Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Daily News Analysis, 29th September 2015 - IndianCivils

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Sources : The Hindu, Indian Express
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With Astrosat launch, ISRO scales new heights
Few days after it celebrated the successful completion of a year around the red planet by its first inter-planetary mission -- the Mars Orbiter, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Monday launched its first dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory Astrosat into space, besides six satellites for Canada, Indonesia and the United States.Though the national space agency has launched satellites for Indonesia and Canada earlier, this is the first time ISRO is launching satellites for the United States.Though there have been scientific missions by ISRO in the past, this is the first time a space observatory is being launched into space. Though Astrosat may be similar to the NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the former is about 10 times smaller and cannot be compared to the Hubble, which is versatile.Besides US’ NASA, space agencies of the European Union, Japan and Russia have launched similar facilities into the space.Within 22 minutes of its liftoff from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre here at 10 am, ISRO’s PSLV C-30 rocket successfully placed in orbit ASTROSAT. A few minutes later, Canada’s NLS-14 nano satellite, Indonesia’s LAPAN-A2 microsatellite and four identical LEMUR nano satellites for the U.S. were also put in orbit.With the Monday’s launch, ISRO has successfully crossed the half century-mark as for foreign satellites. ISRO has launched 51 satellites for foreign satellites so far.“Today is one of the eventful days for us. Our PSLV has once again proved to be a workhorse,” ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said from the Mission Control Room, soon after the rocket injected the satellites into the intended orbits.The 1,513-kg cuboid-shaped satellite would be eventually fine-tuned into 650 km above the Earth’s surface. The satellite can perform simultaneous multi-wavelength observations of various astronomical objects. The sun and star sensors, besides the gyroscopes, would provide orientation reference to the satellite, which has a mission life of five years.
Unravelling mysteries of the universe
Astrosat aims at understanding the high energy processes in binary star systems containing neutron stars and black holes, to estimate magnetic fields of neutron stars, to study star birth regions and high energy processes in star systems lying beyond the Milky Way galaxy.The mission also intends to detect new briefly bright X-ray sources in the sky, to perform a limited deep field survey of the universe in the ultraviolet region.While Canada’s NLS-14 is a maritime monitoring nano satellite using the Automatic Identification System, Indonesia’s LAPAN-A2 is aimed at benefiting Indonesian radio amateur communities for disaster mitigation and carrying out Earth surveillance. All the four identical LEMUR satellites for the United States -- non-visual remote sensing satellites aims to focus on global maritime intelligence through vessel tracking.The other institutions that participated in the gigantic task of Astrosat launch are Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics and Raman Research Institute.Today is one of the eventful days for us. Our PSLV has once again proved to be a workhorse.

India seeks funds, technology to combat climate change
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly here on Monday, sought U.S. support to complete United Nations reforms within a fixed time-frame and cooperation for India’s early membership of the Asia Pacific Economic Community, but climate change dominated their hour-long conversation.“Much of our discussion today focused on the upcoming climate conference in Paris,” Mr. Obama said, adding: “We agree that this is a critical issue for the world, and all of us have responsibilities. We are encouraged by the aggressive nature of Mr. Modi’s commitment to clean energy.”“President and I share an uncompromising commitment on climate change, without affecting our ability to meet the development aspirations of humanity. We have set ambitious national agendas,” Mr. Modi said, adding that both leaders looked forward to a “comprehensive and concrete outcome in Paris with a positive agenda,” which will ensure “access to finance and technology for the developing world.” The progress on meeting these objectives will be the crucial test for bilateral relations in the coming months. “What I said is, that I really believe that India’s leadership at this conference will set the tone not just for today, but for decades to come,” Mr Obama said.Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Mr Modi brought up the “climate of negativism” that surrounds climate change negotiations and sought to turn the debate into a positive format that will nudge developing countries to adapt cleaner development models by providing them access to technology and capital.While Mr. Modi said the India-U.S. partnership was driven by economic ties, Mr. Obama said: “We also had a chance to talk about trade and investment,” adding that Mr. Modi was hoping that Indian Americans would contribute to India’s growth.Mr. Obama had, during his India visit in January, declared his support for India’s admission into APEC, and that will be a key, tangible milestone for bilateral ties. Mr. Modi and Mr. Obama reviewed progress on the issue and Mr. Modi said: “To further increase our strategic engagement in the region, I look forward to working with the U.S. for India’s early membership of the Asian Pacific Economic Community.”Both countries were keen on emphasising India’s APEC membership as part of the Joint Strategic Vision on Asia, Pacific and Indian Ocean Regions. Mr.Modi also underscored the importance of joint engagement with regional partners like Japan. “This will also strengthen our maritime security cooperation,” he said. After the Obama-Modi bilateral meet in September 2014, both countries had decided to promote joint consultations with Japan to the ministerial level, and the first one will take place in New York next week.Mr. Swarup termed the back-to-back meeting that Mr. Modi had with his British counterpart David Cameron and French President Fran├žois Hollande as “power Monday,” and said climate change was on the agenda of all three meetings.Cooperation in combating terrorism, particularly, in concluding the pending Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, and India’s long-pending demand for membership of four global export control regimes also figured in Mr Modi’s conversation with Mr. Obama. Mr. Swarup said the “take-away from the meeting was the continuing and increasing personal chemistry between the leaders who address each other by first name.” “So, we very much appreciate his friendship and his partnership,” Mr. Obama said. Meanwhile, the U.S., Britain and France reaffirmed their support to India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council as text-based negotiations to expand the most powerful wing of the world body begins in November.I really believe that India’s leadership at this conference will set the tone not just for today, but for decades to come".

Supermoon may cause tidal flooding
The swells originating from the Southern Indian Ocean, having a period of over 15 seconds and wave height of 1 metre to 2 metres, will be compounding the tidal flooding in the coastal areas of southern India from September 28 to October 2.A tidal flooding alert during Supermoon or King Tide, which is likely to occur during September 26 to October 2, issued by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad, was released by P. Rama Rao, Director of Center for Studies on Bay of Bengal, Andhra University, here.The plausible regions vulnerable for inundation are the Kerala coast, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and some parts of Andhra Pradesh (Visakhapatnam) and West Bengal (Sunderbans).“Storm surge was already reported from Sagar Nagar area in the city. Our Centre has a Memorandum of Understanding with the INCOIS and they have sent us the data,” Prof. Rama Rao said on Monday. Heavy local river discharge would also compound the effects of tidal flooding and this was more likely from September 28 to 30.This would be the maximum height (tide + swell) induced phenomena during the super moon period for the present year.
Tidal range
As the tidal range would be higher than normal spring tides, there could be flooding during high tide as well as retreat of water level during low tide (ebbing).Supermoon is a perigean spring tide that occurs when the moon is either new or full and closest to the earth (perigee) causing increased tidal ranges or increased current speeds than those experienced during the normal spring tides. Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services issues alert.

