Insights Daily Current Events, 17 June 2016
Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
NITI Aayog submits proposals for divestment
The NITI Aayog has submitted two sets of recommendations to the Centre for strategic disinvestment of State-owned companies. With this, the Government is expected to kickoff reforms for the public sector this year.
- NITI Aayog has submitted a list of recommendations on each of the sick and loss-making government-owned companies. Of 74 such companies, it has recommended closure of 25 companies in which revival plans were attempted but had failed. After the closure their assets, especially land holdings, could be disposed off and employees be offered voluntary retirement.
- In the remaining cases, either mergers with other public sector units or strategic disinvestment is recommended. In some companies, the Aayog preferred to let revival plans run their course, before taking a call on their future.
- In another set of suggestions, it has recommended strategic disinvestment on priority in 15 PSUs. This list has been submitted to the Department of Investment and Public Asset management in the Finance Ministry.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had in February directed the Aayog to identify PSUs that the Department could take up for strategic disinvestment and also suggest norms for doing so. Any disinvestment of government’s shareholdings, closure or mergers of PSU will need the Union Cabinet’s approval.
Disinvestments in India:
Disinvestment has become an important source of raising resource for the Government. The policy of ‘disinvestment’ in CPSEs has evolved over the years. Disinvestment of government equity in CPSEs began in 1991-92 following the Industrial Policy Statement of 1991, which stated that the Government would divest part of its holdings in select CPSEs.
Objective: The main objective of disinvestment is to put national resources and assets to optimal use and in particular to unleash the productive potential inherent in our public sector enterprises.
Current Policy on Disinvestment:
The current Government policy on disinvestment envisages people’s ownership of CPSEs while ensuring that the Government equity does not fall below 51% and Government retains management control.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Infrastructure-energy.
Regional connectivity subsidy subject to passenger loads
The centre has clarified that the subsidy provided to airlines under the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) may be tapered if the passenger load factor increases to a decent level, according to the new civil aviation policy. The RCS will give airlines an easy exit option in case they find the unconnected routes unviable.
What was proposed in the policy?
As per the new Civil Aviation Policy, the Centre will subsidise the losses incurred by airlines by flying on the regional routes in a bid to allow them to charge Rs.2,500 to passenger for an hour’s flight.
For this, the Centre will create a regional connectivity fund through a small levy on departure of each flight, as per the policy. While Centre will contribute 80% for the viability gap funding, the rest 20% will come from the states.
The centre has now clarified that continuance of VGF [viability gap funding] for a particular route will be subject to appropriate passenger load factor continuously for a prescribed period. If airlines are able to fill 70-80% of their seats, the subsidy could be reduced. The subsidy will be reviewed after every three years. And, the cargo industry will not be entitled to viability gap funding from the government.
Airlines free to change N-E flights:
Also, airlines will be free to withdraw or change flights to and within north-eastern states, island territories and Ladakh as per their business requirements, according to the new civil aviation policy. The move might come as a big relief to airlines that may re-deploy its planes to profitable or viable routes.
- At present, airlines need to take permission from the Civil Aviation Ministry to withdraw routes from these regions, largely because these were unconnected routes in the past.
- With the new norms, the airlines will only need to inform the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation three months in advance before withdrawing or revising its routes.
- The airlines can do so provided they fully comply with the route dispersal guidelines (RDG) that mandate them to deploy a certain share of flights on smaller and remote routes.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Determined to honour pact on uranium supply: Namibia
Reiterating its commitment to honour the 2009 pact to supply uranium to India at the earliest, Namibia has asked India to enter into similar agreements with other countries to convince the member-states of the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty (ANWFZT). Namibia is the fourth largest producer of uranium.
Namibia, a member of ANWFZT, is barred from supplying uranium to India as the latter is not a member of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT. Namibia is keen on supplying uranium to India as part of the civil nuclear cooperation, for augmenting its resources.
So far, India has signed civil nuclear cooperation agreements with 12 countries, including the United States, Russia, Korea and Japan. India and Namibia signed two MoUs on Cooperation in the field of geology and mineral resources and Cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy in 2009. However, the Pelindaba Treaty has prevented it from ratifying the agreements.
About Pelindaba treaty:
The Pelindaba Treaty signed in 1996, also known as the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty, aims at preventing nuclear proliferation and preventing strategic minerals of Africa from being exported freely. The treaty was signed in 1996 and came into effect with the 28th ratification on 15 July 2009.
- The Treaty prohibits the research, development, manufacture, stockpiling, acquisition, testing, possession, control or stationing of nuclear explosive devices in the territory of parties to the Treaty and the dumping of radioactive wastes in the African zone by Treaty parties.
- The Treaty also prohibits any attack against nuclear installations in the zone by Treaty parties and requires them to maintain the highest standards of physical protection of nuclear material, facilities and equipment, which are to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.
- It also requires all parties to apply full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to all their peaceful nuclear activities.
- It covers the entire African continent along with few islands. Presently, the treaty has been ratified by 40 countries.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
Police stations to have wider jurisdiction over coasts
To end the ambiguity over jurisdiction in the wake of Italian marines case, 10 police stations located along India’s coastline have been empowered to register and investigate crimes committed within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Union Home Ministry has now extended the jurisdictional limits for notified police stations from the existing 12 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles into the high seas.
- In this regard, the home ministry has invoked the Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and Other Maritime Zones Act, 1976, and said the 10 police stations located on both east and west coasts can investigate any offence committed by any person within the EEZ.
- The extension is an important development in allowing a greater say to local police while dealing with cases of smuggling and terrorism.
India has a 7,517-km coastline, which is dotted with 12 major ports and 187 minor or intermediate ports. India’s territorial waters end at 12 nautical miles while exclusive economic zone stretches to 200 nautical miles from the coast.
An Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is a concept adopted at the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1982), whereby a coastal State assumes jurisdiction over the exploration and exploitation of marine resources in its adjacent section of the continental shelf, taken to be a band extending 200 miles from the shore.
- The EEZ includes the contiguous zone. Countries also have rights to the seabed of what is called the continental shelf up to 350 nautical miles from the coastal baseline, beyond the EEZ. But such areas are not part of their EEZ.
- The legal definition of the continental shelf does not directly correspond to the geological meaning of the term, as it also includes the continental rise and slope, and the entire seabed within the exclusive economic zone.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.
Middle-aged smoke and drink the most: Survey
According to data from the Sample Registration System (SRS) Baseline Survey 2014, released by the Registrar General of India, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh had the highest proportions among people who reported to be smokers and alcohol drinkers respectively.
Highlights of the survey:
- A fourth of West Bengal men smoke and a third of Chhattisgarh men drink — the highest among the 21 ‘bigger states’ for which data is available.
- Maharashtra has the lowest proportion of male smokers and drinkers, at 2% and 2.7%.
- There are more smokers (11.4%) than drinkers (10%).
- People in the age group 45-59 reported the highest proportion both in smoking and drinking while the 15-29 age group reported the lowest.
- The numbers are significantly low for women — a mere 0.7% of total women, for both smoking and drinking. At 3%, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have the highest proportion of female drinkers.
- 13 of the 21 states have more drinkers than smokers, including Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Telangana — where the difference is the highest.
- Caste-wise, reported drinking is more among men belonging to the Scheduled Tribes (18.2%). This can explain why Chhattisgarh tops the drinking list, as the State has a large adivasi population.
- Smoking is most prevalent among the Scheduled Castes (16.3%).
- Overall, 1.4% people reported to have quit smoking and drinking. For every seven men who smoke and for every eight men who drink, there is one who has quit the respective habit.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Living Bone Grown In Lab For First Time
In a first, scientists have grown a living bone in the lab to repair large defects in the head and face of patient, taking a step forward in improving treatments for people with craniofacial defects.
- This has been made possible by a new technique which uses autologous stem cells derived from a small sample of the recipient’s fat and precisely replicates the original anatomical structure of the bone.
- Scientists have been able to show, in a clinical-size porcine model of jaw repair, that this bone, grown in vitro and then implanted, can seamlessly regenerate a large defect while providing mechanical function. The quality of the regenerated tissue, including vascularisation with blood perfusion, exceeds what has been achieved using other approaches.
- An unexpected outcome was that the lab-grown bone, when implanted, was gradually replaced by new bone formed by the body, a result not seen with the implantation of a scaffold alone, without cells.
- This is step forward in improving regenerative medicine options for patients with craniofacial defects.
- Researchers are now including a cartilage layer in the bio-engineered living bone tissue to study bone regeneration in complex defects of the head and face.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Infrastructure- energy.
Govt releases draft national wind-solar hybrid policy
The government has released the draft National Wind-Solar Hybrid Policy which aims at providing a framework to promote large grid connected wind-solar PV system for optimal and efficient utilisation of transmission infrastructure among others.
- The goal of the policy is to reach wind-solar hybrid capacity of 10 GW by 2022. The main objective of the policy is to provide a framework for promotion of large grid connected wind-solar PV system for optimal and efficient utilisation of transmission infrastructure and land, reducing the variability in renewable power generation, thus, achieving better grid stability.
- Broadly, the draft policy proposes hybridisation of existing solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power plants as well as providing a guideline towards setting up of new hybrid wind-solar PV power plants.
- The draft policy proposes to provide fiscal and financial incentives for hybridisation of existing plants as well as setting up of new hybrid wind-solar PV plants. Low cost financing for hybrid projects may be made available through IREDA and other financial institutions like multilateral banks.
- If existing plants want to hybridize, they will have to ensure that the power injected into the grid is not more than the existing capacity sanctioned for the plant. Further, the additional power generated from the hybrid project may be used for captive purpose or sold either to the distribution utility at a price determined by the state regulator or lowest bid price discovered by any government agency, whichever is lower.
- For new hybrid wind-solar projects, the draft policy proposes to provide the developer with the option of using the hybrid power for captive use, third party sale or sale to state electricity distribution utilities at prices determined by the state electricity regulatory commissions for the project. The hybrid power so purchased by the distribution company may be used to offset both solar and non-solar renewable purchase obligations.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
- At the recently held the two-day Rajasva Gyan Sangam, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked senior tax officials to aim for widening the tax net from the present 5.4 crore households to 10 crore households — all non-agricultural income households — mainly, by changing their attitudes towards taxpayers. He has given a five-point charter to tax administrators embodied in the word ‘RAPID.’ These are: revenue, accountability, probity, information and digitisation. In India, while nearly 92% of India’s tax revenue comes from self-assessments, advance tax payments and tax deducted at source, the 42,000 taxmen raise barely 8% through assessments and scrutiny of returns. PM has also asked the officers to ensure their behaviour is soft and sober and change their attitude so that the fear of harassment is erased from the minds of taxpayers.
- State Bank of India has floated a Rs.200 crore fund to assist start-ups in the fintech space. The fund named ‘IT Innovation Start-up Fund’ will consider assistance of up to Rs.3 crore to a firm registered in India for promoting their business innovations using technology in financial services.
- The government has approved proposal to set up a Central Marine Police Force to protect sea, coasts, ports and vital institutions along 7,516-km national coastline. The detailed structure, operations and modalities of the force will be worked out in the coming weeks. The decision to have a central command for Marine Police elicited support from all ministers and officials from across states and Union territories participating in the marathon meeting.