The road to e-vehicles
Jharkhand government is planning to introduce electric vehicles (e-vehicles) for official use. The Jharkhand government is acquiring electric vehicles in phases and setting up charging stations at several places for e-vehicles. The soaring fuel prices and spectre of climate change looming large over the planet the government is taking the lead in switching to e-vehicles. It is also in sync with India’s strong pitch in favour of electric vehicles at the recently held Global Mobility Summit in New Delhi.
MOVE: Global Mobility Summit
It is the first of its kind summit to be organized by NITI Aayog, in collaboration with various ministries and industry partners to promote new cleaner, accessible modes of transport. It is aimed at bringing together and engaging with key stakeholders within rapidly transforming global mobility landscape and evolve public interest framework for shared, connected, zero emission agenda for the future. It also aims to encourage synergies between indigenous industries such as automobile manufacturing, information technology, electronics, telecommunications to integrate with global supply chains. It also envisages mobility as key driver for generating employment, providing innovative solutions to improve efficiency and efficacy of transport sector and accelerate economic growth. It will help to drive government’s goals for vehicle electrification, renewable energy integration and job growth and also speed up India’s transition to a clean energy economy.
Government sets up Injeti Srinivas High Level Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility
The Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has constituted High Level Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility – 2018 (HLC-2018) under Chairmanship of Injeti Srinivas, Secretary, MCA. It will review existing framework and guide and formulate roadmap for coherent policy on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
CSR is referred as initiative undertaken by CST to assess and take responsibility for company’s effects on environment and impact on social welfare and to promote positive social and environmental change. Its basic philosophy is that income is earned only from the society and therefore it should be given back. Thus, CSR aims at promoting responsible and sustainable business through inclusive growth. The provisions of section 135 of Companies Act, 2013 (Act) pertains to CSR. The existing provisions of in Companies Act, 2013 fully empower Board of Company to decide on their CSR Policy, approve projects and oversee implementation. Under this Act, any company with net worth of Rs 500 crore or more or turnover of Rs 1000 crore or more o net profit of Rs 5 crore or more has to spend at least 2% of last 3 years average net profits on CSR activities as specified in Schedule VII of Act.
Open Acreage Licensing Programme (OALP)
Government of India recently signed the contracts of the blocks awarded under the Open Acreage Licensing Programme (OALP) Bid Round-I with the awardees. The bid round-I of OALP was launched in January 2018 under the liberalized Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP). It is for the first time that bidding in the E&P sector in India was for blocks that had been selected by bidders themselves with government playing a facilitator role.
Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP): The OALP, a part of the government’s Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP), gives exploration companies the option to select the exploration blocks on their own, without having to wait for the formal bid round from the Government. The company then submits an application to the government, which puts that block up for bid. The new policy will open up 2.8 million square kilometres of sedimentary basins for exploration and eventual production.
Hydrocarbon Exploration & Licensing Policy (HELP): The Hydrocarbon Exploration & Licensing Policy (HELP) opens up India’ entire sedimentary basin for investment from domestic and foreign players under a simplified, transparent and investor -friendly fiscal and administrative regime. The new policy aims to provide Investors a ready access to huge amount of seismic data available in National Data Repository (NDR), flexibility to carve out exploration acreages through an open acreage licensing process and increased operational autonomy through a new revenue sharing model. The National Data Repository (NDR) manifested through an open acreage licensing (OAL) process will be a key facilitator by providing seamless access to India’s entire E&P data process through a digital medium to all investors with the objective of harnessing the potential of India’s large basinal area. Open Acreage Licensing Policy and the National Data Repository together are a significant and welcome step towards opening up the hydrocarbon exploration and production industry in India. By placing greater discretion in the hands of explorers and operators, the Licensing Policy attempts to address a major drawback in the New Exploration Licensing Policy, which forced energy explorers to bid for blocks chosen by the government. Such initiatives help India attract enough investment to meet the government’s objective of reducing oil imports by 10% by 2022.
