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Insights Daily Current Events, 24 September 2015

Insights Daily Current Events, 24 September 2015

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Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

State to pump in big money for its own ‘smart cities’

Karnataka state government has decided to develop some cities in the state into smart cities on the model of the cities nominated under the Centre’s Smart Cities Mission by utilising its own funds.

Details:

  • Bengaluru, Mysuru and Kalaburagi are the cities to be developed. These cities were not selected under the centre’s smart cities mission.
  • As far as development model is concerned, there won’t be any change in the development, except that the complete funding will be from the State.
  • The Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development & Finance Corporation (KUIDFC) has been asked to work on the estimates on the State’s plans for the three cities.

Funding:

Currently, Bengaluru is getting around Rs. 2,500 crore annually from the government for its development. Similarly, Mysuru and Kalaburagi are also getting special grants of Rs. 200 crore a year. On the lines of the smart cities mission, to fulfill the state’s smart city goals, the state government has decided to release additional funds— Rs. 1,000 crore additional for Bengaluru and Rs. 100 crore additional for Mysuru and Kalaburagi — for the next five years.

Smart City Mission: quick look

The Smart City mission is the government’s big push for urban renewal in 100 Indian cities and towns. The main aim of the Smart city mission is to achieve inclusive growth.

What it does?

  • The Smart City Mission promotes integrated city planning, where the government’s policies such as Swachh Bharat Mission and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation complement each other.
  • It will attract investment to boost the economy.
  • A Smart City would ensure core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to the citizens and enable a clean and sustainable environment and application of smart solutions.
  • The core infrastructure elements in the Smart City context have been identified as adequate water supply, assured electricity supply, sanitation including solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, affordable housing, especially for the poor.
  • Robust IT connectivity and digitization, good governance, especially e-governance and citizen participation, sustainable environment, safety and security of citizens and health and education are also core infrastructure elements.

The prime objective is to enhance the quality of urban life by addressing deficiencies in core infrastructure required for better living in our context.

Funding:

  • Government has announced Rs. 48,000 crore for development of 100 Smart cities.
  • UD Ministry will provide Rs. 100 crore per city per year over the next five years.

For additional funding:

  • States/UTs and Urban Local Bodies have to make an equal matching contribution. This in effect means that central and state governments and ULBs will invest Rs. 96,000 crore over the next five years for making 100 chosen cities smart.
  • Additional resources have to be mobilised from other sources including collection of user fees, beneficiary charges, land monetisation, debts and loans to execute the project.
  • Borrowings from financial institutions, accessing National Investment and Infrastructure Fund and from private sector through PPPs are also options available for the project.

International interest:

  • More than a dozen leading countries have expressed keen interest to associate themselves with this Mission which include US, UK, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, China, Singapore, Israel, Australia.

SPV:

  • Smart City Plans will be implemented by a Special Purpose Vehicle to be set up for each identified city to enable a focused effort for effective implementation.
  • States/UTs and Urban Local Bodies will have 50: 50 equity in SPV.

Sources: the hindu, et, pib.

 

Paper 3 Topic: land reforms.

Govt. to use LPS to win over landowners

Barely three weeks after issuing a notification to acquire nearly 14,500 acres of private land for the Machilipatnam deep sea port and other port-based industries, the Andhra State Government is now saying it will use the Land Pooling System (LPS) option.

  • There has been stiff resistance from farmers and fishermen to parting with their land under the mandatory land acquisition law.
  • The administration is trying to rake together more than 30,000 acres for various industries, including 14,500 acres of private land and 16,000 acres of government land.

What is land pooling system?

Under land pooling systems, landowners voluntarily sign ownership rights over to a single agency or government body. This agency develops the land by building roads and laying sewage lines and electricity connections. Once this is done, it returns a smaller portion of the land to the original owners. But since the plot now has more amenities, its price has probably risen to match the market value of the owners’ original landholding.

How land pooling is different from land acquisition?

