KVIC launched ‘SPIN’ Scheme & “Kashi Pottery Cluster”


On 17th September 2021, Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) launched a unique Scheme called SPIN (Strengthening the Potential of India) and set up “Kashi Pottery Cluster” under SFURTI Scheme in Varanasi to empower over 1100 people of the marginalized potters’ community on the occasion of “Sewa Diwas”, the birthday of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.

  • On this occasion, 780 electric potter wheels were sanctioned to the participants of SPIN Scheme. Further, in Gujarat, KVIC distributed 50 charkhas to women artisans at Kevadia to engage them with self-employment and sustainable livelihood.
  • The SPIN Scheme in which 780 potters from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Jharkhand have registered for financial assistance from the bank to begin their own business. Out of these, 110 artisans are from Varanasi.

Salient Features of ‘SPIN’ Scheme

  • It is a no-subsidy program: Unlike earlier launched ‘Kumhar Sashaktikaran Yojana’, which is a subsidy-based program, SPIN Scheme enables the registered potters to get a direct loan from the banks under Pradhan Mantri Shishu Mudra Yojana.
  • No financial burden on the exchequer: Under this scheme, there will be no financial burden on the exchequer and the loan will be repaid by the potter in easy installments. The SPIN scheme, thus, aims at infusing self-sustainability in the Indian pottery sector.
  • KVIC as a facilitator: Under the SPIN Scheme, KVIC is acting as a facilitator for financial aid to potters through RBL bank and also providing training to the artisans, opting for this scheme.

About “Kashi Pottery Cluster”

  • It was inaugurated at Village Bhatti in Varanasi.
  • This is the first pottery cluster in Varanasi district set up by KVIC under the Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI).
  • The cluster, set up over an area of 7100 square feet at the cost of Rs 2.50 crore, has provided direct employment to 340 pottery artisans who have been trained by KVIC.
  • The cluster is equipped with modern equipment like furnaces, electric potter wheels, blunger machines, pug mills and other modern equipment for higher production of clay pottery.

SAMRIDH Programme launched by MeitY to support Startups


To support startups and entrepreneurs in their initial phase, where they face most challenges, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has launched Startup Accelerators of MeitY for pRoduct Innovation, Development and growth (SAMRIDH) programme on 25 August 2021.

  • SAMRIDH will create a platform for Indian software product startups to enhance their products and secure investments for scaling their business.
  • The programme is being implemented by MeitY Start-up Hub (MSH).
  • The SAMRIDH initiative will not only provide funding support to startups, but will also help in bringing skill sets together which will help them become successful.
  • The SAMRIDH scheme will pick up startups that are ready for acceleration stage and will provide them with funding support, mentorship and a lot of other support that is required by startups at this stage.
  • The SAMRIDH programme will focus on accelerating 300 start-ups by providing customer connect, investor connect, and international expansion opportunities in the next three years.
  • Also, an investment of up to Rs 40 lakh to startups, based on their current valuation and growth stage will be provided through selected accelerators. It will also facilitate equal matching investment by the accelerator or investor.

Amendments in e-Commerce Rules to bring in Transparency


Union Government has proposed several amendments in the e-commerce rules to bring transparency and curb the prevalent unfair trade practices in the online marketing platforms.

  • The government has recently come up with a draft of the proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020, to protect the interests of consumers and encourage free and fair competition in the market. The Centre has sought views and suggestions on these amendments till 6th of July.

Highlights

  • According to the proposed rules, the e-commerce platforms will need to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer, a Nodal Officer, a Resident Grievance Officer and other officials to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Act and Rules.
  • It has been proposed to put in place a framework for registration of every e-commerce entity with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade for allotment of registration number. This registration number will be displayed prominently on the website as well as the invoice of every order.
  • The government has also proposed prohibiting mis-selling, in which entities sell goods or services by misrepresenting information. To ensure that consumers are aware about the expiry date of the products they are buying on the e-commerce platform, all sellers will have to mention 'best before or use before date' to enable consumers to make an informed purchase decision.
  • The government has clarified that conventional e-commerce flash sales are not banned, but specific flash sales or back to back sales which limit customer choice, increase prices and prevent a level playing field are not allowed.

Atmanirbhar Bharat 3.0


  • On 12th November 2020, Government launched Atmanirbhar Bharat 3.0 to boost Covid-hit economy

Aim

  • To boost job creation, provide liquidity support to stressed sectors and encourage economic activity in housing and infrastructure areas.

12 Key announcements under Aatmanirbhar Bharat 3.0

1. Atmanirbhar Bharat Rozgar Yojana

  • It aims to incentivise the creation of new employment opportunities during the COVID-19 recovery phase.
  • The scheme will be effective from 1st October, 2020 and operational till 30th June 2021.

Beneficiaries (new employees) under Scheme

  • Any new employee joining employment in EPFO registered establishments on monthly wages less than Rs.15000/.
  • EPF members drawing monthly wage of less than Rs.15000/- who made exit from employment during COVID Pandemic from 01.03.2020 to 30.09.2020 and is employed on or after 01.10.2020

Eligibility Criteria

Establishments registered with EPFO if they add new employees compared to reference base of employees as in September, 2020. Scheme to be operational till 30th June 2021-

  • Establishments, with up to 50 employees, would have to add a minimum of two new employees.
  • The organisations, with more than 50 employees, would have to add at least five employees.

Subsidy Support from Central Govt.

  • Establishments employing up to 1000 employees: Employee’s contributions (12% of Wages) & Employer’s contributions (12% of wages) totalling 24% of wages.
  • Establishments employing more than 1000 employees: Only Employee’s EPF contributions (12% of EPF wages).
  • The subsidy support to get credited upfront in Aadhaar seeded EPFO Account (UAN) of eligible new employees.

2.Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme

  • It is for MSMEs, businesses, MUDRA borrowers, and individuals (loans for business purposes).
  • Under this credit scheme, banks will be able to lend to stressed sectors from 26 sectors identified by the K.V. Kamath committee.
  • The new scheme will have a 1-year moratorium and 5 years of repayment.

3. Atmanirbhar Manufacturing Production-linked incentives for 10 Champion Sectors

  • 10 more Champion Sectors will be covered under the Production Linked Incentives Scheme to help boost the competitiveness of domestic manufacturing.
  • Ten Sectors–Advance Cell Chemistry Battery, Electronic/Technology Products, Automobiles & Auto Components, Pharmaceuticals Drugs, Telecom & Networking Products, Textile Products, Food Products, High Efficiency Solar PV Modules, White Goods (ACs & LED) & Specialty Steel.
  • This will give a big boost to the economy, investment, exports and job creation.

4. PM Awas Yojana - Urban

  • A sum of Rs. 18000 crore is being provided for PMAY- Urban over and above Rs. 8000 crore already allocated this year.
  • This will help ground 12 Lakh houses and complete 18 Lakh houses, create additional 78 Lakh jobs and improve production and sale of steel and cement, resulting in a multiplier effect on the economy.
  • PMAY - Urban Mission was launched in 2015 with an intention to provide housing for all in urban areas by year 2022.

5. Support for Construction & Infrastructure – Relaxation of Earnest Deposit Money & Performance Security on Government Tenders

  • To provide ease of doing business and relief to contractors whose money otherwise remains locked up, performance security on contracts has been reduced from 5-10% to 3%.
  • It will also extend to ongoing contracts and Public Sector Enterprises.
  • EMD for tenders will be replaced by the Bid Security Declaration. The relaxations in the General Financial Rules will be in force till December 31, 2021.

6. Income Tax relief for Developers & Home Buyers

  • The differential between circle rate and agreement value in real estate income tax under Section 43 CA of IT Act has been increased from 10% to 20%.
  • This is for the primary sale of residential units up to Rs 2 Crore (from date of announcement of this scheme, till June 30 2021).
  • Consequential Relief up to 20% shall also be allowed to buyers of these units under section 56(2)(x) of the IT Act for the said period.
  • Income Tax relief provides incentives to the middle class to buy homes.

7. The Platform for Infra Debt Financing

  • The government will make Rs 6,000 Crore equity investment in the debt platform of the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).
  • It will help NIIF provide a debt of Rs. 1.1 Lakh Crore for infrastructure projects by 2025.

8. Support for Agriculture

  • As fertilizer consumption is going up significantly, Rs. 65,000 Crore is being provided to ensure an increased supply of fertilizers to farmers to enable the timely availability of fertilizers in the upcoming crop season.

9. Boost for Rural Employment

  • An additional outlay of Rs.10, 000 Crore is being provided for PM Garib Kalyan Rozgar Yojana to provide rural employment.
  • This will help accelerate the rural economy.

10. Boost for Project Exports

  • Rs. 3,000 Crore boost is being provided to EXIM Bank for promoting project exports under Indian Development and Economic Assistance Scheme (IDEAS Scheme).
  • It will help EXIM Bank facilitate Lines of Credit development assistance activities and promote exports from India.

11. Capital and Industrial Stimulus

  • Rs.10, 200 Crore additional budget stimulus is being provided for capital and industrial expenditure on domestic defense equipment, industrial infrastructure, and green energy.

12. R&D Grant for COVID Vaccine

  • Rs. 900 Crore is being provided to the Department of Biotechnology for Research and Development of Indian COVID Vaccine.

Significance

  • These measures provided by the government reinforce the ‘fiscal conservatism’ ideology of the government — rather than large cash transfers, the growth philosophy centres around creating an ecosystem that aids domestic demand, incentivises companies to generate jobs and boost production, and simultaneously extends benefits to those in severe distress, be it firms or individuals.

Analysis

  • As per the government, the total stimulus announced by the Government and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) till date (including Atmanirbhar 1.0 and Atmanirbhar 2.0), to help the nation tide over the Covid-19 pandemic, works out to Rs. 29.87 lakh crore, which is 15% of national GDP.
  • Out of this, the stimulus worth 9% of GDP has been provided by the government.
  • While the fiscal stimulus has been small, monetary policy has been extremely accommodative.
  • The focus should extend from announcement of reforms to their effective implementation.
  • Also, nurturing an environment of policy certainty with regard to taxes, foreign direct investment rules and payment of dues to small businesses can have a meaningful impact on kick-starting the private capital spending cycle.
  • The economic rebound from the debilitating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic seems stronger than what most analysts had predicted.
  • The estimates for the fourth quarter gross domestic product (GDP) have already been upgraded by many institutions. The government will hope that the green shoots visible in the high-frequency data further translate into GDP uplift.
  • The measures announced under Atmanirbhar Bharat 3.0 – pragmatic and specific – should help towards that cause.

Ambedkar Social Innovation And Incubation Mission


  • On 30th September, 2020, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment launched the Ambedkar Social Innovation and Incubation Mission (ASIIM) in order to promote innovation and enterprise in Schedule Caste (SC) students studying in higher educational institutions.

Objectives

  • To promote entrepreneurship among the SC Youth with special preference to Divyangs.
  • To support innovative ideas till 2024 through a synergetic work with the Technology Business Incubators (TBIs).
  • To support and promote the start-up ideas till they reach commercial stage by providing liberal equity support.

Need

  • There is a need to identify innovative ideas and provide focussed support to young entrepreneurs who are engaged in working on innovative and technology-oriented business ideas.

Key Points

Implementation

  • The ASIIM initiative will be implemented by the Venture Capital Fund for SCs (VCF-SCs).

Eligibility

  • Youth who have been identified by the TBIs.
  • Students who have been awarded under the Smart India Hackathon or Smart India Hardware Hackathon being conducted by Ministry of Education.
  • Innovative ideas focusing on the socio-economic development of the society identified in the TBIs.
  • Start-ups nominated and supported by corporates through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds.

Benefits

  • 1,000 SC youth would be identified in the next 4 years with start-up ideas through the TBIs in various higher educational institutions.
  • Successful ventures would further qualify for venture capital funding of up to Rs. 5 Crore from the VCF-SCs.
  • This initiative will help promote innovation in the SC youth and would help them to become job-givers from job-seekers.
  • The mission would further give fillip to the ‘Stand Up India’ initiative of the government.

Venture Capital Fund For Scheduled Castes

  • It was launched in 2015 with an initial capital of Rs. 200 crore to encourage budding and existing entrepreneurs from Scheduled Castes (SCs).

Objectives

  • To promote entrepreneurship amongst the SCs
  • To provide concessional finance to the SC entrepreneurs
  • To increase financial inclusion for SC entrepreneurs and to motivate them for further growth of SC communities.

Transparent Taxation – Honoring The Honest


  • In a bid to reward the taxpaying citizens of India, the government on 13th August, 2020, launched a new platform ‘Transparent Taxation – Honoring the Honest’, to honour the honest taxpayers of the country.

Aim

  • To ease compliance by making the tax system, “People-Centric & Public Friendly” and issue refunds faster to benefit honest taxpayers in the midst of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Need

  • The number of taxpayers is significantly low with only 1.5 Crore paying taxes in a country of 130 Crore people.

Background

  • It is to be noted that the new scheme, Transparent Taxation – Honouring the Honest is an extension of E-assessment scheme- 2019 launched by Government of India in September 2019.

Key Features

Faceless Assessment

  • It aims to eliminate the interface between the taxpayer and the Income Tax Department.
  • There will be no need for the taxpayer to visit the income tax office or the officer.
  • The selection of a taxpayer is possible through systems using analytics and Artificial Intelligence.
  • The system abolishes territorial jurisdiction.
  • A taxpayer may belong to a particular city but the assessment order, review and the finalisation will take place in different cities.

Faceless Appeal

  • Under the system, appeals will be randomly allotted to any officer in the country.The identity of the officer deciding the appeal will remain unknown.
  • The taxpayer will also not be required to visit the income tax office or the officer and the appellate decision will be team-based and reviewed.
  • The appellate decision will be team-based and the appeals will be reviewed.
  • Exceptions:The benefits of Faceless Tax Assessment and Appeals do not apply to cases relating to:
  • Serious frauds
  • Major Tax Evasions
  • Sensitive & Search Matters
  • International Tax
  • Black Money Act & Benami Property

 

Taxpayer Charter

  • It outlines the rights and responsibilities of both tax officers and taxpayers.

 

Implementation

  • Faceless Assessment and Taxpayer’s Charter is implemented with immediate effect; the Faceless Appeal will be effective from 25th September 2020.

Impact

  • Strengthening Tax System: The platform will add strength to the government’s efforts of reforming and simplifying the tax system. It will benefit several honest tax payers, whose hard work powers national progress. It will also give a big push to a seamless, faceless, and paperless administration.
  • More Transparency:The launch will initiate major tax reforms aimed at bringing transparency in income tax systems, easing the tax compliance and also rewarding honest taxpayers amid the coronavirus crisis.
  • Nation Building:The honest taxpayers of the country play a very big role in nation-building. When the life of the country's honest taxpayers becomes easier, the country also develops, the country also moves forward.Further, this would help in achieving the goal of a Self - Reliant India, AtmaNirbharBharat.

Recent Tax Reforms

  • With a view to providing for the resolution of pending tax disputes the IT Department also brought out the Direct Tax “Vivad se Vishwas Act, 2020” under which declarations for settling disputes are being filed currently.
  • In March, 2020, the Dividend distribution Tax was also abolished.
  • Document Identification Number (DIN) was introduced wherein every communication of the Department would carry a computer-generated unique document identification number, bringing more transparency in official communication.
  • In September, 2019, the Corporate Tax rates were reduced from 30 percent to 22 percent and for new manufacturing units the rates were reduced to 15 percent.
  • The tax slabs have also been rationalised as a part of the ongoing reforms where there is zero tax upto an income of 5 lakh rupees, while the tax rate has reduced in the remaining slabs too.
  • To effectively reduce taxpayer grievances / litigation, the monetary thresholds for filing of departmental appeals in various appellate Courts have been raised.

 

Issues Involved

  • In the newly announced system, serious frauds, major tax evasion, sensitive and search mattershave been kept out of the ambit of the faceless appeals .
  • Further, italso excludes international taxation and Black Money Act as well as the Benami Property Act.
  • Moreover, Tax officials are pushing back against the new faceless tax assessment program. They see problems in the lack of consultation and inadequate resource to implement the changes.
  • According to them, faceless tax assessment may reduce tax collection, which in turn mayraise pressure on officers to meet lofty tax targets for the current fiscal year.

Way Forward

  • India's tax administration has been known for tax harassment, where overzealous well-intentioned officials while raising tax revenues, have dampened growth and at times done more damage than good.
  • The issue of alleged tax harassment by officers gained much attention in India after VG Siddharta, the founder of India's largest coffee shop chain, committed suicide in July, 2019 and left behind a note accusing tax authorities of persecuting him.
  • The launch of the platform is a landmark decision and carries forward the journey of direct tax reforms, following the several measures that have been taken by the CBDT to aid taxpayers.

National Digital Health Mission


  • On 15th August, 2020, the Prime Minister launched the National Digital Health Mission(NDHM) while addressing the nation from Red Fort on India's 74th Independence Day.

Background

  • The National Health Policy 2017 had envisaged creation of a digital health technology eco-system aiming at developing an integrated health information system that serves the needs of all stakeholders and improves efficiency, transparency and citizens’ experience with linkage across public and private healthcare.
  • In the context of this, central government’s think-tank NitiAayog, in June 2018, floated a consultation of a digital backbone for India’s health system — National Health Stack.
  • As part of its consultation, NitiAayog proposed a Digital Health ID to “greatly reduce the risk of preventable medical errors and significantly increase quality of care”.
  • This proposal was then further taken up by the Central government with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the NHA, and the Ministry of Electronics and IT preparing a strategy overview document for “Making India a Digital Health Nation Enabling Digital Healthcare for all”.

Salient Features NDHM

Implementation

  • National Health Authority (NHA), the attached office of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and the apex Central Government agency responsible for the implementation of Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan ArogyaYojana, has been given the mandate by the Government of India to design, build, roll-out and implement the NDHM in the country.

Pilot Project

  • In its first phase, the mission will begin in Union Territories such as Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep, Ladakh and Puducherry.

Creation of National Health Id System

  • Under the mission, every Indian will get a new Aadhar-like health ID that will store the individual's medical records, including doctor visits, diseases, the line of treatment and drugs taken.
  • This will also come integrated with the facility of using telemedicine, e-pharmacy, creating a national health registry.
  • One copy of a patient’s records are stored in their doctor’s files and one is stored in their own individual locker (which can be owned by a company or by the government).
  • Other than the registry of doctors, professionals, and institutions, this allows for decentralised storing.
  • From a doctor’s appointment to hospitalisation for any treatment, this ID will become essential.

Key Building Blocks

  • The NDHM comprises six key building blocks or digital systems namely, Health ID, Digi Doctor, Health Facility Registry, Personal Health Records, e-Pharmacy & Telemedicine – that will enable access to timely, safe and affordable healthcare through a ‘citizen-centric’ approach.
  • The vision is to create a national digital health ecosystem which provides timely and efficient access to inclusive, affordable, and safe healthcare to all citizens.

Leveraging Technology

  • The key feature of this mission is the technology part - it will leverage open digital systems to provide high-quality healthcare for all.
  • It will integrate various digital health services to create an ecosystem which can assimilate existing health information systems.

Significance

  • Achieving Universal Health Coverage:NDHM will significantly improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of health service delivery and will be a major stride towards achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3.8 of Universal Health Coverage, including financial risk protection.
  • Reducing Existing Gaps:The NDHM is a holistic, voluntary healthcare programme that will reduce the existing gap between various stakeholders such as doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers, pharmacies, insurance companies, and citizens by bringing them together and connecting them in an integrated digital health infrastructure.
  • Empowering Citizens:It will help to liberate citizens from the challenges of finding the right doctors, seeking appointment with them, payment of consultation fee, making several rounds of hospitals for prescription sheets, among several others and will empower all Indians with the correct information and sources enabling them to take an informed decision to avail the best possible healthcare.

Challenges

  • However, with India still lacking a law on data protection, the digital health mission and the semblance of the policy to Aadhaar is expected to trigger privacy concerns in the days to come.

Global Instances of Centralised Health Record System

  • In 2005, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) started deployment of an electronic health record systems with a goal to have all patients with a centralised electronic health record by 2010.
  • While several hospitals acquired electronic patient records systems as part of this process, there was no national healthcare information exchange.
  • The program was ultimately dismantled after a cost to the UK taxpayer was more than £12 billion, and is considered one of the most expensive healthcare IT failures.
  • The project had been beset by changing specifications, technical challenges and clashes with suppliers, which left it years behind schedule and way over cost.

Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan


  • On 20th June, 2020, the government launched a massive employment -cum- rural public works Campaign named Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan in order to boost employment and livelihood opportunities for migrant workers returning to villages, in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak.
  • The Abhiyaan was flagged off from village Telihar, Block Beldaur, district Khagaria, Bihar through Video-Conference.

Need

  • Due to the coronavirus outbreak, businesses across sectors were affected which led to the temporary shutdown of the industries, leaving migrants with no jobs.
  • As lakhs of migrants returned back, the government is obliged to provide employment to them closer to home.

Salient Features

Coverage

  • A total of 116 districts across six states, namely Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha have been chosen for the campaign.
  • These districts are estimated to cover about 2/3 of such migrant work
  • The chosen districts include 27 Aspirational Districts under Aspirational Districts Programme.

Duration and Outlay

  • This campaign will work in mission mode for 125 days with an outlay of Rs. 50,000 crore.

Ministries Involved

  • The Ministry of Rural Development is the nodal Ministry for this campaign and the campaign will be implemented in close coordination with the State Governments.
  • Twelve different ministries or departments—rural development, panchayati raj, transport, mines, drinking water, environment, railways, petroleum, new and renewable energy, border roads, telecom and agriculture—will participate in the programme.

Implementation Strategy

  • A total 25 work areas have been identified for employment in villages, for development of various works.
  • These 25 works or projects are related to meet the needs of the villages like rural housing for the poor, Plantations, provision of drinking water through Jal Jeevan mission, Panchayat Bhavans, community toilets, rural mandis, rural roads, other infrastructure like Cattle Sheds, Anganwadi Bhavans etc.
  • The Krishi Vigyan Kendras in villages will also help in imparting skills to the workers.
  • The workers will be paid according to the stipulated minimum wage in the respective schemes of the government.

Special Focus

  • Abhiyaan focuses on durable rural infrastructure and providing modern facilities like internet in the villages.
  • Saturate villages with public infrastructure and create livelihood opportunities viz. Roads, Housing, Anganwadis, Panchayat Bhavans, various livelihood assets and Community Complexes among others

Significance

  • The Abhiyaan will prepare for expansion and development of livelihoods over a longer-term.
  • With ith the release of money to villages such as allocation to rural local bodies as recommended by the 15th finance commission, It will provide work and enable asset creation in rural areas, powering rural development.
  • The basket of a wide variety of works will ensure that each migrant worker is able to get an opportunity of employment according to his skill, in the coming 125 days.

Aspirational Districts Programme

  • Launched in January, 2018, the ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ programme aims to quickly and effectively transform the selected districts.
  • NITI Aayog in partnership with the Government of Andhra Pradesh has created a dashboard for monitoring the real-time progress of the districts.

Core Principles

  • The three core principles of the programme are - Convergence (of Central & State Schemes), Collaboration (among citizens and functionaries of Central & State Governments including district teams), and Competition among districts.
  • Driven primarily by the States, this initiative focuses on the strengths of each district, and prioritizes the attainable outcomes for immediate improvement.

Themes

  • The programme focusses on 5 main themes - Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure, which have direct bearing on the quality of life and economic productivity of citizens.

PM Svanidhi: Micro-Credit Facility Scheme


  • On 1st June, 2020, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched a Special Micro-Credit Facility Scheme - PM SVANidhi (PM स्वनिधि ) - PM Street Vendor's AtmaNirbharNidhi, for providing affordable loans to street vendors.
  • Earlier, the Scheme was announced as a part of the Economic Stimulus-II under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

Aim

  • It is aimed at enabling the street vendors to resume their livelihoods that have been adversely affected due to COVID-19 lockdown.

Need

  • The lockdown has affected the lives and livelihoods of many especially daily wagers including street vendors who businesses were affected due to the restrictions.
  • They usually work with a small capital base taken on very high interest rates from informal sources.
  • Further, they might have consumed their savings and high cost capital during the lockdown.
  • In such a time, there is an urgent need to provide affordable credit to them to ensure their business gets a boost.

Salient Features

Applicability

  • The scheme would benefit vendors, hawkers and people involved in goods and services related to textiles, apparel, artisan products, barbers shops, laundry services etc. in different areas.
  • The scheme is valid until March 2022.

Loan Facility

  • The vendors can avail a working capital loan of up to Rs. 10,000, which is repayable in monthly instalments within a year. The loans would be without collateral.
  • There will be no penalty on early repayment of loan.

