27&28 ,August 2017

‘Bonnet monkey may soon be endangered’

Researchers have found that the common bonnet monkey of South India may soon become an ‘endangered’ species.

They say the distributional range of this monkey is shrinking in eastern Maharashtra, northern parts of Karnataka, and western Telangana because of the slow incursion of the larger, more aggressive rhesus monkey from the northern region.

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1.Mysuru’s public transport system smart, people-friendly: World Bank
Source: IE

The country’s first technology-driven Mysuru public transport system has become “smart, safe, and efficient” and beneficial to lakhs of people across the city, the World Bank has said in its latest newsletter.

The World bank-aided project (Rs. 19 crore) launched in 2012 helped the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) to install GPS enabled mini-computers above the driver’s seat in each of the city’s 430 buses.

In addition, each bus and bus stop was geo-mapped and tagged, and the details fed into an IT-enabled intelligent system.

How it works:

  • At the central control room in the heart of the city, a giant screen displays the speed and location of each bus – blinking green, yellow or orange depending on whether a bus is on time, late or early.
  • Moreover, lights splash whenever a driver speeds, accelerates sharply, slams the brakes, or stalls for more than 20 minutes.
  • The intelligent transport system has not only resulted in a more people-friendly bus service but has also led to smoother operations and considerable savings for the operator
  • With drivers being more careful, incidents of rash and dangerous driving have also dropped considerably.
  • Besides, women now feel safer using public transport system, even after dark, the World Bank claimed.

KSRTC now saves Rs. 1 crore a year on its city bus operations. Now, the Centre has proposed these projects under the Smart City concept.

Now, the project is worth being emulated in other cities across the country.

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2.India facing problem of severe under-employment, says Niti Aayog
Source: The Hindu

Making a case for promoting highly productive and well paid jobs, Niti Aayog has said that not unemployment but a “severe under-employment” is the main problem facing the country.

The government think-tank in its three-year action plan, released last week, has said that a focus on the domestic market through an import-substitution strategy would give rise to a group of relatively small firms behind a high wall of protection.

Contrary to some assertions that India’s growth has been ’jobless’, the Employment Unemployment Surveys (EUS) of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) has consistently reported low and stable rates of unemployment over more than three decades.

Need of the hour:

  • What is needed is the creation of high-productivity, high-wage jobs.
  • The time for adopting a manufactures- and exports-based strategy could not be more opportune.
  • The Aayog in its ‘Three Year Action Agenda’ also recommended for the creation of a handful of Coastal Employment Zones (CEZ), which may attract multinational firms in labour-intensive sectors from China to India.
  • Making a case for reforming labour laws, the Niti Aayog also noted that recently fixed-term employment has been introduced in the textiles and apparel industry.
  • Besides, the Aayog pointed out that unifying the existing large number of labour laws into four codes without reform of the laws themselves will serve little purpose.

Unless we bring about substantive change either by amending the existing laws or rewriting them afresh, we cannot expect to change the current situation where low-productivity and low-wage jobs dominate the landscape.

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3.‘Centre ready to provide capital support for PSU banks’ merger’
Source: The Hindu

The Finance Ministry is open to providing capital support for facilitating consolidation among state—owned banks, which are reeling under mounting bad loans.

The Union Cabinet has approved the setting up of an alternative mechanism, or a panel of ministers, to decide on consolidation proposals for state-run banks.

The government is keen that at least one merger proposal reaches a logical conclusion by the end of the current fiscal.

There are now 20 public sector banks (PSBs) other than SBI. These state-owned banks are grappling with Rs.6 lakh crore worth of non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans, which is about 75% of the total distress.

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4.“Jan Dhan Yojana and the 1 Billion-1 Billion-1 Billion “JAM” Revolution it is Unleashing”: Jaitley
Source: The Hindu, PIB

Finance Minister highlighting the benefits of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, which has completed three years, saying the combination of the scheme with Aadhaar and the mobile revolution would bring all Indians into the mainstream and would end economic and social exclusion.

Positive outcomes:

  • In addition to financial inclusion, the government has taken steps to provide security to the poor via life insurance under the Pradhan Mantra Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY) and accident insurance Pradhan Mantra Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY).
  • The entire network created by the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) has also enabled implementation of the Mudra yojana.
  • Now with the BHIM app and the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), JAM can become fully operational. A secure and seamless digital payments infrastructure has been created so that all Indians, especially the poor can become part of the digital mainstream.
  • JAM a social revolution because it has brought together financial inclusion (PMJDY), biometric identification (Aadhaar) and mobile telecommunications.
  • The JAM social revolution offers substantial benefits for government, the economy and especially the poor. The poor will have access to financial services and be cushioned against life’s major shocks.
  • Government finances will be improved because of the reduced subsidy burden; at the same time, government will also be legitimized and strengthened because it can transfer resources to citizens faster and more reliably and with less leakage.