Boost R&D to drive manufacturing growth: Study
India needs to invest more in research & development (R & D) and promote entrepreneurship to achieve transformative gains and boost job creation in the country, according to a joint study “Make in India – The next leap” by Assocham and Thought Arbitrage Research Institute.“Technology drove manufacturing growth globally and will continue to do so. India’s performance in developing new and improved technologies has been dismal. While technological handicap can be addressed through FDI in the short run, India needs to find resources to invest in R & D and new technologies for long term growth,” it said.The study stated that India’s innovation suffered due to poor investments in R & D. The country spends less than one-fifth of what China or some of the leading multinational companies do. “India spends 0.8 per cent of GDP on R & D, which is the lowest among BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and other countries,” it added.Stating that private sector investments in R & D is also inadequate to achieve any business gains, the report pointed out that only a handful of big corporates in India take R & D investments seriously. Global firms such as Samsung spend more than India’s entire R & D investments.Indian business has preferred to buy technology from the global markets rather than invested in creating home-grown technology. While this approach has the advantage of quick uptake of production, the downside is that the purchased technology is usually not the latest cutting edge, but on the verge of becoming obsolete,. the study said.
Promote Entrepreneurship
“Promoting entrepreneurship and competitiveness of micro, small and medium enterprises will also be a major differentiator in Make in India as it would help absorb both educated and uneducated workforce in a productive way,” said Ravindra Sannareddy, chairman – southern region council, Assocham.The study also draws attention to the complaints over poor infrastructure, tax issues and skill gaps, among others and has asserted that Make in India is not just a policy choice any more, but an absolute necessity that can’t be postponed. Promoting entrepreneurship will go a long way in addressing the challenge of providing jobs to millions every year.

Wages for the parliamentarians
The idea of creating an Emoluments Commission to recommend salaries and allowances for Members of Parliament has not come a day too soon. The pay and reimbursements drawn by lawmakers may not be unusually high in India by global standards, but two points have been agitating the people in recent times: the power enjoyed by legislators to fix their own salaries and the loss suffered by the exchequer as day after day is lost to parliamentary logjam, resulting in MPs drawing daily allowances through whole sessions during which no business is transacted. In this backdrop, the proposal of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs to establish an independent, three-member commission to fix the pay and allowances of parliamentarians is a sign that the government and the elected members themselves are sensitive to growing concern about the public expenditure incurred in their name. The proposal is on the agenda of the All-India Whips’ Conference to be held in Visakhapatnam, and may form the basis for future legislation to de-link members of the legislature from the process of fixing their emoluments. Members of Parliament currently draw a monthly salary of Rs. 50,000, a constituency allowance of Rs. 45,000 and a sumptuary allowance of Rs. 15,000. They may also hire secretarial assistance for Rs. 30,000. They are entitled to daily allowances and travel concessions besides other perquisites. The present levels of pay and allowances, however, have not been revised since 2010.If an independent body is created for the purpose, India will be following the example of the United Kingdom, where an Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has been created by law to oversee and regulate ‘business costs’ or the expenditure incurred by lawmakers in their parliamentary functions, and fix their pay and pension. Such a mechanism may help put an end to criticism, and sometimes public outcry, over legislators rewarding themselves with pay hikes and additional allowances from time to time. In a country where public life is associated in the popular imagination with unbridled greed, and parliamentary representation is seen as a means to amass wealth, it will be tempting to wonder why lawmakers need a salary at all, or, looking at legislative work often coming to a standstill, to question the present pay structure or the need for regular revision. However, payment for legislative work is an important element in attracting public-spirited citizens to participative democracy. As a general principle, pay ought not to be the primary attraction for elective office, nor the privileges and perquisites that come with it. At the same time, it cannot be so low as to be a disincentive to the public for entering the legislature. An independent pay panel for parliamentarians is surely a welcome proposal.