Interest Subsidy

  • On timely/ early repayment of the loan, an interest subsidy @ 7% per annum will be credited to the bank accounts of beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer on six monthly basis.

Role of Urban Bodies

  • Urban Local Bodies will play pivotal role in the implementation of the scheme.

SIDBI to be Technical Partner

  • Small Industries Development Bank of India(SIDBI) is the technical partner for implementation of this scheme.
  • It will manage the credit guarantee to the lending institutions through Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises.

Harnessing Technology for Empowerment

  • In line with the Government’s vision of leveraging technology to ensure effective delivery and transparency, a digital platform with web portal/ mobile app is being developed to administer the scheme with end-to-end solution.
  • The IT platform will also help in integrating the vendors into the formal financial system.
  • This platform will integrate the web portal/ mobile app with UdyamiMitra portal of SIDBI for credit management and PAiSA portal of MoHUA to administer interest subsidy automatically.

Encouraging Digital Transactions

  • The scheme incentivises digital transactions by the street vendors through monthly cash back.

Focus on Capacity Building

  • Government in collaboration with State Governments, State Missions of DAY-NULM, ULBs, SIDBI, CGTMSE, NPCI and Digital Payment Aggregators will also launch a capacity building and financial literacy programme of all the stakeholders and IEC activities throughout the country.

Significance

  • This is for the first time in India’s history that street vendors from peri- urban/ rural areas have become beneficiaries of an urban livelihood programme.
  • It is for the first time that Microfinance Institutions, Non-Banking Financial Company, Self Help Groups have been allowed in a scheme for the urban poor due to their ground level presence and proximity to the urban poor including the street vendors.

Impact

  • This scheme will go a long way in enabling them to resume work and earn livelihoods.
  • Over 50 lakh people, including vendors, hawkers, thelewalas, rehriwala, etc. in different areas/ contexts are likely to benefit from this scheme.
  • The scheme provides for escalation of the credit limit on timely/ early repayment of loan to help the vendor achieve his ambition of going up on the economic ladder.

Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana


  • On 20th May, 2020, the Union Cabinet approved the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) - a scheme to bring about Blue Revolution through sustainable and responsible development of fisheries sector in India.
  • The PMMSY was announced recently in the third tranche of the Rs 20.97 lakh crore Atmanirbhar Bharat package by the government.
  • However, PMMSY first figured during the 2019-20 Budget, presented on July 5, 2019.

Need

  • The fish production in India during 2017-18 was estimated to be 12.60 million metric tonnes, of which nearly 65% came from the inland sector while about 50% of the total production was from culture fisheries.
  • Therefore, India’s contribution was 6.3 per of the global fish production in the year 2017-18.
  • India exports more than 50 different kinds of fish and shellfish products to about 75 countries worldwide.

Aims and Objectives

  • Harnessing of fisheries potential in a sustainable, responsible, inclusive and equitable manner
  • Enhancing of fish production and productivity through expansion, intensification, diversification and productive utilization of land and water
  • Modernizing and strengthening of value chain - post-harvest management and quality improvement
  • Doubling fishers and fish farmers incomes and generation of employment
  • Enhancing contribution to Agriculture GVA and exports
  • Robust fisheries management and regulatory framework

Salient Features of PMMSY

Time Period

  • PMMSY will be implemented over a period of 5 years from FY 2020-21 to FY 2024-25 in all States/Union Territories.

Components

  • It will be implemented as an umbrella scheme with two separate Components namely (a) Central Sector Scheme (CS) and (b) Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS).

Central Sector Scheme (CS)

  • The entire project cost will be borne by the Central government (i.e. 100% central funding).

Central Sector Scheme Component (CSS)

  • The funding pattern for the Northeastern and Himalayan states will be 90% central share and 10% state share
  • For other states it will be 60% central share and 40% state share
  • For Union territories (with and without legislature) it will be 100% central share.

This component is segregated into Non-beneficiary oriented and Beneficiary orientated sub-components/activities under the following three broad heads:

  • Enhancement of Production and Productivity
  • Infrastructure and Post-harvest Management
  • Fisheries Management and Regulatory Framework

State Programme Units

  • A well-structured implementation framework would be established for effective planning and implementation of PMMSY.
  • This inter-alia includes creation of State Programme Units in all States/UTs & District Programme Units and Sub-District Programme Unit in high fisheries potential districts.

Cluster or Area-Based Approach

  • For optimal outcomes, ‘Cluster or area-based approach’ would be followed with requisite forward and backward linkages and end to end solutions.
  • Suitable linkages and convergence will be fostered with other centre and state government schemes wherever feasible.

Thrust to New Technologies

  • Thrust will be given for infusing new and emerging technologies like Re-circulatory Aquaculture Systems, Biofloc, Aquaponics, Cage Cultivation to enhance production and productivity, quality, productive utilization of waste lands and water for Aquaculture.

Special Focus

  • Special focus on Coldwater fisheries development and expansion of Aquaculture in Brackish Water and Saline Areas.
  • Focused attention would be given for fisheries development in Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Islands, Northeast, and Aspirational Districts through area specific development plans.

Holistic Development

  • It envisages development of Coastal fisher communities in a holistic manner through integrated modern coastal fishing villages with necessary infrastructure.
  • Collectivization of fishers and fish farmers through Fish Farmer Producer Organizations (FFPOs) to increase bargaining power of fishers and fish farmers is a key feature of PMMSY.
  • Well-structured extension support services are envisaged under PMMSY.
  • Besides, large number of Fisheries Extension Services Centers would be set up in private space to create job opportunities to young professionals.

Major Impact

  • Addressing the critical gaps in the fisheries sector and realize its potential.
  • Augmenting fish production and productivity at a sustained average annual growth rate of about 9% to achieve a target of 22 million metric tons by 2024-25 through sustainable and responsible fishing practices.
  • Improving availability of certified quality fish seed and feed, traceability in fish and including effective aquatic health management.
  • Creation of critical infrastructure including modernisation and strengthening of value chain.
  • Creation of direct gainful employment opportunities to about 15 lakh fishers, fish farmers, fish workers, fish vendors and other rural/urban populations in fishing and allied activities and about thrice this number as indirect employment opportunities including enhancement of their incomes.
  • Boost to investments in fisheries sector and increase of competitiveness of fish and fisheries products.
  • Social, physical and economic security for fishers and fish workers.
  • Reduction of post-harvest losses from the reported 20-25% to about 10%.
  • Enhancement of the domestic fish consumption from about 5-6 kg to about 12 kg per capita.

Way Forward

  • Fisheries and aquaculture are an important source of food, nutrition, employment and income in India.
  • The Gross Value Added (GVA) of fisheries sector in the national economy during 2018-19 stood at Rs 2,12,915 crores (current basic prices) which constituted 1.24% of the total National GVA and 7.28% share of Agricultural GVA. T
  • The sector has immense potential to double the fishers and fish farmers’ incomes as envisioned by government and usher in economic prosperity.
  • The scheme intends to address issues like low productivity in inland Aquaculture, disease, sustainability of marine fisheries, sanitary and phyto-sanitary matters that impact the competitiveness of India’s exports along with global bench marking.

Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan


  • While addressing the nation on 12th May, , 2020, PM Narendra Modi announced an “Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan” worth Rs 20 lakh crores ($265 billion) to tide over the economic downturn induced by the coronavirus crisis and emphasised on the need for India to become “self-reliant” as the pandemic sweeps across the world, paralysing economies in its wake.

Self-Reliant India Mission

  • In order to fulfill the dream of making the 21st century India’s, the way forward is through ensuring that the country becomes self-reliant.
  • The mission is aimed towards cutting down import dependence by focusing on substitution while improving safety compliance and quality goods to gain global market share.

Five Pillars of a Self-Reliant India

A self-reliant India will stand on five pillars-

  • Economy, which brings in quantum jump and not incremental change
  • Infrastructure, which should become the identity of India
  • System, based on 21st century technology driven arrangements
  • Vibrant Demography, which is our source of energy for a self-reliant India
  • Demand, whereby the strength of our demand and supply chain should be utilized to full capacity.

Atmanirbhar Bharat: COVID-19 Special Economic Package

  • The package, taken together with earlier announcements by the government during COVID crisis and decisions taken by RBI, is to the tune of Rs 20 lakh crore, which is equivalent to almost 10% of India’s GDP.
  • The package will provide a much needed boost towards achieving ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.

Key Points

  • The package will focus on land, labour, liquidity and laws.
  • It will cater to various sections including cottage industry, MSMEs, labourers, middle class, and industries, among others.
  • It will also focus on empowering the poor, labourers, migrants, etc., both from organized and unorganized sectors.
  • Emphasis has been given on the importance of local manufacturing, local market and local supply chains.
  • It’s time to be vocal about the local products and help these local products become global.

Reforms towards Self-reliance

These reforms include –

  • supply chain reforms for agriculture,
  • rational tax system,
  • simple and clear laws,
  • capable human resource and
  • a strong financial system.

Impact

  • These reforms are expected to promote business, attract investment, and further strengthen Make in India.
  • Self-reliance will prepare the country for tough competition in the global supply chain, helping it to propel towards the goal of overall growth and development.
  • It will not only increase efficiency in various sectors but also ensure quality.

COVID-19 Stimulus Packages around the World

  • The US has committed to the largest rescue package by any country in pure dollar terms of USD 2.7 trillion but as percentage of GDP it trails behind Japan.
  • The US measures work out at an estimated 13 percent of GDP.
  • Japan has announced a package equivalent to 21.1 percent of its GDP.
  • It is followed by Sweden with a stimulus equal to 12 percent of its GDP and Australia (10.8 percent).
  • Germany has announced a spending of around USD 815 billion, equal to 10.7 percent of its GDP.
  • Spain and Italy have endured devastating coronavirus outbreaks, the size of stimulus packages are estimated to be 7.3 percent and 5.7 percent of GDP, respectively.
  • France announced a package equal to 9.3 per cent of its GDP.
  • Smaller countries like Luxembourg and Belgium have spent a fifth of their GDP on COVID-19 related stimulus measures, at 20.7 percent and 19.2 percent, respectively.


Way Forward

  • Atma Nirbhar Bharat resonates well with the core philosophy of ongoing Swadeshi, or being indigenous, and the PM’s announcement was perceived as the first steps for reshaping this policy in keeping with their long-pending demand.
  • India would need to focus on six areas such as decentralising its policymaking; taking rural-centric decisions; keeping the poor at the core of its policies; moving away from jobless growth; formulating environment-friendly policies and also taking decisions that are rooted in swadeshi traditions.
  • To become truly self-reliant efforts must be made to not replicate the global work patterns that don’t sit well with the traditional way of life and focus should be on ensuring that from raw material to the final production, the country relies only on its own resources.

Atmanirbhar Gujarat Sahay Yojana (Gujarat Self Reliant Scheme)

  • Taking Prime Minister’s self-reliant India mission forward, the Gujarat government announced a scheme- Atmanirbhar Gujarat Sahay Yojna, on 14th May, 2002.

Aim

  • To benefit small businessmen and cross section of people falling under the lower middle income group.

Key Features

  • Rs. 1,00,000/- Loan provided Co-Operative Bank, Credit Society & District Bank
  • Only Based on Application done to bankers no additional documents submission
  • Unsecured Collateral Free Loan
  • The loan shall be available @ 2% Per Annum Interest Rate
  • 6% Interest shall be borne by State Government
  • 6-month Moratorium – No interest + Principal payable during that period
  • 3 Years Loan Period
  • Quantum of Assistance:- 5000 Crore

 

One Nation One Ration Card Scheme


  • On 1st May, 2020, the Central Government included Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Dadra and Nagar Haveli in ‘one nation, one ration card’ plan, taking the ration card portability to beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act in 17 states and UTs.
  • The move comes after the Supreme Court directed the Centre to consider whether it is feasible for it to implement the “one nation-one ration card” at this stage or not and take appropriate decision in this regard keeping in view the hardship caused by the lockdown.

12 States

  • The scheme was launched in January 2020 in 12 statesAndhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana and Tripura.
  • The rest of the country will be included in the portability scheme by June, 2020.

Impact

  • With this, the facility of national/inter-State portability will be available for nearly 60 Crore NFSA beneficiaries of 17 States/UT and they may lift their entitled quota of foodgrains from any Fair Price Shop (FPS) of their choice, anywhere in these 17 States/UT by using their same/existing ration card under ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ plan.
  • This is likely to benefit the migrant workers who have not been able to reach their hometown and have been stuck in different states during this period of lockdown.

About One Nation One Ration Card Scheme

  • Launched in July, 2019, the main objective of the scheme is to introduce nation-wide portability of ration card holders under National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA), to lift their entitlement foodgrains from any FPS in the country without the need to obtain a new ration card, by integrating the existing PDS systems/portals of States/UTs with the Central systems/portals, etc.

Key Points

  • Standard Format: Keeping in mind the various formats used by stats for the ration card, a standard format has been prepared for this purpose.
  • Bilingual Format: For national portability, the state governments have been asked to issue the ration card in bi-lingual format, wherein besides the local langauge, the other language could be Hindi or English.
  • Unique Member IDs: In the ration card being made, there will be a 10-digit standard ration card number, wherein the first two digits will be the state code, and the next two digits will be ration card numbers.
  • Besides this, a set of another two digits will be appended with the ration card number to create unique member IDs for each member of the household in a ration card.

Beneficiaries

  • Any legal citizen of India can apply for the ration card.
  • Children below 18 years of age (minors) are included under their parents’ ration card. However, a user can apply for a separate ration card once they are above 18 years of age.
  • All ration cardholders and are currently eligible to get entitled food grains from fair price shops.

Benefits

  • No poor person or under privileged will be deprived of getting subsidised foodgrains under the food security scheme when they shift from one place to another.
  • It also card aims to remove the chance of anyone holding more than one ration to avail benefits from different states.

Challenges

Design and Implementation Challenges

  • The scheme will mostly assist seasonal and circular migrant workers to have better access to PDS, both, at source and destination.
  • The first hurdles will be to have exact data on the mobility of poor households migrating to work, locating intra- and inter-state destinations and sectors employing the workers. Especially, when a few members of a family that owns a ration card migrates for few months, reconciling the data at both locations would be a critical challenge.
  • Secondly, the domicile-based legislation for accessing government schemes and social security needs serious rethinking before making ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ portable.
  • Thirdly, the scheme is based on two important guiding principles: Aadhar and digitalisation of ration cards. It is feared that both Aadhar and digital ration card may exclude either a person who migrates alone, or migrates with his family or the left-behind vulnerable family member who stays back in the village.

Infrastructure Challenges

  • Another challenge is related to the lack of electronic Point of Sale (ePoS).Currently, around 77% of FPSs operating across the country—have installed electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) machines.
  • But still big states like West Bengal and Bihar—that witness huge labour emigration, have been laggards in this regard, imposing a great barrier to the success of the scheme.

Corruption Issues

  • Every state has its own rules for Public Distribution System (PDS). If the scheme is implemented, it will further boost corruption in an already corrupted Public Distribution System.
  • The scheme will increase the woes of the common man and, the middlemen and corrupt PDS shop owners will exploit them.
  • The other challenge is ending duplication of ration cards, whereby a beneficiary is denied food grain since someone else took away the quota using a fake card.

National Food Security Act, 2013

  • Also known as the Right to Food Act, is an Act of the Parliament of India which aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India's 1.2 billion people.
  • It was signed into law on 12 September 2013, retroactive to 5 July 2013.
  • It converts into legal entitlements for existing food security programmes of the Government of India. It includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services scheme and the Public Distribution System.
  • Further, it recognises maternity entitlements.
  • The eligible person gets Rice @Rs. 3 per Kg, Wheat @Rs. 2  per Kg and Coarse Grains @Rs. 1 Kg per month subject to maximum 5Kg per month.

Amendments To FDI Policy


  • On 18th April, 2020, the government amended the extant Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy, mandating neighbouring countries to require government approval, effectively closing the “automatic route” used by firms and individuals to set up business in the country.

Need

  • India’s move was attributed to the rising possibility of “opportunistic takeovers” of its companies, as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the economy.
  • Several Indian start-ups have existing investment from Chinese investors. For instance, Flipkart has an investment from Tencent (about 5 percent) and Alibaba owns a significant stake in Paytm.
  • The decision came days after China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) had raised its shareholding in HDFC to over 1 percent.
  • It is to be noted that China’s FDI has grown five-fold since 2014 and, as of December 2019, its cumulative investment in India exceeded $8 billion — “far more” than investments by other countries that share borders with India.

Present FDI Norms for Neighbouring Countries

  • FDI in India is allowed under two modes - automatic (companies don't need government approval) or via the government (companies need a go-ahead from the centre).
  • A non-resident entity can invest in India, subject to the FDI Policy except in those sectors/activities which are prohibited.
  • However, a citizen of Bangladesh or an entity incorporated in Bangladesh can invest only under the Government route.
  • Further, a citizen of Pakistan or an entity incorporated in Pakistan can invest, only under the Government route, in sectors/activities other than defence, space, atomic energy and sectors/activities prohibited for foreign investment.

Changes Made

  • The existing FDI policy as applicable to investments from India's neighbourhood, was confined to Bangladesh and Pakistan, while the new policy brings China, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar within its ambit.
  • Firms in neighbouring countries wanting to invest in Indian companies would first need its approval.
  • An entity of a country that shares a land border with India can now invest in firms here “only under the Government route”.
  • This also applies to “beneficial” owners — even if the investing company is not located in a neighbouring country, it would still be subject to these conditions if its owner is a citizen or resident of such a country.
  • In the event of the transfer of ownership of any existing or future FDI in an entity in India, directly or indirectly, resulting in the beneficial ownership, such subsequent change in beneficial ownership will also require Government approval.

China’s response

  • China said that the additional barriers set by Indian side for investors from specific countries violate WTO’s (World Trade Organization) principle of non-discrimination, and go against the general trend of liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment.
  • China has called for India to revise these “discriminatory practices” and treat investments from different countries equally.
  • Further, China said that the new norms do not conform to the consensus of G20 leaders and trade ministers to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open.

India’s Argument

  • India maintains the policy is not aimed at any one country and that the move is aimed at curbing “opportunistic” takeovers of Indian firms, many of which are under strain.
  • The amendments are not prohibiting investments. There are many sectors in India that are already subject to this approval route.

International Measures

  • On March 25, 2020, the European Commission issued guidelines to ensure “a strong EU-wide approach” to foreign investment screening at such a time. The aim was to preserve EU companies and critical assets, notably in areas like health, medical research, biotechnology and infrastructures essential for security and public order, without undermining the EU’s general openness to foreign investment.
  • On March 30, 2020, Australia temporarily tightened rules on foreign takeovers over concerns that strategic assets could be sold off cheaply. This followed warnings that distressed Australian companies in the aviation, freight and health sectors could become vulnerable to buyouts by state-owned enterprises, especially China. All foreign takeover and investment proposals will now be scrutinised by Australia’s foreign investment review board.
  • Spain, Italy and the US too has implemented investment-related restrictions.

Concerns and Unintended Effects

  • The amended policy makes every type of investment by Chinese investors subject to government approval. Such a blanket application could create unintended problems.
  • It does not distinguish between Greenfield and Brownfield investments. It may pose obstacles to Greenfield investments where Chinese investors bring fresh capital to establish new factories and generate employment in India.
  • Further, the amendments do not distinguish between the different types of investors, such as industry players, financial institutions, or venture capital funds.
  • The restrictions on Venture capital funds may impact the prospects of many start-ups in the Indian market.
  • According to the experts, there are different sets of procedures for the same set of investments based on which country the company is investing from. This is where the potential issue of discrimination arises. While India can discriminate in favour of domestic investment, discrimination against certain countries for non-security reasons may not be seen favourably on the global stage.

Helicopter Money


  • With no quick escape in sight for Covid-ravaged economies, authorities the world over are going back to the drawing board to find strategies to deal with this nightmare.
  • In India, Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao suggested printing of currency and called for implementing a ‘Helicopter Money’ scheme.

Key Points

  • Telengana CM urged the Centre to make RBI pump at least 5% per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which was ₹203 lakh crore.
  • At this rate, the RBI could inject ₹10 lakh crore into the economy. Otherwise, neither the Centre nor the State governments had the money to revive the economy.
  • Citing the example, he said US was releasing 2% and UK 15% GDP, in order to provide some ease to their sagging economies.

About Helicopter Money

  • Helicopter money is the term used for a large sum of new money that is printed and distributed among the public, to stimulate the economy during a recession or when interest rates fall to zero.
  • It is also referred to as a helicopter drop, in reference to a helicopter scattering supplies from the sky.
  • American economist Milton Friedman coined this term in 1969.

Difference with Quantitative Easing (QE)

  • Central banks use quantitative easing to increase the money supply and lower interest rates by purchasing government or other financial securities from the market to spark economic growth.
  • While, Helicopter money basically means non-repayable money transfer from the central bank to the government, central banks use QE to create money and then purchase assets using the printed money.
  • QE does not have a direct impact on the public, while helicopter money is made directly available to consumers to increase consumer spending.

Recent Example

  • If a country faces slow or no growth, it could consider a helicopter drop.
  • For example, in 2016, Japan considered using helicopter money to assist with the country’s slowing growth.
  • Financial markets showed concerned with the decision, as participants feared hyperinflation and currency devaluation.
  • So, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) opted for an alternative method to increase monetary supply.
  • This included different partnerships and purchases such as government bonds, infrastructure outlays and payments to lower-income earners.

Benefits of Helicopter Money

  • Helicopter money does not rely on increased borrowing to fuel the economy, which means that it doesn’t create more debt and interest rates can remain unchanged.
  • Generally, it boosts spending and economic growth more effectively than quantitative easing because it increases aggregate demand – the demand for goods and services – immediately.
  • While government money drops that come from debt might not boost consumer spending, due to the debt needing to be repaid, it is often thought that ‘money finance’ will stimulate the economy.

Will Helicopter Money Help Indian Economy?

  • Helicopter money refers to a last resort type of monetary stimulus strategy used to spur inflation and output to boost the economy.
  • Here the basic principle is to increase broader economic activity and pushing the inflation up by putting more money in circulation in the market.
  • As printing of money to finance deficit increases inflation and is believed to be an attempt to extract more output in an underperforming economy, it is potentially loaded with huge risks.
  • One of the primary risks associated with helicopter money is that the policy may lead to significant currency devaluation in the international foreign exchange markets.
  • The currency devaluation would be primarily attributed to the creation of more money.
  • For eg, in August 1921, Germany began to buy foreign currency with Marks at any price, but that only sped up devaluing the Mark considerably. In 1923, the Mark had lost meaning with the exchange rate of one trillion Marks to one dollar.
  • Zimbabwe too was caught in this precarious situation in the first part of this century. The facts reveal that there was a time when a 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar bill wasn’t enough to buy a bus ticket in the country’s capital.
  • And this kind of hyperinflation scenario has gripped Venezuela right now.
  • As this helicopter money boosts inflation, increases interest rates and borrowing costs, it then becomes a dire need to print money every year to fund burgeoning deficit.
  • So, while looking at the experience of printing currency in other countries, it can easily be concluded that such a move doesn’t increase economic output in any way, it merely causes inflation.
  • And this increase in inflation is not good for economic health of the country.

Need of the Hour

  • The government or central bank could implement a version of helicopter money by spending money on tax cuts, and thereafter, the central bank would deposit money in a Treasury account.
  • Additionally, the government could issue new bonds that the central bank would purchase and hold, but the central bank would return the interest back to the government to distribute to the public.
  • Therefore, these forms of helicopter money would provide consumers with money and theoretically spark consumer spending.

Currency Swap Line


  • In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, India is working with the United States to secure a dollar swap line that would help in better management of its external account and provide extra cushion in the event of an abrupt outflow of funds.

Current Status of India’s Foreign Exchange Reserves

  • As per the latest data reported by the RBI, India’s foreign exchange reserves have fallen by nearly $13 billion — from $487.23 billion on March 6 to $474.66 billion as on April 3, 2020.
  • According to RBI, 7% of India’s foreign currency assets — or $256.17 billion — are held in overseas securities, mainly in the US treasury.

Reason

  • Despite the slump in global crude oil prices and reduction in imports due to the pandemic outbreak, a sharp outflow of funds resulting from foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) looking for safer havens amidst the current global uncertainty, has pulled down India’s foreign exchange reserves.
  • While India is largely expected to tide over any challenge posed by continued outflows of funds from the markets, a swap line with the US Federal Reserve provides additional comfort to the forex markets.

About Swap Facility

  • In a swap arrangement, the US Fed provides dollars to a foreign central bank, which, at the same time, provides the equivalent funds in its currency to the Fed, based on the market exchange rate at the time of the transaction.
  • The parties agree to swap back these quantities of their two currencies at a specified date in the future, which could be the next day or even three months later, using the same exchange rate as in the first transaction.
  • Most swap lines are bilateral, which means they are only between two countries' banks.

