31 August 2014

Environment and Progress Can Go Hand in Hand, Says Javadekar at the Convocation for Indian Forest Service Probationers in Dehradun

Environment and progress can supplement each other and they are not contrary to each other as is general perception. This was the observation of the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Information and Broadcasting at the annual convocation of 2012-14 course of the Indian Forest Service Officer trainees of Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy in Dehradun today. The Minister exhorted the young forest officers to perform their duty to the society with passion, compassion and integrity. He said the forest cover of India has to be increased from present level of 24 per cent to 33 percent and to achieve it the forest officers will have to be innovative in policy, process and outreach. He said instead of more infrastructure, we need more faculty and the forest officers should come forward andwork as faculty to teach the young officers.

The Minister gave away diploma and awards to 78 officer trainees of the 2012-14 batch, including 22 lady officers and 2 officer trainees from Bhutan. This batch consisted of 4 PhDs, 48 Post Graduates and 26 Graduates in different science subjects.

The convocation function was presided over by Dr. S.S.Garbyal, Director General and Special Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

The Minister later also laid foundation stone of UNESCO centre for ‘Natural World Heritage Management and Training for Asia and Pacific Region’ at Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun. On this occasion Shri Javadekar said the demands of nature and the demands of development should not be seen in conflict with each other. He urged the Wildlife Institute of India to help schools and colleges by creating environment related syllabus in easy-to-understand language. He said that on one hand India needs 10 per cent economic growth but on the other, it also needs one percent forest cover growth for development. 

Earlier the Union Environment and Forest Minister had deliberations with Shri Harish Rawat, the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand and the senior officers of the state. The environment Minister agreed to empower the nodal officer of his Ministry in Dehradun for forest clearance upto 5 hectare forest land in 13 types of projects like road, water, electricity etc. The Union Minister also assured to consider releasing 1200 crore rupees under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA). He also assured to soften and redefine the parameters to allow quarrying in the rivers. 

30 August 2014

Disease and ecology

LOOKING at the many vector-borne diseases, particularly viral, one finds that there exists a complex host-parasite relationship among various animals, their arthropod vectors and infective organisms. The results of human entrance into the infectious chain are deleterious, since man becomes an integral part of the host-parasite relation which changes his environment. Therefore, before thinking of controlling the diseases, efforts must be made to understand vector-transmitted infections in man in relationship to his environment.
Parasitic diseases of humans and animals are obviously a part of the broad evolutionary development. The application of the theory of insect-carriers led to a better understanding of diseases such as sleeping sickness, malaria, yellow fever, bubonic plague and typhus. While the role of animals, vectors and man in the natural cycle of disease transmission was established about two centuries ago, not much importance has been given to understanding the role of the environment and the necessity of an ecological approach to study this. The lack of accurate knowledge concerning the ecology of wild reservoir hosts, vectors and the human victims in nature has been responsible for a poor understanding of the epidemiology of many diseases, particularly arthropod-borne viral diseases.
The Russian parasitologist and geographer Eugene N. Pavlovsky’s extensive researches in the middle of the last century gave us a greater understanding of the evolution of natural adaptations of infectious diseases. The concept means that wild enzootic foci of many diseases exist in nature independently of man and domestic animals. These foci present well-defined ecological peculiarities wherein pathogens and natural hosts are associated, often through an intermediate vector.
The environmental factors determining these associations are climate, soil, vegetation and topographical features (landscape epidemiology). These serve as reliable indicators of the existence of certain diseases. Areas at the edge of deserts, with burrowing rodents, may harbour Cutaneous leishmaniasis (a skin infection, as in Rajasthan); areas at the junction of mountains, forests and agricultural fields or grasslands (interfaces) may harbour many vector-borne diseases. These natural foci, which may be called “silent zones of diseases”, may remain undetected until susceptible human beings come into contact with them directly or indirectly and become infected. With accurate ecological knowledge, similar foci in other areas may be detected before human disease can be predicted.

Brain-controlled flight

IN work carried out as part of a European Union-funded project called “Brainflight”, scientists of the Technische Universitat Munchen (TUM) and the Technische Universitat Berlin (TUB) demonstrated the feasibility of flying with amazing precision using brain control alone (and no hands). Pilots of the future may be able to control their aircraft by merely thinking commands.
A long-term vision of the project, according to Tim Fricke, who heads the project at the TUM, is to make flying accessible to more people. “With brain control, flying, in itself, could become easier. This would reduce the workload of pilots and thereby increase safety. In addition, pilots would have more freedom of movement to manage other manual tasks in the cockpit.”
Seven subjects took part in the flight simulator tests. They had varying levels of flight experience, including one person without any practical cockpit experience whatsoever. The accuracy with which the test subjects stayed on course by merely thinking commands would have sufficed, in part, to fulfil the requirements of a flying licence test. Several of the subjects also managed the landing approach under poor visibility. One test pilot even landed within only few metres of the centre line.
Normally, pilots feel resistance in steering and must exert significant force when the loads induced on the aircraft become large. This feedback is missing when using brain control. TUM scientists are now focussing on the question of how the requirements of changing flight dynamics can be incorporated in the new control method, which basically converts electrical potentials into control commands. Brain waves of the pilots are measured using electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes connected to a cap. An algorithm developed by scientists from the TUB allows a program to decipher electrical potentials and convert them into appropriate commands. The brain-computer interface only recognises the very clearly defined electrical brain impulses required for control. “This is pure signal processing,” Fricke emphasised.

India, Japan sign MoU to develop Varanasi into 'smart city'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Japan today began on a significant note with a pact being signed under which his constituency Varanasi will be developed as a 'smart city', with cooperation and experience of Kyoto, the Japanese 'smart city' which is a confluence of heritage and modernity.
The signing of the Partner City Affiliation MoU, which marks the launch of smart heritage city programme, between the two countries, was overseen by Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who made a special gesture of flying here from Tokyo to meet his Indian counterpart.
The pact was signed by Indian Ambassador to Japan Deepa Wadhwa and Mayor of Kyoto Daisaku Kadokawa soon after Modi's arrival here for his two-day first leg of his visit. Abe received Modi at the Kyoto Guest House before the signing ceremony.
The MoU provides for cooperation in heritage conservation, city modernisation and cooperation in the fields of art, culture and academics, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters
This marks the launch of Smart heritage city programme between the two countries, he added. The pact is in line with Modi's vision of building 100 smart cities across India.
Under the MoU, a detailed roadmap of cooperation will be prepared which will form the base for further understanding.
Both cities shall endeavor to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in the agreed fields based on principles of equality and mutual respect and benefit and continuously exchange information and opinion in the agreed areas and cooperate in important fields.
After the signing of the pact, Abe hosted a dinner for Modi who has embarked on the visit with "great expectations" and hope that a "new chapter" would be written in the bilateral ties while taking the Strategic and Global Partnership to a higher level.
Before the dinner, Modi and Abe participated in a special ceremony called 'Feeding the Fish', a ritual in Japan because of the belief that it gives strength and perseverance to the fish.
Modi arrived at the Osaka International Airport earlier in the day to begin the first leg of his five-day visit to Japan, his first bilateral visit outside the subcontinent as the Prime Minister.
Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will have substantive summit meeting in Tokyo on September 1 during which the two sides will look at ways to take the Strategic and Global Partnership forward.
Modi has a substantive agenda duringthe trip which he hopes will "write a new chapter" in bilateral ties and take the Strategic and Global Partnership to a higher level.

