TheNITI Aayog has drafted the three years’ action plan for Evergreen revolution, for all the sectors including agriculture. The action plan on agriculture deals with remunerative prices for farmers and raising productivity.
Strategies include –
Increase in production of Pulses –
National Food Security Mission (NFSM-Pulses) is being implemented in 638 districts of 29 States in the country. The interventions covered under NFSM-Pulses include cluster demonstrations on improved package of practices, demonstrations on cropping system, distribution of High Yielding Varieties (HYVs), INM, IPM, resource conservation technologies/tools, efficient water application tools and cropping system based training for increasing production and productivity of pulses.
Under this scheme, new initiatives have been taken up during 2016-17 i.e., creation of seed hubs, breeder seed production, minikit distribution, cluster frontline demonstrations etc.
Use of wasteland –
PMKSY is principally for development of rainfed portions of net cultivated & culturable wastelands and it will act as a bulwark for Evergreen revolution to be successful.
Seed Village programme –
To upgrade the quality of farmer’s saved seeds financial assistance for distribution of foundation/certified seeds at 50% cost of the seeds for agricultural crops for half an acre per farmer was available up to the year 2013-14. From the year 2014-15, the financial assistance for distribution of foundation/certified seeds at 50% cost of the seeds for cereal crops and 60% for pulses, oilseeds, fodder and green manure crops for production of quality seeds is now available for one acre per farmer.
Certified Seed Production of Pulses, oilseeds, Fodder & Green Manure crops through Seed Village –
In order to enhance certified seed production of Pulses, oilseeds, Fodder & Green manure crops in the country, this component has been initiated from 2014-15. Under this component the financial assistance for distribution of foundation seeds at 75% cost of the seeds for pulses, oilseeds, fodder and green manure crops for production of Certified Seeds is available for the farmers.
The above schemes are demand driven and implemented by the States/implementing agencies for benefiting the farmers.
Model Contract Farming Act –
In pursuance of announcement in the Union budget 2017-18, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has constituted a Committee on 28.02.2017 to formulate a Model Contract Farming Act for adoption by the States. This Model Act on Contract Farming would address the constraints in promoting contract farming in a holistic manner by the States.
The agriculture and allied sector road map endeavours growth of agriculture for meeting food and nutrition security of the country.
Introduction – Artificial intelligence, which is a system that has human-level intelligence, i.e., it can do multiple tasks as easily as a human can and can engage in a “thought” process that closely resembles humans. Should one fear Artificial Intelligence? As with most things, the answer is both yes and no. Why we must not?
Beginning with why one must not “fear” Artificial Intelligence, such systems are actually pretty dumb. This is because even the most intelligent systems today have artificial specific intelligence, which means they can perform one task better than any human can, but only that one task.
Any task that it is not specifically programmed for, howsoever simple it may seem to us, such a system would find impossible to undertake.
Artificial general intelligence, however, has so far remained theoretical, and is possibly decades away from being developed in any concrete manner, if at all. Therefore, any fear of a super-intelligent system that can turn on humans in the near future is quite baseless.
Why we must fear?
First, and most importantly, jobs. A May 2017 study by Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute, argues that in the past, automation did not have any negative effect on the job market, but actually increased the number of available jobs. There can be no doubt that at least some jobs will be negatively affected by Artificial Intelligence, but the nature of these jobs and the nature of the jobs that may replace them, if at all, is hazy at best. It is this lack of clarity that one must be wary of.
Second, the use of Artificial Intelligence in weapons leading to ‘autonomous weapons’. Whether a machine that has been given the ability to make life and death decisions on the battlefield can adequately account for subjective principles of war such as proportionality and precautions. The underlying issue here is not that weaponized Artificial Intelligence would be smart, but that it would not be smart enough.
Third, privacy and data security. It must be remembered that the entire Artificial Intelligence ecosystem is built on the availability of great amounts of data and enhancing efficiency requires continued availability of such data. Constant inputs and feedback loops are required to make Artificial Intelligence more intelligent. This raises the question of where the required data comes from, and who owns and controls it. The possible authoritarian implications of this, ranging from indiscriminate surveillance to predictive policing, can be seen in the recent plan released by China’s state council to make China an Artificial Intelligence superpower by 2030.
