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Today's Hot Stories - January 02, 2013

10 Headlines for Today

(1) SC issues notice to Centre and states on measures for women safety
(2) Blow to Narendra Modi as SC upholds appointment of Gujarat's Lokayukta
(3) Syria ushers in New Year with more violence
(4) Y V Reddy to head 14th finance commission
(5) Up to 35% cars on Indian roads without insurance
(6) Oil prices rise as US lawmakers avert 'fiscal cliff'
(7) Van Persie helps Man United march on
(8) Football: Tottenham claim 3rd despite early alarm
(9) Tennis: Kerber scrapes through to quarterfinals
(10) Like music itself, a singer has no boundaries: Runa Laila

5 Stories for Today

(1) Shashi Tharoor bats for making public identity of Delhi gang-rape victim, sparks row
(2) Cliff avoided: Congress staves off tax hikes
(3) Link oil & gas pacts to output: Rangarajan
(4) HP may sell faltering businesses
(5) Universal healthcare, free medicine scheme remained on paper in 2012

(1) Shashi Tharoor bats for making public identity of Delhi gang-rape victim, sparks row

Union minister Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday dived in to what appears to be a growing clamour for making public the identity of the 23-year-old Delhi gang-rape victim by suggesting that the anti-rape law be named after her if the girl's parents consented.

Tharoor, the minister of state for human resources development, wondered what purpose was served in keeping her identity secret setting off a debate on the issue.

"Wondering what interest is served by continuing anonymity of #DelhGangRape victim. Why not name & honour her as a real person w/own identity?...Unless her parents object, she should be honoured & the revised anti-rape law named after her. She was a human being w/a name, not just a symbol," Tharoor tweeted. He was supported by Biocon head Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Team Anna member Kiran Bedi.

Under the law, the identity of a rape victim cannot be disclosed and printing or publishing the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom rape is committed is an offence under Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code unless the next of kin give their written consent.

The Supreme Court has in its judgements observed that the restriction imposed by Section 228 A does not extend to reporting of the judgments issued by trial courts, HCs and the Supreme Court. In its judgement, SC held that courts should not mention names of rape victims in their judgments, given the ignominy rape victims face in a conservative society like India.

Section 228-A of IPC is in sync with laws abroad, such as UK's Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 1976, which guarantees anonymity to women who complain of rape. These enactments are meant to encourage rape victims to complain against assaulters without having to facing public glare and the resulting humiliation. In November, nine people were fined by a UK court for revealing the name of the victim on social media. The victim has been allegedly raped by footballer Ched Evans.

The US, however, is an exception. The Supreme Court there has consistently struck down state laws which prohibit the media from revealing the name of the victim of sexual abuse. However, media organizations there have scrupulously observed a self-imposed code of not publishing the name of the rape victim.

Tharoor's comments also came close on the heels of Delhi Police registering a case against an English daily for publishing material which could lead to the identification of the victim.

In response to Tharoor, Shaw said, "That's the question I've been asking as well. Especially when the new rape law needs to immortalize her by bearing her name."

Bedi said, "I support Shashi Tharoor's view, if parents don't want to reveal the name then let the law be named Nirbhaya law...What Tharoor has said may be unique to India but not to America...I support Tharoor on naming new law on rape after her real name or 'Nirbyaya.' This has been done in USA: Brady, Megan, Karly, Jessica Law etc." She said that "in naming law after her, we immortalise her will to fight and live, not on the act of rape. "This way, we may remove the stigma," Bedi added.

Congress steered clear of the controversial Tharoor's remarks calling it his "personal opinion", while BJP dubbed it as a "needless diversion".

(2) Cliff avoided: Congress staves off tax hikes

Legislation to block the 'fiscal cliff' is headed to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature. The bill will avoid, for now, the major tax increases and government spending cuts that had been scheduled to take effect with the new year.

Final approval came in the House on New Year's Night. The vote was 257 to 167.

The Senate passed the bill less than 24 hours earlier.

The measure raises tax rates on incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples, a victory for Obama.

It also extends expiring unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, prevents a cut in fees for doctors who treat elderly Medicare patients and cancels a $900 pay increase due to lawmakers.

Another provision is designed to prevent a spike in milk prices.

(3) Link oil & gas pacts to output: Rangarajan

A committee under the PM's Economic Advisory Council ( PMEAC) chairman C Rangarajan, tasked with improving contracts for auctioned oil and gas fields, has recommended a production-linked regime for sharing profit with operators and increasing the exploration period from seven to 10 years.

"Under the proposed model , production-sharing between the government and the contractor (the company operating a field) will be linked to the average daily production and prevailing average of oil and gas prices in a well-defined period. A matrix has been designed, which incorporates both price bands and incremental production tranches, for computation of pre-tax production share between the government and the contractor," the committee has said in its 148-page report.

