Andhra Pradesh Fibre Grid project

President Ram Nath Kovind on 27 December inaugurated the Andhra Pradesh Fibre Grid project under which internet, television and telephone services will be available to every household for Rs 149 per month.

The President dedicated the project to the nation under which three services will be available at tariffs starting as low as Rs 149 for 5 GB data at 15 Mbps speed, 250 television channels, and a rental-free telephone connection.

About the Fiber Grid Project:

The project, in partnership with the government of India and the private sector, will provide internet speeds of 10 Mbps for all households and 1-10 Gbps for all institutions by 2018.

The AP Fibre Grid was conceptualised to provide high-speed internet service to every household in the state at a nominal rate. The project, when completed by 2019, will cover over one crore households, 50,000 schools and educational institutions, all government offices, over 5,000 government hospitals and health centres and all panchayat offices.

Andhra Pradesh State Fibernet Limited (APSFL), which is implementing the AP Fiber Grid project, will provide three services at tariffs starting as low as `149 for 5 GB data, along with 250-odd TV channels and a free telephone connection.

Called triple play services, it includes broadband of 15 Mbps to households and 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps connection to government offices and corporates, IPTV offerings 250-odd channels and free telephone connection with no rentals and calls fee within fibre grid network.

The fibre grid will also offer services like video-conferencing and movies on demand. The district command control centres, all public CCTV, the AP State Wide Area Network will be integrated into the grid.

The significance of the project:

The project is expected boost digital literacy and skill development in the state, and provide citizen services on the digital platform to every household. It also expected to facilitate setting up BPOs or call centres in rural areas.

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Lok Sabha passed triple talaq bill

Amidst protests from a few political parties, including those close to the BJP, the Lok Sabha on passed by voice vote the Bill that makes instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat a criminal offence, with a jail term of up to three years.

The proposed law would be applicable to the entire country, except in Jammu and Kashmir. It would make instant talaq punishable and would be a cognisable, non-bailable offence.

Calling it a historic step, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Bill — The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017 — will act as a deterrent since there have been 100 cases of triple talaq even after the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court delivered in August this year.

Highlights of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill:

The Bill seeks to prohibit “any pronouncement (of divorce) by a person upon his wife by words, either spoken or written or in electronic form, or in any other manner”.

The proposed law seeks to make triple talaq a punishable offence and describes the practice as against “constitutional morality” and “gender equity”. Anyone who pronounces instant divorce “shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and a fine”, the bill proposes.

As per the provisions of the Bill, the husband could also be fined and the quantum of fine would be decided by the magistrate hearing the case.

The proposed law will be applicable only to instant triple talaq and will empower the victim to approach a magistrate seeking “subsistence allowance” for herself and minor children. The woman can also seek the custody of her minor children from the magistrate who will take a final call on the issue.

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‘Condonation of delay scheme only for bona fide directors’

Plan not open for directors of ‘struck-off’ firms, says Corporate Affairs Secretary
Only bona fide directors will benefit from the proposed scheme that will provide a three-month window for defaulting companies to submit their filings, a senior government official said.

The Condonation of Delay Scheme, which would be rolled out by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, is expected to come as a relief for disqualified directors. It is to be operational from January 1 to March 31, 2018.

Corporate Affairs Secretary Injeti Srinivas said that since so many people were affected, the government felt that some resolution was required without compromising the fight against illegal activities. “The scheme is not open for directors of struck-off companies. They can come only when they [those companies] are restored through the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT),” he said. As part of clamping down on illicit fund flows, the corporate affairs ministry has disqualified more than 3.09 lakh directors of companies which failed to submit annual filings for a long time.

Following the move, concerns were raised that many directors of genuine companies have also been disqualified. Besides, some individuals moved courts against their disqualification.
As per a draft circular, the Director Identification Numbers of disqualified directors that have been deactivated would be ‘temporarily activated’ during the scheme period.

After submitting the filings under the scheme, a company concerned would have to file a separate form seeking condonation of the delay along with a fee of ₹30,000, it added.

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Indian economy to leapfrog UK and France in 2018

India looks set to leapfrog Britain and France next year to become the world’s fifth-largest economy in dollar terms, a report showed on Tuesday.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) consultancy’s 2018 World Economic League Table painted an upbeat view of the global economy, boosted by cheap energy and technology prices.

India’s ascent is part of a trend that will see Asian economies increasingly dominate the top 10 largest economies over the next 15 years.

.China is likely to overtake the United States as the world’s No.1 economy in 2032, Cebr said. “Because the impact of President Trump on trade has been less severe than expected, the USA will retain its global crown a year longer than we anticipated in the last report,” the report said.
While Britain looks set to lag behind France over the next couple of years, Cebr predicted that Brexit’s effects on Britain’s economy will be less than feared, allowing it to overtake France again in 2020.