Land pooling differs from land acquisition in significant ways. In pooling, land, not money, is the primary medium of exchange. When acquiring land, the authorities sometimes have to compensate owners with up to four times the value of their plots. But instead of paying four times the market rate of their land, authorities often pay them four times the registered value. This amount is usually significantly lower and does not factor in inflation over the years. This makes it difficult to obtain the consent of the majority of plot owners. As a result, land is often acquired by force.

Benefits of pooling:

There are several benefits to land pooling, as seen from the perspective of the state.

  • The process is voluntary and less cumbersome. If land were to be acquired, the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 requires a much wider range of safeguards for the process, including a social impact assessment conducted by an expert committee and a detailed plan for rehabilitating the original inhabitants.
  • Land pooling is also much cheaper for the government. The centre’s land acquisition law says that compensation for land acquired can go upto four times the rate of land. Andhra Pradesh has fixed the compensation at 2.5 times the revenue rate. Even this amount is far higher than the figure the government will pay to farmers who give up their land for the pool.

Sources: The Hindu, et.

 

Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Biometrics a must for Schengen visa

In a couple of months, travellers headed to Schengen countries in Europe will have to enter their biometric data while applying for the Schengen visa.

  • This is the first time that the Schengen missions are implementing biometric requirements for Indians.
  • The biometric data (digit-finger scans) will be taken from the applicants at the visa application centre on the day of submitting the application. Frequent travellers will not have to give new biometrics each time they apply as the data stored once will be valid for 59 months.
  • Schengen visa is the document issued by the appropriate authorities to the interested party for visiting/travelling in and within the Schengen Area.

Schengen

Schengen area:

  • The Schengen Area is the area comprising 26 European countries that have abolished passport and any other type of border control at their common borders, also referred to as internal borders.
  • It mostly functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy.
  • The Area is named after the Schengen Agreement.
  • Countries in the Schengen Area have eliminated internal border controls with the other Schengen members and strengthened external border controls with non-Schengen states.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

 

Paper 2 Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.

Uphill task for Skill India mission

The National Sample Survey Office has released data from its 2011-12 round on education and vocational training.

  • According to the report, the union government will have its work cut out on skill development, as just over one in 10 adults reported having received any vocational training, and the bulk of it was informal.

What the data say?

  • Among persons in the 15-59 age group, about 2.2% reported to having received formal vocational training and 8.6% non-formal vocational training. The non-formal variety mainly comprised the passing down of hereditary skills, or on-the-job training.
  • Among rural males who received formal vocational training, the most common field was ‘driving and motor mechanic work’ while among urban males it was ‘computer trades.’ Among rural females ‘textile-related work’ was most common, while among urban females it was ‘computer trades.’
  • The rate of vocational training had barely increased between 2004-05 when the data was last collected and 2011-12. This was despite the fact that the UPA government announced an ambitious National Skill Policy in 2009 and created a National Skill Development Coordination Board earlier.
  • Among people aged 15 and above only 2.4% had technical degrees, diplomas or certificates in fields like medicine, engineering or agriculture. The proportion was 1.1% in rural areas and 5.5% in urban areas.
  • Just over 60% of those aged 5-29 are currently attending an educational institution.
  • ‘To supplement household income’ was the main reason for more than 70% of males currently not being enrolled in any educational institution, while more than half of females not studying said they had ‘to attend to domestic chores.’
  • Attendance rates were the highest in Uttarakhand in both rural and urban areas, and lowest in Gujarat among rural areas and Odisha among urban areas. Attendance rates rise sharply with income levels.

Skill India mission:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in July this year, launched his pet project Skill India Campaign on the occasion of the first ever World Youth Skills Day which included the launch of the National Skill Development Mission and unveiling of the new National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015.

The National Skill Development Mission aims to provide a strong institutional framework at the Centre and States for implementation of skilling activities in the country.