Purpose

  • The purpose of a swap line is to keep liquidity in the currency available for central banks to lend to their private banks to maintain their reserve requirements.
  • It reassures banks and investors that it's safe to trade in that currency.
  • It also confirms that the central banks won't let the supply of that currency dry up.
  • It's another monetary policy tool.

India Swap Line with Other Country

  • In 2019, India signed a $75 billion bilateral currency swap line agreement with Japan, which has the second largest dollar reserves after China.
  • This facility provides India with the flexibility to use these reserves at any time in order to maintain an appropriate level of balance of payments or short-term liquidity.
  • In November, 2019, the RBI put in place a revised framework on currency swap arrangement for SAARC countries for 2019-22 in order to provide financial stability and economic cooperation within the SAARC region.

RBI Framework Regarding Swap Line

  • This facility originally came into operation on November 15, 2012 to provide a backstop line of funding for short-term foreign exchange liquidity requirements or balance of payment crises until longer term arrangements were made.
  • Under the framework for 2019-22, RBI will continue to offer a swap arrangement within the overall corpus of $2 billion.
  • Other countries can withdraw funds in the US dollar, the euro, or the Indian rupee.

US Swap Line with Other Country

  • The Fed already has permanent swap arrangements with the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, and the Swiss National Bank.
  • On March 19, 2020, the U.S. Federal Reserve( Fed) opened temporary swap arrangements with the central banks of Australia, Brazil, Denmark, South Korea, Mexico, Norway, New Zealand, Singapore, and Sweden, to be in place for at least six months for a combined $450 billion.
  • Other large economies including India, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa — all part of the G-20 grouping — currently do not have a currency swap line with the US.

Significance of Swap Line

  • While swap lines were initially used by central banks to fund certain market interventions, in recent years they have become an important tool for preserving financial stability and preventing market tension from affecting the real economy.

Benefits

  • These swap operations carry no exchange rate or other market risks, as transaction terms are set in advance.
  • The absence of an exchange rate risk is the major benefit of such a facility.
  • Drawing on the swap line increases the dollar money supply. Because this meets an increase in demand for dollars by recipient country banks, it is in principle consistent with controlling inflation.

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana


  • On 26th March, 2020, the government announced Rs 1.70 Lakh Crore relief package under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) for the poor to help them fight the battle against Coronavirus.
  • The relief measures are intended at reaching out to the poorest of the poor, with food and money in hands, so that they do not face difficulties in buying essential supplies and meeting essential needs.

Key Components of PMGKY

Health Related Interventions

  • Insurance scheme for health workers fighting COVID-19 in Government Hospitals and Health Care Centres
  • Safai karamcharis, ward-boys, nurses, ASHA workers, paramedics, technicians, doctors and specialists and other health workers would be covered by a Special insurance Scheme.
  • Any health professional, who while treating Covid-19 patients, meet with some accident, then he/she would be compensated with an amount of Rs. 50 lakh under the scheme.
  • All government health centres, wellness centres and hospitals of Centre as well as States would be covered under this scheme approximately 22 lakh health workers would be provided insurance cover to fight this pandemic.

Food Related Relief Measures

PM Garib Kalyan Ann (अन्न) Yojana

  • 800 million poor people in the country to get 5 kg of rice/wheat per month free of cost, in addition to the 5 kg they already get.
  • Additionally, each household to get 1 kg of preferred dal for free for the next three months These pulses would be provided free of cost by the Government of India.

Direct Benefit Transfer

  • Farmers: To provide a benefit to 8.69 crore farmers, Rs 2,000 (on top of Rs 6,000) will be given as a front-load under the Kisan Samman Nidhi programme. The amount will be credited to the farmer’s bank account by the 1st week of April, 2020.
  • Women with Jan Dhan Yojana Accounts: A total of 20.40 crores PMJDY women account-holders would be given an ex-gratia of Rs. 500 per month for next three months.
  • Beneficiaries of Ujjwala Scheme: 80 million households benefitted from the gas cylinders provided under the scheme. These beneficiaries will get free cylinders for three months in view of the disruption the coronavirus lockdown will cause.
  • Organised Sector Workers: Under PMGKY, the Government will pay the EPF contribution for both employer and employee (12% each totalling to 24%) for the next three months. Around 80 lakh employees and 4 lakh establishments will benefit from this move. This benefit is available for all those establishments with up to 100 employees and where 90% of those employees draw a salary of less than Rs 15,000 per month.
  • The EPFO scheme regulations will also be amended to allow the non-refundable advance of 75% of the fund or three months’ salary, whichever is lower. Around 4.8 crores registered EPFO workers will benefit from this amendment.
  • Support for Senior Citizens , Widows and Divyang: Ex-gratia of Rs 1,000 for the next three months, in two instalments. 30 million people to benefit. transfers to be done through direct benefits transfer (DBT)
  • MNREGA Workers: MNREGA wages would be increased by Rs 20 with effect from 1 April, 2020. Wage increase under MNREGA will provide an additional Rs 2,000 benefit annually to a worker. This will benefit approximately 13.62 crore families.
  • Self-Help Groups:3 million SHGs get up to Rs 10 lakh collateral-free loans under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya National Rural Mission scheme. The cap has been doubled to Rs 20 lakh. The move will benefit 70 million households
  • Construction Workers Welfare Fund: Welfare Fund for Building and Other Constructions Workers has been created under a Central Government Act. State Governments will be given directions to utilise this fund to provide assistance and support to these workers to protect them against economic disruptions.
  • District Mineral Fund: The State Government will be asked to utilise the funds available under District Mineral Fund (DMF) for supplementing and augmenting facilities of medical testing, screening and other requirements in connection with preventing the spread of CVID-19 pandemic as well as treating the patients affected with this pandemic.

Source: Times of India

Impact

  • Financial package will go long way in ensuring food, livelihood security of poor and vulnerable sections of the society.
  • Further, it will address the concerns of the poor and all those medical and paramedical staff who are in the frontline of the coronavirus crisis tackling the pandemic.

Concerns and Challenges

  • The main problem for poor and vulnerable households today is liquidity stress. Every day’s loss of work for them means cutting down even basic consumption and going deeper into debt. Free grain can help, but does not address the real crisis, which is of liquidity. They need cash to buy essential things other than just food — and most of them had it till the other day.
  • The effectiveness of the relief measures will be more in states with well-functioning PDS. That is, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Odisha — but not Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, dealing with issues like  corruptions and wide prevalence of pilferage/ leakage of rations into the open market.
  • As for MNREGA workers, the onus for paying that under the Act is, however, on the state governments. It is unlikely they would make the necessary budgetary provision.
  • A crucial element missing in the package is support for any immediate and urgent provision to provide cooked food in a manner that maintains the objective of physical distancing while at the same time reaching food to the most needy.
  • The government’s announcement also lacked details on how the programmes would be implemented given the lockdown and need for social distancing.

Modified Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC 2.0) Scheme


  • On 21st March, 2020, the Union Cabinet approved the Modified Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC2.0) Scheme.

Aim

  • Development of world class infrastructure along with common facilities and amenities through Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMCs).

Need

  • Currently, 85 percent of the global mobile exports is catered to by two countries - China and Vietnam.
  • Further, only three global ecosystems - Samsung, Apple and the Chinese majors dominate the multi-billion-dollar mobile phone export.
  • Also, it is well-recognised that India suffers a manufacturing disability vis-a-vis China (19-23 percent) and Vietnam (9-12 percent).

Background

  • To build and create requisite infrastructure ecosystem for electronics manufacturing; Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) notified Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC) Scheme which was open for receipt of applications upto October, 2017.
  • A period of 5 years (i.e. upto October, 2022) is available for disbursement of funds for the approved projects.
  • Under EMC scheme, 20 Greenfield EMCs and 3 Common Facility Centres (CFCs) have been approved in 15 states across the country.

Present Market Status

  • India’s electronics production has increased from Rs. 1,90,366 crore (US$29 billion) in 2014-15 to Rs. 4,58,006 (US$ 70 billion) in 2018-19, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of about 25%.
  • India’s share in global electronics manufacturing grew from 1.3% (2012) to 3.0% (2018). It accounts for 2.3% of India’s GDP at present.

Key Points of EMC 2.0 Scheme

Financial Implications

  • The total outlay of the propose EMC 2.0 Scheme is Rs. 3,762.25 crore , which includes the financial assistance of Rs. 3,725 crore and administrative and management expense to the tune of Rs. 37.25, over a period of eight (8) years.
  • It will provide financial assistance up to 50% of the project cost subject to ceiling of ₹70 crore per 100 acres of land for setting up of Electronics Manufacturing Cluster projects.
  • For CFC, financial assistance of 75% of the project cost subject to a ceiling of ₹75 crore will be provided.

Setting of EMCs and CFCs

  • EMC 2.0 Scheme would support setting up of both Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMCs) and Common Facility Centers (CFCs). </strong>
  • For the purpose of this Scheme, an Electronics Manufacturing Cluster (EMC) would set up in geographical areas of certain minimum extent, preferably contiguous, where the focus is on development of basic infrastructure, amenities and other common facilities for the ESDM units.
  • For Common Facility Centre (CFC), there should be a significant number of existing ESDM units located in the area and the focus is on upgrading common technical infrastructure and providing common facilities for the ESDM units in such EMCs, Industrial Areas/Parks/industrial corridors.

Expected Benefits

  • Creating Robust Infrastructure Base: The Scheme will create a robust infrastructure base for electronic leading to greater employment opportunities.
  • Development of Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: It would aid the growth of the Electronic System Design and Manufacturing(ESDM) sector, help development of entrepreneurial ecosystem, drive innovation and catalyze the economic growth of the region by attracting investments in the sector and generating tax revenues.
  • Boost to Make in India: The scheme is in line with the government’s vision expressed in the National Policy for Electronics (NPE), 2019 and will further assist in the necessary boost to the ‘Make in India’ initiative and support India into becoming an electronics manufacturing hub.

National Policy on Electronics - 2019

  • The National Policy on Electronics- 2019 was released by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on 25th February, 2019.

Objective

  • The Policy envisions positioning India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing - (ESDM) by encouraging and driving capabilities in the country for developing core components, including chipsets, and creating an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally.

Salient Features

  • Create eco-system for globally competitive ESDM sector: Promoting domestic manufacturing and export in the entire value-chain of ESDM.
  • Provide incentives and support for manufacturing of core electronic components.
  • Provide special package of incentives for mega projects which are extremely high-tech and entail huge investments, such as semiconductor facilities display fabrication, etc.
  • Formulate suitable schemes and incentive mechanisms to encourage new units and expansion of existing units.
  • Promote Industry-led R&D and innovation in all sub-sectors of electronics, including grass root level innovations and early stage Start-ups in emerging technology areas such as 5G, loT/ Sensors, Artificial Intelligence (Al), Machine Learning, Virtual Reality (VR), Drones, Robotics,   Additive Manufacturing, Photonics, Nano-based devices, etc.
  • Provide incentives and support for significantly enhancing availability of skilled manpower, including re-skilling.
  • Special thrust on Fabless  Chip  Design  Industry,  Medical Electronic Devices Industry, Automotive Electronics Industry and Power Electronics for Mobility and Strategic Electronics Industry.
  • Promote trusted electronics value chain initiatives to improve national cyber security profile.

Main Interventions under NPE-2019

Interest Subvention

  • Here, the government will provide an interest subsidy of 4 percent on loans upto Rs 10000 crores. The loan amount should spend on plant and machineries.

Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme

  • Another incentive under the NPE is the Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme that will provide default guarantee to banks up to RDs 75% of the loan amount on plant and machinery for loans up to Rs 100 crores.

Electronics Manufacturing Clusters 2.0

  • The NPE also upgrades the existing Electronics Manufacturing Clusters scheme into Electronics Manufacturing 2.0. Sovereign Patent Fund will be used to upgrade technology and knowledge in this initiative. The objective is to ensure that the chips and components can be made available to Indian firms at low cost.

Sovereign Patent Fund (SPF)

  • The NPE 2019 aims to create a Sovereign Patent Fund (SPF) to promote the development and acquisition of IPs (Intellectual Property) in ESDM sector.

Implementation Of New 15 Point Programme


New 15 point Programme for minorities is a programme launched by Indian government for welfare of religious minorities in furtherance of reports by committees such as the Sachar Committee Report.

About 15 Point Programme

  • New 15 Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities is an overarching programme covering various schemes/initiatives of the participating Ministries/Departments, and is implemented throughout the country. 

Objective

  • To ensure maximum reach of benefits of various government sponsored schemes launched  for betterment of the minority communities.
  • The Programme also provides that, wherever possible, 15% of targets and outlays under various schemes should be earmarked for minorities.

Target Group

  • It enisgaes to cover all the minorities communities i.e. Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains.

Key Points

Enhancing opportunities for Education

  1. Equitable availability of ICDS Services
  2. Improving access to School Education through Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme, and other similar Government schemes.
  3. Greater resources for teaching Urdu
  4. Modernizing Madarsa Education
  5. Scholarships for meritorious students from minority communities
  6. Improving educational infrastructure through the Maulana Azad Education Foundation.

Equitable Share in Economic Activities and Employment

  1. Self-Employment and Wage Employment for the poor through Swarnjayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojna(SGSY),  Swarnjayanti Shahary Rohgar Yojna(SSRY),  Sampurna Grameen Rozgar Yojna(SGRY) .
  2. Upgradation of skill through technical training
  3. Enhanced credit support for economic activities by strengthening the National Minorities Development & Finance Corporation (NMDFC).
  4. Recruitment to State and Central Services

Improving the conditions of living of minorities

  1. Equitable share in rural housing scheme: The Indira Awaas Yojna(IAY) provides financial assistance for shelter to the rural poor living below the poverty line.
  2. Improvement in condition of slums inhabited by minority communities: Under the schemes of Integrated Housing & Slum Development Programme(IHSDP) and Jawaharlal Nahru Urban Renewal Mission(JNURM), the Central Government provides assistance to States/UTs for development of urban slums through provision of physical amenities and basic services.

Prevention & Control of Communal Riots

  1. Prevention of communal incidents
  2. Prosecution for communal offences
  3. Rehabilitation of victims of communal riots.

Recent Government Initiatives for Upliftment of Minority Communities

  • The Ministry of Minority Affairs has adopted a multi-pronged strategy by way of implementation of various schemes which aim at educational empowerment, employment-oriented skill development, infrastructure support, etc. for the upliftment of living standards of the minorities communities.

Educational Empowerment

  • Scholarship Schemes: Pre-Matric Scholarship, Post-Matric Scholarship and Merit-cum-Means based Scholarship.
  • Naya Savera : Free Coaching and Allied Scheme with the aim to enhance skills and knowledge of students and candidates from minority communities to get employment in Government Sector/ Public Sector Undertakings, jobs in private sector and admission in reputed institutions in technical and professional courses at under-graduate and post-graduate levels.
  • Nai Udaan : A scheme for providing support to minority candidates clearing Prelims conducted by Union Public Service Commission, State Public Service Commissions etc.,  to adequately equip them to compete for appointment to Civil Services in the Union and the States.
  • Padho Pardes : A scheme for providing interest subsidy on educational loans for overseas studies to enable students from minority communities to pursue higher education.
  • Maulana Azad National Fellowship Scheme : It provides financial assistance to students from notified minority communities, to pursue higher education such as M. Phil and Ph.D. In addition, the Maulana  Azad Education Foundation implements the following two schemes: Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship  and Gharib Nawaz Employment Programme.

 Economic Empowerment

  • Seekho aur Kamao (Learn & Earn): It is a skill development initiative for minorities and aims to upgrade the skills of minority youth in various modern/traditional skills depending upon their qualification, present economic trends and market potential, which can earn them suitable employment or make them suitably skilled to go for self-employment.
  • Upgrading Skill and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development (USTTAD : The scheme aims at capacity building and upgrading of the traditional skills of master craftsmen and artisans; documentation of identified traditional arts/crafts of minorities; set standards of traditional skills; training of minority youths in various identified traditional arts/crafts through master craftsmen; develop national and international market linkages; and preservation of languishing Arts/Crafts.
  • Nai Manzil : A scheme to provide education and skill training to the youth from minority communities.

Infrastructure Support

  • Besides, there is another Scheme namely Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK), which aims at improving the socio-economic conditions of minorities and providing basic amenities so as to improve their quality of life and reduce imbalances in the identified Minority Concentration Areas.
  • The major projects approved under the Education Sector and for Skill Development, include Residential Schools, School buildings, Hostels, Degree Colleges, ITIs, Polytechnics, Sadbhav Mandaps, Health Centers, Working Women Hostels etc.

Regulation Of Payment Aggregators And Payment Gateways


  • On 17th March 2020, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) released guidelines for the activities payment aggregators (PAs) and provides baseline technology-related recommendations to payment gateways (PGs) in the country.
  • PAs and PGs are intermediaries playing an important function in facilitating payments in the online space.
  • These guidelines are issued under Section 18 read with Section 10(2) of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 and shall come into effect from April 1, 2020.

Objective

  • To make digital payments more safer and transparent

Background

  • The RBI released a discussion paper in September, 2019 to regulate these entities.
  • The paper suggested three ways to look at the issue- no regulation, light touch regulation or full regulation, the final guidelines seem to have favoured the third alternative.
  • It is to be noted that banks are already regulated entities of RBI, the payment gateway services provided by them need not require a separate authorisation as these activities form part of regular banking business.

Need for Regulation

  • Potential Source of Risk: The activities of payment gateways and payment aggregators in online transactions are extremely crucial and the payment gateway ecosystem for online transactions could be a source of risk if operators have lax governance practices.This in turn could impact the confidence and experience of the customers.
  • Lack of Redressal Mechanism: Further, the lack of proper redress mechanism and uniformity in practice across the entities is also a matter of concern.

About the Guidelines

Applicability

  • The guidelines shall be applicable to PAs. PAs shall also adopt the technology-related recommendations.
  • Domestic leg of import and export related payments facilitated by PAs shall also be governed by these instructions.
  • Guidelines are not applicable to Cash on Delivery (CoD) e-commerce model.

Authorisation

  • The criteria of authorization has been arrived at based on the role of the intermediary in handling of funds.
  • Banks, which provide payments aggregation services as part of their regular banking relationship, do not require a separate authorisation from RBI.
  • But non-bank payments aggregators will require authorisation from RBI under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act (PSSA), 2007.
  • Existing non-bank entities offering PA services shall apply for authorisation on or before June 30, 2021.
  • E-commerce marketplaces, according to the guidelines, providing payment aggregator services will have to be separated from the marketplace business and they will have to apply for authorisation on or before June 30, 2021.
  • The biggest examples of this- PhonePe, a Flipkart company, and Paytm’s payment aggregator business are already separate entities from the marketplace models.

Capital Requirements

  • Existing PAs shall achieve a net-worth of ₹15 crore by March 31, 2021 and a net-worth of ₹25 crore by the end of third financial year, i.e., on or before March 31,
  • New PAs shall have a minimum net-worth of ₹15 crore at the time of application for authorization and shall attain a net-worth of ₹25 crore by the end of third financial year of grant of authorisation.
  • PAs that are not able to comply with the net-worth requirement within the stipulated time frame shall wind-up payment aggregation business.

Governance

  • PAs shall have a Board approved policy for disposal of complaints / dispute resolution mechanism / time-lines for processing refunds, etc., in such a manner that the RBI instructions on Turn Around Time (TAT) for resolution of failed transactions.
  • PAs shall appoint a Nodal Officer responsible for regulatory and customer grievance handling functions.

Safeguards against Money Laundering (KYC / AML / CFT) Provisions

  • The Know Your Customer (KYC) / Anti-Money Laundering (AML) / Combating Financing of Terrorism (CFT) guidelines issued by the Department of Regulation, RBI, in their “Master Direction – Know Your Customer (KYC) Directions” updated from time to time, shall apply mutatis mutandis to all entities.

Settlement and Escrow Account Management

  • Non-bank PAs shall maintain the amount collected by them in an escrow account with any scheduled commercial bank.
  • For the purpose of maintenance of the escrow account, the operations of PAs shall be deemed to be ‘designated payment systems’ under Section 23A of the PSSA (as amended in 2015).

Customer Grievance Redressal and Dispute Management Framework

  • PAs shall put in place a formal, publicly disclosed customer grievance redressal and dispute management framework, including designating a nodal officer to handle the customer complaints / grievances and the escalation matrix.

Security, Fraud Prevention and Risk Management Framework

  • A strong risk management system is necessary to meet the challenges of fraud and ensure customer protection. PAs shall put in place adequate information and data security infrastructure and systems for prevention and detection of frauds.

Impact

Bringing Transparency and Accountability

  • PGs are regulated through banks, which creates opaqueness in the system. Regulations will help eliminating opaqueness and make things clearer for the entire industry in terms of capital requirement, governance and KYC norms for example.
  • PGs such as Paytm, Mobikwik, Bharat Bill and aggregators like BillDesk, PayU India, CCAvenue, Razorpay now will be directly regulated by the RBI to bring more transparency, accountability and security for consumers.

Driving towards Less cash Society

  • Industry would continue to work with RBI closely for smoother transition of industry players from indirectly regulated to directly regulated and help to achieve the overall vision of less cash society.

Payment Aggregators (PAs)

  • PAs are entities that facilitate e-commerce sites and merchants to accept various payment instruments from the customers for completion of their payment obligations without the need for merchants to create a separate payment integration system of their own. For ex. Billdesk, CCAvenue, Firstdata, Techprocess Razorpay
  • PAs facilitate merchants to connect with acquirers. In the process, they receive payments from customers, pool and transfer them on to the merchants after a time period. 

Payment Gateways (PGs)

  • PGs are entities that provide technology infrastructure to route and facilitate processing of an online payment transaction without any involvement in handling of funds. PGs in India mainly include banks.

 

National Technical Textiles Mission


  • On 26th February, 2020, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its approval to set up a National Technical Textiles Mission.
  • The Mission would have a four year implementation period from FY 2020-21 to 2023-24.

Aim

  • To promote research, export and skill development
  • Encourage manufacturing facilities and use of Technical Textiles
  • Reduce Technical Textiles imports of India

Need for the Mission

  • Low Penetration Level: The penetration level of technical textiles is low in India, varying between 5-10% against the level of 30-70% in developed countries.
  • Insignificant Share in World Market: Indian technical textiles segment is estimated at $16 billion which is approximately 6% of the $250 billion global technical textiles market.

Salient Features

The Mission will have four components:

Component One

  • Focus will on Research, Innovation and Development.
  • This component will promote both (i) fundamental research at fibre level aiming at path breaking technological products in Carbon Fibre, Aramid Fibre, Nylon Fibre, and Composites and (ii) application based research in geo-textiles, agro-textiles, medical textiles, mobile textiles and sports textiles and development of bio­degradable technical textiles.

Component Two

  • Focus will be on Promotion and Market Development.
  • It will aim at average growth rate of 15-20% per annum taking the level of domestic market size to 40-50 Billion USD by the year 2024; through market development, market promotion, international technical collaborations, investment promotions and 'Make in India’ initiatives.

Component Three

  • Focus will be on Export Promotion
  • It aims at export promotion of technical textiles enhancing from the current annual value of approximately Rs.14000 Crore to Rs.20000 Crore by 2021-22 and ensuring 10% average growth in exports per year upto 2023-24.
  • An Export Promotion Council for Technical Textiles will be set up for effective coordination and promotion activities in the segment.

Component Four

  • Focus will be on Education, Training and Skill Development
  • It will promote technical education at higher engineering and technology levels related to technical textiles and its application areas covering engineering, medical, agriculture, aquaculture and dairy segments.
  • Skill development will be promoted and adequate pool of highly skilled manpower resources will be created for meeting the need of relatively sophisticated technical textiles manufacturing units.

Subcomponent

  • A sub-component of the research will focus on development of bio degradable technical textiles materials, particularly for agro-textiles, geo-textiles and medical textiles. It will also develop suitable equipment for environmentally sustainable disposal of used technical textiles, with emphasis on safe disposal of medical and hygiene wastes.
  • There is another important sub-component in the research activity aiming at development of indigenous machineries and process equipment for technical textiles.

Significance

  • Making Self-Reliant: The step would position the country as a global leader in technical textiles,making self-dependent in technical textile sector and to nullify the burden of technical textiles segment on India’s trade deficit within the next one year.
  • Holistic Growth and Development:The use of technical textiles in agriculture, aquaculture, dairy, poultry, JalJivan Mission, Swachch Bharat Mission, Ayushman Bharat will bring an overall improvement in cost economy, water and soil conservation, better agricultural productivity and higher income to farmers per acre of land holding in addition to promotion of manufacturing and exports activities in India.

