30 May 2016

UPSC panel wants govt to reduce age limit for civil services exam

UPSC panel wants govt to reduce age limit for civil services exam 



A Union Public Service Commission-appointed committee is set to tell the government to reduce the upper age-limit for appearing in the examination to get into premier civil services such as the IAS and IPS.
The UPSC appointed the panel headed by former education secretary BS Baswan last August as part of an initiative by the Narendra Modi government to overhaul the civil services examination.
The government had promised to review the examination after a string of protests in 2015 against a civil service aptitude test introduced by the previous Manmohan Singh-led government in the preliminary exam.
“We feel that the entry age is on the higher side. At the same time, we realise that candidates should not be put to any unforeseen hardship. Therefore, we would prepare a road map which will give all candidates sufficient time to adapt to the new system,” Baswan said.
Over the decades, the upper age-limit for candidates from general categories has gone up from 24 years in the 1960s to 32 years for the 2014 exam.
The upper age is relaxed by five years for candidates from the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes while those from the other backward classes get a three-year relaxation. Disabled candidates get an additional 10-year cut.
Read | UPSC issues notification for civil services, IFS exams 2016
In 2012 and 2013, the proportion of successful candidates well past their 30th birthday was in the range of 6 to 11%.
A 43-year-old “grandfather”, a disabled from the scheduled caste community who had applied for age relaxation on both counts, could be the face of the panel’s argument for lowering the age in its report. Sources said the panel was trying to locate the candidate to make its point.

Baswan refused comment, saying he would let the report do the talking.
A senior government official informed that a call on the recommendation would be taken once the panel submitted its report. He, however, said the panel — which has time till August to give its report —had sounded them out about its conclusion; that reducing the entry age for candidates had to be at the heart of any exam reforms.
“I can only say that the government is very clear in its mind that it will not spring a surprise on the candidates,” the official said, referring to the previous UPA government’s last-minute decisions to change exam’s format.
It was in this context that the Baswan panel had been told to not only recommend changes but also spell out a reasonable time frame for implementation of its recommendations.
Government officials and training academies tasked to prepare successful candidates for a career in civil services have been pushing for lowering of the entry age. A common argument is that the civil servants found it difficult to adapt and internalise the core values demanded of the civil services once they were past their thirties.
But it will not be an easy decision for the government.
There have been several attempts in the past to explore the possibility of reducing the upper age. Former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh had supported the proposal but had to back out after loud protests from politicians, insisting that it put rural candidates at a disadvantage.
The UPA government had even accepted the second administrative reforms commission recommendation to lower the upper limit to 26 years for general candidates. But the government ended up raising the age limit by two years, months before the 2014 general elections.
Nearly 460,000 candidates appeared for the three-stage UPSC examination in 2015, hoping to join the administrative services that continue to remain the “dream job” for many. Less than one in 400 of them made it.

29 May 2016

‘Nightmare superbug’ found in the U.S

‘Nightmare superbug’ found in the U.S


Is the discovery of a potentially serious bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort the nightmare scenario doctors have long been warning us about?

Military researchers in the United States have identified the first patient, in the U.S., to be infected with bacteria that are resistant to an antibiotic that was the last resort against drug-resistant germs.
The patient is well now, but the case raises the spectre of superbugs that could cause untreatable infections, because the bacteria can easily transmit their resistance to other germs that are already resistant to additional antibiotics. The resistance can spread because it arises from loose genetic material that bacteria typically share with one another.
“Think of a puzzle,” said Dr. Beth Bell, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “You need lots of different pieces to get a result that is resistant to everything. This is the last piece of that puzzle, unfortunately, in the United States. We have that genetic element that would allow for bacteria that are resistant to every antibiotic.”
Colistin resistant

The bacteria are resistant to a drug called colistin, an old antibiotic that in the U.S. is held in reserve to treat especially dangerous infections that are resistant to a class of drugs called carbapenems. If carbapenem-resistant bacteria, called CRE, also pick up resistance to colistin, they will be unstoppable.
“This is huge,” said Dr. Lance Price, a researcher at George Washington University. “We are one step away from CRE strains that cannot be treated with antibiotics. We now have all the pieces in place for it to be untreatable.”
The gene for resistance to colistin was first found in China, where the drug is used in pig and poultry farming. Researchers reported its discovery there in November. It has also been found in the intestine of one pig in the U.S. CRE is still relatively rare, causing just 600 deaths a year, but by 2013, researchers had identified it in health care facilities in 44 states. Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, often calls it the “nightmare superbug,” because it is resistant to all but one antibiotic — colistin.
“We risk being in a post-antiobitic world,” he said during a gathering for journalists in Washington on Thursday. “That wouldn’t just be urinary tract infections or pneumonia — that could be for the 6,00,000 patients a year who need cancer treatment.”
He added: “The medicine cabinet is empty for some patients.”
The colistin resistance in the U.S. came to light when a 49-year-old woman, who Dr. Bell said was “connected to the military”, was treated for a urinary infection at a military clinic in Pennsylvania. Because her urine culture had unusual results, the sample was sent to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which identified the drug resistance. The bacteria, though resistant to colistin and some other antibiotics, were not resistant to carbapenems. Doctors there published a report on the case in a medical journal.
Patrick McGann, a scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and lead author of the paper, said researchers had only started analysing samples a few weeks ago. They tested samples from six patients, and one of them was the woman’s.
Dr. Bell said researchers did not know how the patient contracted the resistant bacteria. The microbes have been found in people in Asia and Europe, but the patient had not travelled during the past five months. It is possible that she contracted the bacteria from food, or from contact with someone else who was infected, she said.
Public health workers will interview the woman and will probably test her family members and other close contacts for the bacteria, Dr. Bell said.
Infectious disease doctors have long warned that overuse of antibiotics in people and in animals put human health at risk by reducing the power of the drugs, some of modern medicine’s most prized jewels. About two million Americans fall ill from antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year and at least 23,000 die from those infections. The Obama administration has elevated the issue, laying out a strategy for how to bring the problem under control. CRE germs usually strike people receiving medical care in hospitals or nursing homes, including patients on breathing machines or dependent on catheters. Healthy people are rarely, if ever, affected. But the bugs attack broadly, and the infections they cause are not limited to people with severely compromised immune systems. CRE was believed to be the cause of infections from improperly cleaned medical scopes that led to the death of two people at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in California last year.
The Department of Defense, in a blog post about the discovery of the gene in the United States, said it gives “a new clue into the antibiotic resistance landscape.”
But the gene is rare: The blog pointed out that federal health researchers had searched for the gene in 44,000 samples of Salmonella and 9,000 samples of E. coli/Shigella, taken from people and retail meat, and did not find it. — New York Times News Service


