22 May 2015

‪#‎ukpcsmains‬ news

After listening to the INTERVENTION APPLICATION filed in by different people (8 in total) , the divisional bench of Justice ALOK SINGH & Justice SERVESH KUMAR GUPTA , has given a week's time to the respondent (Govt ) and has scheduled the next hearing ON 29TH OF MAY (next friday) FOR "FINAL DISPOSAL"


A new manual for diplomats

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi completes the first year in office, his greatest momentum has been in the least expected domain — foreign policy. As a state chief minister with limited exposure to the world of international relations, Modi, it was widely believed, might face a handicap on the diplomatic front and would concentrate on his presumed strength in economic management.
If Modi’s performance on the economic front has drawn mixed reviews, many have acknowledged the vigour and purpose he has brought to India’s renewed engagement with the world. Modi’s frequent high-profile travels abroad have, in fact, generated some concern among the PM’s supporters that he is spending far too much time abroad at a time of slipping domestic primacy.
Over the last one year, Modi has shown a surprising personal enthusiasm for diplomacy and revelled in the international attention he has got. While following the broad foreign policy direction set by his predecessors, Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Modi has been bold enough to make some important departures.
The PM’s main foreign policy objectives have been revitalisation of the stalled partnership with the United States, better management of the China challenge, more productive engagement with neighbours in the subcontinent and Asia, leveraging India’s inherent strengths in soft power and moving New Delhi towards pragmatic internationalism.
In two summits with President Barack Obama, Modi moved quickly to address differences with the US on food subsidies and nuclear liability, inject new energy into defence cooperation and signal flexibility on climate change. Discarding the defensiveness that had crept into relations with the US during the second term of the UPA, Modi, despite his visa problems with Washington, has put America at the heart of India’s international strategy. For the first time since 2005, when the UPA government signed the historic but controversial defence and nuclear agreements with America, there is renewed optimism about the future of Indo-US relations.
Just as he put ties with America back on track, Modi has begun to reset India’s relations with China. He has sought deeper economic ties with Beijing, while prudently managing the border dispute. Unlike the UPA, Modi does not view the relationships with the US and China in terms of non-alignment. He has laid out a framework of greater security cooperation with America and a strong economic partnership with China.
In the neighbourhood, Modi has got trapped in the familiar roller-coaster with Pakistan. Though he reached out to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif immediately after the elections last year, Modi later suspended talks with Pakistan, objecting to political contacts between Islamabad and separatist groups in Kashmir. If his Pakistanpolicy seemed to flip and flop, Modi has moved decisively to improve relations with smaller neighbours like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. He has connected directly with the political classes and people in the neighbouring countries. Above all, he has shown the will to resolve long-pending problems with them — whether it is through the development of shared water resources with Nepal or getting Parliament to approve the historic land boundary agreement with Bangladesh.
Modi has rebranded India’s “Look East” policy as “Act East”, with special emphasis on strengthening economic and security ties with Asian neighbours like Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, Australia and Mongolia. His concept of the extended neighbourhood also includes the maritime domain, as he travelled to the far seas — from Fiji in the South Pacific to Seychelles in the Western Indian Ocean.
An intensive outreach to the diaspora and promoting India’s religious and cultural links with the neighbours have been special features of Modi’s diplomacy. Although the engagement with the diaspora had begun to gain some traction since the Vajpayee years, Modi has elevated it to a new level. Equally important has been his emphasis on the projection of Indian culture abroad.
Modi’s most significant contribution could turn out to be his effort to build a new foreign policy identity for India. If India, obsessed with the notion of “strategic autonomy” in recent years, has been able to dump the residual ideological baggage on it, Modi has now begun to develop the idea of India as a “leading power”.
For decades, India saw itself as a balancing power trying to limit the West or the Chinese. Modi is now suggesting that India, with its growing national capabilities, must view itself as a power that takes greater responsibility for the construction and maintenance of the global order.
This has translated into a more self-confident engagement with the other great powers. It has also resulted in a more positive Indian approach to dealing with such global challenges as climate change, where the country was long looked at as part of the problem rather than the solution.
As a leader with a strong mandate, Modi has been well placed to impart a new momentum to India’s diplomacy. But it is by no means clear, in the middle of 2015, if Modi can engineer structural changes in the way the bureaucracy and political classes think and deal with the world. The slow pace of reforms and limited institutional capability to deliver on promises made to foreign interlocutors could re-emerge as important constraints on Modi’s diplomacy. As at home so abroad, Modi has generated expansive expectations. The current global warmth towards Modi could begin to fade if India is seen as returning to a defensive and non-performing mode.
Meanwhile, there are threats to internal peace and harmony that have not gone unnoticed in the rest of the world. The Modi government’s tolerance of the BJP’s extremist fringe and its crackdown on liberal civil society groups have begun to draw criticism, especially in the US. Unless checked decisively, the negative dynamic on the domestic front will, sooner rather than later, cloud Modi’s efforts to project India’s cultural strengths and democratic values. At the end of the first year, Modi faces a paradox: his success in creating significant external opportunities for India could easily be undermined by potential failures on the domestic front.

