India is among the bottom five countries on the Environmental Performance Index 2018, plummeting 36 points from 141 in 2016, according to a biennial report by Yale and Columbia Universities along with the World Economic Forum.
While India is at the bottom of the list in the environmental health category, it ranks 178 out of 180 as far as air quality is concerned.
Its overall low ranking — 177 among 180 countries — was linked to poor performance in the environment health policy and deaths due to air pollution categories.
The report was released on the sidelines of the ongoing World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
It said deaths attributed to ultra-fine PM2.5 pollutants have risen over the past decade and are estimated at 1,640,113 annually in India.
Switzerland leads the world in sustainability, followed by France, Denmark, Malta and Sweden in the EPI, which found that air quality is the leading environmental threat to public health.
Overall, India (at 177) and Bangladesh (179) come in near the bottom of the rankings, with Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nepal rounding out the bottom five.
“India’s low scores are influenced by poor performance in in the Environmental Health policy objective. Deaths attributed to PM2.5 have risen over the past decade and are estimated at 1,640,113, annually [Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2017].
“Despite government action, pollution from solid fuels, coal and crop residue burning, and emissions from motor vehicles continue to severely degrade the air quality for millions of Indians,” the report said.
There was no immediate reaction available from India’s Environment Ministry.
The 10th EPI report ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across 10 categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality.
“Of the emerging economies, China and India rank 120 and 177 respectively, reflecting the strain population pressures and rapid economic growth impose on the environment,” the researchers noted.
The EPI said air quality remains the leading environmental threat to public health.
In 2016, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated that diseases related to airborne pollutants contributed to two-thirds of all life-years lost to environmentally related deaths and disabilities.
“Pollution is particularly severe in places such as India and China, where greater levels of economic development contribute to higher pollution levels [World Bank and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2016].
“As countries develop, increased population growth in large cities, as well as increased industrial production and automotive transportation, continue to expose people to high levels of air pollution,” it said
The Allahabad academy, founded in 1930, is the oldest of our science academies. A clash of wills between C V Raman and M N Saha, led to the subsequent founding of the Bangalore and Delhi academies in 1934 and 1935. All three academies retained strong individual identities until the 1970s, especially as to their regional character, acquiring latterly a more holistic composition. Today, at least half of the fellows of any one of the three academies are also fellows of the two other academies.
In 1947, a committee under the chairmanship of C Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) was constituted, to find ways and means of uniting the three academies. All three academies were in favour of a merger, but the proposal collapsed over the fine print. The Delhi academy insisted that all the academies transfer their properties legally to the new united academy. Raman, representing Bangalore, and Saha, who represented Allahabad, disagreed. Saha also desired that Allahabad nominees be allotted a certain proportion of seats in the executive and the fellowship of the united academy, a quota system. Raman and Saha’s refusal to transfer the land was unacceptable to S S Bhatnagar, who represented the Delhi academy. Saha’s demand for quotas was acceptable to neither Raman nor Bhatnagar. Rajaji was helpless and the matter fell through.
Most activities in our academies, whether in publishing, instituting lectures, endowing prizes or publicising science, can be done by others. But only an academy can give dispassionate, unbiased advice to the government on scientific matters, acting thereby as a credible nodal agency for academic authority. The authority of any scientific academy is moral, not executive or legal. It is this moral standing of an academy that would compel the government of the day to pay heed to any advice and opinion tendered by it.
One must distinguish here between the giving of advice, the decision as to whether this advice is worth taking and finally the implementation of decisions on scientific matters. It is only the first of these three activities that is the preserve of scientists and academies. The second activity is properly the concern of the politicians while the last activity is the responsibility of bureaucrats. At the present time, there is a great mingling of all these domains.
Our governments have increasingly tended to consult ad hoc bodies and individual scientists for advice. There is an intrinsic conflict of interest when government approaches its department secretaries or its Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) for scientific advice. In the first case, the scientist-bureaucrat is directly responsible for implementing broad government decisions. How can such a person be expected to give completely unbiased and technically superior advice to the government on topics as contentious, diverse, and technical as climate change, water, genetically modified crops, traditional medicine or the China challenge in drug intermediate synthesis?
In the second case, the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) is seemingly appointed by the government only to give advice back to the same government. Who is to say, whether or not the PSA would try to ingratiate himself by pontificating on what he feels the government wants to hear, is politically expedient at the given time, or is likely to find favour with the all-powerful bureaucracy?
Ramaseshan opined that scientific advice to government must be given through an academy and not by individuals for the latter procedure would be equivalent to showering patronage on a favoured few and this would encourage sycophancy. Advice given by an independent science academy would have far greater impact with any sensible government, simply due to the fact that there is no formal connection between academy fellows and the government.
The group that parts with scientific advice should have no concern or interest on whether or not this advice is accepted by the government, thus ensuring that the advice given is scientifically accurate and trustworthy. Politicians and bureaucrats are not scientists, but need to take decisions on scientific subjects. Is it not fair for them to demand from scientists that the advice we give them is the best possible? If scientists are to maintain their credibility, the advice they tender has to be of the maximum moral and scientific stature. This can only happen if the body in whose name the advice is given is a science academy of powerful academic credentials.
Would a unification of the three science academies render a united science academy more powerful and influential in scientific terms? Let us take up the feature of size. The fellowship of a united academy will necessarily be larger than that of any of the three presently existing science academies. Any plan to unify the academies must begin with the premise that all fellows of any of the three academies will be fellows of the united academy. This would mean that the united academy would have a total fellowship of around 1,500. This is a respectable total for a major country that is aspiring for a higher profile in the world of science and compares well with the 2,100 fellows of the US National Academy and the 1,400 fellows of the Royal Society, UK.
A larger fellowship means a greater range of scientific opinion and this is of utmost importance in the formulation of dispassionate advice to be given to government. A larger fellowship such as what we would have for a united academy would also necessarily mean a more diverse fellowship in terms of age, regional origin and subject affiliation. Decisions taken by such a larger and more diverse fellowship (including the all-important question of new fellow elections) will necessarily be less susceptible to charges of parochialism or to charges of domination by an individual, a clique, or an institution. Democracy always works better in a larger group.
The academic standings of our three academies do not compare too well with many foreign academies. For a start, the h-index of most newly elected fellows of the US National Academy is around 40. For the three Indian science academies, similar indices range between 10 and 25. It is extraordinarily difficult for a scientist to be elected to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and I know Chinese scientists who could have sailed into the academies of the US and UK on the basis of their credentials but still not elected to their own academy.
India still has a long way to go. These differences between academies translate into the differences in perception in which they are held by the respective government, the lay public, by the fellows and also by aspiring non-fellows. Our scientific academies are largely unknown to the general public. Their coming together will enable the united academy to draw on individual strengths synergistically, and improve the image.
Banaganapalle Mangoes Agricultural Andhra Pradesh
Pochampally Ikat (Logo) Manufactured Telangana
Gobindobhog Rice Agricultural West Bengal
Durgi Stone Carvings Handicrafts Andhra Pradesh
Etikoppaka Toys Handicrafts Andhra Pradesh
Tulapanji Rice Agricultural West Bengal
Chakshesang Shawl Handicrafts Nagaland
Mahabalipuram Stone Sculpture Handicrafts Tamil Nadu
Banglar Rasogolla Food Stuff West Bengal
Lamphun Brocade Thai Silk Handicrafts Thailand
Nilambur Teak Agricultural Kerala
Bankura Panchmura Terracotta Craft Handicraft West Bengal
Pokaran Pottery Handicraft Rajasthan
Adilabad Dokra Handicraft Telangana
Warangal Durries Handicraft Telangana
Allagadda Stone Carving Handicraft Andhra Pradesh
Bhagalpuri Zardalu Agricultural Bihar
Katarni Rice Agricultural Bihar
Magahi Paan Agricultural Bihar
Ghazipur Wall-hanging Handicraft Uttar Pradesh
Varanasi Soft Stone Jali
Work Handicraft Uttar Pradesh
Bengal Dokra Handicraft West Bengal
Bengal Patachitra Handicraft West Bengal
Purulia Chau Mask Handicraft West Bengal
Wooden Mask of Kushmandi Handicraft West Bengal
Madur kathi Handicraft West Bengal
Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has expressed his desire to open up all posts of the rank of Additional Secretary and upwards in Indian Railways to all eight railway services, virtually abolishing cadre posts and merging the services into one seniority list.
The announcement — for what is being described in the bureaucracy as a “disruptive move” — came, oddly enough, during a day-long seminar on raising average speed of trains earlier this week. Principal Heads of Departments (PHoDs) and other senior railway officials, some 450 officers of the rank of Additional Secretary and upwards, were present at the event.
Goyal said that the process to discuss this internally should start, and a Cabinet note would be moved with the proposal after that. The Cabinet note will have to be vetted by the UPSC, DoPT and Finance Ministry.
Two Railway Board Members — Member (Traffic) and Member (Traction) — who are cadre-controlling authorities of the Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS) and Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers (IRSEE), respectively, objected to the proposal on the spot. The minister is learnt to have told them that they could communicate their views during internal deliberation.
The political dispensation, it is learnt, is of the view that the move would end “departmentalism” in senior bureaucracy, even though an officer from one specialised service is neither trained nor mandated to do the job meant for an officer of another specialised service. It was cited to officers that the Bibek Debroy Committee report on Indian Railways had advocated merger of cadres to address departmentalism.
Officers who spoke to The Indian Express on the condition of anonymity said that the Bibek Debroy committee had advocated creation of two services — managerial and technical — and did not recommend merging of in-service, mid-career top-posts into one seniority list. “It is obvious that an accounts service officer cannot head a department meant for the mechanical engineering cadre and vice versa. This is a hare-brained idea,” said a senior officer.
Railways applies inter-services seniority to post officers such as General Managers in zones, a Higher Administrative Grade-Plus (HAG+) post which is below the rank of Secretary but higher than Additional Secretary. But posts of department heads are en-cadred posts. Even Board Member posts, except Chairman and Member (Staff), are all en-cadred posts. The government is deliberating turning the Member (Staff) post into a cadre post for Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS).
Internal calculation for a combined seniority list shows that a large number of officers would lose their seniority, while many others would supersede their seniors in services to bag posts that they otherwise would not have got. Officers said that those who would lose seniority would go to courts.
Civil servants tend to join service at an older age bracket than their engineering counterparts, as the mode of intake for the two is different. That is why, if a common seniority is applied, engineers would tend to emerge higher, leaving the civil servants behind — traditionally a cause of discontent among civil servants in Railways.
Standing Deposit Facility, proposed by the RBI and under examination by the Centre, is viewed as a strong tool to suck out the surplus liquidity and alleviate the banking system’s problem of plenty.
This concept, first recommended by the Urjit Patel committee report in 2014, may soon become part of the central bank’s toolkit to manage liquidity.
Standing deposit facility is a remunerated facility that will not require the provision of collateral for liquidity absorption.