Within reach of the country is what might be called the 1 billion-1 billion-1 billion vision. That is 1 billion unique Aadhaar numbers linked to 1 billion bank accounts and 1 billion mobile phones. Once that is done, all of India can become part of the financial and digital mainstream.

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5.Ocean forecasting system unveiled
Source: The Hindu

The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) of the Ministry of Earth Sciences inaugurated the Ocean Forecasting System for Comoros, Madagascar, and Mozambique at the third Ministerial Meeting of Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Asia and Africa (RIMES), held at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

The Ministerial council and the WMO lauded and placed on record the initiatives of INCOIS/India in providing the ocean forecast and early warning services to the Indian Ocean countries.

The ocean forecast and early warming information on high wave, currents, winds, tides, sub-surface ocean conditions cater to users like fishermen, coastal population, tourism sector, coastal defence officials, marine police, port authorities, research institutions and offshore industries of these countries.

Applications:

  • These ocean services are aimed towards safety at the sea.
  • The system would offer oil spill advisory services, high wave alerts, port warnings, forecast along the ship routes in addition to tsunami and storm surge warnings and help in search and rescue operations.
  • The INCOIS has already been providing these operational services to the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Seychelles.
  • The ocean forecast and early warning services were most essential for safe navigation and operations at sea and the blue economic growth of many of these Indian Ocean rim countries and island nations.

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6.New tax regime to give manufacturing a boost
Source: The Hindu

For automobiles, the shift to GST has largely been to the benefit of the industry and the consumer except for certain issues. The higher GST rate for hybrid vehicles will make them unviable for consumers and will result in petrol and diesel variants being sold instead.

This is not being desirable as hybrids are much more fuel-efficient and environment-friendly vehicles. Also, levy of tax on used cars at the same rate as for new cars is likely to push this business in the informal sector.

This would negate the Centre’s aim of bringing the unregulated part of this business under the regulated mainstream and also lead to the state losing tax revenue in the process. As we are still in the early phase of the regime, it is hoped that these and other important issues will be addressed soon.

Checks in place (Abt GST)

  • The shift in the taxable event from the sale, manufactures, provision of service or import in the past, to the supply of goods and/or services under GST.
  • The GSTN system matches the details of tax paid by a supplier to the details of credit claimed by the recipient, excess credit claim by the recipient will be disallowed automatically till the time the return is rectified. Thus, the new system motivates recipients to keep a check on suppliers.
  • The GST-compliance rating system for suppliers has shifted part of the burden of ensuring compliance to the recipient. This, along with technology enablement, will surely improve compliance significantly.

The GST structure has been criticised owing to multiple slabs and high effective peak rate of GST. It has been argued by many that the true spirit of GST has been lost and that a high GST rate will fuel inflation. However, the Government has done well to be pragmatic, remain in touch with ground realities and not get carried away by ambitious expectations. In the present socio-economic context, it is unrealistic to expect a single or a two-tax slab structure.

Advantages of GST:

  • GST will free the common man from tax terrorism and inspector raj.
  • Besides being a transparent and fair system that will end generation of black money and corruption
  • GST will promote a new governance culture that will end harassment at the hand of tax officials.
  • A simplified, transparent tax structure that will help reduce discretion, lower litigation and improve ease of doing business thus helping attract foreign direct investment and improving industry competitiveness.
  • It is estimated that GST may contribute an 80 basis point rise in GDP growth over 3-5 years.

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7.Why does the 2022 target for rooftop solar seem ambitious?
Source: The Hindu

The government has set itself a target of 100 GW of solar power by 2022, of which 60 GW is to come from utilities and 40 GW from rooftop solar installations. While the 60 GW target seems achievable, the country is lagging behind on the target set for rooftop solar.

What is rooftop solar?

Rooftop solar installations — as opposed to large-scale solar power generation plants — can be installed on the roofs of buildings. As such, they fall under two brackets: commercial and residential. This simply has to do with whether the solar panels are being installed on top of commercial buildings or residential complexes.

What are the benefits?

  • It provides the option of an alternative source of electricity to that provided by the grid.
  • It reduces the dependence on fossil-fuel generated electricity.
  • able to provide electricity to those areas that are not yet connected to the grid — remote locations and areas where the terrain makes it difficult to set up power stations and lay power lines

What is the potential for rooftop solar in India?

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has pegged the market potential for rooftop solar at 124 GW. However, only 1,247 MW of capacity had been installed as of December 31, 2016. That is a little more than 3% of the target for 2022, and 1% of the potential.

Why is it not being adopted widely?

  • The efficiency of the solar panels varies on any given day depending on how bright the sunlight is, but the solar panels also produce no electricity during the night. The solution to this is storage. Storage technology for electricity, however, is still underdeveloped and storage solutions are expensive.
  • The current electricity tariff structure renders it an unviable option. the subsidised tariffs charged to residential customers undermine the economic viability of installing rooftop solar panels. The potential profit simply does not outweigh the costs.

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