Friends for the future,indo-japan relation

When they catch up this weekend in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe will celebrate the deep civilisational links between the two nations before they unveil the contours of a more purposeful strategic partnership in Tokyo on Monday.
That Modi and Abe have developed a personal rapport over the years is well known. Although he could not make Japan his first foreign destination as PM, Modi has kept the essence of his promise that he would attach special significance to ties with Tokyo. His trip to Japan is his first bilateral diplomatic engagement outside the subcontinent.
If Tokyo was disappointed with Modi’s cancellation of his trip to Japan at the last moment a few weeks ago, Abe is making a special gesture now by showing up at Kyoto to host a private dinner for the Indian prime minister. As they push for an ambitious agenda of bilateral cooperation, Modi and Abe are both privileging the past to address the challenges of the present.
For Modi and Abe, widely hailed and rebuked for their unabashed nationalism, the past is not really past. They are actively mobilising the past in pursuit of their current goals. If Modi is leveraging nationalism to reconfigure India’s domestic politics and its external orientation, Abe is determined to end Japan’s post-war antipathy towards nationalism and remake it as a normal state.
As they seek a larger role for their nations in Asia and the world, Modi and Abe know they need each other more than ever before. They are acutely conscious that India and Japan form unique partners for each other amid the current economic and geopolitical flux in Asia.
They have one common problem, though. Both are burdened with national security bureaucracies that are stuck with mantras of the past and slowing down the prospects for civil nuclear and defence cooperation. Modi and Abe need to press their bureaucracies to quickly wrap up the nuclear negotiations and lay the foundations for a strong defence partnership.
On the economic front, the challenges are more on the Indian side, where Modi must get his domestic act together to take full advantage of the possibilities that have opened up for Japan’s participation in accelerating India’s economic development. On a whole range of issues identified as priorities by Modi — from boosting India’s manufacturing sector to the modernisation of infrastructure, from building high-speed railways to constructing smart cities, from cleaning the Ganga to the development of green technologies — Japan is well placed to become a productive partner.
Modi’s decision to arrive in Kyoto a day ahead of schedule and Abe’s move to meet him there are part of an effort to showcase the historic Buddhist bonds betweenIndia and Japan, so visible in Kyoto and Nara, and create a broader public support in both countries for a meaningful strategic partnership. Over the weekend, Modi and Abe are likely to announce a sister city partnership between Varanasi and Kyoto. For preserving the heritage of Varanasi and making it a modern city, Kyoto is a fine place to learn from.
Past and present will also come together in the political engagement between the two leaders in Tokyo. Since he surprised the world by his return to power at the end of 2012, Abe has sought to pull Japan out of extended economic stagnation and re-establish it as a front-ranking power in Asia and the world.
For more than five decades, Japan has been content to rely on the military alliance with the US to ensure its security. It also normalised relations with China when Washington warmed up to Beijing to counter Moscow. But the context has rapidly evolved with the rise of China, its emergence as a great military power, and its intensifying territorial dispute with Japan in the East China Sea. As it worries about Beijing’s new clout, Tokyo is also concerned about America’s ambivalence in the new dynamic between China and Japan.
While the alliance with the US will remain Japan’s security anchor for the foreseeable future, Abe is taking some additional insurance. He is strengthening Japan’s military capabilities and preparing it for a more active security role in Asia and the Indian Ocean. He also wants to build stronger security partnerships with many countries in the region, including US allies like Australia and the Philippines as well as non-aligned nations like India, Vietnam and Indonesia. Abe’s vigorous policies have drawn flak from China. Beijing has charged him with militarism and accused him of trying to overturn the post-war order in Asia. It is into this East Asian minefield that Modi n’s re-emergence as a responsible power in Asia. In the seven decades that have elapsed since the end of World War II, Japan has proved to be a good international citizen, having contributed significantly to regional economic growth, including in China, and promoted political and institutional cooperation in Asia.
Endorsing Japan’s normalisation does not mean Modi will be taking sides between Tokyo and Beijing. Here again, the past offers a sensible guidance for the present. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, argued against treating Japan as a defeated power in the wake of WW II. Nehru also opposed Western attempts to isolate China after the communists won the civil war there in 1949.
Unless both China and Japan are given their legitimate due, Nehru was convinced, Asia will be neither secure nor prosperous. Modi, then, has a strong precedent to pursue good relations with both Japan and China. The PM should strengthen partnerships with Tokyo and Beijing, each on its own merit, and in the process, build up India’s comprehensive national power and make Delhi an indispensable actor in shaping Asia’s future.

Let’s talk transfer of technology

India must insist on co-development and co-production of defence systems that it plans to buy from the U.S.

It is good that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley have made it clear to the U.S. Defence Minister, Chuck Hagel, who was in India earlier this month, that the pure sale of defence hardware by the U.S. to India is far from enough.

The way we should go with the Americans has to be on the lines of the co-development and co-production of the state-of-the-art Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) with the Russians.

However, India, which agreed to buy 39 AH-64D Apache helicopters for the Army in addition to the 22 now under negotiation, is in talks again for purchase by the Indian Air Force (IAF) from the U.S. manufacturer, Boeing. This is being done without transfer of technology (TOT) to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the local manufacture of all these 61 helicopters, which is bad for the country. Such a number of helicopters, senior managers and engineers of HAL’s Helicopter Division argue forcefully, is large enough for substantial local content-based production. Neither the IAF nor the Army contracts with Boeing has gone so far as to make TOT result in techno-commercially viable production here feasible and viable. The Ministry of Defence should act immediately to tie-up such TOT-based production by HAL instead of proceeding with mere import of the finished product.

Defence supplies by the U.S.

Will the U.S. government agree? If we use the multi-billion U.S. dollar value of the two contracts as leverage and exert pressure, they will have to. This would mean new jobs for HAL and its sub-contractors. It would also mean we would have a nationally controlled spares production base in the country, which would be orders of magnitude cheaper than supply of spares from the U.S. The bread and butter for the supplier come from hugely priced spares; not from the main equipment.

 “Having a production base in the country would mean national control over spare parts, so as to not remain at the mercy of the supplier”

If one were to analyse defence supplies by U.S. companies under the U.S. government’s direction and control even to their “closest allies” such as the U.K., one would find that it is the policy of the U.S. government to severely restrict not only TOT in general, but transfer of technology relating to critical sub-assemblies, modules and components too, making us eternally dependent on them.