Raja-Mandala: Picking up the tab for peace
A little noticed agreement unveiled last week by India and the United States marks a long overdue revision of New Delhi’s approach to international peacekeeping operations. At the second round of the India-US strategic and commercial dialogue in Washington, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that India and the US will jointly train troops of six African nations for peacekeeping duties.It has indeed taken a long while for India and the US, two big champions of international peacekeeping, to start working together. Better late than never. The United Nations peace operations, which have expanded so rapidly since the end of the Cold War, now face immense challenges.Prime Minister Narendra Modi is joining a host of other world leaders to discuss ways and means of making UN peace operations more effective at a meeting convened by President Barack Obama this week in New York. America has long picked up much of the tab for UN peaceoperations. This year, out of the $8.2 billion budgeted for these operations, Washington will pay nearly 30 per cent. Cumulatively, India is the biggest troop contributor for these operations. Over the decades, India has sent nearly 1,80,000 peacekeepers to 44 missions.Delhi and Washington have often talked of working together on peacekeeping. While India’s armed forces and the foreign office recognised the utility of working with America and others on international peace operations, there was little enthusiasm in the defence ministry. As a result, India’s expansive contribution to international peacekeeping seemed to have only one objective — to reinforce India’s campaign for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.But over the last few years, many developing countries, especially India’s neighbours, began to contribute in a big way to UN operations. Bangladesh now has the top spot with 9,432 troops deployed in UN peace operations. India stands third with a contribution of 7,794 men and women. Pakistan is close behind India, with about 7,533 soldiers. Nepal, with 5,346 peacekeepers, is among the top 10 contributors.Meanwhile, China has begun to steal a political march over India in the international discourse on peace operations. Ending its traditional wariness about international peacekeeping, China has moved quickly into the list of top 10 troop contributing countries in recent years. Although the number of Chinese troops currently deployed is modest at 3,079, China has put peacekeeping at the centre of its defence diplomacy and made it a priority military mission for the People’s Liberation Army. These precisely have been the missing elements of India’s approach.As peacekeeping became a routine activity for India, Delhi was increasingly preoccupied with process-related issues at the UN — the construction and implementation of the mandates for peacekeeping. India’s recent focus has been on gaining a say in the UN decision-making on peace operations that have become increasingly complex.India is unlikely to advance by organising a trade union of troop contributing countries at the UN General Assembly. Instead, it should expand its strategic cooperation with the US, France, Japan, Australia and other partners to reshape the norms and mechanics of international peace operations. At the same time, India should also seek partnerships with its South Asian neighbours. While the Pakistan army might be reluctant, the security forces of Bangladesh and Nepal may be more open to collaboration with India on peacekeeping, disaster management and humanitarian relief operations.The first step is to start sharing their expansive experiences in peace operations. Second, South Asian military and civilian policymakers on peacekeeping should be meeting in Delhi, Dhaka and Kathmandu and not just in New York.At the UN last week, India reaffirmed its commitment to international peace operations. But Delhi must look beyond mere troop contribution to other critical activities, such as training, logistics and operational support. The latest agreement between India and the US on training African troops provides a good basis for this. Military cooperation with the major powers and neighbours is also important for another reason — not all peace operations today are run from the UN. India needs to develop military coalitions that can respond to crisis situations in the Indian Ocean and beyond on short order.In the end, reforming UN peace operations is only a small part of the answer to the larger questions that India must ask itself about the use of military force. Way back in the 1950s, our first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, recognised that our armed forces had duties beyond borders in discharging India’s responsibilities as a good global citizen.As the world today looks up to India as a net security provider, Delhi needs to recast its peacekeeping strategy by modernising its decision-making structures, expanding domestic defence capabilities, and strengthening its military diplomacy.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Daily News Analysis, 28 September 2015 - IndianCivils

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Centre forms expert committee to review civil services exam pattern
An expert committee has been formed by the government to examine various issues related to age relaxation, eligibility, syllabus and pattern of the civil services examination to select IAS and IPS officers.“The committee will look into all aspects of civil services examination,” Union Minister Jitendra Singh said on Sunday.Based on the report of the committee, further changes in the civil services exam pattern would be considered with the primary objective of providing a level playing field to aspirants from diverse streams like mathematics, engineering, medicine and humanities, he said. Till such time as the recommendations of the committee were received and the government subsequently took a decision, the General Studies Paper-II (also known as CSAT) in the preliminary examination would remain a qualifying paper, with the minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33 per cent.
Meanwhile, the government’s decision taken last year to exclude the English portion, accounting for 22 marks in the General Studies Paper-II, from tabulation continued to remain in force, he told PTI here.The panel has been formed as a follow-up to a decision taken by the government in May this year, said Mr. Singh, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.The panel would be headed by the former Chhattisgarh cadre IAS officer B.S. Baswan and consist of leading academicians, technocrats and senior bureaucrats, officials said.Mr. Singh recalled that soon after the Narendra Modi government took over on May 26, 2014, it was confronted with the demands from across the country for revisiting the pattern and syllabus of the civil services examination.It was being alleged that the present syllabus and pattern tended to benefit students from mathematics and engineering backgrounds, he said.The decision to revise the civil services exam pattern was path-breaking and was aimed at achieving the basic objective of ensuring that the best and the most deserving got the opportunity to become a part of the administrative set up of rapidly developing 21st century India.The civil services examination is conducted annually in three stages — preliminary, main and interview.

Ministry plans independent panel to decide MPs’ salary
The Parliamentary Affairs Ministry is all set to create an independent Emoluments Commission that will be empowered to recommend salaries and allowances for MPs. The Ministry hopes this will help to check the growing criticism – including in the media — of MPs deciding their own emoluments.The proposal for an independent three-member commission is on the Ministry’s agenda for the two-day All India Whips Conference scheduled to be held in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh from September 29-30.The conference will be chaired by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu.The Chief Whips and Whips of various parties in Parliament/Assemblies will discuss a plan to establish inter-party forums in the legislatures for better coordination to facilitate effective functioning of legislative bodies. The utility and shortcomings of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) in operation over the last 32 years will also be discussed, it is learnt.“The setting up of an independent Emoluments Commission for recommending the salaries and allowances of the Members of Parliament will not only put to rest the public outcry and media criticism over MPs themselves deciding their salaries, but also provide an appropriate opportunity to take into consideration the huge responsibilities and the important roles they play in our representative democracy,” say the Agenda Notes for the conference.The commission is expected to ensure that recommendations on Parliamentary salaries “are reached in a fair, transparent and equitable way.”“Once there is consensus on setting up of the commission, the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954, will be suitably amended.”

‘Promote green credit’
Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar on Sunday emphasised the need to promote green credit, instead of carbon credit, so that polluters do not get away with paying for carbon emissions.Addressing the Second Meeting of the Business Dialogue for COP-21 under the U.N. Framework Convention for Climate Change here, he said: “The world must incentivise green growth activities as ‘Green Credit’ instead of Carbon Credit Mechanism, which provides a way out for the Emitter to get rid of the blame of pollution by paying for the emissions.”The Minister stressed India’s proposed debate on lifestyle issues — where developed countries were urged to check unsustainable consumption practices — ‘climate justice’— focussing on the environmental rights of the people in developing and underdeveloped nations — and the green credit mechanism, ahead of the Modi-Obama meet on Monday, where climate change is likely to be a key subject of discussion.The demand-supply mismatch and low ambition for emission reduction expressed by developed countries led to the slowdown of the well-established CDM market, the Minister said.

