SASEC Road Connectivity Programme | PIB Summary

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for upgradation and widening of 65 kms of Imphal-Moreh Section of NH-39 in Manipur at a cost of Rs. 1630.29 crores.

SASEC  | Details

  • Manipur being a landlocked state with almost 90% of the area under difficult terrain presently has only road transport as a means of mass transport system within the state. Hence development of the road infrastructure is of paramount importance to improve connectivity and progress of the State and to ensure that the administrative set up reaches the isolated and remote habitats.
  • The project will improve connectivity between Imphal with the eastern part of the state. Based on the existing and projected traffic requirements the NH-39 will be widened to 4 lane between Lilong village and Wanginj village, while the stretch between Wanginj village to Khongkhang will be upgraded to 2 lane with paved shoulder.

SASEC  | Financing of the project

The project is being developed with ADB’s loan assistance under the South Asian Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Road Connectivity Investment Program which aims at upgradation of road infrastructure in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India (BBIN) in order to improve the regional connectivity among BBIN nations.

SASEC  | Significance

  • The project corridor is also a part of the Asian Highway No. 01 (AH01) and acts as India’s Gateway to the East. Thus trade, commerce and tourism in the region will get a boost.
  • The workers of Manipur who specialize in creating bamboo and wood based handicraft items and uniquely designed hand woven textile items will get a new market among the Myanmar’s customers.
  • Small scale industries such as those making farm implements and tools, stationery, plastic extrusion items, carpentry units, could also develop markets beyond the border.
  • Besides socio-economic development the project will also lead to reduction in average travel time along the project road by nearly 40%.
  • In addition, the new features of road safety namely vehicular underpasses, crash barriers, road signs & markings, service roads for segregation of slow and high moving traffic, truck lay-by, bus-bays etc. will help in greatly reducing accidents.
  • Improved highway and lesser travel time will lead to savings in terms of fuel cost.

SASEC  | Background

For fulfilling India’s “Look East” Policy and to promote and enhance trade link with South East Asia, the Government of India has notified an Integrated Custom Post (ICP) at Moreh. The development of this project is essential in order to support the increased traffic volume due to coming up of ICP.

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Air-Sewa Web Portal Upgraded

The Ministry of Civil Aviation held a meeting of all stakeholders last week to invite suggestions for designing Air Sewa 2.0, the upgraded version of the Air-Sewa Web Portal and mobile app that was launched in November last year to make air travel convenient and hassle-free.

Air-Sewa Web Portal | The Need

To provide a safe, and comfortable air travel experience to users. Flight delays, problem in refunds, long queues, inadequate facilities at airports and complaints of lost baggage are the most common problems that air travellers face.

­There was a need to respond to these problems in a systematic manner rather than on ad-hoc basis. ­The Ministry had launched AirSewa web portal and mobile app on 26.11.2016 to address this need.

Air-Sewa Web Portal

AirSewa is operated through an interactive web portal and a mobile app for both Android and iOS platforms. ­e-portal includes a mechanism for grievance redressal, back office operations for grievance handling, flight status/schedule information, airport Information and FAQs.

Air-Sewa Web Portal | New Features

  • Users can now check live flight status for all inbound and outbound flights in a single click.
  • Information regarding weather conditions and services for some selected airports is also available on this portal.
  • Flights can be searched by flight number or for all flights to or from a particular airport. Information such as airport services like wheel chair, transport/parking, rest and relax, Wifi services etc. can also be easily accessed.
  • Timely and satisfactory grievance redressal was an important priority as users had to approach several stakeholders to get their grievances redressed.
  • AirSewa is a one-stop solution for grievance redressal as passengers can now register any grievance on the mobile app or web portal.
  • Th­ey can also upload voice or video along with an elaborate description of their issues.

Air-Sewa Web Portal | Significance

  • Th­e portal has helped make the grievance redressal system responsive, transparent, accountable andefficient by using technology.
  • Users can now track the status and response through reference number provided. ­There are stipulated timelines in place to address the issue.
  • ­The portal is closely monitored by control room to ensure timely and effective redressal. A message is sent to the concerned nodal officer if any grievance remains unattended or unresolved.
  • To improve the user experience an option to provide feedback and rate the overall experience and satisfaction has been provided.