A specific case will illustrate the reality. The case pertains to the Sea Harrier, which is aircraft carrier-borne and uses vertical take off and landing (VTOL). The U.K. was the inventor of VTOL technology. India had bought two squadrons (around 30 aircraft) of the Sea Harrier from the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) way back in the 1970s for its aircraft carriers. When the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance government was in power (1999-2004), we sent our Sea Harriers to the BAC for a thorough upgrade. At that time, the Ministry of Defence, the Navy and the BAC knew that such an upgrade would call for the BAC importing some critical sub-systems, modules and components (hereafter collectively referred to as “modules”) from the U.S. This was because those modules had been imported by the BAC even for the Sea Harriers it had produced in the U.K. and supplied to the British Navy.

That the U.S. government would prove “difficult” in clearing the supply of those modules for our Sea Harriers was recognised by both the BAC and the Defence Ministry. So they sounded out the U.S. government agencies concerned. The U.S. response was non-committal. Nevertheless, the Ministry went ahead. Why? Because we did not have an option. Over 25 years, the Indian Navy operated those aircraft, but no effort was made to successfully indigenise those modules. We just merrily went along with importing those modules from the BAC, which in turn kept importing them from the U.S. companies concerned at huge increases in prices from time to time.

It was not surprising, therefore, that the U.S. government refused the supplies to the BAC for fitment on our Sea Harriers. The BAC and the British Navy then told India that the U.S. government had done likewise, even in regard to the Harriers of the British Navy despite the U.K. being the country’s “closest ally.”

The U.S. government finally agreed to the export of the modules concerned, but only after former British Prime Minister Tony Blair flew to Washington D.C. to specifically persuade the U.S. President to release them. As far as our requirements of the modules were concerned, Mr. Vajpayee had done something similar.

This case shows how even British and European defence equipment manufacturers have to constantly face and deal with the U.S. government’s export controls on them on a wide array of modules, despite the fact that all of them are supposedly equal members of NATO.

Being circumspect in dealings

This kind of policy and practice by the U.S. government also came up with regard to the “upgraded” F-16 Falcon and the F-18 Hornet fighter-bombers which Lockheed Martin and Boeing respectively had offered India against the global tender put out by the Ministry of Defence/IAF for 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) four years ago. Of all the six bidders, the TOT and terminal local content were the smallest in the case of both the U.S. planes. Therefore we have to be extremely circumspect in dealing with the U.S. government in all high technology defence systems from the transfer of technology and local production content points of view.

Constitutional duty underlined

The Supreme Court of India has a reputation for activism and has sometimes even been accused of judicial overreach. However, it needs to be said in defence of the Court that as a repository of public trust it has been wont to step in only in conditions of administrative apathy and legislative stasis to protect basic rights and constitutional values. It has in recent times delivered some significant verdicts to save the purity of the election process. It directed that the ‘none-of-the-above’ option be incorporated in the voting machine, and struck down a clause that saved sitting legislators from immediate disqualification upon conviction. When the question whether a person with a criminal background can be allowed to become a Minister was referred to a Constitution Bench, there could have been the expectation that the Court would expand the existing law to bar the appointment of those against whom serious charges have been framed. However, showing wise restraint, the Constitution Bench has declined to prescribe any fresh ground for disqualification for the appointment of Ministers. Instead, it has advised the Prime Minister, as well as the Chief Ministers, to live up to the trust that the Constitution reposes in them by refraining from advising the President, or the Governors, when it comes to appointing as Ministers those with the taint of criminality.

Even though doctrines such as implied prohibition and constitutional silence were put forward in support of a radical finding that the Prime Minister was impliedly barred from including in the Council of Ministers a person with a criminal record, the Court stopped short of doing so, correctly. Rather, it chose to invoke the principle of constitutional trust, constitutional expectation and the sanctity of the oath taken by the Prime Minister (or Chief Ministers), to counsel them against “choosing a person with criminal antecedents against whom charges have been framed for heinous or serious criminal offences or charges of corruption” as a Minister. In the ultimate analysis, the judgment may be no more than a learned dissertation on the subject. However, at a time when statistics of pending cases and charges against legislators are cited to assess the extent of criminality in politics, it is a timely reminder to the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers of their constitutional responsibility to preserve purity in public life. The Election Commission has already mooted some reforms to curb the criminalisation of politics, notably an amendment to make framing of charges in serious cases the basis for disqualification, instead of conviction, as it stands now. The message from the latest verdict is that these issues ought to be addressed through legislation rather than the judicial process.

Mitigating FTA challenges

This year, India completes a decade of intensive engagement with its economic partners through the bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). The commencement of the negotiations with the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2004 for an FTA covering the goods sector was a significant step for the country’s engagement with the global economy. The Agreement marked a departure from India’s erstwhile position regarding bilateral/regional agreements. Until its engagement with the ASEAN in 2003, India was almost unequivocally wedded to the multilateral trading system. The only aberrations came in the form of the bilateral deals with immediate neighbours in the South Asian region. India’s preference for the multilateral trading system was aptly reflected in a discussion paper on regional trading arrangements (RTAs) that it had tabled in the early days of the Doha negotiations. In this paper, India argued that “the multilateral framework for international trade under the WTO-rule-based system needs to be strengthened by addressing issues of concern emerging on account of formation of such a large number of RTAs, including their impact on development”. These views regarding RTAs, clearly those of an outlier, changed quite dramatically with India’s engagement with the ASEAN.

The India-ASEAN FTA is also significant because it has emerged as the corner-stone of India’s “look east” policy. The FTA was conceived as a part of the 2003 Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between India and the ASEAN. This Framework Agreement set out the roadmap for deepening economic cooperation between the two sides through the establishment of an India-ASEAN Regional Trade and Investment Area (RTIA). The RTIA was to be realised through progressive elimination of tariff- and non-tariff barriers in almost all trade in goods and by progressive liberalisation of trade in services with substantial sectoral coverage. At the same time, the partners agreed to establish a liberal and competitive investment regime that facilitates and promotes investment within the India-ASEAN RTIA. The negotiations were initiated with rather ambitious targets: the deal on trade in goods was scheduled to conclude by June 2005, while the negotiations on services and investment, which were to be initiated immediately after the conclusion of the agreement on goods, were to be concluded by 2007. The negotiations went well beyond these timelines: the goods agreement became operational only in 2010 and although the negotiations on services and investment agreements were concluded at the end of 2012, they are yet to be implemented.

India’s bilateral/regional economic engagement has undergone a complete transformation since then. It is now one of the most active countries in terms of the engagement with partner countries for comprehensive economic partnership agreements (CEPAs), which have replaced the FTAs. Thus far, CEPAs have been concluded with Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and Korea. Several significant ones —including ones with the European Union (EU), Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Indonesia—are in the pipeline.