Forward Markets Commission to merge with SEBI today
In the first ever merger of two regulators, over 60-year-old FMC (Forward Markets Commission) will merge on Monday with the younger but much bigger capital markets watchdog the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to create a unified regulatory body.SEBI was set up in 1988 as a non-statutory body for regulating the securities markets, while it became an autonomous body in 1992 with fully independent powers.FMC, on the other hand, has been regulating commodities markets since 1953, but lack of powers has led to wild fluctuations and alleged irregularities remaining untamed in this market segment.The commodities market has been known to be more prone to speculative activities compared to the better-regulated stock market, while illegal activities like ‘dabba trading’ have also been more frequent in this segment.Besides, the high-profile NSEL scam has rocked this market in the recent past and the subsequent regulatory and government interventions in this case eventually led to the government announcing FMC’s merger with SEBI.Taking forward the announcement made by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech earlier this year, FMC would be merged with SEBI with effect from Monday.The merger would be consummated here on Monday at a function attended by Mr. Jaitley himself, along with SEBI Chairman U.K. Sinha and other top officials from the government and the regulatory bodies.This is the first major case of two regulators being merged, against the relatively more frequent practice world wide of creating new regulatory authorities, including by carving out new bodies from the existing entities.FMC’s merger with the market regulator was aimed at streamlining the regulations and curb wild speculations in commodities market, while facilitating further growth of the market.At present, there are three national and six regional bourses for commodity futures in the country. This is the first major case of two regulators being merged.

For a win-win bilateral trade diplomacy
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second visit to the U.S. is garnering even more interest than his first trip, particularly because in the intervening year, the India-U.S. dialogue has intensified. The Prime Minister is also slated to travel to California, the first to do so at a time when people of Indian origin have established themselves as frontrunners in technology and entrepreneurship in this vibrant region. Indian industry has high hopes from the visit.In the run-up to the Prime Minister’s visit, the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue included encouraging emphasis on economic cooperation, placing it at the heart of the India-U.S. relationship. A joint work stream on Ease of Doing Business has been launched to address trade issues through quarterly meetings. As noted in the joint statement, CII and the American National Standards Institute will be setting up a portal for standards information to update trading companies on trade requirements. A notable mention was made of discussions on Totalisation of social security arrangements, raising hopes that a solution could be evolved on vexing social security payments made by Indian companies for their short-duration workers in the U.S.Bilateral exchange of goods and services between the two countries crossed $100 billion in 2014, up five-fold from 2000. The U.S. is India’s second largest trade partner for goods and by far its largest export market. The two countries have decided to take strong measures to increase trade to $500 billion while notable steps have been announced for increasing investments.Indian investments in the U.S. are robust compared to investments in the other direction in relation to sizes of respective economies. As per a CII-Grant Thornton report, the top Indian companies in the U.S. have recorded over $15 billion of investment across all states and employ about 95,000 persons directly. U.S. investments in India stand at $28 billion cumulatively, according to U.S. sources. Indian industry expects Mr Modi’s visit to act on a dual-pronged approach. On the one hand, issues hindering trade in goods and services need to be resolved to achieve the $500 billion trade target in the shortest possible time. On the other hand, a huge push needs to be imparted to U.S. investments in India, particularly across manufacturing and infrastructure.Regarding trade, the multiple dialogue platforms revived during the past year have set the stage for new announcements. The Trade Policy Forum, High Technology Cooperation Group and CEOs Forum are looking at cooperation in areas such as agriculture, services, manufacturing and intellectual property. Some of the matters taken up in these meetings include social security totalization, visa regulations, ease of doing business and international standards.Trade in services can be promoted through facilitative regulations regarding movement of skilled personnel, technology and data. It is important to develop a separate work visa for professionals on short duration contracts so that they are exempted from Annual Quota, non-refundable social security taxes and labour conditions applications.
Stepping up investments
On the investment side, India’s development agenda presents many opportunities. The U.S.-India Infrastructure Collaboration Platform has been envisaged to assist U.S. companies explore infrastructure opportunities in India. U.S. initiatives through the U.S. EXIM Bank and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency would facilitate $4 billion worth of investments in India. The India-U.S. CEOs Forum has requested an ambitious Bilateral Investment Treaty.Under India’s Smart City initiative, the two governments have identified Allahabad, Ajmer and Visakhapatnam for partnership with U.S. companies. High-level committees are being set up for each of these cities including representatives of different departments, State governments and U.S. industry, and three MoUs have already been signed.The manufacturing sector as a whole is set for rejuvenation under the ‘Make in India’ campaign. The 25 sub-sectors identified closely align with strengths of both U.S. and Indian industry, particularly in automotives, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.The campaigns of Skill India, Digital India, Clean Energy and Swachh Bharat offer attractive vehicles for U.S. investors. Technology companies are already exploring potential under Digital India and could work on creating digital infrastructure, setting up e-governance services and leveraging the huge mobile space. This partnership could gain hugely from the Mr Modi’s visit to California. With the strong personal commitment of leaders of both countries, the India-U.S. economic partnership is on track for a transformational jump and Indian industry greatly looks forward to the outcomes of the sustained dialogue process and the Prime Minister’s upcoming visit.

The challenge of skills and jobs
The scale of the skilling challenge that India faces, and the urgency involved, have been palpable for some time, but new official data put into cold numbers the extent of the problem. Fewer than one in 10 adult Indians has had any form of vocational training, and even among those who have, the type of training is not the sort of formal skilling that employers seek – the majority had either acquired a hereditary skill or learned on the job. Just 2.2 per cent in all had received formal vocational training. In comparison, 75 per cent of the workforce in Germany and 80 per cent in Japan has received formal skills training. Even among the BRICS countries, India lags behind – nearly half the Chinese workforce, for example, is skilled. Very few Indians get a technical education in medicine, engineering or agriculture; fewer than one in ten Indians is a graduate, and among those who are graduates, the majority get undergraduate degrees in arts, science or commerce. The problem is more acute in rural areas and for women. Without access to affordable and appropriate skills training, young people, particularly those leaving rural areas and small towns for big cities, will be stuck in low-wage, insecure jobs that will leave them in want or poverty. The Narendra Modi government has made skills and jobs one of its focus areas from the beginning of its term. In July, the Prime Minister launched an ambitious mission to impart skills training to 40 crore people by 2022, and the new government has a dedicated Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. The problem is that the previous government talked the same talk on skills but was able to achieve precious little; the proportion of young adults who had received vocational training was virtually unchanged between 2004-05 and 2011-12. There isn’t any clear evidence yet that the new government is charting out a radically new path on skills. There remain multiple decision-making authorities on skills and little clarity about who exactly will do the work. Promises of corporate and foreign partnerships on skilling are pouring in, but how these mass skilling programmes will take off is unclear. Employers complain that job-seekers do not have the skills they look for; there is little evidence yet that curricula with these objectives in mind have been designed, or that new and affordable training institutes have been set up on a mass scale. Job creation has not kept pace with India’s demographic momentum, and that will in the coming days pose a problem for a skilled workforce. But let’s not put the cart before the horse – a poorly trained young workforce can neither bring workers out of poverty nor help a country grow quickly.

