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Insights Daily Current Events, 30 April 2015

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Insights Daily Current Events, 30 April 2015

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100 cities to turn smart

The Union Cabinet has cleared the Smart Cities Mission — under which 100 smart cities would be built.

Aim of the Mission: The aim of the mission is to more efficiently utilise available assets, resources and infrastructure to enhance quality of urban life and provide a clean and sustainable environment.

Selection of the Cities:

  • Cities to be developed will be selected through a ‘competition’ intended to ascertain their ability to achieve mission objectives. Each state will shortlist a number of smart city aspirants, which will prepare proposals for the Centre.
  • Each selected city would get central assistance of Rs 100 crore per year for five years.
  • To begin about 20 cities would be selected after the state governments come forward with names of cities they want nominated.
  • There will be special emphasis on participation of citizens in prioritising and planning urban interventions.

Implementation:

  • The Mission will be implemented through ‘area based’ approach, which includes retrofitting, redevelopment, pan-city initiatives and development of new cities.
  • Under retrofitting, deficiencies in an identified area will be addressed through necessary interventions.
  • Redevelopment enables reconstruction of an area that is already built but not amenable for any interventions.
  • Pan-city components could be interventions like intelligent transport solutions that benefits residents by reducing commuting time.
  • The focus will be on core infrastructure services like adequate and clean water supply, sanitation and solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transportation, affordable housing for the poor, power supply, robust IT connectivity, governance, especially e-governance, and citizen participation.
smart city india
Smart City

What are Smart Cities?

A ‘smart city’ is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability. It is a city where information technology is the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents.

  • There are many technological platforms involved, including but not limited to automated sensor networks and data centres.
  • In a smart city, economic development and activity is sustainable and rationally incremental by virtue of being based on success-oriented market drivers such as supply and demand. They benefit everybody, including citizens, businesses, the government and the environment.

Origin:

  • The concept of smart cities originated at the time when the entire world was facing one of the worst economic crises. In 2008, IBM began work on a ‘smarter cities’ concept as part of its Smarter Planet initiative. By the beginning of 2009, the concept had captivated the imagination of various nations across the globe.
  • Countries like South Korea, UAE and China began to invest heavily into their research and formation.

Are they necessary?

  • Across the world, the stride of migration from rural to urban areas is increasing. By 2050, about 70% of the population will be living in cities.
  • The idea will work as millions of poor are migrating to cities for job opportunities and better standard of living. Existing cities are unable to bear any extra load of migrants.
  • Urbanisation in India has for the longest time been viewed as a by-product of failed regional planning. Though it is inevitable, and will only change when the benefits of urbanisation overtake the costs involved, it is an opportunity for achieving faster growth.
  • With increasing urbanisation and the load on rural land, the government has now realised the need for cities that can cope with the challenges of urban living and also be magnets for investment.

Challenges:

  • The concept is not without challenges, especially in India. Some of the Major challenges are:
  • The success of such a city depends on residents, entrepreneurs and visitors becoming actively involved in energy saving and implementation of new technologies.
  • There are many ways to make residential, commercial and public spaces sustainable by ways of technology, but a high percentage of the total energy use is still in the hands of end users and their behaviour.
  • There is the time factor — such cities can potentially take anything between 20 and 30 years to build.
  • Land acquisition will also obviously be the biggest hurdle while setting up smart cities.

Benefits:

  • Smart cities can be developed over a minimum area of 500 acres and will require at least Rs 6,000 crore of investment for basic and back-end infrastructure. Experts say it can generate employment for at least 200,000 people per city.
  • 10 such new cities can bring in about Rs 9 lakh crore investment (including investments by users) and usher in unprecedented economic growth.
  • The smart cities will result in new orders for city planning, engineering, designing, and construction companies.
  • The project will also generate huge interest among the global players who might want to partner such projects. One sector where results can be made visible almost instantly is urban development, where both public and private sectors can identify 500-5000 acres at a single location and kickstart the development process.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, BS.

 

AMRUT Mission

In a bid to recast the country’s urban landscape, the Centre has given nod to the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), with an outlay of Rs 50,000 crore.

What is AMRUT?

AMRUT is the new avatar of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). But in a significant departure from the earlier mission, the Centre will not appraise individual projects.

Details of the Mission:

  • AMRUT adopts a project approach to ensure basic infrastructure services relating to water supply, sewerage, storm-water drains, transportation and development of green spaces and parks with special provision for meeting the needs of children.
  • Under this mission, 10% of the budget allocation will be given to states and union territories as incentive based on the achievement of reforms during the previous year.
  • AMRUT, which seeks to lay a foundation to enable cities and towns to eventually grow into smart cities, will be implemented in 500 locations with a population of one lakh and above.
  • It would cover some cities situated on stems of main rivers, a few state capitals and important cities located in hilly areas, islands and tourist areas.
  • Under this mission, states get the flexibility of designing schemes based on the needs of identified cities and in their execution and monitoring.
  • States will only submit state annual action Plans to the centre for broad concurrence based on which funds will be released. But, in a significant departure from JNNURM, the central government will not appraise individual projects.
  • Central assistance will be to the extent of 50% of project cost for cities and towns with a population of up to 10 lakhs and one-third of the project cost for those with a population of above 10 lakhs.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB.