Darwaza Band For Open Defecation

The centre has launched an aggressive new campaign titled Darwaza Band to promote toilet use and freedom from open defecation across the country’s villages. The campaign produced by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) under Swachh Bharat Mission was launched in the presence of iconic actor, Shri Amitabh Bachchan.

About Darwaza Band Campaign

  • The ‘Darwaza Band’ campaign has been supported by the World Bank and is being rolled out countrywide immediately after the launch. It is designed to encourage behaviour change in men who have toilets but are not using them.
  • A part of the campaign also features actor, Ms Anushka Sharma, who will be seen encouraging women to stand up for this issue in their villages and assume a leadership role.
  • Behaviour change has been the focus of Swachh Bharat Mission, which is being pursued through a countrywide comprehensive IEC(Information-Education-Communication) programme. Communication campaigns have been taken up both, at the central and State levels, for promoting sustained use of toilets and for sustaining the Open Defecation Free status achieved.
  • The number of people defecating in the open has reduced from 55 crores in May 2014 to 35 crores in May 2017 i.e. there is an achievement of 64% ODF status countrywide.

India’s Longest Bridge

  • PM inaugurates Dhola-Sadiya bridge over river Brahmaputra: says enhanced connectivity of the North East a priority for the Government.
  • Highways projects worth Rs 1, 50,000 crores to be taken up in the North East in the next two years.
  • The Union Government has decided to name the Dhola-Sadiya bridge after the great musician, lyricist, and poet, Bhupen Hazarika.

Introduction | India’s Longest Bridge

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, inaugurated India’s longest bridge – the 9.15 km long Dhola-Sadiya bridge over the River Brahmaputra, in Assam.

Significance | India’s Longest Bridge

  • The bridge will ensure 24X7 connectivity between upper Assam and Eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh, marking a major transformation from the ferry-based, day-only connectivity that collapsed during floods.
  • It will also reduce the distance and travel time between the two states. The distance between Rupai on NH- 37 in Assam to Meka/Roing on NH-52 in Arunachal Pradesh will be cut down by 165 KM. The travel time between the two places will come down from the current six hours to just one hour – a total five-hour reduction.

More details | India’s Longest Bridge

The total length of the Dhola-Sadiya Bridge project, including the approach roads on each side, is 28.50 km. The length of the bridge itself is 9.15 Km. It has been constructed on BOT-Annuity basis at a total cost of Rs 2,056 crore, as part of the Arunachal Package of Roads and Highways under the Ministry’s SPECIAL ACCELERATED ROAD DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME for NORTH EAST (SARDP-NE). The objective was to bring the people of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh closer to each other.

Additional Funds Arranged For National Waterways

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has accorded its approval today to a proposal jointly mooted by the Ministry of Shipping and the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) for amendment of Central Road Fund Act, 2000 to allocate 2.5 percent of the proceeds of Central Road Fund (CRF) for development and maintenance of National Waterways (NWs) and a reduction in the share provided for development of National Highways.

Additional Information | National Waterways 

  • The Cabinet has also directed that while implementing viable National Waterways projects, all such components that can be done on PPP basis, should be explored accordingly and government funding may be used only if private investment is not forthcoming for any component
  • The Central Road Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2017 would be moved by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways in the ensuing Monsoon Session, 2017 of the Parliament.

Impact | National Waterways 

  • An allocation of 2.5 per cent of CRF proceeds would provide approximately Rs.2000 crore per annum for the development and maintenance of NWs at existing rates of duties funding the CRF. The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has estimated that approximately Rs. 25,000 crores would be required for the development of identified projects on NWs till 2022-23.
  • In this regard, works for construction of multimodal terminals, new navigation lock, River Information System, development of fairway etc., have already commenced under the Jal Marg Vikas Project being implemented on NW-1 (River Ganga). IWAI also has planned to undertake work on the development of 24 NWs during the next three years.
  • It is estimated that 1.8 lakh persons would be provided employment in the Inland Waterways Transport (IWT) sector in the next five years. New employment opportunities are expected to be generated for operation and management of fairway, terminals, aids to navigation, barges, training, etc. Further, development of additional 106 NWs will create additional job opportunities. 

