Reports of China building a weather modification system to bring more rain to the Tibetan plateau has sent the lower riparian state of Assam into a tizzy.
Every year Assam’s economy is devastated by floods, causing immense damage to the region's people and their livelihood. State's finance minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, said Assam and Arunachal Pradesh are suffering due to interference by China in the natural ecosystem in Tibet.
He said, “The news of the new system is a shocker. I am requesting the Union Ministry of External Affairs to look into the matter and coordinate with the Chinese authorities.” Assam witnessed extensive flooding last year. The state government had stated that despite no massive rainfall, the state witnessed severe flooding resulting in the third wave of flood.
Union Ministry of External Affairs had stated that it has not received hydrological data from China on river Brahmaputra and Sutlej last year. India has a bilateral agreement with China to share information on cross-border rivers, including Brahmaputra and Sutlej.
India's very powerful, home-made communications satellite shot off into the blue sky today, leaving a smoky trail, on the back of the heavyweight GSLV rocket. The successful launch by the scientists of space agency ISRO drew praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The 2066-ton satellite, built at a cost of Rs. 270 crore, will be able to send and receive signals from hand-held devices. It is expected to be particularly useful for security forces stationed in the remotest corners of the country. The rocket also has a special feature -- a new engine, which, if successful, will be crucial for India's second Moon mission.
The GSAT-6A carries one of the largest antennas that has been built by ISRO, said its former chairman Kiran Kumar. The antenna, which has a diameter of 6 meters, will open up like an umbrella once the satellite is in orbit.
The huge size of the antenna gives it more power, which ensures that a two-way exchange of data, voice or video, can be carried out through small hand-held devices from any corner of the country.
The hand-held devices are still being fine-tuned by the defence development agency DRDO. The DRDO hopes to manufacture a number of such devices, which will be given to security personnel deployed in remote areas.
The GSLV rocket, which will carry up the communications satellite, was dubbed the "Naughty Boy" by ISRO scientists. The 416-plus ton rocket has had a patchy record, with four of its 12 flights ending in failure.
The Vikas engine, for which scientists have high hopes, was named after Vikram Sarabhai, who was considered the father of India's space programme. Vikas is an acronym for Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai.
For this journey, the engine, which works on liquid propellants, was used in the second stage to give the rocket a higher thrust. In future, the Vikas engine may become the mainstay of Indian rockets. Depending on its performance, it could even be deployed when India hoists the Chandrayaan-2 mission.
Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index which comprises 60 indicators across five broad categories—electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties—concludes that less than 5% of the world’s population currently lives in a “full democracy”.
Nearly a third live under authoritarian rule, with a large share of those in China. Overall, 89 of the 167 countries assessed in 2017 received lower scores than they had the year before.
Norway remains the most democratic country in the ranking, a position it has held since 2010, and western Europe accounts for 14 of the 19 “full democracies” that make up the ranking’s top tier. Nonetheless, the region’s average score slipped slightly in 2017, to an average of 8.38 points out of 10.
The Spanish government’s attempt to stop Catalonia’s independence referendum by force on October 1st caused the country’s score to fall by 0.22 points, leaving it just 0.08 points above the “flawed democracy” threshold
The star performer in the 2017 rankings is the Gambia. After 22 years of rule by Yahya Jammeh, a dictator who suppressed political freedoms, centralised powers within his ethnic group and used the army to instil fear, the country enjoyed its first-ever democratic transfer of power last year.
Madhya Pradesh has won the Geographical Indication (GI) tag for Kadaknath, a black-feathered chicken known for its flavourful meat and found mainly in the tribal district of Jhabua, trumping Chhattisgarh’s claim over the breed.
Thanks to the persistent efforts of the department officials, we have managed to win the GI tag,” said MP animal husbandry minister Antar Singh Arya. The coveted tag, awarded by the GI registry in Chennai, indicates that a product possesses certain qualities exclusive to its land of origin. Kashmiri pashmina, Darjeeling tea, Kancheepuram silk and Tirupati laddoo have all been granted GIs.
The GI tag will ensure that no one else can use the name Kadaknath while selling any other black chicken and will also translate into higher prices for producers, officials in the animal husbandry department said.
The government of India constituted the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) on November 18, 2004. The NCF was chaired by Professor M.S. Swaminathan. It submitted five reports to the government. The reports had suggestions for “faster and more inclusive growth” for farmers as was envisaged in the Planning Commission’s Approach to 11th Five Year Plan. The fifth report was the most crucial as it contained suggestions for inclusive growth of farmers and agriculture sector.
NCF’s Swaminathan Commission Report aimed at working out a system for food and nutrition security, sustainability in the farming system, enhancing quality and cost competitiveness of farm commodities and also to recommend measures for credit and other marketing related steps.
The Commission observed that farmers needed to have an assured access to and control over rightful basic resources. These basic resources include land, water, bioresources, credit and insurance, technology and knowledge management, and markets. It observed that agriculture must be implemented in the concurrent list from the state list — hence putting it as a matter of concern for both the Union and the states.
One of the key reforms was, of course, land reforms. It was aimed to address the issue of access to and for both crops and livestock. The commission said that the inequality in landholdings in shown starkly in land ownership. It said that in 1991-92, the share of the bottom 50 per cent of the rural households in the country’s total land ownership was only three per cent. The top 10 per cent owned as much as 54 per cent.
Distribution of ceiling-surplus and waste lands; prevention of diversion of prime agricultural land and forest to corporate sector for non-agricultural use; to ensure grazing rights are provided and seasonal access is allowed in forests to tribals and pastoralists. It recommended access to common property resources. One main case was establishing a National Land Use Advisory Service. The purpose of this service would be to connect land usage decisions with ecological meteorological and marketing factors.
Irrigation Reforms: It recommended framing a set of reforms to provide farmers with “sustained and equitable” access to water for irrigation. Ensuring boost in water supply by rainwater harvesting, water level recharging by mandatory aquifers; Million Wells Recharge programme to be initiated targeted at private wells. To target increase in investment in irrigation sector under 11th five year plan.
Productivity Growth: NCF said that with the objective of achieving higher productivity growth, it recommended “Substantial increase in public investment in agriculture-related infrastructure particularly in irrigation, drainage, land development, water conservation, research development and road connectivity etc.” It also recommended a national network of advanced soil testing labs with an aim to test areas for apt micronutrient levels.
Credit and Insurance: Expand outreach of formal credit system; reduce crop loan interest rates to 4%; provide moratorium on debt recovery; agricultural risk fund; kisan credit cards for women farmers; integrated credit-cum-crop-livestock human health insurance package; crop insurance across country for all crops with reduced premiums; sustainable livelihoods for the poor, investment in human development; institutional development services etc
Food Security: The commission recommended Implementation of a universal public distribution system; reorganising delivery of nutrition support programmes on a life-cycle basis with panchayat participation and that of local bodies; elimination of micronutrient deficiency induced hunger and food cum fortification; community food and water banks to be operated by women self-help groups; help small and marginal farmers; formulate national food guarantee act with features as food for work and employment guarantee programmes.