Source : The Hindu
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Daily News Analysis, 27 September 2015 - IndianCivils

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Astronomy observatory all set for take off
Astrosat, the country’s first astronomy observatory to study distant celestial objects, will be launched on Monday morning.A 50-hour countdown began at 8 a.m. on Saturday at the launch port in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.The Indian Space Research Organisation said the launch vehicle, PSLV-C30, was being readied with propellants ahead of the launch, slated for 10 a.m. at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.Six tiny satellites of three foreign customers, weighing 118 kg, are being put in space on the same flight. Significantly, for the first time, the PSLV launcher has a U.S. customer using it to put four small satellites in space. The other customers are from Canada and Indonesia.The vehicle has, to date, lifted 45 small and mid-sized foreign satellites for a fee.The 1,513-kg Astrosat, estimated to have cost around Rs. 180 crore, carries five instruments and is among the few Indian scientific satellites. Most of ISRO’s spacecraft are planned for specific applications such as communication, Earth observation and more recently, navigation.Moving in a near Equatorial orbit 650 km above Earth, Astrosat will study black holes, scan the distant universe, star birth regions beyond our galaxy, binary and neutron starts over at least five years.It will simultaneously observe the sky in multiple light bands or wavelengths of ultraviolet, optical, low and high energy X-ray.For the light-lift workhorse PSLV vehicle, this will be the 31st flight with 30 successes in its belt.The C-30 will be flown in the extended XL version. Astrosat will study black holes, scan the distant universe, star birth regions beyond our galaxy.

DU Sanskrit meet pushes back period of Vedas to 6000 BC
The Vedas date back to 6000 BC, Sanskrit scholars brainstorming on the dates of the ancient texts at a conclave organised by Delhi University’s Sanskrit department said on Saturday. This amounts to the Vedas getting older by 4500 years compared to what we thought.“The time of the Vedas cannot be asserted before 6000 BC and thus Vedic civilisation is proved more ancient than the Indus Valley civilisation,” department head Ramesh Bhardwaj said in his keynote address, claiming that a correlation of archaeological, literary and astronomical evidence suggested so.The innocuous sounding claim has deep political implications.Influential Indian and European historians have for over a century seen the Vedas as dating back to 1500 BC, while the date of the Harappan civilisation is located around 2500 to 1800 BC. This had made the view that Vedic Aryans were early migrants to India commonplace.Add to it a 19th century view of Indologists that Vedic Sanskrit had similarities with ancient European languages and early Persian — and that Tamil was distinct from Sanskrit.These theories had spawned movements as varied as Jyotirao Phule’s anti-Brahmin movement in western India and the Dravidian movement in south India, which believed that there was an Aryan invasion in ancient times. Many saw the Vedic culture as superimposed over pre-Aryan cultures, while others talked of a migration sans invasion.The present claim of these Sanskrit scholars makes the Vedas coincide with and even pre-date the Harappan civilisation, thus making the ancestors of today’s Hindus indigenous to India.Many scholars have seen such assertions as crucial to the Sangh Parivar, which, they argue, sees Hindus as original inhabitants of India, and Islam and Christianity as later entrants. Significantly, the Sangh Parivar uses the term Vanavasi (forest dwellers) rather than Adivasi (original inhabitants) for India’s tribes.“The Sanskrit department people aren’t experts in comparative linguistics. They are also not environmental historians to study the flora and fauna of the Vedas,” historian D.N. Jha told The Hindu . “Astronomical evidence is dubious. And I would like to ask why the department waited till 2015 for this finding? The most plausible date of the Vedas till now is 1500 BC.”Scholars from Delhi, Varanasi and Gorakhpur apart, archaeologists K.N. Dikshit and B.R. Mani attended the meet.

G4 leaders seek time-bound U.N. reforms
In a show of solidarity and as a message to the world community, leaders of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan on Saturday called for urgent reforms of the United Nations “in a fixed time frame”, expressing disappointment that no substantial progress had been made in the past decade on the issue.The Group of Four, or G4, Summit, taking place after a decade, was hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the morning, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe travelled to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel where Mr. Modi is staying. Japan, Germany, India and Brazil are the third, fourth, seventh and eighth biggest economies, respectively. In terms of population, India is the second biggest, Brazil fifth, Japan 10th and Germany 16th biggest in the world.“The leaders emphasised that the G4 countries are legitimate candidates for permanent membership in an expanded and reformed [Security] Council and supported one another’s candidature. They pledged to work together with all member-states and to accelerate outreach towards achieving an early and meaningful reform of the Security Council,” said a joint statement issued by the leaders after the meeting.“… the leaders noted with concern that no substantial progress had been made since the 2005 World Summit where all the Heads of State and Government had unanimously supported the ‘early reform’ of the Security Council as an essential element of the overall effort to reform the United Nations.”The G4 leaders appreciated the fact that the Inter-Governmental Negotiations on UN reforms has come out with a text that will form the basis for further negotiations. The U.S. also reiterated last week its support for India’s claim for a permanent UNSC seat, but it has been calling for consensus before reforms can move ahead. Pakistan is opposed to India, while China has been ambiguous in its approach though not openly opposed to reforms.

Indian urbanisation ‘messy’, reforms needed: World Bank
Terming India’s urbanisation as “messy and hidden”, a World Bank report called for initiatives at the policy and institutional level to tap the economic potential it offers.“Although they have made progress, India and other South Asian countries can make better utilisation of opportunities that urbanisation provides them to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations,” it said in a report titled ‘Leveraging Urbanisation in South Asia’.The World Bank said there has been difficulty in dealing with pressures that increased urban populations put on basic services, infrastructure, land, housing and environment, fostering “messy and hidden” urbanisation.This, in turn, has helped constrain the region’s full realisation of the prosperity and livability benefits of urbanisation, it said, adding that at the institutional level, there would be benefits from improvements in ways in which towns and cities are governed and financed.
Reforms in spotlight
The report put reforms in the spotlight, saying these are required to address three fundamental deficits in empowerment of local governing bodies, resources and accountability.“Inter-governmental fiscal relations must be improved to address empowerment; practical ways must be identified to increase the resources available to local governments to allow them to perform their mandated functions and mechanisms must be strengthened to hold local governments accountable for their actions,” the report highlighted.To tackle messy urbanisation and bring about lasting improvements in both prosperity and livability, policies are also required to improve the ways in which cities are connected and planned, working of land and housing markets, and cities’ resilience to natural disasters and the effect of climate change.
Sustainable growth
“If managed well, urbanisation can lead to sustainable growth by increasing productivity, allowing innovation and new ideas to emerge,” said World Bank MD and COO Mulyani Indrawati, who is on a three-day visit to India.The report said urbanisation has been relatively slow in India.