Technical Textile

  • Technical textiles are textiles materials and products manufactured primarily for technical performance and functional properties rather than aesthetic characteristics.
  • Technical Textiles products are divided into 12 broad categories - Agrotech, Buildtech, Clothtech, Geotech, Hometech, Indutech, Mobiltech, Meditech, Protech, Sportstech, Oekotech and Packtech.

Raw Material for Technical Textile

  • Natural Fiber: Cotton, Silk, Sisal, Rax, Wool
  • Man Made Fibers and Polymers: Viscose, PolyarTiide, Polyolefin, Flax, Polyester, Aramid, UMHW Polyethylene, Carbon, Glass

Applications

  • Technical textiles have specialized applications in diverse areas such as production of fire-resistant vests, bulletproof jackets, high altitude combat gear, as well as space applications. They are also used in automobile and medical industries.

Indian Technical Textile Indusrty

  • Technical textile industry in India is import dependent. Many products like specialityfibres/yarns, medical implants, sanitary products, protective textiles, webbings for seat belts, etc. are mostly imported.
  • As per the Baseline Survey of technical textile industry by Ministry of Textiles, Indian technical textile industryis estimated to grow at a CAGR of 20 percent to INR2,00,823 crore by 2020-21 from INR1,16,217 crore in 2017-18.

Analysis of Indian Technical Textile Industry

Strengths

  • Availability of Young and Cheap Manpower: India has one of the largest working-agepopulation (people between 15 and 64 yearsof age) in the world. Based on the country’scurrent demographics, the abundant workforce isexpected to work until 2055. Abundant workforcewith relatively lower average manpower costsprovides India a distinct edge as key globalmanufacturing destination.
  • Strong Textiles Value Chain: India is the onlycountry in the region, other than China, with entiretextile value chain in both natural and syntheticfibres. Due to availability of raw materials fortechnical textiles sub-segments, India is wellpositioned to capitalize on opportunities presentedby both domestic and international markets.
  • Active Promotion from Government: Government has been activelyworking towards development of technical textilesin India. For the purpose, Government of Indiahas launched several programs (for investmentpromotion, subsidies, creation of infrastructure,stimulating consumption etc.) such as Schemefor growth and development of technical textiles(SGDTT), Technology mission on technicaltextiles (TMTT), Scheme for promoting usageof Agro-textiles in north east region, Schemefor promoting usage of geotechnical textiles innorth east region, Technology up-gradation fundsscheme (TUFS) and Scheme for integrated textile parks (SITP).
  • Availability of Manufacturing Infrastructure: India is a rapidly growing industrial economy withavailability of key resources such as land, power,water, manpower and conducive regulatoryframework for industries to thrive and grow.Technical textiles manufacturing set up can beestablished easily with an attractive and growingmarket to spur demand.

Weaknesses

  • Import Dependence for Machinery Currently,majority of machinery used to manufacturetechnical textiles products is not available in India.In order to attract investments in technical textiles,Government needs to promote manufacturing ofhigh-tech machinery to boost technical textilessector.
  • Low Awareness about Technical Textile Products in End Users: In India, majority ofintended end users of technical textile productsare still unaware of the benefits of usage of suchproducts, thereby leading to lack of adoption.
  • Lack of Standardization and Related Regulations: Currently, several technical textile products do nothave Standard Benchmarks, resulting in availabilityof sub-standard cheaper products. Further, safetyand other related regulations need to be enforcedacross industries to propel demand for technicaltextiles products.
  • Little or No Domestic Manufacturing of Specialty Fibres: Currently, majority of specialtyfibres are imported in India, thus making India globally uncompetitive in high-value technical textiles products.

Suggestive Measures

  • Raising awareness of end-use applications
  • Regulatory reforms supporting the usage of standardised technical textile products
  • Development and implementation of standards
  • for technical textile products
  • Incentivisingresearch and development in the field of technical textiles
  • Dedicated courses on technical textiles for entrepreneurship training
  • Improving availability of skilled manpower
  • Promoting indigenous manufacturing of high performance specialty fibres
  • Promoting institutional buying
  • Incentivising production of technical textiles machinery
  • Promotion of exports of technology intensive technical textiles

Way Forward

  • The future of the technical textile industry in India has a positive outlook and is mirrored by increasingly strong consumption rates in the domestic market as well as the growing demand for exports.
  • With the appropriate measures, the industry has potential to emerge as a global hub for technical textile manufacturingas well as to contributesignificantly to the government’s vision to become a USD 5 trillion economyin the next few years.

 

ADB Lists Masala Bonds On India INX


  • On 25th February, 2022, Asian Development Bank (ADB) listed its 10-year Masala Bonds worth Rs 850 crore on the Global Securities Market (GSM) of the India International Exchange (INX) at GIFT City, Gujarat.
  • The proceeds would be used to support local currency lending and investment in India.

Key Points

  • GSM, the primary market platform of India INX, has evoked significant interest since its establishment in 2018 and has more than $48 billion medium-term notes established and over $21 billion of bond listings till date.
  • ADB’s Masala Bonds are listed on both Luxembourg exchange and India INX.
  • The listing rules and processes at India INX are modelled on global standards making time to market fast and efficient.
  • Bonds were distributed to investors in the US (21 per cent) and Europe (79 per cent), with 28 per cent placed with banks and 72 per cent with fund managers.

India International Exchange Limited (India INX)

  • INX is India’s first international exchange in International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) located at the Gujarat International Finance-Tec City (GIFT City).
  • India INX is a subsidiary of Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Limited.
  • Operating on an advanced technology platform of EUREX T7, the Exchange is the fastest in the world with a turn-around time of 4 micro seconds.
  • The exchange offers a first of its kind single segment approach for all asset classes - equities, currencies, commodities, fixed income securities providing significant cost advantages to participants.

Impact

  • This is the first time a foreign issuer and a supranational is doing a primary listing with India INX. This will help further in making GIFT IFSC a global hub for fund raising by Indian and Foreign issuers.

What are Masala Bonds?

  • Masala Bonds are the bonds which are issued by the Indian firms (in rupee denomination) to foreign investors with an aim to attract funds for projects.
  • Since these bonds are issued outside of India, they are settled in US dollars (USD) in markets.
  • The term was used by International Finance Corporation (IFC) to popularise the culture and cuisine of India on foreign platforms.
  • The first Masala Bond was issued by IFC in November 2014 when it raised 1,000 crore bonds to fund infrastructure projects in India.
  • The framework for issuance of these bonds falls within the External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) policy.

Who Issues these Bonds?

  • Any corporate or body corporate, Indian banks, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) are eligible to issue these denominated bonds overseas.
  • Resident entities like Limited Liability Partnerships and Partnership firms are, however, not eligible to issue these bonds.

Where can these bonds be issued and who can subscribe?

  • Masala Bonds can be issued only in countries that have an arrangement for Financial Action Task Force (FATF) or are a member of a FATF-Style Regional body along with securities market regulator is a signatory to the International Organization of Securities Commission's (IOSCO’s) or a signatory to bilateral MoU with the SEBI for information sharing arrangements.
  • While residents of such countries can subscribe to the bonds, it can also be subscribed by multilateral and regional financial institutions where India is a member country.

Who is eligible to invest in these Bonds?

  • Investors from outside of India who would like to invest in Indian assets can invest in Masala Bonds.
  • Indian entities like HDFC, NTPC, and Indiabulls Housing have raised funds via Masala Bonds.

What is the minimum maturity period of such bonds?

  • According to RBI, the minimum maturity period for Masala Bonds raised up to Rupee equivalent of USD 50 million in a financial year should be 3 years and for bonds raised above USD 50 million equivalent in INR per financial year should be 5 years.
  • The conversion for such bonds happens at the market rate on the date of settlement of transactions undertaken for issue and servicing of the bonds, including its redemption.

What are the benefits of Masala Bonds?

Benefits to Economy

  • Masala Bonds help to internationalize the Indian Rupee and give value to the Indian Financial system and economy
  • Liquid rupee-denominated debt markets stimulate financial stability.
  • It helped to open up new avenues for Bond investments by retail savers by increasing their rupee structure.
  • These bonds help in building up foreign investor’s confidence in Indian economy and currency which will strengthen the foreign investments in the country.

Benefits to the Issuer

  • The issuer of these bonds is shielded against the risk of currency fluctuation, typically associated with borrowing in foreign currency. In simpler words, as Masala Bonds are rupee-denominated bonds, the risk goes directly to the investor.

Benefits to the Investors

  • Investor can earn more money as interest rate of Masala Bond is higher compared to developed countries.

India-Norway Task Force On Blue Economy


  • On 19thFebruary, 2020, India along with Norway opened the India-Norway Task Force on Blue Economy, in order to promote Sustainable Development, of both the countries.

Background

  • The idea of Task Force on Blue Economy was mooted during the visit of Norwegian Prime Minister in January, 2019.
  • Both the countries signed a MoU on India-Norway Ocean Dialogue and the establishment of the Joint Task Force on 'Blue Economy' in order to promote multi-sectoral cooperation in various aspects of Blue Economy.

Key Points

  • The purpose of the task force is to develop and follow up joint initiatives between the two countries. The bilateral collaboration intends to manage the resources in the oceans in a sustainable manner.
  • The ultimate goal is to promote sustainable value creation and employment in the ocean-based industries.
  • The strength and value added of the India-Norway Joint Task Force on Blue Economy is its ability to mobilise relevant stakeholders from both Norway and India at the highest level, and ensure continued commitment and progress across ministries and agencies.
  • The two countries also commenced a new collaboration on Integrated Ocean Management & Research.

Blue Economy

  • The idea was introduced by Gunter Pauli in his 2010 book- “The Blue Economy: 10 years, 100 innovations, 100 million jobs”.
  • The term ‘Blue Economy’ was first coined by representatives of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other coastal countries during the 2012 Rio Summit.
  • The Blue Economy aims to move beyond business as usual and to consider economic development and ocean health as compatible propositions.
  • It seeks to promote economic growth, social inclusion, and the preservation or improvement of livelihoods while at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability of the oceans and coastal areas. At its core it refers to the decoupling of socioeconomic development through oceans-related sectors and activities from environmental and ecosystems degradation.
  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 intends to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Components of Blue Economy

  • The Blue Economy has diverse components, including established traditional ocean industries such as fisheries, tourism, and maritime transport, but also new and emerging activities, such as offshore renewable energy, aquaculture, seabed extractive activities, and marine biotechnology and bio-prospecting.
  • In order to qualify as components of a Blue Economy, activities need to:
    •  provide social and economic benefits for current and future generations
    •  restore, protect, and maintain the diversity, productivity, resilience, core functions, and intrinsic value of marine ecosystems
    • be based on clean technologies, renewable energy, and circular material flows that will reduce waste and promote recycling of materials.

 

Components of Blue Economy

Importance of Blue Economy

Key to Food Security

  • Fisheries, which is a vital oceanic resource forms the core of the Blue Economy, provides food to hundreds of millions of people and greatly contribute to the livelihoods of coastal communities. It plays an important role in ensuring food security, poverty alleviation and also has a huge potential for business opportunities.

Immense Source of Renewable Ocean Energy

  • The world population is expected to increase to an estimated 9 billion people in 2050, which is 1.5 times greater than the current population, resulting in an increase in countries' demands on fossil fuels.
  • In this scenario, Blue Economy could be a major source of clean energy, where large renewable energy is not tapped.

Coastal Tourism Opportunities

  • Coastal tourism, a major sector of Blue Economy, presents huge potential for job creation and economic growth.
  • Sustainable coastal tourism can assist with the preservation of artisanal fishing communities, allow for subsistence fishing, protect the environment, and make positive contributions to sustainable economic development.

Shipping, Port infrastructure and Logistics

  • The seaport and maritime transport sector is one of the important priority sectors under the Blue Economy.
  • Sea is a cost-effective and carbon-friendly mode of transportation for global trade. About 90 per cent of world trade is conducted through the sea routes.

Seabed Mining

  • With the decreasing inland mineral deposits and increasing industrial demands, much attention is being focused on mineral exploration and mining of the seabed.
  • Deep-sea mining is viewed as a potential sector for promotion of Blue Economy. The seabed contains minerals that represent a rapidly developing opportunity for economic development in both the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of coastal nations and beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

Marine Industry

  • Marine manufacturing, electricity generation from offshore sources, gas and water constitute the industrial sectors of Blue Economy. Marine manufacturing sector covers a wide range of activities such as boat manufacturing, sail making, net manufacturing, boat and ship repair, marine instrumentation, aquaculture technology, marine industrial engineering, etc.

Marine Biotechnology Research & Development

  • Marine biotechnology (or Blue Biotechnology) is considered an area of great interest and potential due to the contribution for the building of an eco-sustainable and highly efficient society.
  • A fundamental aspect is related to aquaculture, whereby new methodologies will help in: selective breeding of species; increasing sustainability of production; and enhancing animal welfare, including adjustments in food supply, preventive therapeutic measures, and use of zero-waste recirculation systems.

Challenges to Blue Economy

Unsustainable Exploitation of Marine Resources

  • Unsustainable extraction of marine resources, such as unsustainable fishing as a result of technological improvements coupled with poorly managed access to fish stocks and rising demand. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that approximately 57 per cent of fish stocks are fully exploited and another 30 per cent are over-exploited, depleted, or recovering.
  • Fish stocks are further exploited by illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which is responsible for roughly 11–26 million tons of fish catch annually or US$10-22 billion in unlawful or undocumented revenue.

Threat to Marine Ecology

  • Physical alterations and destruction of marine and coastal habitats and landscapes due largely to coastal development, deforestation, and mining. Coastal erosion also destroys infrastructure and livelihoods.
  • Unplanned and unregulated development in the narrow coastal interface and near shore areas has led to significant externalities between sectors, overlapping uses of land and marine areas, marginalization of poor communities, and loss or degradation of critical habitats.

Marine Pollution

  • Sea water is continuously getting polluted in the form of excess nutrients from untreated sewerage, agricultural runoff, and marine debris such as plastics.

Climate Change

  • Impacts of climate change, for example, in the form of both slow-onset events like sea-level rise and more intense and frequent weather events pose major challenges to Blue Economy. The changes in sea temperature, acidity, and major oceanic currents, among others, already threatening marine life, habitats, and the communities that depend on them.

Unfair and Unregulated Trade Practices

  • Many times fishing agreements allow access to an EEZ of country to foreign operators. These operators restrict transfer of specific fishing knowledge to national stakeholders leading to low appropriation of fisheries export revenues by national operators. So, the potential for national exploitation of those resources is reduced in the long run.

Blue Economy in India

  • Despite being surrounded by water on three sides, India is unable to utilise its marine resources due to lack technological advancement and skilled manpower.
  • For India, Blue Economy assumes high priority. The Indian Government has an integrated maritime development programme called Sagarmala Programme which is central on the government's maritime vision.
  • The Deep Ocean Mission, on the other hand, aims to explore the 75,000 sq km sea bed that comes under India's purview.

Sagarmala Programme

  • It was announced in 2015 and aims to turn the coastal areas into economic centers for regional and global maritime connectivity for trade to achieve the broad objective of promoting port-led development in India.

Components of Sagarmala Programme

  • Port Modernization & New Port Development: De-bottlenecking and capacity expansion of existing ports and development of new greenfield ports.
  • Port Connectivity Enhancement: Enhancing the connectivity of the ports to the hinterland, optimizing cost and time of cargo movement through multi-modal logistics solutions including domestic waterways (inland water transport and coastal shipping).
  • Port-linked Industrialization: Developing port-proximate industrial clusters and Coastal Economic Zones to reduce logistics cost and time of export-import and domestic cargo.
  • Coastal Community Development: Promoting sustainable development of coastal communities through skill development & livelihood generation activities, fisheries development, coastal tourism, etc.
  • Coastal Shipping & Inland Waterways Transport: Impetus to move cargo through the sustainable and environment-friendly coastal and inland waterways mode.

Abolition Of Dividend Distribution Tax


  • In order to increase the attractiveness of the Indian Equity Market, to provide relief to large class of investors and to make India an attractive destination for investment, the Union Budget proposed to remove the Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT).

Reasons to Abolish

  • India charges tax on domestic companies on the amount of dividends distributed by them. As a corollary, dividends are exempt in the hands of shareholders. It is a tax that has created much consternation among corporates.
  • The system of levying DDT results in increase in tax burden for investors and specially those who are liable to pay tax less than the rate of DDT, if the dividend income is included in their income.
  • Further, non-availability of credit of DDT to most of the foreign investors in their home country results in reduction of rate of return on equity capital for them.
  • DDT is considered as a surrogate tax and it obstructs the flow of foreign direct investment. Therefore, doing away with this tax can give a major push to investment.

Background

  • It is to be noted that removal of DDT was mooted Direct Tax Code Panel (Chairman –Akhilesh Ranjan) which was set up by the government to formulate a new direct tax code to replace the existing Income Tax Act.
  • The idea behind removal of DDT is to remove the cascading impact of taxation and the panel favoured no preferential treatment for any class of investor.

Key Changes

  • The dividend distribution tax (DDT) has been abolished at both the company and mutual fund levels.
  • It has been proposed to abolish DDT on dividends paid by the corporates and transfer the tax burden completely in the hands of the recipient.
  • Instead, dividends will be taxable in the hands of investors and will be taxed at their slab rates. In addition, tax will be deducted at source (TDS) on mutual fund dividends in excess of Rs 5,000 per year at the rate of 10%.
  • DDT has also been abolished on dividends paid out by mutual funds.Now, this amount will flow directly into the net asset value (NAV) of mutual funds.
  • While the Budget also proposed a 10% tax would be deducted at source for ‘income’ above Rs 5,000 in a year, there is a lack of clarity on whether the levy would be only on dividend income or overall equity returns.

Impact

Positive

Benefits to Investors

  • The move to abolish DDT and make dividend income taxable in the hands of individuals will benefit debt fund investors who are in the lower tax bracket.
  • Abolition of DDT would encourage low-income earners, who have total income up to Rs 5 lakh, to invest in capital market as the person with total income up to Rs 5 lakh will not have to pay tax on dividend income as against 20.56 percent paid by them indirectly.

Benefits to Mutual Fund Industry

  • The move could also lead to a churn in the mutual fund(MF) industry with investors likely moving from dividend plans to growth plans of equity mutual funds.

Negative

  • According to the experts of MF industry, the change can, however, would an adverse effect on the attractiveness of mutual funds.
  • The TDS provision also extends to capital gains on mutual funds. What was earlier an invisible tax will now be perceptibly deducted. Those who don’t want the deduction will have to submit paperwork, as with other types of TDS. This could negatively affect the perception towards the dividend option of funds.
  • Further, abolishing DDT will not only impact tax collection, but also affect the investment cycle.

What is Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT)?

  • It is a tax levied on dividends that a company pays to its shareholders out of its profits, which is taxable at source, and is deducted at the time of the company distributing dividends. The dividend is the part of profits that the company shares with its shareholders.
  • India's DDT provisions were introduced in the Finance Act 1997.Interestingly, DDT was scrapped in 2002 only to be re-introduced in the next year on grounds of ease of tax administration.
  • Other than DDT, the Securities Transaction Tax (STT) and Long-Term Capital Gains (LTCG) tax are other major taxes levied on market instruments.

Who is required to Pay DDT?

  • Under Section 115-O, the Income Tax Act, any domestic firm which is declaring or distributing dividend has to pay DDT at the rate of 15 percent on the gross amount of dividend.

What are the Different Rates Charged?

  • DDT for distribution of income by debt fund was 25% for individuals and Hindu undivided family (HUF) and 30% for others.
  • While the rate of DDT by companies in India is 15%, which after grossing up, comes to 17.65% and taking the impact of surcharge at 12% and cess at 4%, this comes to 20.56%.
  • In 2017 an additional income tax of 10% became applicable if the aggregate dividend income exceeds Rs 10 lakh per annum. It is applicable on the excess amount above Rs 10 lakh.
  • Budget 2018 introduced dividend distribution tax on equity oriented mutual funds. It is taxed at 10% and including 12% surcharge and 4% cess it adds up to 648%.
  • On debt oriented mutual funds, DDT is 25% and after including 12% surcharge and 4% cess it adds up to 12%.

When is the Dividend Distribution Tax paid?

  • The tax has to be paid to the government within 14 days of the dividend declaration, distribution or payment whichever is earliest.
  • If DDT is not paid within the given time period, interest at a rate of 1 percent per month or part thereof starts getting accumulated till the amount is paid. The tax is paid separately, over and above the company’s income tax liability.

Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana


  • According to the Ministry of Rural Development, only 252 MPs have adopted gram panchayats under Phase-4 of Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana(SAGY) -208 members of Lok Sabha and 44 members of Rajya Sabha.

Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana

  • Also known as the Model Village Programme, it was launched on 11th October, 2014 on the birth anniversary of LokNayak Jai Prakash Narayan, in New Delhi.
  • The goal was to develop three Adarsh Grams by March 2019, of which one was to be achieved by 2016. There after, five such Adarsh Grams (one per year) will be selected and developed by 2024.

Aim

  • To translate Gandhi's vision of an ideal Indian village into reality

Main Objectives

  • To trigger processes which lead to holistic development of the identified Gram Panchayats
  • To substantially improve the standard of living and quality of life of all sections of the population through
    • improved basic amenities
    • enhanced human development
    • better livelihood opportunities
    • reduced disparities
    • access to rights and entitlements
    • wider social mobilization
  • To nurture the identified Adarsh Grams as schools of local development to train other Gram Panchayats

Approach

In order to achieve these objectives, SAGY would be guided by the following approach:

  • Leveraging the leadership, capacity, commitment and energy of the Members of Parliament (MP) to develop model Gram Panchayats (GP).
  • Engaging with and mobilizing the community for participatory local level development.
  • Converging different government programmes and private and voluntary initiatives to achieve comprehensive development in tune with people’s aspirations and local potential.
  • Building partnerships with voluntary organisations, co-operatives and academic and research institutions.
  • Focusing on outcomes and sustainability.

Progress till Date

  • In Phase-1 of SAGY, 703 MPs had adopted gram panchayats but that number went down to 497 in Phase-2 and 301 in Phase-3, showing a gradual decline in subsequent phases.
  • The latest data shows that more than six months after the formation of the 17th Lok Sabha, about two-thirds of the members of the Lower House are yet to select a gram panchayat under Phase-4.

Source:India Express

Issues with SAGY

No Dedicated Fund

  • A major drawback is that there is no separate fund for this scheme by the government. MPs have to funnel money to adopted villages through the convergence of 21 ongoing schemes such as Indira Awaas Yojana for rural housing, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act, etc. Lack of funds is the primary reason behind the low interest in the village adoption scheme.

Selection of Village:

  • According to the guidelines, an MP can select any village except his own village or his spouse’s village. This makes very difficult for an MP to select the villages in his constituency and ignore the others.
  • However, in urban areas, even the selection of villages is a complicated process since most villages identified by MPs don't meet the SAGY guidelines.

Monitoring Issue

  • It has been difficult for MPs to monitor the on-ground development on a regular basis, in the absence of a platform where they can oversee the progress on different interventions, specified in the Village Development Plan (VDP) as well as irregular meetings of the district level committee.

Implementation Issue

  • While the SAGY talks about convergence and effective utilisation of available Central and state schemes, most MPs raise the point that it is extremely difficult to know about the provisions under each scheme and the structure and framework for its implementation on the ground.
  • Also in most cases, the VDP has not been prepared in accordance with the guidelines of the programme.

Lack of Coordination

  • Lack of coordination among different ministries, departments, schemes of central government, state government and the private sector is one of the major issues, further holding back MPs to adopt villages.

Lack of Participation

  • SAGY is meant to focus on community participation. In fact, it is plagued by the lack of participation of all sections of society, especially the marginalized and the aged group, limiting the scope of the scheme.

Way Forward

  • For meaningful change through SAGY, motivation of MP is crucial but proactiveness of the panchayat and villagers is also necessary. The government must work towards resolving the underlying issues with SAGY, in order to make the scheme holistic and achieve its desired goal of making the village of country, a model village.

Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojna – Step Towards Feminization Of Agriculture


  • The Department of Rural Development, Ministry of Rural Development is implementing Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP) to empower women in agriculture by making systematic investments to enhance their participation and productivity.

Need For MKSP

  • Women in Agriculture are generally not able to access extension services and production assets like seed, water, credit, subsidy etc. As most of them are not recognized as farmers for want of ownership of land, they are not considered as beneficiaries of various government programmes/services.
  • The wage differentials between men and women being adverse to them, the situation are further aggravated. Some of the tasks performed by the women are not valued adequately and considered less important economically.
  • Further, due to multiple roles that a woman has to perform within the family and the farm, her access to knowledge and information, is constrained and therefore her opportunities get limited.

Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojna (MKSP)

  • Launched in 2010-11, MKSP is a sub-component of Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM).
  • To improve the present status of women in Agriculture, and to enhance the opportunities for her empowerment, MKSP recognizes the identity of “Mahila” as “Kisan” and strives to build the capacity of women in the domain of agro-ecologically sustainable practices.

Objectives

  • To create sustainable agricultural livelihoods opportunities for women in agriculture
  • To enhance the participation of women in agriculture in productive manner
  • To enhance the managerial capacities of women in agriculture for better management of bio-diversity
  • To improve the skills and capabilities of women in agriculture to support farm and non-farm-based activities.
  • To improve the capacities of women in agriculture to access the resources of other institutions and schemes with a convergence framework.

Salient Features

Focus Area

  • The focus of MKSP is on capacitating smallholders to adopt sustainable climate resilient agro-ecology.
  • It focuses mainly on two themes: Sustainable agriculture and enhance livelihood of Non-timber forest producers (NTFP).
  • Sustainable agriculture practices include Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA), Non Pesticide Management (NPM), Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), Pashu-Sakhi model for doorstep animal care services.

Implementation Strategy

  • MKSP projects implemented by partners- Community based Organisations(CBOs) and NGOs.
  • Promoting sustainable models on agriculture, Livestock and targeting the Ultra-Poor
  • Creating social capital (Community Resource Persons/Pashu Sakhis/ Skilled extension workers)
  • Scaling up successful Ultra-Poor models with the help of the social capital

Funding

  • Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) provides funding support of up to 75% (90% for North East and hill states) to the project submitted by the State Governments under MKSP

Significance

  • Skill Enhancement: The MKSP will enhance the skill base of the women in Agriculture to enable them to pursue their livelihoods on a sustainable basis.
  • Benefits to Vulnerable Women Group: The MKSP will strategize in a manner to target the Poorest of the Poor and most vulnerable women such as SC/ST, minorities, landless and the Primitive Tribal Groups.

Way Forward

  • Rural women play a significant and crucial role in agricultural development and allied fields including in the main crop production, livestock production, horticulture, post-harvest operations, agro/social forestry, fisheries, etc.
  • Rural women form the most productive work force in the economy of majority of the developing nations including India.
  • Maximum participation of women in agriculture will lead to the  sustainable development agriculture, rural economy and the country on the whole.

 

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana


  • Recently, concerns have been raised over the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) for its exclusionary nature. The scheme suffers from critical drawbacks in both design and implementation.

Underlying Issues with PMMVY

Lengthy Documentation

  • The lengthy documentation work includes filling up six documents totaling 32 pages - an application form to be filled for each of the three installments, an application for linking the Aadhaar card with bank account, another one for linking the Aadhaar card with post office account and a feedback form.
  • This tedious process led to exclusion of single women and young brides out of its purview.
  • Further, the documentation work is likely to result in many women living on the margins, such as sex workers, women in custody, migrant and those living in post-conflict situations unable to claim benefits even though they are most in need of monetary compensation.

First Child Criteria

  • The gaping loophole in the eligibility criteria is that benefits are only provided for the birth of the first child.
  • In a country with a Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 2.33, the policy of restricting the scheme to just the first child is impractical to say the least and exclusionary when seen in totality.
  • Moreover, it makes no attempt to accommodate miscarriage or infant mortality. If an eight-month pregnant woman, who has already accessed the scheme, loses her child, she is not eligible for the second or third instalment for her next pregnancy.

Issues with Single Women

  • Registration for the scheme requires the beneficiary to provide her husband’s Aadhaar details along with her own, affecting single women which include unwed mothers, deserted wives and widows.

Newly Wed Women

  • A newly wed woman expecting a child generally resides in her maternal home but to avail the benefits of PMMVY, she needs to provide proof of address of her marital home, whichagain proves a major challenge for her.

Younger Brides

  • The scheme require that the applicant has to be at least 19 years old also leaves out younger brides, who hesitate in getting their marriages registered as the legal age of marriage is 18 years.
  • 30-35% first-time mothers are under the age of 18 years.

Corruption Issues

  • The scheme is infested with corruption issues, limiting its scope of proper implementation. The applicant women have to pay a hefty bribe during the application process at every level, which goes up to Rs. 500, with each of the three forms.

 

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)

  • Launched in 2016, PMMVY is a maternity benefit program, which replaced the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY).
  • It is a direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme under which a cash incentive of Rs. 5000 would be provided directly in the account of Pregnant Women Lactating Mothers (PW&LM) for firstliving child of the family subject to their fulfilling specific conditions.
  • The eligible beneficiaries also receive cash incentive under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). Thus, on an average, a woman gets Rs. 6,000.

Objective

  • Promoting appropriate practice, care and institutional service utilization during pregnancy, delivery and lactation.
  • Encouraging the women to follow (optimal) nutrition and feeding practices, including early and Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.
  • Providing cash incentives for improved health and nutrition to pregnant and lactating mother.

Target Beneficiaries

  • All Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers, excluding PW&LM who are in regular employment with the Central Government or the State Governments or PSUs or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force.
  • All eligible Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers who have their pregnancy on or after 01.01.2017 for first child in family.
  • The date and stage of pregnancy for a beneficiary would be counted with respect to her LMP date as mentioned in the MCP card.

Implementation

  • PMMVY is implemented using the platform of Anganwadi Services scheme of Umbrella Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) under Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • It is closely monitored by the central and state governments through PMMVY-CAS, a web based software application.

Inclusive Measures

  • Firstly, activists and grassroot workers involved must make a formal representation to the government, highlighting their concerns in order to make the scheme both inclusive and supportive.
  • Secondly, the government needs to review the scheme in order to make it universal by removing restrictions on the number of children as well as including all women, whether they are in the formal or informal sector, engaged in paid or unpaid wor
  • Thirdly, the sum promised should also be at least on par with minimum wages for women in self-employment, unpaid work, or working for less than minimum wages.

States Maternity Scheme

Two states- Tamil Nadu and Odisha, have not implemented the centrally sponsored scheme and has launched their own maternity schemes.

Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Benefit Scheme- Tamil Nadu

  • The scheme was launched in 1987, which aims to provide optimal nutrition for pregnant and lactating women and compensates the wage loss during pregnancy.
  • The first-of-its-kind scheme in the country initially provided an amount of Rs 300 to every woman below the poverty line to help cover the expenses incurred during childbirth.
  • As of now, the government has enhanced the financial support, providing a sum of Rs.14,000 in cash and a nutritional kit worth Rs 4,000 for the first two pregnancies.
Mamta Scheme- Odisha
  • It was launched by the state government in September, 2011 with an aim to reduce maternal and infant mortality by improving the health and nutrition of pregnant and lactating women.
  • Under this, a sum of Rs. 5,000 is being provided for the first two pregnancies of all women.
  • For vulnerable groups, like tribals, the money is given for even the third birth.

 

Accessible India Campaign


  • Recently, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment extended the deadline for Accessible India campaign to March 2020 due to slow progress.
  • The original deadlines under the campaign was July, 2018, for conducting an accessibility audit of 25-50 of the most important government buildings in 50 cities and making them completely accessible.

Reasons

  • Under the campaign, the target of making 50% of all the government buildings of all the State capitals fully accessible has not been met yet.
  • Complete accessibility audit of 50% of government buildings and making them fully accessible in 10 most important cities/towns of States is still under development.

Accessible India Campaign (AIC)

  • Also known as Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan, it was launched by Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, in December, 2015, as a nation-wide Campaign for achieving universal accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs)or

Aim

  • To enable persons with disabilities to gain universal access.
  • To provide equal opportunity for development, independent living and participation in all aspects of life in an inclusive society.
  • To create an accessible physical environment that benefits everyone, not just persons with disabilities.

Components of AIC

Built Environment Accessibility

  • An accessible physical environment benefits everyone, not just persons with disabilities. Measures should be undertaken to eliminate obstacles and barriers to indoor and outdoor facilities including schools, medical facilities, and workplaces.
  • These include not only buildings, but also footpaths, curb cuts, and obstacles that block the flow of pedestrian traffic.

Transportation System Accessibility

  • Transportation is a vital component for independent living, and like others in society, PwDs rely on transportation facilities to move from one place to another.
  • The term transportation covers a number of areas including air travel, buses, taxis, and trains.

Information and Communication Eco-System Accessibility

  • Access to information creates opportunities for everyone in society and it refers to all information. People use information in many forms to make decisions about their daily lives.
  • This can range from actions such as being able to read price tags, to physically enter a hall, to participate in an event, to read a pamphlet with healthcare information, to understand a train timetable, or to view webpages.

Significance

  • With Accessible India Campaign, India has joined the rest of the world, as an inclusive society with universal accessibility, caring for its citizens, accessibility rights and independent living.
  • Physical accessibility related actions will initiate accessibility to education, employment and livelihood helping built a stronger nation.

Recent Developments towards AIC

Management Information System (MIS)

  • In September, 2019, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) developed a Management Information System (MIS) for stakeholders of AIC.
  • The MIS portal will bring all the nodal ministries and States/UTs on a single platform for monitoring the progress being made against each target of AIC.
  • The portal will be useful in maintaining all the function on digital platform and capture data on a real-time basis.

Website Accessibility Project

  • In January, 2018, DEPwD initiated Website Accessibility Project for State Government/Union Territories under Accessible India Campaign through ERNET India, to make total 917 websites accessible to Divyangjans.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act – 2016

  • Enacted in December 2016, the act facilitates full acceptance of people with disability and ensures full participation and inclusion of such persons in the society.

Aim

  • To uphold the dignity of every PwD in the society and prevent any form of discrimination.

Salient Features

  • It defines PwD as any person with long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which on interacting with barriers hinder effective and equal growth in the society.
  • The types of disabilities have been increased from existing 7 to 21 and the Central Government will have the power to add more types of disabilities.
  • Speech and Language Disability and Specific Learning Disability have been added for the first time.
  • Acid Attack Victims have been included.
  • Dwarfism, muscular dystrophy have has been indicated as separate class of specified disability.
  • The New categories of disabilities also included three blood disorders, Thalassemia, Hemophilia and Sickle Cell disease.

Significance

  • The Act is in line with the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory, since 2007. This will fulfill the obligations on the part of India in terms of UNCRD.
  • Further, it not only helps to enhance the Rights and Entitlements of Divyangjan but also provide effective mechanism for ensuring their empowerment and true inclusion into the society in a satisfactory manner.

United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

  • Adopted in December, 2006, UNCRPD is the first international treaty which identifies the rights of disabled people as well as the obligations in order to promote, protect and ensure those rights.
  • The Convention entered into force on 3rd May, 2008.
  • It is a benchmark document that works to ensure the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities.
Aim
  • To ensure that disabled people enjoy the same human rights as everyone else and that they can participate fully in society by receiving the same opportunities as others.

What is an Accessible Building?

  • An accessible building is one, where persons with disabilities have no barrier in entering it and using all the facilities therein.
  • This covers the built environment – services, steps and ramps, corridors, entry gates, emergency exits, parking – as well as indoor and outdoor facilities including lighting, signages, alarm systems and toilets.

Criteria

  • Identifying accessible buildings requires annual accessibility audits that determine if a building meets agreed upon standards.
  • Once a building is deemed fully accessible, an annual audit is not necessary, but should be required for any proposed changes to the structure or systems contained therein.
  • A full audit can then be done on a less frequent basis. Standards of accessibility should be as consistent as possible with international standards, such as those of the ISO, taking into account the local context.
  • In regards to the built environment, ISO 21542:2011, Building Construction –Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment, delineates a set of requirements and recommendations concerning construction, assembly, components and fittings.

Databank Of Independent Director Launched


On 2nd December, 2019, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) launched the Independent Director’s Databank in accordance with the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013.

Objective

  • Strengthening the institution of Independent Directors

Background

On 22nd October 2019, the MCA issued certain notifications relating to the creation and maintenance of the data bank for independent directors. These relates to the following:

  • Notification of the Companies (Creation and Maintenance of data bank of Independent Directors) Rules, 2019
  • Additional disclosure in board's report
  • Constitution of institute for data bank of independent directors
  • Compliances required by the independent directors

Need for Databank

  • In recent times, many individuals have come under the regulatory lens in connection with failure and default cases of the companies (for ex. Default of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services) where they were serving as independent directors.
  • These failures have given enough reason to believe that directors need to have greater awareness of their fiduciary responsibilities.

About the Databank

  • The Databank portal which has been developed and will be maintained by the Indian Institute for Corporate Affairs (IICA), is a first of its kind initiative from the Ministry
  • Section 150 of the Companies Act, 2013 provides that an independent director can be selected from a data bank maintained by anybody, institute or association, as may be notified by the Central Government.
  • It will serve as a comprehensive repository of existing as well as those eligible to be independent directors.
  • The data bank would contain names, addresses and qualifications of persons who are eligible and willing to act as independent directors.
  • The present independent directors are also required to pass a basic online proficiency self-assessment test which will available from March 2020.
  • MCA has realized the importance of strengthening the Institution of Independent Directors and enhancing its effectiveness by way of creating a pool of skilled professionals to act as Agents of Change.

Significance

  • Will provide a platform to individuals to help them acquire knowledge, develop new skills, assess their understanding, and apply best practices.
  • Will help in building capacities of Individuals by delivering eLearning courses on topics related to corporate governance, regulatory framework, financial prudence, and other important aspects.
  • Will help to create an eco-system of individuals looking for opportunities and corporate requiring to appoint independent directors.Companies may register them selves with the databank to search, select and connect with individuals who possess the right skills and attitude for being considered for appointment as independent directors.

Independent Directors (IDs)

  • An independent director is a non-executive director who does not have any pecuniary relationship with the company, its promoters, and senior management or affiliate companies, is not related to promoters or the senior management, and/or has not been an executive with the company in the three preceding financial years.
  • The Companies Act,1956 does not provide us the specific definition of an Independent Director.
  • The provisions relating to appointment of Independent directors are contained in Section 149 of the Companies Act, 2013 should be read along with Rule 4 and Rule 5 of the Companies (Appointment and Qualification of Directors) Rules, 2014.
Role
  • IDs should makeup at least two-thirds of the directors in the audit committees of listed companies to oversee the financial reporting process and disclosure of the company's financial information, ensure compliance with listing and other legal requirements, disclosure of related party transactions and qualification in the draft audit report, among other things.
  • They act as a guide to the company. Their roles broadly include improving corporate credibility and governance standards functioning as a watchdog, and playing a vital role in risk management.
  • Independent directors play an active role in various committees set up by company to ensure good governance.
Importance
  • IDs serve as an important Institution of corporate governance contributing significantly at the boards by bringing a diverse set of skills with an independent judgment on the significant issues.
  • IDs along with other directors on a board are an integral part of a company and are entrusted with the most crucial responsibility relating to the functionality and the overall governance of a company.

Companies Act, 2013

  • The Companies Act 2013 is the law covering incorporation, dissolution and the running of companies in India.
  • The Act came into force across India on 12th September 2013 and has a few amendments to the previous act of 1956.
  • The 2013 Act introduces significant changes in the provisions related to governance, e-management, compliance and enforcement, disclosure norms, auditors and mergers and acquisitions.

Objective

  • To consolidate and amend the law relating to companies.

Key Features

  • The maximum number of members (shareholders) permitted for a Private Limited Company is increased to 200 from 50.
  • One-Person company.
  • Section 135 of the Act which deals with Corporate Social Responsibility.
  • Company Law Tribunal and Company Law Appellate Tribunal.

Amendments

  • On July 31, 2019, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs introduced the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2019.
  • It aims to ensure more accountability and better enforcement to strengthen the corporate governance norms and compliance management in corporatesector as enshrined in the Companies Act, 2013.

Transgender Persons (Protection Of Rights) Bill, 2019


On 26th November, 2019, the Rajya Sabha passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill. The bill was passed by Lok Sabha on 5th August, 2019, following which it was moved for consideration in Rajya Sabha.

Aim

  • It seeks to provide a mechanism for social, economic and educational empowerment of transgender.
  • It aims at empowering the community by defining and protecting their rights, which is one of the priorities of the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry in the first 100 days agenda of the second term of the current government.

Salient Features of the Bill

  • Defining the Term Transgender: A transgender is a person whose gender does not match with the gender assigned to that person at birth and includes trans-man or trans-woman (whether or not such person has undergone sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy or laser therapy or such other therapy), person with inter-sex variations, gender-queer and person having such socio-cultural identities as ‘kinner’, ‘hijra’, ‘aravani’ and ‘jogta’.
  • Right to Choose Identity: A person would have the right to choose to be identified as a man, woman or transgender, irrespective of sex reassignment surgery and hormonal therapy. It requires transgender persons to go through a district magistrate and district screening committee to get certified as a trans person and a revised certificate may be obtained only if the individual undergoes surgery to change their gender either as a male or a female.
  • Prohibition against Discrimination:The bill prohibits discrimination against a transgender person in areas such as education, employment, and healthcare. It directs the central and state governments to provide welfare schemes in these areas.
  • National Council for Transgender persons (NCT): It provides for the establishment of NCT with Union Minister for Social Justice as its Chairperson. The Council will advise the central government as well as monitor the impact of policies, legislation and projects with respect to transgender persons. It will also redress the grievances of transgender persons.

Key Changes Made

  • The 2018 Bill was resisted for outlawing begging, which made the trans community particularly vulnerable; this is because most of the trans population in India are compelled to take up begging owing to the lack of employment opportunities available to them.
  • This provision has been removed from the Bill, which now specifies the following offences:
    • compelling transgender persons to do forced or bonded labour (excluding compulsory government service for public purposes)
    • denial of use of a public place
    • removal from household, village or other place of residence
    • physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic abuse.

Impact of the Bill

  • Will Promote Inclusiveness: The Bill will benefit a large number of transgender persons, mitigate the stigma, discrimination and abuse against this marginalized section and bring them into the mainstream of society. This will lead to inclusiveness and will make the transgender persons productive members of the society.
  • Will Make Government Accountable: It will bring greater accountability on the part of the Central Government and State Governments/Union Territory Administrations for issues concerning Transgender persons. Also, it will make all the stakeholders also responsive and accountable for upholding the principles underlying the bill.

Challenges faced by Transgender

Social Exclusion and Discrimination:
  • Transgenders are often ousted by their own biological family or run away at an early age due to harassment. They are looked down by the society as a social misfitwith serious problems. Community humiliates the family for having a transgender child thereby preventing the social contact of the families with the community.
  • Gender identity often makes transgender a victim of stigmatization and exclusion by the society.
Illiteracy:
  • These are unable to access equal educational opportunities because of harassment, discrimination and even violence. They are forced to drop out of schools as Indian schools remain unequipped to handle children with alternative sexual identities
Poverty and Unemployment:
  • They end up begging on roads as they lack educational qualificationsand are unable to get jobs most often. Even if they are qualified, the job market is not ready to employ them due to the stigma attached with them.
  • The community is also forced into sex work. The one reason for being forced into sex work is because unavailability of livelihood resources. As a result of this they are pushed to lead their life in poverty or end up taking refuge in beggary and sex work.
Prone to Violence:
  • They are subjected to violence and mistreatment. These people, particularly transgender women face staggering levels of violence, high rates of murder and incarceration.
Health Issues:
  • Discrimination in India’s healthcare system against transgender people remains widespread even though the new laws introduced earlier this year directed at providing them equal treatment. Anxiety due to the fear of being treated unfairly, worries about abuse and administrative hurdles are hindering many of the country’s millions transgender people from seeking medical care.
  • Medical professionals themselves are responsible for causing "transphobia" to many; they remain largely unaware about gender identity issues.
  • According to India’s National Aids Control Organisation (NACO), sex work makes this community a high-risk group for HIV.

Way Forward

  • Central as well as state governments both have adopted various measures from time to time which have helped to bring them on an equal footing with others. However, the need is to reorient the outlook of the society; no laws or measures adopted by the government can be effectively implemented until and unless the mindset is not changed and people are not willing to accept them as a part of the society.
  • The government should take steps for better education and employment of transgender which is important to ensure social justice to the community because every individual in this country has equal rights and privileges guaranteed by the constitution of India.

Niti Aayog’s Aspirational Districts Programme


  • Despite on a high economic growth trajectory, India still lags behind in terms of Human Development Index as well as reduction in the significant inter-state and inter-district variations in development.
  • To address both the issues, the Prime Minister launched the ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) in January, 2018.

Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP)

  • It aims to expeditiously improve the socio-economic status of 117 districts from across 28 states.
  • Driven primarily by the States, this initiative focuses on the strengths of each district, and prioritizes the attainable outcomes for immediate improvement.
  • NITI Aayog in partnership with the Government of Andhra Pradesh has created a dashboard - Champions of Change-Real-Time Monitoring Dashboard, for monitoring the real-time progress of the districts.

Objectives

  • Mapping of skill profile of the district
  • Appraisal of district skill ecosystem
  • Identifying district specific challenges and potential areas of support required in the district
  • Development of District Skill Development Plan through consultation process
  • Implementation support for the work plan to the districts

Core Principles

  • The three core principles of the programme are –
    • Convergence (of Central & State Schemes)
    • Collaboration (among citizens and functionaries of Central & State Governments including district teams)
    • Competition among districts

Focus Areas

  • The ADP focuses mainly on following themes- Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion, Skill Development and Basic Infrastructure.
  • 49 key performance indicators (KPIs) with 81 data points have been chosen to measure progress of the districts.
Focus Areas Weight Data-Points No. of Indicators
Health & Nutrition 30% 31 13
Education 30% 14 08
Agriculture & Water Resources 20% 12 10
Financial Inclusion 5% 06 11
Skill Development 5% 10
Basic Infrastructure 10% 08 07
Source: NITI Aayog
  • Health & Nutrition: Main focus on antenatal care, postnatal care, gender parity, health of new-born, growth of children, contagious diseases, and health infrastructure.
  • Education: Focus on learning outcomes (transition rate from primary to upper primary, and subsequently to secondary schooling, average scores in mathematics and languages etc.), as well as infrastructural (toilet access for girls, drinking water, electricity supply) and institutional indicators (Right to Education, mandated pupil-teacher ratio)
  • Agriculture & Water Resources: Focus on outputs (yield, price realisation etc.), inputs (quality seed distribution, soil health cards), and institutional support (crop insurance, electronic markets, artificial insemination, animal vaccination).
  • Financial Inclusion:Focus on schemes such as Atal Pension Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana etc.), reach of institutional banking (number of accounts opened under Jan DhanYojana), and ease of institutional financing for small businesses (disbursement of Mudra loans).
  • Skill Development: Focus on skilling of youth, employment, and the skilling of vulnerable/marginalized youth under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY).
  • Basic Infrastructure: Focus on housing for all with drinking water, electricity, road connectivity, internet connected Gram Panchayats, and panchayats with Common Service Centres.

Analysis

The ADP brings together all levels of government, from central and state officers driving operations, to the district collectors implementing innovative measures on the ground. It also tracks progress through real-time data collection.

A critical aspect of the programme’s approach is its focus on district-specific strengths and the identification of low-hanging fruit. In addition to tailoring interventions to districts, the programme is novel in four important ways:

  1. The programme shifts the focus away from inputs and draws attention to socio-economic outcomes, such as learning and malnutrition, at the highest echelons of the government.
  2. Through its large-scale efforts to collect, distill and disseminate data, the programme is grounded thoroughly in evidence. The NITI Aayog has created a dashboard to monitor real-time progress in the districts. The availability of the latest district-level statistics in the public domain is not only enhancing transparency and accountability, but it is also ensuring that policy actions are backed by evidence.
  3. The ADP amplifies the government’s belief that states and districts should have a greater voice in their development. It truly embodies India’s shift toward cooperative federalism. The local, state and central governments work together to design, implement and monitor measures to drive development in the districts.
  4. The programme is a collaborative effort between government, various foundations and civil society. Through partnerships with several voluntary organisations, the programme benefits from different perspectives, technical skills and on-the-ground experience. For example, NITI Aayog is working with Piramal Foundation to strengthen public systems particularly in health and education. Similarly, Tata Trusts, IDinsight, L&T, ITC and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are also playing key roles in the programme. These public-private partnerships will help boost implementation of the programme.

Way Forward

  • In a diverse country like India, balanced growth is a prerequisite for overall development. ADP is a radical departure from the country’s previous development strategies in its scale, scope and ownership. Implicit in the design of the programme is the fact that India’s economy cannot sustain growth without improving human development for all its citizens.
  • ADP is a laboratory of various cutting-edge governance reforms which aims to address governance issues by using a combination of approaches: lifting levels of aspirations through a vision and district plan,adequate institutional arrangements and convergence in all stakeholders’ efforts and above all, ranking based public competition among the districts by setting up a real-time monitoring mechanism.
  • The Government is committed to raising the living standards of its citizens and ensuring inclusive growth for all – “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas”. To enable optimum utilization of their potential, ADP focuses closely on improving people’s ability to participate fully in the vibrant economy.