Perhaps the most significant agreement that India is currently negotiating is the Regional Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (RCEP). The RCEP will be a mega regional agreement that includes the ASEAN members, India, Australia, New Zealand and the three North Asian countries (China, Japan and Korea). In 2013, RCEP members accounted for nearly a third of the global merchandise trade and a fourth of the global trade in commercial services.

These bilateral/regional initiatives seem to support the view that they would complement the global trade liberalisation agenda of the WTO. The growing number of countries formalising bilateral trade deals and the nature of such agreements support this view. Gone are the days when bilateral deals used to be free trade agreements aimed at reducing and/or eliminating import duties on goods. Recent agreements are more “comprehensive” in their coverage. Not only do they include a number of areas that are monitored by WTO; they include issues that do not figure in the Doha Round. For instance, the CEPAs that India is negotiating include investment, an area that was excluded from the Doha Round; and in the agreement being negotiated with the EU, government procurement is included.

What is India’s experience with implementing these FTAs/CEPAs? A preliminary assessment of these agreements indicates that India has not been able to sufficiently leverage these agreements to increase its presence in the markets of its partners. In most cases, the shares of India’s merchandise exports to its FTA/CEPA partners have either stagnated or have declined since the middle of the previous decade, which roughly coincides with the period when the government entered into the agreements. Overall, the share of Indian exports to FTA/CEPA partners declined from nearly 38% in 2004 to 33% in 2012.

Disconcertingly, the share of India-manufactured goods in the total exports to all the FTA/CEPA partner countries has declined. In the case of ASEAN, the share of manufactured products in the export basket has declined from over 58% in 2005 to less than 44% in 2013, while in the cases of Japan and Singapore, the decline has been from over-50% to around 36% in the same period.

India’s inability to penetrate into the markets of its partners implies that it continues to remain a marginal player in most of these markets. With the exception of Singapore, India’s share in the partner countries’ imports show either little improvement or actual decline. In three of these cases, India’s share is yet to reach 1% of the trade partner’s total imports. These figures are clear indications that India has been unable to benefit from its economic integration with one of the more dynamic regions of the world.

Data show that while India was unable to find market access in partner countries, imports from them remained relatively high. For instance, the trade deficit with its partners as a percentage of India’s exports was nearly four-times, while in case of Korea, the corresponding figure was more than two-times. The terms of India’s engagement with its trading partners has worsened over the past few years.

In light of the above, questions have arisen about India’s preparedness to either take advantage of the opportunities offered by the FTAs/CEPAs or to meet the challenges they have posed.

India’s indifferent performance has evoked strong reactions from the government; the more dominant view is that these agreements must be reviewed. It is yet not clear, however, as to when and how the reviews will be undertaken. But at this juncture, the need is to adopt a more prudent two-pronged approach. First, to identify the weaknesses in the domestic economy causing inefficiencies in the productive sectors, and to find ways of removing them expeditiously; secondly, effective engagement with the partner countries to ensure removal of the market-access barriers that they have employed, especially the non-tariff barriers in goods and the regulatory barriers in services, which have adversely impacted Indian exports. The contours of India’s negotiating strategy must emerge from this exercise.

This is the most opportune time to carry out such an exercise. Some of the CEPA negotiations, especially the RCEP, are entering a critical phase, and India must effectively articulate its interests (offensive as well as defensive), on all the critical issues, at the negotiating table.

India to be mercury-free within 10 years

Mercury — considered highly toxic but used extensively in healthcare products, lighting and for religious purposes — will be phased out in India in the next six to 10 years.

In its first major pro-environment move, the government has decided to sign the Minamata Convention, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.

Environment minister Prakash Javadekar told HT a formal announcement would be made at an event organised by UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon in September in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is participating in the UNGA.

“The decision shows our commitment to grow in a clean way without jeopardising growth,” the minister said.

Mercury, also known as quick silver, has some 3,000 industrial applications in India and can be found in thermometers and other healthcare products, paints, cosmetics, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), electrical switches and fertilisers.

The country produces 10-15 million clinical instruments every year on average, including clinical and lab thermometers as well as blood pressure monitors.

Mercury is used in traditional ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, though mercury poisoning can result in impaired neurological development in infants and children, according to the US Environment Protection Agency.

The chemical is also used in the construction of shivlings. “Our studies show that ayurvedic medicines and the milk poured over these shivlings, which is then consumed by devotees, are very toxic,” said Ravi Aggarwal of Toxic Link, a Delhi-based advocacy group.

Its studies had a few years ago pushed the Delhi and central governments to announce its intent of making hospitals mercury-free. “For the majority of states, though, it is still a long way to go,” Aggarwal said, while welcoming the government’s decision to sign the treaty.

The Minamata Convention — named after the site of an industrial disaster in Japan in the 1950s, where mercury poured into a river poisoned thousands — calls for reducing mercury emissions from coal-fired thermal power plants, the source of 65% of India’s power generation. It also seeks to reduce mercury content in CFLs to 5 milligrams from the present 15.

When India signs the treaty, which provides financial incentives to the developing world to phase out mercury, it will join a club of over 100 countries to do so.

Besides the environmental benefits, the government — accused of going easy on green norms — expects this move to resurrect its image as one that strikes a balance between growth and environment.

President Confers National Sports Awards – 2014

President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee here today conferred the DronacharyaAwards, Arjuna Awards, Dhyan Chand Awards,Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar, Tenzing Norgay Awards 2013 and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) Trophy 2013-14 at a function at Rashtrapati Bhawan. Following is the list of awardees:

(I) Dronacharya Awards 2014

Sl. No.
Shri Mahabir Prasad
Shri N. Lingappa
Athletics – Lifetime
Shri G. Manoharan
Boxing – Lifetime
Shri Gurcharan Singh Gogi
Judo – Lifetime
Shri Jose Jacob
Rowing – Lifetime

(II) Arjuna Awards 2014

S. No.
Mr. Abhishek Verma
            Ms. Tintu Luka
Mr. H.N. Girisha
Mr. V. Diju
Ms. Geetu Anna Jose
Mr. Jai Bhagwan
Mr. R. Ashwin*
Mr. Anirban Lahiri
Ms. Mamta Pujari
Mr. Saji Thomas
Ms. Heena Sidhu
Ms. Anaka Alankamony
Mr. Tom Joseph
Ms. Renu Bala Chanu
Mr. Sunil Kumar Rana

(III)  Dhyan Chand Awards 2014

Sl. No.
Shri Gurmail Singh
Shri K.P. Thakkar
Swimming (Diving)
Shri Zeeshan Ali

(IV) Tenzing Norgay Awards 2013
Sl. No.
Subedar  Jagat Singh
Land Adventure
Shri Passang Tenzing Sherpa
Land Adventure
MWO Surender Singh
Air Adventure
Wing Commander (Retd) Amit Chowdhury
Life Time Achievement

(V) Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) Trophy 2013-14
Punjabi University, Patiala

(VI) Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar 2014

Sl. No.
Entity recommended for Rashtriya Khel Protsahana Purushkar, 2014
Employment of sports persons and sports welfare measures
Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited  (ONGC)
Community Sports - identification and nurturing of budding /young talent
Jindal Steel Works (JSW)
Establishment and Management of sports academies of excellence
Guru Hanuman Akhara, Delhi
Other forms of sports activities not covered in the four categories mentioned in the schemes
Magic Bus India Foundation

*Shri R. Ashwin, Arjuna Awardee in the discipline of cricket, was not present during the Award Ceremony as he is presently in England taking part in One Day Internationals. He will be given award later by the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Skill Development, Entrepreneurship, Youth Affairs & Sports. Date is yet to be finalized.