Background | National Waterways 

  • The Government has been emphasizing the importance of developing Inland Water Transport Sector for the national economy. The National Waterways Act, 2016 for developing and maintaining the existing five NWs and new 106 NWs has been passed by Parliament and is now enforced.
  • The arrangement approved by the Cabinet; would make available adequate and sustainable source of funding for NWs through institutional means of CRF. This is one more step towards promotion of Inland Water Transport sector as a cost-effective, logistically efficient and environment-friendly sector which would contribute in diverting traffic from the over congested roads and railways and offer an incentive and provide certainty for private companies to invest in the sector. It is estimated that a standard 2000 DWT vessel has the potential to transport 125 Truck Loads and almost one complete train rake (40 rail wagons) load on existing road and rail infrastructure.

Digital India Corporation

Significance | Digital India Corporation

  • Digital India Corporation (DIC) will lead and guide in realizing the vision, objectives and goals of the Digital India program.
  • t will provide the strategic support to Ministries/Departments of Centre/States for carrying forward the mission of Digital India by way of Capacity Building for e-Governance projects, promoting best practises, encouraging Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), nurturing innovation and technology in various domains.
  • To ensure autonomy and viability of the organisation in the long run, the DIC, will also collaborate and mobilise partnerships with the industry, to evolve revenue based models for service delivery.
  • To undertake these functions, Digital India Corporation will attract talent and resources both from government and market. The judicious mix of talent will ensure that government is equipped with a broad spectrum of resources for successful design of Digital India related projects.

Responsibilities of Digital India Corporation

  • To provide leadership and support to Government of India through MeitY, to steer and anchor Digital India and all related policy and implementation initiatives. To promote digital transactions including digital payments through various medium.
  • To support MeitY in all its initiatives with policy and implementation related issues concerning various ongoing programmes & schemes in ICT domain and new initiatives necessitated as part of the Digital India vision.
  • To support Ministries/Departments, both at Centre as well as at States and other stakeholders in crafting progressive e-Governance strategies, to promote Accountability, Efficiency, Efficacy and Transparency.
  • To source and make available from both the market as well as within government, pool of specialized technically skilled manpower for hardware, software, networks, cyber security and laws, standards, quality and testing etc. in ICT domain to Ministries/Deptts. on charge basis under the Central and State Government.
  • To promote innovation and evolve models for empowerment of citizens through Digital initiatives and to promote participatory governance and citizen engagement across the government through various platforms including social media.
  • To establish the National e-Governance Academy and to put in place an institutional mechanism for capacity building of government and its agencies, including assessment and evolution of suitable training packages/modules for capacity building for the Centre and States for Human Capital formation to enhance competitiveness for successful implementation of various projects/schemes in ICT domain to cut on cost and time over run.

Tejas Train

Minister of Railways Shri Suresh PrabhakarPrabhu inspected the Rake of Tejas Train.
Background

  • Tejas Express is a semi high speed train having modern on board facilities, enhanced passenger comfort and showcases the future of Train travel in India.
  • Tejas Express is set to be introduced soon. The coaches are manufactured at Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala.
  • The newly designed coaches are capable of running at a speed of 200 km/h but due to constraints related to rail tracks these coaches will run at a speed of 160 km/h.
  • Speed potential of 200 Kmph was achieved by providing Steel brake disc, Sintered pads, Electro-pneumatic assist Brake system.