Prevention of Farmer Suicides: Providing affordable health insurance at primary healthcare centres in villages; national rural health mission to be extended to suicide hotspots on priority basis; state level farmers’ commissions with representatives of farmers, restructuring of microfinance policies that may serve as a sort of livelihood finance; covering all crops by crop insurance; village to be the assessor and not the block, social security net that gives old age support with health insurance and aquifer recharge and rain water conservation; plans for decentralised water usage etc.
What’s the difference between “rule of law” and “rule by law”? Much more than a preposition, say experts. But in essence, the former binds society through justice applicable to the rulers and the ruled, the latter is more a means through which rulers maintain social control. Today, in systems under the “rule of law”, a cheat won’t be executed, but under the “rule by law”, he could be, if a law specified it as a punishment.
In India this comes with a law enforcement machinery and a judicial system that emphasises equality before the law, the right to a defence, and judgments that are open to appeal at higher levels.
It was only in 1999 that the phrase “ruling the country in accordance with the law” was written into China’s Constitution. This “rule by law” also has a paraphernalia of laws, policemen, prosecutors and judges. But they are all subordinate to the Communist Party of China (CPC). As for the Party it has its own shuanggui system, a secretive process where those being investigated are detained and isolated from families and counsel.
The rule of law came quickly in India in 1947, but it has failed to develop deep roots. And now, there are signs of a general breakdown where laws are being differentially applied, a huge pendency of cases denies justice to many, judicial accountability is under strain. Perhaps its worst manifestation is the active encouragement to extra-judicial killings in the name of national security or fighting crime, or for that matter, protecting cows.
The Chinese often profess irritation at what they say is India’s sense of superiority over its political system. At the 19th Party Congress last October, President Xi Jinping did say that the Chinese system of governance was a model for others to follow. But the reality is that liberal democracy remains the ideal, if distant goal for the Chinese. Blessed with liberal democracy from the outset India, on the other hand seems to be wantonly dismantling its key principles, especially the idea of “rule of law”.
Kashmiris were full of praise for cricket icon and nominated Rajya Sabha member Sachin Tendulkar for sanctioning Rs 40 lakh from his local area development funds to reconstruct a dilapidated school building at Drugmulla, in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.
An elected Lok Sabha MP can spend Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLAD) funds only in his or her constituency and an elected RS MP anywhere in the state from which elected. But a nominated RS MP can spend MPLAD funds anywhere across India.
Aabroo Nazir, a Class 10 student at the school, was happy to learn that Tendulkar had sanctioned Rs 40 lakh for the school, including for the construction of better toilets. Besides, she added, the school did not have a library and the laboratory was just for the name’s sake. “Now the students expect a modern laboratory and library,” Aabroo said
Floodplains of rivers can provide a new source of water. They are a local, non-polluting, perennial and non-invasive source of water for urban centres. The work and research on the Palla floodplain scheme which was launched by the Delhi Jal Board in 2016 is a tangible realisation of this idea. The scheme (on a 25 km stretch of the Yamuna) is currently running at half its potential and providing water to about one million people in the city — of a daily requirement of 150 litres per person.
Floodplains are formed over millions of years by the flooding of rivers and deposition of sand on riverbanks. These sandy floodplains are exceptional aquifers where any withdrawal is compensated by gravity flow from a large surrounding area. Some floodplains such as those of Himalayan rivers contain up to 20 times more water than the virgin flow in rivers in a year. Since recharge is by rainfall and during late floods, the water quality is good. If we conserve and use the floodplain, it can be a self-sustaining aquifer wherein every year, the river and floodplain are preserved in the same healthy condition as the year before.
The ‘conserve and use’ principle demands that no more than is recharged by rain and floods each year can be withdrawn from this aquifer. This ensures that the groundwater level in the floodplains remains steadily above that in the river in the lean non-monsoon months when the river is often polluted. Drawing out any more water than is recharged can contaminate and eventually finish off this precious resource.
Rivers today are facing problems of abysmally low flows due to an indiscriminate extraction of water for use in cities, industries and agriculture. They are also highly polluted because sewage and effluents are being released into them. But a floodplains ‘conserve and use’ scheme, which is a socio-economic-environmental scheme, can provide water to urban centres along rivers; it can also engage farmers by providing them an assured income and restore rivers to a healthy condition.
Preserving the floodplain in its entirety is critical for this scheme to work. This can be done by engaging farmers whose land will have to be leased for such an effort. Farmers today have an erratic income and this scheme can be realised through a public-private partnership, where farmers on this land tract of 1 km on either side of the river can be provided an assured and steady income of Rs. 30,000 an acre which would amount to Rs. 112 crore a year for the first 10 years for the entire river length (75 km) that is not encroached.
In addition, farmers can grow a food forest, fruit orchards or nut trees but not water-intensive crops on this land. It would guarantee not only a good farming income but also great earnings from the water for the farmers without taking the ownership of the land away from them. The capital cost for building such a scheme would be minimal (a few hundred crores) and the revenue generated would be able to pay for the costs and for farmers’ income without any subsidy. It would also generate substantial revenue for the cities.
Ecologically, a water sanctuary would prevent erosion, heal the river ecosystem, and restore the ecological balance in floodplains. Even after withdrawal, floodplains would have enough water to slowly release back into the river in a lean season. This scheme would help curb illegal extraction of water, stop pollution by local agencies and industries and also encourage cities to be more responsible in their waste management.
The fundamental principle of quality in government – it is not possible to deliver “high quality” goods and services in a sustainable and sustained manner by a government agency that has “poor quality” management systems. To be sure, it is often possible to have a dysfunctional government agency deliver expected goods and services through sheer force of managerial personality and coercive persuasion.
Often, agency heads in government have a limited tenure and they are acutely aware that citizens and their political masters expect instant results. Managers, therefore, ignore the required long-term institutional development of their agency and focus on the delivery of good and services in the short run. Until, of course, the public agency (organization) reaches a breaking point and only then the focus shifts to fixing the broken system.
A typical government performance system focuses on closing the gap between promise and delivery. Hall mark of best practice is management by objective (MBO). Literature on New Public Management (NPM), for example, urges governments to stop micro-managing by specifying processes and procedure. Instead, they are advised to specify SMART targets (where S = specific, significant, stretching; M = measurable, meaningful, motivational; A = agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented; R = realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented; T = time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable).
As one can see, this advice is focused on the end results and assumes that what gets measured gets done. Since there is no mention of improving quality of systems that deliver the results, they tend to get ignored. Hence, it is important to include “improving quality of management systems” as an explicit goal in a performance management system.
