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Current Affairs Chronicle: March 2011

March 3, 2011: SC strikes down CVC PJ Thomas' appointment.
The Supreme Court on 3/3/2011 struck down on the appointment of Chief Vigilance Commisioner PJ Thomas after a three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia delivered its verdict on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that sought his removal. The apex court has observed Thomas is a person who is tainted as he was an accused in the palmoline export scam. CVC PJ Thomas soon thereafter submitted his resignation. This has come about as big blow to the UPA government which is already facing several allegations of corruption. Furthermore Thomas is the country's 14th CVC and was selected by a three member panel that included the PM and the Home Minister. The opposition BJP had been highly critical all along and following his resignation demanded even the PM to step down. The PM took responsibility for the incident and cited the reason as error in judgement. An IAS officer of 1973 batch of Kerala cadre, PJ Thomas is the eighth accused in the palmolien case. He served as food secretary in Kerala in the early 90’s during which time he had aggressively campaigned for the import of 1500 tonnes of palm oil from Malaysia. Reports later emerged that price paid for the oil- palmolein was unjustifiable high. He has since been fighting allegations of corruption, while the case is still pending in court.
March 3, 2011: Cabinet nod for Banking laws amendment Bill.
The Union Cabinet on Thursday gave its approval for introduction of a Banking Laws Amendment Bill 2011 in Parliament. This Bill seeks to among other things lift the 10 per cent voting rights cap in private sector banks and pave the way for the Reserve Bank of India to give some additional banking licences to private sector players.

The proposed Bill will seek to amend the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, so as to remove the voting rights cap for private sector banks. The legislative intent will be to make voting rights commensurate with economic ownership.

Indications are that the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, will be amended to prescribe a minimum capital of Rs 1,000 crore for every private sector bank. The current capital requirement is Rs 300 crore. Based on the feedback from a discussion paper issued in August 2010, the RBI has proposed some amendments to the Banking Regulation Act including a change in the minimum capital requirement.

The UPA Government had in 2005 brought a Bill to amend the Banking Regulation Act 1949. This Bill was, however, not enacted into law.

The Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, has now in his latest Budget speech said that the financial sector reforms initiated during the early 1990s have borne good results for the Indian economy. He also said that the UPA Government is committed to take this process further.

Mr Mukherjee specified Banking laws Amendment Bill 2011 as one of the seven legislations in the financial sector that would be moved in Parliament. He has also promised to bring suitable legislative amendments to the Banking Regulation Act in the current Budget session itself.

The other legislations in the financial sector that are likely to be pursued are the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill 2008, the Life Insurance Corporation (Amendment) Bill 2009, the revised Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, Bill on factoring and assignment of receivables, State Bank of India (subsidiary banks laws) Amendment Bill 2009 and Bill to amend the Recovery of Debts due to banking and financial institutions and SARFAESI Act 2002.
March 6, 2011: India successfully tests interceptor missile.
INDIA'S defense ministry said it successfully shot down a missile on Sunday in a test of a homegrown missile interception system.
The interceptor missile destroyed a medium-range missile over the Bay of Bengal after the missile had been fired from a test site in the eastern state of Orissa, ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said. 'It hit the target missile at an altitude of about 10 miles (16 kilometres),' Mr Kar said.
A test of the system last March was unsuccessful, with the interceptor missile failing to take off.
Sunday's exercise tested the system's ability to track, intercept and destroy incoming missiles and was part of a series of trials, he said.
Nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan usually notify each other ahead of major missile tests, in keeping with an agreement between the two nations.

March 7, 2011: SC dismisses Aruna Shanbaug's euthanasia plea.
Aruna Shanbaug a former nurse at Mumbai’s KEM hospital has been in a vegetative state for the last 38 years after she was assaulted by a ward boy. A Bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra rejected on 7/3/2011 the euthanasia plea filed by Aruna’s friend Pinky Virani declaring ‘the petition stands cancelled’. They also added Pinky was not allowed to appeal for the mercy killing of Aruna as she was not the staff of KEM hospital. The bench in its 110-page judgement saw the nursing staff of KEM hospital who have been looking after Aruna for the past 38 years as the real next friend of Aruna and declared the patient didn’t have a single bed sore during the period. The apex court however allows passive euthanasia in appropriate cases which have been permitted by the concerned high courts. They also added there is no law in the country presently in the country on euthanasia and clarified unless the Parliament drafts a law, its stand on active and passive euthanasia will stay enforced. Aruna Shanabug was sexually assaulted on November 27 1973 by Sohanlal Walmiki who used a dog chain to subdue her which ended up cutting the oxygen supply to her brain damaging vital functions like sight, memory and normal movement.
March 8, 2011: Pratip Chaudhuri is new SBI chief.
Mr Pratip Chaudhuri has been appointed as the Chairman of State Bank of India. Prior to his appointment, Mr Chaudhuri was Deputy Managing Director and Group Executive (International Banking).
As per a government notification, he will be at the helm at SBI till September 2013. The Government has also elevated Mr Hemant Contractor, Mr Diwakar Gupta and Mr A. Krishna Kumar as Managing Directors of SBI.
March 11, 2011: SC dismisses Aruna Shanbaug's euthanasia plea.
A powerful earthquake of 8.9 magnitude struck Japan on its north eastern coast on 11/3/2011. The earthquake resulted in a massive tsunami that caused wide scale destruction and loss of thousands of lives. Cars, ships and buildings were all swept away by the rampaging waters of the Tsunami which struck about 400km (250 miles) north-east of Tokyo. The port city of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture was one of the worst affected. Ten metre waves struck the city deluging everything that was part of it-farmlands, cars, buildings, houses etc. Fires broke out in the city following the deluge. A cluster of two to three hundred bodies were found in one part of this city alone. This is the most powerful natural disaster to have struck Japan in its recorded history and is considered 8000 times more powerful than what struck Christchurch in New Zealand earlier this year.
As of March 30th 2011 according to official estimates the death toll now stands at 11,257 while another 16,344 people are still missing. Many of the survivors who have been displaced have lost all their property to the Tsunami. More than 173,200 people are living in the 2000 evacuation centres in the 17 prefectures mostly in the northern side of the country. Among the worst affected prefectures which are Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate 146,628 displaced people have been housed in close to 1,245 evacuation centres.

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