Measure taken by govt to revive the economy,now showing the result

Steps Taken by the Government Starts Showing Results: GDP Shows A Growth Rate Of 5.7 Per Cent in Q1 Of 2014-15 Over the Corresponding Quarter of the Previous Year; Headline WPI Inflation Comes Down to 5.1 Per Cent in July 2014 Among Others
When the new Government came to power around three months ago, it faced various challenges on economic front. The economic growth was showing a downward trend, the inflation was alarmingly high, unemployment rate was worrisome and corruption was touching new heights.
The new government took various steps for boosting growth, controlling inflation and curbing corruption among other measures. The Union Budget 2014 was its first path breaking effort to tackle all these issues upfront. Now all these efforts have started showing results:
GDP growth is showing early signs of recovery. In FY14 India’s economy grew at 4.7 per cent. As per the Central Statistics Office (CSO) data released yesterday Quarterly GDP at factor cost at constant (2004-2005) prices for Q1 of 2014-15 is estimated at Rs14.38 lakh crore, as against Rs13.61 lakh crore in Q1 of 2013-14, showing a growth rate of 5.7 per cent over the corresponding quarter of previous year.
The economic activities which registered significant growth in Q1 of 2014-15 over Q1 of 2013-14 are ‘electricity, gas & water supply’ at 10.2 per cent, ‘financing, insurance, real estate and business services’ at 10.4 per cent and ‘community, social and personal services’ at 9.1 per cent. The estimated growth rates in other economic activities are: 4.8 per cent in ‘construction’, 3.5 per cent in ‘manufacturing’, 2.8 per cent in ‘trade, hotels, transport and communication’, 3.8 per cent in ‘agriculture, forestry & fishing’, and 2.1 per cent in ‘mining & quarrying’ during this period.
·         GDP growth is one of early signs of economic recovery. In FY 14, India’s economy grew at 4.7 per cent. We expect the economy to grow at 5.7-5.9% during the current FY and in 2-3 years time reclaim the high growth rate of 7%.
·          Headline WPI Inflation after remaining persistent  around 7-9 per cent during 2011-13 is showing signs of moderation and has come down to 5.19% in July, 2014.
·         Consumer Price Index has fallen from the levels of 8.6% in April, 2014 to 7.96% in July, 2014.
·         On account of restored business confidence and improved order book, manufacturing is showing signs of rebound and HSBC PMI has risen to 53 in July, 2014 from 51.5 in June, 2014.
·         Due to concessions in Excise duty, Passenger Vehicles sales have grown for the third month in a row, growing by 7.1% Year to Year in July, 2014.
·         Growth of 23% in the Capital goods production IS. a healthy indicator of recovery.
·         India`s annual infrastructure sector growth ( eight core sector) hit a nine-month high of 7.3 per cent in June, led by a surge in cement and electricity output.Due to increased foreign flows India’s Foreign Exchange Reserves have seen a surge and as in July end were USD 320.6 billion. This is USD 43.4 billion higher than a year ago.
·         Despite less than satisfactory Monsoon, food stock in Central pool is comfortable at nearly 62 million tones.
·         For ensuring macroeconomic stability Current Account Deficit will be contained within 2% and Fiscal deficit within 4.1% of GDP during CFY.
In the first Budget of this Government certain steps which are only the beginning of a journey towards a sustained growth of 7-8 per cent within the next 2-3 years were outlined.
The Government is committed to the principle of “Minimum Government Maximum Governance”. In the budget it was committed to constitute an Expenditure Management Commission, which will look into various aspects of expenditure reforms including rationalisation of subsidies, to be undertaken by the Government.Since then the Commission has been constituted with the noted economist and Ex-Governor of RBI, Dr. Bimal Jalan heading it.
Besides above, the Government has already expressed through the Budget 2014-15 its intent to fulfil the promises made to the electorate.
The Annexure covers:
·         Some of the key promises made to the electorate and achievements made in that regard.
·         Pro Poor and Pro Business measures in the Budget 2014-15.
·         Structural Reforms Announced in the General Budget 2014-15.


Some of the key promises made to the electorate and achievements made in that regard:
1.      Tackling price rise and corruption:
·         Price Stabilization fund set up with an initial amount of Rs. 500 crore.
·         Special Investigation team set up on Black money. Measure appreciated by SC.
·         Dehoarding measures taken by the Government in consultation with States.
·         Inflation has been contained within reasonable limits despite vagaries of weather.
·         Measure taken to improve the supply side deficiencies through improving productivity such as soil health card, adaptation fund to mitigate risks of climate change and enhanced agricultural credit. Initial allocations of Rs 100 crores have been made for the Mission for Soil health card and for National Adaptation Fund.
·         Additional allocation of 50 lakh tonnes of Rice to BPL and APL families in the States and UTs for period upto March, 2015.
·         Allocation of Wheat under Open market for stabilizing cereal prices.
·         Committee set up to review the economic cost of the food grains payable to FCI.

2.      Widening the platform through empowerment, creation of opportunities through job creation,
bridging infrastructure deficits and skill upgradation.
·         Allocation for rural roads (Rs14,389 crore) , national highways (Rs 37,880 crore) and Railways(Rs 30,100 crore) enhanced in the Budget.
·         Expansion of telecom network in NE and LWE areas.
·         Digital India for improved access. An initial allocation of Rs 500 crore.
·         Initial allocations done for skill development and rural entrepreneurship programme(Rs 100 crore);
·         Amendments’ to Apprenticeship Act proposed.

3.      Improving decision making.
·         Abolition of system of GOMs and EGoM.
·         Convergence of objectives within Ministries/Departments for greater focus.
·          Multiple layers in decision making to be pruned.
·         Revision in the delegation of powers for appraisal and approval of projects/schemes to the administrative Ministries in final stages of approval.

4.      Improved programme delivery.
·         Convergence in the programme objectives for improved delivery.
·         Targeting of benefits to be improved through use of DBT or AADHAR card.
·         Expenditure management commission set up for making recommendation for improvement in programme delivery.

5.      Strengthening federal polity.
·         Royalty on natural resources enhanced.
·         Waiver of interest due to FCI on outstanding dues of State of J&K.
·         NER power system improvement project appraised and approved.
6.      E-Governance as a vehicle for improving governance.
·         Digital India programme approved for improved governance.
·         IT based single window platform “e-BIZ” for providing single window clearance for business.
·         IT based education tools to be widely used in Government programmes.
·         Initial steps of creation of manpower infrastructure for e-VISA done.
·         Updating of National register of citizens under NPR in Assam approved by FM.