The next set of logical questions about quality of government management systems – what to measure, how to measure, when to measure and who should measure the quality of management systems in government. Government of India decided to ask all 80 departments at the federal level to obtain ISO 9001 certification. Since then, this standard has been updated and the latest standard is referred to as ISO 9001:2015.
ISO 9001 lays down the quality requirements your management system must meet, but does not dictate how they should be met in any particular organization. This leaves great scope and flexibility for implementation in different business sectors and business cultures, as well as in different national cultures.
India has its own quality management system developed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). However, Indian Government preferred to implement ISO 9001 as it is internationally recognized and it is audited by highly reputable international companies. This gives this certification great deal of credibility.
These efforts have succeeded where government has given clear guidance. Hence, one must prepare effective guidelines and training material for government agencies and help them recruit quality consultants.
Embed the implementation of ISO 9001 certification in the overall performance management system. It should not be over and above the performance goals but one of the goals. More importantly, monitor the implementation of the action plan to cover the entire department.
With farm prices of several commodities falling way below their minimum support prices (MSPs) in 2016-17 and 2017-18, farmers have been under increasing stress. The Centre and several state governments are searching for ways and means to support farmers. In his recent address (Mann ki Baat), the prime minister stated emphatically that his government will increase MSPs to cover “all costs” of farmers plus 50 per cent. He even went on to enumerate many items of farm expenditure. But what he recounted was basically cost A2+FL (paid out costs plus imputed value of family labour) and not cost C2, which is comprehensive cost including imputed rental value of owned land and imputed interest on owned capital.
The big issue, however, is not just announcing higher MSPs but how to ensure that farmers really get it. Although the Centre regularly announces MSPs for 23 commodities (including Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) for sugarcane), its implementation remains a distant dream. Except paddy, wheat and sugarcane in major procuring states, the announcement of MSPs remains largely indicative in nature.
The Madhya Pradesh government tried to help farmers through the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (BBY), a price deficiency payment (PDP) scheme, in kharif 2017. But it gave up abruptly in the rabi marketing season as the scheme could not cover even 25 per cent of the harvest, even though prices of most crops were way below their MSPs. The Centre is debating whether to scale up the PDP scheme or procure through private trade or look at direct income support (DIS) on a per hectare basis — along the lines of schemes announced by Telengana and Karnataka — for the coming kharif season.
DIS is more transparent and less likely to be prone to manipulation. It is easier to implement, more equitable, and crop neutral. But if scaled at the national level, at say Rs 10,000/ha as Telengana has announced, DIS will cost Rs. 1.97 lakh crore to cover the total gross cropped area of the country. It can be cut to almost half of this amount if paddy, wheat and sugarcane farmers, whose produce is procured at MSP/FRP, are excluded.
Today, the Asiatic cheetah is on the verge of global extinction. Iran is the only country in the world that still has any Asiatic cheetahs in the wild, and according to latest reports, their numbers are dwindling fast, with only 50 individuals remaining. Such a tiny population can easily be wiped out due to natural causes within a generation.
India has for long been in talks with Iran for reintroduction of the cheetah. However, Iran has insisted that India exchange an Asiatic lion in return, of which India is the last natural refuge. The cheetah is a cultural mascot in Iran, just like the Lion in India. Being the last natural refuge of an exotic and critically endangered species of wild animal is lucrative in its own right, not the least because it becomes a hot selling point with tourists and also brings in much needed conservation funds from international agencies. Thus neither India nor Iran feels willing to give up their status as the exclusive home of the lion and the cheetah respectively.
In 2009, there was much cheer among conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts as proposals were announced to bring the African cheetah for the reintroduction programme in India
However, these carefully laid out plans had to be dropped after scientists and conservationists pointed out that the African and Asiatic cheetah were two different sub-species that had separated from each other some 40,000 years ago leading to significant genetic differences
Reintroduction of the cheetah will not only impact tourism in the areas where it is reintroduced, but will also lead to preservation of India’s dwindling grasslands ecosystems. The cheetah mostly prefers open grasslands that allow it to unleash its full and splendid gift of speed. It is a well known fact that bringing back a top predator restores historic evolutionary balance, which leads to preservation of the entire ecosystem.
Right now, the biggest hurdle for reintroduction of this majestic animal to its native land is political. The Indian government has been unable to persuade its own states to facilitate exchange of isolated endangered species, leave alone executing such an exchange with another nation. For instance, Gujarat has for long resisted any moves by the Centre to relocate the Asiatic lion from Gir to other chosen sites.
Conservationists have repeatedly pointed out that an isolated population of a few hundred individuals like the one that exists in Gir is a recipe for disaster as a single epidemic or natural calamity like a forest fire could wipe out the entire population in one stroke. Repeated appeals have been made to the state to allow the introduction of the lion in Palpur-Kuno in Madhya Pradesh so that the population gets diversified. However, Gujarat has dragged its feet on the matter since this would mean significant loss of tourist revenue. India’s failed attempts at negotiating a reintroduction of the Asiatic cheetah have been hit with similar political hurdles. In the end, the only loser in this battle is our natural heritage.
Even though the institutional landscape of Indian federalism has been changed for good—Planning Commission, the extra-constitutional intruder, wound up and the first genuinely federal institution, the goods and services tax (GST) Council created—the terms of reference (TOR) of the 15th Finance Commission are disappointingly routine and ritualistic. Indeed, the TOR are also dangerously regressive and inimical to federalism.
A serious inadequacy in the TOR is in not recognizing the way in which the GST regime has, and will, change the face of fiscal federalism in India. The fundamental change in tax regime has neither appropriately informed the TOR of the 15th Finance Commission nor adequately taken cognizance of its implication on the role of the 15th Finance Commission. It has been factored in as if it is a mere change in the indirect tax collection mechanism
Para 4, sub para 6 of the TOR asks the Commission to have regard to: “The impact on the fiscal situation of the Union Government of substantially enhanced tax devolution to States following recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission coupled with the continuing imperative of the national development program including New India – 2022;” This is a value judgment based on a half truth which is masquerading as a TOR. By putting in such a leading and loaded term of reference, institutional propriety has been seriously compromised.
The TOR do not seem to have recognized that with GST, the entire criteria of horizontal distribution i.e across states will need to be reviewed. The existing criteria have evolved in a production-based tax system. Now, 15th Finance Commission will have to redo these for a consumption- based tax system. The change from production to consumption will make a significant difference to inter se distribution as well as need, nature and distribution of equalizing grants. A number of things including the pecking order of states are bound to see major reordering and recalibration.
The Centre has allowed states to set up their own insurance companies for implementing Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), a senior Agriculture Ministry official said today. The move comes after several requests from states as well as observations made by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its 2017 report that old crop insurances schemes which have now been merged with PMFBY, were poorly implemented during 2011-2016.
"We have allowed the states to establish their own crop insurance companies to implement PMFBY subject to participation in bidding process," the official told PTI. Presently, five public sector insurers and 13 private insurance companies are empanelled for implementation of the scheme, the official said.