  • The Mission will have a three-tiered, high powered decision making structure. At its apex, the Mission’s Governing Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, will provide overall guidance and policy direction.
  • The Steering Committee, chaired by Minister in Charge of Skill Development, will review the Mission’s activities in line with the direction set by the Governing Council. The Mission Directorate, with Secretary, Skill Development as Mission Director, will ensure implementation, coordination and convergence of skilling activities across Central Ministries/Departments and State Governments.
  • The Mission will also run select sub-missions in high priority areas.
  • The National Skill Development Agency (NSDA), the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and the Directorate of Training will function under the overall guidance of the Mission.
  • The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) provides a natural home for the Mission, organically linking all three decisions making levels and facilitating linkages to all Central Ministries/Departments and State Governments.

While there is a strong focus on skilling in the new government, there is still little clarity about how to achieve it.

Significance of the skill india campaign:

  • The launch of the skill india mission assumes significance as India currently faces a severe shortage of well-trained, skilled workers. It is estimated that only 2.3% of the workforce in India has undergone formal skill training as compared to 68% in the UK, 75% in Germany, 52% in USA, 80% in Japan and 96% in South Korea. Large sections of the educated workforce have little or no job skills, making them largely unemployable. Therefore, India must focus on scaling up skill training efforts to meet the demands of employers and drive economic growth.
  • More than 54% of the country’s population is below the age of 25 allowing it with an opportunity to provide a skilled workforce to fill the expected shortfall in the ageing developed world. The country’s population pyramid is expected to bulge across the 15–59 age group over the next decade. This demographic advantage is predicted to last only until 2040. India therefore has a very narrow time frame to harness its demographic dividend and to overcome its skill shortages

Sources: The hindu.

 

Paper 3 Topic: space.

MOM’s one year in space

The indian Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) has completed one year in space. Initially, it was intended to last six months, but it has outperformed.

  • it entered its niche around Mars on September 24, 2014 and has sent home some interesting facts like the level at which dust storms take shape on Martian soil, and many striking pictures.

Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM):

About Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM):

The MOM, India’s first interplanetary mission, was launched by Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). The Mission is primarily technological mission considering the critical mission operations and stringent requirements on propulsion and other bus systems of spacecraft.

  • The major objective of the mission was to explore Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere by indigenous scientific instruments.
  • This mission made India to become one of the four nations in the world to send space mission to Planet Mars.
  • India became the first country in the world to insert a spacecraft into the Martian orbit in its very first attempt.

About PSLV:

  • It is the first operational launch vehicle of ISRO. PSLV is capable of launching 1600 kg satellites in 620 km sun-synchronous polar orbit and 1050 kg satellite in geo-synchronous transfer orbit.
  • PSLV has four stages using solid and liquid propulsion systems alternately. The first stage is one of the largest solid propellant boosters in the world and carries 139 tonnes of propellant.
  • There had been 26 continuously successful flights of PSLV.

Sources: The Hindu.

 

Paper 3 Topic: conservation.

Rare Indian Purple Frog in a soup

Various studies have shown that the Indian Purple Frog ( Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis ) is facing a direct threat to its existence from tribespeople who consume the tadpoles of the species on a large scale.

  • Researchers have provided quantitative evidence to show that the evasive species is declining in numbers.
  • The researchers have found that tadpole consumption was prevalent among tribal folk in Idukki district of Kerala as a practice dating back to the time when they settled in the area 40 years ago.
  • The tadpoles are netted in basket traps, seasoned with salt, spices and grated coconut and then steamed and eaten with boiled rice or tapioca as a monsoon delicacy.
  • Some tribespeople were also found to consume adult frogs for their purported medicinal properties.
  • Most of the tadpoles were found to have been harvested for consumption by tribal households. At this rate, the local population of this amphibian is destined to disappear in five to 10 years.

purple frog

About Rare Indian Purple frog:

  • Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis (purple frog) was discovered as a new family of frogs in 2003 whose lineage had survived for about 120 million years, right from the age of dinosaurs.
  • It is an endangered amphibian endemic to the southern Western Ghats.
  • The Indian Purple Frog is considered a flagship species for conservation of the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot region.

Sources: the hindu, wwfindia.