Conclusion – It is necessary to be open-eyed and clearheaded about the practical benefits and risks associated with the increasing prevalence of Artificial Intelligence. It is not going to go “rogue” and turn on humans (at least in the near future), and talk of such a theoretical existential risk must not blind policymakers, analysts, and academics to the very real issues raised by Artificial Intelligence.
Fiscal deficit trends in India have shown a big reversal and the situation is expected to get worse in the future. Comparing it with the earlier trends, states seemed fiscally prudent until about three years ago from now than the Centre. They are now having larger fiscal deficits and facing financial difficulties. Reasons for higher fiscal deficits – Three key issues raises our fiscal concerns –
The wave of farm loan waivers across the states has raised Fiscal deficit further.
Interest liabilities of the member states of UDAY Scheme would be a matter of concern.
Prohibition of liquor along the highways and bars has affected excise revenues of few States.
This vicious cycle of debt continues in the form of more fiscal deficit for States, the more they will have to arrange borrowings from the market.
In the age of cooperative federalism, Union Government has acted liberally towards the State Governments in terms of expenditure management and fiscal deficit managment. Most of the times, the quality or pattern of expenditure is not managed properly. In the past the money was spent on capital expenditure and most of the revenue expenditures were taken care by the central schemes and some by the states themselves.
As the direction of fiscal deficit is set for the entire year in the beginning, hence, there is not much left to manoeuver in the middle of the financial year as a particular borrowing pattern has already been decided by the states. Until the next Finance Commission reorganizes the finances of states, the situation seems very unlikely to change or get better.
GST impact will now start showing up. Hence, the states will have to be very cautious about keeping their fiscal space in order to manage their fiscal deficit figures. As the states are borrowing more, the banking and insurance sector will be dipping into this lending pool more and ultimately reach the brink of collapsing under the burden of bad debts.
Similarly, the corporate bond market might face hardening of rates because a state paper with a sovereign guarantee (UDAY bond) seems much more attractive for the investors like banking and insurance companies to dip into than other offerings.
There is a strong possibility of crowding out of private borrowings from the market due to scavenging of resources by public borrowings to meet financial targets. This vicious cycle once started would force the private sector to offer higher rate of interests to stay competitive in the market. This would adversely affect the overall economy.
When the Seventh Pay Commission comes into picture, the burden will be much exorbitant on the states to manage. Apparently, there are some compensations offered by the GST Council to states for the next 5 years, which might seem helpful to the states in short term.
Conclusion – UDAY Scheme is significant because it is the need of the hour to bring the debt burden of public sector electricity companies into the books as well as shelving them off to secure a prudent financial future. This fiscal imprudence over fiscal matters through loan waivers would cost the states and the country much more in formulating the monetary policy, growth and expenditure management strategies. Similarly, the losses from liquor ban are being recovered by imposing additional taxes over and above GST like in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, but they defeat the very purpose of GST. It is high time for the States to realise that they need to be efficient with their spending patterns, otherwise the liabilities they are adding today would become untenable tomorrow.
As per latest data, IMR has reduced by 58% in India during the period of 1990-2015 which is more than to Global decline of 49% during the same period. The full immunization coverage also improved from 43.5% in 2005 to 62.0% in 2015 and mortality due to Tuberculosis has reduced from 76 per 1,00,000 in 1990 to 32 per 1,00,000 in 2015. Steps taken to combat IMR and increasing vaccine coverage under National Health Mission –
Promotion of Institutional deliveries through cash incentive under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) and Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK) which entitles all pregnant women delivering in public health institutions to absolutely free ante-natal check-ups, delivery including Caesarean section, post-natal care and treatment of sick infants till one year of age.
Strengthening of delivery points for providing comprehensive and quality Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A) Services.
