Insights Daily Current Affairs, 27 September 2017
Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
States will have to compete for central projects
The Centre has decided to adopt the so-called challenge method for awarding all projects to states so as to bring in speed, efficiency and transparency, besides putting an end to allocation of big projects on political consideration.
What you need to know about the so- called challenge method?
Under this method, prospective states will be rated on more than half-dozen parameters prescribed in the guidelines issued and the project will go to the state with the highest score on a scale of zero to 100.
- The challenge method for selecting the state as well as the site for the projects, which can be both brownfield and greenfield projects, will now be applicable across sectors such as aviation, roads, railways, health, education, IT, power and textiles.
- It will also be used for awarding all national events such as national games and youth festivals to states.
Significance of this method:
- This is expected to spur competition among states and union territories both in terms of offering the best sites and committing resources in terms of land, utilities, infrastructure support and financial contribution, which in turn would encourage optimum utilisation of scarce resources and help in timely completion of projects.
- Awarding projects based on the challenge method will ensure due diligence is being done by all departments and states. This will also mean that gestation period for all these projects will come down significantly and there will be no major delays and this will give enough push to efficiency.
Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
The government has launched ‘Divyang Sarathi’—The accessible and comprehensive mobile application for easy dissemination of information to ‘Divyangjans’. According to the Census 2011, there are over 2.68 crore ‘Divyangjans’ in India which constitute more than 2.2% of the population.
- This mobile application aims at providing all relevant information pertaining to the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, including its various acts, rules, regulations and guidelines, schemes, information about the various outreach institutions, employment opportunities, and the disability market in an accessible format.
- This mobile will help empower the ‘Divyangjans’ by providing easier and convenient access of information to them as they can now understand all details pertaining to the schemes, scholarships, statutes, institutional support systems and other relevant and crucial information at the click of a button.
- The unique features of the mobile application ‘Divyang Sarathi’ are its audio notes (text-to-voice conversion software) embedded in the application which converts the written information into an audio file as well as the adjustable font size which can be altered as per the user’s requirement.
- The mobile application ‘Divyang Sarathi’ is compliant with the principles of UNCRPD for Universal Access and the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. The Act mandates that all information to be made available in an accessible form.
- The application is also an integral part of the ICT component of the Accessible India Campaign.
Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
International Solar Alliance
Fiji, Niger and Tuvalu have deposited instrument of ratification of the Framework Agreement of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in the recently held 5th meeting of International Steering Committee (ISC) of the ISA.
- Till date 40 countries have signed and 11 countries have ratified the Framework Agreement of the ISA. With ratifications by 15 countries, the ISA will become a treaty based inter-governmental international organization.
About International Solar Alliance (ISA):
The ISA is an Indian initiative jointly launched by the Prime Minister of India and the President of France on 30 November 2015 at Paris, on the sidelines of COP-21.
- Aim: It aims at addressing obstacles to deployment at scale of solar energy through better harmonization and aggregation of demand from solar rich countries lying fully or partially between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.
- India has offered a contribution of Rs 175 crore for creating ISA corpus fund and for meeting the cost of ISA secretariat for initial five years.
- International Steering Committee was establishment under the mandate of the Paris Declaration of ISA to provide the guidance and direction to establish the ISA.
Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
India Ranked 40th On World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index
India has been ranked as the 40th most competitive economy – slipping one place from last year’s ranking – on the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness index.
The Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) is prepared on the basis of country-level data covering 12 categories or pillars of competitiveness.
Institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation are the 12 pillars.
Performance of India:
India stabilises this year after its big leap forward of the previous two years. The score has improved across most pillars of competitiveness. These include infrastructure (66th rank), higher education and training (75) and technological readiness (107), reflecting recent public investments in these areas.
- According to the report, India’s performance also improved in ICT (information and communications technologies) indicators, particularly Internet bandwidth per user, mobile phone and broadband subscriptions, and Internet access in schools.
- However, the WEF said the private sector still considers corruption to be the most problematic factor for doing business in India. The second biggest bottleneck is ‘access to financing’, followed by ‘tax rates’, ‘inadequate supply of infrastructure’, ‘poor work ethics in national labour force’ and ‘inadequately educated work force’, among others.