Banks, at different points in time, may be short of funds or flush with money. When they need money for the short-term, they borrow from the bankers’ bank—RBI. Repo rate — that RBI sets at every monetary policy — is the rate at which banks borrow funds, for which they pledge government securities. What happens when banks have excess funds? They lend it to the RBI at the reverse repo rate that is lower than the repo rate. Here too, government securities act as collateral.
The demonetisation exercise has left banks flush with funds. The past two months, banks have been lending left, right and centre to the RBI under the reverse repo window. And with the RBI increasing the reverse repo rate by 25 basis points to 6 per cent in the April policy, banks now earn more on these funds.
The worry is there may be only so much collateral to go around. Collateral may become a constraining factor if the central bank runs out of securities to absorb liquidity under the reverse repo window.
Enter the Standing Deposit Facility. This will allow the RBI to absorb surplus funds from banks without collateral. Banks too continue to earn interest (though possibly lower than the existing reverse repo rate). In effect, it will empower the RBI to suck out as much liquidity as needed.
Liquidity plays a key role in transmission of policy rates. In a falling rate cycle, pass-through of rate cuts will happen quickly if there is sufficient liquidity, as banks will be able to lower deposit rates comfortably.
The reverse holds true now. Excess liquidity has led to short-term market rates slipping below the RBI’s policy repo rate.
The RBI would want its key policy rate, aka the repo rate, to be the operational rate.
The RBI’s management of rates impacts the rates on your deposits and loans too. The immediate fallout of excess liquidity in the past few months has been the sharp cuts in bank deposit rates.
If the RBI curbs excess liquidity and halts the fall in short-term rates, then you, dear depositor, can breathe a sigh of relief. But for borrowers who have seen lending rates fall sharply the past year, the party may be over.
India now has access to four important ports abroad: SABANG, INDONESIA: Its position at the mouth of Malacca Strait makes it crucial. Malacca Strait is the main shipping lane between Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean and one of the busiest sea routes. The deep sea port (deep enough for submarines too) will help counter China's rising maritime influence in the region.
DUQM, OMAN: India gained military access to the port on Oman’s southern coast this year. Duqm, on the northwestern edge of Indian Ocean, provides easy access to Red Sea
CHABAHAR, IRAN: This one is close to Pakistan's Gwadar port where China has invested heavily. It also falls on the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) that links India to Central Asia and Europe ASSUMPTION ISLAND, SEYCHELLES: On paper, this is purely an infrastructure project. The agreement had to be revised due to political opposition in Seychelles but broadly it signals a step forward for India’s strategic interests
Four years after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the government of the residual state has announced its state symbols. State bird: Rama Chiluka (psittacula krameri) or rose ringed parakeet. State animal: Blackbuck (antilope cervicapra) or Krishna Jinka. State tree: Neem (azadirachta indica) or Vepa Chettu. State flower: State symbols of Telangana: State bird: Palapitta. State animal: Jinka or spotted deer. State tree: Jammi Chettu (prosopis cineraria). State flower: Tangidi Puvvu (senna auriculata).
Taxes in descending order of amount collected: Direct Taxes Corporation Tax > Income Tax > STT. Indirect Taxes CGST > Union Excise > Customs > GST Compensation Cess > IGST. Subsidies Food > Fertilizer (Urea) > LPG > Kerosene
The Belt and Road Initiative, China’s quaintly named plan to redraw trading routes around the world, may have many shortcomings, but if adopted intelligently, can usher in a new age of economic prosperity in Eastern India.
China knows that it cannot push a trade route through Pakistan without the blessings of the Islamists and it surely knows the terrible price that the Islamists will extract through the Uighur militancy in the far western Chinese province of Xinjiang. China is caught between the need to pander to the devil of Islamist terror and the need of a deep sea port to relieve the claustrophobia in landlocked Tibet.
The distance between Nathu La, the last motorable point on the Indian side, and Yadong, the first motorable point on the Chinese side, is, as per Google Maps and “as the crow flies”, a minuscule 15km. This means that the 1,200km road from Kolkata to Lhasa is almost ready except for a 15km stretch between Nathu La in Sikkim and Yadong in Tibet.
The benefits of such a highway are obvious. For the Chinese, it means an immediate access not just to India but through the Kolkata-Haldia dock system to the main shipping lines that connect Europe and Africa to the Far East.
Some may be apprehensive that a highway like this would facilitate a Chinese military attack on India.
This is unlikely in the twenty-first century. If the Lhasa-Kolkata highway were indeed to open up as a new “Silk Route”, the biggest beneficiary would be trade, but there could be a positive strategic dimension as well.
If China sees this as a safe and secure route for its products to reach the sea, then its dependence on Pakistan will reduce and it will have the freedom to take a more honest view of the Islamist mischief that is being spawned at its western edge.
A strong and powerful flow of money across the Himalayan border will automatically lead to a reduction of military hostility across the same because the interests of the trading community will have a moderating effect on the militarist nationalism of fringe groups.
Chinese angst over its current border along the McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh may also be assuaged and its leadership would not lose face over its inability to occupy what they believe is Southern Tibet.
The crop insurance scheme of the government has come under intense scrutiny and criticism by opposition politicians and the media. Among the key criticisms levelled was that the insurance companies were indulging in profiteering using crop insurance as a vehicle.
Crop insurance is a risk cover scheme against losses to farm output and income. What is true is that crop insurance is indeed a profitable scheme as far as insurers are concerned. Crop insurance has lower claims ratios than say motor or health. In the case of the latter, the claims are over 100 per cent of the premiums collected, leading to capital bleeding for the insurers.
Claims ratios for crop insurance schemes are just about 80 per cent for the insurance companies. Low claims ratios imply that at least 20 per cent of the premiums are retained by the insurance companies translating into profits.
Yet, most of the criticism appears hardly justified. Insurers meet claim payouts only after loss events are reported and after verification of the claim applications. So it only means that the claims lodged with the insurers were low, or loss events — particularly natural calamities covered by the policies, had not occurred in the regions. However, what was also true was that most claim applications lodged with the public and private sector insurance companies were cleared during both the kharif and rabi seasons. In fact, this was one of the major reasons for an average claims ratio of 80 per cent across both public and private sector insurance companies. It clearly meant payouts had been made.
Prime Minister’s Fasal Bima Yojana is a slight improvement of the National Agricultural Insurance Scheme that was started way back in the 1990s. The Fasal Bima Yojana is not very different from the original scheme. It has undergone a series of tweaks. The present Fasal Bima Yojana is just another improvement over the originally conceived crop insurance scheme pioneered by the Life Insurance Corporation in 1972, though subsequently taken over the General Insurance Corporation (GIC), after nationalisation.
All farmers, including share croppers and tenant farmers are eligible for coverage under the scheme. Crop insurance though is mandatory for farmers who have availed of loan support from the banking system. This was to ensure that in the event of a crop failure, the farmers were free from any debt encumbrances to banks or financial institutions. However, for non-loanee farmers, insurance cover is only voluntary. But the crop insurance scheme allows them to mitigate financial losses due to weather vagaries. Indian agriculture is perennially prone to volatile weather conditions. Crops covered include cereals, coarse grains, oilseeds and horticulture crops.
In terms of coverage, there is little doubt that crop insurance has been a success in mitigating farmer distress. According to official figures, until 2016, at least 37 million farmers in the country were covered under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. The gross sum assured was Rs 1.5 lakh crore on a farmer premium of Rs 2,939 crore. The total farm area covered in the country under the scheme was 38 million hectares. The data indicated claims settlement amounted close to Rs 6,000 crore for both kharif (July to October) and rabi (October-March) seasons in 2016.
The premiums for all the schemes are shared trilaterally. The farmer premium cost is a maximum of about 2 per cent of the sum insured, depending on the season, kharif or rabi, for cereal and oilseed crops, and five per cent for horticulture crops. The subsidy on the premiums based on the difference between the actuarial rates and the rates levied on the farmers is shared by the Centre and the state government. Claims though would have to be settled by the insurers themselves.
Yet, the crop insurance scheme is not without flaws. A major flaw is the dependence on state governments. Notifications of calamities are determined by the state governments. Essentially, what appears to have occurred was that state governments were slow to respond to calamities like droughts and floods. The delays leave farmers in a liquidity crisis during the period when the claims have to be lodged. Particularly vulnerable are non-loanee or tenant farmers, who are mostly dependent on informal sources of credit during the period, leading to financial distress.
The other major flaw is that claim settlements are made on the basis of an “area approach”. This essentially means that the defined area for calamity level claims event is usually a tehsil or panchayat or a revenue circle or at the discretion of the state governments. It is in these particularly demarcated and notified areas that the crop cutting experiments are conducted for verification of insurance claim events to farmers. The yield estimates in these demarcated regions are submitted to the insurance companies for claims settlements by farmers. As a result, claims settlements are usually delayed.
The area approach is expected to be tweaked to further mitigate farmer distress. This includes use of satellite imagery for ascertaining claim events. The expectation is that usage of satellite imagery would minimise the need for crop cutting experiments and provide for expediting the claim settlements.
Yet, despite the improvement in the insurance coverage, there are still deficits. Although statistically impressive, the actual farm risk underwritten was barely 20 per cent of the area under cultivation in the country. In 2016, for instance, the area under foodgrains cultivation alone was about 125 million hectares. Crop insurance therefore, even with private sector support, covered less than a third of the foodgrain area. That still leaves a long way to go, although the crop insurance programme started in 1972.
However, expanding underwriting of farm risks or crop insurance, also means that insurers need to be better capitalised. This is in view of the present tight solvency norms of 150 per cent. Solvency implies the excess of capital and value assets over the insured liabilities. That means that for every Rs 100 covered, insurance would need to have capital and assets worth Rs 150. The regulation in turn implies that greater coverage of farm area would mean increased capital requirements for solvency requirements. So far the government has not been forthcoming on capitalisation of the insurance companies in the public sector.
Instead, what has been offered is a subsidy on premiums, meaning the costs are largely borne by the governments — Centre and states. This year (2018-19), for instance, the Centre’s budgetary allocation for crop insurance, essentially its share in premium subsidies, is Rs 13,000 crore or an increase of Rs 3,000 crore over 2017-18. This means that the states would have to bring in at least another Rs 13000 crore as their shares. But states are more obsessed with being fiscally correct instead of meeting needs of economic welfare and food security. Take the instance of Kerala, where the budgetary allocation for crop insurance was actually halved to Rs 6 crore for fiscal year 2018-19. Last year it was Rs 12.5 crore.
Although crop insurance subsidies have a sunset clause built into them, there is little scope for deregulation of the crop insurance market in the immediate future. Deregulation of the crop insurance market would however most likely translate into a substantial increase in premia. Farm incomes are still low. Any deregulation could therefore lead to cost stresses and to a passthrough effect and in turn have an effect on the minimum support prices that are periodically announced by the Centre and state. Moreover, private sector insurers are unlikely to become major players without a deregulation in the pricing.