Newborn Stabilization Units (NBSU) and Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) units for care of sick and small babies.
Early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding for first six months and appropriate Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices are promoted in convergence with Ministry of Women and Child Development.
Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) is being supported to provide vaccination to children against many life threatening diseases such as Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis B and Measles.
Name based tracking of mothers and children till two years of age (Mother and Child Tracking System) is done to ensure complete antenatal, intranatal, postnatal care and complete immunization as per schedule.
Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) for health screening, early detection of birth defects, diseases, deficiencies, development delays including disability and early intervention services has been Operationalized to provide comprehensive care to all the children in the age group of 0-18 years in the community.
Iron and folic acid (IFA) supplementation is being done for the prevention of anaemia among the vulnerable age groups, home visits by ASHAs to promote exclusive breast feeding and promote use of ORS and Zinc for management of diarrhoea in children.
Capacity building of health care providers – Various trainings are being conducted under National Health Mission (NHM) to build and upgrade the skills of health care providers in basic and comprehensive obstetric care of mother during pregnancy, delivery and essential newborn care.
Low performing districts have been identified as High Priority Districts (HPDs) which entitles them to receive high per capita funding, relaxed norms, enhanced monitoring and focused supportive supervisions and encouragement to adopt innovative approaches to address their peculiar health challenges.
Domestic Cruise Industry (GS – 3 Economy and Tourism) Tourism sector is a very talked about sector and reading about it will enrich your IAS coaching. Cruise tourism is a high-end luxury tourist segment of tourism sector. Significance –
It is estimated that on an average a cruise tourist spends about US$200-300 and a cruise staff/officer spends about US$100-150 per port visit.
Cruise operations augment local economic activities as business opportunities arise for supply for provisions, transport, hotels, bunkering etc. to cruise ships which generate direct and indirect employment.
The local economy also gains from the spending by cruise tourists during land excursions.
Measures taken to boost cruise industry –
All major ports offer a minimum rebate of 30% across the board to cruise ships on all vessel related charges (port dues, pilotage and berth hire) from the notified scale of rates.
Major ports do not levy any priority/ousting/shifting charges for berthing the cruise vessel, provided the liner informs port 30 days in advance about the requirement of the berth.
To attract cruise liners to make major ports as homeports, the major ports provide rebate of 25% in vessel related charges for coastal cruise movement. This is in addition to the 40% existing rebate for coastal vessels. Further, walk-in berthing/preferential berthing is given to cruise vessels at home port without any extra charge.
Foreign flag vessels carrying passengers had been allowed to call at Indian ports for a period of 10 years with effect from 6th February, 2009 without obtaining a license from Director General of Shipping. This has been further extended for a period of five years i.e. up to 5th February, 2024.
For promoting cruise, a Task Force has been constituted jointly by Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Tourism. The Task Force is responsible for drawing up strategies for promotion of cruise tourism including development of facilities and related infrastructure as well as facilitation.
Standardized Operating Procedures (SOPs) for handling cruise vessels and passengers have been implemented.
To address manpower, coordination and logistic issues for handling cruise vessels at ports, Port Level Committees with chairman of the respective Major Port Trust as Chairman, Secretary Tourism of the concerned state as Vice-Chairman and Regional Director of the respective region of Ministry of Tourism as Convener have been constituted.
Ministry of Tourism under its Scheme for Assistance to Central Agencies extends financial assistance to the Ports for development of cruise related tourism infrastructure
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The infrastructure sector is the backbone of the Indian economy. The government has been making efforts to boost the sector through various schemes and incentives.According to the government, total infrastructure spending is expected to be about 10% of GDP (gross domestic product) during the 12th Five-year Plan (2012–17), up from 7.6% during the previous Plan.
GST impact | Background
In the pre-GST era, there was dichotomy in the applicable indirect tax regime relevant to infrastructure. While Central laws provided exemptions and concessions, state VAT (value-added tax) and entry tax laws were applicable to goods procured.
In addition, the cascading effect of Central and state indirect taxes was a concern, due to a high base for levy of respective taxes and a restrictive credit mechanism.