There’s a compelling opportunity for gas, which India must seize to reduce import dependency and shift to a lower carbon trajectory. HELP is more about gas than oil. While the overall thrust is positive, concerns regarding the contractual regime and gas pricing formula remain, and will need to be addressed.
It is a National Level Entrepreneurship Awareness Campaign launched by Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) on the occasion of Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The campaign has been launched in 115 Aspirational Districts identified by NITI Aayog in 28 States. The campaign would create and strengthen cadre of more than 800 trainers to provide entrepreneurship training to the aspiring youths across these districts thus encouraging them to enter the admired segment of entrepreneurs. SIDBI has partnered with CSC e-Governance Services India Limited, a Special Purpose Vehicle, (CSC SPV) set up by the Ministry of Electronics & IT, Govt. of India for implementing the campaign through their CSCs.
The objectives of the missionary campaign include: To inspire rural youth in aspirational districts to be entrepreneurs by assisting them to set up their own enterprise. To impart trainings through digital medium across the country. To create business opportunities for CSC VLEs. To focus on women aspirants in these aspirational districts to encourage women entrepreneurship. To assist participants to become bankable and avail credit facility from banks to set up their own enterprise. Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) was set up on 2nd April 1990 under an Act of Parliament.
It acts as the Principal Financial Institution for Promotion, Financing and Development of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) sector as well as for co-ordination of functions of institutions engaged in similar activities.
Global Skills Park (GSP)
Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India have signed a $150 million Loan Agreement to establish a Global Skills Park (GSP) in Madhya Pradesh.
Global Skills Park (GSP): It will be the First Multi-Skills Park in India, to enhance the quality of Technical and Vocational Education And Training (TVET) System in the State and create a more skilled workforce. The Project will engage international TVET partners to support advanced training at the GSP who will bring global best practices in TVET management, training infrastructure, industry cooperation, and quality assurance. The GSP campus will consist of core Advanced Training Institutes including the Center for Occupational Skills Acquisition and the Center for Advanced Agricultural Training as well as other support services focusing on entrepreneurship, training of trainers, and skill-related research. The campus will have training facilities focusing on skills for manufacturing, service, and advanced agricultural jobs, benefitting about 20,000 trainees and trainers.
Asian Development Bank (ADB): Established in 1966
HQ : Manila, Philippines
It is a multi-lateral lending agency
It is modeled on the World Bank
It has a similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed based on member’s capital subscriptions.
ADB borrows from international capital markets with its capital as guarantee
Japan and USA are its major donors.
There has been criticism that ADB’s large scale projects cause social and environmental damage due to lack of oversight
India has about 6% voting rights (4th highest; Japan highest, USA 2nd highest)
It is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region including India.
It is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration.
It provides finance to both sovereign countries as well as to the private parties.
It provides hard loans to middle-income countries and soft loans to poorer countries.
Draft Mariculture policy proposes special zones, offshore technology parks
National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) has formulated a draft national policy on mariculture with Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI).
Mariculture zones: Mariculture zones will be established by demarcating special areas in the sea for activities such as cage farming, bivalve farming, pen culture, seaweed culture, hatcheries and nurseries based on scientific criteria. It suggested farming of genetically modified (GM) species in closed mariculture systems. The policy allows farming exotic and genetically modified species in closed mariculture systems after stringent risk assessment and monitoring.
Objective of the policy: To enhance mariculture production in the country,increase income and employment opportunities in a sustainable way, promoting entrepreneurship by facilitating technical and financial inputs
Identifying potential zones through remote sensing: Satellite remote sensing data and GIS will be used to identify potential zones for mariculture on the basis of scientific to avoid conflict with other users and protecting the livelihoods of local fishing communities.
Mariculture technology parks: Sea areas identified using GIS and remote sensing will be designated as mariculture technology parks by the respective States.
Exceptions in the selection of zones: Marine protected areas, ecologically sensitive areas such as coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, and other coastal areas with strategic interest will not be considered for mariculture zones.
Offshore technology parks: To support fish breeding, culture, packaging and trade, the policy proposes encouraging the establishment of off-shore technology parks and coastal embankment systems.