Faced with compelling government directives, insurers have been expanding their coverage. At the same time, insurers are resorting to reinsurance so as to comply with the regulatory solvency norms. Reinsurance essentially implies ceding a portion of the policy to the national reinsurer, GIC or the Agriculture Insurance Company of India or to specialist international insurers. The ceding or selling allows primary insurers to earn a commission that becomes an income on their balance sheets. At the same time, it also reduces the liability on the primary insurer. Among the foreign insurers that have taken interest in India’s crop insurance market are entities like Zurich-based Swiss Re, Korea Re and Toa Re of Japan.
Yet, as insurers admit, even reinsurers have limits. The global reinsurance markets are presently soft, but could suddenly turn volatile. Insurers admit that there is very little option other than additional capitalisation of the insurance companies for increasing coverage area to at least 50 per cent of what is presently sown. “Jai Kisan” is a nice slogan, but still needs humungous capital!
Over-dependence on agriculture for livelihoods should have spurred the creation of competent policies that serve both farmers and the country well. But over the last 70 years, we have got almost everything wrong in terms of agricultural and land policies. Even where we got things right, we have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
First, the most obvious things that are wrong relate to two numbers: agriculture’s share of gross domestic product (GDP) is one-third the size of the population dependent on it. The other number that should worry us is the shrinking size of farms. According to the 2010-11 agricultural census (the next five-year census will take some time to be unveiled), 67 per cent of farms are marginal (under one hectare); small farms (under two hectares) are another 18 per cent. In short, 85 per cent of farm land is small or marginal, with those tilling it having minimal capacity to invest in improving productivity. The only logical solution is to speed up the dependency on farms, by creating non-farm jobs, and investing in agro-industry, cold chains and rural warehousing, which will allow farmland to be sold and consolidated to larger sizes. But politicians love small farmers, for it gives them two advantages: they can use the large numbers of poor farmers to advocate loan waivers before elections and obtain a bulk vote; second, they can use the same logic to obtain higher support prices which will benefit large farmers. Most Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) are in cahoots with large farmers, though they use the shoulders of small farmers to shoot from. This is what we need to fix: break the nexus of big landowners and lawmakers by enabling small and marginal farmers to make a living outside farming.
Second, there is an obsession with subsidies, and a conspicuous lack of investment in irrigation, cold chains, and warehousing and interconnection of markets. In the last central budget, agriculture and agriculture-related subsidies, including food and fertiliser subsidies and interest rate subventions, amounted to over Rs 2.61 lakh crore. And remember, this amount does not include the subsidies provided by states for seeds, power, diesel, procurement bonuses, et al. India had around 160 million hectares of land under cultivation, according to the 2010-11 agricultural census. This works out to a total subsidy of over Rs 16,300 per hectare annually.
It would make a lot of sense to abolish half the subsidies and give each operational holding a direct annual subsidy of Rs 8,000 per hectare, or Rs 4,000 per crop season. The remaining subsidies can be used to keep urban food prices reasonable, and for buffer stocking operations. This will not only help farmers but also recreate a vibrant market for farm produce.
In some areas, subsidies have even been counter-productive. A case in point is urea. Its overuse has debased millions of hectares of land in many parts of the country.
Third, there is huge distrust of the market. While politicians are right to worry about food becoming too expensive for consumers, or procurement prices being unremunerative for producers, there is simply too much intervention in the working of the agricultural marketplace. We have inter-state restrictions on movement in farm goods, we have farmers being forced to sell their produce in mandis where traders can exploit them, we have export and import duties being imposed arbitrarily whenever domestic prices are too high or too low. We need to create one market for India, and a small amount of money for price stabilisation schemes at the state level, so that neither the farmers nor the consumers are too badly hit by yo-yoing prices. Agriculture would benefit from vibrant markets, including forward markets, where farmers can sell their produce in advance without fear of prices crashing just after harvest time.
Fourth, our farm and land-related policies are too centralised and far removed from state-level realities. Each state must have its own variation of the Food Security Act, and land acquisition policies should be state-needs-driven, not decided by non-governmental organisations (NGO) and do-gooders in Delhi. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) era centralisation of pro-farmer schemes have damaged real food security and put a roadblock on land sales. The Narendra Modi government has continued the follies.
There is a case for limiting central procurement schemes to only buffer stocking requirements and leaving states to set their own procurement targets for local crops. The same applies to land acquisition laws. They must be legislated at the state level. Land acquisition laws, if they are too expensive, prevent farmers from selling easily when they have other career options, or when in distress.
Fifth, the wrong crops are encouraged. India has nearly a sixth of the world population, but barely four per cent of its water resources. But our agricultural policies wrongly support water-intensive cultivation, whether it is in terms of encouraging sugarcane or rice, or high-yielding wheat or cotton. The pursuit of yields and profits has ensured that farmers are now focusing on exotic hybrids, which also use more water.
Since most states subsidise power to agriculture, farmers use more groundwater to feed thirsty crops. This is not only lowering the water table in most states but also building up to a new agricultural crisis. According to one estimate, Indian agriculture uses 90 per cent of total water drawn, but produces only around 15 per cent of GDP. The future of Indian agriculture is about shifting away from water-intensive crops like sugar and rice and going back to more coarse cereals.
Sixth, the logical answer to the problem of low agricultural incomes is to enable farmers to take to dairying and animal husbandry. This means, as economist Ashok Gulati wrote last year in The Indian Express, prosperity depends on both the plough and the cow. That is, more investments are needed to raise agricultural productivity, and animal husbandry policies must facilitate dairying, which helps farmers earn an income when crops fail. But illogical cow protection laws, where farmers can’t get rid of cattle past their productive age, result in farmers shifting away from maintaining cows.
In fact, cow protection laws — and more recent threats from vigilante groups — have made farmers reluctant to buy cows, and India is now more buffalo country than cow country. Less than 45 per cent of the country’s milk production now comes from cows, and Indian cow breeds are slowly dying off. To make the cow important again for Indian farmers, anti-cow slaughter laws either need to be reformed, or more investments made in cow shelters after their useful lives are over. Merely banning cow slaughter makes no sense without the support system to facilitate a retirement and exit policy for superannuated cattle.
Seventh, we need to expand corporate and contract farming by allowing farmers to easily lease fragmented landholdings. They should be able to collect not only lease rentals, but also a share of the revenues from higher productivity. While this will help land owners, farm labour will need to be upskilled so that they can find non-farm jobs. Again, this action needs to be facilitated at the state level. Agriculture has to be driven by states, and not the Centre.
Eighth, land laws need to be changed to allow farmers to change the land-use pattern without waiting for their areas to be notified for urban expansion, infrastructure building or industrial use. Currently, the intrinsic value of the land farmers hold is often higher than market prices for farm land, since our policies only allow farmers to buy farm land. Thus, rising land values go largely to middlemen and land aggregators, who buy farm land well before they are notified for other uses.
In short, poor farmers sell meagre pieces of land to other farmers, and the bigger ones grab the premium when land values soar because a road is to be built or a municipal area expanded. The law should allow farmers to sell land for any use, so that they get the real value and not middlemen. The only safeguard we need is to designate no-development zones (or moderate development zones) in advance, and after that, any farmer should be able to sell his land for any use.
Ninth, producer cooperatives and marketing and branding need to be encouraged in all areas of the country. When farmers cultivate, say, rice, they get Rs 15-16 per kg of paddy. The same rice, when packed and branded, sells for twice or thrice the price at the mall. It should be common sense that farmers should be adding value to their produce and not selling paddy. This is what Amul does with milk producers. We need Amuls for all farm products, so that the value is captured not just by retailers and factories, but farmers themselves.
Tenth, farmers need financial products tailored to their needs. At one level, this means good crop insurance, but at another level, it also means investment opportunities tailored to their needs. For example, when farmers sell meagre amounts of land for road-building, it may make better sense for the government to pay them in the form of annuities, so that the money is not squandered in expensive weddings or even liquor. Reverse mortgages for superannuated farmers should be considered.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD) may be mulling a plan to get private companies and high net worth individuals (HNIs) to contribute to a fund for construction of higher education infrastructure in the country.
The plan, which is being drawn up at the MHRD, will be presented to the cabinet soon. It involves a non-banking finance company (NBFC) that operates under the ministry. The NBFC called Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA) will raise contributions in the form of both equity and debt instruments.
The design appears to be to raise Rs 1 lakh crore from the market. The money will be spent on funding ‘infrastructure requirements of educational institutions’.
According to Mint which has reported the existence of this plan HEFA has an existing equity funding of Rs 3300 crores. >The ministry will take it up to Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 crores in an effort towards eventually raising Rs 1 lakh crore.
Sources cited in the report say that this plan will have three benefits. “One, structured and clean private funding. Two, outside experience of managing higher education funding. And three, curb chances of manipulation at the institutional level.”
Strangely, the funds being channelled into the HEFA corpus will not count as corporate social responsibility (CSR) spend – this is because CSR money may not be allotted to equity contributions.
The government on its own appears to want to infuse Rs 50,000 crore equity into HEFA. It’s not clear where the money will come from or if this would be seriously pursued in the immediate future.
We are having more than 80 per cent of Indian rivers are inter-state rivers. According to the Central Water Commission, there are 125 inter-state water agreements in India. Many of these agreements are more than 100 years old and had been executed without seriously considering socio-economic, political and geographical factors.
These treaties have now become permanent sources of problems for many states. Continuous redrawing of state boundaries during the British regime and after Independence have kept the disputes alive
The centre recently, constituted the Cauvery Water Management Authority in compliance with a Supreme Court order to address the water dispute involving the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
A notification by the Water Resources Ministry said the authority will be headed by a chairman and it will have two whole time and as many part time members. While the whole time members will be appointed by the centre, the other two will be nominated by it.
Besides this, the four states will nominate one representative each as additional part time members of the committee
The new authority is to monitor implementation of the Cauvery Tribunal’s final award. It will be a two-tier structure, with an apex body charged with the power to ensure compliance with the final award, and a regulation committee that will monitor the field situation and water flow.
The powers and functions of the authority are fairly comprehensive. Its powers would extend to apportionment, regulation and control of Cauvery waters, supervision of operations of reservoirs and regulation of water releases. The draft makes the authority’s decisions final and binding.
There is an immediate need to constitute a permanent dispute settlement body like the JRC, JCE of Indo-Bangladesh treaty, the Indus Commission, the US-Mexico International Boundary and Water Commission etc. for the Cauvery dispute.
The Cauvery Management Board proposed by the Supreme Court may act like these bodies. The states can even re-negotiate the existing treaty, involving mutually agreed third parties like World Bank to arrive at a permanent settlement.
In the longer term, experts will have to devise a sustainable agricultural solution for the Cauvery basin, as the river does not seem to have the potential to meet the farming requirements of both sides.
In a world of depleting water resources, fewer crop seasons and lower acreages, a resort to less water-intensive crops and better water management hold the key.
