27 October 2016

‘23rd Rehabilitation International World Congress’ at Edinburgh, Scotland

‘23rd Rehabilitation International World Congress’ at Edinburgh, Scotland
Shri Thaawarchand Gehlot, the Union Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment attended the 23rd Rehabilitation International World Congress at Edinburgh, Scotland, being held from 25-27 October, 2016. The Theme of the Congress is, "Create a More Inclusive World". The Congress is being attended by more than 1000 delegates from 65 countries. Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal is the Patron of this Congress. The First Minister for Scotland, Rt. Hon Nicola Sturgeon, delegates from China, Great Britain, Germany and other countries attended the Congress. The Minister of SJ&E Shri Thaawarchand Gehlot met Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal and briefed her about the initiatives of the Government of India in the disability sector. In the VIP Reception of Ministers, the Minister of SJ&E thanked the Rehabilitation International and Shaw Trust for organizing this Conference.
While addressing the Congress on 25th October, 2016, the Minister for SJ&E enumerated that "the Prime Minister of India has put the issues of Persons with Disabilities in the centre stage of the National Developmental Agenda, since his motto is inclusive development "Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas". It is a matter of great pride for our sector that he spent his birthday this year with a record number of more than 11,000 Persons with Disabilities and their families. He is of the view that the Persons with Disabilities can excel as much as others and can contribute to our society and economy. We believe that persons with disabilities are a great human resource and asset for social and economic development. We also believe our policies and programmes should be proactive so that they can integrate with the mainstream with the financial, educational and skill-based support. Inclusion should also mean beyond access to physical environment i.e. social and psychological, cultural and political. Helping Persons with Disabilities to realise their full potential and to make them live a life of dignity, independence and satisfaction should be our strategy. The Government has renamed Persons with Disabilities as 'Divangjan' for their development."
He further reiterated that, "India remains committed to building an enabling environment for Divyangjan in all possible ways. From this platform, I wish to convey my nation’s strong message to the international community, and especially the Civil Societies that the movement for creating an inclusive world needs to be intensified. The World community should speak in one voice, and strongly too, against all kinds of discrimination. Positive attitude and independent living, education and employment should be considered as the key factors for their empowerment and inclusion. International support should be extended to those nations and societies requiring a big push. I sincerely hope that this Congress will chalk out a clear roadmap with specific policy interventions for making the world more pleasant, fulfilling and enlightening for persons with disabilities. We wish that the aim of Indian saying "Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam" that is the World is One Family, is achieved through our exercise."