Launched in April 2016 , PMFBY provides comprehensive crop insurance from pre-sowing to post harvest against non-preventable natural risks at extremely low premium rate of 2 per cent for kharif crops, 1.5 per cent for rabi crops and 5 per cent for horticulture and commercial crops.
The balance premium is paid equally by the centre and state. Claims are settled on the basis of yield loss assessed at the end of the season. During the 2017-18 crop year (July-June), 4.79 crore farmers have been covered under PMFBY and the government is in the process of assessing the claims.
The plastic ban order of the Maharashtra government is likely to make nearly 3,00,000 people jobless as industry urged the government to come out with a solution, an industry official said here. “The ban on plastic bags has derailed the production, packaging and supply schedules of grains, bakery and clothing industries. Many units are on the verge of closure in the absence of basic packaging material – plastic bags and we fear that nearly 3,00,000 people employed may become jobless. We urged the Maharashtra government to come out with a solution to save the industry,” Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice president Lalit Gandhi told reporters here.
“We met and petitioned the minister for environment -Ram Das Kadam yesterday and sought waiver on packaging material till alternatives are identified and made available” Gandhi said. We have urged the Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to treat food grains and all food items including fruits and vegetables at par with milk and extend the repository (50 paisa per bag) scheme on them.
Failure to act immediately will cause untold misery to all. This may not yield commensurate gains to the environment as envisioned by the plastic ban notification, Gandhi said. “The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to file its reply by April 9 and hopefully will rule on our petition seeking a stay on this ban on April 11,” Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturers Association vice president Ravi Jasnani said.
“In Mumbai alone over 6,80,000 readymade garments pieces for exports are stuck on account of non-availability of transparent plastic bags for packing,” Clothing Manufacturers Association of India chairman Rajesh Masand said. The state on March 23 had issued the Maharashtra Plastic and Thermocol Products notification that banned the manufacture, use, storage, distribution, sale, import and transportation of all kinds of plastic items. The ban covers a wide range of articles made of plastic and thermocol, including, bags, dishes, cups, glasses, bowls, forks, spoon, straw, containers, small PET bottles and decoration items
After nine months of experience with GST revenue collections, and regular glitches and hiccups, one can now declare the new tax scheme a moderate success. And it could get better. One can additionally conclude that the timing of the rollout from 1 July 2017 was one of the best politico-economic calls taken by the Prime Minister. Anything later would have resulted in a needless spillover of the negative effects into the last year of his tenure, with state assembly elections and general elections due over the next one year.
The GST revenue graph rose from August to October 2017, peaking at Rs 95,132 crore, before tumbling precipitately in November – the month when more than 200 items were moved to lower slabs – to Rs 85,931 crore, and bottoming out in December at Rs 83,716 crore. Since then revenues have been firm and on a slight uptrend. March 2018 saw revenues at Rs 89,264 crore, above February’s Rs 88,047 crore. If we adjust for the fact that February had only 28 days this year, the adjusted notional revenue for a 30-day month would be more than Rs 94,336 crore – which is close to the peak last October. March figures could undergo a revision once GST stragglers file late returns.
These numbers exclude collections under the IGST (inter-state GST), and also the cess on imports introduced from March in the Union budget, says a press release from the Ministry of Finance. These collections totalled Rs 27,811 crore.
The performance of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, both producing states with a large manufacturing base, suggests that the old fears about consuming states gaining at their expense of producers have been proved wrong. Both states happen to be both producing and consuming states, and hence their revenues have not taken a beating. Far from it, they have made huge gains. The poorer states anyway gain from economic buoyancy, and the Centre’s decision to compensate them fully
Reforms in road tendering aided with better monitoring and steps to expedite land acquisitions have resulted in a record road allocation of 7,400 kilometres (km) worth Rs 1,22,000 crore by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in Financial Year 2017-18. The new procedure put in place in November 2017 will now oversee Prime Minister (PM) Modi’s signature Bharatmala project move ahead in full steam, as India heads towards national elections in 2019.
NHAI is the central government agency which manages more than 50,000 km of highways infrastructure in India and is likely to award another 3,000 km in road contracts in the April and May this year. The allocation in last financial year is already far more than the average 2,860 km of roads awarded by the agency since its inception with last financial year’s allocation standing at 4,335 km
NHAI is the central government agency which manages more than 50,000 km of highways infrastructure in India and is likely to award another 3,000 km in road contracts in the April and May this year. The allocation in last financial year is already far more than the average 2,860 km of roads awarded by the agency since its inception with last financial year’s allocation standing at 4,335 km
Contract allocations have gathered pace especially since 2018 with the new GST tax regime getting normalised and land acquisitions coming through.
A considerable political outcry has followed the recent Supreme Court decision on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Concerns have been voiced about whether the court has diluted provisions of the SC/ST Act and how the verdict will impact those who suffer the discrimination that the law hopes to tackle. The government, on its part, had chosen to file a review petition. For all its features, however, the conversation has been noticeably silent on the specificities of the decision, and the constitutional values that it upholds.
The case dealt with the head of an educational institution against whom a criminal case was filed under the SC/ST Act and the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The respondent was employed by the institution, and had filed a case against two superiors under the SC/ST Act. The investigating officer applied to the appellant for sanction to pursue the matter, and this sanction was denied. The respondent subsequently filed an FIR against the appellant, claiming that only the state government had the authority to grant/refuse sanction for the officers in question, and the appellant had violated the law by entering into the matter.
The question before the Supreme Court was whether proceedings against the appellant ought to be quashed on the ground that he had simply passed an administrative order in good faith and that even if the order was an erroneous one, such an action could not be regarded an offence. As the amicus curiae argued, the facts clearly showed that no case existed under either the SC/ST Act or the IPC. The relevant provisions regarding the former related to the giving of false information and the disappearance of incriminating evidence, none of which occurred in this case. And as regards the IPC, the provisions that related to the giving of false information, the fabrication of false evidence, and the authoring of a corrupt report were inapplicable in the case at hand.
The larger question that the amicus curiae raised was whether there were any limitations to the arrest of persons under the SC/ST Act. He argued that basic limitations did exist — the Act would have to conform to the presumption of innocence and to the bar against arbitrary arrests enshrined in both the right to equal treatment and the right to life in Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court agreed. The court accepted that the granting of anticipatory bail for offences under the SC/ST Act might involve a different basis than in other cases. However, this did not mean that anticipatory bail could be entirely excluded. It could not be excluded, the court held, “when no case is made out or allegations are patently false or motivated”. To permit this, the court rightly held, would mean to permit the arrest of a person either without any basis whatsoever or with the knowledge that the complaint was false and mala fide. Either situation would fly in the face of the most rudimentary criminal justice guarantees.
The court further noted that before an FIR is filed, a preliminary inquiry should be conducted, and if an arrest is to take place, there must be permission from the appointing authority if the person is a public servant and permission from the senior superintendent of police of the district in question in other cases. The reasons for the arrest must be recorded, and must be given to the person who is arrested and to the relevant court. The magistrate should consider these reasons in determining whether the person should continue to be subjected to further detention.