It is time that water issues are de-politicised and political parties learn to see reason and respect the rule of law without getting carried away by electoral considerations. The Central government has got a golden opportunity on Cauvery to set a new, healthy trend.
What is ground fog? Precipitation fog (or frontal fog) forms as precipitation falls into drier air below the cloud, the liquid droplets evaporate into water vapor. The water vapor cools and at the dewpoint it condenses and fog forms. ... This ground fog tends to be localized but can be extremely dense and abrupt.
What causes brown clouds? Atmospheric brown clouds are caused by emissions associated with the combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. The brown colour of the clouds results from the absorption and scattering of solar radiation by black carbon, fly ash, soil dust particles, and nitrogen dioxide.
Terraforming (literally, "Earth-shaping") of a planet , moon, or other body is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology to be similar to the environment of Earth to make it habitable by Earth-like life.
Electro mobility (e-mobility) is a general term for the development of electric-powered drivetrains designed to shift vehicle design away from the use of fossil fuels and carbon gas emissions
India is the global host of 2018 World Environment Day
Nitrogen particles make up the largest fraction of PM2.5 While the burning of crop residue is said to be a key contributor to winter smog in many parts of North India, it contributes over 240 million kg of nitrogen oxides. Though agriculture remains the largest contributor to nitrogen emissions, the non-agricultural emissions of nitrogen oxides and nitrous oxide are growing rapidly, with sewage and fossil-fuel burning — for power, transport and industry — leading the trend. As fertilizer, nitrogen is one of the main inputs for agriculture. Agricultural soils contributed to over 70% of N2O emissions from India in 2010, followed by waste water (12%) and residential and commercial activities (6%). Since 2002, N2O has replaced methane as the second largest Greenhouse Gas (GHG) from Indian agriculture. Chemical fertilizers (over 82% of it is urea) account for over 77% of all agricultural N2O emissions in India, while manure, compost and so on make up the rest
ICAN was awarded the Peace Prize (in 2017) “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”. “ICAN offered to pay for next week’s historic summit between the U.S. and North Korea, including Kim Jong-un’s bill. One of many reported logistical and protocol headaches surrounding the meet concerns the issue of payment for Mr. Kim’s stay at the five-star Fullerton Hotel.”
Ethanol : Sugarcane ethanol is an alcohol-based fuel produced by the fermentation of sugarcane juice and molasses. Because it is a clean, affordable and low-carbon biofuel, sugarcane ethanol has emerged as a leading renewable fuel for the transportation sector. Ethanol can be used two ways: Blended with gasoline at levels ranging from 5 to 27.5 percent to reduce petroleum use, boost octane ratings and cut tailpipe emissions Pure ethanol – a fuel made up of 85 to 100 percent ethanol depending on country specifications – can be used in specially designed engines Benefits of Ethanol Cleaner Air. Ethanol adds oxygen to gasoline which helps reduce air pollution and harmful emissions in tailpipe exhaust. Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Compared to gasoline, sugarcane ethanol cuts carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent on average. That’s better than any other liquid biofuel produced today at commercial scale. Better Performance. Ethanol is a high-octane fuel that helps prevent engine knocking and generates more power in higher compression engines. Lower Petroleum Usage. Ethanol reduces global dependence on oil. Sugarcane ethanol is one more good option for diversifying energy supplies.
Enriched uranium is a type of uranium in which the percent composition of uranium-235 has been increased through the process of isotope separation. Natural uranium is 99.284% 238U isotope, with 235U only constituting about 0.711% of its mass. 235U is the only nuclide existing in nature (in any appreciable amount) that is fissile with thermal neutrons. Enriched uranium is a critical component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency attempts to monitor and control enriched uranium supplies and processes in its efforts to ensure nuclear power generation safety and curb nuclear weapons proliferation.
“Defence of national territory over land, sea and air encompassing among others the inviolability of our land borders, island territories, offshore assets and our maritime trade routes.
“To secure an internal environment whereby our nation-state is insured against any threats to its unity or progress on the basis of religion, language, ethnicity or socio-economic dissonance.
“To be able to exercise a degree of influence over the nations in our immediate neighbourhood to promote harmonious relationships in tune with our national interests.
“To be able to effectively contribute towards regional and international stability and to possess an effective out-of-the-country contingency capability to prevent destabilisation of the small nations in our immediate neighbourhood that could have adverse security implications for us.”
In short, defence against external aggression, defeat of armed internal challenges, and maintaining stability in the immediate neighbourhood of South Asia have been India’s defence priorities since Independence.
Chaired by the National Security Advisor and comprising of the three Service Chiefs and the Defence, Foreign and Expenditure Secretaries as members, the DPC has a broad mandate including the preparation of drafts of the national security strategy, strategic defence review and doctrines.
One key prerequisite for undertaking these tasks is the identification of the country’s defence and security priorities, for the purpose of which the DPC may constitute a separate sub-committee, according to the notification
Given financial constraints and the imperative of maintaining fiscal prudence, on the one hand, and the importance of securing the national interests beyond the immediate neighbourhood especially in the wake of China’s deepening inroads into the Indian Ocean Region, on the other, the Defence Planning Committee has three options before it.
The first and easiest option is to persist with the status quo of concentrating only upon the three established priorities of defence against external aggression, defeat of armed domestic challengers, and maintain stability and considerable influence in the smaller South Asian neighbours.
A nominal increase in the annual defence budget should be adequate for all these tasks in the short and medium terms, although they may not suffice for the more intense challenges that China is likely to pose in the longer term both along the border as well as in South Asia and in the Indian Ocean Region.
The second option is to be expansive and formally recognise the national interests in the Extended Neighbourhood as a fourth defence priority. But this would require an enormous build-up of combat capability as well as deep structural and organisational reforms such as those advocated by Prime Minister Modi in December 2015.
Addressing the senior commanders of the three services, the Prime Minister noted the imperatives of reducing manpower, increasing reliance on technology, building up capabilities to “win swift wars” instead of preparing for “long drawn battles”, shortening the teeth-to-tail ratio, and enhancing the range and mobility of the military in keeping with its expanding “security horizons and responsibilities”.
In particular, the Prime Minister highlighted the fact that simultaneous “modernisation and expansion of forces … is a difficult and unnecessary goal.” But such major reforms, and especially a reduction in manpower, is highly risky and unlikely to be accepted by the Army in particular.
As the Shekatkar Committee has pointed out, the Army’s mandate of defending mountainous borders against both China and Pakistan as well as serving as the last resort in internal security situations are tasks that require a very large number of troops.
Thus, while the vision laid down by the Prime Minister ought to be followed and suitable reforms based on them implemented, these need to unfold over the very long term and incrementally rather than in a big bang fashion.
The third and the ideal option under the circumstances would be to adopt an incremental approach of identifying only the defence of the island countries and extended sea lanes of the Indian Ocean as a fourth priority, while postponing consideration of the national interests in the extended neighbourhood.
It would cater for more robustly maintaining India’s interests both in South Asia and in the Indian Ocean, while at the same time retaining the necessary capacities for defence against external aggression.
This option should be financially feasible to an extent given that the economy’s fundamentals remain sound, the effects of recent domestic disruptions are dissipating, and the growth rate in the coming years is projected to increase up to 7.5 per cent or more.
Determinedly implementing a set of prudential reforms that help achieve economies, such as those recommended by the Shekatkar Committee, for instance, would also enable savings and rebalance expenditure towards the build-up of the required levels of combat capability in the three services
Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials, equipment, and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.
NSG was formed with the objective of averting the proliferation of nuclear weapons and preventing acts of nuclear terrorism.
Nations in the NSG NSG consists of 48 members which include the five nuclear weapon states US, UK, France, China, and Russia. It is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding. Decisions, including on membership, are made by consensus
India is not a member of NSG. Why? In answer in short – opposition from come countries like China as India has not signed Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But there is more to this. Let’s analyze first the sequences of some events connected to nuclear supply/proliferation.
NPT (Nonproliferation Treaty) is an international treaty, which came into force in 1970. The main objective was to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. Apart from India, Pakistan and Israel have also not signed NPT.
India refused to sign NPT because (1) The NPT defines “nuclear weapons states” as those that tested devices before 1967, which means India cannot ever be one. (2) No fixed timelines have been mentioned for disarmament. (3) NPT is unfair treaty as nuclear weapon states have no obligation to give them up while non-nuclear states are not allowed to have them.
India conducted its first Nuclear test -Pokhran-I (Smiling Buddha), in 1974. The nuclear powers were convinced that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) alone would not halt the spread of nuclear weapons. Consequently, NSG was formed in 1974.
The current guidelines of NSG state that a non-NPT state cannot become a member of NSG which keeps India out of the group. In 1998 India conducted the second nuclear Test (Operation Shakti). India is committed to voluntary, unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. It has taken voluntary measures to ensure strong nuclear export control. However, new sanctions were imposed on India by Western Countries, especially US.
In the pre-2005 period, the NSG denied fuel for the Tarapur Atomic Power station, while the US used MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) provisions to prevent the transfer of cryogenic engine technology from Russia. India finally managed to have some relief when the US relented and agreed to a civil nuclear deal with India in 2008.
This agreement has been done in view of the requirement for the US under Section 123 of its Atomic Energy Act 1954, hence also known as 123 Agreement. Under this, India signed a civil-military separation plan and India-IAEA safeguard agreement. In return, US diplomacy helped us to get NSG waiver. During a state visit to India in November 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama announced U.S. support for India’s participation in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, “in a phased manner,” and to encourage the evolution of regime participation criteria to that end, “consistent with maintaining the core principles of these regimes”. India has taken a formal pledge stating that it would not share sensitive nuclear technology or material with others and would uphold its voluntary moratorium on testing nuclear weapons.
Due to which the NSG participating governments agreed to grant India a “clean waiver” from its existing rules, which forbid nuclear trade with a country which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This made India eligible to receive advanced nuclear technologies that could be used to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium. This has helped India a lot. However, being out of the elite NSG group has kept India still out of latest technologies as it is the NSG members that have the latest and the most efficient technology. In 2016 India applied for NSG membership. Pakistan and Namibia followed the suite. China’s Opposition
While a majority of the 48-member group backed India’s membership, China along with New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey, South Africa and Austria were opposed to India’s admission.
China insisted that India should sign NPT for NSG membership. It wants a non-discriminatory criterion for the admission of countries who have not signed NPT. It is an open secret that China’s resistance is to facilitate the entry of Pakistan a close ally of China.
But Pakistan’s credentials for NSG membership are highly flawed and inadequate. On the other hand, over the years India has shown adherence to IAEA safeguards and has taken voluntary measures to abide by NPT and NSG guidelines while Pakistan has not taken any such initiatives.