There was also litigation at the Central and state levels on classification of contracts, valuation, jurisdiction of state on inter-state works contracts and other issues.
GST impact | Analysis
GST being a concurrent tax on supply of goods and services is expected to bring in predictability for infrastructure projects.
There are some changes that would have an impact on indirect taxation—taxability of works contracts being one. As works contracts are limited to only immovable properties, turnkey contracts which do not result in immovable property would now be treated as composite supplies.
Works contracts would be regarded as supply of services, so the valuation of goods and services in works contracts that sparked differences earlier would be put to rest.
Other contracts which do not result in immovable property could be regarded as composite supplies, and depending on the principal supply, tax liability would arise either as a supply of goods or services.
While there is apprehension that a flat GST rate of 18% would lead to increased incidence on infra projects, availability of input tax credits would neutralize such concerns.
Exemptions and concessions to infrastructure have been completely withdrawn. This could also lead to increased working capital requirements. Project cost could rise due to increased burden of indirect taxes.
Electricity being outside the purview of GST, power generation companies would continue to have indirect taxes as a significant cost factor
Withdrawal of exemptions for road, water supply and sewerage projects sponsored by government and local authorities is expected to increase government spend.
GST impact | Conclusion
Therefore, the introduction of GST seems to be a mixed bag for the infra sector—predictability and efficiency being the key advantages, while non-inclusion of sub-sectors, higher rate and certain restrictions are negatives.
A sub-committee had been constituted by the Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) to examine issues relating to Online Pharmacy Business and sale of drugs. The Sub-Committee has submitted its report to the Drugs Consultative Committee.
The Sub-Committee has inter alia recommended
Creation of a National Portal to act as the nodal platform for transacting and monitoring Online Pharmacy Business and sale of drugs.
Necessity of evolving a mechanism to register e-pharmacies.
Geographical restrictions for operation of e-pharmacies.
Existing licensees involved in retail sale of drugs could also register on the National Portal for carrying out online sale of drugs.
Requirement of registration with CDSCO under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
Certain categories of drugs viz. the Narcotic and Psychotropic drugs, tranquilizers, habit forming drugs and Schedule X drugs that are prone to being abused or misused be excluded from sale through e-pharmacies.
Online pharmacies laws in India are still in nascent stage and there are no dedicated online pharmacy laws in India. The Information Technology Act 2000 governs some of the legal issues pertaining to online dealings but it is silent on the aspect of online pharmacy. As a result, illegal online pharmacies have been increasing in India. If properly regulated, Online pharmacies in India could prove beneficial to various stakeholders.
The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, have guidelines on the sale of Schedule H and Schedule X drugs. These can be sold only on prescription and there are specific rules, including for labelling. As most of the online pharmacies in India are not complying with Indian laws and the laws of other jurisdictions, they have been facing regulatory sanctions.
The Government has issued a notice seeking public comments on regulation of sale of drugs including introduction of an electronic platform for regulation of sale of drugs in the country.
Details of Defence Agreements signed with Russia over the past five years is as under
Defence Agreements for training of Indian armed forces personnel in the military educational establishments of the Defence Ministry of the Russian Federation. (Date of signing 11.12.2014).
Agreement between the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation on cooperation in Aircraft flight safety. (Date of signing 21.01.2015).
Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Russian Federation on cooperation in the field of Helicopter Engineering. (Date of signing 24.12.2015).
Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of India on supply of S-400 Triumph Air Defence Missile systems to the Republic of India. (Date of signing 15.10.2016).
Defence Agreements between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of India for construction of follow-on-ships of project 11356 in Russia and in India (Date of signing 15.10.2016).
India-Russia defence relations
India and Russia have several major joint military programmes including –
BrahMos cruise missile programme
5th generation fighter jet programme
Sukhoi Su-30MKI programme (230+ to be built by Hindustan Aeronautics)
Ilyushin/HAL Tactical Transport Aircraft
Additionally, India has purchased/leased various military hardware from Russia
S-400 Triumf 12.