Time For School

We live in a world where every seventh person is illiterate. Six crore kids have never been to school, and almost 12 crore left within two to three years. Even those who are in school have shameful standards of education. Twenty-five crore of them cannot read simple sentences and fail at basic arithmetic. It is with this upsetting knowledge that world leaders, education ministers and NGOs are meeting in Incheon, South Korea, at the World Education Forum (WEF), which ends on May 22. At the last such forum held in Dakar in 2000, six goals were agreed upon, the most significant being that by 2015, each child would get access to primary education and no child would be out of school.
Fifteen years later, we’re still miles away from achieving those goals. Those who recognise the power of education are not advancing with the same urgency as the negative forces that want to muzzle education. Anarchists and anti-development agents are so threatened by the power of education that they are willing to kill and get killed to crush it. Almost half of the 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria last year are still missing. A few months ago, 132 children were gunned down in their classrooms in Peshawar. Last month, terrorists attacked a college in Kenya, killing more than 150 students. That negative forces have taken to unmitigated violence is proof that they are petrified of an educated world.
There is no tool as powerful as education to break the shackles of human slavery. When a child picks up a pen, the power of a gun in the hands of a soldier weakens. When one wall of a classroom is built, millions of walls that divide humanity collapse. Where even one child is bereft of the right to education, no society can prosper. To attain sustainable and inclusive growth, quality education for each citizen is paramount.
Evaluation of practices that have been successful in furthering education is the first step. There are countries where more children are going to school because governments have made education free and abolished hidden costs. There are societies that are closer to achieving literacy for all as they have allocated more funds to raise the quality and utility of education. There are villages where children are brimming with ideas and knowledge because their schools have enough trained teachers and a conducive learning environment.
Apart from this, regular and adequate aid from developed nations to poorer countries has also ensured education for crores. However, providing education to all is still riddled with challenges — the biggest being the unwillingness of nations to contribute funds to the cause of education. Today, less than 4 per cent of global aid goes to education. We need $22 billion to send every child to school. This is only 4.5 days of annual military expenditure. The world needs almost 1.45 crore qualified teachers, but we are investing in fortifying our armies instead of enriching our schools. Syria has 2.5 times more soldiers than primary teachers, Israel almost three times more, and Uganda four times more. Is it too much to ask that all children have a teacher, or for the number of teachers to exceed the number of soldiers?
Another challenge is to make the education we provide inclusive and egalitarian. Our current standards have made education a business and a privilege of the rich. It is no more a human right, but a thing to be sold and bought. A knowledge apartheid will only exclude the marginalised further, leading to social unrest. Bringing education to the hardest to reach children is another challenge. There are almost 17 crore child labourers in the world. Around 23 crore are caught in armed conflicts and are victims of terrorism and insurgencies. Nine to 15 crore are physically or mentally challenged. As long as our political and social systems do not include them, achieving education for all is impossible.
No country can progress without equal opportunity for education and social justice. Education is not just a human right, but also a key to other rights. To devote a larger share of funds to education, then, is not asking for the moon. It is evident that what is truly compromising delivery of education is not poverty, but lack of political will. This is why the WEF is a landmark meet. The decisions there will determine not just the next 15 years, but the collective future of coming generations.The writer is a Nobel Peace Laureate for 2014.

Art of the state

There is a Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, with Union, concurrent and state lists. Governments are elected to deliver governance.
Other than processes, and legislative and regulatory content, governance is about the delivery of public goods and services, with “public goods” not defined in the classic economist’s sense. Thus, the Seventh Schedule tells us who should do what. There is an optimal layer of government at which these should be delivered. A higher layer is suboptimal, and so is a lower layer. There are both economies and dis-economies of scale. The Seventh Schedule is not cast in stone. Today’s Seventh Schedule is not what it was in 1950: The Union list has expanded, as has the concurrent list, while the state list has shrunk.
The Constitution doesn’t use the word “Centre”. It uses the word “Union”. But, unfortunately, the expression Centre-state has entered the discourse. These changes in the Seventh Schedule reflected greater centralisation. There wasn’t a single amendment in the reverse direction, the direction of decentralisation and devolution. This tendency to over-centralise, and not just through changes in the Seventh Schedule, has been commented on in several reports. The 2010 report of the Commission on Centre-State Relations is one such. It is to be hoped that there will be a Seventh Schedule that is different, with decentralisation to the third tier of governance. Twenty-nine “public good” items should be on a panchayat list and 18 on a municipality list.
Yes, in 1968, the first Administrative Reforms Commission didn’t want a review of the Seventh Schedule. But the Rajamannar Committee of 1971 did, and the world of 2015 is different from that of 1968. Do we want decentralisation and devolution? The question isn’t merely a fiscal one. If you go by some elements of the current discourse, we don’t want decentralisation/ devolution. We want the “Centre” to do assorted things. Witness the criticism, after the Union budget of 2015-16 was presented, of the Centre not spending enough on health.
Why should the Union government spend on health? Health doesn’t figure in the Union list. Medical education and professions figure in the concurrent list. Do we then want the Centre to spend money on the Medical Council of India? I am not being facile. There is indeed a sub-group of chief ministers and it will recommend the rationalisation of Central schemes. It is perfectly possible that this sub-group will recommend the continuation, of some variety, of a national health mission. The limited point is that health is not the Union government’s natural constitutional mandate. It is in the state list, under Entry 6.
There is a furore over land as well. Entry 18 on the state list makes land squarely a state subject. Show me where land figures in the Union list. I am not suggesting the debated Central land legislation is illegal. Far from it. But how is it justified? It is justified under Entry 42 of the concurrent list, which is about the “acquisition and requisition of property”. Read Entry 6 in the concurrent list, too, which is about the “transfer of property other than agricultural land”. It doesn’t seem that the definition of property under Entry 42 was meant to cover agricultural land, in the spirit of the Seventh Schedule. Sure, the legality has been tested many years ago, including in a case involving the government of West Bengal.
Even with the present, and not future and amended, Seventh Schedule, I think the Union government should legislate on items in the Union list. If it is an item on the concurrent list, the Union government should only legislate when state governments ask it to, not otherwise. Just as there are problems in devising Delhi-driven centralised templates for Centrally sponsored schemes, there are issues with Central laws in factor markets (add labour, too) that ignore India’s heterogeneity.
In international negotiations, be it labour standards or environmental norms, our argument has been the following. Do not impose standards evolved in developed countries. Different countries are at different levels of development. By the same token, different states are at different levels of development. Their land, labour and natural resource markets differ. So what is wrong with allowing states to decide? What’s wrong with Delhi letting go? What’s wrong with labour moving to the state list? As long as the present Seventh Schedule continues, there is great temptation for Parliament to legislate on items on the concurrent list. That’s the reason it is important to amend the Seventh Schedule and reverse the trend, witnessed especially in the mid-1970s, of moving items from the state list to the concurrent list, and from the concurrent list to the Union list. Because of the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, some fiscal devolution has automatically happened. The fiscal devolution isn’t only Union to state. It is also about state to local bodies and intra-state differences. Decentralisation and devolution aren’t purely fiscal. The non-fiscal elements are more important and also require a change in mindset. I don’t think that’s happened. We, or at least some participants in the discourse, somehow prefer Central planning and direction.
After one year, where is the big bang?
The answer depends entirely on what one’s subjective preference and definition of “big bang” is, oblivious to the fact that the world, and the universe, are steady state, not big bang. But if one is going to use the expression “big bang”, I don’t think there can be a bigger bang than what’s occurred and is going to happen even more — decentralisation to the states that goes way beyond fiscal devolution. This will completely overhaul the way we have institutionally looked at the delivery of public goods and services and the layer of government at which they are delivered. For various reasons, countervailing citizen pressure has resulted in a demand for better goods and services, often at the local body level.
These supply-side changes require the kind of institutional change that is just beginning.