A big boost for public health

A big boost for public health

Unlike polio and smallpox, the risk of maternal and neonatal tetanus will always exist. Tetanus spores are always a part of the environment. Thus ‘elimination’ must be seen as an enduring pursuit.

Maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) is no longer a major public health problem in the World Health Organisation (WHO) South-East Asia region. The WHO South-East Asia Region has eliminated MNT as a major public health problem.As immunisation coverage and access to maternal and newborn health care has increased, the number of mothers and newborns suffering agonising deaths on account of the disease has declined to below one in every 1,000 live births at the district level. This is a major achievement.
In 1989, when the fight against neonatal tetanus (and, consequently, maternal tetanus) began, tetanus toxins were claiming the lives of approximately 7,87,000 newborns across the world. Unhygienic conditions during delivery and inadequate umbilical cord care saw to it that these toxins could infect mother and child, causing muscle spasms, lockjaw, and often death.
With recent elimination successes in India and Indonesia, the South-East Asia region has reached a milestone.
Though elimination took longer than expected, it is a victory that must be savoured. At the same time, however, it is a victory that is by no means final.
Unlike the situation with diseases such as polio and smallpox, the risk of MNT will always exist. Tetanus spores are always a permanent part of the environment, meaning public health setbacks could once again compromise mothers and their newborns. In relation to MNT, “elimination” must be seen as an enduring pursuit.
Strengthening measures that facilitated elimination in the first instance can best guarantee the ongoing safety of mothers and their newborns.
Innovative strategies

Sustaining and enhancing access to quality maternal and newborn health care is critical. By providing expectant mothers the ability to access quality antenatal and safe-birthing services, health systems throughout the region diminish the risk of tetanus infection, as well as other potentially lethal complications. Though countries in the region have made important gains have been made in the region, the momentum must be accelerated. There must be innovative strategies deployed to reach those ‘unreached’, such as increased training of skilled birth attendants at community-level facilities, or providing cash transfers to every mother who has an institutional delivery, for example.
Immunisation coverage must be maintained and enhanced. Expectant mothers must receive the necessary tetanus toxoid vaccine, or combination vaccine, as a matter of priority and at the appropriate stages of pregnancy.
As Indonesia’s campaign to vaccinate brides-to-be demonstrates that positive initiatives need not be confined to the pregnancy or neonatal periods. Just as newborns receive tetanus immunisations as part of their routine immunisation schedule, children must receive booster doses as and when appropriate. A good place for this to happen is at school. Despite the region’s newly validated status, health authorities must ensure that preventing maternal and neonatal tetanus remains prominent on the list of vaccine-preventable diseases, and that opportunities to immunise against tetanus are grasped.
Effective engagement with communities is essential. Communities that have difficulties accessing care or which lack experience doing so must be further encouraged to avail themselves of the benefits maternal and newborn health care brings. Messages related to tetanus immunisation and safe-birthing must remain integrated with other outreach activities, and disseminated among the most vulnerable. Harmful traditional practices should be discouraged, while at the same time continuing to build relationships that promote trust, respect and inclusiveness.
A positive experience with health care providers can have far-ranging effect, not only for an individual but also a community.
Tracking progress

A robust and effective surveillance system is vital to tracking progress in these key areas. After all, the failure of any one of them can mean the death of a mother or newborn through tetanus infection. By closely monitoring incidences ofMNT, authorities can evaluate the impact of their efforts, and, if found lacking, better calibrate them in future. In-depth knowledge of the causes of every case of maternal or neonatal tetanus, combined with a resolve to ensure it is not repeated, can be the only appropriate response. However great the recent achievement is, it remains unacceptable that any woman or child should suffer the devastating disease.
Along with conducting routine vaccine-preventable disease surveillance, WHO is committed to realising the unfinished Millennium Development Goal agenda as it relates to maternal and newborn health, which will in turn help allay tetanus’s menace. Efforts to achieve Universal Health Coverage — a priority area of WHO in the South-East Asia region — will similarly enhance health equity, ensuring that tetanus’s tendency to prey on the most vulnerable is rebuffed. It is no coincidence that the first countries in the region to eliminate the problem also had the strongest health systems.
That MNT has been eliminated as a major public health problem in the South-East Asia region is reason to celebrate.
Newborns across the region are now safer from the disease than at any other time in history, but we must not be misled by our successes.
Maternal and neonatal tetanus remains a burden, and could make a comeback in significant numbers in future. By enhancing the reach and quality of maternal and newborn health care, increasing immuniSation coverage, leveraging greater community buy-in, and ensuring detailed surveillance, we can avert this possibility.


