November 28, 2013
RUSA, a way to fund more institutions
- Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), the national higher education mission, is a way to provide funding to larger number of institutions. The funding will be based on performance indicators relevant to students, faculty, and research.
- This would benefit those institutions which did not fall within the mandate for funding by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
- Out of the Rs. 50,000 crore that was allotted for higher education, UGC would get Rs. 25,000 crore and RUSA would get the other half. RUSA would be spread over two plan periods – the XII and XIII and is seen as a new approach to bring into its fold many institutions for funding purposes.
- Enumerating the other reforms in higher education, 200 community colleges had been identified to promote skill based courses. To give an impetus to skill training, the UGC was introducing the Bachelor of Vocational Studies course in colleges.
- There was also a call for a trans-disciplinary approach in higher education rather than an inter-disciplinary one.
- Aimed at extending value-addition to the technical knowledge that students were receiving in their respective degree programmes, the courses at the centre would be designed to equip students to make them ‘industry-ready’.
What do you mean by Trans-disciplinary approach?
- In this approach it involves active participation of individuals from other institutions, civil society groups, business communities in solving complex problems that a society faces.
- This would give more practical approach to studies and life and has more relevance to the society rather than purely academic, by bringing in different perspectives from the other institutions, community and the corporate world.
All you need to know about RUSA (Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan)
- The objectives of RUSA would be to achieve the target of GER of 32% by the end of XIII Plan, which the central Government has set for itself. Government of India aims to improve the quality of State Universities and colleges and enhance their existing capacities so that they become dynamic, demand-driven, quality conscious, efficient and forward looking and responsive to rapid economic and technological developments occurring at the local, state, national and international levels.
- The objectives of the scheme can be enumerated as follows:
- Improve the overall quality of existing state institutions by ensuring that all institutions conform to prescribed norms and standards and adopt accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework. Usher transformative reforms in the state higher education system by creating a facilitating institutional structure for planning and monitoring at the state level, promoting autonomy in State Universities and improving governance in institutions.
- Ensure academic and examination reforms in the higher educational institutions.
- Enable conversion of some of the universities into research universities at par with the best in the world.
- Create opportunities for states to undertake reforms in the affiliation system in order to ensure that the reforms and resource requirements of affiliated colleges are adequately met.
- Ensure adequate availability of quality faculty in all higher educational institutions and ensure capacity building at all levels of employment.
- Create an enabling atmosphere in the higher educational institutions to devote themselves to research and innovations.
- Expand the institutional base by creating additional capacity in existing institutions and establishing new institutions, in order to achieve enrolment targets.
- Correct regional imbalances in access to higher education by facilitating access to high quality institutions in urban & semi-urban areas, creating opportunities for students from rural areas to get access to better quality institutions and setting up institutions in un-served & underserved areas.
- Improve equity in higher education by providing adequate opportunities of higher education to SC/STs and socially and educationally backward classes; promote inclusion of women, minorities, and differently abled persons.
TRAI finalises tariff for mobile banking services
- The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recently released the tariff structure and guidelines for mobile banking services.
- This would help rural customers who do not have access to banks and financial services.
- The TRAI has prescribed a ceiling tariff for an outgoing Unstructured supplementary service data (USSD)-based mobile banking service at Rs.1.50 per USSD session.
- A framework has been provided to help bank agents to interface with service providers for the use of SMS, USSD and IVR (interactive voice response) channels to provide mobile banking services. The authority wants to utilise the benefits of mobile banking for financial inclusion.
- The Mobile Banking (Quality of Service) (Amendment) Regulations, 2013 have come into immediate effect, and the Telecommunication Tariff (56th Amendment) Order, 2013 shall come into force on January 1, 2014.
- USSD technology is used by telecom operators to send alerts to their users. It can be used for pre-paid call-back service, location-based content services, and menu-based information services.
- According to TRAI telecom service providers should collect charges from their subscribers for providing the USSD to deliver mobile banking services. All service providers should facilitate not only the banks, but also the agents of banks to use SMS, USSD and IVR to provide banking services to bank customers.
- As of September 2013, there were about 87 crore mobile subscribers in the country of which about 35 crore were in the rural areas. The fact that a large number of mobile subscribers in rural areas do not have access to banking facilities presents an opportunity for leveraging the mobile telephone to achieve the goal of financial inclusion.
What do you mean by financial inclusion?