India‘s Moribund power witnesses sea change after Modi launches major initiatives

 Infrastructure bottleneck is the single most problem that impedes India’s rapid economic growth especially power generation and Prime Minister Narendra Modi government aware of this constraint has given topmost priority to the sector and taken a slew of initiatives starting with clearing the mess created by the previous UPA in coal auction. The coal scam alone has retarded power development in the country by several years. India’s power generation stood at 266 MW and the demand is likely to more than double in the next 4-5 years commensurate with expected 8-9 per cent annual GDP growth. To meet power demand is going to be gigantic task as more power would be required not only for increased industrial and agricultural activity but also the domestic consumption with improving standard of living and growing middle class numbering over 300 million.

            The Government, which is spending $1 trillion in infrastructure development, is expected to spend at least $300 billion in the power sector in the next five years. Funding is not an issue as in the past but skilled manpower could come in the way which is now being tackled adequately by the new government. The Public Private Partnership has however not worked well in the infrastructure sector and it may require some tweaking. It is for this reason the union Budget presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced setting up of five ‘plug and play’ ultra mega power plants to generate 20,000 Mw of thermal power with an investment of around Rs one lakh crore. The first of these five 4000 Mw power plants is to be set up in Odisha followed by another in Tamil Nadu.

            The successful coal auction for re-allocation of some of the 204 coal blocks de-allocated by Supreme Court following Rs 1.86 lakh crore coal scam during UPA government, fetched a whopping Rs two lakh crore to the government kitty and helped kick-starting at least 20,000 Mw of completed thermal power projects stuck for want of coal linkage. This would give immediate relief to power shortage in some parts of the country but lack of grid connectivity may perhaps be an impediment in the short term to transfer this surplus power to deficit states in Southern and Eastern India.

            Apart from the growing need of the industry, the Modi government has embarked upon a massive programme to provide 24 into 7 power across the country by 2019. This meant connecting to the grid 1,25,000 of the six lakh villages in the country. These 1.25 lakh villages have not yet been connected. Providing 24 into 7 power also meant lot of other innovative steps. Conscious of this fact, several landmark decisions have already been taken in thermal power generation, hydel and nuclear power and more importantly in solar, wind and other green energy besides strengthening of transmission and distribution, separation of feeder and metering of power to consumers.

            Special focus has also been given to north east by giving approval to the north eastern power system improvement project and comprehensive scheme for strengthening of transmission and distribution in the north eastern states.

            In the reform and restructuring front, various amendments are being brought in the Electricity Act and Tariff policy. Comprehensive state-specific action plans for 24x7 power to all homes is being prepared in partnership with respective states, encompassing generation, transmission and distribution. The power ministry has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Andhra Pradesh government under its 'Power for all' initiative that aims to cover the entire state by October 2016. Plans for Delhi & Rajasthan are complete and are being readied for other states. Government was also implementing an ambitious Rs 43,033 crore plan to supply separate electricity through separate feeders for agricultural and rural domestic consumption to ensure round-the-colck power rural households. Also, Rs.32,612 crore  integrated power development initiative has been launched for strengthening sub-transmission and distribution systems. Plan are afoot to reduce transmission losses by 5 per cent, which is significant and it stood at around 27 per cent. A five per cent saving in transmission losses meant that India has additional 15,000 Mw of power without any fresh investment. Creating new power generation capacity of one Mw of power meant and investment ranging from Rs 5-7 crore and 15,000 mw reduction losses meant an additional RS 75,000 to Rs 1.05 lakh crore is available other investments.

            The Modi government has initiated National Smart Grid Mission to make the Indian Power infrastructure cost effective, responsive and reliable. Smart grids use sensors, meters, digital controls and analytic tools to automate, monitor and control the two-way flow of energy across operations—from power plant to plug. A power company can optimize grid performance, prevent outages, restore outages faster and allow consumers to manage energy usage right down to the individual networked appliance.

            Smart grids can also incorporate new renewable energies such as solar and wind power, and interact locally with distributed power sources, or plug-in electric vehicles. This is a very ambitious programme and the 100 smart cities to be set up will also have smart grids resulting in sizeable savings in power.
            All central ministries and departments have been asked to replace CFL and Incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs. Finance ministry has issued directives to all departments in this regard.

After the recent devastating Hudhud cyclone in Vizakhapattanam,  Energy Efficiency Services Limited  has replaced 91,000 street lights with LED lights. Chennai and Mumbai municipalities too have started replacing CFL and sodium vapour lamps with LED street lights in certain areas. A city like Chennai can save  up to 20 Mw of power in street lights and Mumbai about 30 Mw. LED conversion is a Rs 75,000 crore industry and it can bring about saving of over 1000 Mw in entire country on street lights alone, which can be powered by solar photovoltaic power as well.

            With Modi government stepping up renewable energy power generation target to one lakh Mw of solar power and 60,000 Mw of wind power by 2022, Rs 10 lakh crore investments are expected to pour in to the renewable energy sector in the next seven years. Apart from efforts to quickly to restart stalled hydel projects, government has stepped up budget allocation for renewable energy by 65.8 per cent and is in the process of coming out with new renewable energy policy for solar and wind power.

            As part of its blueprint for energy security, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government plans to float five funds of $5 billion each, targeted at promoting green energy sources.

