02, November 2017

Ethanol blending programme

Cabinet committee on economic affairs approves revised price of ethanol under EBP for the Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies 

  • The Minister of State (I/C) for Petroleum & Natural Gas is implementing the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme under which, OMCs sell ethanol blended petrol with percentage of ethanol upto 10%. Also, the Government has allowed procurement of ethanol produced from other non-food feedstocks, like cellulosic and ligno cellulosic materials including petrochemical route.
  • Ethanol blending is the practice of blending petrol with ethanol. Many countries, including India, have adopted ethanol blending in petrol in order to reduce vehicle exhaust emissions and also to reduce the import burden on account of crude petroleum from which petrol is produced.
  • It is estimated that a 5% blending (105 crore litres) can result in replacement of around 1.8 million Barrels of crude oil.
  • The renewable ethanol content, which is a byproduct of the sugar industry, is expected to result in a net reduction in the emission of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC). Ethanol itself burns cleaner and burns more completely than petrol it is blended into. In India, ethanol is mainly derived by sugarcane molasses, which is a by-product in the conversion of sugar cane juice to sugar. Corn, Sorghum etc.
  • Fixation of ethanol price based on distance, has encouraged movement of ethanol to longer distances, including States having lack of distilleries. Further, ethanol produced from other non-food feedstock’s besides molasses, like cellulosic and ligno cellulosic materials including petrochemical route, has also been allowed to be procured subject to meeting the relevant Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) specifications.

Maximum age of joining National Pension System (NPS) increased from the existing 60 years to 65 years under NPS- Private Sector.

In continuance of the several initiatives under taken by Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) during the last few years to increase the pension coverage in the country, PFRDA has now increased the maximum age of joining under NPS-Private Sector (i.e. All Citizen and Corporate Model) from the existing 60 years to 65 years of age.

1.EESL launches $454 million ‘Creating and Sustaining Markets for Energy Efficiency’ project in partnership with the GEF

Source: PIB

Recognizing India’s efforts towards a low emission-economy and focusing on energy efficiency programmes, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has now partnered with Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), under Ministry of Power, for the project ‘Creating and Sustaining Markets for Energy Efficiency’.

  • EESL has partnered with Global Environment Facility (GEF), which has provided a grant of around $20 million to enable EESL to play a leading role in India’s transformational shift towards a low-emission economy, focusing on energy efficiency.
  • The project will receive a composite funding of $454 million comprised of the GEF grant of $20 million and co-financing of $434 million in the form of loans and equity, including a $200 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
  • EESL further proposes Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund (EERF) for sustainable funding mechanism of energy efficiency projects in the country.

Key facts:

  • The EERF mechanism will support the ‘proof of concept’ investments for the new technologies of super-efficient ceiling fans, tri-generation technologies & smart grid-applications and ultimately scaling up energy efficiency financing and programme development to help cover initial investment costs of identified energy efficiency programmes like street lighting, domestic lighting, five-star rated ceiling fans and agricultural pumps, in the country.
  • This unique model will help in addressing the upfront risks of new technologies. Further, the accrued savings from these technologies can then be used to finance additional projects, which would allow capital to revolve as a sustainable funding mechanism.
  • The GEF project further brings together many technical and financing partners including United Nations which aims to mitigate 60 million tons of CO2 eq (carbon dioxide equivalent), that will enable a total direct energy savings of 38.3 million GJ by 2022 and 137.5 million GJ by 2032.
  • The EERF mechanism will support the ‘proof of concept’ investments for the new technologies of super-efficient ceiling fans, tri-generation technologies & smart grid-applications and ultimately scaling up energy efficiency financing and programme development to help cover initial investment costs of identified energy efficiency programmes like street lighting, domestic lighting, five-star rated ceiling fans and agricultural pumps, in the country.
  • This unique model will help in addressing the upfront risks of new technologies. Further, the accrued savings from these technologies can then be used to finance additional projects, which would allow capital to revolve as a sustainable funding mechanism.
  • GEF is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues.
  • The funding announcement was made at the launch of the GEF-6 fund which supports two projects – ‘Creating Markets for Energy Efficiency’ and ‘District Energy in Cities

Global Environment Fund:

  • The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems.
  • Since then, the GEF has provided over $17 billion in grants and mobilized an additional $88 billion in financing for more than 4000 projects in 170 countries.
  • Today, the GEF is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues.