Impacting Farmers’ lives through Science Biotech-Kisan & Cattle Genomics

Impacting Farmers’ lives through Science Biotech-Kisan & Cattle Genomics
As a part of the Government’s focus on the development of programmes that aim to directly and positively impact people’s lives rapidly, the Ministry of Science and Technology has been at the forefront in many of these initiatives. Two Farmer-Centric initiatives of this Ministry are Biotech-KISAN and Cattle Genomics.
The Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan shared details on these new initiatives with the Press in New Delhi today. The two programs are intended to have major impact on rural livelihood through science. The Minister in his address stated that the Prime Minister’s emphasis on the importance to work on the problems faced by our farmers is a great motivation factor for the scientist community.
Biotech- KISAN (Krishi Innovation Science Application Network) Empowering Small- and Women- Farmers with Science Implementation
Biotech-KISAN is a new programme that empowers farmers, especially women farmers. Cash crops and horticulture can be a major source of income but the vagaries of climate, disease and market often prevent this. Farmers are eager to use scientific tools that can mitigate these factors. The Department of Biotechnology is partnering to stimulate these exciting directions.
The Scheme is for farmers, developed by and with farmers, it empowers women, impacts locally, connects globally, is Pan-India, has a hub-and spoke model and stimulates entrepreneurship and innovation in farmers.
Biotech-KISAN is:
· For Farmers: The Biotech-KISAN is a Farmer centric scheme launched by of the Department of Biotechnology, where scientists will work in sync with farmers to understand problems and find solutions.
· By Farmers: Developed in consultation with the farmers. Soil, Water, Seed and Market are some key points that concern small and marginal farmers. Biotech-KISAN aims to link farmers, scientists and science institutions across the country in a network that identifies and helps solve their problems in a cooperative manner.
· Empower women. The woman farmer is often neglected. It is important to empower the women farmer, help her meet her concerns for better seed, storage of seed and protection of the crops from disease and pest. The women farmer is also the prime caretaker of livestock and she is eager to combine traditional wisdom in handling the livestock and with current best practices, especially in the context of emerging livestock disease. The scheme includes the Mahila Biotech- KISAN fellowships, for training and education in farm practices, for women farmers. The Scheme also aims to support the women farmers/ entrepreneur in their small enterprises, making her a grass root innovator.
· Connects Globally. Biotech-KISAN will connect farmers to best global practices; training workshops will be held in India and other countries. Farmers and Scientists will partner across the globe.
· Impacts Locally. The scheme is targeted towards the least educated marginalised farmer; Scientists will spend time on farms and link communication tools to soil, water seed and market. The aim is to understand individual problems of the smallholding farmers and provide ready solutions.
· Across India. Biotech KISAN will connect farmers with science in the 15 agro-climatic zones of the country in a manner, which constantly links problems with available solutions.
· Hubs and Spoke. In each of these 15 regions, a Farmer organisation will be the hub connected to different science labs, Krishi Vigyan Kendra and State Agriculture Universities co-located in the region. The hub will reach out to the farmers in the region and connect them to scientists and institutions.
· Farmers as Innovators. The hub will have tinkering lab, communication cell and will run year-long training, awareness, workshops and which will act as education demonstration units to encourage grass root innovation in the young as well as women farmers.
· Communicating Best Practises There will be a communication set-up to make radio and TV programmes for local stations, as well as daily connectivity through social media.
Cattle Genomics: Taking Indigenous Livestock to Pole Position
Livestock contributes significantly to the livelihood of rural poor in our country and has enormous potential to reduce poverty. There is a predicted increase in demand for animal food products in India by 2020. In the wake of climate change challenges, quality breeding of indigenous livestock is essential. When breeding is selective, the native livestock can transform the lives of small farmers. Genomic selection will ensure high-yielding, disease-resistant, resilient livestock.
Selecting hardy livestock that give high-yields. Better livestock can be genetically, selected which ultimately leads to enhancement of productivity in a sustainable, resilient manner.
Traditional Breeding takes time. Genetic improvement of livestock through traditional selection for increasing livestock productivity has major limitations. To overcome these, genomic selection has played a crucial role in livestock industry globally.
Global best methods for local livestock. Genomic selection will transform local livestock breeding. This uses information on variation in DNA sequences between animals to predict the breeding value of animals more accurately.
Genome sequencing of indigenous cattle breeds from all registered cattle breeds of India by involving various stakeholders is to start soon.
Development of high-density DNA chips. This will reduce the cost and time interval of breeding program in future and productivity of indigenous cattle will be enhanced.

Prime Minister to address Valedictory Session of Assistant Secretaries (IAS Officers of 2014 Batch) tomorrow

Prime Minister to address Valedictory Session of Assistant Secretaries (IAS Officers of 2014 Batch) tomorrow
The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will address Valedictory Session of the Assistant Secretaries (IAS-2014 batch) here tomorrow. This is the second batch of IAS Officers to have commenced their career with a stint in the Central Government.
All the 172 Officers were designated and posted as Assistant Secretaries by the Government of India in 42 Ministries (58 Departments) of the Central Government for three months w.e.f. August 01, 2016 after their Phase-2 training at the Lal Bahadur Shashtri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie.
The Officers were assigned important desks related to Policy and Flagship Programmes of the concerned Ministries and Departments. They were groomed by Principal Mentors at the level of Secretary.
During their three-month posting with the Central Government, they were provided a holistic overview of the functioning of the Central Government. However, they started their office work from day one and disposed files related to their desk.
The objective of this Initiative is to provide exposure of Government of India functioning to the IAS officers at a very early stage in their career. As primary implementers in the field, this exposure would also facilitate a broader macro perspective even when the officers work in the field.

CAMPA: the fund manager to manage proper Afforestation

CAMPA: the fund manager to manage proper Afforestation
Forests provide livelihood, forests act as catchments for rivers and waterbodies and forests also act as carbon sink. So it is important to have an institutional mechanism to receive and manage funds for compensatory afforestation.