            The new and renewable energy (MNRE) ministry plans to get the help of state-owned and private sector financial institutions such as Power Finance Corp. Ltd (PFC), Rural Electrification Corp. Ltd (REC), Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), IFCI Ltd, SBI Capital Markets Ltd and ICICI Bank Ltd to create a corpus of $25 billion. The government’s renewed focus on green energy comes in the backdrop of the US and China inking a climate change deal wherein the US will reduce its emissions by 26-28% below its 2005 level by 2025 and China will reach the peak of its harmful carbon dioxide emissions in around 2030.

            The new measures announced by the government give top priority for domestic players and the Rs 100,000 crore worth of orders placed in power sector in the recent months by NTPC, Coal India, Energy Efficiency Services, Power Grid Corporation will boost local manufacturing giving boost to make in India campaign of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Also domestic solar and wind large orders have been placed on local manufacturers to make them price competitive by increasing capacity and getting world class technology. Government organizations will buy 1000Mw worth solar projects with special provision so for use of only domestically produced cells and modules. Defence establishments will buy 300 Mw solar plants. Government has also planned to save 10 per cent energy through conservation. As much as 10,000 crore units are to be saved, which can light up 11 crore lives and save Rs 40,000 crore.

            The government’s strategy to focus on renewable also stems from the fact that India has an energy import bill of around $150 billion, which is expected to reach $300 billion by 2030. India imports 80 per cent of its crude oil and 18 per cent of its natural gas requirements. As of April 2014, total thermal installed capacity stood at 168.4 GW, while hydro and renewable energy installed capacity totaled 40.5 GW and 31.7 GW, respectively.  Wind energy market of India is expected to attract about Rs 20,000 crore (US$ 3.16 billion) of investments next year, as companies across sectors plan to add 3,000 MW of capacity powered by wind energy.

            Around 293 global and domestic companies have committed to generate 266 GW of solar, wind, mini-hydel and bio-mass based power in India over the next 5-10 years. The initiative would entail an investment of about US$ 310-350 billion. The industry has attracted FDI worth US$ 9,548.82 million during the period April 2000 to February 2015.

            India’s  natural gas production from hydrocarbon resources is expected to rise 52 per cent in the next three years, outstripping the growth in demand from power and fertilizer firms during the same period, according to the oil ministry. India’s natural gas output is projected to increase to almost 230 million metric standard cubic metres per day (mmscmd) by 2017-18 from the current 138.33 mmscmd as at the end of 2014-15, a growth of 52 per cent. This is against a growth in demand of 27 per cent from the core natural gas consuming sectors—power and fertilizer. This is a welcome development for the energy sector as in the past India had been a laggard in even meeting its natural gas production target with the production at 3.365 billion cubic metres (bcm), down 5% from 3.54 bcm produced in 2013-14 and down 8.1% from the target production of 3.66 bcm. In the last 10 years, while India’s domestic production has grown by 10%, India’s imports of R-LNG has grown by 335% due to a major growth in demand, which has risen by almost 46%, according to PPAC.
The result of these developments would, however. might not be immediate as there will be some lag before these projects go on stream. With investment climate improving, inflation moderating, growth picking up in the face of stable government, the outcome of these initiative will become visible on the ground in the coming months and years.

Setting up of a new Ammonia-Urea Complex at Namrup in Assam on Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis

Setting up of a new Ammonia-Urea Complex at Namrup in Assam on Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis

Financial restructuring of Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corporation Limited
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, today gave its approval for setting up of a new Ammonia-Urea Complex of 8.64 Lakh Metric Tonnes annual capacity with an estimated investment of Rs. 4500 crore at Namrup in Assam on Public Private Partnership (PPP) route by a Joint Venture (JV). In the proposed JV, a PSU of Department of Fertilizers namely Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corporation Limited (BVFCL), Government of Assam and Oil India Limited (another PSU) shall have 11%, 11% and 26% equity holding respectively and balance 52% by private/public sector entity(ies) which would be inducted through a competitive bidding process.

The Cabinet also approved the financial restructuring of BVFCL by waiving off entire cumulative interest (Rs. 774.61 crore as on 31.03.2015) till date accrued on GOI loans & a loan of Rs. 21.96 crore and conversion of GOI loans of Rs. 594.71 crore as interest free loan. It will enable the BVFCL to participate as equity partner in this project and will sustain the operation of the existing plants during the interim period till the new plant comes into operation.

The setting up of a new Ammonia-Urea Complex will meet the growing demand of urea of North-East, Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand. It will also ease the pressure on infrastructure due to long distance transportation of Urea from Western and Central Regions and thereby saving in govt. subsidy on freight. It will accelerate the economic development of the region. The proposed plant will open new avenues for the people of the North-East.

The annual consumption of Urea in the country is approx. 310 LMT, out of which 230 LMT is produced indigenously and rest is imported. To enhance the production of urea indigenously, Govt. has earlier approved the revival of Talcher (Odisha) & Ramagundam (Telangna) units of Fertilizer Corporation of India Limited (FCIL) by PSUs through ‘nomination route’ and Barauni unit of Hindustan Fertilizer Corporation Limited (HFCL) & Gorakhpur unit of FCIL through ‘bidding route’. These four units will produce about 52 lakh MT of urea annually.

The new plant will be highly energy efficient unit of international standard with latest technology and with same amount of natural gas available to the existing units, the production of urea from the new unit will be more than double i.e. 3.6 to 8.64 lakh Metric Tonnes annually. With this, India is likely to start export of urea. Govt. would save about Rs. 600 crore annually due to reduction in cost of production and import substitution. The entire production of urea from this unit shall be neem coated so that benefits of neem coating are available to the farmers of the North-Eastern region also

#Biodiversity for #SustainableDevelopment’

Biodiversity for Sustainable Development’

Environment Minister’s Message on International Day for Biological Diversity
The Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar, has emphasised the need to work together to conserve biodiversity to ensure the future for the present generation and the coming generations. In his message on International Day for Biological Diversity being celebrated today, Shri Javadekar said that this earth has been borrowed from children and not inherited from ancestors. The Minister said that the imperative challenge before India is to imbibe and translate the theme of Biodiversity for Sustainable Development, due to its privileged status as a megabiodiverse country, past and projected demographic transitions and commitment to democracy as a political principle.