A FINANCIAL MECHANISM for 5 major international environmental conventions:

  1. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),
  2. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD),
  3. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs),
  4. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and
  5. The Minamata Convention on Mercury.

EESL: (Energy Efficiency Services Limited)

  • Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is a joint venture of four National Public Sector Undertakings – NTPC Limited, Power Finance Corporation Limited, Rural Electrification Corporation Limited and POWERGRID Corporation of India Limited, set up under Ministry of Power, Government of India.
  • EESL is a Super Energy Service Company (ESCO).
  • It acts as the resource center for capacity building for State Distribution Companies (DISCOMs), Energy Regulatory Commissions (ERCs), State Development Authorities (SDAs), upcoming ESCOs, financial institutions, etc.
  • EESL’s energy efficient appliances and technologies have saved India over 35 billion kWh energy annually.
  • As South Asia’s first and foremost energy efficiency leader, EESL leads the market-related activities of the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE), one of the 8 national missions under the Prime Minister’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).

Implementing the world’s largest energy efficiency portfolio

  1. Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP) : World’s largest street light replacement programme
  2. Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All(UJALA): World’s largest zero-subsidy domestic LED bulb programme
  3. World’s largest Agricultural Demand Side Management programme (AgDSM)

2.Cabinet approves amendment in the National Council for Teacher Education Act, 1993

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has given its approval for introduction of a Bill in Parliament to amend the National Council for Teacher Education Act, 1993, namely the National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Act, 2017 to grant retrospective recognition to the Central/State/Universities who are found to be conducting teacher education courses without NCTE permission.

NCTE Act, 2017

  • The amendment seeks to grant retrospective recognition to the Central/State/Union Territory funded Institutions/Universities conducting Teacher Education Courses without NCTE recognition till the academic year 2017-2018.
  • The retrospective recognition is being given as a onetime measure so as to ensure that the future of the students passed out/enrolled in these institutions are not jeopardized.
  • The amendment will make students studying in these Institutions/Universities, or already passed out from here, eligible for employment as a teacher. With a view to achieve above mentioned benefits, Deptt. of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development has brought about this amendment.
  • All institutions running Teacher Education Courses such as B.Ed. and D.El.Ed. have to obtain recognition from the National Council for Teacher Education under section 14 of the NCTE Act. Further, the courses of such recognised Institutions/Universities have to be permitted under section 15, of the NCTE Act.
  • NCTE wrote to all Central Universities and /State Obvernrnents / State Universities / District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) informing them about the legal provisions making it mandatory to seek prior permission for starting Teacher Education Courses and giving them time till 31-03-2017 to inform NCTE if any such Institution/University is running a course without permission of NCTE, for a one-time resolution of past issues.

Background:

The NCTE Act, 1993 came into force on 1st July, 1995 and is applicable throughout the country, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

The main objective of the Act Is to provide for the establishment of a NCTE

  • To achieve planned and coordinated development of the teacher education system,
  • Regulation and ensure proper maintenance of norms and standards in the said system.
  • In order to achieve the objectives of the Act, separate provisions have been, made in the Act, for recognising Teacher Education courses and to lay down guidelines for compliance by recognized Institutions/Universities.

3.Launch of Food Regulatory Portal Announced – World Food India 2017

Source: PIB

World Food India 2017 Expo, as India gets ready to host its biggest food event aiming to transform the food economy and double farmers’ income.

  • As global and Indian food companies prepare to explore business opportunities in India at World Food India 2017, MoFPI and FSSAI, the apex Regulatory body for Food Safety in India announced a powerful new tool called ‘the Food Regulatory Portal.’
  • Planned as a single interface for food businesses to cater to both domestic operations and food imports, this portal would be a game changer for effective and transparent implementation of the food safety laws in the country.
  • Aiming to create an enabling environment for businesses to operate, the portal is strategically aligned with Government’s mission of One Nation, One Food Law.

World Food India 2017

Why India?

