Insights Daily Current Affairs, 30 January 2017
Paper 3 Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
FinMin may aid rail safety fund
The Finance Ministry has agreed to contribute partially to a new dedicated railway safety fund in the upcoming Budget to be presented on February 1.
The Railway Ministry had requested the Finance Ministry to create a ‘non-lapsable’ safety fund named ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’ over five years. However, the Finance Ministry is likely to grant a fresh infusion of only Rs. 5,000 crore in the upcoming financial year out of the initial proposed corpus of Rs. 20,000 crore.
About the fund:
The Railways had asked for ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’ to be set up based on the recommendations of a high-level safety review committee under former chairman Atomic Energy Commission Dr. Anil Kakodkar.
- The fund is proposed to be utilised for track improvement, bridge rehabilitation, rolling stock replacement, human resource development, improved inspection system, and safety work at level crossing, among other things.
Railways may now be asked to fund the remaining Rs. 5,000 crore for the initial corpus from its own resources. It may either have to bring back a cess on rail tickets to finance its share of Rail Safety Fund or look to fund it from non-budgetary resources.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Court stops deportations under Trump travel ban
The New York Court has stayed the deportation of people from seven Muslim-majority countries who arrived in the U.S after President Donald Trump barred their entry into the country through an executive order.
- The New York court order extends to all of America and provides relief to people in similar situations.
President Trump recently signed an executive order to keep refugees from entering the country for 120 days and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations out for three months. The countries affected are Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.
The ban snared green card holders and people with valid visas alike. Some travelers who were in the air when Trump signed the order weren’t able to enter the country when they landed. Some were detained. Others were sent back to where they flew in from.
Why those seven countries?
White House officials said the seven countries targeted in the executive order had already been deemed “countries of concern” for terrorism by the Obama administration. In December 2015 Obama signed into law a measure placing some restrictions on certain travelers from Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria. A couple of months later, Libya, Somalia and Yemen were added.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
India Post gets payments bank licence to start services
India Post has received payments bank licence from the Reserve Bank of India to start rollout of banking operations commercially under the permit.
In 2015, RBI had granted ‘in-principle’ approval to 11 entities, including Department of Posts, to set up payments banks and proposed to give such licences ‘on tap’ basis in future.
What are payment banks?
Payment banks are non-full service banks, whose main objective is to accelerate financial inclusion. These banks have to use the word ‘Payment Bank’ in its name which will differentiate it from other banks.
- Capital requirement: The minimum paid-up equity capital for payments banks is Rs. 100 crore.
- Leverage ratio: The payments bank should have a leverage ratio of not less than 3%, i.e., its outside liabilities should not exceed 33.33 times its net worth (paid-up capital and reserves).
- Promoter’s contribution: The promoter’s minimum initial contribution to the paid-up equity capital of such payments bank shall at least be 40% for the first five years from the commencement of its business.
- Foreign shareholding: The foreign shareholding in the payments bank would be as per the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy for private sector banks as amended from time to time.
- SLR: Apart from amounts maintained as Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) with the Reserve Bank on its outside demand and time liabilities, it will be required to invest minimum 75% of its “demand deposit balances” in Statutory Liquidity Ratio(SLR) eligible Government securities/treasury bills with maturity up to one year and hold maximum 25% in current and time/fixed deposits with other scheduled commercial banks for operational purposes and liquidity management.
What are the scopes of activities of Payment Banks?
- Payments banks will mainly deal in remittance services and accept deposits of up to Rs 1 lakh.
- They will not lend to customers and will have to deploy their funds in government papers and bank deposits.
- The promoter’s minimum initial contribution to equity capital will have to be at least 40% for the first five years.
- They can accept demand deposits.
- Payments bank will initially be restricted to holding a maximum balance of Rs. 100,000 per individual customer.
- They can issue ATM/debit cards but not credit cards.
- They can carry out payments and remittance services through various channels.
- Distribution of non-risk sharing simple financial products like mutual fund units and insurance products, etc. is allowed.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Odisha rejects panel on Mahanadi
The Odisha government has rejected the Centre’s negotiation committee on Mahanadi river water dispute with Chhattisgarh.
According to the Odisha government, the committee is not in accordance with the provisions of Sec 4(1) of the Inter-State Rover Water Dispute Act of 1956 and its composition is arbitrary.
What the law says?
The provisions of the ISRWD Act of 1965 put responsibility on the central government to negotiate after receiving complaints and in this regard the principle of federal relations mandated that the constitutional functionaries namely the prime minister or Union minister for water resources conduct negotiations with the chief ministers of the riparian states rather than appointing a committee headed by an officer of the subordinate office namely Central Water Commission.
Odisha CM has also indicated that he is open to attending a meeting at the Prime Minister’s level as a last chance to settle the river water dispute through dialogue.