International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated to recognize the pivotal role of biodiversity to life on earth and human well-being, as well as to increase awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the threats to it. It was on this day in 1992 that the text of the Convention of Biodiversity was adopted. This year’s theme is ‘Biodiversity for Sustainable Development’. During the preceding years, Biodiversity and Poverty Alleviation in 2003, Biodiversity: Food, Water and Health for All in 2004, Biodiversity: Life Insurance for our Changing World in 2005, Protect Biodiversity in Drylands in 2006 and Biodiversity and Agriculture in 2008, have been some of the other themes.

The International Day for Biological Diversity is being celebrated all over the country today. The main event is being held in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir.

Following is the text of the message:

“Today we celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity, to recognise the pivotal role of biodiversity to life on earth and human well-being. On this day in 1992, the text of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted. To mark this, 22nd May has been proclaimed by the United Nations as the International Day for Biological Diversity, to increase awareness about the importance of and threats to biodiversity.

The theme this year, ‘Biodiversity for Sustainable Development’ is very topical, as the international community accelerates its efforts to define the post-2015 agenda, including adopting a set of goals for sustainable development.

This year’s theme reflects the bigger and very crucial paradigm shift that the world has undergone from seeing ‘development’ and ‘environment’ as two ends of a spectrum, where one must be compromised in order to enhance the other, to having development while protecting environment.

Biodiversity, the variety of life on earth, is vital to social and economic development, and is indeed fundamental to our survival. Over the years, retrospective wisdom and the development experience have guided us in favour of the commonsensical understanding that protecting the variety of life forms and their infinitely complex interactions, form the very basis for long-lasting and inclusive development. In other words, environment, or more specifically biodiversity and its invaluable and often irreplaceable ecosystem services, from the air we breathe to the water we drink, are the very foundation on which viable long-term development rests. Former themes for the International Day for Biological Diversity have captured this fact in snippets. Past themes have been: Biodiversity and Poverty Alleviation (2003); Biodiversity: Food, Water and Health for All (2004); Biodiversity: Life Insurance for our Changing World (2005); Protect Biodiversity in Drylands (2006); and Biodiversity and Agriculture (2008) among others.

The challenge before India to imbibe and translate the theme of ‘Biodiversity for Sustainable Development’ is imperative in the light of our privileged status as a megabiodiverse country, past and projected demographic transitions and commitment to democracy as a political principle. These three facets make it non-negotiable that we galvanise the political will, scientific and technological know-how and financial resources to contribute to the agenda set out in the outcome document from the Rio+20 Conference, ‘The future we want’.

Nature has generously endowed our country. With only 2.4% of the world’s land area, India has 7-8% of the recorded species of the world, with over 46,000 species of plants and 91,000 species of animals. India is also an acknowledged centre of crop diversity, and harbours many wild and domesticated animals, fish and millions of microbes and insects. The ecosystem diversity is also unparalleled. These are the strengths to draw upon to meet the goals of ending poverty and hunger; achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture; ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages; ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all and in making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Promoting multiple varieties of staple foodgrains; switching to cropping patterns, wider seed and plant variety choices, water conservation and utilisation patterns, and farming practices that combine the best of traditional wisdom and science with a whole-system perspective; valuing the therapeutic properties and medicinal uses of various parts of plants and animals; all form key aspects of the way ahead.

Communities that are inclusive and resilient are also the only ones that will be safe in the long run. The income-poor in India and the world over face the negative fallouts of depleting and degraded natural resources in disproportionate measure to those who are responsible for such depletion and degradation. Sustainable development rests on a viable and sound natural resource base.

The future we want, thus depends heavily on the restorative and ameliorative action that we engage with, in relation to our wealth in biodiversity today. This challenge can only be met with broad stakeholder participation. From the right knowledge, to the right resources and the right spirit of working together for the common good, may the International Day for Biological Diversity 2015 help us draw on synergies and strengths across sectors to achieve the vision of Biodiversity for Sustainable Development.

The Day is being celebrated all over the country by different States and organisations. The main event is being held in Srinagar in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. In this event, the BIOFIN India project is being formally launched today with the release of a brochure. Another brochure on announcement of India Biodiversity Awards 2016, the third in the series is being released today, along with a release of a publication on good models of biodiversity governance emanating from India Biodiversity Awards 2014. Also being released today is an India Business and Biodiversity Initiative publication on best practices on biodiversity management by some companies.

As we celebrate the 2015 International Day for Biological Diversity, let us work together for conserving biodiversity to ensure the future we want for us and our coming generations. For, we have borrowed this earth from our children, and not inherited it from our ancestors.” 

