Friday, 26 June 2015

Daily News Mail - News of 26/06/2015

China, India fast-track BCIM economic corridor project
  • China and India are adding fresh momentum to the establishment of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor, which is expected to develop gradually before more ambitious goals are achieved.
  • Chinese officials acknowledge that unlike in the past, when it was perceived to be dragging its feet, India is now showing enthusiasm over the project, which will link Kolkata with Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan province, passing through Myanmar and Bangladesh, with Mandalay and Dhaka among the focal points. The focus on linking provinces and States — in this case, Yunnan and West Bengal — seems to have given a new impulse to galvanising the plan.
  • The main artery of the 2,800-km, K (Kolkata)-2-K (Kunming) corridor is nearly ready. A stretch of less than 200 km, from Kalewa to Monywa in Myanmar, needs to be upgraded as an all-weather road.

BCIM Economic Crridor
  • The Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor will increase socioeconomic development and trade in South Asia. The initiative seeks to improve connectivity and infrastructure, energy resources, agriculture, and trade and investment. It will connect India’s Northeast, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the Chinese province of Yunnan through a network of roads, railways, waterways, and airways under a proper regulatory framework. The current focus of BCIM talks is on an inter-regional road network. This makes sense, as roads are the cheapest route of trade.
  • The first ever BCIM car rally was held between Kolkata and Kunming via Dhaka in Feb, 2013 to highlight road connectivity in the four countries.
  • The economic advantages of the BCIM trade corridor are considerable, most notably: access to numerous markets in Southeast Asia, improvement of transportation infrastructure and creation of industrial zones.
  • Through linking the ASEAN Free Trade Area, ASEAN-China Free Trade Area and the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area, the corridor would constitute as one of the largest free trade areas. Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar hope to create a corridor that would effectively combine road, rail, water and air linkages in the region.This will also bolster foreign trade of the BCIM countries and empower bilateral trading.
Biggest share for education in AAP govt’s first budget
  • Presenting its first full-fledged “Swaraj Budget” after being elected to power, the Aam Aadmi Party government on Thursday announced a significant increase in the outlay for social sectors, including education and health.
  • Education sector has seen an increase of 106 per cent, while the health budget has gone up by 45 per cent. Transport, which used to get maximum budgetary allocation till last year, has slipped to third position with 20 per cent share.
  • Luxury and entertainment taxes have gone up, though value added tax (VAT) has remained unchanged.
  • Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, presenting the Rs. 41,129-crore Budget in the Delhi Assembly, claimed that this was the country's first “Swaraj Budget” based on the inputs of the people.
  • Mr. Sisodia flayed the Union government's approach in the financial sector, depriving the Capital of its legitimate dues from the share of Central taxes. He said while Delhi contributes Rs.1,30,000 crore as taxes, it gets merely Rs. 325 crore as its share, in a clear indication of “step-motherly treatment” meted out to it.
  • The enhanced outlay for education will be utilised for opening 236 schools this year besides expansion in vocational education and skill development, while the increase in the outlay for health will be devoted mainly to the enhancement of hospital bed capacity.
  • A new pollution cess has been introduced in this year's Budget. Each four-wheel commercial truck will be charged Rs. 500 per entry to the city to curb environmental damage. However, this may lead to increase in the prices of vegetables and other basic commodities.
Housing, urban schemes give primacy to people’s vision
Modi launches Housing for All and Smart Cities mission
  • Launching flagship programmes for urban development and housing on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi not only sought to give more powers to the States but also called for giving residents the mandate to decide how urban areas should emerge.
  • At the launch of the Housing for All, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Smart Cities schemes, he said it was the first time that residents were being challenged to formulate a development vision for their cities. The competitive mechanism would end the top-down approach and lead to people-centric urban development.
  • Under AMRUT, 500 cities is targeted for development, the Smart Cities scheme will target development of 100 cities over five years and Housing for All envisages construction of two crore houses in urban areas in seven years.
AMRUT and Smart Cities
Cabinet clears proposal for (1) 100 smart cities (48,000 crore) (2) AMRUT mission for 500 cities, replacing JNNURM (50,000 crores). ⇒ <–AMRUT–>⇒ Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for 500 cities with population of over 1 lakhAMRUT will replace Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Union will not appraise each and every project, it will be left to the discretion of state governments. ⇒ If previous JNNURM projects have complete 50% of work, then they too will be funded by AMRUT. <—>Smart cities: Each State will shortlist smart city aspirants. They’ll draft proposals & union will release funds in such manner that all States will get at least one such smart city. Total 100 smart cities planned. ⇒ 10% bonus fund will be given depending on performance. Criticism: ⇒ must focus on “RURBAN” mission first, to reduce migration towards cities. Otherwise better cities =more migration = again filth, congestion, slums =back to square one ⇒ Better just focus on three things: transportation, e-governance and easy land titling. ⇒ Urban development ministry tries to give parameters like speed of public transport network, availability of potable water, shops and recreational places in the vicinity etc. But lack of common definition on what constitutes a smart city?

"Housing for all by 2022"
“Housing for All by 2022” programme for the rehabilitation of slum-dwellers and promotion of affordable housing for the urban poor. The target is to provide nearly 20 million houses over seven years.