Forests have long been considered very important as they render ecological services that cannot be quantified. Healthy forests add to the wealth and health of a nation but at the same time, there are certain development imperatives that necessitate that forests be cut for a project that is considered as essential for larger good of the society.
According to India State of Forest report 2015, the forest and tree cover extends to 23% of the country’s geographical area. These forests, diverse in types – reserved forests, national parks and sanctuaries, community forests – also act as carbon sinks. India has laid huge emphasis on its forests playing a major role as carbon sinks as part of the mitigation measures as mentioned in its action plan to combat climate change. Government’s long term plan is to bring 33 % of area under forests and tree. As per its action plan to combat climate change submitted to the UN (INDCs), India is expecting to enhance carbon sequestration by about 100 million tonnes CO2 equivalent annually. This was part India's submission ahead of the climate summit at Paris in December 2015. India on October 2, 2016 ratified the landmark Paris climate deal, which aims to keep the global temperature rise in check.
However, at the same time, development for a growing economy like ours is important. In a number of infrastructure projects – roads, thermal plants, mining and even building townships – the government gives permission to divert forest land for non-forest purpose under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. This is given on the condition that the ‘user agency’ will deposit the stipulated amount to undertake compensatory afforestation to mitigate the negative impact of forest land diversion.
These monies are supposed to be collected under the newly formalized structure the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) as against the earlier ad-hoc body that was set up after the Supreme Court order. The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on May 8, 2015. But it was soon referred to the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests on May 13, 2015. The Committee submitted its report on February 26, 2016. Based on the Committee’s report, the Centre proposed an amendment to the bill in the Lok Sabha and finally the Bill was passed in the lower house on May 3, 2016. The Rajya Sabha passed the Bill on July 28, 2016.
The Bill envisages (i) establishing the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund for each of the states; (ii) receiving funds (from user agency) in national level and state level Funds for compensatory afforestation, net present value of forest and other project specific payments; (iii) spending the monies thus collected primarily for afforestation to compensate for loss of forest cover, regeneration of forest ecosystem, wildlife protection and infrastructure development and (iv) establishing the national and state level fund management authorities to manage respective Funds.
Institutionalising the Authority:
Rs 40,000 crores. Yes, a whopping Rs 40,000 crore. This is what the data with Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) show as the amount accumulated with the ad-hoc body that was formed in compliance of the order passed by the Supreme Court in absence of any permanent institutional mechanism.
The user agency deposits the money for compensatory afforestation and other charges as stipulated. According to Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, large tracts of forest are routinely cut down or as they say, diverted, for non-forest purposes – according to a study by Centre for Science and Environment, it is approximately 4-to-5 million ha of forestland diverted between 1947 and 1980 – almost 20,000 to 25,000 ha annually, bringing in an approximate Rs 6000 crore accrual per year and totaling to about Rs 40,000 crore till date.
Traditional versus new method:
Indian lifestyle traditionally has been environment friendly. People, communities lived in sync with nature and protecting and conserving natural resources, especially water and forest, were given prime importance. Protection of sacred groves was a revered task even as communities took from the forests only as much as was needed.
After centuries of community-driven forest management came the ‘scientific forest management’ as started by the British. A major difference made was that the forest that belonged to the community was now suddenly a property of the government. It was much later, post-Independence, actually in 1988, when as part of the National Forest Policy, 1988 that the government formally recognised the importance of “associating local people in protection, management and development of forests”. Thus came about the Joint Forest Management (JFM).
Circa 2016, we now have the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) bill finally passed.
Development without destruction:
Even when we hope that the whole process of compensatory afforestation and improvement of degraded wastelands gets a huge boost through the formalisation of CAMPA, we should hope that CAMPA does not hamper the implementation of Forest Rights Act.
We also can hope that the state governments will get their acts consolidated for proper implementation. Among other issues, a problem in proper execution will pertain to availability of land for compensatory afforestation, which in turn, will compete with availability of land for infrastructure and developmental projects.
A major factor in implementation of the provisions of CAMPA is direct participation of the community, which will be of vital importance while actual implementation at ground level. With no dearth of funds, it can also be hoped that the quality of forests will actually improve with compensatory afforestation and it may not end up as monoculture short-life plantation.
The Indian development process is guided by the aspiration of making India prosperous and progress on the path of ‘development without destruction’. Hope the CAMPA actually helps in achieving that: development without destruction.

Food and Nutrition Security in the light of Climate Change

Food and Nutrition Security in the light of Climate Change
By 2050, the world population will reach nearly 9.5 billion, which effectively means that we will have to produce 70% more food for over two billion additional mouths. Hence, the food and agriculture systems need to adapt fast to the changing climate and become more resilient, productive and sustainable. This would require judicious use of natural resources and minimised post-harvest losses coupled with improved harvesting, storage, packaging, transportation and marketing practices as well as appropriate infrastructural facilities.