High-speed Spanish Talgo train begins trial run in U.P.

High-speed Spanish Talgo train begins trial run in U.P.

Besides reducing travel time, Talgo’s lighter trains consume 30 per cent less energy.

The trial of Spanish train Talgo, the lighter and faster vehicle whose speed goes up to 115 kms per hour, was conducted between Bareilly and Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh as part of the Railways’ strategy to increase the speed of trains.
“It was a smooth ride,” said a senior railway official after nine Talgo coaches were hauled by a 4,500 HP diesel engine on the 90-km line for the first trial run.


India’s poor institutional memory

India’s poor institutional memory

The big problem is that there is too little learning across the system. States continue to try to reinvent the wheel 
How well has India done in the first two years of the Modi government? The verdict in the media seems to be: well begun but hardly done yet. A larger question is, how well has India done since it became independent 69 years ago. Then, as now, there was a new, untested government. And the question then was, as now: will the new government learn fast how to guide the development of a large, poor, democratic country with high aspirations.
Development is the result of enterprises and institutions in a country learning to do new things they have not done before. The faster they learn, the faster the country develops and grows. What are the impediments to faster learning in a country and to a government’s learning? Insights can be found by comparing countries that have progressed at different rates. If one has gone further than another in the same time, starting from similar conditions, what enabled it to learn and develop faster?
China and India, the two billion-plus Asian giants, provide a good comparison to extract hypotheses about country-level learning. Both countries, with similar size economies and similarly poor, started on their journeys of development in the middle of the last century. Without doubt, China has developed and grown much faster than India. Its economy is now five times the size of India’s and China is far ahead of India in human development indicators too: health, education and reduction of poverty.
A recent study, by Luke Jordan (then with the World Bank) and Sebastien Turban and Laurence Wilse-Samson of Columbia University, contrasted the abilities of the Indian and Chinese states to learn. It pointed to several differences. The Chinese state seems to be more deliberate in its approach to learning. It encourages a city or province to experiment with new policies, observes outcomes, and then applies what is learned to the rest of the country. Top-level leaders are selected from those who have managed a complex system well at a lower level—as head of a city or provincial government. When a single, authoritarian, political party runs the country everywhere, the centre can manage political promotions and ‘organizational learning’ across the system. Singapore, a tiny, centrally managed country that has developed remarkably well, has been able to manage these processes even more easily.
Chinese and Singaporean methods cannot be copied in India, a nation with greater political variety and social diversity. Since top-down directives cannot work in India, its leaders must find other ways to remove the learning disabilities within a complex system.
For this, Indian leaders should address systemic issues like the poor ‘institutional memory’ within the Indian government. New governments and ministers want to show they are different from their predecessors. They ignore whatever little (or much) their predecessors had learned. Within the government, senior officers are moved around frequently—for political reasons, or for advancing their own careers. Therefore, even if there are records ‘on file’ of what went on before, there is very little transmission of ‘tacit’ knowledge of complex issues. This deeper learning is lost in the changes.
While the frequency of changes of government will be determined by the democratic process, transfers within the government need not be as frequent as they are—some officers moving through several postings in a year. Though it will be hard on their egos, ministers and government functionaries should be required to extensively debrief their predecessors. Before they announce a new scheme to show how smart they are, and tweet to show how stupid their predecessors were, they should be required to humbly learn, for the sake of the country, how to make ongoing schemes work better.
India is a very large and diverse country, which at long last may be realizing that it cannot be managed from the centre. The states, whether or not they and the centre are ruled by the same party, must have the freedom to develop their own appropriate solutions. Cities and villages must become more capable of self-government. Among the many benefits of localization of governance is the opportunity for many different solutions to emerge. India can be the world’s biggest laboratory for multiple experiments in social and economic change—and indeed it already is. However, an Indian problem is that there is too little learning across the system. States and cities continue to try to reinvent the wheel, either because they do not know what others have learned, or because of the ‘not invented here’ desire to show off one’s own smartness.
Incredible India needs platforms for distilling and sharing learning across the country, among states, cities and villages, and across ministerial silos too. Indeed, this is the charter of the NITI Aayog, which has replaced the Planning Commission, which for too long tried to plan and manage India’s development from the centre. The NITI Aayog is on a very steep learning curve. Learning platforms are not merely websites and portals. Effective learning platforms must have processes for transmission of tacit knowledge too.
India, with its scale and its diversity, and for the speed with which it must now learn to catch up with others, must create the world’s most dynamic learning system.

