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Showing posts from November 7, 2015

HRD ministry launches mobile apps, web-based platoforms

In line with the Modi government’s Digital India initiative, Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry today launched a number of mobile apps and web-based platforms allowing students to access study material online, and parents to keep a track of the performance and attendance of their children. Elaborating about the initiatives, HRD minister Smriti Irani said through mobile apps and website ‘E-pathshala’ students, parents and teachers can access study material online. Another initiative for CBSE schools ‘Saransh’, which was launched at an event at Vigyan Bhawan here, will help parents to compare subject-wise learning outcome of their children, with others at district, state and national levels. “We are trying to leverage technology not only to bring more transparency in school education system but also to create new learning opportunities for the children,” Irani told reporters while speaking about the initiatives. She said her ministry, along with some state governments, was worki…

Income tax department reform

Dreaded till recently by everyone, the Income Tax Department officials now appear to be heading towards a strict discipline in their operation under a constant watch of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Though it has been apparent in the last few months that the Income-Tax Department has been taking steps which indicated that the days of high-handedness in picking up cases and assessment orders which were unlikely to stand the legal scrutiny may soon be a thing of the past, the whole exercise nevertheless appeared to be a part of the reform exercise of the Central Board of Direct Taxes. But, it is clear now, who is the driving force here. Inaugurating the Delhi Economics Conclave, organized by the finance ministry, PM Modi said: “I have asked the Income-Tax Department to move to a system where not only returns but also scrutiny is done without having to go to the office. Queries could be raised and answered online or by email. There should be a visible electronic trail of what is pending…

Guarantee the funds

For a scheme meant to be used by the poorest of the poor in their leanest times, it is unconscionable that the government owes Rs.3,200 crore to beneficiaries of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Yet that is exactly where matters have reached with the ten-year-old scheme, a fact the Supreme Court took notice of earlier this week. The scheme was launched by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its first term and delays in wage payments preceded the change in government, but matters have come to a head over the last year, resulting in a decline in the number of people participating. The number of households that got the legally guaranteed 100 days of work fell from 51.73 lakh in 2012-13 to 46.73 lakh in 2013-14 (under the UPA), and then dipped sharply to 23.24 lakh in 2014-15 (under the NDA). Funds sanctioned for the scheme show a similar steep decline under the NDA government, from Rs.27,484 crore in 2013-14 to Rs.17,074 crore in 2…

Give the RBI its independence (The Hindu , GS paper 3 )

A new era in monetary policy formulation is set to start with the Union Finance Ministry releasing the revised draft of the Indian Financial Code (IFC). It provides for the setting up of a Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to debate on monetary affairs and decide the policy rate. This move is in line with practices in many of the developing countries where the central banks have pursued the committee approach to address monetary policy issues. Currently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the monetary policy regulator, goes by the views of a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) on such issues. The TAC comprises officials from the RBI besides a few external experts. It advises the central banker on the monetary policy stance based on macro-economic and monetary developments. However, the RBI Governor has the last word, and the right to veto any decision of the TAC. The draft IFC, submitted by the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) headed by former Supreme Court judge B.…

Centre releases list of 98 cities for Smart City project

TN gets 12 cities; Jammu and Kashmir and UP still have to nominate one city each; Mumbai, Bengaluru and Patna don’t figure in the list. Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu Thursday unveiled the list of 98 urban centres that will be transformed into 'smart cities' over the next five years. In an intra-state competition, Uttar Pradesh topped the list with its 13 urban areas meeting the smart-cities criteria, followed by Tamil Nadu, which got an approval for developing 12 towns into smart cities. “In the next couple of days,” said Mr. Naidu while addressing a press conference, “we will release Rs. 2 Crores for each of the 98 cities for preparation of smart city plans.” The Ministry, Mr. Naidu said, has set up region-wise panels of “reputed agencies for assisting smart city aspirants” to draft the plans of developing the qualified urban centres. Out of 98 cities and towns that five years down will graduate into smart cities, 24 are capital cities, another 24 are business an…

Law Commission to Govt: Change laws to protect kids aged under 6

The Law Commission of India has recommended amending the Constitution to ensure that children below six years of age are protected from “all forms” of neglect, harm and exploitation. The commission has also recommended that their right to basic care and assistance be made an enforceable right. It has said that the early childhood is the phase of “maximum vulnerability” and deprivation can seriously impact a child’s health and learning potential.The commission, in its report submitted to the Law Ministry, has also recommended amendments to the Right to Education Act, Maternity Benefit Act and creation of a statutory authority for early childhood development to ensure “proper emphasis” on the promotion of early childhood development. The report of the commission, whose term is ending on August 31, is the result of demands made by representatives of Alliance for Right to Early Childhood Care and Development and Mobile Creches who highlighted the issue relating to the rights of children …