High Level Advisory Group (HLAG) Report


  • Recently, Ministry of Commerce and Industry released the report of the High Level Advisory Group (HLAG).
  • The HLAG was constituted in September, 2018, led by the economist Surjit S. Bhalla, to identify and pursue opportunities and address challenges in the current global trade scenario.

Members

  • Subramaniam Jaishankar, Rajeev Kher, Sanjeev Sanyal, Adil Zainulbhai, Harsha Vardhana Singh, Shekhar Shah, Vijay Chauthaiwale, Pulok Ghosh, Jayant Dasgupta, Rajiv K Luthra, Chandrajit Banerjee

Objective

  • To assess the global environment and make recommendations for boosting India’s share and importance in global merchandise and services trade
  • Managing pressing bilateral trade relations and mainstreaming new age policy making.

Major Recommendations

EXIM Bank and Credit Insurance for Exports

  • Enhance capital base of the EXIM Bank by another INR 20,000 crores by 2022 and infusethe balance capital in a sustained manner.
  • Increase the Bank’s borrowing limit to 20 times Net Owned Funds (the current limit is 10 times).
  • Enhance capital base of the Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (ECGC) by INR 350 crores.
  • Exempt the ECGC from Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) regulations.

To make Effective Corporate Tax Rates more Competitive

  • India should cut corporate tax rate to 22% (with exemptions). This will yield an effective corporate tax rate of 18%.

Policy Rates Alignment with Competitors

  • India should aim to bring down the cost of capital to the average of 10 best performing OECD countries.
  • Policy operation should now fully incorporate the technology of Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT).
  • To re-establish linking of government savings schemes to repo rates.

To Build a Comprehensive Export Strategy

  • Create a database that details the utilisation of various FTAs, RTAs, CEPAs etc.
  • Use big-data analytics for identifying items at the 4-digitHarmonised System(HS)level where India has an export advantage and building up domestic competitiveness in these products.

Strengthening Investment Promotion Agency (Invest India ++)

  • Make Invest India the centralised authority for issuing licenses and empower it to grant incentives in cases meeting pre-defined criteria
  • Create one apex trade promotion organization established as a separate entity (replacing DGFT,ITPO, TCPI).
  • Create a world-class ‘war room’ to realize single-window clearance.

Optimising Free Trade Agreements (FTA) Negotiations

  • Begin process of identifying and resolving non-tariff barriers which prevent Indian exports from accessing key importing nations – begin with major countries with which India has FTAs.
  • Undertake sectoral analysis to assess price competitiveness of Indian products in markets of choice to help better negotiate FTAs.
  • Launch a five-year program for negotiation of FTAs identified based on complementarity and long-term sustainability.

Issuing Elephant Bonds

  • By issuing Elephant Bonds, India could recover up to $500 billion of black money stashed overseas.
  • People declaring undisclosed income will be bound to invest 40% with a coupon rate of 5% for a period of 20-30 years. The fund will be utilised only for infrastructure projects.

Reforming the Financial Services Sector

  • Simplify regulatory and tax framework for foreign investment funds and individual investors to enable on-shoring of fund management activity of India.

India must Join RCEP

  • The panel favours India joining Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership(RCEP)
  • India gains even more from joining the RCEP-like free trade area when the USA and China are indulging in bilateral trade war.
  • The report will strengthen the NarendraModi government's resolve to go ahead with negotiations for the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Sector Specific Recommendations

Agriculture

  • Implementation of Model Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing Act, 2017, should be fast tracked.
  • Promote export of fruits and vegetables, instead of rice and cereals.
  • Facilitate FDI in agro-processing sector.
  • Build conformity assessment to international standards in fertiliser and pesticide use.

Pharmaceuticals, Biotechnology and Medical Devices

  • Appoint an empowered independent commission on Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology to enable coordination among various entities.
  • Separate regulation of medical devices from that of drugs/cosmetics
  • Create a single ministry for the regulation of medical devices across the entire value chain.
  • Rectify the inverted duty structure on medical devices manufacturing in India.

Textiles and Garments

  • De-link Export Promotion Capital Goods (EPCG) Scheme from exports for the sector.
  • Fast-track disbursal of Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (TUFS) subsidies.

Electronics

  • Shift from a tariff-based policy to an incentive-based policy for manufacturing of electronics.
  • Establish Industrial Parks which would cater to specific needs of the electronics manufacturing sector.

Tourism and Hospitality

  • Create a Pan-India Tourism Board to coordinate among various parts of government and industry.
  • Accord infrastructure status to tourism infrastructure.
  • Simplifying the medical visa regime
  • Create a Medical Tourism campaign to create awareness and build on India's brand as a medical value destination.

Significance

  • Pathway to Economic Growth:It shows the way forward for India to become an attractive investment destination by grasping all the opportunities available so that India is able to achieve the target of exports contributing $1 trillion to the gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Boosting Indian Export:The recommendations of the HLAG will help government doubling India's exports of goods and services from $500 billion in 2018 to over $1,000 billion in 2025.
  • Push to Significant Policies:The report is concerned with policies which are needed, macro and micro, regulatory and taxation, infrastructure development, bureaucratic interference and ease of doing business to get India to aggressively move towards its potential of export growth (and indirectly GDP growth).

 

National Rural Sanitation Strategy For 10 Years Launched


  • On 27thSeptember, 2019, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, launched the 10 Year Rural Sanitation Strategy (2019-2029),with focus on sustaining the sanitation behavior change that has been achieved under the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G).

Objective

  • To guide policy makers, implementers and other relevant stakeholders in their planning for Open Defecation Free (ODF)
  • To ensure that every village has access to solid and liquid waste management.

Strategy and Focus Point

  • The 10 year strategy focuses on the following points:
    • Need for States/UTs to continue their efforts to sustain the gains of the mission through capacity strengthening
    • Spreading awareness through IEC (Information, education and communication)
    • Organic waste management
    • Plastic waste management
    • Greyand black water management
  • In addition it lays emphasis on potential collaborations with development partners, civil society and inter-government partnerships.
  • It also highlights innovative models for sanitation financing.

Swachh Bharat Mission(SBM)

  • It was launched on 2nd October, 2014, to accelerate the efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage and to put focus on sanitation.

Aim

  • The Mission aims to achieve a Swachh Bharat by2nd October, 2019, as a fitting tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary.

Objectives

  • To bring about an improvement in the general quality of life in the rural areas, by promoting cleanliness, hygiene and eliminating open defecation.
  • To accelerate sanitation coverage in rural areas to achieve the vision of Swachh Bharat by 2ndOctober 2019.
  • To motivate communities to adopt sustainable sanitation practices and facilities through awareness creation and health education.
  • To encourage cost effective and appropriate technologies for ecologically safe and sustainable sanitation.
  • To develop, wherever required, community managed sanitation systems focusing on scientific Solid & Liquid Waste Management systems for overall cleanliness in the rural areas.
  • To create significant positive impact on gender and promote social inclusion by improving sanitation especially in marginalized communities.

It has two Sub-Missions-

  • Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin): implemented by Ministry of Jal Shakti
  • Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban): implemented by Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

Achievements

  • Since the launch of the SBM-G in 2014, over 10 crore toilets have been built in rural areas; over 5.9 lakh villages, 699 districts, and 35 States/UTs have declared themselves Open Defecation Free (ODF).
  • As of July, 2019, over 2,900 cities in India have declared themselves ODF.
  • 50 lakh individual toilets have been built under SBM urban till now.

Significance

  • SBM has become a ‘Jan Andolan’ receiving tremendous support from the people. Citizens too have turned out in large numbers and pledged for a neat and cleaner India. Taking the broom to sweep the streets, cleaning up the garbage, focussing on sanitation and maintaining a hygienic environment have become a practice after the launch of the SBM.
  • People have started to take part and are helping spread the message of ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness.’

Sustaining the Sanitation Behavior Change

Following steps will ensure sustainability of both the ODF practices and the ODF status of an area-

Involvement of Locals:

    • ODF success stories are incomplete without local participation. From digging of pits to participation in rallies to voluntarily cleaning public toilets in cities, local participation has been at the heart of ODF success stories.
    • In addition, rewarding of locals in ODF areas, especially those who have played active parts in the area becoming ODF can also aid in ODF sustainability.

Preparing a List of Dos and Don’ts:

    • A series of dos and don’ts in this context ensure that residents of an ODF area know what to do and what to avoid to keep the ODF status intact.
    • Local administrations or urban local bodies can come up with a series of dos and don’ts in consultation with sanitation experts, and promote them among residents.

Identification of Vulnerable Section:

    • Identification of people who are likely to violate ODF statuses and defecate in the open can help in the sustenance of an area’s ODF status. People who have been caught defecating openly in the past should be identified and explained about the ODF status of the area and be encouraged to use toilets.
    • Fines or penalties can also be implemented on violators to ensure that the sanctity of an ODF village is not broken.

Creating Awareness to Raise ODF Sustainability:

    • Be it panchayat meetings in villages or municipality meetings in cities, ODF sustainability and its significance must be constantly reiterated in such gatherings. Concerned authorities should discuss cases of open defecation in an ODF village/city regularly; take action to ensure that such incidents are not repeated and plans adopted by the village/city administration to keep the ODF status of the area intact.
    • If ODF sustainability of an area is raised as a topic with concerned authorities with as much vigour as construction of toilets, then monitoring of ODF sustainability can be improved significantly.

Establishing a Taskforce to Promote ODF Sustainability:

    • A team of individuals can be put together to work towards ODF sustainability. Officials, motivators, volunteers familiar with the geography of the ODF area are good choices for such a team, which can keep an eye on the activities being undertaken to sustain the ODF status of a village/city.
    • The taskforce can also meet from time to time and suggest steps to be taken on how to sustain the ODF status of a particular area, and discuss the problems and potential solutions regarding the same.

Way Forward

  • SBM is more than a toilet building exercise, it is an effort to change traditional habits and behaviours, as well as a much-needed drive to reduce ground and water pollution and improve community health.
  • It is this combination of technology solutions and out-of-the-box thinking that has been critical to SBM’s success in addressing the sanitation challenges faced by India.
  • Before the launch of SBM, over 500 million people in India did not have access to safe sanitation, and now, the majority do. There is still a long way to go, but the impacts of access to sanitation in India are already being realized. The SBM can serve as a model for other countries around the world that urgently need to improve access to sanitation for the world's poorest.

Finance Ministry Cuts Down Corporate Tax


  • On 20th September, 2019, the government slashed the corporate tax rate for companies by almost 10 percentage points to 25.17 percent and offered a lower rate to 17.01 per cent for new manufacturing firms.
  • For this the government brought in the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2019 to make certain amendments in the Income-tax Act 1961 and the Finance Act 2019.
  • The decision came a day after the announcement of a scheme for generous disbursal of loans to farmers, retail borrowers and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)

Aim

  • This step aims to boost economic growth rate by boosting investment by the private sector after economic growth slowed to a six-year low in the April-June quarter of financial year.

Objective

  • To turn India into an investor’s favourite by restoring investor’s confidence and boost sentiments and demand.

Need for Lowering Corporate Tax

  • India’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth slowed for the fifth consecutive quarter in April-June 2019 to 5 percent, the lowest in six years. This was on the back of faltering domestic demand, with both private consumption and investment proving lackluster.

Key Highlights

  • Corporate tax rate has been slashed to 22 percent for domestic companies not availing any incentives/ exemptions; earlier rate 30 per cent.
  • Effective tax rate for such companies now stands at 25.17 percent including cess and surcharge; earlier it was 34.94 percent. Also, such companies shall not be required to pay Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT).
  • New domestic companies incorporated on or after Oct 1, 2019, making fresh investment in manufacturing can pay income-tax at a rate of 15 percent; earlier rate was 25 percent.
  • For companies who continue to avail exemptions/incentives, the rate of minimum alternate tax (MAT) has been reduced from 18.5 percent to 15 percent.
  • There will be no tax on buyback of shares by listed companies that have announced buyback plans before July 5, 2019.
  • Scope of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities has been expanded. The mandatory 2 percent CSR spending to include government, Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) incubators and public-funded education entities.
  • Revenue foregone for reduction in corporate tax and other relief is estimated at Rs. 1.45 lakh crore.

Source: Times of India

Corporate Tax around the Globe

  • The new rates bring India closer to the rates prevalent in many of the emerging and industrialised countries.
  • The new corporate income tax rates in India will be lower than USA (27 percent), Japan (30.62 percent), Brazil (34 percent), Germany (30 percent) and is similar to China (25 percent) and Korea (25 percent).

Source: Times of India

Impact

  • Pushing Economic Growth: India’s reduction in the corporate may result in a virtuous cycle of increasing investments, consumption leading to economic growth and company profits. The will result in massive release of Rs. 1,45,000 crore immediately in the economy which will in turn boost sentiments and bring in real surplus to corporates across the country.
  • Alter the Profitability Dynamics: The move will likely alter the profitability dynamic of the Indian corporate ecosystem. For one, given the substantially lower rates would imply that many corporates will break even much ahead than what would have been the case with the earlier rates.
  • Raising Capital Expenditure of Companies: It will encourage companies to invest more, thereby, raising their capital expenditure (capex). This will be particularly true for those who have the funds, but have remained non-committal on deploying investible money in adding new capacity lines, which will eventually, through a secondary round effect, prompt these companies to hire more employees.
  • Benefits to Consumer Market: Consumer goods will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the tax cut. Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) are likely to fall after the slash in tax.
  • Cleaning Existing Taxation Maze: It will also help to clean up the existing taxation maze, which is full of exemptions, surcharges and cesses. Existing companies that decide to do without the benefit of exemptions can get away by paying 22% corporation tax, with the effective rate working out to 25.17%.
  • Pathway to RCEP Trade Deal Signing: The aggregate corporation tax rates are now lower than China, Japan, South Korean and Malaysia which could give the government more space to look to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal between 16 Asian nations, including India.

Way Forward

  • This is a big respite and would give the required stimulus to the economy which will  help create an environment of surplus in the hands of corporates for making further investments.
  • The reduction in corporation tax rates will not only lead to economic buoyancy but will also make Indian industry more competitive globally. Beyond the immediate benefit of an investment incentive for the manufacturing sector, these steps will also lead to a paradigm shift in the mindset.
  • It will give a great stimulus to Make in India initiative, attract private investment from across the globe creating more jobs, leading to the economic growth. Over all, this is a great step towards making India the $5-trillion economy.

Government To Link MNREGA Wages To Inflation


  • On 18th September, 2019, the Centre decided to inject more money into the flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme by linking wages under the Act to an updated inflation index, which will be revised annually.
  • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation and the Labour Bureau had already begun the work to update the consumer price indices for rural areas (CPI-R) and agricultural labourers (CPI-AL)
  • The index is used for determining minimum wages and those for the government’s rural jobs programme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

Objective

  • To address the slowdown in economy.
  • To increase wages, thus increasing purchasing power and reviving rural demand.

Need for such Action

  • Wage Gap:The national average wage of an MGNREGA worker is 178.44 per day,less than half of the Rs.375 per day minimum wage recommended by a Labour Ministry. According to the latest Periodic Labour Force Survey, market wages for men were higher than MGNREGA wages by 74% in 2017-18, while for women, it was a 21% gap.
  • Drastic Change in Rural Consumption Pattern over Time:The consumption basket of CPI-AL (which determines MGNREGA wage revisions) has not been updated for more than three decadesand rural consumption patterns have changed drastically in that time.
  • Less Spending on Food Items:Food items make up more than two-thirds of the CPI-AL consumption basket, but rural workers today spend a much smaller percentage of their money on subsidised food, and an increasingly larger amount on health, education and transport costs.

Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labourers and Rural Labourers (CPI-AL/RL)

  • Labour Bureau has been compiling CPI Numbers for Agricultural Labourers since September, 1964.
  • The base of CPI(AL) was 1960-61=100. This series of CPI Numbers was then replaced by CPI for (i) Agricultural and (ii) Rural Labourers with base 1986-87=100 from November, 1995 onwards .
  • CPI for Agricultural and Rural labourers on base 1986-87=100 is a weighted average of 20 constituent state indices and it measures the extent of change in the retail prices of goods and services consumed by the agricultural and rural labourers as compared with the base period viz 86-87. This index is released on the 20th of the succeeding month.
  • CPI-AL is basically used for revising minimum wages for agricultural labour in different States.
  • As stated earlier, the Labour Bureau has kick-started the exercise of revising the base year for consumer price index for agricultural and rural labourers (CPIAL/RL) to 2019-20, from 1986-87, besides developing an index for all states and Union Territories (UTs).
  • The CPI basket combines over 45% expenditure on food and beverages, 10% on housing, over 6.8% on fuel and light, 6.5% on clothing and footwear, and 18% on miscellaneous expenditure, including on education and health.

Issue

  • Currently, CPI-AL/RL with 1986-87 base is available for only 20 states. As a practice, states or UTs with no dedicated index often use the index of neighbouring states to determine their minimum or MNREGA, giving rise to various problems.
  • For example, Sikkim had recently refused to use the index for West Bengal, saying there is significant difference in the state’s consumption baskets.
  • Hence, there has been a demand from states and UTs to determine a separate index for each of them, depending on their consumption basket, and revise the base year to reflect the current pattern of consumption.

Impact

  • The new index will take into account significant change in the consumption basket over the past three decades and could result in upward revision in MGNREGA wages as well as minimum wages that will be determined under the Code on Wages.

MGNREGA

  • It was introduced in 2005 through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005.

Aim

  • Enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing 100 days of wage-employment.

Implementing Agency

  • The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD)

Coverage

  • The scheme covers the entire country with the exception of districts that have a hundred percent urban population.

Significance

  • It creates livelihood opportunities for rural population and sets a minimum wage threshold for low income earners.
  • It provides an opportunity to rural households to earn minimum income.
  • It led to social inclusion with large scale participation of women, SCs/STs and other traditionally marginalised sections of society.
  • Led to the strengthening the rural economy through the creation of assets.
  • Has helped in strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) like the gram sabha by involving them in planning and monitoring of the scheme.

Recent Developments

Skill training under 100- day Agenda

  • Under its 100-day agenda, the Centre is all set to revamp MGNREGA, which guarantees 100 days of employment to the rural poor.
  • To ensure maximum participation of workers, the ministry would make good the loss of daily livelihood of the family by providing Rs. 200-250 daily.
  • The MRD plans to undertake 10 lakh water conservation works under MNREGA under its 100-day programme.
  • Another major initiative under 100-day agenda is PradhanMantri Gram SadakYojana Phase III, which would involve building 1.25 lakh kilometres of roads connecting markets and mandis and other places of economic importance in rural India.

Direct Benefit Transfer under MGNREGS

  • To streamline the fund flow mechanism and bring down delay in payment of wages, the Ministry of Rural Development has implemented National Electronic Fund Management System (NeFMS).
  • Around 99% of the wages are being paid electronically (FY 2018-19) into the Bank/Post Office accounts of MGNREGA workers through Electronic Fund Management System (eFMS).

GeoMGNREGA

  • It is a unique endeavor of the Ministry of Rural Development in association with National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), ISRO and National Informatics Centre for geo-tagging therural assets created under MGNREGS in each gram panchayat.
  • Note: In January 2017, Kangra, in Himachal Pradesh became the first district in the country to geotag all the assets created under the MGNREGA.

Janmanrega - Citizen-centric Mobile Application

  • An initiative towards good governance, Janmanrega is an interface to improve quality of public services.
  • It enables for information flow to and from ground-level, which will connect citizens with the system.

e-Saksham:

  • It is a digital learning platform, a GIS supported course on Integrated Natural Resource Management planning under MGNREGA.
  • Capacity building of functionaries on planning, training of State/ District/ Block level Technical Resource team is taken up under e-Sakshamtraining programme.

Reasons for Under Performance of MNREGA

Less Number of Working Days

  • Even though the scheme aims at providing 100 days of guaranteed employment, below 50 days of employment was actually provided on an average at an all-India level in FY-18.

Low Wage Rate

  • MGNREGA wage rates of 17 states are less than the corresponding state minimum wages. The ridiculously low wage rates have resulted in lack of interest among workers in working for MGNREGA schemes, making way for contractors and middle men to take control, locally.

Insufficient Budget Allocation

  • Budget allocation over the years has been insufficient. The fund that centre allocates during the budget proves to be inadequate and more funds are sought by the rural development ministry to finance MGNREGA. This results in delay in payments which adversely affects workers.

Regular Payment Delays

  • According to a finding, 78 percent of payments were not made on time, and as many as 45 percent payments did not include compensation for delayed payment as per guidelines which is 0.05 percent per day of the wages earned.
  • In FY17 alone Rs 11,000 crore of wages remained unpaid to workers. Only 32 percent of the payments in the first two quarters of FY17-18 were made on time.
  • Late payment to existing workers discourages other labourers to work for MGNREGA.

Corruption

  • In 2012, a scam was uncovered in Karnataka where 10 lakh fake job cards were detected, which resulted in Rs. 600 crore losses to the exchequer.
  • In 2018, Rural Development and Panchayath Raj (RDPR) report pointed out that in just one financial year FY18, 596 cases were registered against officials and non-officials for violation of rules and guidelines.
  • Rural workers often complain that funds that are sanctioned for public works are going into the pockets of middlemen.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana


  • It is one of the major efforts by the government which aims to secure the lives of the small farmers and marginal farmers in their old age.

Key features

  • Eligibility Criteria:
  • Farmers holding up to 2 hectare farmland will be eligible for the PM-KMY scheme.
  • Farmers between 18 and 40 years of age will get 3,000 monthly pension after reaching 60 years of age.
  • Contribution:
  • Depending on their age, farmers need to make a monthly contribution ranging between Rs. 55 and Rs. 200.
  • The farmers, who are also beneficiaries of PM-Kisan Scheme, will get the option to allow their contribution debited from the benefit of that scheme directly.
  • Coverage: The scheme is being implemented across the country, including Jammu & Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh.
  • Enrolment through CSCs:The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare has roped in Common Service Centres (CSCs) for enrollment of subscribers.
  • Voluntary Ext Option: Kisan Maan Dhan yojana beneficiaries will be able to opt voluntarily to exit the Scheme after a minimum period of 5 years of regular contributions. On exit, their entire contribution will be returned by LIC with an interest equivalent to prevailing saving bank rates.

Significance

  • The yojana will provide a social security to vulnerable small and marginal farmers with an assured supplemental income.
  • It would pave the way for the farmers to live a respectable living.

Common Service Centres (CSCs)

  • It is a strategic cornerstone of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), approved by the Government in May 2006, as part of its commitment in the National Common Minimum Programme to introduce e-governance on a massive scale.
  • It is one of the mission mode projects under the Digital India Programme.
  • CSCs are the access points for delivery of essential public utility services, social welfare schemes, healthcare, financial, education and agriculture services, apart from host of business- to-customer (B2C) services to citizens in rural and remote areas of the country.

Significance

  • It is a pan-India network catering to regional, geographic, linguistic and cultural diversity of the country, thus enabling the Government’s mandate of a socially, financially and digitally inclusive society.

Digital India

  • Launched in July, 2015, it is a flagship programme of the Government of India with a vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.
  • It encompasses 3key vision areas:
    • Digital infrastructure as a Core Utility to every citizen
    • Governance and service on demand
    • Digital Empowerment of Citizens

Challenges Faced by Small and Marginal Farmers

  • Unorganisation of Agricultural Sector:
  • Indian agriculture s4ector is largely an unorganised sector with inadequate organisational planning involved in cultivation, irrigation, harvesting etc. Institutional finances are not adequately available and minimum purchase price fixed by the government do not reach the poorest far.
  • Small farm Holdings:
  • According to the 10th Agricultural Census(2015-16), small and marginal holdings (below two hectares) constituted 86.21% of the total land holdings, which makes profitable cultivation impractical making it economically unfeasible.
  • Credit and Indebtedness Issues:
  • This is one of the main cause  of increasing farmer’s suicide across the country.Exorbitant  interest  rates  have  to  be declared illegal and the  government has to  take  strict  measures  against  greedy money    Easy  access  to institutional  credits  have  to  reach  the small  and  marginal  farmers,  without cumbersome procedure.
  • Water Problems:
  • Water is the leading input in agriculture. Small holding agriculture depend more on ground water compared to large farmers who has more access on canal water.Marginal and small farmers are going to face more problems regarding water in future.
  • Under-Penetration of Government Schemes:
  • Government has implemented agricultural debt waiver & debt relief scheme. Most of the subsidies & welfare schemes announced by the central &state government do not reach to poor farmers. On the contrary, only big land holders are benefited by these schemes.
  • The suicides that are being reported from farms across the country clearly indicate that these schemes have not found enough takers. Worse, even in cases where the farmer has signed up for a policy, he may not be eligible to make a claim when he is badly hit on account of loan defaults.
  • Lack of Awareness
  • The farmers were not aware of how the insurance schemes worked. Most of them, for instance, did not know that the policy becomes inoperative if they default on payments. The farmers do not know anything about the guidelines. The government has also not made any effort to make them aware. This is why these schemes are not too effective.
  • Climatic Changes Issues
  • Climate changes have been a major challenge for food security, agriculture and livelihoods for millions of people including rural farmers and poor people in India. Rural communities, who live in fragile environments, face an immediate and ever-growing risk of loss of livestock, increased crop failure and reduced availability of aquaculture, marine and forest products.

