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30-35 pc of Parliament's time lost due to disruption: study

Parliament sat for a total of 73 days last year in three sessions but 258 of the 803 hours earmarked for business were lost due to disruptions over several issues, including price rise and corruption.
According to a study by PRS Legislative Research, Lok Sabha is scheduled to sit for six hours a day and Rajya Sabha for five hours. It meant that the Lower House had 438 hours and the Upper House 365 hours to transact business.
"Out of the available time, approximately 30 per cent time was lost to disruptions in Lok Sabha and 35 per cent in Rajya Sabha," the study said.
However, on a positive note, it said Parliament fared better in 2011 compared to 2010 as one session was completely washed out then.
"Productive time in 2011 in Lok Sabha was 70 per cent while in 2010, it was 57 per cent," it said, adding out of 54 bills listed for consideration and passing, 28 were passed.
Interestingly, in Lok Sabha, 18 per cent of the bills were passed in less than five minutes like Char…

Rs 32-a-day poverty line had Plan panel in controversy in 2011

The Planning Commission was at the centre of a big controversy in 2011 after it adopted Rs 32-a-day poverty line, inviting sharp criticism from many quarters, even as the government grappled with slowdown and high inflation throughout the year.
NGOs, commentators and the common man all alike criticised the Plan panel's description of the poor.
Irked by the Plan panel's definition of poverty, N C Saxena, a member of the National Advisory Council (NAC) had told PTI that "only cats and dogs can survive on Rs 32 a day".
Based on the recommendations of the Tendulkar Committee, the Planning Commission had set the poverty line at Rs 965 per capita per month in urban areas and Rs 781 per capita per month in rural areas.
The issue came to light after the Commission in its affidavit in the the Supreme Court, said, "At June 2011 price level, for a family of five, this provisional poverty line would amount to Rs 4,824 per month in urban areas and Rs 3,905 in rural area".
Th…

Issue of rights of forest dwellers took centrestage in 2011

With Naxalism spreading its wings in forest areas and wooing tribals, the issue of rights of forest dwellers took centrestage during 2011 with the government taking several steps to address their grievances.
Attempting to win back the confidence of tribals, the government carried forward measures like distribution of title deeds to tribals and provision of facilities like healthcare, education, marketing of forest products and scholarship for children of forest dwellers.
For strengthening education among ST students, the Tribal Affairs Ministry started a scheme of pre-matric scholarship with a budget of Rs 50 crore for 2011-12. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved a 100 per cent centrally-sponsored scheme for providing financial assistance to the students pursuing post matriculation courses through recognised institutions.
For implementation of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, a joint committee was set by…

2011 at a Glance: A year of 'TREMORS' worldwide

The killing of Osama bin Laden, the world's most sought after terrorist was one of the highlights of the year 2011.
World economy struggled to overcome the debt crisis, regimes fell in Egypt, Libya - described as 'Arab Spring'. Not to be left out, US and other developed world was swamped by 'Occupy' protests against social and economic inequality.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was also killed in the year that saw the demise of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
Tunisia holds its first democratic elections while south Sudan gained independance ending Africa's longest civil war. Baburam Bhattarai took over as premiership of Nepal. The US , Britan and European Union slapped tougher sanctions on Iran while Japan was hit by nuclear crisis that followed a tsunami.
Following is the diary of events during 2011:
Jan 1: Cairo: At least 21 worshippers are killed and about 80 others wounded when a suicide bomber blows himself up outside a church soon after New Year's Mass in …

Rs 90,000 crore for Agriculture Roadmap in Bihar

Bihar government will spend more than Rs 90,000 crore to implement its five-year agriculture roadmap comprising loan, storage and marketing from April, 2012.

A decision to this effect was taken by the cabinet committee on agriculture which met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.Talking to reporters after the meeting, Agriculture Production Commissioner A K Sinha said major share of the estimated amount would be spent on distribution of loan, storage and marketing.

The meeting decided to increase the storage capacity from 9 lakh mt to 65 lakh mt during the next five years and 85 lakh mt in the next ten years.

The state government would also meet the expenses and interests of the storages and fertilisers during off-season.

"We have also laid emphasis on state rural hats, cooperative markets, government bazaars and private public partnership for developing these marketing centres," he said.

'Nepalese lured to Gulf states subject to forced labour'

Nepalese workers lured abroad in search of better livelihood in various Gulf states have been subject to forced labour and sexual exploitation, human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in a key report.

The report entitled, "False Promises: Exploitation and forced labour of Nepalese migrant workers", prepared by Amnesty highlights the fate of prospective migrants who take large loans to pay recruitment fees to secure a job overseas, unaware that recruitment agencies are deceiving them about the work, pay and conditions they are signing up to.

It states that every year over 300,000 Nepalese, including women move to various countries, mostly in the Gulf region and Malaysia for employment.

However, recruitment agencies subject them to forced labour on the pretext of false job promises.

The workers take out large loans to pay recruiters to secure a job overseas "unaware that they are deceiving them about the work, pay and conditions they are signing up to."

AI has as…

'Climate change killing trees'

Long-term drought linked to climate change is causing trees to die in Africa's Sahel region, south of the Sahara desert, according to a scientific study. The research, funded by NASA and the US Geological Survey, focused on six countries from Senegal in West Africa to Chad in Central Africa.
It found that one in six trees died between 1954 and 2002, and one in five tree species disappeared locally. Indigenous fruit and timber trees that need more moisture were hardest hit by hotter, drier conditions. In the sites studied, the average temperature warmed by 0.8 degrees Celsius and rainfall declined by up to 48 per cent.
"Rainfall in the Sahel has dropped 20 to 30 per cent in the 20th century, the world's most severe long-term drought since measurements from rainfall gauges began in the mid-1800s," lead author Patrick Gonzalez, who conducted the research while a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement.
"Previous research already…

'Corruption most talked-about issue in India'

Corruption has emerged as the most frequently discussed issue in India while unemployment is the world's fastest-rising fear, according to a survey by the BBC covering 11,000 people in 23 countries.