26 May 2016

Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) scheme

EESL Distributes LED Bulbs Under “UJALA” in the Range of Rs. 75-95 across 16 States
The LED bulbs under Government of India’ s Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) scheme  are being distributed across 16 States in the country in the price range of Rs 75- 95.  The project, executed by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), under the administration of Ministry of Power, procures high quality LED bulbs from leading manufacturers through a transparent bidding process. In the latest round of procurement, which ended on March 31, 2016, the lowest procurement cost was Rs. 54.90 (exclusive of taxes and administrative costs).

The government, through aggregation and transparent procurement has achieved a rapid decline in LED prices. In the first round of procurement held in January 2014, EESL achieved the lowest bid at Rs. 310. The prices for the subsequent procurements for other states, during September 2014 to February 2015, ranged between Rs. 204 to Rs. 104.
EESL has pooled the prices of all the previous procurements since 2014 and the passed on the direct benefit to the consumers across states. Various state-specific taxes and other administrative costs like distribution, awareness, etc are added to the pooled procurement price. Therefore, the cost of the LED bulb has been brought down to a price range of Rs. 75 - Rs. 95, after addition of administrative costs, distribution and awareness cost. Therefore, the variation in the final cost of the bulbs is owing to the difference in taxes across states.

The Government has ensured transparency and encouraged competition by using e-procurement of goods and services. This has resulted in significant reduction in transaction cost and time and enhanced process efficiency. This in turn has led to a much larger participation of bidders thereby increasing competition and reducing the procurement cost of LED bulbs.

The target of the programme is to replace all the 77 crore incandescent bulbs sold in India by LEDs. This will result in reduction of 20,000 MW load, energy savings of 100 billion kWh and Green House Gas (GHG) emissions savings of 80 million tons every year. The annual saving in electricity bills of consumers will be Rs. 40,000 crore, considering average tariff of Rs. 4 per kWh.

Small Wind Energy and Hybrid Systems (SWES)

Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is implementing a programme to promote the installation of Small Wind Energy and Hybrid Systems (SWES) with the objective to provide electricity in unelectrified areas or areas with intermittent electric supply. The first- such Pilot-cum- demonstration project of 25 KW capacity will be installed at the wind turbine test station of National Institute of Wind Energy at Kayathar, Tootikudi District, Tamil Nadu. 

Under the programme, MNRE provides Central Financial Assistance (CFA) to community users for installation of such systems. The total installed capacity as on 31st March 2016 is 2.69 MW. There are 6 small wind turbine manufacturers and 9 models empanelled under this programme. 

The SWES projects have been highly successful in USA and European countries. Initially, 10 such demonstration projects will be supported for grid integration. The tentative cost for each of the roject will be in the range of Rs 2-3 lakh per KW, depending upon the configuration and location of the projects. The Ministry will support upto 50% of the project cost. 

achievements/initiatives of Ministry of Law & Justice in last two years

Ministry of Law & Justice25-May, 2016 18:11 IST
Dv Sadananda Gowda highlights achievements/initiatives of Ministry of Law & Justice in last two years
Union Law & Justice Minister Shri D.V. Sadanada Gowda today addressed  the media here in New Delhi and gave an account of the achievements/initiatives of ministry his ministry  in last two years. Following is the detail of his narrations:

Initiatives towards Ease of Doing Business

v    To ensure speedy and fair disposal of commercial disputes, a new Act namely, the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act 2015 has been enacted by Parliament. It is Government’s endeavour to make India an investor friendly destination and enhance its ranking in Ease of Doing Business.

v    The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 has been amended to make Arbitration as preferred mode for settlement of commercial disputes by making it more user-friendly, cost effective, leading to expeditious disposal of cases. This Bill was pending before the Government since 2003.

Initiatives towards better management of litigation

v    Draft National Litigation Policy is under formulation to make Government a responsible and efficient litigant. The Draft National Litigation Policy shall facilitate in bringing down unwarranted litigation.

v    For proper monitoring of the pending court cases of the entire Government of India, a web portal Legal Information and Management Based System (LIMBS) has been set up.

v    19 Law Officers (including AG/SG) and 34 ASGs in High Courts have been appointed. Fresh panels of Counsels were approved for Supreme Court/High Courts/Central Administrative Tribunals/Armed Forces Tribunal/District Courts/Armed Forces Tribunal.

v    Fee revision of Law Officers and Legal Counsels was upwardly revised to the extent of 50% from the rates existing prior to 1.10.2015.

Initiatives towards Minimum Government Maximum Governance

v    Four Acts have been enacted to repeal the obsolete and redundant laws. In total the aforesaid four enactments have repealed 1175 Acts. This exercise was taken up after 14 years, earlier being taken up only in the year 2001.

v    Major exercise for convergence of Tribunals to reduce the number of tribunals is being carried out. High level Inter-Ministerial Group has been constituted for consideration of the issue.

Initiatives towards digital India and e-Governance

v    A major change has been introduced to receive applications for appointment of Notaries online along with supporting documents w.e.f. 1.1.2016.
v    e-Governance and E-courts usage have started in Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) leading to faster disposal of cases with less hassles to litigants. 

v    Digitisation work of Appeals has been undertaken in ITAT. Once the digitisation work is complete, all the appellate records shall be accessible from any station and any appeal can be taken by e-court in any location.

v    Web portal named LIMBS has been introduced for Centrally monitoring cases of UoI pending in various courts and Tribunals. 

