NITI Aayog, the premier think tank of the Government of India, partnered with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to host a South Asian regional conference at PravasiBharatiya Kendra in the capital today to discuss the key issues, perspectives and the way forward in the Urban Infrastructure.
The two day conference on “Urban Infrastructure: New Approaches to Public & Private Partnerships and Municipal Finance Innovations”, being held on November 15-16, was inaugurated by CEO, NITI Aayog, Amitabh Kant, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of FinanceSubhash Chandra Garg. UN Resident Coordinator in India,YuriAfanasiev, Country Director, ADB India Kenichi Yokoyama, and Director & Head, UNESCAP S&SW Office, Dr Nagesh Kumar were present on this occasion.
Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs), Shri Hardeep Singh Puri addressed the closing session on Day One of the Conference and received the rapporteurs' presentations, summarising best practices related to new approaches to PPP & Municipal Financing.
In the inaugural address, CEO NITI Aayog, Amitabh Kant emphasized upon the need to ensure adequate return on investments in infrastructure through properly structured Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) and de-risking of projects. He said that it is required to evolve unique models and systems of urban planning which are creative, innovative and sustainable, and suited for South Asian countries.
Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Subhash Chandra Garg emphasised on the need to decentralised urbanisation, with porous boundaries between urban & rural areas as the key to sustainable urbanisation. He said that the future areas of growth & development are infrastructure & digitalised delivery of goods & services.
Considering the quantum deficit in infrastructure implementation today vis-à-vis the demand, it is extremely imperative to focus on newer means of implementing and financing urban infrastructure. In India alone, until 2040, estimated investments of around $4.5 trillion are required in the infrastructure space. With respect to urban needs, the population in South Asia is expected to grow by around 250 million till 2030, while that in India is expected to reach around 590 million during the same period.
There are an estimated 98 million people who reside in the slums of Indian cities and are disproportionately deprived of access to basic services and infrastructure. These gaps must be addressed, so that the cities grow equitably and in an environmentally responsible way.
Background: The South Asian regional conference is a first of its kind, with participation from across the South Asian region including leaders from the government, industry, research organizations, academia, think tanks and civil society. The Conference aims to review overall issues and assess the sustainability of PPPs and urban finance in South Asia, specifically India, while broadening the knowledge base and engaging on international best practices. Components of the Conference include keynote and breakout sessions, panel discussions, presentation and a variety of stakeholder consultations.
Countries need to explore innovative models to implement infrastructure projects. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been one such option that enables governments to optimally share the risks associated with a project’s life cycle. However, for making government procurement more dynamic, it is imperative to focus on wider options. Furthermore, to implement urban infrastructure in India, a deeper deliberation is required on the means of democratising the governance at the city level with a view towards providing greater operational and fiscal autonomy to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). These challenges and the emerging opportunities necessitate focusing on the institutional environment to improve the delivery of sustainable urban infrastructure and services and evaluating alternatives for long term, predictable financing.
NITI Aayog has constituted the ‘Himalayan State Regional Council’ to ensure sustainable development of the Indian Himalayan region. The Council has been constituted to review and implement identified action points based on the Reports of five Working Groups, which were established along thematic areas to prepare a roadmap for action.
Recognizing the uniqueness of the Himalayas and the challenges for sustainable development, Five Working Groups were constituted by NITI Aayog on June 2, 2017.
These Working Groups were tasked with preparing a roadmap for action across five thematic areas namely,
Inventory and Revival of Springs in Himalayas for Water Security, Sustainable Tourism in Indian Himalayan Region, Shifting Cultivation: Towards Transformation Approach, Strengthening Skill & Entrepreneurship (E&S) Landscape in Himalayas, and Data/Information for Informed Decision Making. The five thematic reports were released by the NITI Aayog in August, 2018 and framed the action points for the Terms of Reference of the Council constituted.
The Himalayan State Regional Council will be chaired by the Dr VK Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog and will consist of the Chief Secretaries of the Himalayan States as well as the Secretaries of key Central Ministries, senior officers of NITI Aayog as well as special invitees.
The Himalayan States Regional Council will be the nodal agency for the Sustainable development in the Himalayan Region which consists of the twelve States namely Jammu &Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, two districts of Assam namely Dima Hasao and KarbiAnglong and Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal.