What is deflation and is it bad?
With Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian first cautioning about impending deflation, and then in an interview to The Hindu clarifying that he meant deflation in a limited price-related context, it is a good time to explain the various contours of the rise and fall of prices.
What is inflation?
Inflation is simply a measure of the extent of increase in prices. If potatoes cost Rs.100 per kg in August 2014, and if they cost Rs.110 per kg in August 2015, then inflation in the price of potatoes was 10 per cent.When this happens across prices of all commodities for a relatively sustained period of time, then one can say the economy is experiencing inflation. Looking at consumer prices, India is still undergoing inflation. That is, prices are still increasing. For example, in August 2015, overall consumer prices were 3.7 per cent higher than they were in August 2014.
So, then what does it mean when the government says inflation is coming down?
All that means is that the rate of increase of prices is slowing. Going back to the example of potatoes, if they were Rs.110 per kg in August, then went to Rs.120 per kg in September, Rs.125 in October and Rs.127 in November, one can see that although the price is still going up, the rate of increase is decelerating.
Is there a technical term for such a phenomenon?
The U.S. Federal Reserve often uses the term ‘disinflation’ to refer to a period where the rate of inflation has been slowing on a sustained basis.So, looking at the Consumer Price Index, India is currently technically going through a phase of disinflation. The rate of inflation as measured by the CPI was 10.7 per cent in August 2013, which came down to 3.7 per cent over the course of two years.
So, then, what is deflation and why is there so much controversy and confusion around the term?
Deflation is simply the opposite of inflation. That is, prices fall from one period to the next. The confusion comes from the fact that deflation has historically generally been accompanied by significant economic contraction. But that is not the case in India.Real GDP growth, the final figure that the government presents to you, is calculated by looking at how the value of the total production of the economy has changed compared to the previous year, and then reducing the effect of inflation/deflation from this. If the rate of growth of the economy and prices are both falling, then that is not a good place to be in — as it is usually accompanied by rising unemployment, lower demand, falling corporate earnings, reduced investments, etc.This gets exacerbated when people begin to expect prolonged deflation. If they expect that prices will be lower in the future, then people and companies both defer their investments and expenditure waiting for those lower prices. This postponement of expenditure hurts the economy. But slowing inflation coupled with about 7 per cent GDP growth and a pickup in domestic demand — as India is experiencing now — is not a bad thing in itself. Following an extended period of double-digit inflation, this cooling off of prices may just be a correction.
Fun fact
There is such a thing as hyperinflation, when the rate of increase of prices is beyond anything seen in normal circumstances. As one website succinctly defines it, “Hyperinflation is a situation where the price increases are so out of control that the concept of inflation is meaningless.”One famous example of hyperinflation was when French and Belgian troops invaded the industrial regions of the Weimar Republic (of World War I fame) to ensure the payment of war reparations.The Weimar Republic’s currency, the Mark, was at 320 Marks per dollar in the first half of 1922. By November 1923, the exchange rate was at 4,210,500,000,000 Marks per dollar.

India to announce climate commitments on Gandhi Jayanti
ndia will announce on October 2 its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) in the lead up to the Paris climate summit in December, the government indicated on Friday, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the U.N. General Assembly that the country’s development goals and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) were the same.“October 2 is the birth anniversary of a great Indian and a great world leader, Mahatma Gandhi, who passionately believed in sustainable development. That would be an appropriate day to announce India’s INDCs,” Vikas Swarup, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, said. October 1 is the deadline for declaring the INDCs, and India will miss it by a day. The INDCs of countries will form the basis for climate negotiations at the Conference of Parties (CoP) 21 under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in December.The U.S. administration has said that climate change would be on the agenda of President Barack Obama’s meeting with Mr. Modi on Monday. After a two-day tour of the Silicon Valley in the west coast of the U.S., the Prime Minister will travel back to New York for the meeting.Mr. Modi said in his U.N. speech that the negotiations would have to be based on the idea of “climate justice” rather than climate action. He elaborated on the climate-friendly initiatives planned for the next seven years, in which 175 GW of renewable energy would be produced and rivers and cities cleaned.
Climate justice
Explaining the concept of climate justice, Mr. Swarup said: “It is a question of equity. When you talk about emissions, then you need to talk about per capita emissions. India’s per capita emission is still 1.7 and America’s is 16 or 17.”“Historic responsibility of climate change has to be understood. It is very clear which are the countries that are responsible for the state that we are in today,” Mr. Swarup said, adding that the Indian position was not new or different from that of other developing countries.In fact, what Mr. Swarup has articulated is only the reiteration of a long-held official stand of the Indian government. Most recently, during a meeting of 13 Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs) in New Delhi, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had asserted that demanding climate action from developing countries should not involve any blame game and all LMDCs unanimously demanded that developed nations ought to take the lead and provide climate finance to developing countries to enable them to make the necessary transition to a low-carbon economy.