Aptly, theme for this year’s World Food Day is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too”. Ever since 1979, it is being celebrated on October 16 with the aim to raise public awareness regarding hunger challenges and encourage them for necessary actions to fight hunger. The global goal for achieving ‘Zero Hunger’ is 2030 which cannot be reached without addressing climate change – food security being highly vulnerable to changing climatic patterns.

Food security refers to an ability to access/utilize sufficient quantities of safe and nutritious food; however, the related challenges are afflicting the urban/rural populations in wealthy/poor nations alike. FAO estimates nearly 194.6 million Indians (15.2%) were undernourished during 2014-16.

Climate change – a catalyst of crisis and food/nutrition insecurity

By the end of 21st century, global temperature is predicted to rise by nearly 1.4-5.8˚C leading to a substantial reduction in food production. As per ISRO, the Himalayan glaciers already on retreat (shrinkage during the last 15 years: 3.75 km) may disappear by 2035. Ill effects of climate change include growing deserts and escalation in extreme weather events like droughts, cyclones, floods and droughts. Such situations often pose worst effects on the poorest of the poor (many being farmers) and are, thus, a serious threat to our goal – ending hunger by 2030! Hence, concerted action on climate change is crucial for sustainable development. Ironically, agriculture is also considered amongst the big contributors to climate change. On 2 October 2016, India has ratified the Paris Agreement which aims to combat climate change and limit global temperature rise to well below 2˚C.

To quote, our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji “The world is today worried about climate change, global warming, natural disasters. Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhayay had understood the need for striking the fine balance between human development and the need to preserve natural resources….to be vigilant about the exploitation of natural resources. Human race has only now realised the disastrous impact of our material development on the nature”.

Since a consistent increase in greenhouse gases is the major cause for climate change, it is imperative to ensure the wellbeing of ecosystems by reducing their emissions. In the context of Indian agriculture, key issues of climate change include – vastness of the nation with diverse climatic conditions;  varied cropping/farming systems; excessive monsoon dependency; climate-change  hampering water  availability; small land holdings;  lack of coping mechanisms; poor penetration  of risk management strategies; extreme rainfall events (droughts/floods – esp. in coastal regions); high incidence of pests/diseases; speedy oxidation of carbon-print affecting soil fertility and extinction of biodiversity. Though, India has been successful in achieving self-sufficiency in grain production, it has not been able to address chronic household food insecurity. It is likely that climate change will exacerbate food insecurity, particularly in areas vulnerable to hunger/under-nutrition.

For our country, where a large chunk of our population is poor and nearly half the children are malnourished, ensuring food security is of utmost importance. While access to food is directly/indirectly affected via collateral effects on household/individual incomes, food utilization gets impaired due to poor access to drinking water and its adverse health effects. India is likely to be hit harder by global warming – affecting more than 1.2 billion, particularly those residing in flood/cyclone/drought prone areas. Climate change is a significant ‘hunger­risk multiplier’ which can affect all the dimensions of food/nutrition security – Food availability, accessibility, utilization and stability.

Attaining and sustaining food security is one of the biggest challenges worldwide. Food security plans must emphasise on effective handling of threats, efficient storage/distribution of food along with suitable monitoring/surveillance according priority to corrective actions. Adaptive measures such as modified cropping patterns, innovative technologies and water conservation become rather important, particularly in arid/semi-arid areas. Therefore, necessary efforts should be directed towards carbon sequestration and mitigation of green-house gases. In this regard, there is a dire need for awareness generation and efficient involvement of the public at every step.

Some of the governmental initiatives for ensuring food/nutrition security in India include –Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, Soil Health Card/Soil Health Management Schemes,Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Annapurna Scheme,  MGNREGA, National Food Security Act, ICDS and MDMS etc. However, all these programmes need effective implementation, and monitoring to bridge the gaps, particularly for the vulnerable groups. It is rather important to protect and judiciously use our precious natural resources, prevent environmental pollution by adopting eco-friendly approaches, safeguard our forests and avoid food wastage at all levels – from farm-to-plate. Apart from laying more stress on plant foods vs. animal foods, wastages can be avoided by purchasing/cooking only the needed amounts coupled with appropriate storage and judicious use of leftover foods.