Initiatives towards Computerisation of Courts

v    eCourts Mission Mode Project has been taken up for universal computerization of district and subordinate courts with an objective of providing designated services to litigants, lawyers and the judiciary.

v    During the first two years of NDA rule i.e. 2014-15 and 2015-16, Rs.212.23 cr were released to various States for eCourts projects against Rs.122.41cr released during UPA-II rule for the years 2012-13 and 2013-14, thus, registering an increase of 73.4%.

v    eCourts Phase-II projects aims at automation of workflow management, enabling the courts to exercise greater control in management of cases. This will also include installation of touch screen based kiosks, use of e-filing, e-payment and mobile applications and composite set of services through Judicial Service centres.

v    Case status information in respect of over 6.11 crore pending, decided cases and more than 2.4 crore orders/judgements pertaining to District and Subordinate Courts are available online.

v    Over 4000 court officials and 14000 Judicial Officers have been trained on computerization of Judiciary. Laptops have been provided to 14,309 judicial officers.

Initiatives towards Justice Delivery

v    Appointment of Judges in higher judiciary has been undertaken.  86 additional Judges were made permanent, 51 new judges were appointed and appointment of another 170 is being processed.

v    Judges’ sanctioned strength of the High Courts has been increased from 906 on 01.06.2014 to 1065 as on 27.4.2016. In the case of District/Subordinate Courts, the sanctioned strength has been increased from 17,715 at the end of 2012 to 20,502 in December, 2015.

v    Pecuniary jurisdiction of Delhi High Court has been increased from Rs. 20 lakhs to Rs. 2 crore, facilitating access to justice within the vicinity of the location of District Courts.

v    Department of Justice has been implementing a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Development of Infrastructure Facilities for Judiciary. On account of concerted efforts by all stakeholders, the availability of judicial infrastructure for subordinate courts has increased considerably in the recent past.

Initiatives towards Access to Justice Projects

v    300 Paralegal Volunteers of Odisha, 400 Para Legal Volunteers of North Eastern States and 187 Para Legal Volunteers of J&K have been trained under the activities of State Legal Services Authorities.
v    Legal literacy has been incorporated into National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA) and activities have been started in States- 62 Districts of Uttar Pradesh and 31 Districts of Rajasthan.

v    Helpdesks for Juveniles in Observation Homes have been established in Maharashtra.

v    50 voice based Legal Information Kiosks have been established in the State of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

v    46 Legal Aid Clinics have been established in two most backward districts of Nagaland – Tuensang and Mon.

v    MoU has been signed between Department of Justice and NLMA (National Literacy Mission Authority) for initiating legal literacy activities by SRC Assam, Shillong, J&K and Arunachal Pradesh.

Other important initiatives

v    21st Law Commission of India has been reconstituted in September, 2015.  Chairman/Member has been appointed.

v    The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted to monitor and evaluate the implementation of legal services programmes and to lay down policies and principles for making legal services available under the Act. A total number of 2,49,996 persons have been benefitted through Legal Services and advice from 1.04.2015 to 31.01.2016.

v    As on 30.09.2015, more than 15.14 lacs Lok Adalats have been organized in the country since inception. More than 8.25 crore cases including cases pending in the courts as well as those at the pre-litigation stage have been settled in these Lok Adalats. A total number of 746,29,721 cases have been settled in such National Lok Adalats since November, 2013 to 2015.

v    Promotion of Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanism through National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) at the national level and State Legal Services Authorities at State level.

v    DoJ has taken up with all High Courts and Supreme Court for implementation of Incheon strategy to facilitate people with disability.

v    Proper training to Judicial Officers in international best practices w.r.t. alternate dispute resolution, quick and easy entity structuring, restructuring, incorporation, evolution and exit, tax reforms in the light of Make in India and Start-up India.

v    Process Re-engineering (PR) exercise taken up to modernize the existing processes and procedures and introduce new processes and procedures to expedite disposal of cases.

v    101 Legislative Bills were introduced in the Parliament. 75 Bills have been enacted into Acts and two constitutional Acts were enacted.

Bharatavani Multi-lingual App: Unique multiple source of worlds

Bharatavani Multi-lingual App: Unique multiple source of worlds

Alongwith the Bharatavani portal, MHRD has also launched the Bharatavani Multi-lingual App called Bharatavani. This App will enable users to search for one language text in another language as well as get meanings in different languages. Currently the App has 35 multilingual Dictionaries and MHRD aims to extend it to 250 dictionaries in a years time. This App, on the day of its launch becomes India’s first and largest multilingual dictionary. Our endeavour is to make it the world’s biggest online multilingual dictionary source.

Salient features : Bharatavani makes available knowledge already published by Government and publicly funded institutions all over the country and puts its across for free and fair public usage, by deploying a robust, interactive, user friendly web tools. Its content is protected by fair usage clauses under the Indian Copyright Act.