Funding support: The policy advises the government to formulate financial assistance programmes, including prioritised lending.
The National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) was established in 2006 as an autonomous organization under the administrative control of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India to enhance fish production and productivity in the country and to coordinate fishery development in an integrated and holistic manner.
What We Do
· To provide focussed attention to fisheries and aquaculture (Production. Processing, Storage, Transport and marketing)
· To achieve sustainable management and conservation of natural aquatic resources
· To apply modern tools of research and development for optimizing production and productivity from fisheries.
· To provide modern infrastructure mechanisms for effective fisheries management and optimum utilization
· To train and empower women in the fisheries sector and also generate substantial employment
· To enhance the contribution of the fish toward food and nutritional security
Holistic development of the fisheries sector through enhancement of fish production and productivity; to supplement nutritious protein for the growing population; to accelerate the overall economy of the country, besides improving health, economy, exports, employment and tourism in the country.
The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute is the largest marine fisheries research institute in India located at Kochi, India. It is an Indian Council of Agricultural Research institute. The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute established by the government of India under the Ministry of Agriculture in 1947 became a member of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) family in 1967. The headquarters was shifted from Mandapam Camp to Cochin in 1971. A project named “Samudra” intends to help fishermen easily locate shoals of fish without wasting time and fuel
Union Ministry of Civil Aviation has released policy on biometric based digital processing of passengers at airports called Digi Yatra. With this initiative, ticket booking, airport entry and boarding pass security check-in will be made digital.
Digi Yatra: The initiative seeks to promote paperless and hassle-free air travel. It will be operational by end of February, 2019 at Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports. In later phase, Airports Authority of India (AAI) will roll out this initiative at Kolkata, Varanasi, Pune and Vijayawada airports by April 2019. Under it, there will be one-time verification at departure airport while travelling for first time using ID. After successful verification, facial recognition biometric will be captured and stored in Digi Yatra ID. For this system, passengers will be registered through centralized system and will be given Digi Travel ID. This ID will include details such as names of passengers, their e-mail id, mobile number and any other identity card in case of non-basis. Travelers can also use this ID when booking tickets.
What is Monetary Policy and Monetary Policy Committee (MPC)?
To achieve the goals of broad economic policy, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) uses monetary policy to control inflation, interest rates, supply of money and credit availability. The RBI has a government-constituted Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) which is tasked with framing monetary policy using tools like the repo rate, reverse repo rate, bank rate, cash reserve ratio (CRR).
Composition of MPC: The committee will have six members. Of the six members, the government will nominate three. No government official will be nominated to the MPC. The other three members would be from the RBI with the governor being the ex-officio chairperson. Deputy governor of RBI in charge of the monetary policy will be a member, as also an executive director of the central bank.
Decision: Decisions will be taken by majority vote with each member having a vote.
RBI governor’s role: The RBI Governor will chair the committee. The governor, however, will not enjoy a veto power to overrule the other panel members, but will have a casting vote in case of a tie.
Selection: The government nominees to the MPC will be selected by a Search-cum-Selection Committee under Cabinet Secretary with RBI Governor and Economic Affairs Secretary and three experts in the field of economics or banking or finance or monetary policy as its members.
Term: Members of the MPC will be appointed for a period of four years and shall not be eligible for reappointment.
One in three companies in India prefer hiring men: World Economic Forum study
A recent World Economic Forum (WEF) study has found that women are entering the workforce at a slower rate than current female workforce participation. The WEF “Future of Work in India” report prepared with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) surveyed 770 companies, from micro-sized firms to those employing more than 25,000 workers, across four industries i.e., textiles, banking and financial services, logistics and transportation, and retail to understand how technology impacts the workforce. The report takes into consideration worldwide concern that technology adoption may displace human workers, leading to jobless growth.
Findings of the study: The findings indicate that there is overall technology-led job growth, but men are disproportionately reaping the benefits.
Preference: While only 11 per cent of the companies surveyed stated they wanted to hire more women, 36 percent of companies reported a preference for men. The study also found that these companies prefer hiring men and that technology-led job growth benefits men more than women.