Way Forward

  • With a view to improve the condition of Small  and Marginal farmers and to double the income of farmers by 2022, Government is realigning its interventions from production-centric approach to farmer’s income-centric initiatives, with focus on better and new technological solutions.
  • These include implementation of schemes like PradhanMantriKrishiSinchaiYojana (PMKSY), ParamparagatKrishiVikasYojana (PKVY), Soil Health Card, Neem Coated Urea, Rainfed Area Development under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), PradhanMantriFasalBimaYojana (PMFBY), National Agriculture Market scheme (e-NAM), National Food Security Mission (NFSM), RashtriyaKrishiVikasYojana (RKVY),
  • In addition, farmers are provided information through Focused Publicity Campaigns, Kisan Call Centres (KCCs), Agri­-Clinics and Agri-Business Centres (ACABC) of entrepreneurs, Agri Fairs and exhibitions, Kisan SMS Portal etc.
  • Also, better credit and transportation facilities, warehousing and storage, better access to crop insurance are important for improving the earnings and living conditions of marginal farmers.
  • Small and marginal holdings agriculture is important for raising agriculture growth, food security and to improve the economy in India and the future of sustainable agriculture growth and food security of the nation depends on the performance of these small and marginal farmers.

First Mega Food Park In Telangana Inaugurated


  • Recently, the first Mega Food Park (MFP) in Telangana located in the village Lakkampally, NandipetMandal of Nizamabad district was inaugurated making it the 17thoperational food Park in the country.
  • The Park will provide direct and indirect employment to 50,000 youth and benefit about 1 lakh farmers.

Mega Food Park Scheme (MFPS)

  • MFPS is the flagship program of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries which proposes a demand driven/pre-marketed model with strong backward/forward linkages and sustainable supply chain.
  • These parks are being implemented by the government under its Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters (SAMPADA) and the Make in India initiatives.
  • It is based on “Cluster” approach and envisages creation of state of art support infrastructure in a well-defined agri-horticultural zone for setting up of modern food processing units with well-established supply chain.
  • It is implemented by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which is a Body Corporate registered under the Companies Act.

Features

  • A Mega Food Park located in the area of a minimum of 50 acres work in a cluster based approach based on a Hub and Spoke model.This includes a Central Processing Centre (CPC), which is the Hub, and Primary Processing Centres (PPCs) and Collection Centres (CCs), which act as the Spokes.
  • It includes common facilities and enabling infrastructure at Central Processing Centre like modern warehousing, cold storage, IQF, sorting, grading, packaging, pulping, ripening chambers and tetra packaging units roads, electricity, water, effluent treatment plant( ETP)facilities etc.
  • State Government, State Government entities and Cooperatives are not required to form a separate SPV for implementation of Mega Food Park project.
  • Under the scheme, the Centre provides financial assistance of up to Rs 50 crore.

Aims

  • To facilitate establishment of integrated value chain, with processing at the core and supported by requisite forward and backward linkage.
  • Providing a mechanism to link agricultural production to the market by bringing together farmers, processors and retailers.
  • To ensure maximizing value addition, minimizing wastage, increasing farmers income and creating employment opportunities particularly in rural sector.

16 Mega Food Parks Operational in India

  • Srini Mega Food Park, Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh.
  • Godavari Mega Aqua Park, West Godavari, Andhra Pradesh.
  • North East Mega Food Park, Nalbari, Assam.
  • Gujarat Agro Mega Food Park, Surat, Gujarat.
  • Cremica Mega Food Park, Una, Himachal Pradesh.
  • Integrated Mega Food Park, Tumkur, Karnataka.
  • Indus Mega Food Park, Khargoan, Madhya Pradesh.
  • Paithan Mega Food Park, Aurangabad, Maharashtra.
  • Satara Mega Food Park, Satara, Maharashtra.
  • MITS Mega Food Park, Rayagada, Odisha.
  • International Mega Food Park, Fazilka, Punjab.
  • Greentech Mega Food Park, Ajmer, rajasthan.
  • Patanjali Food and Herbal Park, Haridwar, Uttarakhand.
  • Himalayan Mega Food Park, Udham Singh Nagar, Uttarakhand.
  • Jangipur Bengal Mega Food Park, Murshidabad, West Bengal.
  • Tripura Mega Food Park, West Tripura, Tripura.

Benefits

  • Modern infrastructure for food processing at the park would benefit the farmers, growers, processors and consumers immensely and prove to be a big boost to the growth of the food processing sector in the country.
  • Benefit to local population through full/partial direct and indirect employment generation
  • New employment opportunities within rural areas which will reduce rural-urban migration, unplanned urbanisation, slums/social problems in cities
  • Provide efficient supply chain management from farm gate to retail outlet.
  • Elimination/reduction in the layers of the middle-men, training and technology transfer.
  • Farmers can utilise the cold storages, ripening chambers, and warehouses. So, less wastage of productsand no distress sales, leading to higher income.
  • Benefit to Industry by helping in value addition by providing modern common infrastructure facilities, induction of advanced technology and exporting opportunities.
  • Benefit to traders through increase in product range and better quality and to consumers through availability of better products at lesser price.
  • Food entrepreneur can establish backward linkages (with farmers) and forward linkage (with retailers) which will provide compact supply chain and more profits.
  • Quality assurance of processed food products through better process control and meeting of environmental and safety standards are other major benefits of MFPs.

Significance

  • The MFPShelps in delivering a major impetus to the food processing sector by adding value and reducing food wastage at each stage of the supply chain with particular focus on perishables.
  • It helps in providing an environment that is smooth, transparent and easy for investors wanting to start an enterprise in India and in a bid to make India a resilient food economy.

Challenges to MFPS

  • Land AcquisitionIssues:Like most other infrastructure projects, the key challenge in setting up food parks lies in land acquisition. Most of the projects have failed to take off mainly because of the bottlenecks involved in land acquisition. For example, land acquisition is a problem in West Bengal as the West Bengal Land Reforms Act of 1955, puts a land ceiling limit of 24.7 acreson a piece of land for industrial use.
  • Financial Issues:Financial issues are found to be one of major reasons for incomplete Mega Food Park projects. One of the main reasons has been the failure of the promoters in raising finance for the MFPs as they have difficulties in convincing the banks about the new concept and hence failed to secure loans required for mounting the projects. The other challenge is in being able to attract the right set of tenants, basically, manufacturers and ancillary players, who can come forward and set up base in a food park.
  • Issues Related to Clearances:The process of creating infrastructure involves state clearances and approvals from different organisations like power, water, sanitation and environment. Often, projects get delayed due to non-approvals and in coordination with various state agencies. For examples, it took both Jharkhand Mega Food Park Private Limited and India Mega Food Park Private Limited, 36 months to get permission for sub-leasing of land and Satara Mega Food Park Private Limited (Maharashtra) and International Mega Food Park Limited reported facing issues in getting environmental clearance from the state.
  • Issues Related to Single Window Clearances: Even though single window facility exists in almost all states, yet they failed to provide timely and holistic clearances. For example, Integrated Food Park Private Limited (Karnataka) had to approach multiple departments to get respective approvals and clearances in-spite of presence of fast track single window clearance agency.
  • High Rental Issues:In order to create world class facilities, all the food parks has to import machineries from abroad which are expensive. Hence the rent or the lease amount for these facilities is also expected to be high. Even if the PPC has a state of the art infrastructure the users may not be willing or may not have the ability to pay a high rental.

Way Forward

  • The government is focused on boosting the food processing industry so that agriculture sector grows exponentially and becomes a major contributor to doubling farmer’s income and Make in India initiative.
  • The timely completion of MFPswill provide a big boost to the growth of the food processing sector in the concerned state, help in providing better price to farmers and creating huge employment opportunities especially in rural areas. These will also help in stabilizing prices of food products and contain inflation in the country. Should it falter, it will only be adding yet another layer of middlemen which would make the scheme more of a liability than a panacea.

Cabinet Approves Proposal For Review Of FDI Policy


Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the proposal for Review of Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) in four different sectors-Coal Mining, Contract Manufacturing, Single Brand Retail Trading (SBRT) and Digital Media.

Coal Mining

  • It has been decided to permit 100% FDI under automatic route for sale of coal, for coal mining activities including Associated Processing Infrastructure (API) subject to provisions of Coal Mines (special provisions) Act, 2015 and the Mines and Minerals (development and regulation) Act, 1957. API would include coal washery, crushing, coal handling, and separation (magnetic and non-magnetic).

Contract Manufacturing

  • The extant FDI policy provides for 100% FDI under automatic routein manufacturing sector. There is no specific provision for Contract Manufacturing in the Policy. In order to provide clarity on contract manufacturing, it has been decided to allow 100% FDI under automatic route in contract manufacturing in India as well.

Single Brand Retail Trading (SBRT)

  • With a view to provide greater flexibility and ease of operations to SBRT entities, it has been decided that all procurements made from India by the SBRT entity for that single brand shall be counted towards local sourcing, irrespective of whether the goods procured are sold in India or exported.
  • The extant FDI Policy provides that 30% of value of goods has to be procured from India if SBRT entity has FDI more than 51%. Further, as regards local sourcing requirement, the same can be met as an average during the first 5 years, and thereafter annually towards its India operations. Further, the current cap of considering exports for 5 years only is proposed to be removed, to
  • It also mandates that SBRT entities have to operate through brick and mortar stores before starting retail trading of that brand through e-commerce.

Digital Media

  • The extant FDI policy provides for 49% FDI under approval route in Up-linking of 'News &Current Affairs' TV Channels.
  • It has been decided to permit 26% FDI under government route for uploading/ streaming of News & Current Affairs through Digital Media, on the lines of print media.

Need

  • Slowing Economic Growth: After rapidly expanding in last couple of years, India's economic growth momentum has been slipping since the last 3-4 quarters. Not only did GDP growth fall to a 20-quarter low of 5.8 percent in January-March, 2019, telltale signs of distress are visible in sectors like Non-Banking Financial Companys (NBFCs), automobile, real estate, and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG).
  • Global Dip in FDI Flow: According to the World Investment Report 2019, released by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), global FDI flows slid by 13 percent in 2018 to USD 1.3 trillion from USD 1.5 trillion the previous year the third consecutive annual decline.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

  • It records the value of cross-border transactions related to direct investment during a given period of time, usually a quarter or a year.
  • Financial flows consist of equity transactions, reinvestment of earnings, and intercompany debt transactions.
  • FDI flows are measured in USD and as a share of GDP.
  • FDI under sectors is permitted either through Automatic route or Government route:
  • Under the Automatic route, the non-resident or Indian company does not require any approval from government.
  • Whereas, under the Government route, approval form the government is required prior to investment. Proposals for foreign investment under the Government route are considered by the respective Administrative Ministry/Department.
  • During 2018-19, India received the maximum FDI equity inflows from Singapore (US$ 16.23 billion), followed by Mauritius (US$ 8.08 billion), bUS$ 3.87 billion), USA (US$ 3.14 billion), and Japan (US$ 2.97 billion).

Significance

  • Apart from being a critical driver of economic growth, foreign direct investment (FDI) is a major source of non-debt financial resource for the economic development of the country.
  • FDI creates stable and long-lasting links between economies.

Impact

  • More FDI Inflow: The changes in FDI policy will result in making India a more attractive FDI destination, leading to benefits of increased investments, employment and growth.
  • Boost to Make in India: Further, manufacturing through contract contributes equally to the objective of Make in India. FDI now being permitted under automatic route in contract manufacturing will be a big boost to Manufacturing sector in India.
  • Ease of Doing Business:This will lead to greater flexibility and ease of operations for SBRT entities, besides creating a level playing field for companies with higher exports in a base year.
  • Creating Competitive Coal Market: In the coal sector, for sale of coal, 100% FDI under automatic route for coal mining, activities including associated processing infrastructure will attract international players to create an efficient and competitive coal market.
  • Boosting Investor Sentiment: This will boost investor sentiment and signal that the government is proactively responding to voices of distress in the industry.
  • Support to Digital India Initiative: Allowing single brand retailers to start online stores, while meeting local sourcing norms, aligns well with the ‘Digital India’ initiative, giving them time to build their brick-and-mortar presence in parallel.
  • More Employment:Online sales will also lead to creation of jobs in logistics, digital payments, customer care, training and product skilling.
  • Making India $5 Trillion Economy: It will help in achieving the government’s goal of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024.

Way Forward

  • The steps taken are meant to liberalize and simplify the FDI policy in order to provide ease of doing business in the country, leading to larger FDI inflows and thereby contributing to growth of investment, income and employment.
  • Despite the dim global picture, India continues to remain a preferred and attractive destination for global FDI flows. However, it is felt that the country has the potential to attract far more foreign investment which can be achieved inter-alia by further liberalizing and simplifying the FDI policy regime.
  • India needs to actively address implementation issues and policy irritants that arise for companies looking to use the FDI route to invest in the country-competition for FDI has been intensifying.
  • Besides the legislative aspect, the government must also step up to the challenge of convincing businesses of the certainty of its policies which will finally help the government to meet the target of  attracting $100 billion in FDI over the next two years.

National Urban Livelihoods Mission Conferred SKOCH Award


  • On 29th August, 2019, Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM), a flagship mission under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has been conferred the prestigious SKOCH Governance Gold Award.
  • It has been awarded for its Portal for Affordable Credit and Interest Subvention Access (PAiSA).

Portal for Affordable Credit and Interest Subvention Access (PAiSA)

  • Launched in November 2018, it is a centralized IT platform which simplifies and streamlines release of interest subvention under the Mission.
  • It offers end to end online solution for processing, payment, monitoring and tracking of interest subvention claims from banks on a monthly basis.
  • The portal has been designed and developed by Allahabad Bank.

SKOCH Award

  • Instituted in 2003, it is the highest civilian honour in the country conferred by an independent organisation.
  • It recognises people, projects and institutions that go the extra mile to make India a better nation.
  • It covers the best of efforts in the area of digital, financial and social inclusion.

Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission

  • National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MHUPA), Government of India in September, 2013 by replacing the Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY).

Component of Day-NULM

  • The scheme has two component:
  • The Urban component named as DeenDayal Antyodaya Yojana will be implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation.
  • The Rural component named as DeenDayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana will be implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development.

Aim

  • To reduce poverty and vulnerability of the urban poor households by enabling them to access self-employment and skilled wage employment opportunities.
  • Providing shelter equipped with essential services to the urban homeless.
  • To address livelihood concerns of the urban street vendors by facilitating access to suitable spaces, institutional credit, social security and skills to the urban street vendors for accessing emerging market opportunities.
  • It aims to achieve universal financial inclusion, through opening of basic savings accounts, facilitating access to financial literacy, credit, affordable insurance, and remittance facilities to the urban poor and their institutions

Salient Features of DAY-NULM

  • Employment through Skill Training and Placement: An expenditure of Rs.15, 000 per person is allowed on training of urban poor which is Rs.18, 000 in North-East and J&K. Moreover, Training urban poor to meet the enormous demand from urban citizens by imparting market-oriented skills through City Livelihood Centers.
  • Social Mobilization and Institution Development: It will be done through formation of Self-Help Groups (SHG) for training members and hand holding, an initial support of 10, 000 is given for each group. Assistance of Rs.50, 000 is provided to Registered Area Level Federations.
  • Subsidy to Urban Poor: An interest subsidy of 5% - 7% for setting up individual micro-enterprises with a loan of up to 2 lakh and for group enterprises with a loan limit of up to Rs.10 lakhs.
  • Shelters for Urban Homeless: Cost of construction of shelters for urban homeless is fully funded under the Scheme.
  • Other Means: Development of vendor markets and also the promotion of skills for the vendors through setting up infrastructure and special projects for the rag picker and differently abled etc.

Significance

  • Ownership and productive involvement of the urban poor and their institutions in all processes
  • Transparency in programme design and implementation, including institution building and capacity strengthening
  • Accountability of government functionaries and the community
  • Partnerships with industry and other stakeholders
  • Community self-reliance, self-dependence, self-help and mutual-help

PM Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana Opens For Registration


  • On 8th August, 2019, the government opened registration for the PM Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana (PM-KMY) scheme.
  • The Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) shall be the Pension Fund Manager and responsible for Pension pay out.

PM Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana

  • This scheme which was announced in the Union Budget 2019-20 comprises of provision of a monthly pension of Rs. 3,000 to eligible farmers on attaining the age of 60.
  • The farmers are supposed to contribute Rs.55 to Rs.200 on a monthly basis, basis their age of entry in the Pension Fund till up to the age of 60 years.
  • The Scheme is effective from the 9th August, 2019.
  • The scheme is planned to be implemented across the nation and will also include Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • It aims to help farmers live a healthy and happy life after they reach their old age.

Eligibility:

  • Farmers who hold up to 2 hectare farm land are eligible for the scheme. This pension scheme is on voluntary and contribution-based for farmers in the age group of 18 to 40 years.

 Key Features:

  • Farmers, who have attained 18 years, will have to contribute Rs. 55 per month while the Centre will also contribute a similar amount. Farmers aged 29 years will have to contribute Rs. 100 per month farmers aged 40 will have to contribute Rs. 200 per month.
  • 30 has to be paid by farmers to common service centre for enrolment in the scheme.
  • Special Provisions for Spouse:

    • A separate pension of Rs 3,000 upon making separate contribution to the fund is also made available to the spouse of the farmer enrolled.
    • The spouse may continue with the scheme, in case of death of the enrolled farmer before the retirement date.
    • If the spouse does not wish to contribute, the total contribution made by the farmer along with interest will be paid to the spouse.
    • The total contribution along with interest will be paid to the nominee, in case of absence of any spouse.
    • The spouse will is eligible to receive 50 per cent of the pension as family pension, in case the farmer dies after the retirement date.
    • In case of death of both the farmer and spouse, the accumulated corpus will be credited back to the pension fund.
  • Voluntary Exit Option:

    • The beneficiaries may opt to exit the scheme after a minimum period of five years of regular contributions.
    • The entire contribution will be returned by pension fund manager LIC with an interest equivalent to prevailing saving bank rates on exit.
  • The farmers, who are also beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme, will have the option to allow their contribution debited from the benefit of that Scheme directly.

Significance of the Scheme:

  • Ensuring Social Security:Farming requires hard work in fields which becomes difficult at an advanced age. Despite working hard, the farmer does not earn enough.Pm-KMY will help to ensure better income, providing social security to farmer’s familyacross the country.
  • Doubling Farmer’s Income: It is one of the several schemes introduced by the government which aims to the double the income of the farmers by 2022.

Challenges Faced by Small farmers

 Small Land Holdings:

  • Nearly 80% of the farming families hold less than 2 acres of land. As land holdings are small, more people invariably work on the farms in the rural areas and coupled with the obsolete technology, farm incomes come down.
  • In addition, many land owners do not disclose their land record due to fear of losing it. It results in underutilization of land and loss of agricultural output.

 Lack of Education:

  • Illiteracy, lack of awareness about recent developments in the field of agriculturaland poor socio-economic background of the farmers is some of the fundamental reasons for continuously decreasing agricultural productivity.
  • The NSS farmers’ Survey clearly shows that awareness about biofertilizers, minimum support prices and WTO is associated with education levels which are lower for marginal and small farmers.

Finance and Indebtedness:

  • Agriculture like all other industries requires capital too. As the farmers don’t get access to institutional credit, they move towards informal moneylenders who demand exorbitant interest rate and farmers gets trapped in huge debt, ultimately forcing him to end his life. This is also one of the main reasons behind farmer’s suicide in India.

Lack of Modernised Infrastructure:

  • India lacks modernized infrastructure for promoting the agriculture sector. Rudimentary policies and old fashioned equipment’s and practices used by farmers in India are not sustainable, resulting in low yield for many agricultural commodities.
  • Low level investment coupled with the use of obsolete technologies results in declined production, inefficiency and higher costs that in turn becomes one of the causes for food inflation.

Monsoon Dependency and Inadequate Irrigational Facilities:

  • A major portion of the country’s farmers are completely dependent on Monsoon rains as they’re not equipped with modern irrigation facilities.
  • Weak or failure of monsoon result in crop giving rise to various rural distress such as low productivity, low market price, farmer’s suicide, etc.

 Impact of Climate Change:

  • Climate change is a major challenge for agriculture, food security and rural livelihoods for millions of people with more adverse impact on small holding farmers.
  • It is expected to have adverse impact on the living conditions of farmers, who are already vulnerable and food insecure.

Way Forward:

  • Agriculture sector is considered the back bone of the Indian economic system. Besides providing employment opportunities to millions of Indians, it delivers necessary inputs for high industrial growth.
  • Therefore, much attention is required in the form of realistic policy measures such as timely availability of formal credit and other inputs to the farmers, creating the awareness about policies and programs of the government meant for educating the farmers through different media platforms is the need of hour in order to improve the socio economic conditions of farmers across the country.

Houses Sanctioned Under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana(Urban)


  • On 25th July, 2019, the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs approved the construction of around 1, 40,134 more affordable houses for the benefit of urban poor under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY-Urban).
  • The approval was given in the 45th meeting of the Central Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee(CSMC). The cumulative number of houses sanctioned under PMAY(U) now is 85,11,574.

States Sanctioned under PMAY-URABN

CSMC considered proposals from 8 States-

  • Uttar Pradesh (54,277)
  • West Bengal (26,585)
  • Gujarat (26,183)
  • Maharashtra (8,499)
  • Assam (9,328)
  • Chhattisgarh (6,507)
  • Rajasthan (4,947)
  • Haryana (3,808)

PradhanMantriAwasYojana(PMAY)

  • It was launched in June 2015 with an objective to provide affordable housing to urban and rural poor.

Aim:

  • It aims to achieve its objective of “Housing for All” by 31 March 2022”,by constructing 20 million houses across the nation, when the nation completes 75 years of its Independence

This Yojana has two parts –

  • PradhanMantriAwasYojana Urban (PMAY-U)
  • PradhanMantriAwasYojanaGramin (PMAY-G)

Components of PMAY-

There are four primary components of this scheme:

  • Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS): It provides subsidies on home loan interest rates to those eligible for this scheme.Home loans under the CLSS have a maximum tenor of 20 years.
  • In-situ Slum Redevelopment using the Land as a Resource: It aims to rehabilitate slums with the land as a resource, with association with private organisations to provide houses to families living in such areas.
  • Affordable Housing in Partnership (AHP):It provides financial assistance to the tune of Rs. 1.5 Lakh on behalf of the Central Government to EWS families for the purchase of houses. State and UTs can partner with their agencies or private sector to develop such housing projects.
  • Individual House Construction or Enhancement led by beneficiaries:It targets economically weaker sections(EWS) families who cannot avail the benefits of the previous three components. Such beneficiaries will avail financial assistance from the Central Government of up to Rs. 1.5 Lakh that can be used to fund the construction of a house or enhancing an existing one.