Highlights
The first rake comprising 19 coaches including sixteen non-executive and two executive chair cars besides one power coach was inspected by Minister of Railways today. One Executive Coach will be turned into a Smart Coach at a later date having extra facilities as announced in the Budget 2016-17.
Features of Tejas Train

  • Bio-vacuum toilets (less water consumption and hygienic)
  • Water level indicators
  • Touchless Water Taps, Soap dispenser
  • Marble finish Anti-graffiti coating
  • Hand dryers
  • New design Dust bin
  • Vinyl Wrapped specially designed exteriors
  • Automatic entrance plug type doors (provides better sound and heat insulation, can be controlled by Guard panel)
  • Secured gangways (reduce sound levels, dirt, sand, water ingress, increase passenger safety & Comfort, energy efficiency, elegant design)
  • Electro Pneumatic Air brakes
  • Fire & smoke detection and suppression system.
  • Fire suppression system in Power car.
  • CCTV cameras for security
  • GPS based Passenger Information Display System
  • Call bell integrated with berth reading light.
  • Digital Destination Boards
  • Integrated braille displays
  • E-Leather as improved upholstery
  • Redesigned backrest with higher height
  • Redesigned armrest
  • Leg support for Executive Chair Car with gas spring
  • Energy Efficient LED Lights
  • LED TV with Touch Control for each passenger (with recorded content, can be upgraded to Live TV)
  • Provided with USB charging facility
  • Magazines
  • Tea and Coffee vending machines
  • Snack tables
  • Local cuisine
  • Celebrity Chef Menu

Fuel Supply Agreement

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the signing of Fuel Supply Agreement (FSA) with the Letter of Assurance (LoA) holders.

Details of the Fuel Supply Agreement

  • Allocation of linkages for power sector shall be based on the auction of linkages or through Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) based on the competitive bidding of tariffs except for the State and the Central Power Generating companies and the exceptions provided in Tariff Policy, 2016. Coal drawal will be permitted against valid Long Term PPAs and to be concluded Medium Term PPAs.
  • The approved framework ensures that all projects with linkages are supplied coal as per their entitlement. This will ensure the rights of coal supplies for FSA holders and signing of FSA with LoA holders.
  • Allocation of linkages in future will be transparent and bidding based, barring some exceptions as per Tariff Policy. Future allocation/grant of linkages will be based on auction and/or tariff based bidding.  It attempts to make the optimal allocation of the vital natural resource across the power units.

Fuel Supply Agreement | Background 

  • The coal supply to the TPPs has been made as per the provisions of the New Coal Distribution Policy (NCDP), 2007. Till 2010, CIL had issued LoA for approximately 1,08,000 MW capacity and no new LoAs were issued thereafter due to the prevailing scarcity scenario.
  • The CCEA decision of 21.06.13 directed CIL to sign FSA with TPPs of about 78,000 MW capacity. The coal availability scenario has, now, emerged from scarcity to adequacy.
  • In this adequate coal availability scenario, the present policy proposes a fading away of the old linkage allocation policy and the emergence of a new linkage allocation policy based on transparent and objective criteria for the optimal utilization of the natural resources.
  • Coal linkage to the power sector is governed by provisions of the NCDP, 2007. Under the NCDP, a system of issuance of LoA was introduced wherein requests for Linkage/LoA are forwarded to MoP for its recommendations. These recommendations are placed before the Standing Linkage Committee (SLCLT) which authorizes the issue of LoA.

Fuel Supply Agreement | Benefits of the Policy

  • Coal available to all Power Plants in transparent and objective manner.
  • Auction to be made the basis of linkage allocations to IPPs; cheaper and affordable POWER FOR ALL.
  • The Stress on account of non-availability of linkages to Power Sector Projects shall be overcome. Good for the Infrastructure and banking Sector.
  • PPA holders to reduce tariff for linkage; the Direct benefit of the reduced tariff to Discom/consumers.

Boost To Transform Domestic Nuclear Industry

In a significant decision to fast-track India’s domestic nuclear power program, and give a push to country’s nuclear industry, the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for construction of 10 units of India’s indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR)The total installed capacity of the Plants will be 7000 MW. The 10 PHWR project will result in a significant augmentation of nuclear power generation capacity.

Focus – Cabinet approves construction of 10 units of India’s indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR)

Analysis

  • India has current installed nuclear power capacity of 6780 MW from 22 operational plants.
  • Another 6700 MWs of nuclear power is expected to come on-stream by 2021-22 through projects presently under construction.
  • In a first of its kind project for India’s nuclear power sector, the ten new units will come up in the fleet mode as a fully home-grown initiative. It would be one of the flagship “Make in India” projects in this sector.