Corruption ranked the most talked-about subject in the annual poll globally, called The World Speaks, by BBC World Service, with nearly a quarter of the respondents discussing that topic over the past four weeks.

Apart from India, graft was the most talked-about issue in other developing nations like Nigeria, Indonesia, and Peru, the survey has revealed.

Next came extreme poverty. One in five had talked about that subject recently across the world.

However, unemployment was mentioned by 18 per cent -- six times the rate citing it in the first survey in 2009, though concerns about joblessness varied by country.

Top of the list was Spain, where 54 per cent of those sampled said they had discussed unemployment recently, an increase of one-third on the previous year's BBC poll.

Ghana, Mexico…

'11 children go missing every hour in India'

11 children go missing every hour in the country, a child rights NGO claimed, citing data collected from government between 2008 and 2010 and a survey.

The Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) said it collected the data using RTI from 392 districts across the country in a span of two years and claimed it found nearly 11 children go missing every hour.

In its book 'Missing Children of India', the NGO claimed 1,17,480 children went missing across the country between January, 2008, to January, 2010, as per data collected from government agencies.

According to BBA, Maharastra topped the list with most number of cases of missing children, follwed by West Bengal and Delhi where 1,442 children were registered as missing and untraced in 2011.

"The biggest problem is the apathy of law enforcement agencies as a majority of children going missing are not even being acknowledged, let alone registered and investigated," BBA founder said.

"Police and law and enforcement agencies do not ta…

'Delhi perceived to be the most unsafe for women'

More than 50 per cent of women feel unsafe while travelling on Indian roads, with the capital was perceived to be the most unsafe of all the metros, a study claimed.

According to the study, 51 per cent of the women surveyed in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai felt unsafe while travelling on roads while 73 per cent said they were scared of travelling alone at night.

The study conducted by Navteq, global provider of navigation enabled maps, and TNS Market Research claims 87 per cent women regarded Delhi as most unsafe city while Mumbai was touted as the safest city by 74 per cent women.

While women in Kolkata felt safer than those in Delhi and Mumbai, most women in Chennai felt their city was safer than Delhi but not as safe as Mumbai.

The study also claimed that to find their way, most women prefered to seek direction from friends and family before setting out while en-route in unfamiliar areas, a similar number will seek directions from strangers with an aim to overcome the fear of losi…

'Himalayan glaciers shrunk by fifth in 30 years'

Glaciers in the Himalayas have shrunk by as much as a fifth in the last 30 years, scientists have claimed in the first authoritative confirmation of the impact of climate change on the region.

The findings of reports published by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) headquartered in Kathmandu, show Nepal's glaciers have shrunk by 21 per cent and Bhutan's by 22 per cent over 30 years.

"These reports provide a new baseline and location- specific information for understanding climate change in one of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world," Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said.

A three-year Sweden-funded research project led by ICIMOD showed 10 glaciers surveyed in the region all are shrinking, with a significant loss of ice between 2002 and 2005.

The reports, launched by ICIMOD at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, form the most comprehensive ever assessment of the extent of melt…

'People-to-people contacts can help manage conflicts'

Communal conflicts in the country and cross-border disputes could be better managed with increased people-to-people contacts, said a UN report.

The UN's 'State of World's Volunteerism Report', the first-ever such study released by the world body, underlined that voluntary efforts could play a role in combating communal tensions.

In India, where confrontation between religious groups are not uncommon, it has been observed that inter- religious participation in festivals helps to prevent conflict.

"Hindus and Muslims participate in each others' celebrations and share each others' food. Joint peace vigils and marches are further examples of cross-ethnic collaborations," it said.

The report said that youth exchanges between India and Pakistan could reduce the potential for conflict by strengthening mutual understanding.

"This is a Gandhian peace approach with young people living together with one another's families and engaging in actions for peace. T…

'India records low level of economic crime'

Emerging markets, including India, "surprisingly" recorded low level of economic crime among 78 countries in the past year due to ineffective fraud detection methods, says a report by PwC.

The report titled 'Global Economic Crime Survey' said India's incidence of economic crime of 24 per cent in 2011 was much lower than the global average of 34 per cent.

The level of fraud in the country has increased from 18 per cent it found in the last survey in 2009.

Kenya recorded the highest level of economic crime in the 12 months with 66 of respondents saying their organisations were victims of economic crime.

"Certain growing markets surprisingly reported low levels of fraud (below 25 per cent) - namely Indonesia, India, Romania and Greece. This might be because their fraud detection methods are ineffective and/or their respondents are reluctant to report fraud," the report said.

Japan had the least economic crime, followed by Indonesia, Slovenia, Greece, Italy, the…

India to avert 3 million HIV cases: World Bank

India is expected to avert 3 million new HIV infections during the period 1995-2015 by using targeted interventions among vulnerable groups, according to a World Bank study.
The study, 'Impact of Targeted Interventions on Heterosexual Transmission of HIV in India', evaluated the impact of targeted interventions among female sex workers in four high prevalent states -- Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
The study found a significant decline in HIV prevalence among female sex workers and young women (15-24 years) seeking antenatal care in the high-prevalence southern states.
The drop in prevalence is associated with a significant increase in consistent condom use.
"Among the women seeking antenatal care in districts with high intensity of targeted interventions, HIV prevalence declined by more than 50 percent from 1.9 percent in 2001 to 0.8 percent in 2008, compared with low-intensity districts where the infection rate remained constant at 0.9 percent in b…