7.      Institutional reform.
·         For bringing in reforms in judicial selection process Constitutional amendment passed by Parliament;
·         Planning Commission to be replaced by a new body.
·         Expenditure management Commission set up.

8.      Increase in farmers income;
·         Enhanced agricultural credit to Rs 8 lakh crore.
·         Steps to reduce variability on farm produce such as PMKSY. An initial allocation of Rs 1000 crore made, Programme has been devised and necessary appraisal is being done.
·         Institutional finance to 5 lakh joint farming groups of “BhoomiHeenKisan”.

9.      Making India a global manufacturing hub on the principle of “Make in India.
·         Tax incentives on both direct and indirect side extended to business.
·         Tax regime made more predictable and investor friendly through improved system of advanced ruling and dispute settlement.
·         Expanding the scope of definition of MSME.

10.  Equal opportunities for disadvantaged;
·         Van bandhukalyanyojana for tribals. Initial sum of Rs 100 crore.
·         Scheme for Madarasa modernization. Initial sum of Rs 100 crore.
·         Specific measures for women empowerment such as BetiBachaoBetiPadhao, small savings scheme for girl child and protection of women in distress.
·         One stop centre for women affected by violence- Nirbhaya Centre appraised for final approval.

11.  Meet aspirations of the neo-middle class.
·         Increase in Income Tax Act 80C benefit from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh.
·         Exemption limit raised by Rs 50000 from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh.
·         Exemption limit raised for Senior Citizens from Rs 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh.
·         Plan to set up 100 smart cities and improvement in facilities in the existing urban areas.
·         FDI conditions relaxed for development of housing. Requirement of built up area reduced from 50000 sq meter to 20000 sq meter.
·         For improved housing Incentives for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS). Complete pass through for the purpose of taxation.
·         For passenger facilitation, free baggage allowance increased from Rs 35,000 to Rs 45,000.

12.  Extending urban facilities in Rural areas.
·         Shyama Prasad Mukherjee RURBAN Mission announced.

13.  Improving Urban centres.
·         New Metro’s in Ahmadabad,  Lucknow and Nagpur.
·         100 smart cities programme.
·         Through ‘Swacch Bharat’ sanitation to be improved.
·         500 urban habitations to be provided support for infrastructure and services renewal through PPP in next 10 years.

14.  Revitalizing education in India.
·         Improvement in teachers quality through a teachers training programme. An initial allocation of Rs 500 crore for “Madan Mohan Malviya New Teachers Training programme”.
·         Simplification of norms for higher education loans.
·         School Assessment Programme launched with an initial amount of Rs 30 crore.

15.  Improving sanitation.
·         Action points decided under Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan .
·         These include provision of integrated toilet component in relevant programmes, convergence of all existing related programme, CSR and other sources of funding to supplement efforts and intensive awareness programme.

16.  River and Water conservation.
·         NamamiGange programme launched with an initial allocation of Rs 2037 crore to clean Ganga.
·         Administrative restructuring for expeditious results in the area of water resources conservation;
·         DPR for linking of Rivers and Ghat works

17.  Ensuring diversity in energy mix for hedging risks arising out of over dependence on one source.
·         Encouragement to renewable sources of energy such as Wind and Solar.
·         Green energy corridor to be developed.
Budget contains and outlines intent to carry out many of the reforms indicated above. Apart from Budget Government has undertaken other reforms as well. It may be recalled that decision to set up a Special Investigation Team on Black money was set up in the 1st Cabinet meeting. Similarly, amendment to judicial selection process as part of institutional reforms or streamlining of administrative structures is not a part of the Budget.
Pro Poor and Pro Business measures in the Budget
General Budget 2014-15 fully respects the promises made by the new the Government especially to the poor people. The Government sees relation between pro business and pro poor measures as one of complementarity and not of conflict. Necessary financing required for welfare measures for the poor can only be obtained through a wider resource base derived from a vibrant business environment. Promises made by the Government and steps taken in the Budget have to be seen in this light. For the welfare of poor various measures have been taken by the Government in the Budget, major among which are.

Pro poor measures

·         The subsidy regime to be made more targeted for full protection to the marginalized, poor and SC/ST. Expenditure Management Commission constituted by the Government  to look into these issues and make its interim recommendation before end of the FY.
·         Time bound programme as Financial Inclusion Mission to be launched on 15 August this year with focus on the weaker sections of the society.
·         Income Tax exemption ceiling enhanced to Rs 2.5 lakh from Rs 2 lakh.
·         Limit under 80 C of Income Tax Act enhanced to Rs 1.5 lakh from 1 lakh. 
·         Investment limit in PPF enhanced to 1.5 lakh and other Small savings instruments such as KVP to be reintroduced.
·         More productive, asset creating and with linkages to agriculture and allied activities wage employment would to be provided under MGNREGA.
·         For improving road connectivity in rural areas allocation of Rs 14389 crore made under PMGSY.
·         Allocation for National Housing Bank increased to Rs 8000 crore to support Rural housing.
·         Employment exchanges to be transformed into career centers. A sum of Rs 100 crore provided.
·         “Start Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme” for encouraging rural youth to take up local entrepreneurship programs.
·         Under Ajeevika, the provision of bank loan for women SHGs at 4% extended to another 100 districts.
·          For the welfare of the tribals “Van BandhuKalyanYojna” launched.
·         Varishtha Pension BimaYojana (VPBY) revived for a limited period from 15 August, 2014 to 14 August, 2015 for the benefit of citizens aged 60 years and above. This was there under previous NDA Government.
·         Provisions made for enhanced benefits to the EPF scheme and a Universal account number for contributing members.
·         For visually challenged currency notes with Braille design and scheme for assistance to disabled persons for purchase of aids and appliances.
·         Measures for safety of women on Public transport system and ‘Crisis management centers’ for women in distress.
·         Programme for improving access of the poor to clean drinking water and sanitation.
·         Improved irrigation facilities through ‘Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchaee Yojana’.
·         Betibachao, BetiPadhao campaign and special small savings instrument for the girl child.
·         Free drug and diagnosis services for all.
·         Improvement in access to medical facilities and super specialty treatment by enhancing medical infrastructure through opening of new AIIMS like institutions.
·         National programme in Mission Mode to halt the deteriorating malnutrition situation in India.
·         Enhanced allocation under SSA programme for universal education.
·         A new programme for improving the quality of teachers for bridging the teaching gaps.
·         Toilets in all the schools for girl child.
·         To bridge the gap between digital haves and have not’s a programme on Digital India.
·         Kisan TV for bridging the Information gaps of farmers.
·         Mission on Low Cost Affordable Housing anchored in the National Housing Bank to be set up. 
·         A sum of Rs 4000 crores for NHB from the priority sector lending shortfall with a view to increase the flow of cheaper credit for affordable housing to the urban poor/EWS/LIG segment is provided
·         Slum development to be included in the list of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities to encourage the private sector to contribute more.
·         Poor are most vulnerable to effects of Climate change. A National adaptation fund set up.
·         Price Stabilization Fund to cushion the poor from the impact of inflation.
·         To provide institutional finance to landless farmers, it is proposed to provide finance to 5 lakh joint farming groups of “BhoomiHeenKisan” through NABARD.
·         Sum of Rs 200 crore for NABARD’s Producers Development and Upliftment Corpus (PRODUCE) for building 2,000 producers organizations over the next two years.
·         Skill India to be launched to skill the youth with an emphasis on employability and entrepreneur skills.