As should be clear, these guidelines are hardly dramatic. They are narrow, and the court’s decision was carefully constructed in light of prior decisions, criminal procedure guidelines, and constitutional principles.
This sugar season in Maharashtra has upset the applecart in many ways. When the season began, mills in the state were expected to crush 650 lt of cane and produce 73 lt of sugar. But they have already, as on April 2, crushed 909.91 lt and produced 101.62 lt.
The latest projection is of 972 lt of cane getting crushed, which, at an average recovery of 11%, would yield roughly 107 lt of sugar. That would surpass the previous record of 105.14 lt achieved in 2014-15. What makes it more astounding is its coming after the last 2016-17 season, which saw Maharashtra’s mills crush a mere 373.13 lt of cane and produce 42 lt of sugar at an average 11.23% recovery. The extent of rebound — from a 12-year-low to an all-time-high in a single season — has thrown the calculations of millers and traders out of the window. And nobody has been able to explain how this has taken place
During the 2016-17 season, the total area under cane available for crushing by mills in Maharashtra was reported at 6.33 lakh hectares (lh). That has gone up to 9.02 lh in the current season. What is significant, though, is that the maximum increase has happened in Marathwada
If the problem of plenty has basically to do with Marathwada, some of it is, perhaps, a result of better water availability from the good monsoons of the last two years, following the back-to-back droughts of 2014 and 2015. The real factor has to do with the collapse in prices of other crops. The dismal returns from growing them have led to farmers going back to planting cane with a vengeance.
In sugarcane, there is at least a fair and remunerative price (FRP), which mills are legally bound to pay. The state government also has an established mechanism — including powers to take over and auction the sugar stocks of mills — to force them to make payments to growers.
Both domestic politics and regional dynamics have changed appreciably since Oli last visited New Delhi in 2016 when Nepal was under an undeclared border blockade by India. India felt slighted that Nepal’s major political parties, including Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), had failed to take New Delhi in confidence about the content of the new constitution. Nepal’s leaders, on the other hand, insisted that it was Nepal’s internal affair.
Nepal still gets all of its petroleum products from India and conducts its trade through Indian ports, and nearly 70 percent of Nepal’s trade takes place with India. But the Oli government is expected to deepen trade and transit ties with China. Under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that Nepal signed with China in May last year, Nepal is also expected to receive huge investments to finance its vastly underfunded hydropower, connectivity and tourism sectors.
In 2015, when Nepal’s new constitution came out, India merely ‘noted’ the historic event and subsequently imposed an undeclared border blockade to express its displeasure. If anything, the Indian move only made Oli more popular among Nepalis and the elections to three tiers of government—local bodies, provincial assemblies and federal parliament–that followed the Indian blockade saw the nationalist CPN-UML emerge as the largest party.
Some in the Oli administration seem anxious to see the China-Nepal-India trilateral cooperation get off the ground for its obvious political dividends. The trilateral cooperation will not only make Nepal’s job of balancing relations with the two giants easier but will also consolidate Nepal’s existence as a “vibrant economic bridge” between the world’s fastest growing big economies.
Of 136 talukas in Maharashtra that have demanded they be declared drought-hit, only three from Gondia district have made the cut according to the 2016 manual that has come in recently, that too in the 'moderate' category,
Moderate' means only the state is responsible for giving financial assistance, and the Centre does not have to step in. Following public outrage over the stringent conditions, the state's relief and rehabilitation department has drafted a letter to be sent to the Centre which says most of the indicators in the manual are "irrelevant" and should not apply.
While the new rules say the parameter of crop sowing would be applicable only if the area under sowing is reduced by 50%, the state's letter has said it must be relaxed. The manual gives four impact indicators in all, and 13 sub-indices called trigger indicators. Depending on the number of indices that are applicable to the situation, the drought will be categorized as 'moderate' or 'severe'.
When two of the four impact indicators are applicable to an area, it will be declared moderately affected, and if three are applicable, it will be placed in the 'severe' category. It would be rarely that three impact indicators would be applicable, officials said. While rainfall and ground verification are not taken as key, vegetation, hydrological indices and crop situation indices are all on the list of impact indicators.
Amid allegations of China engaging in massive land grabbing in the Maldives + , the Pentagon on Saturday said it was a cause of concern for the US. Asserting that the US was "committed to a free and open" India-Pacific rules-based order, the Pentagon said anything else would cause the US concern.
He was responding to a question on the allegations of a Maldivian opposition leader and a former foreign minister, on the Chinese land grabbing activities in the island nation with the potential of developing them into a military outpost. Felter said these developments were "a cause of concern" for all states that supported the maintenance of a rules-based order. "If you look at similar activities across the region, it gives us some cause for concern. From Djibouti to, Gwadar put to Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, and now potentially the Maldives and then extending further east, it's of concern," he said.
During a recent visit to the US, Ahmed Naseem, a former foreign minister of Maldives, had alleged that China was meddling in internal affairs of Maldives and had indulged itself in a massive land grabbing endeavour which if left unchecked would pose a major strategic threat to both the US and India. China, he alleged, appeared to be keen on building a base in the Maldives which one day may house warships and submarines.
DRDO has already kick-started initial activities relating to Transfer of Technology for both ‘Nag’ and ‘Nag Missile Carrier’, but public sector units are not completely out of the race yet. Nag, with a range of about four kilometres, is an all-weather “fire-and-forget” ATGM, while Namica is equipped with retractable armoured launchers.
On whether the industry has the capability to build a complete missile system, the official said that right now the Indian industry is yet to display full capabilities. “But we have had proposals that have come in, and we are discussing various options,” the official said
The Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM), however, argues that the industry will be able to successfully produce missiles so long as there is commitment from the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Industries like Baba Kalyani Group, Mahindra, Reliance and L&T have already submitted proposals to the ministry based on an earlier expression of interest (EoI) and request for information (RFI) for the Arjun tank (BMP-II). However, nothing has moved forward so far, and the industry is now cautiously hopeful.
Mumbai is set to be the newest member and the first Indian city on the World Cities Culture Forum (WCCF), a platform for cities to share their culture.
The WCCF enables the policy makers of member cities to share research and intelligence, while exploring the vital role of culture in prosperity. Forum members collaborate via a program of events including themed symposia, regional summits and workshops.
Mumbai, like members of the Forum, will be able to share its culture as part of a comparative research to understand its role and impact. The municipal corporation will be able to maintain a relationship with the other member cities and Mumbai will be represented on the Forum at all events.
“Exchanging our culture will help broaden our perspective. Municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta will interact with the Mayors of different cities. Representatives from art and cultural communities, such as the Kolis, should be a part of this forum,” said additional municipal commissioner (projects) Sanjay Mukherjee
World Health Day: Celebrated on April 7th. Theme: Universal health coverage: Everyone, Everywhere. WHO headquartered at Geneva was formed in 7th April 2018.