Kamov Ka-226 200 to be made in India under the Make in India initiative.
T-90S Bhishma with over 1000 to be built in India.
Akula-II nuclear submarine (2 to be leased with an option to buy when the lease expires).
INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier programme.
Tu-22M3 bombers (4 ordered).
US$900 million upgrade of MiG-29.
Mil Mi-17 (80 ordered) more in Service.
Ilyushin Il-76 Candid (6 ordered to fit Israeli Phalcon radar).
The Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan is currently jointly operated by Indian Air Force and Tajikistan Air Force.
Defence Agreements | Conclusion
The Government makes all efforts to encourage greater manufacturing of defence equipment in India through the ‘Make in India’ framework, including through transfer of technology arrangements. Several licensed production agreements have been implemented with Russian companies in India, such as for Sukhoi-30 aircraft, T-90 tanks, BMP-2 armoured personnel carriers etc. Divulging the texts of such Agreements will not be in the interest of national security.
Doklam Standoff near Bhutan between India and China is becoming a major concern, near the Chumbi Valley at the corner of India-China-Bhutan tri-junction. This month long border Doklam Standoff has become the longest ever between the two nations. This is also the first time when Indian troops have confronted the People’s Liberation Army of China on the soil of a third country i.e. Bhutan. There are two reasons for this standoff – India has a long standing commitment to Bhutan’s defence and serves as a virtual security guarantor to Bhutan through the 2007 friendship treaty. Secondly, the Doklam sector is critical to India as it brings China even closer to the Indian border in a vulnerable location towards the 27-kilometres long Siliguri Corridor or “Chicken’s neck” that connects the Northeastern states of India with the rest of India. China has repeatedly disputed Bhutan’s claims over Doklam. Beijing considers this plateau as vital to fortify the dagger-shaped Chumbi valley by piercing the tri-junction.
Doklam Standoff | History
Intrusions in Sikkim area may be new but there is a general pattern of such incursions are traced back to 2008 Beijing Olympics. In Ladakh and other places, the Chinese troops have been repeatedly working towards ingression in such areas. In 2009, the Chinese refused to give visas on Indian passports for several months for citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, including the Commander-in-Chief of the then Northern Command.Three factors started emerging in 2008 which are converging now in 2017 – the first being Pakistan’s renewed animosity against India which was earlier demonstrated during the Mumbai attacks, the second was the street rage which was demonstrated within the Kashmir valley, and the last being China’s attempts to stymie India’s growth trajectory while it still can do it in the long term.
Actually, the border dispute in the region dates back to the 19th century when the states in the region were expanding in the areas which were loose in nature – North East Frontier Agency, North West Frontier Agency by the British Empire, and the Qing dynasty under the warlordswas expanding the Empire in Tibet and Sichuan. The 1890 treaty was signed between the British Empire and the Qing dynasty in China, 1914 Shimla Agreement between the British Empire, the Tibetans and the nationalist China are the two agreements being cited by China to stake legal claims over the region. The treaty of 1890 was signed but the delineation and demarcation did not happen subsequently, specifically in the Sikkim sector. In the 1914 Shimla Agreement, China was represented by Ivan Chen, LonchenShatra represented Tibet and McMahon represented the British-India Empire, yet this agreement is labelled as Imperialist in nature by the Chinese authorities. They have ignored the 1885 Treaty between France-controlled Vietnam and the Qing dynasty at the time. Therefore, selectively implementing treaties according to their own convenience is the issue at hand with China.
It is being said that one of the objectives of China is to test India’s resolve to defend its ally Bhutan in the case of a border dispute turning into a war. This current Doklam Standoff around the tri-junction of India-China-Bhutan border is an extension to the policy of encirclement being pursued by the Chinese around India. India has spent too much time on the ‘principles of Panchsheel in dealing with an aggressive state like China, the current standoff between the two neighbours at a strategic territory is a reflection of the change in this decades old approach by India towards China.