The terms of reference of the Council states that it shall monitor the implementation of action points for Central Ministries, Institutions and 12 Himalayan State Governments in Indian Himalayan Region which include river basin development and regional cooperation, spring mapping and revival across Himalayas in phased manner for water security; develop, implement and monitor tourism sector standards as well as bring policy coherence, strengthen skill & entrepreneurship with focus on identified priority sectors, among other action points.
The Union Tourism Secretary, Smt. Rashmi Verma rolled out the Incredible India Tourist Facilitator Certification (IITFC) Programme in New Delhi, today. The Union Tourism Minister, Shri. K.J. Alphons, had earlier launched the IITFC on 27th September, 2018 on the occasion of National Tourism Awards function & World Tourism Day. With its roll out today, the participants will now be able to register for this programme through an online digital platform. IITFC will enable Indian citizens to develop and enhance the skills associated with tourism, and where one can incorporate knowledge about facilitating tourists across the country.
The certification program comprises of basic and advanced self-paced courses designed in a manner that the users can learn at their own time, space, path and pace. The course kicks off today with a basic introductory module alongside the registration process. This will be followed by payment initiation on 19th November 2018, where any 10+2 pass out candidate can enroll in the basic course comprising of 7 modules aimed at training the facilitators for knowledge, skills and attitude domains at a nominal charge of INR2000. Successful completion of this program would enable the learner to become a Certified Tourist Facilitator of Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. A refresher course is also proposed for launch in due time for those already in the field seeking at an advanced level course to enhance their skill set.
Speaking on the occasion Smt. Rashmi Verma said that the concept of ‘tourist guide’ has changed world over and the new age tourist facilitators are ‘story tellers’. The Secretary added that this online programme will have lot of advantages like job creation for local people, harness the local experience and traditional knowledge and also it has the flexibility of any age or any place people to join. This initiative will also ensure an enriching experience for the tourists, as this initiative will address the issue of shortage of tourist guides as well as it will provide a lot of competition which will further ensure in providing best tourist facilitators, the Secretary added.
The IITFC program aspires to reach out to a far-flung audience encompassing a diversity of candidates ranging from an enthusiastic student who has recently qualified for higher secondary to an ambitious homemaker willing to grasp tourist facilitation skills from the comfort of their home. It will also act as an enabler for transforming a local citizen with no specified skills having proficiency in a regional language into a potential bread earner for their households.
The online learning management programme has been developed by M/s Wipro Limited and the content supported by the Indian Institute of Tourism & Travel Management.
During this event, the Ministry also exchanged four MoUs with M/s. Yatra Online under ‘Adopt-a-Heritage’, ‘Apni Dharohar Apni Pehchan’ for adoption of (i) Qutub Minar in New Delhi (ii) Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra (iii) Leh Palace in Jammu and Kashmir and (iv) Hazara Rama Temple and Hampi in Karnataka.
Responsibility for a village has been given to every agricultural scientist to create awareness among farmers about modern agricultural methods
Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Shri Radha Mohan Singh has said that Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University has begun work on five new themes targeted by Union Agriculture Ministry for the development of agriculture sector. These include “har khet ko pani”, increase the production of pulses, soil health, doubling farmers’ income and more crop per drop. He informed that in two years, positive results have started to appear. Major works include irrigation through solar power and single phase pumps, seed production of pulse crops, soil testing in farmers' fields through six mobile soil testing laboratories, food processing to double the income of farmers, mushroom production, honey production, research on reduction of post-harvest losses and efficient irrigation system.
Speaking on the occasion of the first convocation ceremony of Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University, Pusa, Samastipur (Bihar) he stated that the Modi government has granted a lot of support to strengthen this University. Horticulture and Forestry College, Centre of Excellence on Embryo transfer & indigenous breed, a new centre for beekeeping, modern processing center for jaggery production etc are important steps in this direction. Apart from this, a center for Sahiwal breed in Bettiah, training centre by National Cooperative Development Corporation, seed storage and sale centre by National Seeds Corporation, fish production by cage culture in all KVKs are also proposed. Shri Singh said that Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has launched four new projects to accelerate the 'Lab to Farm' programme for all-round development of agriculture. In order to increasing the connectivity of farmers with scientists, technical assessment, evaluation, training and capacity building, the government has initiated the Farmer First program.