Significance

  • With likely manufacturing orders of close to 70,000 crores to the domestic industry, the project will help transform Indian nuclear industry by linking our goal of a strong nuclear power sector with our indigenous industrial capacities in high-end technologies.
  • This Project will bring about substantial economies of scale and maximize cost and time efficiencies by adopting fleet mode for execution. It is expected to generate more than 33,400 jobs in direct and indirect employment. With manufacturing orders to domestic industry, it will be a major step towards strengthening India’s credentials as a major nuclear manufacturing powerhouse.
  • The ten reactors will be part of India’s latest design of 700 MW PHWR fleet with state-of-art technology meeting the highest standards of safety.
  • The approval also marks a statement of strong belief in the capability of India’s scientific community to build our technological capacities. The design and development of this project is a testament to the rapid advances achieved by India’s nuclear scientific community and industry. It underscores the mastery our nuclear scientists have attained over all aspects of indigenous PHWR technology. India’s record of building and operating PHWR reactors over the last nearly forty years is globally acclaimed.  
  • The Cabinet’s decision reflects the Government’s commitment to prioritize the use of clean power in India’s energy mix, as part of low-carbon growth strategy and to ensure long-term base load requirement for the nation’s industrialization.
  • It also supports India’s commitment to sustainable development, energy self-sufficiency and bolsters global efforts to combat climate change.

SAGARMALA convergence with DDUGKY | PIB Summary

For skills development of youth in coastal areas, the Ministry of Shipping signed a MoU with theMinistry of Rural Development in New Delhi today. The MoU is for SAGARMALA convergence – Ministry’ prestigious project and Ministry of Rural Development’s flagship program DeenDayalUpadhyayGrameenKaushalyaYojana (DDU GKY).

Highlights | SAGARMALA convergence

  • DDU-GKY is expected to bring in its skilling expertise to provide skilling for the coastal communities, thereby preparing them to take advantage of the job opportunities that are expected to come up in the maritime sector following port-led development under Sagarmala.
  • This MoU will meet the exact skill needs of industries in the port and maritime sector and provide the coastal communities right skills for better opportunities emanating from the large scale impact of Sagarmala projects.
  • With skill development, there will be close involvement of the coastal communities in Sagarmala and will make them contributors in the economic development and will ensure the inclusive growth of the coastal districts of the country.
  • The Centre is planning to facilitate fisherman with mechanized trawlers that will allow them to fish till 30-40 Nautical Miles in the international ocean. This will generate employment opportunities for youth in coastal areas, as fishing is a big industry, which involves processing, packaging, and export of fish and other sea produce.
  • There is a need to develop tourism around lighthouses in coastal areas, as this will provide employment to rural youth in these areas.

Analysis | SAGARMALA convergence

  • After this MoU agreement, rural youth and women of coastal areas will be able to develop skills for Maritime, Shipping and Port Management. Under the skill development pilot project, around 7,000 persons have been already been trained and out of this 600 people have been already got employment.
  • The Coastal Communities are key stakeholders in the Sagarmala Programme and their skill development and livelihood is an important objective of the program. A budget of Rs.100 Cr. has been allocated under Sagarmala for coastal community development activities.
  • Before execution, understanding the exact requirement is a key step and therefore, an on-ground survey for an accurate understanding of skill needs of 21 coastal districts has been done so that the training programs can be aligned to the exact requirements.
  • Along with the Skill gap studies, District Action Plans have been made in consultation with the State Governments and districts concerned and training will commence from May 2017. Specific training needs have been identified for more than 60000 trainees in the next phase through more than 100+ skill projects.

Significance | SAGARMALA convergence

  • The primary goal of the Skills and Livelihoods in Sagarmala is to meet the exact skill needs of industries in the port and maritime sector and provide the coastal communities right skills for better opportunities emanating from the large scale impact of Sagarmala projects.
  • It is expected that the close involvement of the coastal communities in Sagarmala will make them contributors in the economic development and will ensure the inclusive growth of the coastal districts of the country.