Insights Daily Current Events, 02 January 2015
The Government has replaced Planning Commission with a new institution named NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India). The institution will serve as ‘Think Tank’ of the Government-a directional and policy dynamo.
This comes after extensive consultation across the spectrum of stakeholders, including state governments, domain experts and relevant institutions.
- The centre-to-state one-way flow of policy, that was the hallmark of the Planning Commission era, is now sought to be replaced by a genuine and continuing partnership of states.
- NITI Aayog will seek to provide a critical directional and strategic input into the development process.
- NITI Aayog will emerge as a “think-tank” that will provide Governments at the central and state levels with relevant strategic and technical advice across the spectrum of key elements of policy.
- The NITI Aayog will also seek to put an end to slow and tardy implementation of policy, by fostering better Inter-Ministry coordination and better Centre-State coordination. It will help evolve a shared vision of national development priorities, and foster cooperative federalism, recognizing that strong states make a strong nation.
- The NITI Aayog will develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans to the village level and aggregate these progressively at higher levels of government. It will ensure special attention to the sections of society that may be at risk of not benefitting adequately from economic progress.
- The NITI Aayog will create a knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurial support system through a collaborative community of national and international experts, practitioners and partners. It will offer a platform for resolution of inter-sectoral and inter-departmental issues in order to accelerate the implementation of the development agenda.
- In addition, the NITI Aayog will monitor and evaluate the implementation of programmes, and focus on technology upgradation and capacity building.
NITI Aayog will aim to accomplish the following objectives and opportunities:
- An administration paradigm in which the Government is an “enabler” rather than a “provider of first and last resort.”
- Progress from “food security” to focus on a mix of agricultural production, as well as actual returns that farmers get from their produce.
- Ensure that India is an active player in the debates and deliberations on the global commons.
- Ensure that the economically vibrant middle-class remains engaged, and its potential is fully realized.
- Leverage India`s pool of entrepreneurial, scientific and intellectual human capital.
- Incorporate the significant geo-economic and geo-political strength of the Non-Resident Indian Community.
- Use urbanization as an opportunity to create a wholesome and secure habitat through the use of modern technology.
- Use technology to reduce opacity and potential for misadventures in governance.
The NITI Aayog will comprise the following:
- Prime Minister of India as the Chairperson
- Governing Council comprising the Chief Ministers of all the States and Lt. Governors of Union Territories
- Regional Councils will be formed to address specific issues and contingencies impacting more than one state or a region. These will be formed for a specified tenure. The Regional Councils will be convened by the Prime Minister and will comprise of the Chief Ministers of States and Lt. Governors of Union Territories in the region. These will be chaired by the Chairperson of the NITI Aayog or his nominee.
- Experts, specialists and practitioners with relevant domain knowledge as special invitees nominated by the Prime Minister
- The full-time organizational framework will comprise of, in addition to the Prime Minister as the Chairperson:
- Vice-Chairperson: To be appointed by the Prime Minister
- Members: Full-time
- Part-time members: Maximum of 2 from leading universities research organizations and other relevant institutions in an ex-officio capacity. Part time members will be on a rotational basis.
- Ex Officio members: Maximum of 4 members of the Union Council of Ministers to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
- Chief Executive Officer : To be appointed by the Prime Minister for a fixed tenure, in the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.
- Secretariat as deemed necessary.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB.
Open-billed storks flock to Raiganj
As per records available the Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary in West Bengal’s Uttar Dinajpur district, which attracted a record 68,000 birds in 2014, has the most Asian open-billed storks in the country.
- The wildlife sanctuary at Raiganj is the only place in the country where one can find open-billed stork birds in such a high concentration.
- Raiganj sanctuary is one of the 466 IBA (important birds and biodiversity sites) recognised by Birdlife International.
- Asian openbill stork is found mainly in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
- Although resident within their range, they make long distance movements in response to weather and food availability.
- The usual foraging habitats are inland wetlands and are only rarely seen along river banks and tidal flats. Birds may move widely in response to habitat conditions.
- They are classified as ‘Least concerned’ under IUCN list.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.
Forest Rights Act not delaying projects: official
The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs says that there is no evidence that the process under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) delays projects, even as there is pressure from the Ministry of Environment to dilute the law and do away with the condition that gram sabhas should give consent for projects.
- FRA does not provide any scope to any executive agency for any kind of relaxation of the applicability of the Act. The responsibility is neither vested in the Environment Ministry nor in the Tribal Affairs Ministry.
- Tribal Affairs Ministry says that an impression is being created that the administration/implementation of the FRA is hindering or delaying clearance of the developmental projects.
Forest Rights Act:
- The legislation was passed on 18 December 2006.
- It has also been called the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006,, the Tribal Rights Act, the Tribal Bill, and the Tribal Land Act.