20 May 2015

When giants meet

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just concluded a visit to China, his first since taking the reins at the Centre in 2014. This high-profile visit by Modi attracted global attention as the two Asian giants have begun to form a stronger relationship, based on equality and mutual benefit.
There is little doubt that China and India together can determine the future of Asia. As Jawaharlal Nehru once said, if China and India hold together, the future of Asia is assured. Indeed, the countries share many similarities: large populations, ancient civilisations, developing economies, a history of being wronged by Western powers, immense potential to become global powers. In the past, however, India-China relations have been plagued by mistrust, which stemmed from an unfortunate border war and lingering border disputes. But since Chinese President Xi Jinping took over in 2012, and Modi came to the helm in 2014, things have started to change.
The most important reason behind this sea change in ties is both countries’ realisation that they need to work together to fulfil the “Chinese dream” as well as the “Indian dream”. Both are developing economies with large populations. Their first priority is to reach development to their peoples. And China understands this very well.
That is partly why Xi decided to receive Modi in Xian instead of Beijing, breaking diplomatic protocol and showing special respect for the Indian prime minister. As a result, India and China signed a large number of economic agreements, worth a total of $22 billion. Besides, more agreements on education, scientific research, infrastructure, and cultural exchange have been inked. So, overall, there is no doubt that Modi’s visit to China is a big success.
Of course, there are some remaining issues in India-China ties which would require great wisdom and patience from both sides. As a strong leader, Modi also candidly expressed his opinion on the border issue. Many are doubtful of India and China building real mutual trust, given the stubborn border dispute. But there are good reasons to believe that India is willing to resolve the border issue as soon as possible. This is because, for India, development should be top priority for the coming decades, a goal that China shares. This common national interest is the strongest force bringing the two giants together peacefully. Modi is a pragmatic leader who understands the importance of economic development for India and there is a good chance that the border issue will be resolved sooner than expected.
Then there is the issue of strategic competition between the two giants. India, like China, is an emerging global power. For this reason, a certain degree of competition between India and China is inevitable. Andsometimes both countries cannot fully understand each other’s strategic goals. For example, India is understandably worried about China’s close bond — considered an ironclad relationship — with Pakistan. The Chinese, likewise, worry about India’s increasingly warm relationship with  Japan, China’s primary strategic  rival in Asia. Right now, many Indians are  a bit suspicious of China’s concept of a  “new maritime silk road”, which has caused some deep-rooted insecurities in India. This need not be the case, as China does not seek hegemony in the Indian Ocean.
The so-called “string of pearls” is just a  term for an unreal and imaginary threat posed by China to India.
Many in China worry about India’s interference in the South China Sea issue. Despite the fact that there is some kind of security and economic cooperation between India and Vietnam, no evidence suggests that the former really wants to intervene in the South China Sea dispute. India’s strategy in that region is more likely a response to China’s increasing inroads into the Indian Ocean and continued support for Pakistan. If China is willing to make some concessions in those areas, India is also likely to make some concessions in the South China Sea.
What should India and China do next to further strengthen their relationship then? I have three modest suggestions for both countries. First, both should make a bigger effort to truly understand each other. The sad reality is that, in spite of being the largest populations in the world, very few Chinese and Indians actually visit each other’s country. In this regard, Modi’s announcement that India would grant Chinese nationals an e-visa would help greatly. Both countries are full of tourism resources, and more and more people would love to travel once administrative hurdles are lifted.
Second, as the border issue remains the biggest obstacle in India-China relations, both countries should make an effort to resolve it as soon as possible. The truth is that both need to make some concessions in order to move their relationship forward. Over the past 20 years, China has successfully settled border disputes with many of its Asian neighbours. There is no reason why China cannot reach a satisfactory agreement with India, so long as Xi and Modi can resist domestic pressures. Both are strong leaders, and things look good in this regard.
Third, India and China should cooperate more at the regional and global levels. Both should avoid direct strategic competition in Asia. This means China should respect India’s primacy in the Indian Ocean and and the latter should respect China’s primacy in  the South China Sea. At the global level,  both are members of the BRICS club, and
we should expect more cooperation  there. Indeed, the BRICS bank will be headed by an Indian, showing India’s global leadership capabilities.
All in all, so long as India and China  continue to build mutual trust through deeper economic cooperation and strategic coordination, the future of the relationship between the two Asian giants is promising. Both can learn a lot from each other.
China should learn from India’s rule of law and democratic spirit. India can learn  from China’s economic dynamism. Indeed, if India and China hold together, the future of Asia is assured.

India’s eye on universe ready for tests

Astrosat launch in October, to provide useful data for country’s astronomers

A fully assembled Astrosat, India’s first space observatory, is ready for intensive tests here before its launch around October.
The Indian Space Research Organisation said on Tuesday that the 1,650-kg spacecraft would orbit Earth equatorially at 650 km and study distant stars, galaxies, black holes and other cosmic objects.
Elite status
The space-based observatory was built at the ISRO Satellite Centre here to operate for five years and will provide useful data for the country’s astronomy community. It will put India in an elite orbit with the U.S., Europe, Russia and Japan.
“Last week, the spacecraft was fully assembled and switched on. All the [six] payloads and sub-systems are integrated into the satellite. Mechanical fit checks of the satellite with the PSLV [polar satellite launch vehicle] payload adaptor were performed successfully,” the space agency said on its website.
One of ISRO directors said Astrosat would be the first such satellite to scan simultaneously the sky in most of the frequency spectra from ultraviolet to optical and low- and high-energy X-ray bands.
Large scale
Although previous national satellites carried small astronomy-related devices, “Nothing on this scale, with a dedicated satellite, has been done before [at ISRO]. It should be of immense benefit to our scientists, who have depended on inputs from other agencies and sources like the Hubble [US-European space telescope],” the official said.
In the coming days, Astrosat will undergo a host of environmental tests — electromagnetic interference, electromagnetic compatibility, thermal vacuum, vibration and acoustics and so on.
Later, the satellite will be shipped to the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, for launch.
ISRO developed the six payloads in partnership with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai; the Indian Institute of Astrophysics and the Raman Research Institute, Bengaluru; and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune.
Two payloads were developed with the Canadian Space Agency and the University of Leicester, U.K.

India, a victim of e-waste crime

Exporting e-waste to Asia worked out 10 times cheaper than processing it in within these countries."

Much of the 40 million tonnes of electronic waste produced around the world — old smartphones, TVs, laptops and obsolete kitchen appliances — finds its way illegally to Asia and Africa every year, says a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Close to 90 per cent of the world’s electronic waste — worth nearly $19 billion — is illegally traded or dumped each year, to destinations half way across the world. While the European Union the U.S. and Japan are the primary origins of e-waste shipments, China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan are the main destinations, says the report. In Africa, Ghana and Nigeria are the biggest recipients of e-waste.
Destination India
Illegal trade is driven by the relatively low costs of shipment and the high costs of treatment in the developed countries. Quoting an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, the UNEP report says that exporting e-waste to Asia worked out 10 times cheaper than processing it in within these countries.
The Indian subcontinent has turned into an important destination for European waste. This goes beyond e-waste to include household waste, metals, textiles and tires — which are exported to India and Pakistan, says the report “Waste Crimes, Waste Risks: Gaps and Challenges in the Waste Sector.”
“There is a significant trade in compressors to Pakistan. These should be depolluted prior to export, but waste operators seeking to avoid expense often omit this step,” the report notes.
‘Toxic time bomb’
The vast majority of illegal e-waste ends up in landfills, incinerators, and in ill-equipped recycling facilities. “The waste is dumped in areas where local residents and workers disassemble the units and collect whatever is of value... What is not reusable is simply dumped as waste, creating immense problems and leading to what has been described as a ‘toxic time bomb’.”
While Europe and North America are by far the largest producers of e-waste, Asia’s cities are fast catching up as consumers of electronic goods and as generators of e-waste. In China, for instance, 73.9 million computers, 0.25 billion mobile phones, and 56.6 million televisions were sold in 2011, the report says. Forecasts say that in just two years, the total quantum of e-waste generated around the world will be 50 million tonnes.