The Bharatavani Portal would publish the content in the following main sections:

1.                  Paa Thyapustaka Kosha : Textbooks by various authorities

2.                  Jnana Kosha : Encyclopedic Knowledge base in all languages

3.                  Shabda Kosha: Dictionaries, Glossaries, Terminologies,

4.                  Bhasha Kosha: Language learning books

5.                  Suchanaa Praudyogikii Kosha : It tools ( right now linked to TDIL)

6.                  Bahumaadhyama Kosha: Multimedia content

For the Year 2016-17, Target of Food Grains Production is 270.10 Million Tonnes

For the Year 2016-17, Target of Food Grains Production is 270.10 Million Tonnes

Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister has Approved the Target Production Prescribed for Different Crops for the Year 2016-17
Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister, Shri Radha Mohan Singh today here said that the country will have record production of food grains during 2016-17. The Minister added that a good monsoon is expected in coming months and target of food grains production is set as 270.10 million tonnes for the year 2016-17. Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minster observed that this is an ambitious target for the food grains production.The Minister has given his approval for the target production of different corps for the year 2016-17.

Shri Singh said that a target of 108.50 million tonnes rice production has been fixed for the year 2016-17. Whereas, it is 96.50 million tonnes for the crop of wheat. For all kinds of pulses, the target has been fixed 20.75 million tonnes whereas it is 35 million tonnes for oilseed. A target of 355 million tonnes production of sugarcane has been earmarked.

Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister said that despite two consecutive droughts, production of food grains went up in comparison to last year. It is estimated at 252.23 million tonnes of food grains in 2015-16. 

National Capital Goods Policy

National Capital Goods Policy
The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for National Capital Goods Policy. This is first ever policy for Capital Goods sector with a clear objective of increasing production of capital goods from Rs.2,30,000 crore in 2014-15 to Rs.7,50,000 crore in 2025 and raising direct and indirect employment from the current 8.4 million to 30 million.

The policy envisages increasing exports from the current 27 percent to 40 percent of production. It will increase the share of domestic production in India’s demand from 60 percent to 80 percent thus making India a net exporter of capital goods. The policy also aims to facilitate improvement in technology depth across sub-sectors, increase skill availability, ensure mandatory standards and promote growth and capacity building of MSMEs.

The Policy will help in realising the vision of ‘Building India as the World class hub for Capital Goods’. It will also play a pivotal role in overall manufacturing as the pillar of strength to the vision of ‘Make in India’.

The objectives of the policy will be met by the Department of Heavy Industry in a time bound manner through obtaining approval for schemes as per the roadmap of policy interventions.


The idea of a ‘National Capital Goods Policy’ was first presented by the Deptt. of Heavy Industry to the Prime Minister in the ‘Make in India’ workshop held in December, 2014. The policy has been finalized after extensive stakeholder consultations with industry, academia, different ministries etc. The key recommendations and elements of the policy have been formulated to support and boost development of this crucial sector. The aim of the policy is create game changing strategies for the capital goods sector. Some of the key issues addressed include availability of finance, raw material, innovation and technology, productivity, quality and environment friendly manufacturing practices, promoting exports and creating domestic demand. 

ISRO to test rocket that takes its fuel from air

ISRO to test rocket that takes its fuel from air
This technology aims to take oxygen from the atmosphere instead of carrying it all the way.”
After successfully testing a technology demonstrator of a reusable launch vehicle, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to test an air-breathing propulsion system, which aims to capitalise on the oxygen in the atmosphere instead of liquefied oxygen while in flight.
“The mission to test the technology would be launched either in the last week of June or early July from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. The mission would be on a sounding rocket,” K. Sivan, Director of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre told The Hindu.
Generally, vehicles used to launch satellites into space use combustion of propellants with oxidiser and fuel. Air breathing propulsion system aims at use oxygen present in the atmosphere up to 50 km from the earth’s surface to burn the fuel stored in the rocket.
Lower lift-off mass
“This system, when implemented, would help in reducing the lift-off mass of the vehicle since liquefied oxygen need not be carried on board the vehicle. This would also help increasing the efficiency of the rocket and also make it cost-effective,” Mr. Sivan said.
The new propulsion system, once mastered, would complement ISRO’s aim to develop a reusable launch vehicle, which would have longer flight duration. The system, involving the scramjet engine, would become crucial while sending up the spacecraft.
“This is like satellites making use of solar power. Likewise, this technology aims to take oxygen from the atmosphere instead of carrying it all the way,” he explained.
According to ISRO, the Dual Mode Ramjet (DMRJ), the ramjet-scramjet combination, “is currently under development, which will operate during the crucial Mach 3 to Mach 9 ascend flight of the launch vehicle.”
ISRO is now evolving and testing various technologies to bring down the cost of launch vehicles. The national space agency had earlier developed rockets that can send multiple satellites in a single mission.