  • The second largest producer of farm produce in the world and the third largest economy in terms of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), is a promising place to be in.
  • With a massive food market that is fast-expanding, exciting growth in the retail sector, and attractive economic policies and fiscal incentives, India’s food ecosystem is the place to be in. Join in transforming the food economy by leveraging opportunities along the food value chain

Advantage India

  • Among fastest growing economies in the world
  • Largest producer of several agri commodities
  • 3 Billion consumers with increasing demand for branded food
  • 4th largest economy in terms of purchasing parity
  • Proactive government policies with attractive fiscal incentives
  • Significant investments in world class ports, logistics and supply chain infrastructure
  • Rich demographic dividend with high focus on skill development, availability of skilled personnel
  • Opportunity for investors across the food processing supply chain

A favourable economic and business environment

  • India’s GDP growth in 2016 stood at 7.6%.
  • Large skilled workforce.
  • 100% FDI through automatic route in food processing.
  • 100% FDI in retail marketing, including through e-commerce, of food products that are produced and / or manufactured in India.
  • Proactive policy support.
  • Single-window clearance.

The advantage of Food Processing Sector in India

  • India ranks 2nd in terms of total food production globally
  • Indian ranks 1st in the world in terms of production of milk, bananas, mangoes, guavas, papayas, ginger and okra
  • India ranks 2nd in the world in production of green peas, potatoes, tea, tomato, sesame and many other key commodities
  • The food processing sector ranks 1st in terms of employment and number of factories in operation and 3rd in terms of output
  • The industry has witnessed a growth 7.1% during 2013-14, much higher that the growth in agriculture sector and at par with the manufacturing sector
  • Strategic geographic location and proximity to food-importing nations makes India favorable for the export of processed foods
  • The sector has a total of 37,175 registered units with fixed capital of nearly USD 24 Billion and aggregate output of around USD 114 Billion. Major industries constituting the food processing sector are grains, sugar, edible oils, beverages and dairy products

4.Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY)

Source: PIB

Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) is a continuing scheme under implementation from XI Five Year Plan.

Key facts:

  • The scheme provides considerable flexibility and autonomy to states in planning and executing programmes for incentivizing investment in agriculture and allied sectors.
  • States initiate the process of decentralized planning for agriculture and allied sectors through preparation of District Agriculture Plans (DAPs) and State Agriculture Plan (SAP) based on agro-climatic conditions, availability of appropriate technology and natural resources to ensure accommodation of local needs, cropping pattern, priorities etc.
  • RKVY has also enabled adoption of national priorities without affecting the autonomy and flexibility of States through sub-schemes.
  • National priorities like Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI), Crop Diversification Program (CDP), Reclamation of Problem Soil (RPS), Foot & Mouth Disease – Control Program (FMD-CP), Saffron Mission, Accelerated Fodder Development Programme, etc. are being implemented through the window of RKVY.

RKVY-RAFTAAR funds would be provided to the States as 60:40 grants between Centre and States (90:10 for North Eastern States and Himalayan States) through the following streams:

Regular RKVY-RAFTAAR (Infrastructure & Assets and Production Growth) with 70%of annual outlay to be allocated to states as grants based for the following activities:

  1. Value addition linked production projects with 30% of regular RKVY-RAFTAAR outlay.
  2. Flexi-funds with 20% of regular RKVY-RAFTAAR outlay. States can use this for supporting any projects as per the local needs.
  3. RKVY-RAFTAAR special sub-schemes of National priorities – 20% of annual outlay; and
  4. Innovation and agri-entrepreneur development through creating end-to-end solution, skill development and financial support for setting up the agri-enterprise -10% of annual outlay including 2% of administrative costs.

The scheme will incentivize States in enhancing more allocation to Agriculture and Allied Sectors.  This will also strengthen farmer’s efforts through creation of agriculture infrastructure that help in supply of quality inputs, market facilities etc.  This will further promote agri-entrepreneurship and support business models that maximize returns to farmers.

Way ahead:

  • During XI Plan and XII Plan, States have taken over 13,000 projects in agriculture and allied sector through State Agriculture Department as Nodal Implementing Agency.
  • The interim report of RKVY evaluation done by Institute of Economic Growth summarizes that the income emanating from agriculture measured as the agricultural state domestic product (AGSDP) is higher in the post-RKVY period than in the pre-RKVY period.
  • Further, almost all the states registered higher value of output from agriculture and allied activities in the post-RKVY period. Continuation of RKVY-RAFTAAR will therefore keep the momentum of agriculture and allied sector growth.