Hungarian writer ‪#‎LaszloKrasznahorkai‬ has won the prestigious‪#‎ManBooker‬ International Prize for 2015

Hungarian writer ‪#‎LaszloKrasznahorkai‬ has won the prestigious‪#‎ManBooker‬ International Prize for 2015. He was chosen from a list of 10 contenders from around the world.
About Laszlo Krasznahorkai Laszlo Krasznahorkai was born in 1954 Gyula, Hungary. He had gained recognition in 1985 after he had published his debut novel Satantango, which he adapted for the big screen in 1994. Krasznahorkai’s other famous novels are The Melancholy of Resistance (1989), War and War (1999), Seiobo There Below (2008). Awards and Honours: In 1993, he was awarded Bestenliste-Prize of Germany for his novel The Melancholy of Resistanc. In 2004, he was awarded with most prestigious cultural award in Hungary- The Kossuth Prize.
About Man Booker International Prize The prize, worth £60,000, recognizes an authors’s achievement in fiction. It is a biennial award, bestowed upon a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is available in translation in the English language. The prize is sponsored by Man Group plc, which also sponsors the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Unlike the UK Man Booker Prize for Fiction, publishers cannot submit authors’ works for consideration. The Prize is significantly different in that it highlights one writer’s overall contribution to fiction on the world stage. The judges, who solely decide the winner, consider a writer’s body of work rather than a single novel.

19 May 2015

Achieving the objective of “Swachh and Swastha Bharat” Radiation Hygienisation of Municipal Dry Sewage Sludge

The Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi launched the “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” on 2nd October, 2014to fulfil Mahatma Gandhi's vision of Clean India. He said that Swachh Bharat would make a significant impact on public health, and in safeguarding income of the poor, ultimately contributing to the national economy. As a part of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, various ministries and departments are taking various steps to contribute to a “Clean India”. In this light, recently in April, 2015, the Bahbha Atomic research Centre (BARC) has signed an MoU withAhmedabad Municipal Corporation to set up a 100 tonnes per day Gamma Irradiation sludge hygienisation facility under its scientific and technical support. Such radiation hygienisation facilities would greatly contribute to achieve the objectives of  the mission of “Swachh and Swastha Bharat”.

Sewage is the wastewater discharged from domestic premises consisting mainly of human waste. Sewage typically contains more than 99.9% water and about 0.05% solid.  The solid part results in the formation of sludge. Largely, sludge is disposed in unorganized manner resulting in environmental pollution and spread of diseases. The sludge produced carries a heavy microbiological load and therefore its disposal has been a challenge to the urban development authorities.  Indian cities and towns together are generating an estimated sewage load of 38,254 million liters per day (MLD). Considering 0.05 % solid content, the total potential of sludge generation from the sewage is 19127 tonnes per day(1).   Considering the objectives  of Clean India Mission and Smart Cities, many of   upcoming Sewage Treatment Plants would  further add to the sludge volume.
Disposal of municipal sewage sludge, especially in large metropolitan cities is a serious problem due to presence of  potentially infectious microorganisms that can be a serious threat to public health. The present sludge disposal methods have their own limitations. For example, disposal into sea is site specific, incineration is an extremely energy intensive process and land filling involves transporting the sludge to faraway places due to scarce land availability in urban areas. On the other hand sludge is an important source of macro and micro nutrients such as N, P, K and Zn, Fe, Cu etc. respectively. Interest in the use of sludge for application in agriculture has increased among the farming community as well as among the sewage treatment plant (STP) operators. The farming community has realized that the excessive use of chemical fertilizers is not sustainable for long term agriculture. Dry sewage sludge (Dry Sludge) can be beneficially utilized for supplying nutrients to the crop, improving soil physical properties and above all increasing the soil organic matter. This can result in increased crop productivity as well as restoration of soil fertility. For STP operators, it may offer a way of generating a value added by product from waste whose disposal otherwise is a matter of environmental concerns and economic loss to the nation. Therefore, recycling of the sewage sludge for agriculture applications can emerge as an important outlet provided it is carried out in a manner that protects human and animal health as well as environment at large.

The sludge after conventional treatment processes at Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) still contains a heavy pathogenic microbial load and needs to be hygienised before it is applied to agricultural land or distributed in bagged form. This necessitates development of technologies that can hygienise the sludge in a reliable, efficient and cost effective manner.  World over, mix of methodologies are applied for disposal of sludge which includes 40-50% of its use in agriculture(2). Lime stabilization, heat pasteurization and composting are some of the known methods of treatment  for use of sludge in agriculture.  In general, EPA or country specific norms are followed for sludge disposal(3).

The high energy radiation has the unique ability of inactivating microorganisms present in the sewage sludge in a simple, efficient and reliable manner. Ionizing radiation emitted by radiation source such as 60Co (Cobalt-60) interact with the critical molecules like DNA and proteins present in the cell resulting in the inactivation of pathogens(Table 1.). Indirectly, radiolytic products of water also makes the treatment more lethal to microorganisms. Due to this property, radiation technology is used worldwide for sterilization of medical products. There are  currently 18 Cobalt-60 based gamma radiation facilities  in India and more than 400  world over.
The end product of a standard STP is dry sludge which contains about 75-80% solid( Fig. 1.) and 20-25% water. It should not exceed the specified limits for:
1.                  The presence of pollutants (Arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium and zinc). Domestic sewage is not expected to have high concentration of these metals. Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) and United States Environmental Protection Agency(US EPA) have described similar limits. Radiation processing does not alter the concentration of the heavy metals.
2.                  The presence of pathogens (e.g. bacteria, viruses, parasites)
3.                  The sewage sludge attractiveness to vectors e.g. rodents, flies, mosquitoes, birds etc. which could transfer pathogens to other places and human. STP process reduces this factor(2).
On meeting the above criteria, dry sludge can be safely used in agriculture. US EPA and MoUD have described gamma and electron beam irradiation as one of the effective methods to further reduce bacteria, viruses, protozoan cysts ,helminthes, ova to below detectable level.
Experience gained at Sludge Hygienisation Research Irradiator (SHRI) Facility at Vadodara has established that sludge can be applied on land for farmer's benefit. SHRI  employs  liquid sludge irradiation process (96% water and 4 % solids).  Dry sludge irradiation is  more economical, reliable and scalable to large scale sludge hygienisation. Other solid waste can also be hygienised using the process of dry sludge irradiation. Inoculation of the hygienised sludge with Rhizobium, Azotobacter and Phosphate solubilizing bacteria showed 100-1000 times higher growth in comparison to growth in unhygienised  sludge and  making it a value added bio-fertilizer.