- Financial inclusion or inclusive financing is the delivery of financial services(encompasses a broad range of organizations that manage money, including credit unions, banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, accountancy companies, consumer finance companies, stock brokerages, investment funds and some government sponsored enterprises) at affordable costs to sections of disadvantaged and low-income segments of society, in contrast to financial exclusion where those services are not available or affordable.
The United Nations defines the goals of financial inclusion as follows:
- access at a reasonable cost for all households to a full range of financial services, including savings or deposit services, payment and transfer services, credit and insurance;
- sound and safe institutions governed by clear regulation and industry performance standards;
- financial and institutional sustainability, to ensure continuity and certainty of investment; and
- competition to ensure choice and affordability for clients.
What is Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD)?
- USSD is a protocol used by GSM cellular telephones to communicate with the service provider’s computers.
- USSD can be used for WAP browsing, prepaid callback service, mobile-money services, location-based content services, menu-based information services, and as part of configuring the phone on the network
- Unlike Short Message Service (SMS) messages, USSD messages create a real-time connection during a USSD session. The connection remains open, allowing a two-way exchange of a sequence of data. This makes USSD more responsive than services that use SMS.[
- USSD can be used to provide independent calling services such as a callback service (e.g., cheaper phone charges while roaming), enhance mobile marketing capabilities, or interactive data service.
- USSD is commonly used by prepaid GSM cellular phones to query the available balance.
Courtesy – Wikipedia
Ban on takeover of critical drug plants by foreign firms mooted
- The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has proposed to ban complete takeovers by foreign companies of critical lifesaving drugs production facilities. The proposal is to lower the cap for FDI from 100% to 49%, subject to approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).
- The DIPP also wants critical pharma manufacturing to be declared a strategic sector just like the U.S did.
- (In 2011 the US president had through an executive order directed ‘the US FDA to take steps to prevent and reduce current and future disruptions in the supply of lifesaving medicines’ as the last five years data indicated that the use of sterile injectable cancer treatment has increased without a corresponding increase in production capacity.)
- The concern in India is that an alarming number of foreign acquirers of cancer oncology injectables and APIs manufacturing facilities over the last two years have post-takeover shut down the manufacturing units and R&D centres of the acquired companies.
- Even India’s first indigenous manufacturer of the Hepatitis-B vaccine, Shantha Biotech, was acquired by the French pharma giant Sanofi-Aventis, and production there was suspended post-acquisition. Similarly Pfizer had divested one of its manufacturing facilities towards real estate.
BSE to offer currency derivative platform
- The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) will launch its platform for trading in currency derivatives on 29th November, 2013 making it the fourth bourse in the country to offer such trades.
- Other stock exchanges present in the currency futures segment are: National Stock Exchange, MCX-SX and United Stock Exchange.
- Currency derivative contracts allow investors to take position on change in the foreign exchange rates between pairs of two currencies, such as rupee and dollar.
What are Currency Derivatives?
- The term ‘Derivatives’ indicates it derives its value from some underlying i.e. it has no independent value. Underlying can be securities, stock market index, commodities, bullion, currency or anything else. From Currency Derivatives market point of view, underlying would be the Currency Exchange rate. To put it simply an example of Derivatives is curd which is derived from Milk.
- Derivatives are unique product, which helps in hedging the portfolio against the future risk. At the same time, derivatives are used constructively for arbitrage and speculation too.
What are Currency Futures?
- A transferable futures contract that specifies the price at which a currency can be bought or sold at a future date. Currency future contracts allow investors to hedge against foreign exchange risk.
- Because currency futures contracts are marked-to-market daily, investors can exit their obligation to buy or sell the currency prior to the contract’s delivery date. This is done by closing out the position. With currency futures, the price is determined when the contract is signed, just as it is in the forex market, only and the currency pair is exchanged on the delivery date, which is usually some time in the distant future.
- However, most participants in the futures markets are speculators who usually close out their positions before the date of settlement, so most contracts do not tend to last until the date of delivery.
Courtesy – http://www.investopedia.com
Global summit on illegal wildlife trade
- The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, will host the highest level global summit on combating the illegal wildlife trade in London.
- The summit which will be held in February, 2014 aims to tackle the $19bn-a-year illegal trade in endangered animals, such as elephants and rhinos, by delivering an unprecedented political commitment along with an action plan and the mobilisation of resources.
- This summit holds relevance since there is a strong link established between wildlife poaching, international criminal syndicates and terrorism and threats to national security.
- The level of wildlife crime has soared in recent years, driven by demand form the rapidly expanding middle classes in Asia who value tiger, elephant and rhino products as status symbols.
A good article on MDR-TB (refer the below link)