Insights Daily Current Affairs, 20 December 2016
Paper 3 Topic: Infrastructure.
Centre plans dedicated fund for infra finance
The government has decided to set up a dedicated fund of Rs.10,000 crore to provide credit enhancement for commercially viable infrastructure projects.
- The dedicated fund will be in the form of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) and will be categorised an NBFC-Infrastructure Finance Company.
- The SPV will issue an array of credit enhancement products that will initially cover post-Commercial Operations Date (COD) projects (where construction is over and commercial operations have begun, with the project generating cash flows), and subsequently even the pre-COD projects (where the construction process is on).
- Its promoters are likely to include Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), General Insurance Corporation of India, State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Power Finance Corporation, Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd (IIFCL).
- The government is keen on roping in international financial institutions such as Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, New Development Bank (formerly BRICS Development Bank), International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group), and talks are on in this regard.
- Also, other Indian public sector insurance companies, large state-owned banks and the National Investment & Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) are expected to contribute to the fund that will have an authorised capital of Rs.10,000 crore.
- The initial minimum paid-up capital will be Rs.500 crore, which will be quickly scaled up with regular capital infusion to Rs.10,000 crore.
- The public sector insurers, leading state-owned banks and multilateral lending agencies are being made part of the large fund as it needs deep-pocketed promoters with an understanding of the risks involved in investing in the infrastructure sector — where projects have huge capital needs, but with long-gestation periods and returns coming in slowly.
Benefits of this fund:
The fund — through ‘unconditional and irrevocable partial credit guarantee’ — will help enhance the credit rating of bonds issued by infrastructure firms so that they, in turn, can attract long-term investments especially from global insurance, pension and sovereign wealth funds.
Besides, a majority of the around 1,500 infrastructure projects in the country in various stages of development are rated at BBB-level, and the dedicated fund can help enhance this rating and help them raise more funds, especially from overseas investors who invest only in higher-rated (AA) projects.
The country infrastructure sector requires investments of more than $1.5 trillion in the coming ten years. The development follows the announcement in the Budget 2016-17 on the proposed measures to deepen the corporate bond market.
Prior to the setting up of the dedicated fund, the Reserve Bank of India is expected to bring out a comprehensive regulatory framework for credit enhancement to infrastructure projects and Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFC) keen on the business. The central bank’s norms for credit enhancement products will include capital requirement and bad loans or asset classification.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: cyber security.
Govt mulls merging cyber tribunal with TDSAT
As part of plans to merge some of the tribunals into larger entities to avoid identical functions, the government is looking to converge the Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CyAT) and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT). A Cabinet note to this effect will be moved shortly.
Cyber Appellate Tribunal has been established under the Information Technology Act under the aegis of Controller of Certifying Authorities (C.C.A.).
- As per the IT Act, any person aggrieved by an order made by the Controller of Certifying Authorities, or by an adjudicating officer under this Act may prefer an appeal before the Cyber Appellate Tribunal.
- This Tribunal is headed by a Chairperson who is appointed by the Central Government by notification as provided under Section 49 of the IT Act 2000.
- It was conceived to adjudicate cyber crimes and disputes such as hacking, sending of offensive or false messages, receiving stolen computer resource, identity theft, cheating by personation, violation of privacy, domain name disputes and other cyber fraud cases.
- The tribunal has been vested with the same powers as a civil court, the cases requiring punishment instead of financial penalty are transferred to the magistrate concerned.
- CyAT, however, has been headless since July 2011.
Significance of this move:
With growing number of internet users and government move to push for digital payments, it is extremely important to have an efficient cyber dispute settlement mechanism. This move is aimed at making the dispute settlement mechanism more efficient.
Seeking to cut red tape, an inter—ministerial group of secretaries had “unanimously” agreed to reduce the number of tribunals from 36 to 18 as the government feels that most of these bodies are performing “identical functions”.
- A Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court had some years ago suggested bringing tribunals under administrative control of the Law Ministry.
- The Department of Legal Affairs had also recently written to all Union ministries and departments to furnish details of tribunals functioning under their administrative control and explain the “possibility of merging the functions of tribunals with some other tribunals”.
- There are 36 tribunals functioning in the country dealing with subjects such as income tax, electricity, consumer protection, company laws and railway accidents.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
In digital push, telecom regulator moots free data for rural users
The Telecom Authority of India has recommended a scheme under which a reasonable amount of data say 100 MB per month may be made available to rural subscribers for free.