Amma WIFI: Tamilnadu Government introduced in free Wifi Zones in 50 Places in Tamilnadu at cost of 8.50 crores in 5 cities. 20 mins of free usage. After 20 mins Rs.10 will be charged for 1 hour
Public -Wifi Grid: Open Architecture based. TRAI proposed to reduce the internet cost by 90%
Chakravath 2018: joint Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise. organised by the Indian Navy in coordination with the Kerala government
International Energy Forum Meeting: 16th meeting will be conducted at New Delhi. Formed in 1991 and 72 countries are its members
Love Hormone: Oxytocin. Government banned the import to prevent/stop its misuse in Livestock industry which shortens the lives
Gagan Shakthi: 2 Week long exercise by IAF to be started tomorrow. To check the operational preparedness focusing on security challenges against china and Pakistan
Xia Boyu: Chinese Climber who is a Double Amputee. Given permission to reach Mount Everest after Nepal Apex court Overrule the ban declared by Government. Country that introduced National service for women for the first time: Qatar
Global Logistics Summit: Held at New Delhi. To improve logistics and connectivity which are vital for increasing intra-state and international trade flows. Organised by Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce & Industry along with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) and World bank Group
Common wealth Games: Mirabhai Chanu, Sanjita Chanu, ,Gururaja ,Satish Sivalingam. Deepak Lather- youngest to get medal in common wealth Games ( weightlifting)
Kashmir is on the boil once again. The “wolf of mayhem” continues to consume human lives. Anti-terrorism units of the Army, the J&K police and the other operational security forces and agencies have termed the elimination of more than a dozen terrorists and arrest of one on April 1 as a major success in anti-terrorist operations. It, indeed, is but with a caveat. The collateral damage — the death of civilians and security personnel and damage to individual properties — is painful. The subtle people’s support to militancy seen in the large participation in the funerals of the slain militants and large-scale protests across the Valley, are issues that should worry all citizens and the governments in particular.
Kashmir has been on the edge with continuing unrest for the last few years and sizeable numbers of local youth have been volunteering for recruitment to militancy. This is a worrying phenomenon for the nation and is viewed as a result of deep mass alienation caused by ad hocism and mismanagement of Kashmir affairs from time to time
The changing character of the insurgency/militancy is a serious warning signal that an urgent policy correction at all levels of governance, and a strategic shift, is urgently needed to prevent escalation and further radicalisation.
One of the causes of the new age turbulence is attributed to the betrayal of democratic expectations. The youth had participated in large numbers in the electoral process in the 2014 state Assembly elections and voted out the incumbent government headed by Omar Abdullah. The government is required to be seen winning back the trust and goodwill of all the sections and respecting their aspirations.
The government should acknowledge that use of military force is not a solution to the complex situation of Kashmir. It has to be a blend of engagement and dialogue with all the stakeholders. It is the psychological, attitudinal, social, political and economic grievances that need to be addressed. Therefore, the government should worry more about winning back the trust of the people and let the terrorism be handled by the security forces
The Union of India needs to act now and engage with the youth of today and Kashmir’s leadership in a serious dialogue. Political dialogue with all the stakeholders is an internationally acknowledged jurisprudence for conflict resolution. For New Delhi, it would be the prudent and astute political approach for a resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio.
The Prime Minister’s flip-flop political and diplomatic efforts so far have not brought peace in Kashmir. Therefore, a change of policy is the only way forward. Kashmir calls for peace and its people crave for a peaceful life for future generations.
The top court made a stirring call for the preservation of an individual’s right to privacy, which includes people’s freedom to eat and dress the way they want and to believe in any ideology or religion, as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others. The SC said the state and courts cannot and should not interfere in these matters.
Too many of our social customs– across communities — continue to place restrictive expectations on what we can wear or not wear, what kind of person to marry or what kind of food to eat. Women often end up the bearing the brunt of these patriarchal traditions and morality codes.
The SC has rightly said it is not anyone’s business what somebody else wears, consumes, believes in or who they marry. That’s why, last month, it upheld the marriage between a Kerala woman, Hadiya, and her husband Shafin, a union the Kerala high court had annulled.
The top court – which rejected allegations that Hadiya had been brainwashed – said the right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. It should be congratulated for its progressive judgment upholding the tenets of our Constitution.
Punjab has a huge abandoned cow problem, more acute in some districts than in others. It’s directly related to the state’s otherwise-glorious reputation as the highest milk-producer in the country. Punjab is home to a whopping 18-20 lakh cows. Once unproductive – that is, when they stop yielding milk – the cows are left on the streets by dairy farmers to fend for themselves.
The only solution (apart from the crude suggestion that they be sent for slaughter) is to keep them in gaushalas or cow shelters. Punjab has some 512 private gaushalas housing an estimated 3.8 lakh cows. The extent of the (growing) abandoned cow problem in the state can be gauged from the fact that 20 years ago, the number of such gaushalas was just 100. Even the current 512 are packed to capacity, sheltering four times the number of cows already roaming the streets. They are run by trusts or with help from donors.
For the first time, these trusts are turning rebels. They are holding frequent protests against the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government. Three weeks ago, Punjab Gaushala Mahasangh, a group representing 472 gaushalas, threatened to let loose all of their 3.5 lakh cows on the streets. If they actually act on this threat, Punjab will face an unprecedented traffic nightmare, and many lives would be lost.
One of their first decisions taken after assuming power, the Congress government stopped the facility of free electricity to these gaushalas. The gaushalas have been handed power bills amounting to Rs 7.2 crore.
However, the government continues to levy a cow cess amounting to Rs. 70 crore per year.
PM Narendra Modi is understood to have expressed serious concern over data leaks and alleged manipulation of user information by global internet and social media giants. According to top sources, the PM has instructed that data sharing should be regulated and servers be located within the country.
The majority of user data generated on platforms of top companies such as Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram is stored across servers located internationally. Moreover, access to these servers - and the information they hold - is highly regulated by US laws and certain international treaties.
The PM's call for local servers comes days after banking regulator RBI mandated that all payment system operators have to store data within the country by September. RBI's move will also impact Google and WhatsApp as they have entered the domestic digital payments sector.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in August 2014 had marked a new high in relations, but Mr. Oli’s nine-month tenure in 2015-16 was marked by acrimonious exchanges. India’s openly stated reservations on the new constitution in support of the Madhesi cause and the economic disruptions caused by the undeclared blockade had fuelled anti-Indianism which Mr. Oli cleverly exploited by donning the mantle of nationalism and making significant electoral gains.