Membership to the NSG will essentially increase India’s access to state-of-the-art technology from the other members of the Group. Access to technology and being allowed to produce nuclear equipment will give a boost to the Make in India program. That will, in turn, boost the economic growth of our country. As per India’s INDC under the Paris Climate agreement, we have committed to reducing dependence on fossil fuels and ensuring that 40% of its energy is sourced from renewable and clean sources. In order to achieve this target, we need to scale up nuclear power production. This can only happen if India gains access to the NSG. Namibia is the fourth-largest producer of uranium and it agreed to sell the nuclear fuel to India in 2009. However, that hasn’t happened, as Namibia has signed Pelindaba Treaty, which essentially controls the supply of uranium from Africa to the rest of the world. If India joins the NSG, such reservations from Namibia are expected to melt away. Factors in favor of India’s membership
France got membership in the elite group without signing the NPT. Commitment to nonproliferation: India’s commitment to bifurcate its civilian and military nuclear programs along with its nonproliferation record ensured indigenously developed technology is not shared with other countries. Transparency: India has also ratified an Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which means that its civilian reactors are under IAEA safeguards and open for inspections.
Conclusion: The recently framed draft proposal for accepting new members into the Nuclear Suppliers Group increases India’s chances of entry into NSG. It’s a welcome development for India as NSG membership would definitely boost the economic and strategic development in the future.
Therefore, India should take up this opportunity to aggressively pursue the development of nuclear energy while providing the essential emphasis on safety and addressing concerns of the public. It will also pave the way for clean energy initiatives and continued focus to achieve our commitments to reduce the carbon footprint pledged during the climate summit.
The Union environment ministry launched a programme called the Green Skill Development Programme (GSDP) that aims to train over 5.5 lakh workers in environment and forest sectors in the country under 30 different courses by 2021.
Environment minister Harsh Vardhan unveiled a mobile app GSDP-ENVIS with all the information for the courses, including a list of training centres across the country. The GSDP was launched last year as a pilot project in 10 districts of the country, where 154 youths, mainly school dropouts, were trained as para-taxonomists and biodiversity conservationists.
After the pilot project, the ministry is now going to launch the programme on a large scale and plans to train 80,000 youths at 80 institutions in next one year. ‘The number will be raised to over two lakh in the following year and by 2021 a total of over 5.5 lakh youths will be trained as green skilled workers,” the minister said.
He said that GSDP will serve manifold purposes and achieve the aim of skill development campaign. “To protect the environmental right of our future generations, all of us have a green social responsibility,” added the minister.
The environment ministry has been implementing the central sector scheme Environment Information System (ENVIS) since 1982-83. ENVIS with its scientific and technical information on various environmental issues has served in facilitating policy formulation and environment management at different levels of government.
ENVIS is a decentralised network of 66 centres, of which 31 centres deal with the state of the environment and related issues. They are called ENVIS Hubs and are hosted by state governments. The remaining 35 centres are hosted by environment-related governmental and non-governmental organisations of professional excellence, with various theme mandates, called the ENVIS resource partners.
The ministry has held deliberations with various stakeholders and is open to any collaboration or partnership with national and international organisations to build a network, which can be utilised for green-skilling under the GSDP for sustainable conservation and management of natural resources.
The app bundles up all related information about the Green Skill Development Programme. However, it does not have an option to register for a course unlike what the statement claimed. As per Google Play Store, the number of downloads is only 500.
The app provides information under different tabs such as About GSDP and Gallery with photographs from pilot courses run by various centres. The alumni section runs a list of people trained by GSDP, success stories of various centres and achievements. The GSDP page explains the rationale of the course as follows. ‘Most vocational training programmes focus on mechanical and technical skills rather than soft or green skills. Green skills contribute to persevering environmental quality for sustainable future and include jobs that protect ecosystems and biodiversity.’
The first GSDP course was formulated for skilling biodiversity conservationists and para-taxonomists of three months duration each on a pilot basis in ten select districts of the country.
The “Courses Offered” section enlists 30 courses, including dolphin conservator, water budgeting and auditing, forest fire management, management of small botanical gardens, propagation and management of bamboo, bird identification and basic ornithology, city environment surveyors among others. Different courses and training programmes are offered to skill enthusiasts who are 18 years and above, as master trainers specialists. Certificate courses under GSDP which run from 80 hours to 560 hours for master trainers and specialists will be open for admission in July 2018. Many of these courses are open for admission to Class X and Class XII dropouts.
The app also carries a section called “Opportunities”, which lists fields where successful candidates can get employed. The areas of employment include zoological parks, wildlife sanctuaries, biosphere reserves, nurseries, wetland sites, waste management in municipal corporations, water management and others. The app also offers a list of over 85 centres that offer GSDP courses across the country.
Going by the user reviews of the app, we realised that some of the users are concerned about the fact that the courses are meant only for science students and are a new window for students with a science background. However, we don’t think this is the case because in the pilot phase the candidates chosen were mostly dropouts.
Chandrabhaga beach on the Konark coast of Odisha is Asia’s first to get ‘Blue Flag’ tag. Launched in December 2017 by the Environment Ministry, the prime objective of the project is to enhance standards of cleanliness, upkeep and basic amenities at beaches. Under the blue flag project, each state or union territory has been asked to nominate a beach which will be funded through the ongoing Integrated Coastal Management Programme.
Twelve more beaches in the country are being developed by the Society for Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM), an Environment Ministry’s body working for the management of coastal areas, in accordance with the Blue Flag standards.
To achieve the Blue Flag standards, a beach has to strictly comply with 33 environment and tourism-related conditions. The standards were established by the Copenhagen-based Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in 1985. For example- a beach must be plastic-free and equipped with a waste management system. Clean water should be available for tourists, apart from international amenities. The beach should have facilities for studying the environmental impact around the area
Sakhi Suraksha Advanced DNA Forensic Laboratory, India’s First Advanced Forensic Lab in Chandigarh dedicated to women related cases
To emphasize the importance of financial literacy, RBI is observing Financial Literacy Week in the month of June. Focus: It will focus on creating awareness among customers of banks about financial products and services, good financial practices and going digital.
2018 IBSA Ministerial meet was recently held in Pretoria, South Africa. The outcome of this meeting was a document titled IBSA Declaration on South-South Cooperation. This document calls for contribution of each of the member of IBSA forum to contribute to greater understanding of development cooperation as a common endeavour of the global south.
The establishment of IBSA was formalised by the Brasilia Declaration of 6 June 2003. IBSA is a coordinating mechanism amongst three emerging countries, three multi ethnic and multicultural democracies, which are determined to:
Contribute to the construction of a new international architecture.
Bring their voice together on global issues.
Deepen their ties in various areas.
The success of IBSA reflects an important demonstration effect. It demonstrates, most vividly, the desirability and feasibility of South-South cooperation beyond the conventional areas of exchange of experts and training.
IBSA success in contributing to discourse on global issues also shows the importance of engaging with the countries of the South.
Article 35A is a provision in the Constitution that empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define permanent residents of the state. It was added through the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, issued under Article 370. Article 35A empowers Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state along with their special rights and privileges. This Article has an intricate relationship with Article 370.
Jammu and Kashmir Assembly defined Permanent Resident as a person who was a state subject on May 14, 1954 or who had been a resident of the state for 10 years and has “lawfully acquired immovable property in the state.” A person who is not a permanent resident of Jammu and Kashmir is not allowed to buy or own properties in the state or vote in state Assembly election or contest election to the state Assembly. An outsider cannot get a job in the Jammu and Kashmir government.
The J&K government is also concerned at the reluctance of the Union government to file a counter affidavit in the Supreme Court. Against the backdrop of the escalating protests in Kashmir, this issue could potentially be explosive.
Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education was launched in 2015. It is a program of Ministry of Human Resource and Development.
GIAN aims at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs to engage with the institutes of higher education in India to augment the country’s existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reforms, and further strengthen India’s scientific and technological capabilities.
GIAN is envisaged to achieve the following objectives:
To increase the footfalls of reputed international faculty in the Indian academic institutes.
Provide opportunity to our faculty to learn and share knowledge and teaching skills in cutting edge areas.
To provide opportunity to our students to seek knowledge and experience from reputed International faculty.
To create avenue for possible collaborative research with the international faculty.
Develop high quality course material in niche areas, both through video and print that can be used by a larger body of students and teachers.
To document and develop new pedagogic methods in emerging topics of national and international interest.
Freight earnings account for almost 65 paise of every rupee earned by the Railways, and are used to subsidise passenger earnings, where the cost of transporting each passenger is double the earnings.
So, good news on the freight front is good news for the Railways’ overall finances in 2018-19.
Remember, almost half the freight transported across the Railways network is coal and in 2017-18, 22 million more coal was transported at 555 million tonnes (533 million tonnes in 2016-17).
Cement loading also increased by 10 million tonnes last fiscal compared to 2016-17. It is interesting to see that the efforts made to rationalise tariffs and myriad discounts have begun to bear fruit and continue to give Railways an advantage over roadways in the current fiscal too.
Going forward, not just coal, increased traffic from cement and steel sectors, which are booming, besides iron ore and container traffic, should also help boost Railways’ freight earnings.
A senior official explained that the welcome rise in freight carriage and earnings has come after months of efforts to correct past mistakes where several policy initiatives have been taken. As a thumb rule, for goods to be transported up to about 450 km, roadways are more economical. So the use of Railways comes in only for longer distances.
Over the last several years, a skewed tariff policy and some other issues pushed freight away from the Railways even though it had surplus capacity lying idle.
So the Railways took several measures: It offered 30-40 per cent discounts in the empty flow direction (where the cargo has been offloaded and the wagon has to return empty). This meant traffic in empty flow direction grew 208 per cent in loading and 212 per cent in earnings year on year last fiscal.
A 20-30 per cent discount was offered to a host of commodities for certain kinds of wagons; a long term tariff contract was signed with 24 key customers last fiscal which enabled more freight loading as customers were assured of a stable tariff rate through the year. Some other discounts were also offered on specific commodities.
The rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula Krameri), known as the ‘Ramachilaka’, is very popular with poets and lyricists.
Ideal couples are compared to a pair of parakeets. The male is distinguished by a rose-pink collar. The quintessential female is ‘chilaka’.
‘Chilaka Joshyam’, where a parakeet foretells the stars, is also very popular in the Telugu States.
Though there was general appreciation when the State government had announced the dimorphic bird as the State bird recently, it has also triggered a debate. For ornithologists and conservationists, it is a wrong choice but a right one for those rooted in Telugu culture.
None other than birdman of India, Salim Ali, has something unpleasant to say about them. In his The Book of Indian Birds, he describes it as “highly destructive at all times to crops and orchard fruit, gnawing and wasting far more than it actually eats”.
Britain officially declared it as a pest in 2009 and seriously considered culling them in 2016 for displacing the local birds.
The conservationists feel that the new State has lost a great opportunity to project Jerdon’s Courser, which is found only in the State and is highly endangered. It’s locally called ‘Adavi Uthatitti’ meaning ‘jungle empty purse’.
