-12 at 6.5 per cent had come in sharply lower than the conservative estimates by external agencies (7.0-7.6 per cent). Stuttering global growth and domestic concerns on multiple fronts—including weak Index of Industrial Production (IIP) growth momentum, persistent inflation, and high fiscal and current account deficits—have led to further downward revisions in the growth outlook for 2012-13 by 0.2-0.8 percentage points.
The RBI’s Consumer Confidence Survey, conducted in June 2012, also indicated that though the majority of respondents perceive current household circumstances to have improved, there has been a rise in the proportion of respondents reporting otherwise. This led to a fall in consumer confidence for the current period.
Further, RBI’s Industrial Outlook Survey, conducted during the first quarter of 2012-13, showed deterioration in business sentiments, both in the assessment quarter first and the expectations quarter second of 2012-13.
RBI further pointed that the Business Expectation Index, a composite indicator based on several business parameters, also showed moderation for assessment (first quarter of 2012-13) and expectation (second quarter of 2012-13) quarters. RBI said though the industry and service sector median growth forecasts have turned low, they are expected to pick up from the beginning of the second quarter of 2012-13.
Visit of Prime Minister of Singapore
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong of India’s commitment to reinforce its status as an investment-friendly destination as the two countries signed three accords, including one for the conduct of joint military training and exercises in India, on July 11, 2012, during Lee’s State visit to India.
The other agreements between signed were on facilitating cooperation in the field of vocational education and skills development and on the setting up of a Greenfield world class skills development center in Delhi to provide state-of-the-art facility for skills development.
US declares Afghanistan as a major non-NATO ally
Washington has declared Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally, a largely symbolic status reinforcing its message to Afghans that they will not be abandoned as the war winds down.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the decision, made by President Barack Obama, during her unannounced visit to Kabul, on July 6, 2012, where she met President Hamid Karzai on the eve of a major donors’ conference in Tokyo.
The status upgrade may help Afghanistan acquire US defence supplies and have greater access to US training as the Afghan army takes more responsibility for the country’s security ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of most NATO combat troops.
Tokyo Meet: The representatives of nearly 70 nations and international organisations, at the Tokyo meeting on July 7, 2012, pledged to give Afghanistan $16 billion for civilian needs over the next four years to prevent instability and chaos that may follow after foreign troops leave that country.
In what is seen as a strong endorsement of India’s initiatives on Afghanistan by the international community, the “Tokyo Declaration” said the participants welcomed the results of the Delhi Investors’ Summit on Afghanistan, underscoring the importance of implementing its recommendations. The participants reaffirmed the significance of risk mitigation and credit provision schemes by the international community in promoting private sector investment in Afghanistan.
India’s Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna reiterated that New Delhi did not visualise its partnership with Afghanistan as condition-based or transitory, nor was it looking to back out of this partnership. However, he stated, while the international community was assisting Afghanistan in attaining its long-cherished goal of self-reliance, it must also acknowledge that despite the successes in embattled nation, the basic ideological, infrastructural, logistical and financial infrastructure of terror was still intact in the region.
DO YOU KNOW
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has made electronic filing of tax returns mandatory for income more than Rs 10 lakh.
The eco-sensitive Western Ghats along the west coast of India have been included on the coveted list of World Heritage Sites, maintained by UNESCO. Spread over nearly 8,000 sq km, spanning Gujarat, Maharashtra (known as the Sahyadris in the State), Karnataka, goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the Western Ghats are between 60-160 km at the narrowest end-points, harbouring a wealth of flora and fauna. Older than the Himalayas, the mountain chain represents geomorphic features of immense importance.
India has jumped to the second position in the Global Innovation Efficiency Index in 2012, from 9th position in 2011. China topped the list. Countries which are strong in producing innovation outputs despite a weaker innovation environment and inputs are poised to rank high in the efficiency index, prepared by CII, Alcatel-Lucent and Booz & Co.
DNSChanger is a malware (also called Alureon) that redirects traffic through rogue DND servers controlled by criminals. DNS servers are computer switchboards that direct web traffic.
Gujarat is celebrating 2012 as ‘Yuva Shakti Varsh’ or the ‘Year of Youth Power’ to commemorate Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary.
Brahmaputra is the world’s largest river network. It has 33% of India’s water resource, of which only one per cent is utilised.
“Beyond the lines” is an autobiographical account by veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has set up a four-member committee to formulate fresh guidelines on the anti-tax avoidance proposal of General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR). The committee is headed by Indian Council for Research on International economic Relations (ICRIER) chief and taxation expert Parthasarathi Shome.
UNESCO has given its nod to house a Category-1 institute in New Delhi, making India the first country in Asia-Pacific to house such an institute, which has been named as the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development.
According to the latest figures, production of foodgrains in India, in 2011-12, was all-time high 257.44 million tonnes.
The 19th International AIDS Conference was held in Washington in July 2012.
Reserve Bank of India, in its quarterly review, announced a cut in the Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) for banks by one percentage point, to 23% from 24%. The cut in SLR, which is essentially the proportion of deposits that banks invest in government bonds, will enable banks to shift money from low-yielding bonds to retail loans, resulting in some loans getting cheaper.
The National Housing Bank (NHB) has announced the formation of the Indian Mortgage Guarantee Company, a joint venture of the US-based financial security company Genworth, Asian Development Bank and International Finance Corporation. This is the first mortgage guarantee company in India. The company will help mortgage lenders avoid pilling up of bad debts in case of borrower’s default.
Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) has repurchased shares worth Rs 2,512 crore from its public shareholders, making it India’s biggest share buyback programme ever, overtaking an earlier exercise by Piramal Healthcare.
Yahoo! Inc. has appointed Marissa Mayer as its CEO. She is the fifth CEO in four years. Mayer, 37, would be charged with helping the company regain the attention of Web surfers. She shifts from Google, a company she had joined in 1999 as its 20th employee. She was Google’s first female engineer.
Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has formally incorporated a new firm to enter aerospace and defence ventures. The new company is Reliance Aerospace Technologies Pvt Ltd. Dr Vivek Lall (43), one of India’s most respected aerospace expert, has been appointed as the head of the new company.
Sahara Group has agreed to buy a controlling stake in new York’s landmark Plaza Hotel for $570 million. The 105-year-old luxury hotel, overlooking the New York’s Central Park, is jointly owned by Elad Properties, an Israeli-owned real estate company, and Saudi-based Kingdom holdings company.