- Another big concern for India is the disconnect between its innovative strength (29) and its technological readiness (up 3 to 107): as long as this gap remains large, India will not be able to fully leverage its technological strengths across the wider economy.
Performance of various countries:
- The list is topped by Switzerland. The US and Singapore are in the second and third places, respectively.
- Other countries in the top 10 are the Netherlands (4th rank), Germany (5), Hong Kong SAR (6), Sweden (7), United Kingdom (8), Japan (9) and Finland (10).
- Among the BRICS nations, China and Russia (38) are placed above India. South Africa and Brazil are placed at the 61st and 80th spots, respectively.
- In South Asia, India has garnered the highest ranking, followed by Bhutan (85th), Sri Lanka (85th), Nepal (88), Bangladesh (99) and Pakistan (115).
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
Government launches negotiable warehousing receipts in e-format
The government has rolled out negotiable warehousing receipts in electronic format that farmers can use to avail of bank credit easily and without fear of losing or misusing it.
Benefits of e receipts:
Till now, the receipts were issued manually. Now, it will be given in an electronic format, which will not only benefit farmers, but banks and other stakeholders.
- Farmers will not have to worry about losing the receipt — which has details of the quantity, quality and the warehouse where the commodity is stored — as it will be uploaded online and will be accessible to banks while sanctioning loan.
- This will also stop farmers from taking multiple bank loans on a single receipt.
What are Negotiable Warehouse Receipts?
Negotiable warehouse receipt, which was launched in 2011, allows transfer of ownership of that commodity stored in a warehouse without having to deliver the physical commodity. These receipts are issued in negotiable form, making them eligible as collateral for loans.
Warehouse receipts are made negotiable under the Warehouse (Development and Regulation) Act, 2007, and regulated by the Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority (WDRA).
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Disaster and disaster management.
In a first, govt to run safety checks on 5,000 big dams
For the first time, the Centre is planning to conduct a ‘break analysis’ of 5,247 large dams across the country, and put in place an emergency action plan, especially for the 196 that are over 100 years old.
What is Break Analysis?
Break analysis is the examination of dams to identify potential failures that may result in an uncontrolled release of water. It involves the characterisation of threats to public safety that a dam poses.
Need for safety checks:
There are two safety issues: the risk of breach and floods, and the decreasing ability to hold as much water as the original capacity (which means less live storage and per capita availability of water). These concerns make maintenance more critical for dams, though not all are in a dilapidated condition or in need of immediate repair.
Various efforts in this regard:
The government has already drafted a ‘dam safety bill’, currently being reworked by the Niti Aayog.
- Previously, in October 1987, the Centre had constituted the National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS), which was tasked with overseeing dam safety and suggesting improvements. The committee, headed by the Central Water Commission chairman, met 37 times and has been instrumental in the maintenance of dams.
- A project called DRIP (Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Programme) is also under way. DRIP, started in April 2012 and has been working with five state governments (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha) and two agencies (Damodar Valley Corporation in Jharkhand and Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd), was conceived with an estimated budget of Rs 2,100 crore.
Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
INS Tarasa, a Water Jet Fast Attack Craft was recently commissioned into the Indian Navy.
- INS Tarasa is the fourth and last of the follow-on Water Jet FAC’s built by the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata. The first two ships of the class i.e. IN ships Tarmugli and Tihayu were commissioned in 2016 and the third ship INS Tillanchang was commissioned earlier this year.
- The ship is an ideal platform for missions like coastal and off-shore surveillance, EEZ Patrol, law enforcement as well as non-military missions such as Search and Rescue, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.
- This is the second ship of the Indian Navy to be named INS Tarasa. The first INS Tarasa was in service of the Navy from 1999 to 2014. She was gifted to Seychelles Coast Guard as a symbol of India’s partnership with friendly maritime nation in IOR. The new INS Tarasa will be based at Mumbai under the operational control of Western Naval Command.
- The ship is of proven design, has good endurance, low draught, high speed and manoeuvrability, thus making her most suited for her primary role of extended coastal and offshore surveillance and patrol.