Presence of women at workplace: The survey also found that currently, a third of the companies had no female employees, 71 per cent have fewer than 10 per cent female workers, and only 2.4 per cent have half or more females.
Sector-wise gender data: The retail sector had the most companies with no female employees at 45 per cent, followed by transport and logistics at 36 per cent. Companies in both sectors also stated they prefer hiring men the most, at 43 and 48 per cent respectively.
Trend towards informality: The study also found that the workforce is trending toward independent, freelance and informal labour that, again, give men the advantage. Of the companies surveyed, 22 per cent will replace permanent workers with contract workers in the next five years.
NMCE: The rise, fall and survival of India’s oldest commodity exchange
In September 2018, the nation’s oldest commodity exchange National Multi-Commodity Exchange of India Ltd (NMCE) is merged with the India Commodity Exchange Limited (ICEX). A commodity exchange is an exchange where various commodities, derivative products, agriculture products and other raw materials are traded. These exchanges usually trade futures contracts in commodities.
Future contracts– is a forward contract, a legal agreement to buy or sell something at a predetermined price at a specified time in the future
Examples of commodity exchanges in India
The commodity exchanges in India includes- National Spot Exchange Limited (NSEL), India Commodity Exchange Limited (ICEX), Multi Commodity Exchange of India (MCX), National Multi-Commodity Exchange of India Ltd (NMCE), National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Limited (NCDEX), etc.
Regulation of commodity exchanges
The commodity market in India is regulated by SEBI since September 2015. Prior to that Forward Market Commission under Ministry of Consumer Affairs regulated Commodities market in India.
Drought: govt. asks farmers to go for short duration crops
Some of the state governments have suggested its farmers to cultivate short duration crops to save themselves against impact of drought. Short duration crops include varieties like jowar, horsegram, cowpea, korra, red, green and black gram. Due to the drought conditions and deficient rainfall in some states, the farmers have lost four months of kharif season. Hence, long duration crops like paddy, cotton and red gram are not practical. Even if a farmer goes for long duration variety, the yield cannot be expected. Hence, the push for millets and pulses. As part of drought mitigation measures, the Zeba, a chemical product, is being used to enhancing the moisture retention capacity of soil on a pilot basis in selected districts of the Andhra Pradesh state. It is being given to the farmers under 100% subsidy during kharif. The Zeba is expected to help during water-stress periods and overcome the problems caused by deficit rainfall.
Fiscal sops for SEZs must be linked to investments, jobs: Panel
The committee headed by Baba Kalyani has proposed reincarnation of SEZs in India as ‘Employment and Economic Enclaves (3Es). The committee has proposed overhaul of the SEZ policy by shifting fiscal incentives from exports to investments made and employment generated. A special economic zone (SEZ) is an area in which business and trade laws are different from the rest of the country. For example- taxation benefits to units in SEZs. SEZs are located within a country’s national borders. SEZ aims include: increased trade, increased investment, job creation and effective administration,etc. The committee emphasized on development of last-mile and first-mile connectivity infrastructure. Supply of power directly to units in SEZ from Independent Power Producer (IPPs) at competitive prices. Integrated MSMEs with the 3E’s and giving additional incentives to zones focusing on priority industries. Tax benefits to be retained for the services sector. The committee suggested that flexibility should be considered to enable 3E units to seamlessly support businesses outside the zone.
Objective of the committee: To make the SEZ policy WTO-compatible, Encouraging manufacturing and the services sector,Maximizing utilization of vacant land in SEZs.
IMF projects India’s growth at 7.3% in 2018
IMF projects India to grow at 7.3% in 2018 and 7.4% in 2019.
International Monetary Fund: IMF is an international organization consisting of 189 member countries. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C. It is working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.
World Economic Outlook: The World Economic Outlook (WEO) is a survey conducted and published by the International Monetary Fund.
It is published biannually. It portrays the world economy in the near and medium context, with projections for up to four years into the future. India had registered 6.7% growth rate in 2017. India’s medium-term growth remains strong benefitting from the ongoing structural reforms like GST, the inflation-targeting framework, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy code, steps to liberalise foreign investment and improvement in ease of doing ranking.