Russia was vulnerable to low oil prices and too reliant on the energy sector and looked likely to fall to 17th place among the world’s largest economies by 2032, from 11th now.

A Reuters poll of economists in late October suggested global economic growth in 2018 looks likely to quicken slightly to 3.6% from 3.5% this year—with risks to that forecast lying on the upside. Reuters

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New Agreement to Support Climate Resilient Agriculture

The Government of India, the Government of Tamil Nadu and the World Bank today signed a $318 million loan agreement for the Tamil Nadu Irrigated Agriculture Modernization Project to promote climate resilient agriculture technologies, improve water management practices, and increase market opportunities for small and marginal farmers. About 500,000 farmers, of which a majority are small and marginal, are expected to benefit from improved and modernized tank irrigation systems.

The project will rehabilitate and modernize about 4,800 irrigation tanks and 477 check dams, spread across 66 sub-basins, in delivering bulk water to irrigation systems.

The agreement for the project was signed by Sameer Kumar Khare, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, on behalf of the Government of India; S K Prabhakar, Principal Secretary, Public Works Department, on behalf of the Government of Tamil Nadu and John Blomquist, Program Leader and Acting Country Director, World Bank, India on behalf of the World Bank.

This project will help Tamil Nadu scale up its efforts to unlock the full potential of its agriculture sector. It will support farmers improve the efficiency of water used in farming, diversify into high-value crops, and produce crops that are resilient to the increasing threats of climate change. Such efforts will be a win-win for all, leading to better use of scarce water resources and raising household incomes of farmers.

Though significant progress has been made during the past decade in crop diversification, still there is scope for achieving a higher level. Paddy is the dominant crop occupying 34 percent of total cropped areas, whereas fruits and vegetables are grown on 11 percent and pulses and oilseeds on 14 percent of total cropped areas. By helping farmers’ access modern technologies, linking them to markets, and providing postharvest management support, the project will enable farmers to shift from a mono crop paddy system to mixed cropping including high-value crops (fruits, vegetables, and spices), pulses, oilseeds, and millets.

To enhance the ability of crops to withstand expected adverse impacts of climate change, the project will support smallholder producers adopt new conservation technologies such as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and Sustainable Sugar Initiative (SSI). They reduce average water usage by 35 percent and increase yields by 22 percent per ha. The project is expected to increase the yield of rice, maize, and pulses by 18–20 percent.

“The earlier World Bank-supported project on modernizing irrigated agriculture (TN IAMWARMP), had made significant impacts by modernizing irrigation infrastructure and improving the efficiency of water used for agriculture. This project will bring the policy and institutional developments achieved under the earlier project to a new level, improve farmers’ links to markets, and rehabilitate and modernize high-priority tank irrigation systems in more than 50 percent of the sub-basins of the state, which were not part of the TN IAMWARMP,” said Bayarsaikhan Tumurdavaa, Senior Agriculture Economist, and World Bank’s Task Team Leader for the project.

The project will also coordinate with other World Bank-supported projects in Tamil Nadu and at the national level, including the Tamil Nadu Rural Transformation Project, National Hydrology Project, and National Groundwater Improvement Project to ensure synergy and enhance long-term project impact.

The $318 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a 5-year grace period, and a maturity of 19 years.

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Lok Sabha passes GST (Compensation to States) Amendment Bill

Amid uproar and noisy protests by the Congress-led Opposition, the Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States), Amendment Bill, 2017 paving the way for an increase in the maximum rate at which the compensation cess on the entry relating to certain category of motor vehicles is being collected by the states.

In his brief reply to uproar-marred debate even as he was surrounded by the slogan-chanting and banner-wielding Opposition members, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Bill would replace the ordinance which was promulgated earlier in September.
He said the compensation to the states was guaranteed.

The GST Council, in its 20th meeting in August, had recommended an increase of 10 percent — up from 15 percent to 25 percent — in the maximum rate on the entry relating to motor vehicles which carry not more than 13 persons. An ordinance was promulgated on September 2 to implement it and the Bill passed on Wednesday would replace it.

Earlier, participating in the debate, members, including Bhartruhari Mahtab of Biju Janata Dal, demanded the abolition of GST on handloom and handicraft products. They also pointed to the confusion among small traders, glitches in software, mismatch of invoices, additional compensation to states, which had led to difficulties in implementation of GST and hit exports as well as small and medium enterprises adversely.

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CPCB may consider using LiDAR devices to monitor air pollution

The Central Pollution Control Board is planning to use advanced LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) devices to vertically monitor the air quality of Delhi-NCR. The agency is currently focusing on strengthening its surface-level monitoring network, however, in ‘later stages’, vertical monitoring will also be taken up.

What is LIDAR?

LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. These light pulses—combined with other data recorded by the airborne system— generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.

Types: Two types of LIDAR are topographic and bathymetric. Topographic LIDAR typically uses a near-infrared laser to map the land, while bathymetric lidar uses water-penetrating green light to also measure seafloor and riverbed elevations.

Applications: LIDAR systems allow scientists and mapping professionals to examine both natural and manmade environments with accuracy, precision, and flexibility. Scientists are using LIDAR also to produce more accurate shoreline maps, make digital elevation models for use in geographic information systems, to assist in emergency response operations, and in many other applications.

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Fund to help milk co-ops expand capacity

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development will soon get going on a Rs 8,000-crore fund that the finance minister announced in this year’s budget to support the dairy sector. Under the Dairy Processing and Infrastructure Development Fund, Nabard is the nodal agency to finance projects over a period of three years.

Benefits of this fund:

After Operation Flood which ended in 1990, this is the biggest dairy development programme. It will surely help small dairy cooperatives in states like Punjab, Haryana and Bihar where there is a huge scope for expansion. The fund would help dairy cooperative in setting up modern milk-processing infrastructure, expanding product portfolio and ensuring optimum value for their products.

The significance of this move:

NABARD targets to sanction proposals to create new milk processing capacity of 27 million litres per day in the cooperative sector this year. With this investment, the milk processing capacity (in the cooperative sector) would increase from the current 66 million litres per day to 92.6 million litres per day. Further, the bulk milk-chilling capacity would go up from 48 million litres per day to 63 million litres.

The dairy processing infrastructure of cooperatives needs modernisation and capacity enhancement, and with most cooperatives sharing their profits with milk producers, they need support.

Nabard:

It is an apex development and specialized bank established on 12 July 1982 by an act by the parliament of India. Its main focus is to uplift rural India by increasing the credit flow for the elevation of agriculture & rural non-farm sector.

It was established based on the recommendations of the Committee set up by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under the chairmanship of Shri B. Sivaraman.

It replaced the Agricultural Credit Department (ACD) and Rural Planning and Credit Cell (RPCC) of Reserve Bank of India, and Agricultural Refinance and Development Corporation (ARDC).

It has been accredited with “matters concerning policy, planning and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas in India”.

Important functions:

It Serves as an apex financing agency for the institutions providing investment and production credit for promoting the various developmental activities in rural areas.

It takes measures towards institution building for improving absorptive capacity of the credit delivery system, including monitoring, formulation of rehabilitation schemes, restructuring of credit institutions, training of personnel, etc.

It regulates the cooperative banks and the RRB’s, and manages talent acquisition through IBPS CWE.

NABARD is also known for its ‘SHG Bank Linkage Programme’ which encourages India’s banks to lend to SHGs.

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electronic-Human Resource Management System (e-HRMS)

The Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh launched the electronic-Human Resource Management System (e-HRMS). He launched it during the observance of Good Governance Day by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions. The Minister launched the 25 applications of 5 modules of the system. The e-service book launched for DoPT during March this year will also be integrated into the e-HRMS.

The launch of e-HRMS is also a step towards the ‘ease of governance’. The Minister further said that this is an initiative by which the technology will be put to the optimum use. The other departments and state governments will also follow this system in due course, he added.
Dr Jitendra Singh also spoke on various other initiatives taken by the Government such as the launch of PRAGATI, self-attestation, discontinuation of interviews for lower level posts, ‘Anubhav’ initiative, digital life certificate (Jeevan Pramaan), the abolition of obsolete rules, online RTI portal, etc among others. He said that the Government has been able to expedite various stalled projects, due to the initiatives such as PRAGATI. The Minister also said that the Government has revolutionised the entire structure of Civil Services Day in the recent years, with more participation and enthusiasm by young district collectors. He also said that the DARPG is organising regional conferences at different parts of the country, which is taking good practices of governance to other parts outside Delhi. He further said that the due to the prompt response, the grievances lodged with the Government have also increased. The Minister also said that Government is adopting a policy of intolerance towards non-performing officers and encouraging the performing officers. All these initiatives are in the direction of citizen-centric approach of the Government, Dr Jitendra Singh said.

The DoPT Secretary, Shri Ajay Mittal said that good governance is not a product, but a continuous process. This is the way by which maximum good can be done to the maximum people. He said that maximum efforts should be made to our capability and improvements should also be the part of the process.

Speaking on the launch of e-HRMS, Ms Neeta Verma, DG, NIC said that the software will give a comprehensive and combined view of the human resource deployed by the Government. She also said that it is a cost-effective initiative, thus sustainable in the long-term. It will also provide HR analytics for the Government, she added. She further said that it will help Government to post right man at the right post, thus extract best of an employee.