Difficult issues with Nepal include a review of the contentious 1950 Treaty, recruitment of Nepali nationals in the Gurkha regiments of the Indian Army, resolving the fallout of the 2016 demonetisation exercise which has left the Nepal Rastra Bank holding a stock of Indian currency, long-pending hydel projects like Pancheshwar, resumption of the SAARC summit process which remains stalled since 2016 after Jaish-e-Mohammed militants attacked the Army base in Uri, and the need for an inclusive political process.
For decades, India has been Nepal’s most significant development partner. Yet the pace of project implementation has been slow, leading to significant time and cost over-runs. To be fair, both India and Nepal share the responsibility for this and political instability in Nepal hardly helped.
The idea of four Integrated Check Posts (ICP) on the India-Nepal border to facilitate movement of goods, vehicles and people was mooted 15 years ago and an MOU signed in 2005. While preparation of surveys and project reports moved slowly on the Indian side, acquisition of land by the Nepali authorities got held up leading to delayed construction. As a result, only the Raxaul-Birgunj ICP has been completed and was inaugurated last week. During this time, the cost of the project went up fourfold
The two Prime Ministers also witnessed the ground breaking ceremony of the Motihari-Amlekhgunj cross-border petroleum products pipeline, a project for which the MOU between the two governments was signed in 2004. It took another three years for the Indian Oil Corporation and the Nepal Oil Corporation to sign the follow-up MOU, eight years to convert it into an agreement and three more to begin the works. Its implementation within the 30-month timeframe will require proper project monitoring by both sides.
Misperceptions about the unequal agreements relating to the Kosi barrage (1954) and Gandak barrage (1959) have grown over the years preventing any development in this sector. Nepal’s installed hydel capacity is less than 700 MW while it sits on a hydel potential of over 80,000 MW and has to import electricity from India during the lean season. Given that over 60% of the Ganga waters come from Nepal’s rivers (Sarda, Ghagar, Rapti, Gandak, Bagmati, Kamala, Kosi and Mechi) and 80% of these flows take place in monsoon months, the imperative for effective water management for both irrigation and power generation is evident, and yet this sector has languished for decades
Pragmatism led to the visit taking place and the unscripted one-on-one meeting between the two leaders would have helped in clearing the air about key concerns on both sides. What is now needed is effective delivery on the pending projects, the remaining ICPs, the five railway connections, postal road network in the Terai and the petroleum pipeline so that connectivity is enhanced and the idea of ‘inclusive development and prosperity’ assumes reality.
More than 300,000 children went missing in the country between 2012 and 2017, government data shows. Around 100,000 are yet to be traced and it is feared that many of them could have been trafficked. Many of these children are victims of modern slavery -- forced into prostitution, labour or domestic work. They are also used as drug mules and even given up for adoption illegally. Poverty and lack of opportunity also pushes a lot of young women, especially from the interior parts of West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand, into prostitution.
Despite the enormity of the problem, India lacks a single comprehensive law for human trafficking. At present, trafficking is covered under half-a-dozen laws resulting in confusion and poor enforcement.
For the first time, a standalone law to address the problem has been proposed that will treat a trafficked person as a victim and not an offender. It not only prescribes stringent punishment but also addresses the crucial issue of rehabilitation of victims, many of whom are lured by traffickers on the promise of a better life and jobs
The rehabilitation is not contingent on criminal proceedings. A special rehabilitation fund has been proposed for immediate protection of rescued persons. The punishment for traffickers varies from 10 years rigorous imprisonment to life sentence and Rs 1 lakh fine in cases of aggravated crimes.
Also in a first, a national anti-trafficking bureau run by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) has been proposed to coordinate with other countries, as many times the victims, mostly women, are smuggled out of the country. The proposed law also makes registration of placement agencies that recruit or supply domestic helps mandatory.
Activists and non-government organisations such as Lawyers Collective have criticised the proposed law, saying it has nothing new to offer and all its provisions are already covered under existing laws. The new law will only end up “complicating the legal framework and its enforcement”.
Lawyers’ Collective has pointed out that the provision to charge a person who encourages another person to “migrate illegally into India or Indians to some other country” with aggravated form of trafficking punishable with 10-year imprisonment could have serious implications for cross-border movement of people, including refugees.
The idea of holding simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies has been DOA (dead on arrival) for the simple reason that it has come from Narendra Modi. Almost no other party has dared to voice even conditional support to the idea of one nation, one poll (ONOP), though individual members of Parliament (MPs) have spoken about it – some positively, most negatively. No constitutional amendment to give effect to this proposal can ever pass when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition are at loggerheads over almost any issue.
Two backdoor rules are being considered. One, to impose President’s Rule in the states whose assemblies end their terms before the Lok Sabha polls and then hold them along with the latter. In this scenario, states whose assembly terms expire within six months after the Lok Sabha polls can be persuaded to call for early elections, especially since most of the states involved are BJP states. The other proposal is to bring Lok Sabha elections themselves forward to, say, November this year, and then hold a good chunk of assembly elections that are anyway due along with them.
While the states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh may be happy to see assemblies dissolved this year and face elections only in April-May next year under President’s rule, any such proposal will need the Parliament’s approval, and in the current state of political confrontation, the Rajya Sabha will certainly not back the change. Again, a dead end.
Trying to achieve the goal of ONOP without a constitutional amendment is pointless when the fundamental argument against it is this one: if a government loses the confidence of the assembly, it will again fall out of step with the national election time table. This can be remedied only if the Constitution is amended to allow for the state (or central) government to be reconstituted till polls can be held on the due dates. A halfway-house proposal in this regard is to hold elections twice in a cycle of five years, with half of the states doing it in round one and the other half in round two, with governments falling in between being substituted with a multi-party ministry (or some such formulae) till the election dates approach. The whole point of simultaneous elections is lost without addressing this issue, which can only be done through changes in the Constitution.
Work on the 1,000 km-long India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) Trilateral Highway officially started with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) signing an agreement with a joint-venture (JV) between Punj Lloyd and Varaha Infra to upgrade the Yagyi-Kalewa section of the India-Myanmar Friendship Road in Myanmar
The 120 km section passes through mountainous terrain and will be upgraded to a two-lane road with paved shoulders. The project includes several new major and minor bridges, reconstruction of exiting bridges and culverts, 20 bus bays and one passenger rest area.
Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari had earlier said that the government was giving high priority to the IMT Trilateral Highway, its second major international road project after the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) road project. He had said that the highway will be operational by December 2019.
India will not be able to sustain robust growth without focusing on all states and regions. Ensuring progress in areas facing the most severe challenges and improving conditions in remote and rural regions are prerequisites for India to reach the next stage of its economic and human development.
Through its massive scale and innovative use of data, the aspirational districts programme (ADP) will help India move towards its goals. ADP aims to transform 115 Indian districts that lag in specific development parameters. The dimensions covered include education, health and nutrition, financial inclusion, agriculture, skill development and basic infrastructure. The programme leverages the collective efforts of the central, state and local governments, and puts in place real-time monitoring mechanisms to measure progress.