5.India slips 21 slots on WEF Gender Gap index 2017

Source: The Hindu

Moves to 108th place, behind neighbours China and Bangladesh, primarily due to less participation of women in the economy and low wages.

  • India slipped 21 places on the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap index to 108, behind neighbours China and Bangladesh, primarily due to less participation of women in the economy and low wages.
  • Moreover, India’s latest ranking is 10 notches lower than its reading in 2006 when the WEF started measuring the gender gap.

Key facts:

  • According to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2017, India has closed 67% of its gender gap, less than many of its international peers, and some of its neighbours like Bangladesh ranked 47th while China was placed at 100th.
  • Globally also, this year’s story is a bleak one. For the first time since the WEF began measuring the gap across four pillars — health, education, the workplace and political representation — the global gap has actually widened.
  • A decade of slow but steady progress on improving parity between the sexes came to a halt in 2017, with the global gender gap widening for the first time since the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report was first published in 2006.

Other countries:

  • At the top of the Global Gender Gap Index is Iceland. The country has closed nearly 88% of its gap. It has been the world’s most gender-equal country for nine years.
  • Others in the top 10 include Norway (2nd), Finland (3rd), Rwanda (4) and Sweden (5), Nicaragua (6) and Slovenia (7), Ireland (8), New Zealand (9) and the Philippines (10).

Challenges:

  • India’s greatest challenges lie in the economic participation and opportunity pillar where the country is ranked 139 as well as health and survival pillar where the country is ranked 141
  • The report attributed much of India’s decline in position on the overall Global Gender Gap Index to a widening of its gender gaps in political empowerment as well as healthy life expectancy and basic literacy.
  • With more than 50 years having passed since the inauguration of the nation’s first female prime minister in 1966, maintaining its global top 20 ranking on the political empowerment sub-index will require India to make progress on this dimension with a new generation of female political leadership.
  • Moreover, the scale of India’s gender gap in women’s share among legislators, senior officials and managers as well as professional and technical workers highlights that continued efforts will be needed to achieve parity in economic opportunity and participation.
  • In India, the workplace gender gap is reinforced by extremely low participation of women in the economy (136 out of the total 144 countries covered) and low wages for those who work (136th ranking for estimated earned income), the WEF said, adding that “on average, 66% of women’s work in India is unpaid, compared to 12% of men’s.
  • On a positive note, India succeeded in fully closing its primary and secondary education enrolment gender gaps for the second year running and for the first time has nearly closed its tertiary education gender gap. However, it continues to rank fourth-lowest in the world on health and survival, remaining the world’s least-improved country on this sub-index over the past decade, the WEF stated.

6.UN says carbon emissions gap could affect climate target

Source: The Hindu

The UN Environment Emissions Gap Report 2017 warns that a big carbon emissions gap exists between the levels that can be achieved in 2030 with present climate commitments

  • Needs to be done using set pathways to limit increases in global average temperature to less than 2° Celsius or a more ambitious 1.5° C by the year 2100.

Key facts:

  • The breaching of the safe limits that is possible even with current climate commitments — the NDCs that form the core of the Paris Agreement — indicates that governments will need to deliver much stronger pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions when they are revised in 2020, said the report released ahead of the 23Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Bonn, commencing on November 6. (COP 23)
  • Full implementation of the unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and comparable action afterwards “could result in a temperature increase of about 3.2° C by 2100 relative to pre-industrial levels.
  • Indicates that governments will need to deliver much stronger pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions when they are revised in 2020.
  • Fossil fuels and cement production account for about 70% of greenhouse gases, the report noted.
  • The 2°C emissions gap for the full implementation of both the conditional and unconditional NDCs for 2030 is 11 to 13.5 gigatonne CO2 equivalent (Gt COe).
  • The Paris accord pledges only a third of what is needed to avoid climate catastrophe.

Green steps:

  • A large part of the potential to close the emissions gap lies in solar and wind energy, efficient appliances and passenger cars, afforestation and stopping deforestation.
  • These six factors hold a total potential of up to 22 Gt CO2e per annum.
  • Plugging other greenhouse gases, such as hydrofluorocarbons, through the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, and other short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon, could contribute.