The May 2015 ‘White Paper on National Defence’ by China talks about Chinese armed forces protecting China’s interests abroad. In November 2014, President Xi Jinping addressed the fourth Foreign Affairs Work Conference and mentioned that the foreign ministry has to protect the interests of China abroad. Hence, the Foreign Ministry and the military is now showcasing a synchronised effort to secure their strategic interests at the Tibet region. China has adopted a strategy of legal, media and psychological warfare which was initiated in 2005. China is playing a psychological warfare through its state controlled media, cash-controlled global think tanks and tactical strategies by the PLA troops on the ground to aggravate India to enter into a war. It is using legal strategies to point out that India is entering a third-country i.e. Bhutan, forgetting for the moment that the Chinese entered the Korean war in the 1950s.
Doklam Standoff | Present
China can roughly mobilise about 28-30 divisions in all in the case of a conventional war which includes mobilisation of around 5 divisions in the Sikkim-Bhutan sector, 8 in the Arunachal sector, about 3 divisions in Barahoti (middle sector of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh) and roughly about 14 divisions in the Western sector. These divisions would be mobilised through the narrow passages because of the high Tibetan plateau region that makes it easier for the Chinese to push through such forts. Currently, China possesses around 62-63 division in the PLA, out of which they would have to muster around half of the strength towards India which is actually difficult for them, considering the volatile situation in China’s other long boundaries with other hostile nations. In the Sikkim-Bhutan sector, the Chinese face geographical issues because India is at the high ground over the hills, so the casualties can roughly be regarded as 33,000 on the other side. Hence, the Chinese would take a backseat in the conventional warfront. At the sub-conventional level, it is quite possible that the 158 monasteries that India has in the trans-Himalayan belt will come under stress due to the current standoff between India and China. Therefore, India needs to worry more about the sub-conventional warfare techniques of China, more than the conventional warfare strategies because it is untenable for China to go for it.
India is successfully holding to all the semantics played by China and the Government is responding to such semantics with appropriate responses at the most opportune times. As rightly pointed out by the India’s Defence Minister ArunJaitley,
Minister of Railways dedicated to the nation the first 1600 HP DEMU train with Solar Powered Coaches with a unique facility of Battery Bank.
The entire electrical need of the coaches for Lighting, Fans and Information Display System will be met from the Solar Energy produced from the solar panels fitted in the roofs of coaches.
While this train has been manufactured by the Coach Factory of Indian Railways namely Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, its Solar panels and Solar systems have been developed and fitted by Indian Railways Organisation of Alternative Fuel (IROAF) Delhi.
This first rake has been commissioned and based at Shakurbasti DEMU shed in Delhi of Northern Railway. Twenty-four more coaches will be fitted with this system within the next 6 months. The first rake will be put in the commercial service over the suburban railway system of Delhi division of Northern Railway.
Normally, DEMU trains provide power for its passenger comfort systems – lights and fans – from a diesel driven generator fitted on its Driving Power Car (DPC).
IROAF has developed this system with a smart MPPT inverter which optimises power generation on a moving train to cater to full load even during the night.
The unique feature of Battery Bank through storage battery ensures sufficient electricity when the sunlight is not available.
The system helps in reducing Diesel consumption of the DPC and hence reduces carbon signature of these commuter trains by reducing CO2 generation by 9 Tonnes per coach per year.
A solar power DEMU train with six trailer coaches will save about 21,000 Litres of Diesel and thereby bring cost saving of Rs.12 Lac every year. Savings for a 10 coach rake with 8 trailer coaches will increase proportionately. These benefits will continue for entire 25 years’ life time of the rake. This will help in making DEMU commuter services better, more economical and environment friendly.
Other important facts
Indian Railways is trying to increase use of non-conventional sources of energy. More solar powered trains may be inducted in future. Indian Railways has already made a target of 1000 MW Solar Plants in next five-years.
Indian Railways is also taking several others environment friendly measures like Tea Plantation, Bio-toilet, Water-Recycling, Waste Disposal, using Bio-fuel CNG and LNG, Wind Energy etc.