- The law concerns the rights of forest-dwelling communities to land and other resources, denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws in India.
Rights under the Act:
- Title rights – i.e. ownership to land that is being farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares; ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family, meaning that no new lands are granted.
- Use rights – to minor forest produce (also including ownership), to grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc.
- Relief and development rights – to rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement; and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection.
- Forest management rights – to protect forests and wildlife
The Act grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest laws.
Eligibility to get rights under the Act is confined to those who “primarily reside in forests” and who depend on forests and forest land for a livelihood. Further, either the claimant must be a member of the Scheduled Tribes scheduled in that area or must have been residing in the forest for 75 years.
Process of recognition of rights:
The Act provides that the gram sabha, or village assembly, will initially pass a resolution recommending whose rights to which resources should be recognised. This resolution is then screened and approved at the level of the sub-division (or taluka) and subsequently at the district level. The screening committees consist of three government officials (Forest, Revenue and Tribal Welfare departments) and three elected members of the local body at that level. These committees also hear appeals.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, fra.gov.in.
RBI relaxes ECB norms
The Reserve Bank of India has introduced changes in external commercial borrowings (ECB) norms under which authorised money changing banks have been allowed to create a charge on securities.
At present, the choice of security to be provided to the overseas lender or the supplier for securing ECB is left to the borrower.
Why this decision:
It was taken with a view to liberalising, expanding the options of securities and consolidating various provisions related to creation of charge over securities for ECB at one place.
- It has been decided that Authorised Dealer Category-I banks may allow creation of charge on immovable assets, movable assets, financial securities and issue of corporate and/or personal guarantees in favour of overseas lender/security trustee, to secure the ECB to be raised/raised by the borrower. However, the new rules are subject to certain conditions.
- The underlying ECB must be in compliance with extant ECB guidelines, there should be a security clause in the loan agreement, requiring the ECB borrower to create charge, and a no objection certificate will have to be obtained from an existing domestic lender.
- Additionally, Authorised Dealer Category-I bank may permit creation of charge on immovable assets, movable assets, financial securities and issue of corporate and/or personal guarantees.
Authorised Category banks are Authorised Money Changers (AMCs) which are entities, authorised by the Reserve Bank under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999. An AMC is a Full Fledged Money Changer (FFMC) authorised by the Reserve Bank to deal in foreign exchange for specified purposes.
Sources: The Hindu, RBI.
Plant Protection Code rolls out to make tea a safer beverage
Plant Protection Code (PPC), a set of guidelines for regulating the chemical inputs in tea cultivation, was rolled out recently.
- The aim is to make Indian tea a safe and healthy drink.
- The PPC is a comprehensive document, which deals with safe usage of crop protection products and methodologies that would be followed to reduce pesticide residues in tea.
- The code encourages tea growers to critically review their plant protection formulations (PPF), which are a list of chemicals that are used in tea.
- The code is based on the Codex Alimentarius, which is a set of international food standards and guidelines.
Plant protection formulations (PPF):
- The PPF, evolved by Tea Board, has detailed the chemicals that can be used in tea plantations making some exceptions for South India. It said that chemical use should be restricted not only in tea estates, but also near water bodies, wildlife habitats and human dwelling to check contamination.
- PPF covers insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and bio pesticides. Tea Board noted that in spite of using PPFs, the tea industry loses nearly 30 per cent of its crop due to pests, weeds and diseases. The tea research institutes, which were engaged in the PPF exercise, have ensured that their recommendations comply with food safety standards as stipulated by the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India.
Sources: The Hindu.
Deteriorating asset quality will put pressure on bank finances
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Asscoham) in a report ‘Non performing assets: current and expected scenario’ has said that the banking sector is faced with downgrading of rating as deteriorating asset quality would put further pressure on its finances, make international operations and funding much more difficult during 2015.
The report also says that:
- The banking sector would attract additional provisioning, which would further put pressure on the profits of banks, which are already under tremendous stress. This would reduce the effective internal source of increasing capital which is even under a lot of pressure on account of the impending Basel-III guidelines and the capital adequacy ratio is adversely affected.
- The gross non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks are expected to be 4.4 to 4.7 per cent for public sector banks by March, 2015, (as against 4.4 per cent as on March, 2014) and 4-4.2 per cent for the whole banking sector (as against 3.9 per cent for March, 2014).
- Standard assets incremental restructuring would continue in 2014-15 and not much headway is expected in sale of assets to assert reconstruction companies after the guidelines have been changed.
For reducing NPAs, Assocham has suggested a four-pronged strategy for early recognition of stress and remedial action thereafter. The measures are categorised under ‘preventive and corrective Management.
Sources: The Hindu.