Fig 1 Schematic of Municipal Sewage Treatment Plant With Irradiation Facility
Table 1 Microbiological Analysis of Irradiated Dry Sludge

Results of field trials carried out by  Krishi Vigyan Kendra (ICAR)  and local farmers in Gujarat using radiation hygienised sludge established:
                    Increased crop yield - direct benefit to the farmers. Improved soil conditions - soil conservation & restoration.
                    Reduced health risks associated with sludge which reduces potential pressure on the country's health care system.
                    Reduced demand of water due to higher water holding capacity of the sludge.
                    The nutrient rich sludge which otherwise is wastefully discarded can be gainfully recycled for economic gain.
                    Improved overall quality of life.

Thus, such radiation hygienisation facilities can be utilised in other parts of the country also can really contribute in making India Cleaner, healthier and providing better quality of life to the people of India.

Job Creation in Industry and Services is important for overall prosperity - Arvind Panagariya

Job Creation in Industry and Services is important for overall prosperity - Arvind Panagariya
The Vice chairman of NITI Aayog, Arvind Panagariya has underlined the importance of job creation in industry and services for overall prosperity of the nation. He shared the views with the people in his first blog post published on the newly launched website of NITI Aayog in New Delhi today. The full text of the blog post is as follows and can be accessed at www.niti.gov.in.
“There can be little disagreement that the fastest relief to the poor in India would come from productivity growth in agriculture.  This is where nearly half of the workforce is employed.  With the share of agriculture in the GDP at about 15 percent now, this half of the workforce is also significantly poorer than the other half, employed in industry and services.
But in the longer run, the potential of agriculture to bring prosperity to a vast population remains limited.  Over long periods, experiences such as that of Madhya Pradesh during 2011-12 to 2013-14 whereby agriculture grew in excess of 20 percent annually are rare.  In the recorded Indian history, the fastest that agriculture has grown nationally over a continuous ten-year period has been under 5 percent.  Put another way, in countries experiencing growth rates of 6 percent or more over long periods, overwhelmingly, industry and services have grown substantially faster than agriculture.
            It is in this context that the creation of good jobs in industry and services is critically important. Unless workers have the opportunity to migrate to better paid jobs in these sectors, they will be unable to fully share in the prosperity experienced by a fast-growing economy.  Thus, for example, prosperity was widely shared in South Korea and Taiwan during the 1960s and 1970s because workers in agriculture could migrate to good jobs in industry and services.  The share of industry and services in employment in South Korea rose from 41.4 percent in 1965 to 66 percent in 1980 and further to 81.7 percent in 1990. Correspondingly, the employment share of agriculture fell.  A similar pattern was observed in Taiwan during the 1960s and 1970s and more recently China.
            Indian farmers and their children recognize the superior prospects that faster-growing industry and services can potentially offer.  According to a recent survey conducted by the NGO Lokniti, 62 percent of all farmers say that they would quit farming if they could get a job in the city.  As for their children, 76 percent say that they would like to take a profession other than farming.
             It is in recognition of these aspirations that while reorienting public investment in agriculture toward productivity-enhancing items such as micro irrigation, soil cards, effective extension services and improved seeds, the government has paid special attention to creating jobs in industry and services.  The “Make in India” campaign has provided the umbrella for many of the government’s initiatives in this context.
            Using the instrumentality of cooperative federalism, the government has encouraged states to undertake labor law reforms that would help stimulate jobs.  States of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have taken lead in this area and, going by the reports in the press, the central government is now considering an overhaul of labor-law regime.  It intends to consolidate the 44 central labor laws into five while simultaneously introducing important employment-friendly reforms.
            The government has also greatly cut the inspector raj by introducing a portal that allows small and medium firms to comply with 16 central labor laws through self-certification. Any inspections are performed via a computer generated random selection.  Similarly, to improve access to good jobs, skill development has been greatly accelerated.  Under a recent initiative, 1.4 million workers aged 35 or younger from households that have completed 100 days of work during 2014-15 under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) scheme, would be imparted skills so that they may avail of urban employment opportunities.
            A common fear aired in the media is that the expansion of industry and services would divert land away from agriculture thereby undermining food security.  But these views are aired without attention to the some key facts on the pattern of land use.  Area under non-agricultural use, which includes housing, industry, offices, roads, railways and other similar items, was only 8% in 2011-12, the latest year for which data are available. Fifteen years earlier, in 1997-98, this proportion was 7%.  Accelerated growth over these fifteen years facilitated by the 1 percentage point increase in non-agricultural use of land has produced more gains in per-capita income and poverty reduction than what had been achieved over the entire fifty preceding years.
            Of course, even this 1 percentage point increase did not come at the expense of agriculture.  Increased multiple cropping allowed the gross area sown to rise from 57.8 to 59.4 percent of the total land area between 1997-98 and 2011-12.  And, of course, productivity increases allowed agricultural output to rise proportionately much more.  There remains much scope for further output increase through the extension of the Green Revolution to eastern states and rain-fed regions, as emphasized by the Prime Minister.
            In sum, agricultural growth and the expansion of good jobs in industry and services can go hand-in-hand to bring rapid elimination of poverty and shared prosperity for all.”

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