In January 2017, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation constituted a negotiations committee to assess availability and utilisation of waters of Mahanadi and its tributaries. The committee was set up with reference to complaint of State of Odisha under section 3 of the ISRWD Act, 1956 regarding utilisation of waters of Mahandi Basin.
What’s the dispute?
The 850km length of the Mahanadi river is divided almost equally between Chhattisgarh, where it is born, and downstream Odisha. Last year Odisha government opposed barrages that Chhattisgarh has been constructing.
Odisha government alleges that these barrages are meant to feed industrial projects and will block the flow of water into Odisha whose dependence on the river is greater. Chhattisgarh has denied this allegation pointing out that much of the river in Odisha flows untapped and straight into the sea.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
India to focus on BIMSTEC after hurdles from Pakistan
India has decided to focus on strengthening the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) amid Pakistan’s continued intransigence in blocking key anti-terror and connectivity initiatives under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC.
- Nepal, as the BIMSTEC chair, is scheduled to host the group’s summit this year, the first since the new government in India assumed office in May 2014.
Significance of this move:
India as the biggest country in the BIMSTEC is giving special attention to the grouping in the 20th year of its creation. The grouping, which does not include Pakistan, could serve as an alternative to SAARC to give countries in South Asia a new direction.
- The BIMSTEC is also a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. The two Southeast Asian countries in the grouping, Myanmar and Thailand, have a crucial place for India’s ambitious connectivity plans for northeastern region.
- Myanmar is only Southeast Asian country India has a land boundary with. An India-Myanmar-Thailand highway is one of the key projects that figures in a big way in the government’s Act East (earlier Look East) policy.
- With the India-Pakistan bickering coming in way of a smooth functioning of the Saarc, groupings such as BIMSTEC can take forward the concept of regional cooperation in a different manner.
Though BIMSTEC is a Bay of Bengal camp, two land-locked states — Nepal and Bhutan — are also part of the seven member-group. Five of them are from South Asia — India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka — and two from South East Asia — Myanmar and Thailand.
The BIMSTEC region is home to around 1.5 billion people which constitute around 22% of the global population. The region has a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.7 trillion. In the last five years, BIMSTEC member states have been able to sustain an average 6.5% economic growth trajectory despite global financial meltdown.
The cooperation within BIMSTEC will be based on respect for the principle of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful co-existence and mutual benefit. This cooperation within BIMSTEC will constitute an addition to, and not be a substitute for, bilateral, regional or multilateral cooperation involving the member states.
What are the priority sectors of the BIMSTEC grouping?
BIMSTEC covers 14 priority sectors. Each country leads one or more area in a voluntary manner. India leads two — counter terrorism and transnational crime, telecommunication and transport. The other key sectors are trade and investment, technology, energy, tourism, fisheries, agriculture, cultural cooperation, environment and disaster management, public health, people-to-people contact, poverty alleviation, etc.
Facts for Prelims
North East Investors’ Summit:
- The first ever “Investors Summit” exclusively for North Eastern Region (NER) has begun in Shillong.
- The Ministry of Textiles has taken the initiative to organize the first ever “Investors Summit” exclusively for NER, in association with Ministry of DONER and the Industry Associations FICCI and CII.
- Focussed on manufacturing in textiles and allied sectors, the theme of the Summit is “Exploring Opportunities in North East Region”.
- The summit aims to showcase the NER as a global destination for investment, and to explore the possibility of bringing in convergence of efforts of various central Ministries and North Eastern States to attract investment in NER.
- The Summit will be attended by all North Eastern States, Export Promotion Councils, industries from North Eastern Region and leading investors across the country.
Film Condition Assessment Project under NFHM:
- The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry has launched a film condition assessment project under which almost 1.32 lakh film reels at National Film Archive of India (NFAI) will be assessed and preserved for future use, as per global standards.
- The project marks the beginning of National Film Heritage Mission—an initiative by the government of India for the preservation, conservation, digitization and restoration of rich cinematic heritage of the country.
- NFAI is the nodal agency for the implementation of this project.
2016 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report:
- The 2016 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report was recently published by the Think Tank and Civil Societies Program at the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania (TTCSP).
- From India, the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) has been ranked among the top 100 think tanks globally. The CCS is ranked 80 which is one lower than last year’s rank.
- Nine other Indian institutes figured among the top 175 for the year 2016.
- Chatham House, U.K. was declared the top think tank of the world while Brookings Institution of U.S. retained the position as the top think tank worldwide in U.S. and Non-U.S. category.
- In terms of numbers, the U.S. has 1,835 think tanks, the highest globally, followed by China with 435, and the United Kingdom has 288. India stands in 4th position with 280 think tanks.