With the launch of e-HRMS, employees will be able to not only see all their details w.r.t service book, leave, GPF, Salary etc., but also apply for different kind of claims/reimbursements, loan/advances, leave, leave encashment, LTC advances, Tour etc. on a single platform.

Employees shall not be dependent for data updating on administration, but they may themselves update the data with their login subject to verification by the concerned administration. They will be able to track status and match details instantly. The system is designed in a way to obtain all management related inputs/reports through its Dashboard and all pendency of data updating as well as claims will be seen online by senior authorities that will instil more responsibility and accountability among all government servants.

This is a step in the direction of fully automated Human Resource Management System with a target to bring all employees of Government of India on employee portal so that all processes of personnel management from hiring to retiring will be on a digital platform and manual system of handling personnel management will be dispensed with.

With the launch of the website ehrms.gov.in, five bigger modules covering 25 applications have been launched. These are:

1. Personnel Information System- which has functionalities of self-updating by employees.
2. Leave- Leave of all kind may be claimed and sanctioned through website that will become part of service book.
3.LTC- All function related to LTC application, Eligibility Check, Sanction, Advance claim, Final reimbursements, Leave encashment.
4. Loan/Advances- All kind of loan and advances can be claimed, sanctioned and paid via it.
5. Tour: – All tour applications to be submitted through system and TA advance may also be claimed.

E-service book- Already launched on 30.03.2017, will also be integrated.

This system has various advantages such as providing Dashboard for employee and management, Updated service records, E-governance in office procedures, Reduced file movement, Faster service delivery, Assist in decision making, Common document repository of employees, Standardization of Master Data, Minimize manual entry of data, Ease of sharing information among stakeholders, e-Sign for accountability/authenticity, PFMS and e-HRMS integration for faster payments of GPF, advances, Loans, reimbursements. This will reduce employee’s grievances to a certain extent. Even availability of online data of employees will help the organisation to take many administrative decisions easily like the planning of recruitments, posting of an official to a task as per their experience and qualification, easily available online to the administration. It will also help employees to concentrate more on public service once free from the personal anxiety of getting their due work done. That will enhance public delivery more satisfactory and more employees will be available for core work of the Government than maintaining of Service Book.

Availability of centralized data will enable Government for policy research and planning as such educational qualifications and other competencies and deficiencies may be easily obtained. It will enable Government to take the transfer and posting decisions more pragmatically based on reliable first-hand data.

The e-service book for DOPT employees launched on March 30, 2017, was also an initiative taken to fully automate it with live updating of all records. It was envisaged to go on a bigger and single platform for all central government employees and all transactions from Hiring to Retiring of a government servant should be fully automated.

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Tailor-made action plan for the backward districts

Eyeing a rural outreach ahead of the general elections in 2019, the Narendra Modi government has drawn up tailor-made action plans for 115 identified “most-backward” districts in the country to improve their socio-economic profiles by making available basic services like healthcare, sanitation and education as well as basic physical infrastructure like roads and drinking water supply in a time-bound manner. The 115 districts, including 35 affected by left-wing extremism, were selected on parameters like deprivation (extent of landless households), health & nutrition (institutional delivery, stunting of children and wasting in children), education (elementary dropout rate and adverse pupil-teacher ratio) and infrastructure (un-electrified homes, lack of toilets, villages not connected by road and lack of drinking water). The government’s focus is to work with states to bring a transformative change in these backward areas through rapid government-anchored programmes and interventions by 2022, the 75th year of India’s independence.

Recently, the Centre appointed one additional secretary or joint secretary rank officer as the “Prabhari” to work in a collaborative manner with the state and district teams to achieve effective convergence between various Central and state government schemes. The district collectors will be the chief executors of the action programmes in districts, which will be ranked annually based on their performance. Discussions are currently on between the Prabharis and collectors to prepare a deliverable action agenda by this month-end. Steps are also being taken to establish a comprehensive database and an efficient feedback mechanism for real-time monitoring with quarterly and annual goals. In 2016, India ranked 131 among 188 nations in the UN Development Programme’s human development index (HDI) with major inter-state and inter-district variations. Nearly 40% of children born in India are stunted and/or underweight while almost 50% of women are anaemic. On nutrition, India even lags behind its neighbours such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and China.

Among states, in Jharkhand nearly 50% children are underweight, 64% of class 5 students can’t read standard 2 English, the density of population to doctor/hospital beds are the lowest in the country and 40% households are not electrified. While at least one district has been included from each state under the backward district programme, Jharkhand has the highest number of districts with 19, followed by Bihar (13) Chattisgarh (10) and 8 each in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha. “We will sensitise the district authority on issues and assist them in the implementation of the action plan as well as do real-time monitoring,” said an official who is the Prabhari of a district. The officer recently spent a week in the assigned district and took stock of projects in health and education sector.

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