- The cost of implementation of the scheme may be met from Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
- This move is to bridge the affordability gap for persons residing in rural areas and to support the government’s efforts towards a cashless economy by incentivising digital means.
Recommendations made by the TRAI:
- The scheme for free data must be telecom service provider agnostic, and must not involve any arrangement between the service provider and the aggregator/content provider.
- The free scheme should not be designed to circumvent the guidelines on “The Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations,” which bans various forms of zero-rating models or schemes that provide free access to data services for subscribers of a particular Internet Service provider for accessing specific content.
- There is a need to introduce third party (aggregator) to facilitate schemes which are telecom service provider (TSP) agnostic and non-discriminatory in their implementation. The aggregators, who should be a company registered under Indian Companies Act, 1956, need to register with the Department of Telecom. The validity of this registration will be for five years.
- The registrant shall not either directly or indirectly, assign or transfer the registration in any manner whatsoever to a third party either in whole or in part.
- The free data scheme should be implemented for a definitive period with a clearly defined time limit for each subscriber — free benefit for a fixed number of months for each subscriber. After the expiry of 100 MB of data in a month on a mobile connection, the free data services should be suspended till the beginning of the following month.
Of the over 367 million Internet and broadband users in India, only 32.60% are in rural areas.
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.
Ultrasound devices to be mapped
In an attempt to identify unauthorised and unregistered diagnostic centres in the country, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoFW) has decided that all ultrasound machines in States will be mapped. The mapping will be carried out by the authorities in States visiting every centre and recording details of the devices.
Significance of this move:
While regularising the diagnostic facilities is the main aim, curbing sex determination tests and female foeticide is another important aspect of the move, which will help reduce the thousands of unregistered sonography centres that have mushroomed over the years.
- The exercise has already been undertaken by some States while others are in process. The idea is to regulate all centres and thus monitor them thoroughly and minimise malpractices.
- Mapping will be carried out through a ground-level survey of all centres and ultrasound machines.
Why this is necessary?
Unregulated machines and centres are misused for carrying out illegal sex determination tests. Since they are not registered, they don’t follow the rules of submitting Form F for every case, which is mandatory under the Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act. Form F is a document to be filled by radiologists carrying out ultrasound tests on any pregnant woman. While registered centres are mandated to keep all records, the centres running illegally get away with breaking the rules. This is where couples looking for identifying the sex of their baby head to.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims
- It is a National Newspaper dedicated to Senior Citizen. The first issue of this bilingual newspaper was recently released.
- This Newspaper for Senior Citizen is edited by Ms. J.V Manisha Bajaj, Secretary, Harikrit, an NGO for elderly people.
- This newspaper has got 8 pages which will be published from Delhi by Harikrit publishers.
- This newspaper will carry important and useful news pertaining to elderly persons besides inspirational stories. It will serve as a bridge between old and new generations.
Country’s first Indian Institute of Skills:
- Aimed at making India the Skill Capital of the World, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid foundation stone of the country’s first Indian Institute of Skills (IIS) at Kanpur recently.
- The IIS was conceptualised by Modi during his visit to Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education.
- The institute is being opened by the Skill Development Ministry in partnership with the Institute of Technical Education, Singapore.
- The Ministry has decided to have six such institutes.
For the first time in nearly 150 years, India’s economy surpasses that of United Kingdom:
- Owing to Britain’s recent Brexit-related problems and thanks to India’s rapid economic growth, India has managed to overtake its erstwhile colonial master United Kingdom in terms of the size of the economy – the first time after nearly 150 years.
- This dramatic shift has been driven by India’s rapid economic growth over the past 25 years as well downslide in the value of the pound over the last 12 months.
- The government observed ‘Vasectomy Fortnight’ between November 21 and December 4 with the hope to create awareness about male sterilisation and, more importantly, to facilitate district administrations reach sterilisation targets through campaigns.
- At the end of the programme, it was concluded that men were unwilling to share the burden of birth control compared to women. This is besides the fact that sterilisation is simpler in men than women — recovery time and surgical risk are smaller, complications are rare and deaths rarer.
- It should be noted here that of the 40 lakh sterilisation procedures done in 2014-15, vasectomies accounted for minuscule 1.9%. Experts maintain that the gap between vasectomy targets and achievements remain unchanged over the years even as country’s fertility and birth rates continue to fall, driven mainly by female sterilisation.