Considering the importance of capacity development for entrepreneurship in rural youth, Student READY (Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana) program has been started and in order to create new opportunities of employment generation for the youth in agriculture and to prevent their migrations, Attracting and Retaining of Youth in Agriculture (ARYA) has been started. The Minister said that under the “Mera Gaon Mera Gaurav” program, agricultural experts of agricultural universities and ICAR have been given the responsibility of a village in order to create awareness among farmers about scientific farming. The Minister hoped that the university is soon counted among the leading universities of the country and the seeds & technologies developed here bring prosperity to the farmers of Bihar and the country thereby doubling their income.
Hoisting of Tricolour: During his visit to Andaman in on December 30, 1943, Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted the Tricolor for the first time at Cellular Jail of Port Blair, much before India attained Independence declaring the island as the free territory from the British rule.
On the same occasion, he announced the freedom of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, the first Indian Territory, from the British rule. The island at that time was liberated from British rule by Japan which captured it during the World War – II.
Bose named Andaman Island as Shaheed and Nicobar Island as Swaraj and appointed INA General AD Loganathan as the governor of the Islands. Azad Hind Government was not merely a Government in Exile anymore but had its own land, own currency, civil code and stamps.
Key facts: The scheme would encourage cooperatives to venture into new and innovative areas. NCDC has created a dedicated fund with liberal features enabling youth to avail the scheme. The scheme will be linked to Rs 1000 crore ‘Cooperative Start-up and Innovation Fund (CSIF)’ created by the NCDC. It would have more incentives for cooperatives of North Eastern region, Aspirational Districts and cooperatives with women or SC or ST or PwD members.
The funding for the project will be up to 80% of the project cost for these special categories as against 70% for others. The scheme envisages 2% less than the applicable rate of interest on term loan for the project cost up to Rs 3 crore including 2 years moratorium on payment of principal. All types of cooperatives in operation for at least one year are eligible.
About NCDC: National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) was established by an Act of Parliament in 1963 as a statutory Corporation under Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare. It has many regional centres to provide the financial assistance to Cooperatives/Societies/Federations.
UN Against Death Penalty: The draft resolution, taken up in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) of the General Assembly was approved with a recorded vote of 123 in favour, 36 against and 30 abstentions.
The draft aimed to ensure that it is not applied on the basis of discriminatory laws or as a result of discriminatory or arbitrary application of the law. The resolution sought to promote a moratorium on executions with the aim of abolishing death penalty.
India was among the countries that voted against the resolution, which would have the Assembly call on all States to respect international standards on the rights of those facing death penalty.
India’s views: India has voted against the resolution as a whole, as it goes against statutory law in India. The death penalty is exercised in ‘rarest of rare’ cases, where the crime committed is so heinous that it shocks the conscience of the society.
Indian law provides for all requisite procedural safeguards, including the right to a fair trial by an independent Court, presumption of innocence, the minimum guarantees for defence, and the right to review by a higher court.
Facts for Prelims: A 3rd Mega Food Park has been sanctioned by the Ministry in Maharashtra and is under implementation in Wardha District while the first Park was inaugurated on 1st of March 2018 in Satara district.
About Mega Food Parks: Ministry of Food Processing Industries is implementing Mega Food Park Scheme in the country. The Scheme of Mega Food Park aims at providing a mechanism to link agricultural production to the market by bringing together farmers, processors and retailers so as to ensure maximizing value addition, minimizing wastages, increasing farmers’ income and creating employment opportunities particularly in rural sector.
These food parks give a major boost to the food processing sector by adding value and reducing food wastage at each stage of the supply chain with particular focus on perishables.
A maximum grant of R50 crore is given for setting up a MFP, in minimum 50 acres of contiguous land with only 50% contribution to the total project cost.
Mode of operation: The Scheme has a cluster based approach based on a hub and spokes model. It includes creation of infrastructure for primary processing and storage near the farm in the form of Primary Processing Centres (PPCs) and Collection Centres (CCs) and common facilities and enabling infrastructure at Central Processing Centre (CPC).
The PPCs are meant for functioning as a link between the producers and processors for supply of raw material to the Central Processing Centres. CPC has need based core processing facilities and basic enabling infrastructure to be used by the food processing units setup at the CPC. The minimum area required for a CPC is 50 acres.
The scheme is demand-driven and would facilitate food processing units to meet environmental, safety and social standards.
The awards were presented to the top six most innovative solutions from across the country, which were shortlisted through the Atal Tinkering Marathon.