SEBI allows foreign entities to participate in commodity derivatives market
Capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has allowed foreign entities to participate in commodity derivatives market of stock exchanges for hedging their exposures. Prior to this, foreign entities were not permitted to directly participate in Indian commodity derivatives market, even if they imported or exported various commodities from and to India. The foreign entities participating in Indian commodity markets shall be known as eligible foreign entities (EFEs). They will be eligible for all commodity derivatives traded on Indian exchanges except for those contracts defined as sensitive commodity. All eligible EFEs are mandated to have actual exposure to Indian physical commodity markets with minimum net worth requirement of $500,000. They are also required to fulfil know-your-client (KYC) requirements mandated by Indian anti-money laundering laws in line with equivalent category of foreign portfolio investors (FPIs). The hedge limits for EFEs will be determined on merits, depending on applicant’s actual exposure to commodity, hedging requirement and other factors.
Commodity Market: It is physical or virtual marketplace for buying, selling and trading raw or primary products. Thus, it is market that trades in primary economic sector rather than manufactured products. Commodities in this market are split into two types: hard and soft commodities. Hard commodities are typically natural resources that must be mined or extracted (such as gold, oil), whereas soft commodities are agricultural products or livestock (such as, wheat, cotton, corn, coffee, sugar, soybeans and pork). In India commodity market is market where different commodities are traded on its derivative contract. Derivatives are contract whose value is derived from underlying asset or contract where delivery of security or commodity held on specific future date. The main purpose of commodity derivative is to reduce risk of future price uncertainty and provide industry knowledge as well investment opportunity to general investor.
Union Cabinet approves Productivity linked bonus for Railway Employees
Union Cabinet has approved the payment of Productivity Linked Bonus (PLB) equivalent to 78 days’ wages for financial year 2017-18 for all eligible non-gazetted Railway employees. It will be not available to Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel. This decision will benefit about 11.91 lakh non-gazetted Railway employees.
Productivity Linked Bonus on Railway: It covers all non-gazetted railway employees (excluding RPF personnel) who are spread over entire country. The eligible railway employees are paid this bonus each year before Dusshera/ Puja holidays. This bonus is expected to motivate employees for working towards improving performance of Railways. Indian Railways was the first departmental undertaking of Central Government to adopt concept of PLB in 1979-80. The main consideration introduction of PLB at that time was important role of Railways as infrastructural support in performance of economy as whole. In the overall context of Indian Railways working, PLB was introduced as against concept of bonus on lines of ‘The Payment of Bonus Act – 1965.
Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
The World Economic Forum has announced its new Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in India, which would aim to bring together the government and business leaders to pilot emerging technology policies.
The centre would be based in Maharashtra and it has selected drones, artificial intelligence and blockchain as the first three project areas.
It will work in collaboration with the government on a national level to co-design new policy frameworks and protocols for emerging technology alongside leaders from business, academia, start-ups and international organizations.
NITI Aayog will coordinate the partnership on behalf of the government and the work of the centre among multiple ministries. The WEF has also entered into partnerships with the Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh governments for the new initiative and more states would be roped in going forward.
Projects will be scaled across India and globally. As part of the WEF’s global network, the new centre in India will work closely with project teams in San Francisco, Tokyo and Beijing, where such Centres are already present.
What is Fourth Industrial Revolution?
As described by the founder and executive chairman of WEF, Klaus Schwab, “the fourth industrial revolution is a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another”.
1st industrial revolution: The first Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the last quarter of the 18th century with the mechanisation of the textile industry, harnessing of steam power, and birth of the modern factory.
2nd industrial revolution: The Second Industrial Revolution, from the last third of the nineteenth century to the outbreak of World War I, was powered by developments in electricity, transportation, chemicals, steel, and mass production and consumption. Industrialization spread even further – to Japan after the Meiji Restoration and deep into Russia, which was booming at the outset of World War I. During this era, factories could produce countless numbers of identical products quickly and cheaply.