Declared extinct in 1900, it emerged eight and half decades later in January 1986. Subsequently, the Sri Lankamalleswara Wildlife Sanctuary was created to protect it, said former Assistant Conservator or Forest P Gracious. A great message could have been sent by selecting it, he said.
On the other side, there are those like Banaras Hindu University professor Bhudathi Venkateswarlu who contends that the parakeet has a very significant place in the Telugu culture.
“Chiluka is the vahana of Manmadha (Indian Cupid). Sweet and pleasant words (chiluka palukulu) are compared to the chattering of the parakeets and finally the fruit half eaten by these birds is considered very sweet,” he says.
Activist of Telugu language movement G V Purnachand says though the choice is okay, rooster which ‘reflects Telugu pride’, would have been better.
Operation NISTAR : INS Sunayana successfully evacuated 38 Indian Nationals at/ off Socotra Islands during a swift Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Operation (HADR), code named Operation NISTAR. The Indian Nationals were stranded after severe Cyclonic Storm – Mekunu devastated the area around Socotra Island. INS Sunayana was diverted from Gulf of Aden deployment to Socotra Island for search and rescue operations. Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) in India’s National Strategy HADR operations have attracted the attention of the global community in recent years. The Indian armed forces have a wide experience of disaster relief operations both at home and abroad, where they have been the core of relief operations. Due to its sub-continental size, geographical location and its vulnerability to disasters, India has kept its forces ready to render assistance at short notice. In the six decades since independence, India has experienced a number of natural and man-made disasters such as floods, earthquakes, famines, industrial accidents etc. At the same time, India has partnered the global community in providing relief in affected regions
President Ram Nath Kovind has declared Tripura’s queen variety pineapple as “state fruit”.
Dam Health and Rehabilitation Monitoring Application (DHARMA) . DHARMA is a web tool to digitize all dam related data effectively. It will help to document authentic asset and health information pertaining to the large dams in the country, enabling appropriate actions to ensure need based rehabilitation. It is a new stride in asset management aspect by India.
Dam Rehabilitation & Improvement Project (DRIP) The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), Government of India, with assistance from the World Bank, is implementing the DAM REHABILITATION AND IMPROVEMENT PROJECT (DRIP), which would be a six-year project. The Central Dam Safety Organisation of Central Water Commission, assisted by a Consulting firm, is coordinating and supervising the Project implementation. Goals: The project originally envisaged the rehabilitation and improvement of about 223 dams within four states namely, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu and later Karnataka, Uttarakhand (UNVNL) and Jharkhand (DVC) joined DRIP and total number of dams covered under DRIP increased to 250. The project will also promote new technologies and improve Institutional capacities for dam safety evaluation and implementation at the Central and State levels and in some identified premier academic and research institutes of the country. The project development objectives of DRIP are: (i) to improve the safety and performance of selected existing dams and associated appurtenances in a sustainable manner, and (ii) to strengthen the dam safety institutional setup in participating states as well as at central level.
Biodiversity Hotspots in India Himalaya: Includes the entire Indian Himalayan region (and that falling in Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar) Indo-Burma: Includes entire North-eastern India, except Assam and Andaman group of Islands (and Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and southern China) Sundalands: Includes Nicobar group of Islands (and Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines) Western Ghats and Sri Lanka: Includes entire Western Ghats (and Sri Lanka)
Statement 1: The concept of small finance banks was one of the recommendations in the 2009 Report – A Hundred Small Steps – of the Committee on Financial Sector Reforms headed by Dr. Raghu Ram Rajan. In 2015, RBI decided to grant “in-principle” approval to 10 applicants to set up small finance banks under the Guidelines it issued in 2014. Statement 2: The Reserve Bank of India has decided to allow urban co-operative banks (UCB) to convert into small finance banks (SFB), a move aimed at bringing these entities into mainstream banking. UCBs currently face regulation by both the RBI and the respective State governments. By turning into SFBs, they will be regulated only by the RBI. Statement 3: SFBs are full fledged banks in contrast to payments banks created around the same time. Hence, they are subject to all prudential norms and regulations of RBI as are applicable to existing commercial banks like maintenance of CRR and SLR. All are correct
Andhra pradesh is set to become 1st state in india to use auto-disable syringes for all clinical purposes to prevent infection. The state will enforce this decision from will from the world Hepatitis Day observed every year on july 28 and urged the central government and other state's to follow the lead taken by Andhra government in healthcare system, strengthening and lowering the burden of infections by breaking the cycle pf cross infection. Immunisation injections however account for only 10-15 per cent of all injections. Bulk of injections are used for clinical therapeutic use.
About SCO: What is it? The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, also known as the Shanghai Pact, is a Eurasian political, economic, and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Apart from Uzbekistan, the other five countries have been a part of the Shanghai 5 since 1996. The cooperation was renamed to Shanghai Cooperation Organisation after Uzbekistan joined the organisation in 2001. New members: India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members in June 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan. The SCO counts four observer states, namely the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Republic of Belarus, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Mongolia. The SCO’s main goals are as follows: strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states; promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.
Tamil Nadu has been at the forefront of attracting foreign investments for over two decades now, and it has gone about silently driving home its advantages. The state was among the first to introduce single-window clearance for investors dating back to 1994, when American automobile company Ford decided to set up shop in Tamil Nadu. It was Ford’s request to have a single window so that it wouldn’t have to run helter-skelter to get clearance from some 45 departments, which have to give their approval.
The move proved to be successful with South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai, Japanese firm Nissan and other companies following suit. “For the single window clearance, Tamil Nadu government set up a committee in which officials of various departments were included.
The company wanting to invest will make a presentation to the committee on the various regulatory compliances it had made. The committee would then give a composite approval that will allow it to go ahead with construction and other works relating to its unit going on stream.
“With computers and Internet now available all across, the whole process has been automated. Departments will have to raise their queries within 15 days and if there is no word in 30 days from any department, it is deemed as approval,” says Velmurugan.
The process of investment and doing business in Tamil Nadu has improved with the passing of the Business Facilitation Act, says Aubrey Daniels, Regional Director – Tamil Nadu chapter, American Chamber of Commerce in India. “The act stipulated a timeline for each process. There seems to be improvement in the governance. We are, however, yet to know if it has passed the test of fire,” he said.
In January this year, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government passed the Business Facilitation Act that will allow single point of receipt of allocation to get clearances required to set up or expand a company. The clearances are ones that would be required in normal circumstances too, including time-bound renewals. The act provides for grievance redress mechanism and penalising authorities for failing to act on time. The act was passed on the heels of the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry mandating the Business Reform Action Plan last year that stipulated states to have similar legislation by 31 October 2017.
Under Business Facilitation Act, 10 approvals for pre-establishment of an industry have been integrated in the Tamil Nadu Industrial Guidance and Exports portal. Though the act is for all industries, including large, medium, small and micro scale, initially it is for large-scale units.
The ease of doing business in Tamil Nadu has improved also with accessibility to bureaucrats improving. Earlier, during the rule of J Jayalalithaa, entrepreneurs had to wait to meet her. They couldn’t directly meet any bureaucrat. Now, things have changed and businessmen are allowed to meet bureaucrats.
Velmurugan said Tamil Nadu has been able to attract global Fortune 500 companies and one of them is now set to implement its sixth phase of expansion. Agrees an official with a business chamber pointing out that many companies that had set up shop in Tamil Nadu are now setting up back-end and other offices. “Even the closed Nokia facility could be in operation soon with the Centre agreeing to some requests from the company. An announcement is due soon,” said the official, adding that the business climate has improved in some areas, while there is scope to improve in other areas.
According to N Shekar, President, Aerospace Industry Development Association, policy facilitation has been enacted because the state government has realised that the expected growth is not happening and it is beginning to lose investments. “After the political climate has settled, Tamil Nadu is looking at improving investments. The Business Facilitation Act and the process to apply online have been introduced. But how many will choose the process and how much success will it achieve – we have to see,” he said.
Shekar said Tamil Nadu’s policy framework is good and the state government is trying to create a conducive atmosphere for medium and small enterprises. “The government is trying to promote aerospace and defence industrial policy. It has to come up with industry-specific incentives. Our association has given inputs that has been circulated within the government but it has been pending for the last two years. Seriousness is lacking,” he said.
Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have announced incentives, while Uttar Pradesh has drafted one and Telangana is set to announce its policy. “We expect Tamil Nadu to announce its industry-specific policies before the Global Investor Meet in February next year,” Shekar said.
Velmuruguan says that Tamil Nadu has been conscious about the industries that it wants. “Automobile, automobile components and electronics are the industries we have focused on. Traditionally, we have been strong in these sectors,” he says, pointing out at companies like TVS Motors, Rane, Amalgamations Group and Motherson function in the state since 1950s and 1960s.
“These companies supply 23-24 per cent of India’s automobile component products and traditionally, the state has been strong in the automobile and manufacturing sectors,” Velmurugan said, adding that Chennai has emerged as one of the world’s leading research and development (R&D) centre for automobiles.
Velmurugan said Chennai offers one of the best infrastructure to investors in India. “There are three major ports, an international airport and good roads that connect to all parts. Chennai’s air cargo is the second largest in the country,” he added.
Be it Fortune 500 companies or multi-nationals, they go by their impression of a particular place. “Some states could be saying they are offering this or that. But these companies make their own SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities and threat) analyses and due diligence before deciding to invest in a particular state or place. Some of these companies have found Tamil Nadu better,” he said, pointing out that a multi-national company scouted for a place to put up its facility since 2014 before deciding to invest in the state.
Tamil Nadu offers incentives to investors based on the employment opportunity they create or offer. “Take Hyundai, for instance. It has 703 vendors supplying components and 115 of them from South Korea. Nearly 85 per cent of the automobile maker’s components are made in Tamil Nadu by these vendors, most of who operate around the company’s vicinity in clusters.
Shekhar agrees that setting up trading or industrial clusters will help. “Clusters will help improve business. In the US, there are many aerospace parks with governments coming up with enabling policies to invest and providing infrastructure. The state government should invite and bring large and smaller players together to work in clusters,” he said, adding that an attempt is being made to create such a concept in Chennai.
Velmurugan says creation of parks or clusters are working for vendors. For example, Tata Realty and Infrastructure Limited is constructing an info-tech park at Taramani in the heart of Chennai. The park has already been sold out.
But business chambers say that some of the projects are still progressing in fits and starts. Tamil Nadu will have to bring people from the private industry like Telangana to ensure these projects are completed on time and are able to attract good investments.
Kumar feels that the state can do much more if the authorities oversee progress of projects and investments rather than act as controlling agents, resulting in a painful experience for investors.
Industrialists and business chambers are happy that they are getting access to bureaucrats and ministers. And Tamil Nadu would like to play to its strength by welcoming investments in sectors like manufacturing, textile, leather, automobile and its components.