Pro-Business Measures

·         Sovereign right of the Government to undertake retrospective legislation to be exercised with extreme caution and judiciousness keeping in mind the impact of each suchmeasure on the economy and the overall investment climate.
·         A stable and predictable taxation regime which will be investor friendly and spur growth.
·         Legislative and administrative changes to sort out pending tax demands of more than Rs 4 lakh crore under dispute and litigation.
·         Resident tax payers enabled to obtain on advance ruling in respect of their income-tax liability above a defined threshold.
·         Measures for strengthening the Authority for Advance Rulings.
·         Convergence with International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) by Adoption of the new Indian Accounting Standards (2nd AS) by Indian Companies.
·         Government to promote FDI selectively in sectors.
·         The composite cap of foreign investment to be raised to 49 per cent with full Indian management and control through the FIPB route.
·         The composite cap in the insurance sector to be increased up to 49 per cent from 26 per cent with full Indian management and control through the FIPB route.
·         Requirement of the built up area and capital conditions for FDI reduced from 50,000 square meters to 20,000 square meters and from USD 10 million to USD 5 million respectively for development of smart cities.
·         The manufacturing units to be allowed to sell its products through retail including E-commerce platforms.
·         Incentives for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS). Complete pass through for the purpose of taxation.
·         A modified REITS type structure for infrastructure projects as the Infrastructure Investment Trusts (INVITS).
·         Central Government Departments and Ministries to integrate their services with the e-Biz -a single window IT platform- for services on priority by 31 December this year.
·         Rs 100 crore provided for setting up a National Industrial Corridor Authority.
·         Amritsar Kolkata Industrial master planning to be completed expeditiously.
·         Master planning of 3 new smart cities in the Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor region, viz., Ponneri in Tamil Nadu, Krishnapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Tumkur in Karnataka to be completed.
·         Perspective plan for the Bengaluru Mumbai Economic corridor (BMEC) and Vizag-Chennai corridor to be completed with the provision for 20 new industrial clusters.
·         Development of industrial corridors with emphasis on Smart Cities linked to transport connectivity to spur growth in manufacturing and urbanization will be accelerated.
·         Apprenticeship Act to be suitably amended to make it more responsive to industry and youth.
·         Definition of MSME to be reviewed to provide for a higher capital ceiling.
·         Committee to examine the financial architecture for MSME Sector, remove bottlenecks and create new rules and structures to be set up and give concrete suggestions in three months.     
·         Entrepreneur friendly legal bankruptcy framework will be developed for SMEs to enable easy exit.
·         An institution to provide support to mainstreaming PPPPs called 4PIndia to be set up with a corpus of Rs 500 crores.
·         Comprehensive measures for enhancing domestic coal production are being put in place.
·         Adequate quantity of coal will be provided to power plants which are already commissioned or would be commissioned by March 2015.
·         An exercise to rationalize coal linkages to optimize transport of coal and reduce cost of power is underway.
·         Introduction of uniform KYC norms and inter-usability of the KYC records across the entire financial sector.
·         Introduce one single operating demat account.
·         Uniform tax treatment for pension fund and mutual fund linked retirement plan.
·         Investment allowance at the rate of 15 percent to a manufacturing company that invests more than Rs25 crore in any year in new plant and machinery. The benefit to be available for three years i.e. for investments up to 31.03.2017.
·         Investment linked deduction extended to two new sectors, namely, slurry pipelines for the transportation of iron ore, and semi-conductor wafer fabrication manufacturing units.
·         10 year tax holiday extended to the undertakings which begin generation, distribution and transmission of power by 31.03.2017.
·         Income arising to foreign portfolio investors from transaction in securities to be treated as capital gains.
·         Concessional rate of 15 percent on foreign dividends without any sunset date to be continued.
·         Banks to be encouraged to extend long term loans to infrastructure sector with flexible structuring.
·          Banks to  be permitted  to  raise  long  term  funds  for  lending  to infrastructure  sector with minimum regulatory pre-emption such as CRR, SLR and Priority Sector Lending (PSL).
·         Bill to increase the FDI limit in insurance sector introduced in Parliament.
·         Introduction of a “Roll Back” provision in the Advanced Pricing Agreement (APA) scheme so that an APA entered into for future transactions is also applicable to international transactions undertaken in previous four years in specified circumstances.
·         Introduction of range concept for determination of arm’s length price in transfer pricing regulations.
·         To allow use of multiple year data for comparability analysis under transfer pricing regulations.
·         60 more AyakarSevaKendras to be opened during the current financial year to promote excellence in service delivery.
·         To encourage new investment and capacity addition in the chemicals and petrochemicals sector, basic customs duty reduced on certain items.
·         To boost domestic manufacture and to address the issue of inverted duties, basic customs duty (BCD) reduced on certain items.
·         Colour picture tubes exempted from basic customs duty to make cathode ray TVs cheaper and more affordable to weaker sections.
·         To encourage production of LCD and LED TVs below 19 inches in India, basic customs duty on LCD and LED TV panels of below 19 inches reduced from 10 percent to Nil.
·         To give an impetus to the stainless steel industry, increase in basic customs duty on imported flat-rolled products of stainless steel from 5 percent to 7.5 percent.
·         Concessional basic customs duty of 5 percent extended to machinery and equipment required for setting up of a project for solar energy production. 
·         Specified inputs for use in the manufacture of EVA sheets and back sheets and flat copper wire for the manufacture of PV ribbons exempted from basic customs duty.
·         Reduction in basic customs duty from 10 percent to 5 percent on forged steel rings used in the manufacture of bearings of wind operated electricity generators. Exemption from  SAD of 4 percent on parts and raw materials required for the manufacture of wind operated generators.
·         Concessional basic customs duty of 5 percent on machinery and equipment required for setting up of compressed biogas plants (Bio-CNG).
·         Anthracite coal, bituminous coal, coking coal, steam coal and other coal to attract 2.5 per cent basic customs duty and 2 per cent CVD to eliminate all assessment disputes and transaction costs associated with testing of various parameters of coal.
·         Basic customs duty on metallurgical coke increased from Nil to 2.5 percent in line with the duty on coking coal.
·         Duty on ship breaking scrap and melting scrap of iron or steel rationalized by reducing the basic customs duty on ships imported for breaking up from 5 percent to 2.5 percent.
·         To prevent misuse and avoid assessment disputes, basic customs duty on semi-processed, half cut or broken diamonds, cut and polished diamonds and coloured gemstones rationalized at 2.5 percent.
·         To encourage exports, pre-forms of precious and semi-precious stones exempted from basic customs duty.
·         Duty free entitlement for import of trimmings, embellishments and other specified items increased from 3 percent to 5 percent of the value of their export, for readymade garments.
·         To incentivize expansion of processing capacity, reduction in excise duty on specified food processing and packaging machinery from 10 percent to 6 percent.
·         Reduction in the excise duty from 12 percent to 6 percent on footwear of retail price exceeding Rs 500 per pair but not exceeding Rs 1,000 per pair.
·         To develop renewable energy, various items exempted from excise duty.
·         Exemption to PSF and PFY manufactured from plastic waste and scrap including PET bottles from excise duty with effect from 29th June, 2010 to 7th May, 2012.
·         Prospective levy of a nominal duty of 2 percent without Cenvat benefit and 6 percent with Cenvat benefit on such PSF and PFY.
·         Concessional excise duty of 2 percent without Cenvat benefit and 6 percent with Cenvat benefit on sports gloves.
·         Steps taken to boost domestic production of electronic items and reduce our dependence on imports.  These include imposition of basic customs duty on certain items falling outside the purview of IT Agreement, exemption from SAD on inputs/components for PC manufacturing, imposition of education cess on imported electronic products for parity etc.
·         Provision of services rules to be amended and tax incidence to be reduced on transport of goods through coastal vessels to promote Indian Shipping Industry.
·         Service tax exempted on loading, unloading, storage, warehousing and transportation of cotton, whether ginned or baled.
·         24X7 customs clearance facility extended to 13 more airports in respect of all export goods and to 14 more sea ports in respect of specified import and export goods to facilitate cargo clearance.
·         ‘Indian Customs Single Window Project’ to facilitate trade, to be implemented.