The programme is unprecedented in its scale and ambition. At its core is the fact that data is central to policymaking. Up-to-date statistics on health, education and other dimensions of development lend the programme a rigour that an observational approach could not. Through ADP, data is advancing policymaking in three important ways: strengthening analysis and monitoring, enhancing accountability and transparency, and taking into account the heterogeneity across districts and states.
First, data from these districts will help government and other organisations grasp the complexities of a given district better. At the outset of the programme, GoI has collected baseline statistics on 49 indicators for each district. These data provide an initial benchmark. Going forward, they will help assess outcomes and monitor progress. They also facilitate rankings, spurring competition between districts. As collectors drive the process of improving outcomes in each district, their progress will be monitored through real-time data collection.
Second, the programme is pioneering the democratisation of development data in India. Data used to be the exclusive domain of academics, which took years to sort through. The end result was often journal articles that reached a limited audience. Alternatively, reams of government data available to policymakers, such as household surveys, were analysed but presented in a format that did not translate easily into actionable measures.
Today, we are generating large amounts of data that can be analysed quickly and presented in an accessible manner. We can use this data to inform decisions around development. Recognising this potential, under ADP, data on development indicators will be available in the public domain. In addition to informing initiatives by various levels of government and allowing for course corrections, the repository of information will also facilitate greater transparency and accountability.
A report in Business Standard says that the Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry , in conjunction with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), will be “geo-fencing” the Delhi-Mumbai Highway to track the distance travelled by a vehicle on the highway. The toll to be collected will be based on the distance travelled on the toll road, not a fixed one.
“Geo-fencing” is about using satellite tracking to create virtual geographical boundaries within which the movement of vehicles can be tracked and tolled based on RFID (radio frequency ID) signals
The proposal is actually more radical than it sounds as it can be extended to collect tolls in areas other than highways. Currently, tolls are collected as congestion charges in business districts (as in cities like London) or at city entry and exit points (as in Mumbai and other cities); with geo-fencing, this charge, or any charge, can be levied on any vehicle within any geographical area, whether in cities or highways
The Delhi-Gurgaon Toll Plaza. (Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images) The Delhi-Gurgaon Toll Plaza. (Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images) Snapshot Geo-fencing solves all issues of road pricing in one leap: it can reduce congestion, charge vehicles according to usage and reduce jams at toll plazas by effectively abolishing the need for them over time. A proposal by Nitin Gadkari’s Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry to charge tolls only for the distance travelled by a vehicle on national highways has the potential to revolutionise road taxation in India. A report in Business Standard says that the ministry, in conjunction with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), will be “geo-fencing” the Delhi-Mumbai Highway to track the distance travelled by a vehicle on the highway. The toll to be collected will be based on the distance travelled on the toll road, not a fixed one. “Geo-fencing” is about using satellite tracking to create virtual geographical boundaries within which the movement of vehicles can be tracked and tolled based on RFID (radio frequency ID) signals. The proposal is actually more radical than it sounds as it can be extended to collect tolls in areas other than highways. Currently, tolls are collected as congestion charges in business districts (as in cities like London) or at city entry and exit points (as in Mumbai and other cities); with geo-fencing, this charge, or any charge, can be levied on any vehicle within any geographical area, whether in cities or highways. India can leapfrog the world in road pricing by making users pay for the amount of roads used, rather than using blunt instruments like high vehicle registration charges, road cesses, and entry and exit charges (at the five entry/exit points of Mumbai, the charge applies whether you just cross the point, or drive deep into the congested parts of the city, causing more congestion).
It is worth belabouring a simple point: one should charge for usage of public facilities like roads and not for mere ownership of cars or bikes. It is not your ownership of a car that causes congestion, pollution or travel delays; it is your decision to use your vehicle that causes these problems. Logically, thus, it is the usage of a car that should be the focus of taxation, and not its ownership.
Right now, road pricing is the exception rather than the rule, and even where it applies, it is paid through toll plazas, which actually become another reason for congestion and pollution. If you don’t agree, check the growing queues at every toll plaza and the amount of time spent waiting in queues despite the existence of FASTag lanes.
Geo-fencing – if it begins to work well – solves all issues of road pricing in one leap: it can reduce congestion, charge vehicles according to usage and reduce jams at toll plazas by effectively abolishing the need for them over time. Since the payment has to be made on the basis of satellite-tracked road usage, it follows that the payment can be made electronically, either through a pre-paid card or even a post-paid bill that comes home every month – like an electricity bill.
“Vatsalya – Maatri Amrit Kosh” opened at Lady Hardinge Medical College in collaboration with the Norwegian government, Oslo University and NIPI Newborn Project, is a national human milk bank and lactation counseling centre that will collect, pasteurize, test and safely store milk that has been donated by lactating mothers and make it available for infants in need.
In addition, this facility will protect, promote and support breastfeeding of their own healthy mothers by providing lactation support to mothers through dedicated lactation counsellors. This project will not only act as a dedicated centre to support breastfeeding and improve infant survival but also act as the teaching, training and demonstration site for other milk banks to be established under the Ministry Of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India
The early initiation of breastfeeding is only 40%, even when the institutional delivery has increased to 78.9%. “In view of this, we launched Mothers Absolute Affection (MAA) programme to create awareness regarding breastfeeding as being the most cost-effective way of enhancing the child’s immunity
Skills for Life, Save a Life’ Initiative’ aims to upscale the quantity and quality of trained professionals in the healthcare system. Under this initiative various courses are planned to be initiated targeting specific competencies for healthcare professionals as well as for general public.
Shri Nadda further informed that the curriculum has been designed by National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW) and AIIMS, Delhi. The Health Minister highlighted that in India 1,324 accidents occur on roads every day and a life is lost every 4 minutes and measures taken in the first 10 minutes can save a life. It was thus announced that the Ministry is initiating its’ ‘Skill a Life, Save a Life’ program by launching First Responder course for professionals as well as general public, to be conducted in Central and State government training institutes from the next month across the country in each district, to empower every single citizen of the country to be the first person to provide first aid and initial care in case of an emergency.
Highlighting the importance of the initiative, Shri C K Mishra, Secretary (HFW) stated that India is working towards the attainment of the global mandate of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for providing affordable, accountable and appropriate health care of assured quality to the fellow citizens, which is possible through substantive and strategic investment in the health workforce. “This is part of a larger plan and program for ensuring Universal Health Coverage. This program will provide trained and skilled people by broadening the base to include the community. Through such programs, we create a mass of ‘first responder’ who complements the specialists/experts to fill vacuum of adequate trained professionals,” Shri Mishra added.
“Mission Parivar Vikas will focus on 146 high fertility districts in 7 states with high TFR. Under this, specific targeted initiatives shall be taken for population stabilisation through better services delivery
Mission Parivar Vikas is a new initiative conceived by the Ministry with a strategic focus on improving access through provision of services, promotional schemes, commodity security, capacity building, enabling environment and intensive monitoring.