1. What is the circular economy and what opportunities does it present?
A circular economy rests on three principles: designing out waste and pollution; keeping materials and products in use; and regenerating natural systems. It is a systemic approach to rethinking how we make, use, and reuse products and materials. It presents an economic opportunity to move away from our current wasteful and extractive ‘take-make-dispose’ model that could generate over US$1 trillion a year.
2. How does it differ from recycling?
While recycling is an important aspect, activities such as sharing, service, maintenance, refurbishment and remanufacturing are also fundamental to the circular economy. It’s about designing products to fit within a system that is restorative and regenerative by design.
3. How can the circular economy help solve the plastics crisis?
So far, most efforts to address the problem treat the symptoms - waste and pollution - not the causes. If we want to free our ocean from plastics, we have to do more than just cleaning up. We have to fundamentally rethink the way we make, use and re-use plastics so that they don’t become waste in the first place. To do this we need better materials, smarter product designs, and circular business models.
Lateral entry at the joint secretary level is appropriate because it requires candidates to have both expertise and track record, instead of mere potential that can be observed at entry levels.
It is not the first time that the central government has proposed lateral recruitment to senior positions in the government. During the 70s, experts from the public and the private sectors were inducted as secretaries to the government. Similarly, experts from outside were recruited as consultants in the erstwhile Planning Commission. Many of them contributed immensely towards bringing in new ideas into the domain of planning and policy-making.
The generalist civil servants, transferred from one department to another, may not always be best-suited to hold positions of authority in sectors that require technical knowledge. Even in departments such as railways, postal services, customs, among others, induction of outside experts on a contractual basis may add value to governance. As long as the process of selection of candidates remains transparent, objective and professional, there will be no room for any apprehension.
Lateral entry at the joint secretary level is currently, a three-year contractual joint secretary will carry no gravitas in the government system. Second, the criteria and method of selection are both opaque.
The High Courts of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay were established in 1861. These High Courts served as the highest courts in the land until 1937, when the predecessor of the Supreme Court — the Federal Court — was set up under the Government of India Act 1935.
The Federal Court, which functioned as the highest court of the land between 1937 and 1949, decided disputes between provinces and exercised appellate jurisdiction over criminal and civil matters.
The primary focus of the Constituent Assembly Debates surrounding the judiciary was to ensure and safeguard its independence. The independence of judiciary was reiterated by the Sapru Committee as well as the Ad Hoc Committee of the Supreme Court in their reports to the Constituent Assembly.
The Draft Constitution, especially the provisions relating to judicial appointments, was discussed by the justices of the erstwhile Federal Court and chief justices of the High Courts. Austin says that the sense of the meeting was that the “fearless functioning of an independent, incorruptible and efficient Judiciary” must be preserved.
This found expression in the Constitution vide appointments to High Court and Supreme Court being made by the President. However, in a truly federal set-up, the process of appointing judges of the High Court should have been similar to the Supreme Court, but left entirely to the respective Governors and the Chief Justices of the High Courts.
Equally importantly, the process of removal of High Court Judges is currently bestowed with the President and Parliament. As the salaries and emoluments for the High Court Judges are drawn form the Consolidated Fund of the State, there is no doubt that the States are heavily invested in the well being of the High Courts. Therefore, it would be fair for the State Legislatures and the State Executive to don the roles of Parliament and the Union Executive with regard to appointment and removal of High Court Judges.
Autonomy of State in judicial branch: The Rajamannar Committee report The Government of Tamil Nadu, under the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), set up a three-member Inquiry Committee under Justice Dr P V Rajamannar to consider the Centre-State relations in general, but also to suggest measures necessary for securing autonomy of the State in the judicial branch. The Rajamannar Committee submitted its report to the Government of Tamil Nadu on May 27, 1971 and recommended certain germane changes to the functioning of the judiciary.
The Rajamannar Committee suggested that “Supreme Court must not be burdened with the task of interpreting State enactments” and the ruling of the High Court in such matters should be final. This suggestion finds basis from the fact that State legislations, Ordinances and Government Orders are limited to the territory of the State and, by extension, fall within the jurisdiction of the respective High Courts. Therefore, the judicial work of interpreting the State laws should be vested finally with the jurisdictional High Courts.
It was further recommended that the Supreme Court should not be conferred with appellate jurisdiction in civil and criminal case unless where it involves a question of constitutional interpretation. This would enable a more devolved and decentralised set-up and more importantly, ensure that the workload of the Supreme Court in dealing with regular appeals is considerably reduced. The Rajamannar Committee Report also recommended that the High Courts also be empowered to provide necessary opinion by way of a Gubernatorial Reference, similar to that conferred to the Supreme Court by Article 143(1) of the Constitution whereby the President is empowered to consult the Supreme Court by way of a Reference.
Origin of appeals to Supreme Court Independent research work led by Nick Robinson on the origin of appeals to the Supreme Court in the years between 2006 and 2011 shows that more than 50% of the cases come from the High Courts of Punjab and Haryana, Delhi, Bombay and Uttar Pradesh. Only around 5 % of cases in the Supreme Court originate from the Madras High Court and the corresponding number for Calcutta High Court is around 2.5%.
The same research also shows that ordinary criminal and civil appeals clog the Supreme Court at the stage of admission. Perhaps, it is with the benefit of such knowledge, the Law Commission of India, in its 229th Report recommended that a “Constitution Bench” be set up at Delhi to deal with Constitutional and other allied issues and “four Cassation Benches” be set up in the Northern region at Delhi, the Southern region at Chennai/Hyderabad, the Eastern region at Kolkata and the Western region at Mumbai — to deal with all appellate work arising out of the orders/judgments of the High Courts of the particular region.
While the Full Bench of the Supreme Court rejected the recommendation of the Law Commission, the issue continues to be alive due to a recent Writ Petition (WP (C) No. 36 of 2016) filed before the Supreme Court. In this Writ Petition, it was argued that, “on account of the distance at which the Supreme Court is located from other parts of the country, access to justice had been adversely affected” and that setting up “regional benches of the Supreme Court” was the way forward. Taking in to account these matters of constitutional importance, the matter has now been referred to a Constitution Bench for authoritative pronouncement.
Decentralise the courts While the issues of political federalism are more or less settled in favour of greater decentralisation, the questions surrounding judicial federalism and devolution of powers among the courts have not been considered sufficiently. For the court and its processes to be more meaningful, effective and credible, all relevant questions must be settled, without compromising the independence of the institution, at the earliest.
Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI), Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu under Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and RAASI Solar Power Pvt Ltd have signed a Memorandum of Agreement for transfer of technology for India’s first Lithium Ion (Li-ion) Battery project.
Currently, Indian manufacturers source Lithium Ion Battery from China, Japan and South Korea among some other countries. India is one of the largest importers and in 2017, it imported nearly 150 Million US Dollar worth Li-Ion batteries
Li-Ion batteries have applications in Energy Storage System – from hearing aid to container sized batteries to power a cluster of villages, Electric Vehicles (2-wheeler, 3-wheeler, 4-wheeler and Bus), portable electronic sector, Grid Storage, Telecom and Telecommunication Towers, Medical Devices, Household and Office Power Back (UPS), Powering Robots in Processing Industry. Lithium-ion batteries can power any electrical application without the need of physical wires-means wireless.
Abolition of states according to classes and the introduction of Union Territories and reorganisation of states by language (1956):
The mini-constitution (42nd amendment) inserted Socialism and Secularism in the preamble, a provision on fundamental (1976)
Right to Property deleted from the list of fundamental rights (1978)
Lawmakers may be disqualified on the grounds of defection (Law of Defection) (1985)
Voting age reduced from 21 to 18 (1989)
Introduction of Nagarpalikas and Municipalities (1993)
Free and compulsory education to children between 6 to 14 years (2002)
Allowed the government to pass laws relating to reservations to socially, economically backward classes, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in public and private higher educational institutions (2014)
Introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), to present the idea of One Nation, One Tax (2016)
Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), previously Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY), is a maternity benefit program run by the government of India. PMMVY is implemented by the Ministry of Women & Child Development in collaboration with State Governments. It is Centrally Sponsored Scheme under which the cost sharing ratio between the Centre and the States & UTs with Legislature is 60:40, for North-Eastern States & three Himalayan States, it is 90:10 and 100% Central assistance for Union Territories without Legislature. It is a conditional cash transfer scheme for pregnant and lactating women of 19 years of age or above for first live birth. It provides a partial wage compensation to women for wage-loss during childbirth and childcare and to provide conditions for safe delivery and good nutrition and feeding practices. In 2013, the scheme was brought under the National Food Security Act, 2013 to implement the provision of cash maternity benefit of rs 6,000 stated in the Act.
Credit enhancement fund The fund was first announced in the financial budget for fiscal year 2016-17. It will help in upgrading credit ratings of bonds issued by infrastructure companies and facilitate investment from investors like pension and insurance funds. The initial corpus of the fund, to be sponsored by IIFCL (India Infrastructure Finance Company), will be Rs 500 crore, and it will operate as a non-banking finance company. IIFCL will hold a 22.5% stake in the NBFC, while the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has offered to pick up a 10% stake. State-run SBI, Bank of Baroda and LIC will also have stakes in the firm. At present, only $110 billion is being invested in infrastructure, against a requirement of $200 billion, leading many analysts to classify India as an infrastructure deficit country. At present, the banking system does a bulk of infrastructure project financing and exposes itself to asset liability management (ALM) mismatches and hence, alternatives like raising of money through corporate bonds is necessary.
Rail Madad It is a recently launched App by Indian Railways which aims to expedite & streamline passenger grievance redressal. It is a part of RPGRAMS (Railway Passenger Grievance Redressal and Management System), which has been developed by Northern Railway (Delhi Division).
Credit cards and debit cards :Currently, though debit cards are 96 per cent of the cards in use (861 million, as against 37 million credit cards), it is credit cards that were leading in terms of value of transactions, at 51 per cent, the ET report said. While higher credit card usage is an indicator of optimism among people regarding the economy and their repayment capacity, mass adoption of digital payments can come only from increasing debit card usage.
FRDI Bill: Why The Bail-In Clause Is Letting In Bad Ideas Through the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill, it wants to have a framework for the resolution of failures of commercial and cooperative banks, insurance companies, mutual funds, stockbroking companies, and other financial service providers. The bill aims at establishing a ‘Resolution Corporation’ with powers to acquire and transfer assets or even liquidate a financial service provider in case of probable failure. FRDI bill has stemmed is the proposal to implement a new financial resolution regime by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) of the Group of 20 countries (G-20) in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. The FSB is firm on establishing a regime wherein banks are not bailed out by governments but instead bailed in by depositors. As a member of the G-20, India has made a commitment to bring in legislation to that effect. A bail-in essentially means that deposits beyond the insured amounts could be converted into equity shares of the bank with the consent of the depositor. The depositors then become the shareholders in the bank in addition to becoming creditors. As a result, the equity of the bank would increase and that would help maintain the capital adequacy ratio. About 87 per cent of NPAs are with the PSBS. Non-priority sector NPAs rose from 50 per cent in March 2012 to 77 per cent by March 2016. The NPA ratio, which stood at 25 per cent in 1993-94, fell to 2 per cent by 2008-09. Thereafter, that figure increased, and by the end of 2016-17 it became as high as 12.5 per cent. The government is infusing capital every year since 2007-08.