Structural Reforms Announced in the General Budget 2014-15

4.1 per cent fiscal deficit a daunting task in the backdrop of two years of low GDP growth, static industrial growth, and moderate increase in indirect taxes, subsidy burden and not so encouraging tax buoyancy. The government is committed to achieve this target.  Road map for fiscal consolidation outlines fiscal deficit of 3.6 % for 2015-16 and 3 % for 2016-17.Bold steps required to enhance economic activities and spur growth in the economy.  To achieve this various structural reform initiatives were announced in the General Budget 2014-15, summarized as below:
·         The subsidy regime to be made more targeted for full protection to the marginalized, poor and SC/ST.
·         Introduction of GST to be given thrust.
·         Setting up of Expenditure Management Commission to look into expenditure reforms.
·         Government to promote FDI selectively in sectors.
·         Requirement of the built up area and capital conditions for FDI to be reduced from 50,000 square meters to 20,000 square meters and from USD 10 million to USD 5 million respectively for development of smart cities.
·         Incentives for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS). Complete pass through for the purpose of taxation. A modified REITS type structure for infrastructure projects as the Infrastructure Investment Trusts (INVITS).These two instruments to attract long term finance from foreign and domestic sources including the NRIs.
·         More productive, asset creating and with linkages to agriculture and allied activities wage employment would to be provided under MGNREGA.
·         Initial sum of Rs 100 crore for “Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Programme” for encouraging rural youth to take up local entrepreneurship programs.
·         “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” to cover every household with sanitation facility by the year 2019.
·         15 Model Rural Health Research Centres to be set up for research on local health issues concerning rural population.
·         Pan India programme “Digital India” to with an outlay of Rs500 crore to be launched.
·         Restructuring FCI, reducing transportation and distribution losses and efficacy of PDS to be taken up on priority.
·         Rs 100 crore provided for setting up a National Industrial Corridor Authority.
·         Central Government Departments and Ministries to integrate their services with the e-Biz -a single window IT platform- for services on priority by 31 December this year.
·         A sum of Rs 7060 crore is provided in the current fiscal for the project of developing “one hundred Smart Cities’.  Development of industrial corridors with emphasis on Smart Cities linked to transport connectivity to spur growth in manufacturing and urbanization will be accelerated.
·         Definition of MSME to be reviewed to provide for a higher capital ceiling.
·         Fund of Funds with a corpus of Rs 10,000 crore for providing equity through venture capital funds, quasi equity, soft loans and other risk capital specially to encourage new startups by youth to be set up.
·         Entrepreneur friendly legal bankruptcy framework will be developed for SMEs to enable easy exit.
·         A nationwide “District level Incubation and Accelerator Programme” to be taken up for incubation of new ideas and necessary support for accelerating entrepreneurship.
·         An institution to provide support to mainstreaming PPPPs called 4PIndia to be set up with a corpus of Rs500 crores.
·         A Green Energy Corridor Project is being implemented to facilitate evacuation of renewable energy across the country.
·         Changes, if necessary, in the MMDR Act, 1957 to be introduced to encourage investment in mining sector and promote sustainable mining practices.
·         Government in close consultation with the RBI to put in place a modern monetary policy framework.
·         Uniform tax treatment for pension fund and mutual fund linked retirement plan.
·         Banks to  be permitted  to  raise  long  term  funds  for  lending  to infrastructure  sector with minimum regulatory pre-emption such as CRR, SLR and Priority Sector Lending (PSL).
·         RBI to create a framework for licensing small banks and other differentiated banks. Differentiated banks serving niche interests, local area banks, payment banks etc. are contemplated to meet credit and remittance needs of small businesses, unorganized sector, low income households, farmers and migrant work force.
·         For venture capital in the MSME sector,  a Rs10,000 crore fund to act as  a catalyst to attract private Capital by way of providing equity , quasi equity, soft loans and other risk capital for start-up companies with suitable tax incentives to participating private funds to be established.
·         Rs 990 crore allocated for the socio economic development of the villages along the borders.
·         Rs2037 crores provided for Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission “NAMAMI GANGE”.NRI Fund for Ganga will be set up.
·         A “Young Leaders Programme” with an initial allocation of` 100 crore to be set up.
·         Legislative and administrative changes to sort out pending tax demands of more than Rs4 lakh crore under dispute and litigation.
·         Resident tax payers enabled to obtain on advance ruling in respect of their income-tax liability above a defined threshold.
·         Measures for strengthening the Authority for Advance Rulings.
·         Income-tax Settlement Commission scope to be enlarged.
·         Introduction of a “Roll Back” provision in the Advanced Pricing Agreement (APA) scheme so that an APA entered into for future transactions is also applicable to international transactions undertaken in previous four years in specified circumstances.
·         The scheme of Advance Ruling in indirect taxes to be expanded to cover resident private limited companies.  The scope of Settlement Commission to be enlarged to facilitate quick dispute resolution.

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