Another confident launch( SciTech, The HIndu , GS Paper 3)

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s second consecutive successful launch of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), with an indigenous cryogenic upper stage (CUS), proves that its earlier success in January 2014 — which came after a failed launch in 2010 — was no fluke. Also, this is the first time a GSLV rocket with an indigenous CUS has crossed the two-tonne payload mark: the GSAT-6 that it lifted weighed all of 2,117 kg. The ability of ISRO scientists to learn from failures, and their resilience in overcoming technical obstacles, are commendable indeed. Gaining mastery in managing the CUS, which involves a complex process of using propellants at extremely low temperatures in flight, requires higher-order skills in space technology. ISRO has not had a single launch failure in four and a half years, a fact that boosts the confidence level and morale of the scientific fraternity in the country. The record also buttresses the image ISRO commands in the realm of space …

India, US set to ink pact on terror database

In return, India wants access to Internet-related data from U.S.-based service providers like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, among others. India could soon get access to a U.S. database of 11,000 terror suspects if the countries sign a pact to exchange information on terrorists, during the Homeland Security dialogue in December. The information would be shared through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s legal attache at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi. Though some security agencies expressed concern over giving unhindered access to the U.S. on such “sensitive database”, the government is of the view that it would be beneficial in the long run. India is, however, insisting that “privacy issues” be taken care of, and the agreement not be a tool to serve only the interests of the U.S. In return, it wants access to Internet-related data from U.S.-based service providers like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, among others. The Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD -6) is a model text agreement …

Nepal earthquake may have 'unzipped' fault line, boosting risk of future quake (Earthquake , Natural Disasters ,GS paper 3 ,DTE )

New research shows the earthquake that struck central Nepal in April this year was only a partial rupture of a regional fault line, meaning another strong quake could be due in future. The study, published today in Nature Geoscience, suggests the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that killed more than 9000 people released, or “unzipped”, stress on only a portion of the Main Himalayan Thrust fault, leaving the western portion of the line at risk of a large earthquake in the future. The research team, led by Jean-Phillipe Avouac from the University of Cambridge in the UK, analysed the April 15 event using synthetic aperture radar imagery along with seismological measurements to show the location, geometry and nature of the fault patch that ruptured during the Nepal earthquake. “The earthquake originated northwest of Kathmandu within a cluster of background seismicity that fringes the bottom of the locked portion of the Main Himalayan Thrust fault,” the researchers said in the paper. “The ruptur…

Payments banks can free up Rs. 14 lakh cr for infra sector’ (GS paper 3 ,Banking )

Payments banks can annually free up a whopping Rs. 14 trillion in incremental credit for the fund-starved infrastructure sector, says a SBI Research report. “Apart from helping banks offer facilities to the unbanked sections, we estimate that on the asset side, an incremental amount of at least Rs. 14 trillion per annum can be freed up for credit needs of the infrastructure sector, as these banks can only invest in G-secs, this entire amount can be freed up to lend to infrastructure,” SBI Research said. Explaining how they arrived at the Rs. 14 lakh crore of additional funds for investment, the report said people are holding around 13 per cent of cash with them for their day-to-day transactions. In a simple arithmetic, even if the cash with the public comes down by 1 per cent, it will increase banks’ deposit base by around Rs. 15 lakh crore and given a credit-deposit ratio of 75 per cent banks can loan out an additional Rs. 11.25 lakh crore, through the multiplier effects. On the lia…

Bandhan: Can It Replicate Its Microfinance Success? (EPW , Economy ,GS paper 3 )

When banks are struggling to reduce bad loans, Bandhan, with a recovery rate of more than 99.5% in microfi nance, has entered the banking industry. Will its microfinance experience help it meet the challenges of mainstream banking? Bandhan Financial Services started full-fledged commercial banking operations on 23 August 2015. It received “in principle” approval last year in April alongside the Mumbai-based Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC), to set up a bank. Bandhan has been working as a microfinance institution (MFI) for the past 15 years and will be the first such to be converted into a bank in this country. Its emergence as a bank happens at a time when the Indian banking industry is experiencing a steep rise in non-performing assets (NPA). This rise over the past few years, primarily of the public sector banks (PSB) is a matter of concern. Overall the NPAs or bad loans, including private sector lenders, increased from 2.43% in 2012 to 4.04% at present. The gross …