Swachh Iconic Places (SIP) is an initiative of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation under Swachh Bharat Mission. Initiated as a project to implement Prime Minister’s vision to take iconic places and their surroundings to higher standards of Swachhata, so that all visitors benefit and also take away home the message of cleanliness, Swachh Iconic Places is now in its second phase.
SIP is a truly collaborative project with three other central Ministries: Urban Development, Culture, Tourism; all levels in the concerned States and more importantly, Public Sector and Private companies as partners.
Phase I and II included 10 sites each and Phase III included sites on the banks of river ganga.
The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament (Khadi and Village Industries Commission Act of 1956). In April 1957, it took over the work of former All India Khadi and Village Industries Board
It is an apex organization under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, with regard to khadi and village industries within India, which seeks to – “plan, promote, facilitate, organise and assist in the establishment and development of khadi and village industries in the rural areas in coordination with other agencies engaged in rural development wherever necessary.”
The Commission has three main objectives which guide its functioning. These are:
The Social Objective – Providing employment in rural areas.
The Economic Objective – Providing salable articles.
The Wider Objective – Creating self-reliance amongst people and building up a strong rural community spirit
India has extended a financial aid of about Rs 10 crore to Nepal for the construction of 2,700 shallow tube well irrigation systems to boost agricultural productivity. The assistance has been extended as part of the final payment for the Nepal-Bharat Maitri Irrigation Project.
About Maitri irrigation project: The project was launched in January last year to boost growth to the Himalayan nation’s agricultural sector through enhanced facilities.
The project is aimed at installing 2,700 shallow tube wells in 12 districts of Nepal.
The project would ensure all-season irrigation facility to about 8,115 hectares of farm land, augment productivity of wheat, rice and seasonal fruits, vegetables and other crops, it said.
It would also uplift the socio-economic status of farming families in the 12 districts covered under the project.
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.
The Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is the Government of India’s flagship initiative to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. AIM is mandated to create an umbrella structure to oversee innovation ecosystem of the country and revolutionizing the innovation eco-system – touching upon the entire innovation life cycle through various programs.
Discussions on the FAME-II scheme, a subsidy programme for purchase of electric vehicles in India, seems to have hit another roadblock after Finance Ministry returned the scheme’s draft proposal raising questions on funding and policy structure. Finance Ministry has sought a more comprehensive scheme framework.
About FAME India scheme:
What is it? With an aim to promote eco-friendly vehicles, the government had launched the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME-India) scheme in 2015. It was launched by union ministry for heavy industries.
Aim: The FAME India Scheme is aimed at incentivising all vehicle segments, including two-wheelers, three wheeler auto, passenger four-wheeler vehicle, light commercial vehicles and buses. The scheme covers hybrid and electric technologies like a strong hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles.
Facts: FAME India – Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles in India – is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. The scheme envisages Rs 795 crore support in the first two fiscals. It is being administered by the Heavy Industries Ministry.
Electric vehicles (EVs) seem to be gaining in prominence as part of the renewable energy zeitgeist. However, mainstreaming electric vehicles will require an overhaul of the country’s energy and transport infrastructure. For example, EV charging stations will have to be set up on a war footing, and electricity generation will have to improve significantly even as its piggybacks on the push for solar energy. EV technology (especially the battery) will have to become much cheaper before it can perform well in a price-sensitive market like India.
In fact, profitable public sector companies should be offloaded faster, for you may get a better price for them, and leaving them in government hands may endanger their future. Consider what price the government could have got for Air India if it had been privatised 10 years ago. Ditto for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) or Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL).
During United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-1, there were plans to list BSNL at valuations of around $10 billion; but today BSNL would be lucky to get a fourth of the valuation. Reason: with 111 million subscribers as at the end of March 2018, its customer base is roughly half that of Idea with 211 million. And Idea’s market capitalisation is just around Rs 27,000 crore.
Profitable public sector companies are an open invitation to bad policy-making and moral hazard. Consider how the UPA ran the profitable oil sector into the ground in order to subsidise petro-products. This could never have happened if the Atal Behari Vajpayee government had succeeded in privatising Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), when public interest litigants managed to stymie the idea.
The net result of UPA’s misuse of profitable public sector oil companies to subsidise diesel, LPG and kerosene was that the private players – Reliance and Essar – were left alone to supply their products to the export markets, allowing them to remain profitable while the public sector marketing companies were left to bleed.
Having profitable companies in the public sector only gives politicians more money to play around with; their profits help fund populism.
There is also another moral hazard in having profitable companies owned by the government: private sector rivals can use bribery and covert deals with the politicians in control of these companies to stunt their growth and kill competition. Whether it is Air India or BSNL, private competitors have a vested interest in preventing them from competing with them, and they can get this done by bribing politicians to delay or destroy the public sector’s competitive instincts.
So, the Narendra Modi government should be clear why it is trying to privatise or list Air India: the idea should be to get the government out of the airline business, and reduce future liabilities for the exchequer. Also, ideologically, since the government also appoints airline regulators, it should not be competing in the same space.
One, it can do a reverse auction of Air India as a complete bundle, with landing slots, ground handling services, and properties as part of the deal. In a reverse auction, the bidders will bid for how much of the debt they will take on to buy Air India, with the one willing to take the highest share debt getting the airline. Trying to artificially decide how much debt should be loaded on to Air India while privatising it will mean babus and valuation theorists will be deciding the price – and it could be the wrong price.
Two, another way to arrive at the same destination is to sell the airline’s assets – the planes, the airline’s landing slots, its land and buildings, its ground handling unit – in bits and pieces, leaving out the debt. The net price received for these parts can be set off against the debt, and the balance debt shifted to the government’s books. Staff not being absorbed by other airlines can be given long-term pensions or lump sum payments for being rendered jobless. Put simply, the assets would be privatised, and the net liabilities nationalised.
There is no option but to sell Air India at a price determined by the market. Babus and valuation experts trying to find the right price will fail, especially when they try and load too much debt or keep some equity back with the government, as was attempted the last time.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also recently inaugurated India’s first integrated greenfield smart city project at Naya Raipur. Naya Raipur is the first integrated city in India and aims to develop four pillars of Smart city across, institutional (including Governance/Legal Framework), physical, social and economic infrastructure.
Under the scheme that was launched in 2014, around 100 cities in the country will be developed.
Selection of cities: The selection is based on the scores cities get for carrying out urban reforms in areas including sanitation and governance. Cities that score the highest will be picked for the project, to be implemented over a 10-year period.
Development: These cities will be developed to have basic infrastructure through assured water and power supply, sanitation and solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, IT connectivity, e-governance and citizen participation. Bottom-up approach has been the key planning principle under Smart City Mission.
Funding: Under the scheme, each city will get Rs 500 crore from the Centre for implementing various projects. An equal amount, on matching basis, will have to be contributed by the state or urban local bodies. The mission will provide central funding of Rs 48,000 crore to the selected cities.
Implementation: The implementation of the Mission at the City level will be done by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) created for the purpose. The SPV will plan, appraise, approve, release funds, implement, manage, operate, monitor and evaluate the Smart City development projects. Each smart city will have a SPV which will be headed by a full time CEO and have nominees of Central Government, State Government and ULB on its Board.
The government recently launched Swajal schemes in 115 aspirational districts of the country. It will involve an outlay of Rs 700 crores through flexible-funds under the existing National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) budget.
Swajal is a community owned drinking water programme for sustained drinking water supply. Under the scheme, 90% of the project cost will be taken care by the Government and the remaining 10% of the project cost will be contributed by the community. The Operations and management of the project will be taken care by the local villagers.
The NRDWP was started in 2009, with a major emphasis on ensuring sustainability (source) of water availability in terms of potability, adequacy, convenience, affordability and equity. NRDWP is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with 50: 50 fund sharing between the Centre and the States.
Water is a State subject and rural water supply has been included in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution among the subjects that may be entrusted to Panchayats by the States.
what if, instead of promoting favoured schemes, Indian governments instead challenged experts to propose the cleverest interventions they could think of? What if they then got economists to calculate, as objectively and scientifically as possible, their likely cost-benefit ratios? And what if they then compared these numbers and adopted policies based on which projects promised the biggest bang for the buck?
Over the past year Mr Lomborg’s team has consulted hundreds of experts and interested groups, picked some 79 policies for consideration and commissioned dozens of economists to analyse them. If the pilot schemes work well, Tata Trusts would like to extend the process across the country.
In some respects the results from Rajasthan are predictable. Yes, it does pay in the long run to improve infrastructure, though the predicted payback of 1.2 rupees for every rupee spent on urban sewage treatment does not look especially compelling. No, the hugely expensive loan waivers that several Indian states have recently offered angry farmers are not a good idea, yielding benefits of less than one rupee for every rupee spent.
Some potential returns are astonishing, however. According to a paper that was presented by Nimalan Arinaminpathy, an epidemiologist at Imperial College, London, clever interventions to combat tuberculosis (TB), a disease that kills 30,000 people a year in Rajasthan alone, could bring a return of up to 179 rupees for every rupee of government spending. This is not because India makes no efforts to deal with TB. The trouble is that the government’s hitherto highly successful anti-tuberculosis campaign, the world’s largest such effort, is struggling to reach the country’s poorest and most vulnerable.
Other proposals with big payoffs include computer-assisted learning, cheap treatment of non-communicable diseases and educating mothers on hygiene and nutrition. One paper suggests this last policy could be six times more beneficial than simply providing poor mothers and children with extra food. Noting that nearly three-quarters of all civil cases in Rajasthan’s courts have to do with land disputes, another paper calculated that over a 50-year period, the return from fully digitising land records could be 26 to one—and this in a state often praised for its efforts to improve the property register.
One cynical academic averred that politicians will always opt for showy handouts rather than unsexy long-term solutions, however inefficient that may be. A state official, perhaps mindful of approaching elections, blithely declared that all this fancy research simply proved that the state’s government was already doing everything right
Nalanda stands out as the most ancient university of the Indian Subcontinent.
It engaged in the organized transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years.
The historical development of the site testifies to the development of Buddhism into a religion and the flourishing of monastic and educational traditions.
It was a major Mahavihara or a large Buddhist monastery that also doubled up as an important centre of learning from the 5th to 1200 AD in the erstwhile kingdom of Magadh.
The construction of Nalanda university began in 5th century AD and flourished under the Gupta rulers. It came to an end in the 12th century when it was destroyed in 1193 AD by the invading Turkish army led by its commander Bakhtiar Khilji.
UNESCO has declared Bihar’s much awaited ancient site – the ruins of Nalanda Mahavihara – a World Heritage Site