7.India mulls national e-commerce policy

Source: The Hindu

India is considering drafting a comprehensive national e-commerce policy to develop an ecosystem that would support exports and protect consumer interests, said a senior government official.

However, the country is of the view that starting negotiations on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules in e-commerce would be premature at this stage as it was still unclear how they would benefit developing nations, including their companies and consumers, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Issues:

  • Addressing an interactive session on ‘e-commerce, digital infrastructure, trade rules and WTO,’ organised by industry body FICCI and Centre for WTO Studies, several countries were enthusiastic about negotiating multilateral rules to govern international trade through e-commerce.
  • However, such rules could hurt the interests of most developing countries, including India, adding India needed time to study whether it was prepared to take on obligations that would bind its stakeholders to an international policy in a sector like e-commerce, which was still evolving.
  • There were many challenges in starting international negotiations, the key areas which India needed to look at include data flows, server and data localisation, transfer of technology and mandatory sharing of telecom infrastructure.
  • India needed a harmonised approach at both the WTO and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations while balancing its interests.

Global e-com market

Global e-commerce market was estimated at $25 trillion of which trans-border component was a minuscule 5% — meaning the remaining 95% was domestic e-commerce trade.

E-Commerce:

  • E-commerce in recent times has been growing rapidly across the world.
  • It is a type of business model, or segment of a larger business model, that enables a firm or individual to conduct business over an electronic network, typically the internet.
  • Electronic commerce operates in all four of the major market segments: business to business, business to consumer, consumer to consumer and consumer to business.

In India, there are three type of e-commerce business model are in vogue

  1. Inventory base model of e-commerce
  2. Marketplace base model of e-commerce
  3. Hybrid model of inventory based and market place model.

Indian Information Technology Act and E-commerce: Indian Information Technology (IT) Act gives legal recognition to electronics records and electronic signature.

  • FDI guidelines for e-commerce by DIPP: DIPP has issued guidelines for FDI in e-commerce. In India 100% FDI is permitted in B2B e-commerce, however No FDI was permitted in B2C e-commerce earlier. As per these new guidelines on FDI in e-commerce, 100% FDI under automatic route is permitted in marketplace model of e-commerce, while FDI is not permitted in inventory based model of e-commerce.
  • E-commerce has become an important part of many multilateral negotiations such as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), WTO, BRICS etc. Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology is leading such negotiations on e-commerce from Indian side.

8.The security of India and Bhutan is “indivisible and mutual”

Source: The Hindu

President thanked the King for his “personal involvement” in addressing the Doklam crisis, the first time a reference has been made to his role during the tensions between India and China.

  • The face-off between India and China took place after Bhutanese troops registered a protest against Chinese military building a road on the plateau.
  • Indian troops—stationed in the area under a special security pact between India and Bhutan—intervened after the Chinese troops ignored the Bhutanese warnings. The Chinese road construction plans also had India worried that Beijing could cut off the Indian mainland’s access to its northeastern states.

India- Bhutan:

  • India and Bhutan enjoy unique ties of friendship, which are characterized by deep understanding and mutual trust.
  • The visit would provide an opportunity to both the sides for reviewing the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation, including plans for befitting celebrations of golden jubilee of establishment of diplomatic relations between two countries in the year 2018 and to advance the special bilateral ties of friendship and cooperation.
  • Bhutan is also key for India’s plans to push subregional cooperation. It will help accelerate regional integration within BIMSTEC
  • A transport agreement among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal was mooted in 2014 but is yet to take shape given Bhutan’s worries about the impact of pollution and loss of businesses if trucks and cars from India, Bangladesh and Nepal roll into the country.
  • The Himalayan country has a hydel power potential of 30,000 megawatt (MW) of which 23,000MW can be tapped. India is involved in developing a number of hydel power projects in Bhutan already and is keen to deepen the cooperation.

Significance:

  • It is a signal that Bhutan’s India first policy is intact against the backdrop of China trying to make inroads into a country seen as firmly within India’s sphere of influence in South Asia.
  • It is significant as it seeks to end speculation over India’s decision to send troops into land caught in a dispute between Bhutan and China.
  • It signals a tacit endorsement of India’s actions during the Doklam crisis, as well as a reaffirmation of ties.



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