Sources : The Hindu
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Monday, 28 September 2015

Daily News Analysis, 26 September 2015 - IndianCivils

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Chennai Declaration seeks official status for all languages
The Union government’s purported plan to “resurrect Hindi in Tamil Nadu” has its resonance in parts of eastern India. A summit held in Chennai earlier this week to mark the 50th anniversary of the anti-Hindi agitation had participants from West Bengal and Odisha, among other States.The summit committee has published the Chennai Declaration demanding recognition of all languages on Schedule 8 of the Constitution as “official languages”. While 22 languages are in the Schedule, Hindi and English are considered the official languages.Other demands of the Chennai-based pan-India organisation, Promote Linguistic Equality (PLE), coordinating the movement to promote regional languages, includes immediate inclusion of all languages for which “demands” were made by various language communities, but are not accepted by the Union government. The summit also sought an “urgent support to the ethnic, indigenous and other languages with fewer numbers of speakers” to save those from “extinction and assimilation”.The Chennai Summit took place a week after the Bhopal Hindi Conference and was described as a “massive success” by the organisers.The PLE has connected people by social media and has been behind the #stophindiimposition that trended on Twitter during the Prime Minister’s speech in Hindi during August 15 and #stophindiimperialism trend during the World Hindi Conference in Bhopal from September 10 to 12.The representatives from Kolkata said they supported all the three demands of the Chennai Summit.“Bengali, like Tamil, Kannada and all other non-Hindi Indic languages, has been relegated to second class status due to the Union Government’s policies. Non-Hindi mother-tongue speakers are discriminated in every walk of life — from denial of essential public services to entry bars in government jobs. People have been struggling in their own spheres.It is now that Bengalis have slowly started linking up with this protests that are brewing all over the non-Hindi regions of India, given the deeper push and imposition of Hindi under the current regime,” said a signatory of Chennai Declaration, Professor Garga Chatterjee of Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata.PLE - West Bengal was created after the success of several India-wide social media campaigns. A language activist from Odisha, Saket Sahu, who attended the summit, said that besides providing a platform for the main languages of the States, the summit provided space to the mother-tongue movement as well, like his mother tongue, Kosali.“In Odisha we have two major languages: Odia and Kosali. Both are almost having same numbers of speakers and same age. But Odia has been recognised as a classical language and Kosali is struggling to get included in the 8th Schedule. Chennai conference is a platform of likeminded and hope it understand the agony of Kosali language which is facing Odia imposition the way they are facing Hindi imposition,” Mr Sahu said.Interestingly, few of Assam’s language groups in the Brahmaputra valley — who have many issues with the Bengali language-movement in the Barak Valley — have also launched a regional unit of PLE after the Chennai summit. Of the Schedule 8 languages, only Hindi and English are official languages now.

Our march in step with U.N. vision: Modi
Presenting his government’s domestic development agenda as completely in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a special summit of the U.N. on Friday that he came from a tradition that considered the entire world as one and the earth as our mother.Reiterating the Indian position on climate change, the Prime Minister emphasised the concept of “common but differentiated responsibility,” which is part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
18-minute address
In his 18-minute speech, Mr. Modi outlined the various development targets that his government has set, and how special measures were being taken to ensure that they were environmentally sustainable.“The SDG mirrors India’s developmental goals,” the Prime Minister said. According to him, whenever nations have been united in dealing with a crisis, they have been successful.“Seventy years ago, the U.N. offered a new hope for humanity. Today, the time has come for us to seek a new direction,” he said, calling for reforms in the U.N.“The U.N. Security Council needs to be made more broad based in order for it to have higher credibility.”Pointing out that removing poverty is the biggest challenge before the world, the Prime Minister said it was the collective responsibility of all to work towards a “world that is peaceful, a system that is just and development that is sustainable.”
Sustainable future can’t be won without tackling poverty: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday invoked Jana Sangh founder Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya to argue that his ideal of antyodaya, or the uplift of the poorest, and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals were similar.Addressing a special summit of the U.N., Mr. Modi listed the Indian schemes of financial inclusion, education and skill development, direct benefits transfer, and pension schemes for the vulnerable among the initiatives that would promote sustainable development in India.He said, “It is not just about fulfilling the needs of the poor and upholding their dignity, nor about assuming moral responsibility for this, but realising that the very goal of a sustainable future cannot be accomplished without addressing the problem of poverty.”Mr. Modi also introduced an idea of the “Blue Revolution,” which he elaborated as a special effort to preserve the oceans and ensure the sustenance and prosperity of island nations, particularly the smaller ones that face the brunt of climate change. “We are committed to a sustainable path to prosperity; that is rooted in our culture,” Mr. Modi said, adding that, “we need to change our lifestyles in order to reduce energy dependency and consequently the impact on environment.”

Signals point to better economic activity: CEA
Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian said in a wide-ranging interview to The Hindu that the economy is sending mixed signals.“The signals are unambiguously pointing to an improvement in economic activity. But on the pace, we do get mixed signals. For example, indirect tax revenue numbers are doing very well, direct tax revenue numbers are not doing so well. Real credit growth numbers are actually doing better than people think. Stalled projects have also come down, but at the same time exports are in negative territory. Private investment is still challenged. So, in that sense, therefore, the economy is still well below potential and that’s the sense in which you can completely logically say that even though it’s recovering and full of potential, therefore it needs monetary policy support since we are not going to aggravate inflationary pressures.”Dr. Subramanian said China was experiencing a temporary wobble and it would regain its footing, but at 5-7 per cent growth levels.“If that is the medium term forecast for China, then it throws up more challenges and opportunities for India. If China grows rapidly, it is good for the world and for India. If China slows down, it will throw up challenges.”

U.S. moots ‘Sri Lankan judicial mechanism’ with foreign judges
A draft resolution, submitted by four countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has mooted the participation of Commonwealth and other foreign judges in “a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism” to probe allegations of war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law.Sri Lanka has co-sponsored the resolution. The proposed mechanism includes the Special Counsel’s office, according to the draft, which has been hosted on the extranet of the UNHRC.The text of an old draft had called upon the Sri Lankan government “to involve international investigators, prosecutors and judges in Sri Lanka’s justice processes”.Jehan Perera, executive director of the National Peace Council and a law alumnus of the Harvard University, says the earlier version on the nature of judicial mechanism was ambiguous whereas the revised text is more specific and it reiterates the government’s position, which is for a domestic mechanism. Dr. Perera says the role of the foreign judges is likely to be more in the form of advisory as otherwise there will have to be amendments to the existing laws.Another significant feature of the resolution is that “the reputation of those, including within the military, who conducted themselves in an appropriate manner with honour and professionalism” would be safeguarded even as a “credible accountability process” will be in place for “those most responsible for violations and abuses”. The document also talks of “the need for a process of accountability and reconciliation for violations and abuses committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam”.Reacting to the tabling of the resolution, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that “following extensive negotiations, the government has managed to include several clauses in the document recognising the progress made on reconciliation since January 2015”. He added that the government had agreed to implement a political solution to the island’s ethnic problem and bring the necessary constitutional measures.The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), in a statement, described the suggestion of involving the foreign and Commonwealth jurists as a “significant victory for justice”.It added “the draft provides a constructive starting point for what will inevitably be a long road to reconciliation.”