 

Protests against Road Transport Bill

The nationwide transport strike called by various trade unions against the Road Transport and Safety Bill is likely to affect normal life across the country.

Why the protest?

  • Protestors are against some provisions in the proposed bill. They say that the proposed fines are too high.
  • According to provisions of the Bill, the Motor Vehicle Act 1988 will be scrapped and State RTOs will close. Instead, a Central authority will be created and private entities will issue and renew licences. This move is not being welcomed.
  • The provisions in the Bill are said to be against the principles of jurisprudence.

Road Transport and Safety Bill:

It is a Bill which aims to provide a framework for safer, faster, cost effective and inclusive movement of passengers and freight in the country thus enabling the mission of ‘Make in India’.

Highlights of the Bill:

  • 2 lakhs lives to be saved in first 5 years due to reduction in road traffic accident deaths
  • 4% GDP improvement on account of increased efficiency and safety of road transport sector
  • 10 lac Jobs to be created with increase in investment in the sector
  • The new Bill makes significant departures from the 1988 Motor Vehicle Act as it includes safety in construction, design, maintenance and use of motor vehicles and roads as a major component.
  • The Bill provides for more stringent penalties to offenders. A graded penalty point system would now act as a deterrent and improve traffic condition whereas electronic detection and centralized information of offences would facilitate to identify repeat-offenders.

New proposed Agencies and systems:

  • The Bill proposes to introduce an independent agency called the National Road Safety Authority of India, which will be an independent, legally empowered and accountable expert lead agency. It shall be accountable to the Parliament and Central Government.
  • The new Bill provides for the establishment of State Safety Authorities which shall act in accordance with the directions issued by the National Authority.
  • The Bill seeks to establish a unified driver licensing system in India which will be transparent. Such a system shall facilitate any time anywhere licence application mechanism in the country and mitigate duplication of licences from various regional transport offices.
  • According to the Provisions of the Bill there will be a unified vehicle registration system to enable electronic and online submission of applications for registration at any registering authority leading to real time interchange of data relating to such an activity.
  • On the safety issues, the Bill envisages for enforcement of modern safety technologies.
  • It also contains the provision for creation of a motor vehicle accident fund for immediate relief to the accident victim. It gives special emphasis on safety of school children and security of women.
  • The Bill also includes the setting up of a Highway Traffic Regulation and Protection Force (HTRPF).

For further reference: http://morth.nic.in/writereaddata/linkimages/Road%20Transport%20and%20Safety%20Bill%202014%20Draft-0068086402.pdf.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, BS.

 

Changes in Act will make graft ‘heinous crime’

The Union Cabinet has approved amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, that provide for classifying corruption as a heinous crime and longer prison terms for both bribe-giver and bribe- taker.

  • The proposed amendment will also ensure a speedy trial, within two years, for corruption cases.
  • The proposed amendments would fill in perceived gaps in the domestic anti-corruption law and also help in meeting the country’s obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption more effectively.

Proposed amendments to the Act:

  • The amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, approved by the Union Cabinet include enhancing punishment from the minimum 6 months to 3 years and from the maximum five years to seven years.
  • The ambit of the existing Act will be enhanced to make commercial entities liable for inducement of public servants. Under the present law, only individuals are liable. The proposed amendment bill also provides for issue of guidelines to commercial organisations to prevent persons associated with them from bribing a public servant.
  • Non-monetary gratification will also be covered within the definition of the word gratification in the existing Act.

The amendments approved by the government are in line with recommendations of the Law Commission to the proposed amendments to the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB.

 

Cabinet delinks Assam from new border pact

The Union Cabinet has approved the long-pending – and controversial – Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh, ahead of bringing the Constitution Amendment Bill associated with it in Parliament next week.

  • However, in a major departure, it has de-linked Assam from the agreement for now.

About the land swap deal:

The swap will involve handing over 17,000 acres of land to Bangladesh in return for 7,000 acres in 111 enclaves in West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya, and was first decided under the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) between India and Bangladesh, but never ratified by Parliament.

  • It will require an amendment to the Constitution (the 119th amendment) ratified by both Houses of Parliament with a two-thirds majority.
  • The deal relates to demarcation of boundary under the Land Boundary Agreement between the two countries. India and Bangladesh have been negotiating the land swap for years to resolve a long-running border conflict.

How will it affect the existing citizens:

  • The number of people to be involved in the whole swap is approximately 52,000, of which about 15,000 are on the Indian side of the border.
  • Under this intended agreement, the enclave residents could continue to reside at their present location or move to the country of their choice.
  • A number of Indian nationals living in Indian enclaves in Bangladesh territory are going to be adversely affected as they would lose their claim to Indian citizenship.
  • Now, it becomes the responsibilities of the governments of India and Bangladesh to ensure that there is no “discrimination” against them.

Opposition:

Some people have been opposing the deal on the ground that Assam will stand to lose more territory as compared to Bangladesh in the exchange of enclaves.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, BS.

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