Raising the stakes with Chabahar

Raising the stakes with Chabahar
A trilateral transport corridor project, inked in Tehran this week by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the leaders of Iran and Afghanistan, has the potential to alter the geopolitical map of South and Central Asia. Mr. Modi’s visit also put an end to years of ambivalence on the development of Iran’s Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman, the focal point of the corridor project. New Delhi and Tehran had agreed in 2003 to develop the port, near theIran-Pakistan border. But the project did not take off, mainly owing to international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, but also on account of inertia in Delhi. The removal of sanctions after Iran’s nuclear deal has provided New Delhi an opportunity to revitalise bilateral ties. The road, rail and port development projects, once implemented, will change the way India, Afghanistan and Iran do business. For India, the projects have specific economic and strategic significance. India and Afghanistan have failed to realise the full economic potential of their friendship owing to connectivity problems. The Pakistan link between India and landlocked Afghanistan has been an obstacle, given Islamabad’s tense diplomatic ties with both New Delhi and Kabul, and sometimes with Tehran too. Once the Chabahar port is developed, Indian ships will get direct access to the Iranian coast; a rail line to the Afghan border town of Zaranj will allow India a route around Pakistan. This will surely boost trade with Iran and Afghanistan. Besides, the proposed free trade zone in the Chabahar area offers Indian companies a new investment destination at a well-connected port city. India has already said its companies will set up “plants in sectors such as fertilizers, petrochemicals and metallurgy” in the zone. It will also supply $400 million worth of steel rails to Tehran to build the railway link.
From a strategic point of view, Chabahar is situated just 100 km from Pakistan’s Gwadar port, the centrepiece of a $46 billion economic corridor that China is building. Though the Indian investment in Chabahar, at $500 million, does not match the scale of the Chinese project, the Chabahar port will act as a gateway for India to Central Asia bypassing the China-Pakistan arc. The long-term potential of this connectivity is immense. The real challenge lies in execution. India’s record in finishing big-ticket projects abroad is far from consistent. Also, with Tehran becoming the new destination of global powers, India needs to energise its diplomacy to keep engagement with Iran on an even keel, irrespective of outside pressure. With the Chabahar project, India has raised the stakes in Tehran substantially, and also raised the bar on its own regional ambitions. It cannot afford to let bilateral ties drift again, as it happened over the past decade.

ISRO’s new frontiers

ISRO’s new frontiers
With the successful launch on Monday of the first technology demonstrator of the indigenously made Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has taken a baby step in building a vehicle that can be reused multiple times to launch satellites into orbit. The hypersonic flight, that lasted about 770 seconds from lift-off to splashdown in the Bay of Bengal, reached an altitude of about 65 km before re-entering the atmosphere at nearly five times the speed of sound. Many more such successful launches have to be undertaken before the RLV becomes a reusable launch system to put satellites into orbit. Some of the objectives of this week’s launch were to test the aero-thermodynamic characterisation of the vehicle with wings when it re-enters the atmosphere at hypersonic speed; the control and guidance system; the control system to land the vehicle at a specific location; and the hot structure, the basic body-carrying part of the vehicle with heat protecting tiles. The ultimate objective is to test the vehicle’s performance when it travels at a speed of Mach 25 using air-breathing propulsion. It will take 10 to 15 years, and several more launches, before ISRO readies a reusable launch vehicle for commercial use.
Building a fully and rapidly reusable launch vehicle will play a pivotal role in cutting down by as much as 80 per cent the cost of launching satellites into orbit. In fact, ISRO is already well-known for launching satellites at a far cheaper cost than other space agencies. Currently, the bulk of the launch cost comes from building the rocket, which can be used just once, as the rockets get burnt on re-entry into the atmosphere. No other space agency has reusable launch vehicles in operation, and ISRO has taken a lead in developing one. Learning from the mistakes of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in its space shuttle programme, ISRO will not use the same reusable vehicle to launch satellites and carry astronauts as it drastically reduces the payload capacity and thereby increases the cost per kg. ISRO will also use cutting-edge technology to shield the launch vehicle from intense heat to reduce, if not completely eliminate, refurbishment expenses. Getting this right would enable the vehicle to be reused within a very short span of time. If all works as per plan, ISRO should be able to break even after 25 to 50 launches, bringing down the cost of further launches on the same vehicle

MoU between Indian Space Research Organisation and the United Arab Emirates Space Agency
The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi was apprised of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the United Arab Emirates Space Agency (UAESA) for cooperation in the exploration and user of outer space for peaceful purposes. 

The MoU would result in setting up a Joint Working Group with members from ISRO and UAESA, which will further work out the plan of action including the time-frame and the means of implementing this MoU.


Promoting space cooperation between India and UAE was highlighted during the visit of Prime Minister of India to UAE in August 2015 and also at the 11th meeting of India-UAE Joint Commission for Economic and Technical Cooperation held at New Delhi in September 2015. Subsequently, a delegation from UAESA visited ISRO technical facilities on September 16, 2015 and discussed on the avenues of building space cooperation including signing of a MoU. Accordingly, ISRO and UAESA, considering their mutual interest in expanding the applications of space technology for peaceful purposes signed a MoU in New Delhi on February 11, 2016. 

24 May 2016

Moving towards a water pricing regime It is the only solution to promote efficient and equitable usage of water