In layman's words, this means companies would have to bid on the basis of how much oil and gas produced from a field they would share with government. The report says the bids would be progressive and incremental in terms of the government's take going up with corresponding increase in both production and price.

"This would imply that for any given price situation which the contractor faces in the market, the government's take should rise monotonically with rise in daily production, across incremental production tranches. Similarly, for any given tranche of output per day, the government's share would rise monotonically with an increase in price as one moves across price-classes. The proportion of sharing should depend on the value of both output per day and the price per unit of oil/gas," the report says.

This matrix is markedly different from the existing format of contracts that allow operators to recover investments before sharing profit with the government in a graded manner. This has given rise to two issues: first, the government's share remains nominal in the initial years of production and rises gradually to its peak towards the end of a field's life. Second, allowing recovery of an operator's investments in a field could work as an incentive to widen scope of work to inflate costs - commonly referred as 'goldplating' - of developing a field.

"The extant (existing) fiscal model, with primary focus on recovery of upstream costs has been found to be a major constraint in expediting exploratory work and is also lacking in incentive to keep costs down... this constraints is now increasingly overshadowing the basic government objectives of energy security through expeditious development of hydrocarbon resources available in the country, while simultaneously conserving and promoting their efficient use," the report says.

Because of the cost-recovery factor in the existing system, the government has to get involved in the nitty-gritty of the contractor's day-to-day operations. The government does this through its representatives in the oversight panels for each block, called management committees.

The industry perceives this as micro-management by the government. This results in more dispute than resolution in the MC meetings, which holds up progress.

The new proposed model aims to take care of this by clearly stating that no deduction, except royalty, would be allowed before splitting the share of produced oil/gas between the government and the contractor.

No deduction, except royalty, would be allowed before splitting the share of oil/gas between the government and the contractor.

Scrapping of costrecovery model will act as incentive for companies to keep costs low.

No need for govt to get involved in the nitty-gritty of a field's daily operation since no recovery of cost is involved.

(4) HP may sell faltering businesses

Hewlett-Packard Co. said it's evaluating the possible disposition of businesses that don't meet goals more than a year after chief executive officer Meg Whitman said she didn't plan to spin off the the personal computer division.

"We also continue to evaluate the potential disposition of assets and businesses that may no longer help us meet our objectives," Hewlett-Packard said in a December 27 10-K filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

That language wasn't included in the document a year earlier.

CEO since September 2011, Whitman is working to turn around Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard after five straight quarters of declining sales and years of botched deals, management tumult and strategic missteps. An $8.8 billion writedown of the acquired software company Autonomy Corp in November renewed calls for HP to realize shareholder value by shedding certain businesses.

(5) Universal healthcare, free medicine scheme remained on paper in 2012

Many health policy initiatives of the government could not be rolled out for various reasons in 2012 during which the country faced fresh challenges on disease prevention as dengue and Japanese Encephalitis continued to claim lives.

On the positive front, India continued its polio-free run for the second consecutive year and inched closer to polio free status in 2014. To get a polio free certification of WHO, a country must report three polio free years.

UPA's ambitious schemes -- universal health coverage, free supply of medicines in government facilities and National Urban Health Mission -- could not be implemented with Health Ministry taking its promises into 2013.

Plan allocations for health sector failed to touch the expected 2.5 per cent of the GDP mark, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had promised, though overall 12th Plan allocations were much higher than the previous plan.

Though the first-ever National Entrance-cum-Eligibility Test for admission to post-graduate medical courses was held successfully in 2012, the examination for close to 45000 MBBS and dental courses was delayed further into 2013.

The much-awaited bill to set up an overarching health sector regulator subsuming the medical, dental and pharmacy councils of India received a setback when the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health returned it in a rare move. The panel asked the government to redraft the bill taking all stakeholders on board besides recommending strengthening of existing regulators.

The National Commission for Higher Research in Health (NCHRH) Bill was mooted in the wake of corruption in the MCI and other health sector regulators.

Another draft bill on mental healthcare which seeks to replace the archaic Mental Health Act of 1987 could also not be taken to the Cabinet despite timely draft preparation by the Health Ministry. Disability rights activists and Social Justice Ministry expressed reservations on the bill saying it is against the spirit of UN Convention on Rights of persons with Disabilities which India ratified in October 2007.

Dengue deaths touched an all-time high of 227 last year as against 110 in 2011. Japanese Encephalitis also claimed hundreds of lives and the Cabinet for the first time passed a multi-crore comprehensive plan to combat it.

On the non-communicable disease front, screening of citizens above the age of 30 for heart ailments and diabetes continued with the ministry expecting survey outcomes by 2013 so that policy can be accordingly reworked.

On tobacco prevention, gutka was banned by 16 states and three UTs. TB was also made a notifiable disease to prevent drug resistant TB and six AIIMS-like institutes started functioning.

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