Background: On October 2 last year, AIM’s Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL) had launched a six month long nationwide challenge called the Atal Tinkering Marathon, across six different thematic areas, namely, clean energy, water resources, waste management, healthcare, smart mobility and agri-technology. The objective was to encourage students to observe community problems and develop innovative solutions.
What are ATLs? With a vision to ‘Cultivate one Million children in India as Neoteric Innovators’, Atal Innovation Mission is establishing Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATLs) in schools across India.
Objective: The objective of this scheme is to foster curiosity, creativity and imagination in young minds; and inculcate skills such as design mindset, computational thinking, adaptive learning, physical computing etc.
Financial Support: AIM will provide grant-in-aid that includes a one-time establishment cost of Rs. 10 lakh and operational expenses of Rs. 10 lakh for a maximum period of 5 years to each ATL.
Eligibility: Schools (minimum Grade VI – X) managed by Government, local body or private trusts/society can set up ATL.
Significance of ATLs: Atal Tinkering Labs have evolved as epicenters for imparting these ‘skills of the future’ through practical applications based onself-learning. Bridging a crucial social divide, Atal Tinkering Labs provide equal opportunity to all children across the spectrum by working at the grassroot level, introducing children to the world of innovation and tinkering.
Need for such labs: As the world grapples with evolving technologies, a new set of skills have gained popular acceptance and have come to be in high demand. For India to contribute significantly during this age of raid technological advancement, there is an urgent need to empower our youth with these ‘skills of the future’.
Equipped with modern technologies to help navigate and impart crucial skills in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the ATLs are at the vanguard of the promoting scientific temper and an entrepreneurial spirit in children today.
About GSLV Mk III: GSLV Mk III is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Two massive boosters with solid propellant constitute the first stage, the core with liquid propellant form the second stage and the cryogenic engine completes the final stage.
About GSAT-29: GSAT-29 is a multiband, multi-beam communication satellite, intended to serve as test bed for several new and critical technologies. Its Ku-band and Ka-band payloads are configured to cater to the communication requirements of users including those from remote areas especially from Jammu & Kashmir and North-Eastern regions of India.
In addition, the Q/V-Band communication payload onboard is intended to demonstrate the future high throughput satellite system technologies. Geo High Resolution Camera will carry out high resolution imaging. Optical Communication Payload will demonstrate data transmission at a very high rate through optical communication link.
Significance of the launch: The success of GSLV MkIII-D2 marks an important milestone in Indian space programme towards achieving self-reliance in launching heavier satellites. The success of this flight also signifies the completion of the experimental phase of GSLV Mark III.
Context: Uttar Pradesh Government has approved renaming of Faizabad and Allahabad divisions as Ayodhya and Prayagraj respectively. What next? Now, the proposal will now go to Central before the city is officially renamed.
Justification for name change: Allahabad’s ancient name was ‘Prayag’, but was changed after 16th-century Mughal emperor Akbar built fort near ‘Sangam’, the holy confluence of three rivers viz. Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. Akbar named the fort and its neighbourhood ‘Ilahabad’. Later, Akbar’s grandson Shah Jahan renamed the entire city as ‘Allahabad’. But the area near the ‘Sangam’, the site of the Kumbh Mela, continues to be known as ‘Prayag’.
Ayodhya has been associated with Lord Ram and is known as his birth place. Ayodhya has been the capital of various dynasties, including the Ikshvaku dynasty of which Lord Ram is a descendent.
Why in News? Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary in Vedaranyam Range has been closed for a week in view of water-logging caused by a heavy spell of rainfall. S study notes that the water quality at the Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary might be unsafe for avifauna to feed and breed.
Key facts: It is located in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu spreads across an area of 30 sq.km and comprises sandy coastal, saline swamps and thorn scrub forests around the backwater.
It is a protected area and a Ramsar site. It harbors the single-largest stretch of the unique dry-evergreen forest in the country besides open grasslands and tidal mudflats is of interest to tourists.
Around 100 species of birds including the Greater Flamingo, Painted Stork, Little Sting, Sea Gull and Brown-headed gull have been making their presence felt since September.
Blackbuck (Antilope Cervicapra) is the flagship species of the sanctuary. Other important animals are the spotted deer, black-napped hare, wild boar, Indian jackal, feral horses, palm civet, short-nosed fruit bat, jungle cat and monitor lizard.