Sources: The Hindu

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Daily News Analysis, 25 September 2015 - IndianCivils

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Centre puts the brakes on JNNURM research projects, capacity - building.
The Urban Development Ministry has asked States to terminate their research and capacity-building measures under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission(JNNURM), a move that will roll back the achievements of the scheme launched by the UPA government and render it defunct. Under the JNNURM, the State governments established Reform and Performance Management Cells (RPMCs), a body of experts to guide municipal bodies in urban planning. The first outcome of the decision will be closing of RPMCs, though the Central government has invested Rs. 43 crore in them. And then the States will have to fire several hundred employees—researchers, municipal engineers, sanitary workers and computer operators—and abandon a big line of research projects. In a circular released on August 14, the Ministry’s message was blunt that “no structures of earlier missions will be supported.” It also directed the States to wrap up “individual” training programmes. In the early 2013, the Congress-led government realised that it could implement an ambitious scheme like the JNNRUM only if the municipal bodies were efficient. So the idea of capacity-building became a buzzword in the Ministry, which was quickly embraced by the BJP-led government, which included it in the Smart City Mission and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). Since urbanisation experts were always consistent in their demand for fixing the municipalities nationwide, the Congress-led government included RPMC in the JNNRUM to allow the States to hire experts in town planning, infrastructure development, solid waste management, procurement and information technology. Their main job was to conduct research, understand shortcomings of cities and help mayors and commissioners in planning and raise funds from private investors. J.M. Pathania, Director, Urban Development, in Himachal Pradesh, said he was surprised by the government’s decision. “We are at the stage where the new hires are already working. Some States have started research and midway you say stop, it is unfair. This [the JNNURM] was a sanctioned project. The previous government gave the first instalment. And now, all of a sudden, the new government asks us to stop it.” he said. G. Vijay Kumar, Under-Secretary at the Urban Development Ministry, who’s signatory to the circular, said the decision was made to help the States adjust themselves to the new urban policies. “The JNNURM has so many objectives, so many people who are not doing anything for the last many years, so they may be fired.”

Centre to exempt foreign firms covered by double taxation treaty
IT Act will be amended with retrospective effectto exempt foreignfirms from MAT. In a big relief to foreign firms, government on Thursday said the Income Tax Act will be amended with retrospective effect to exempt from minimum alternate tax (MAT) the overseas companies that covered under double taxation avoidance agreements (DTAAs).Foreign companies that do not have a permanent establishment in India will be exempt from paying MAT on profits from April 2001. The provisions of Section 115JB of Income Tax will not apply to foreign companies with effect from April 1, 2001, if they are resident of a country with which India has DTAA and they do not have a permanent establishment (PE) in India, said an official statement.In case the companies belong to countries with which India does not have a DTAA, the MAT exemption will apply if they are exempted from registration under Section 592 of the Companies Act 1956, or Section 380 of the Companies Act 2013. “An appropriate amendment to the Income-Tax Act in this regard will be carried out,” said the Finance Ministry statement.Earlier this month, the government had exempted foreign institutional and portfolio investors from payment of MAT on the capital gains made by them before April 1, 2015. Through the amendment the government will clarify that MAT provisions will not be applicable to FIIs/FPIs not having a place of business/permanent establishment in India, for the period prior to April 1.

Green road corridors planned
If Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari’s plan for Rs. 5,00,000 crore of investment in highways in the next four years comes off, Rs. 5,000 crore of this will go to the Green Highways policy.The plan is to grow three layers of trees and bushes. The first will be of bushes so that if a vehicle goes off the road, it does not collide with something life-threatening. The second will be of medium-sized trees and the last will be of tall fruit trees. Only species indigenous to the area would be planted, Mr. Chhibber said.“The benefits are manifold… The community will gain in terms of huge employment opportunities and entrepreneurship development, and there will be huge environmental benefits also… The local community will get the rights to the non-timber produce from the trees,” the Ministry said in a statement.A wide cross-section of agencies can participate in the project. Those eligible include government or private companies, NGOs registered as societies, trusts or private limited non-profit companies, and producer organisations.The empanelment of these companies will begin shortly, according to the Ministry. Thereafter, the bidding for stretches of the highways will take place.“Planting is best done in the beginning May or June. Our target is to have everything under way so that planting can start in at least one-tenth of the area envisaged by that time,” Mr. Chhibber said.The government has also laid down strict targets for the companies growing and maintaining trees. The minimum survival rate is 90 per cent. Only after reaching this level will a company get the required money from the Ministry in the next year.The government is concentrating on working with green contractors, separate from the brick and mortar ones. The projects will also be awarded on small stretches of 8-10 km. Pilot projects, to be carried out in each State, will first take place where there has been a good response from the local community, Mr. Chhibber said.“It is best to go small and get it right in the beginning to show that the policy works and then scale it up,” Mr. Chhibber said.

Centre banks on ISRO to curb illegal mining across States
The Union Ministry of Mines is planning to use remote sensing satellite data to curb illegal mining across States, Mines Secretary Balvinder Kumar said on Thursday.Satellite imageries taken regularly would help to keep an eye on legal boundaries of mined areas. The Ministry plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Space Research Organisation on using satellite data for mining.The next steps would be discussed with the ISRO in early October, it is learnt. The Indian Bureau of Mines would be the nodal agency to implement the measures, which would form part of the reforms taking place in the mining sector.Mr. Kumar was addressing the inaugural session of the ‘Mining & exploration convention and trade show’ organised by the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries.The other plan is to use the GPS (Global Positioning System) to track major minerals that have been mined.The use of satellite data in mining was one of the proposals discussed at the mega meeting of departments called in New Delhi on September 7.Earth observation satellites are already used to estimate the kind of minerals and the extent of deposits present in an area. This information is used in exploration along with aerial surveys of mineral-rich areas. Major mining bodies such as Coal India Ltd. have also tried using GPS-based devices to keep watch on the mined ore and their transport.

Sources: The Hindu