Don’t take away our autonomy: IIMs
  • After vocal criticism of the Institutes of Management Bill, 2015, drafted by the Human Resource Development Ministry, Ashish Nanda, Director, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, has written to the Ministry, cautioning it against introducing several key provisions aimed at taking away the autonomy of the institutes.
  • The Ministry has received the letter dated June 24 in which Mr. Nanda has flagged several issues arising from the provisions, some of which, he says, must be deleted and some amended. Mr. Nanda’s suggestions are premised on the autonomy of the IIMs.
  • IIM-Bangalore Director Pankaj Chandra says he wants the Bill “to be done away with”. Mr. Chandra says the very introduction of the Bill is problematic as it raises serious questions about the standard and quality of the IIMs.
  • “Have the IIMs performed badly? Do they require to be regulated when they are already governed by the Memorandum of Association?” he asks.
  • Mr. Chandra says the fact that the government is thinking of a Bill to regulate the institutions implies that the IIMs are not up to the mark. “Somebody needs to explain why the autonomy promised in the MOA is being taken away?”
  • He makes out a strong case for autonomy when he says the IIM Board should choose the Director and the institutes should be Board-governed. He questions the need to do away with diplomas currently awarded by the IIMs and introduce degrees. Diplomas awarded by the IIMs are recognised worldwide, he says.
  • Mr. Nanda’s letter focusses on rules for appointing the chairperson, powers of the Board, terms and condition of the service of the Director and allowances to the Coordination Forum, which unequivocally places all relevant powers with the Central government. These provisions coming under Subsection 35 (2) in the proposed Bill should be deleted, he says.
  • Mr. Nanda expresses concern at the overarching government control, evident in the use of the word regulation, which, he writes, needs to be done away with.
  • Particularly worrying are the clauses in the draft Bill that give powers currently held by the individual IIM Boards to the government, the letter points out.
  • The draft rules propose that regulations made by the Board must have the approval of the Central government. The sweeping government control, the letter says, will extend to an entire range of strategic and operational decisions of the institutes — that range from admission of candidates to various programmes, determining posts and emoluments of faculty and staff, formation of departments, establishment and maintenance of buildings, determining directors’ powers and responsibilities, conferring powers on the academic council and in fact, the very constitution of the Board requires prior government approval.
  • Mr. Nanda recommends doing away with the clause “with the approval of Central government”, substituting it instead with the following, “regulations’ means regulations made by the Board”.
  • The proposed Act also vests the appointment of chairperson with the government, which provision the IIM-A Director wanted deleted.
“Child labour increased by 53 per cent in urban India”
  • At a time when Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi has supported the controversial amendment to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act which allows children under 14 years of age to work in family-run enterprises, a recently-concluded analysis by Child Rights and You (CRY) revealed that there has been a significant increase in working children in the age group of 5-9 years.
  • Compiling data from the 2001 and 2011 census, the report states that in urban areas while the number of working girls rose by 240 per cent, it increased by 154 per cent for working boys. Overall, there has been a 53 per cent increase in child labour in urban India, while there is a drop of about 29 per cent in rural areas.
  • “Society is largely to blame for the increase in working children in urban areas as most of the children work as domestic helps,” chairperson of the West Bengal State Commission of Protection of Child Rights Ashokendu Sengupta told The Hindu .
  • “This increase in urban child labour could be attributed to increased migration, including seasonal migration for employment as well as trafficking of unaccompanied minors,” director, policy and research, CRY, Komal Ganotra said.
6.5 lakh people give up LPG subsidy
  • More than 6.5 lakh people nationwide have surrendered their subsidy for gas cylinders after the Union government launched its “Give it Up” campaign, a top petroleum company official said here on June 25.
  • At the national council meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry, S. Varadarajan, chairman, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd., said “This has led to Rs. 300 crore in savings, but the government, rather than retaining the money, is transferring the subsidised cylinders to rural India where people’s health suffers because of the burning of wood or coal for cooking. We are requesting more people to surrender the subsidies, if you can, so that the weaker section can benefit.”
  • Mr. Varadarajan said the PAHAL scheme for direct benefit transfers benefited close to 130 million households which received the gas subsidy in their bank accounts in 100 days.
  • “Within four months, the scheme had 86 per cent of customer population covered, totalling 135 million households. The long-term vision under PAHAL is to provide the benefit of the received subsidy to 130 million rural households which do not have access to LPG, a cleaner medium for cooking,” he said.
BRICS bank to start by April
  • New Development Bank (NDB), also known as the BRICS Bank, is expected commence operations and start financing projects by April 2016, said its first President K.V. Kamath at the CII National Council Meeting here on Thursday. The bank would introduce capital market products and would be open for equity infusion.
  • Mr. Kamath, former Chairman of ICICI Bank and Infosys Ltd., will take over as the head of the multilateral development institution in July at Shanghai in China.
  • NDB, founded by the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), has now decided to expand its scope of operations to other member nations as well. The word BRICS was not included in the name to allow new partner countries to join the club of emerging economies going forward.
  • “I hope to work with BRICS and other member-countries over the next few months so as to build project pipelines by April 2016. I am engaged with the government to ensure that there are some Indian projects in the infrastructure space that can be taken up then,” Mr Kamath told members of CII.
  • He said the bank would be different from other institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. It would have a different mindset and be a lot more flexible in its operations, he added.
  • “An important aspect will be with regard to the speed of lending. Currency diversification will be kept in mind while funding. There will be no pro-rating for funding and assistance will be provided to founding-countries as well as member-countries,” he said.
  • Mr Kamath said the NDB would have Vice-Presidents from three other nations. The Charter for the bank had been drawn, and it would be mostly be on the lines of the World Bank, ADB and private multilateral lenders, he said.

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