3rd industrial revolution: The third industrial revolution, beginning c. 1970, was digital — and applied electronics and information technology to processes of production. Mass customisation and additive manufacturing — the so-called ‘3D printing’ — are its key concepts, and its applications, yet to be imagined fully, are quite mind-boggling.
How different will be the 4th industrial revolution?
There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact.
The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace.
Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.
The 4th revolution will be characterized by the advent of cyber-physical systems which, while being reliant on the technologies and infrastructure of the third industrial revolution, represent entirely new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even our human bodies. Examples include genome editing, new forms of machine intelligence, and breakthrough approaches to governance that rely on cryptographic methods such as blockchain.
Hence, it can be said that the 4th industrial revolution is conceptualised as an upgrade on the third revolution and is marked by a fusion of technologies straddling the physical, digital and biological worlds.
Sikkim awarded FAO’s Future Policy Gold Award for 100% organic farming
Sikkim was awarded UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Future Policy Gold Award (Gold Prize) for its achievement in becoming the world’s first totally organic agriculture state. Sikkim beat out 51 other nominees from around the world for the award. Policies from Brazil, Denmark and Quito (Ecuador) were joinlty Silver Awards.
Future Policy Gold Award: The prizes honour exceptional policies adopted by political leaders who have decided to act, no longer accepting widespread hunger, poverty or environmental degradation. This award in nicknamed the “Oscar for best policies”. Previously it was honoured for policies combating desertification, violence against women and girls, nuclear weapons and pollution of the oceans. This year’s award based on central focus of agroecology policies and was co-organised by FAO, World Future Council (WFC) and IFOAM – Organics International. Agroecology has potential to increase farmers’ earnings and make farms more resilient to climate change as erratic rainfall and extended dry periods hamper food production. Sikkim is first organic state in the world and all farmlands in the state are certified organic. State’s policy approach reaches beyond organic production and has proven transformational for its citizens. It primarily focuses socioeconomic aspects such as consumption and market expansion, cultural aspects as well as health, education, rural development and sustainable tourism. The policy implemented by state of organic farming has phased out chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and achieved total ban on sale and use of chemical pesticides in the state. The transition has benefitted more than 66000 farming families in state. Transition to 100% organic state also has greatly benefited its tourism sector and numbers of tourists have increased by over 50% between 2014 and 2017. With this Sikkim has set excellent example for other Indian states and countries worldwide for successfully upscale agroecology.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): It is specialised agency of UN that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Its parent organization is UN Economic and Social Council (UNESC). It was established on 16 October 1945 and its headquarters are in Rome, It has 194 member states, along with European Union (member organization).
The World Future Council (WFC) is an independent body formally founded in Hamburg, Germany on 10 May 2007. “Formed to speak on behalf of policy solutions that serve the interests of future generations”, it includes members active in governmental bodies, civil society, business, science and the arts. The WFC’s primary focus has been climate security, promoting laws such as the renewable energy Feed-in tariff. The World Future Council has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council. A feed-in tariff is a policy mechanism designed to accelerate investment in renewable energy technologies. It achieves this by offering long-term contracts to renewable energy producers, typically based on the cost of generation of each technology.
The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM – Organics International) is the worldwide umbrella organization for the organic agriculture movement, which represents close to 800 affiliates in 117 countries. It declares its mission is to, “Lead, unite and assist the organic movement in its full diversity.” and vision is the “worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound systems, based on the Principles of Organic Agriculture”. Among its wide range of activities, the federation maintains an organic farming standard, and an organic accreditation and certification service.
NITI Aayog, Microsoft sign agreement to bring in AI tools for agriculture and healthcare
Government’s premier think tank NITI Aayog has inked agreement with Microsoft India to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to address challenges in agriculture and healthcare and promote adoption of local language computing among others. This partnership will help NITI Aayog to move beyond pilots and understand how to scale AI implementation in sectors characterized by preponderance of public goods. Under the agreement, Microsoft will provide NITI Aayog advanced AI-based solutions to address challenges in agriculture and healthcare including farm advisory services, healthcare screening models at Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and build capacity for AI through education among others. It will also support NITI Aayog by combining cloud, AI, research and its vertical expertise for new initiatives and solutions across several core areas. Microsoft will also accelerate use of AI for development and adoption of local language computing, in addition to building capacity for AI among workforce through education. Additionally, it will also promote STEM education in areas of AI studies and data sciences for young women in institutes identified by NITI Aayog.
