Insights Daily Current Affairs, 04 October 2017
Topic: Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
Cleanest iconic place in the country
Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai has been adjudged the cleanest iconic place in the country under Swachhta Hi Seva (cleanliness is service) programme. The temple earned the top slot from among 10 iconic places selected under the Swachh Bharath Mission in the country.
Meenakshi Temple is a historic Hindu temple located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is dedicated to Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, and her consort, Sundareswar, a form of Shiva. The temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2,500-year-old city of Madurai.
About Swachhta Hi Seva campaign:
It was a nation-wide, fortnight-long sanitation campaign launched to highlight the government’s flagship cleanliness initiative Swachh Bharat Mission.
- The campaign was coordinated by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the convening Ministry for the Swachh Bharat Mission.
- The objective of the campaign is to mobilise people and reinforce the “Jan Aandolan” for sanitation to contribute to Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of a Clean India.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Fix deadline for PMJDY insurance claims
Reviewing the performance of PMJDY, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently asked the finance ministry to fix a time limit for payment of insurance claims of Rs 30,000 to the family of the deceased who opened a bank account under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) in 2014-15.
- Although most claims so far have been given out expeditiously, the idea is to fix a time limit so that the poor do not have to wait without any certainty of time for getting the insurance amount.
Under the PMJDY, any person who opened his first bank account between August 15, 2014, and January 26, 2015, along with a RuPay card, is eligible for a life cover of Rs 30,000 on death due to any cause. The idea is to provide security to poor families in both urban and rural areas who cannot afford direct insurance and are not covered under any social security scheme. According to the government, crores of new bank accounts were opened in 2014-15 after the PM launched the scheme.
The primary aim of this scheme is to provide poor people access to bank accounts.
- The scheme covers both urban and rural areas of India. All bank accounts will be linked to a debit card which would be issued under the Ru-Pay scheme. Rupay is India’s own unique domestic card network owned by National Payments Corporation of India and has been created as an alternative to Visa and Mastercard.
- Under this scheme, every individual who opens a bank account becomes eligible to receive an accident insurance cover of up-to Rs 1 Lakh for his entire family.
- The scheme also provides incentives to business and banking correspondents who serve as link for the last mile between savings account holders and the bank by fixing a minimum monthly remuneration of Rs 5000.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
ADB $500 million funding soon for private sector infrastructure in Asia and Pacific
Asian Development Bank (ADB) is actively processing USD 500 million (about Rs 3,275 crore) as debt and equity funding for private infrastructure projects in countries. This includes potential projects in India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Thailand.
- ADB has already approved two projects worth over USD 210 million in debt financing from the co-financing arm Leading Asia’s Private Infrastructure Fund (LEAP) in its first year of operation.
About Leading Asia’s Private Infrastructure Fund (LEAP):
The Leading Asia’s Private Sector Infrastructure Fund (LEAP) was established in March 2016. The fund is an infrastructure co-financing fund, expected to leverage and complement ADB’s existing nonsovereign platform to fill financing gaps and increase access to finance for infrastructure projects in the region. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has made a contribution to the fund.
What are the priorities?
The fund will provide cofinancing to nonsovereign infrastructure projects at different stages of development, including early stage, growth stage, and greenfield and brownfield projects. It will support projects with strong anticipated development impacts and alignment with the strategies of ADB and JICA. The fund will undertake project finance (nonrecourse or limited recourse) and corporate finance transactions, and will seek to support a range of private sector participation modalities including public–private partnerships, joint ventures, private finance initiative projects, and privatizations, as well as conventional project finance.
What kind of activities are eligible for the fund?
Eligible project types will include the following infrastructure subsectors:
- Energy, including renewable energy generation, energy efficiency and conservation, and natural gas transmission and distribution.
- Water and other urban infrastructure and services, including water, wastewater, and solid waste management.
- Transport, including road transport, water transport, rail transport, air transport, multimodal logistics, urban roads and traffic management, and urban public transport.
- Information and communication technology and health.
The fund will extend ADB’s operations by deploying both commercial and concessional capital from the same fund, and cofinancing will be provided in the form of loans, equity investments, and mezzanine finance transactions.
Who is eligible to receive the fund?
The fund will provide financing to companies and projects, as well as to financial intermediaries (e.g., holding companies and local currency vehicles) where there is a link to Infrastructure (with the exclusion of private equity funds).
Eligible countries include ADB developing member countries that are also eligible for official development assistance (ODA) from Japan.
Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Crisil report on farm loan waiver
As per estimates by rating firm Crisil, if all affected states also announce farm loan waivers the Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Punjab did, then the total cost the exchequer could be upto Rs 2.5 lakh crore or 0.5% of GDP.
Views of Crisil on farm loan waiver:
It has termed farm loan waivers as a “paradox” in a year of normal monsoon. The ratings firm has said that the cost of loan waiver could be significantly high for Tamil Nadu, which has the highest outstanding agricultural loans among states. Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, too, could feel some pressure.
The pain points for the farmers are all too visible. And unless measures to lower this pain are planned and implemented carefully, and soon, there could be a gaping hole in the exchequer as well.
Drawbacks of loan waivers:
- Firstly, it covers only a tiny fraction of farmers. The loan waiver as a concept excludes most of the farm households in dire need of relief and includes some who do not deserve such relief on economic grounds.
- Second, it provides only a partial relief to the indebted farmers as about half of the institutional borrowing of a cultivator is for non-farm purposes.
- Third, in many cases, one household has multiple loans either from different sources or in the name of different family members, which entitles it to multiple loan waiving.
- Fourth, loan waiving excludes agricultural labourers who are even weaker than cultivators in bearing the consequences of economic distress.
- Fifth, it severely erodes the credit culture, with dire long-run consequences to the banking business.
- Sixth, the scheme is prone to serious exclusion and inclusion errors, as evidenced by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) findings in the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008.
- Lastly, schemes have serious implications for other developmental expenditure, having a much larger multiplier effect on the economy.
What needs to be done?
Proper identification: For providing immediate relief to the needy farmers, a more inclusive alternative approach is to identify the vulnerable farmers based on certain criteria and give an equal amount as financial relief to the vulnerable and distressed families.
Enhance non- farm income: The sustainable solution to indebtedness and agrarian distress is to raise income from agricultural activities and enhance access to non-farm sources of income. The low scale of farms necessitates that some cultivators move from agriculture to non-farm jobs.
Improved technology, expansion of irrigation coverage, and crop diversification towards high-value crops are appropriate measures for raising productivity and farmers’ income. All these require more public funding and support.
Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
Nobel prize for gravitational wave detection
Three American scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) have won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their contribution to detecting gravitational waves — ripples in the fabrics of spacetime which were predicted by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago.
- The scientists were awarded the Nobel prize “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”.
- The 9 million Swedish kronor (825,000 British pounds) prize will be divided. One half was awarded to Rainer Weiss of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the other half jointly to Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne — both from California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
What are gravitational waves?
In simple terms, gravitational waves can be explained as ripples in the fabric of space-time which can only be caused by massive astronomical events such as neutron stars or black holes orbiting each other so that these waves would finally radiate from them.
The observatory, described as “the most precise measuring device ever built,” is actually two facilities in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. They were built and operated with funding from the National Science Foundation, which has spent $1.1 billion on LIGO over the course of several decades.
The project is led by scientists from the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is supported by an international consortium of scientists and institutions.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: disaster management.
Capacity building in dam safety areas
Central Water Commission (CWC) has signed MoUs with IIT Roorkee and MNNIT Allahabad to support dam rehabilitation efforts of various implementing agencies and CWC.
Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has taken on board selected premier academic and research institutes, for capacity building in the areas of dam safety through World Bank assisted Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP).The scope includes strengthening the testing laboratories, enhancing analytical capabilities, exposure visits to best global institutions and on ground exposure to dam safety concerns to the faculty of these institutions.
CWC has already signed MoUs with IIT Madras, IISc Bangaluru, NIT Calicut and NIT Raurkela for supporting these institutes for the procurement of specified equipment and software for enhancing their testing and modeling capabilities.
The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), Government of India, with assistance from the World Bank, is implementing the DAM REHABILITATION AND IMPROVEMENT PROJECT (DRIP), which would be a six-year project.
- The project originally envisaged the rehabilitation and improvement of about 223 dams within four states namely, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu and later Karnataka, Uttarakhand (UNVNL) and Jharkhand (DVC) joined DRIP and total number of dams covered under DRIP increased to 250.
- The project will also promote new technologies and improve Institutional capacities for dam safety evaluation and implementation at the Central and State levels and in some identified premier academic and research institutes of the country.
- The Central Dam Safety Organisation of Central Water Commission, assisted by a Consulting firm, is coordinating and supervising the Project implementation.
The project development objectives of DRIP are: (i) to improve the safety and performance of selected existing dams and associated appurtenances in a sustainable manner, and (ii) to strengthen the dam safety institutional setup in participating states as well as at central level.