Groups Eligible for PMAY

The following individuals and families are eligible for this scheme:

  • Economically Weaker Section (EWS):Families with an annual income up to Rs. 3 Lakh.
  • Low Income Group (LIG):Families with an annual income between Rs. 3 Lakh and Rs. 6 Lakh.
  • Middle Income Group I (MIG I): Families within an annual income between Rs. 6 Lakh and Rs. 12 Lakh.
  • Middle Income Group II (MIG II): Families with an annual income between Rs. 6 Lakh and Rs. 12 Lakh.
  • Women belonging to EWS and LIG categories.
  • Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST), and Other Backward Class (OBC)

Challenges in PMAY Implementation

  • Scarcity of Land
    • Urban land mass is under severe constraint to meet the housing necessity of the country’s population which is expanding rapidly. This is amongst the foremost reasons for slow progress of this initiative. In addition, a large portion of the city land is locked under slums and other congested areas.
  • Unmaintained Property Records
    • Land and property records are currently not digitized and remain in poor condition. This continues to be a major hindrance in the execution of the scheme laid out by PMAY. With most of the people dwelling in ancestral homes and the ownership in the name of their deceased parents or the slum dwellers with no property rights, such subsidies could not be availed.
    • To complicate things further, land records are governed by the State’s revenue department. Citizensare unable to obtain their property documents easily, ending up being deprived of the scheme’s benefits.
  • Delayed Project Approvals
    • Lengthy and cloudy approval process has often been cited as a major barrier towards curbing the cost of realty projects. In exorbitant cities like Mumbai and Delhi, the unnecessary delay is known to escalate the project cost by almost 30 percent.
  • Lack of Clear Communication & Co-ordination
    • In a project of this magnitude it is important for all the parties concerned to communicate effectively so that there is no confusion. This is a major issue in implementation because times experts from various fields do not interact with each other. For instance, it is not possible to conceive a project or plan transportation without understanding the commute patterns in a city. So, co-ordination amongst the implementing agencies will be extremely important for a project of this magnitude.
  • Lack of Infrastructure
    • City fringes lack infrastructure, modes of transport and even employment opportunities. In the absence of work and means to commute, the purpose of developing low-cost homes is defeated as homebuyers, who are mostly dependent on public infrastructure.

Suggestions to Overcome Challenges

  • Ease of Land Availability: The government needs to regularly release land parcels for affordable housing projects, identified within municipal limits and bring more peripheral lands into developable limits of the city authorities.
  • Updating Property Records: States need to simplify the process of updating property records. This will allow all citizens to obtain legal documents to their land and property in order to fully embrace the subsidy features of PMAY and access credit, which will enable them to upgrade their housing.
  • Investing in Infrastructure: Focus also needs to be on providing the necessary connectivity and social infrastructure, to allow these projects to develop as habitable and vibrant communities.
  • Dedicated Approval Window for Affordable Housing: Building approval process needs to be streamlined; a separate fast-track process needs to be put in place for affordable housing projects. For affordable housing to work, accelerating the building approval processes is critical, in order to limit the gestation period and the associated costs.
  • Synchronizing Central and State Policies: There is an urgent need for alignment of state level affordable housing policies with the central government policies to remove ambiguities around availing central incentives, while ensuring compliance with the state policies.
  • Strengthening Micro-Finances: The government needs to improve the institutional environment for the lower income categories to access housing microfinance and other financial tools.
  • Use of Advanced Technologies: There is a need for developers to invest in innovative construction technologies to promote mass housing developments at subsidized construction costs. Portable modular housing units and prefabricated construction technology are some techniques that could be looked at to address affordable housing needs.

Global Housing Technology Challenge-India(GTHC-India)

  • To make constructing affordable houses in India cost-effective, speedier and of high quality, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs launched the GHTC-India in January, 2019, in New Delhi.
  • The aim of the initiative is to fast-track the construction of affordable housing and meets the target of constructing 10 million urban homes by 2022.

It has three components:

  • Conduct of Grand Expo-cum-Conference
  • Identifying Proven Demonstrable Technologies from across the world
  • Promoting Potential Technologies through setting up incubation centers at selected IITs and organizing accelerator workshops under the Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators- India (ASHA-India) Program.

Way Forward

  • There is no doubt that the Government has taken strides in the right direction to make housing for all a reality. However, the scale of the problem requires more radical thinking on the part of the government in its bid to include the private sector and provide an enabling ecosystem to give the much needed impetus to affordable housing development in the country.
  • Although affordable housing for all in India still has a great distance to cover; an integrated and holistic approach from the concerned stakeholders would help the country in realising the daunting challenges and fulfilling the government’s aim of Housing for All by 202

Odisha Implements Witness Protection Scheme, 2018


On 9th July, 2019, Odisha became the first Indian state to implement the Centre’s Witness Protection Scheme, 2018. Endorsing the central scheme on December 5 last year, the Supreme Court had directed all States and UTs to implement it in letter and spirit.

Reasons for Witness Turning Hostile:

  • Threats to life of witnesses as well as relatives
  • Inducement by various means
  • Influence of rich, powerful and corrupt people
  • Inefficient judiciary system leading to prolonged hearings

The Witness Protection Scheme, 2018

Aim

  • To ensure that the investigation, prosecution, and trial of criminal offenses is not hindered because witnesses are subdued or frightened to give evidence without protection from violent or other criminal recrimination.

Salient Features

  • Identifying categories of threat perceptions, preparation of a 'Threat Analysis Report' by the head of the police
  • Protective measures like ensuring that the witness and accused do not come face to face during probe
  • Protection of identity
  • Relocation of witness
  • Confidentiality and preservation of records, recovery of expenses etc
  • It comprises 3 categories of witnesses as per the threat perception:
    • Category A: cases where the threat extends to the life of witness or his family members during an investigation, trial or thereafter.
    • Category B: cases where the threat perception extends to safety, reputation or property of the witness or his family members during the investigation or trial.
    • Category C: cases where the threat is moderate and extends to harassment or intimidation of the witness or his family member’s reputation or property.

Need for Such Scheme:

  • Life Threat to Witnesses: In Indian scenario large percentage of acquittals in criminal cases is due to witnesses turning hostile and giving false testimonies, mostly due to lack of protection for them and their families, especially in case of women and children. It is the responsibility of the State to impart adequate protection to the witness. This would encourage more witness to come forward.
  • To Provide Rule of Law: It is a rule of law that no rights of the witness should be prejudiced by way of threats, intimidation or corruption therefore, to allow him to testify for or against the case which he had been a witness to with full liberty.

Challenges towards Witness Protection:

  • Maintaining Anonymity of Witness: The most important challenge is with respect to anonymity of witnesses and the balancing of interests of the prosecution to compensate the witness and the rights of the true accused.
  • High Implementation Cost: When talking about offering bodyguards, security, relocation to another area etc., the costs that are involved are bound to be huge.
  • Deep-Rooted Corruption: The more pertinent problem is that of corruption in the administration and judiciary at every level, making witnesses more vulnerable.
  • Inefficient Judiciary System: A witness in Indian situation, who is settled with a job and family, may not want to undergo such major changes in his life for the sake of being a witness in a Court of law considering the snail paced working of Indian judicial system.

Suggestions:

  • Beneficial witness protection legislation, should ideally count in all the three concerned agencies – police, government and judiciary. The government should exhibit a political will to administer necessary acts, the judiciary can take up the legal aspects and the execution may be delegated to the police.
  • The police force should be given more freedom to take basic measures to protect witnesses like surveillance, escorting the witness to work and court, assisting with emergency relocation etc.
  • Rebuilding trust of the people in the formal system of law is the best form of witness protection. The witnesses should be assured that those who want to testify have, on their side, the police and an impartial system.

Way Forward

  • Witnesses are regarded as one of the most crucial element in the criminal justice system. It is because of them that the trial finds some solidity so as to come to a fair conclusion.
  • A good witness protection scheme is important for witnesses whose evidence is vital for the successful prosecution of criminal cases and wherein the life of witness and his family members is also exposed to danger.
  • An effective witness protection scheme will bring in efficiency in the criminal justice system, given the awful rate of convictions in the country.

Not Much Increase In Allocation For Child Welfare In Budget


Recently, on 5th July, the Union Budget was released by the Finance Minister.

Relevance of the News: It highlights the allocations made for child welfare in the budget.

Details of the News:

  • The outlay for children in the Union Budget has shown a marginal increase of 0.05%, going up from 3.24% in the last fiscal to 3.29% in the current fiscal.
  • The National Plan of Action for Children, 2016 had recommended a share of 5% for child welfare and this year’s budget allocation of 3.29% is quite less from even that amount.
  • Four thematic areas of child rights include
    • Education
    • Health
    • Development
    • Child protection
  • The share of education has increased marginally to 68.54% from 68.2%, but has declined by more than 10 percentage points from the 79.02% of 2015-16. 
  • Health-related financial allocation as a share of the child health budget has shown a decline of 0.39 percentage point — from 3.9% last fiscal to 3.51%.
  • The Anganwadi services and the Poshan Abhiyan (Nutrition Mission) aim at reducing stunting, anaemia, low weight and low birth weight.
  • While the former has registered an increase of 19% and the latter of 14% in this latest Budget announcement, experts have argued it is inadequate.

Blueprint For Growth: Economic Survey


Economic Survey was released on 4 July 2019 by the Union Minister of Finance in Parliament.  

Relevance of the News: The Survey forwarded a private investment-led growth strategy to achieve Prime Minister’s vision of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25.

Highlights of Economic Survey:

  • It projected the Indian economy to grow at 7% during 2019-2020, slightly faster than 6.8% achieved in the previous year.
  • Sustained real GDP growth rate of 8% needed for a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25.
  • India needs to cut real interest rates, ease labour rules, reduce capital gains tax on startup investments and encourage infant firms to grow at a sustained 8% rate to reach the GDP target by 2024-25.
  • The Survey suggests a move towards a “virtuous cycle” of savings, investments and exports to transform India into a $5 trillion economy.
  • Virtuous cycle would require the adoption of certain practices and norms on data, legal reforms and policy certainty, and some micro-economic aspects such as boosting MSMEs and reducing the cost of capital.
  • When the economy is in a virtuous cycle, investment, productivity growth, job creation, demand and exports feed into each other and enable all sectors and energies in the economy to thrive.

Private Investment as the Key Driver of Growth, Jobs, Exports and Demand:

  • Investment is the “key driver" to catalyse the economy into a self-sustaining virtuous cycle. It is the key driver for demand, capacity, labor productivity, new technology, creative destruction and job creation.
  • It suggests protecting the private investment from being crowded out. In order to achieve this, the Survey suggests the government to follow its fiscal consolidation glide path. This includes being committed to a fiscal deficit of 3.4% of GDP in 2019-20, and 3% each in the subsequent two years.
  • The general apprehension is that a high investment rate would mean labour would be substituted out by capital but this has been proved as incorrect by the Chinese Model which has shown that how a country with the highest investment rates also created the most jobs.
  • According to Survey, capital investment fosters job creation since capital goods production, research and development, and supply chains also generate jobs.
  • Key ingredients for a self-sustaining virtuous cycle:
  • Presenting data as a public good.
  • Emphasizing legal reforms.
  • Ensuring policy consistency.
  • Encouraging behavior change using principles of behavioral economics.
  • Nourishing MSMEs to create more jobs and become more productive.
  • Reducing the cost of capital.
  • Rationalizing the risk-return trade-off for investments.

Data “Of the People, By the People, For the People”:

  • Data must be viewed as a public good and used in a concerted way to deliver services.
  • It is of societal interest and is generated by the people which can be created as a public good within the legal framework of data privacy.
  • It suggests merging the distinct datasetsheld by the government into a single dataset, which would generate “multiple benefits.”

MSME and ‘Dwarf’ Firms:  

  • Dwarfs i.e. small firms that never grow beyond their small size despite surviving for more than 10 years, dominate the Indian economy.
  • Contribution of dwarf firms (firms with less than 100 workers) to employment is only 14% and to productivity is a mere 8% but large firms account for 75% employment and close to 90% of productivity despite accounting for about 15% by number.
  • Survey favours incentivizing firms (MSMEs) based on their lifespan rather than on size, which leads to “dwarfing" of MSMEs, encouraging them to remain small and hold back job creation and productivity.
  • Survey calls for unshackling MSMEs and enabling them to grow by way of:
  • A sunset clause of less than 10 years, with necessary grand-fathering, for all size-based incentives.
  • Deregulating labor law restrictions to create significantly more jobs, as evident from Rajasthan.
  • Re-calibrating Priority Sector Lending (PSL) guidelines for direct credit flow to young firms in high employment elastic sectors.

 

Policy for Real People, Not Robots: Leveraging the Behavioral Economics of “Nudge”:

  • Survey calls for the usage of behavioral economics to ‘nudge’/ guide people towards desirable behavior w.r.t. several issues including gender equality, a healthy and beautiful India, savings, tax compliance and credit quality.
  • Using insights from behavioral economics to create an aspirational agenda for social change:
  • From ‘Beti Baco Beti Padhao’ to ‘BADLAV’ (Beti Aapki Dhan Lakshmi Aur Vijay Lakshmi).
  • From ‘Swachh Bharat’ to ‘Sundar Bharat’.
  • From ‘Give it up” for the LPG subsidy to ‘Think about the Subsidy’.
  • From ‘Tax evasion’ to ‘Tax compliance’.

Boosting the reduction in government revenues:

  • The Survey highlights that government revenues for current fiscal year will witness a decline of about 1.6 lakh crore mainly because of fall in expected tax revenues due to slow growth.
  • This fall in revenue can be bridged by boosting the non-tax revenues through:
  • Releasing the land held by PSUs and monetizing them.
  • Higher disinvestment target should be set. Government could reduce its holdings in some PSUs to below the majority stake of 51% of direct control.

 

India's Demography at 2040: Planning Public Good Provision for the 21st Century

  • Sharp slowdown in population growth is expected in next 2 decades. Most of India will enjoy demographic dividend but some states will transition to ageing societies by 2030s.
  • It is forecast that the population rate will grow less than 1% from 2021 to 2031 and under 0.5% from 2031 to 2041 due to the fall in the total fertility rate (TFR), which is projected to decline between 2021 and 2041 and fall below replacement level fertility at 1.8 as early as 2021.
  • At the State level, southern States as well as West Bengal, Punjab, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh have below replacement level fertility and will see TFR decline to 1.5-1.6 by 2021. And by 2031, all States are likely to see below replacement level fertility.
  • The size of the elderly population, 60 years and above, is expected to nearly double from 8.6% in 2011 to 16% by 2041.
  • This will throw new policy challenges such as provision for health and old-age care, access to retirement-related financial services, public pension funding, and retirement age.
  • This will mean additional jobs will have to be created to keep pace with annual increase in working-age population of 9.7 million during 2021-31 and 4.2 million during 2031-41.
  • Increasing the retirement age for both men and women going forward could be considered in line with the experience of other countries like U.S., Germany and France.

A Minimum Wage For Inclusive Growth

  • Survey proposes a well-designed minimum wage system as a potent tool for protecting workers and alleviating poverty.
  • Present minimum wage system in India has 1,915 minimum wages for various scheduled job categories across states. Survey supports rationalization of minimum wages as proposed under the Code on Wages Bill.
  • ‘National Floor Minimum Wage’ should be notified by the Central Government, varying across five geographical regions.
  • Minimum wages by states should be fixed at levels not lower than the ‘floor wage’.
  • ‘National level dashboard’ under the Ministry of Labour & Employment for regular notifications on minimum wages, proposed by the Survey.

Enabling Inclusive Growth through Affordable, Reliable and Sustainable Energy

  • 5 times increase in per capita energy consumption is needed for India to increase its real per capita GDP by $5000 at 2010 prices, and enter the upper-middle income group. Currently India is in the lower-middle income group.
  • Share of renewable (excluding hydro above 25 MW) in total electricity generation increased from 6% in 2014-15 to 10% in 2018-19.
  • Market share of electric cars is only 0.06% in India while it is 2% in China and 39% in Norway.
  • Access to fast battery charging facilities needed to increase the market share of electric vehicles.

Chunauti Scheme


Why is it in News?

The Delhi High Court on 15th May tried to find the reason behind the segregation of students according to their learning ability under the ‘Chunauti-2018 Plan’ in Delhi government schools.

Relevance of the news:

The scheme allegedly abrogates the fundamental right to equality and dignity of students which raises questions of constitutionality.

Segregation based on Learning Ability:

  • ‘Parents Forum for Meaningful Education’ moved the court, alleging that the scheme is contrary to the law enacted to streamline education of children under RTE, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act and the National Policy on Education.
  • Under the scheme, testing and segregation is left to the impulse of the principal of the schools. Based on unreliable results Through unscientific, illegal, ad-hoc tests, Children are segregated and labelled as ‘Pratibha’ (superior) and ‘Nishtha’ (inferior) based on unreliable results of an illegal, unscientific and ad-hoc tests. The children are made to sit in separate groups in the same school or in separate section and are left disempowered.
  • According to the plea, “such discrimination through segregation is creating an irreversible class divide; class hatred; loss of happiness; inferiority and loss of friendship.”
  • The scheme has been claimed antithetical to the core essence of “inclusive education” as per the plea.

Chunauti Scheme:

  • It is a Delhi Government scheme aimed to improve learning levels in government schools. The scheme divides children into groups on the basis of who can read and write Hindi, English and solve mathematical problems.
  • The division was done based on a baseline assessment of the students.
  • The ones who can read are called “Pratibha” and the ones who cannot are “Nishtha”. In class 9 there is another group called “Vishwas” which includes those who are out of school and have failed twice in the class.

Atal Pension Yojna (APY)


About the Scheme:

  • It is a pension scheme that has been launched by the Ministry of Finance to provide pensions to all citizens of the country with focus on the unorganized sector.
  • Subscribers of this scheme would receive the fixed pension of Rs. 1K/2K/3K/4K/5K per month, at the age of 60 years, depending on their contributions.
  • Eligibility: A person shall be in age group of 18-40 years (i.e. minimum period of contribution by subscriber has to be 20 years)
  • Administering authority: Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority (PFRDA)

Where will the Money be invested?

The collected money from this scheme will be invested in government securities, corporate bonds, equity etc.

Is Withdrawal possible in between?

Yes, withdrawal before age of 60 years is possible but only in case of death or terminal illness.


Source: TH

Phillip’s Curve


Why is it in News?

  • Some economists are of the view that inflation in India is under control as the unemployment rate is high, and the relation between inflation and unemployment rate is depicted by the Phillip’s curve.

What is the Phillip’s Curve?

  • The inverse relationship between unemployment rate and inflation when graphically charted is called the Phillips curve.
  • William Phillips pioneered the concept first in his paper "The Relation between Unemployment and the Rate of Change of Money Wage Rates in the United Kingdom, 1861-1957,' in 1958.

Graphical Representation:

When the unemployment rate is less, inflation will be more and when unemployment rate is high, inflation will be less.

Breaking the Concept further:

  • This curve points out that when economic growth happens, it creates job and due to jobs there will be money with the public and thus the demand of the products will increase leading to inflation.
  • In a nutshell it means ‘high levels of employment can be achieved only at high levels of inflation’.

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao


About the Scheme (BBBP)

  • BBBP Scheme is a Central Sector Scheme with 100% financial assistance from the Centre.
  • BBBP is a comprehensive programme to address the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and related issues of empowerment of women over a life-cycle continuum.

Ministries involved with BBBP:

  • The scheme is being implemented as a tri-ministerial convergent effort of Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare along with Ministry of Human Resource & Development. Hence, statement 3 is incorrect.
  • At the Central level, Ministry of Women and Child Development is the nodal ministry for the programme.

Source: PIB

Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) Scheme


Why is it in News?

After launch of SGB Scheme in 2015, India’s Gold Imports plummeted from 968 million tonnes in 2015-16 to 780 million tonnes in 2017-18, but again rose to 955 million tonnes in 2019.

What is the SGB Scheme?

  • The SGB scheme has been launched by the Government of India to provide an alternative to buying the physical gold.
  • Under the Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme, the Reserve Bank of India issues the bonds on behalf of the Government of India.
  • Government has notified rate of interest of 2.50% per annum on SGB bonds which is payable on half yearly basis.
  • The maturity period of the bond is 8 years with an exit option in 5th year.

Minimum Subscription for SGB:

  • Minimum Subscription for an individual is 1 gram and maximum is 4kgs; for trust and other related entities the maximum subscription is 20kg.
  • Under SGB Scheme, bonds are denominated in units of one grams of gold and multiples thereof.

From where can the Bonds be purchased?

It is sold from post offices, banks, Bombay Stock Exchange, National Stock Exchange etc.

What was the need to launch the SGB Scheme?

  • This scheme aims to reduce the demand for physical gold, thereby keeping a tab on gold imports and utilizing resources effectively. Gold imports is one of the major cause of Current Account Deficit (CAD) of India, hence it is intended to plug that gap.
  • It has been observed that Gold demand rises during the time of uncertainty i.e. during the time of inflation. Therefore, the government intended to curb this demand of physical gold through this Scheme.

Why did the Demand of Physical Gold pick up again in 2019?

  • SBG can be purchased through Demat Accounts or KYC norms have to be satisfied. To avoid the unnecessary formalities, people resorted to buying physical gold itself.
  • There is lock in period for five years which is one of the other major drawback due to which people don’t prefer gold bonds.
  • On an average yearly demand of gold is 800 tonnes, with 60% demand is for jewelry during the wedding season. These needs can’t be met through SBG scheme, therefore which forms another limitation on the success of SGB Scheme due to our cultural factor.
  • Due to our cultural factor, common people trust physical gold more than paper adding on to factors why SGB scheme failed to lure the mass.

How can the People be convinced to buy the SGB instead of Physical Gold?

  • People need to be educated that annual interest on Gold Bond is more than Physcial Gold.
  • Sellers need to educate people that Gold Bond is safer than the Physical Gold as Physcial Gold suffers the risk of impurity, wear & tear too.
  • Gold Bonds are more liquid than the Physical Gold, if these features are well explained to the masses, this can change the investment pattern of the people.

Source: TH

Forest Right Act (FRA), 2006


Why is it in News?

SC has ordered the eviction of nearly 10 lakh forest dwellers whose claims as forest dwellers have been rejected under the Forest Rights Act of 2006.

The Need of Forest Right Act:

During colonial time, forests have all been declared to be owned by the government, and people living in forest for years were considered as trespassers. After independence, the government realized the injustice done to these tribal people and came up with an act in 2006.

The Forest Right Act, 2006:

The FRA was passed in 2006 by the Parliament which recognizes the rights of Tribals & other forest dwelling communities on forest resources, forest produce and the land.

What are Rights under the FRA, 2006?

1. Title Rights: Ownership to land that is being cultivated by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares; ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family, meaning that no new lands are granted.

2. Use Rights for Forest Produce: Tribals & forest dwellers are given rights to minor forest produce (also including ownership), to grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc. Major forest produce like Timber etc. is still controlled by the government.

3. Relief and Development Rights: Rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement; and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection.

4. Forest Management Rights: To protect forests and wildlife.

Eligibility Criterion under FRA:

Claimant must be residing in that forest area for at least 75 years or shall belong to the Scheduled Tribe category.

Who is the Deciding Authority?

Gram Sabha is the nodal agency under the FRA; it recommends whose rights shall be recognized. These recommendations are screened by a six member committee (3 Government+3 local member’s body) and finally claims are settled.

Source: TH

Grid Connected Rooftop Solar Programme


Why is it in News?

Phase II of the Grid Connected Roof Top Solar Programme was recently approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. The programme will be implemented with a total central financial support of Rs. 11,814 crore.

Aim of the Programme:

It aims to achieve cumulative capacity of 40,000 MW from roof top solar projects by 2022. Phase II provides for central financial assistance (for residential rooftop solar installations) up to 40% for rooftop systems up to 3kW and 20% for those with a capacity of 3-10kW. The second phase will also focus on intensifying the participation of the distribution companies (DISCOM).

Provisions of Central Financial Assistance(CFA):

  • Up to 40% CFA for rooftop system upto 3KW.
  • Up to 20% CFA for those with a capacity of 3-10 KW.

Eligible groups for CFA: Residential welfare society, group housing, residential sector etc.

Non Eligible groups for CFA: Commercial buildings, educational institutions, government buildings etc.

Nodal Agency:

Discoms will be the nodal agency for this programme.

Source: TH

Kisan Urja Surksha Utthan Mahaabhiyan (KUSUM)


Why is it in News?

The solar pump scheme, KUSUM was given nod by the Cabinet after a year of its announcement.

The KUSUM Scheme:

Aim of the scheme: It aims to promote use of solar power among the farmers; the solar pumps will not only assist the farmers to irrigate, but will also allow each farmer to generate safe energy. The agricultural labors will be able to sell the extra power directly to the government. It will provide them with extra income as well.

Features of Scheme:

  • Farmers/ Panchayats can set up 10,000 MW of grid connected renewable power plants in their fallow or waste land which can help them in earning extra income.
  • Farmers will be supported to install stand alone solar powered agricultural pumps (Target- 17.5 lakh pumps)
  • Solarisation of 10 lakh grid connected solar powered agricultural pumps.
  • The scheme in totality aims to add 25,750 MW of solar energy capacity by 2022.
  • The Union Budget 2018-19 has set aside a sum of Rs. 48000 crores for this programme for ten years.

Benefits of this Scheme:

  • It will help India in meeting its INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) targets under Paris Summit.
  • It will support the farmers by providing them extra income.
  • It has potential to generate skilled and unskilled jobs to the tune of 7 lakhs per year.
  • It will save diesel to the tune of 1.3 billion litres which will have a soothing impact on Current Account Deficit of India.