Overhaul GDP norms: MPs
Report by Estimates Committee of Parliament says – The current manner in which the GDP is measured needs an overhaul as it provides an incomplete estimation of economic activity. The current GDP and Gross Value Added measures have also been questioned by Opposition leaders and economists alike. The Opposition even accused the Narendra Modi government of fudging the figures. The committee noted that the GDP calculation did not measure the depletion of natural resources, a point several economists, including former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian, have pointed out. The report said the current measure of GDP did not incorporate the economic contributions of women in running households and maintaining accounts; nor did it have any measure of whether an increase in GDP resulted in an increase in happiness.
Government opens new series of sovereign gold bonds scheme for subscription
Union Government has opened new series of sovereign gold bonds scheme for subscription. Under this scheme, sovereign gold bonds will be issued every month from October 2018 to February 2019. This bond will be sold through Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited, Post Office, Stock Exchange (NSE and BSE).
Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) Scheme: It is aimed at providing alternative to buying physical gold. Under it, bonds are denominated in units of one gram of gold and multiples thereof. These gold denominated bonds are restricted for sale to resident Indian entities, including individuals, Hindu undivided families (HUF), trusts, universities and charitable institutions. The minimum subscription for individual and HUF is 1 gram and maximum is 4 kg. For trusts and similar entities, maximum subscription is 20 kg per fiscal. Price of bond is fixed in rupees on basis of simple average of closing price of gold of 999 purity published by India Bullion and Jewellers Association Limited for last 3 working days of week preceding the subscription period. The tenor of SGB bonds is 8 years with provision of premature cancellation after 5 years on interest payment dates. Investors in SGB bonds have been provided with option of holding them in physical or dematerialised form. RBI has notified rate of interest of 2.50% per annum on SGB bonds is payable on half yearly basis. The bonds can be used as collateral for loans and loan-to-value ratio is set equal to ordinary gold loan mandated by RBI from time to time. Individual investing in it are exempted from capital gains tax arising on redemption of SGB. The indexation benefits are also provided to long-term capital gains arising to any person on transfer of bond.
India International Silk Fair 2018 held in New Delhi
The 6th edition of India International Silk Fair (IISF) was held at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. It was inaugurated by Union Minister of Textiles Smriti Irani. The three day event was organised by Indian Silk Export Promotion Council (ISEPC). Over 108 exhibitors of silk and blended silk products manufactured in different parts of the country displayed their produce during this event. Over 218 buyers from various countries also participated in the fair. India is the 2nd largest producer of silk in the world after China. The silk industry is agriculture based and labour intensive and provides gainful employment to around 8 million artisans and weavers in rural areas. In India, four varieties of silk are produced, viz. Mulberry, Eri, Tasar and Muga. About 80% of silk produced is of mulberry silk, majority of which is produced in three southern States of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. About 97% of raw silk in India is produced in five Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir.
Need for proper definition of Shell companies
As multiple agencies and regulators probe the suspected use of ‘only-on-paper’ firms for financial irregularities, the government is looking to put in place a proper definition for ‘shell companies’ so that investigations are not hampered and prosecution can withstand scrutiny in courts of law. The issue had come up after the government cracked down on dummy companies that were used for round-tripping of funds and money laundering. Current definition for ‘shell companies’ — a term generally used for companies that are set up for financial manoeuvrings only or are kept dormant for some future use. Officials express that these companies generally exist only on paper and may be used for nefarious activities. Therefore, definition of shell companies should be in line with OECD definition – OECD defines a shell company as ‘being formally registered, incorporated or otherwise legally organised in an economy but which does not conduct any operations in that economy other than in a pass-through capacity’.