Moving towards a water pricing regime

It is the only solution to promote efficient and equitable usage of water
A Hindi proverb, paisa paani ki tarah bahaana, warns against wasteful expenditure of money on the scale of water. Local adages are useful not just in enriching the popular discourse but also contain valuable information about the people and society. That India—a country ranking high on water scarcity—spends water so profligately is not just proverbial, but has now also been driven home with two consecutive years of drought. What is the solution? The proverb comes with a solution: tie the usage of paani(water) to payment of paisa (money).
Water pricing is the only long-term, sustainable solution to promote efficient and equitable use of this precious natural resource. But moving towards an elaborate water pricing regime is easier said than done. The first challenge will be to make a case for water pricing at a time when the most vulnerable to water shortage are already reeling under severe economic hardship. But without a price on water usage, it is they who will suffer the worst consequences of a drought.
A 2015 study by the International Monetary Fund concluded that water subsidies provided through public utilities amounted to 0.6% of global gross domestic product in 2012 and are “also inequitable, disproportionately benefiting upper-income groups”. The inequitable consumption also operates along other dimensions. With 18% of the world population, India has only 4% of the world’s renewable water resources. Moreover, the distribution is geographically skewed and the majority of rainfall occurs over just a few months, leading to reckless consumption in well-endowed geographies and during those months.
A data story by Roshan Kishore in Mint showed that inefficient agricultural usage of water and exports of water-intensive crops make India a large virtual exporter of water —not a proud performance for a water-stressed country. Especially not when the domestic scarcity of water has not been priced into the exports. A counter-argument will be that water pricing may erode India’s export advantage. But this argument ignores how the status quo continues to erode the competitiveness of farmers living in water-deficient parts of India—also some of the same regions where the incidence of farmer suicides is high.
The second challenge to introducing water pricing is the entrenched political economy in different parts of India. The severe water crisis in Latur was in stark contrast to flourishing fields of sugarcane, a water-guzzling crop, sustained with the patronage of politicians in the state of Maharashtra. Then the public procurement policies also promote cultivation of water-intensive crops, sometimes in those very states where the usage is most inefficient.
The third challenge is the inherent design problems associated with water pricing. This is because the government does not—as also pointed by Alok Sheel inMintexercise control over the sources of water as it does over other natural resources . It is important to target irrigation water for pricing purposes because it alone comprises—according to ministry of water resources data—more than 78% of the total water usage in India. Also, irrigation consumption is an area where the scope for increase in efficiency is very high.
Sixty-one per cent of the irrigation uses surface water which will require metering and appropriate pricing. Groundwater has to be priced through proxies—electricity or diesel—used by farmers to pump the water. The strategy for pricing should be such that the cost of migration from one method of irrigation to another—or from electricity to diesel—offsets the difference in cost between the two.
An important part of this effort will also involve the separation of electric feeders for agricultural and non-agricultural purposes—already a focus of the government under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana.
Additionally, there will be questions regarding whether the pricing should also take into account income distribution of water users and hence be accommodative towards poorer farmers or households.
A relevant research paper by Yacov Tsur, Ariel Dinar, Rachid M. Doukkali and Terry L. Roe concludes that “water prices have rather negligible effects on income distribution within the farming sector” and hence “water pricing should be designed in order to promote efficiency, leaving equity consideration to other policy tools”.
Several countries including rich ones such as Singapore and poor ones such as Burkina Faso have, within their own constraints, benefited from tying paani to paisa. India needs to do the same.
Will Indian farmers benefit from pricing irrigation water? 
#ias #upsc #ukpsc #iasmains #waterpricing

What’s next for Isro’s space shuttle

What’s next for Isro’s space shuttle

Monday’s test is one of the many tests that Isro will carry out towards the making of the space shuttle, which is at least a decade away

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) on Monday successfully carried out a technology demonstration of its reusable space launch vehicle, which will help the space agency cut costs for future space missions.
Monday’s test is one of the many tests that Isro will carry out towards the making of the vehicle, which is at least a decade away. Countries such as the US, Russia and Japan have developed their own reusable rocket technology.
What is Isro’s Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstration Programme?
Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstration Programme (RLV-TD) is a series of technology demonstration missions towards realizing a Two Stage To Orbit (TSTO) fully reusable vehicle. For the purpose of experiments, Isro scientists have developed a scaled model of the Winged Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) which is one fifth the size of the fully reusable vehicle. This model will be used to test various technologies, including hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air-breathing propulsion.
What happened during this technology demonstration?
RLV-TD lifted off from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, at 7am with the help of the HS9 solid rocket booster. After a successful flight of 91.1 second, HS9 burn out occurred, following which both HS9 and RLV-TD mounted on its top coasted to a height of 56km. Then RLV-TD separated from HS9 booster and further climbed to a height of about 65km.
RLV-TD began its descent followed by atmospheric re-entry at around Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound) and then moved smoothly down to the landing spot over Bay of Bengal, a 450km away from Sriharikota. The flight duration from launch to landing lasted for about 770 seconds.
What’s next?
This test was the first in the series of experimental flights called the hypersonic flight experiment (HEX). This will be followed by the landing experiment (LEX), then the return flight experiment (REX) and scramjet propulsion experiment (SPEX). The big test will be the Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator Hypersonic Experiment (RLV-TD HEX1) which will test the re-entry of the vehicle and also test the capability to autonomously land at a specific location.
Why are reusable launch vehicles important?
A reusable launch vehicle will be capable of taking satellites and other payloads to space and then landing back on earth so that it can be used more than once and is expected to drastically reduce the cost of space missions in the future. Isro scientists say their reusable launch vehicle could reduce the cost of space missions to a tenth of what they are today.
Elon Musk who is the chief executive officer of SpaceX, which is also developing reusable launch vehicles last year said, “If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred. A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.” In the past year Elon Musk’s Space X and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin have made major strides in testing their reusable launch vehicles.
Why was the US Space Shuttle retired?
The US space agency National Aeronautical and Space Administration had a space shuttle programme from 1981 to 2011. The Space Shuttle was a partially reusable low-earth orbit spacecraft. From 1981 to 2011, a total of 135 missions were flown.
But in 2003, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board which was formed after the Columbia shuttle accident, called for a re-certification of the shuttle by 2010, leading to its eventual retirement

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