At the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit-2015, world leaders were served dishes reformulated from 'trash' (vegetable scraps, rejected apples/pears and off-grade vegetables). This is an exemplary utilization of unwanted/would-be-wasted food – highlighting the crucial issue of global food wastage and its harmful effects; otherwise this food would have ended up in landfills, got rotten and emitted methane – a potent greenhouse gas.

There is an urgent need for investing in “climate‑smart food system” that is more resilient to the impact of climate change on food security. Millets – the drought resistant crops, require fewer external inputs, can grow under harsh circumstances and are, therefore, called ‘crops of the future’.  These nutri-cereals have a rather short sowing-to-harvest period (~65 days) and if stored properly, can be kept for two years and beyond.Unlike paddy (contributing immensely to green-house gases from water-drenched rice fields), millets help in mitigating the climate change by reducing atmospheric CO2; while wheat production (a heat-sensitive crop) is liable to adverse effects. Owing to wide capacity of adaptation, millets can withstand variations in moisture, temperature and soil type including infertile lands. Further, millets contribute to the economic efficiency of farming by providing food and livelihood security to the millions, particularly small/marginal farmers and people in rain fed/remote tribal regions.

Rome Declaration on Nutrition and Framework of Action (Nov, 2014) recognized the need to address the impact of climate change on food/nutrition security – particularly the quantity, quality and diversity in food production; and recommended policies/programmes to establish and strengthen the food supply institutions for enhancing resilience in crisis­prone areas.

Thus, mitigating climate change is a global issue; appropriate adaptation strategies being the immediate solution to ensure livelihood/food security. India needs to sustain its ecosystem for meeting the food/non-food needs of its ever-growing population. Major thrust of the concerned programmes should be on soil conservation, appropriate/judicious use of the natural resources including rainwater harvesting. Raising population awareness regarding adversaries of climate change on crop production is one of the prime-most solution for attaining food/nutrition security.

Alleviating Energy Poverty through Solar Power Providing cheap solar lanterns has the possibility to replace the fossil based polluting kerosene that is used for lighting in many parts of rural India.

Alleviating Energy Poverty through Solar Power
Providing cheap solar lanterns has the possibility to replace the fossil based polluting kerosene that is used for lighting in many parts of rural India.      
It is estimated that 18000 villages in the remote areas do not have access to electricity in the country. The conventional approach to solve this problem is to provide connectivity through centralised electricity grids. However this solution is not only capital intensive and comes with high financial costs, but it also has high environmental costs due to power transmission form conventional power generation stations.
In contrast to this, the small scale decentralised off grid solutions, especially installation of solar power will meet the needs with provision of reliable power supply.
What are these off grid solar power systems and how does this work?
Solar power has enormous capacity to generate power without causing pollution; it is one of the main sources of clean energy and alternate to burning fossil fuels. The installation of captive solar power plants, roof top solar systems is essentially geared towards connecting to the existing countrywide power grids.  In contrast to this the off grid systems are those which utilises the solar energy at decentralised household or village level.
Solar Home Systems, with solar panels to generate power for individual homes is an easy way to connect those who are deprived of power connection, it can also act as stand by during the severe power cuts in the countryside.
The installation of solar irrigation pumps is another off grid power initiative that is being successfully tried out in many parts of the country. Though the initial capital costs are high, over the years it pays back the owner through provision of cheap uninterrupted power over with very little maintenance costs. This has the potential to resolve the power crisis as well as provide energy and food security to the farming community.
Providing cheap solar lanterns has the possibility to replace the fossil based polluting kerosene that is used for lighting in many parts of rural India. Similarly, micro grids supported with battery can store the power. This can provide easy access to recharge mobile sets and power the telecommunication systems in remote hill areas.  Solar powered refrigeration systems in Primary Health Centres can store the lifesaving medicines in the countryside.
The solar driers for agricultural processing and industrial use, and water heating systems are already in use that needs to be supported under the ongoing solar mission. These systems lead to reduction in consumption of conventional energy resulting in saving the energy.
Realising the importance of solar power, the Prime Minister has given the approval for increasing the capacity of solar mission from 22 giga watts (GW) to 100 GW to be achieved by the 2022. The Government of India has set a detail road map to achieve this through roof top solar generation of 40 GW and the medium decentralised off grid connection of 60 GW.
In order to meet the target, an investment of Rs 60000 crores is being made that is bound to unleash enormous opportunity to entrepreneurs who wants to take advantage of the lucrative solar market. India is the only country in the world that has attracted of US dollars one billion from The World Bank to realise the goal of harnessing solar power.
Recognising this factor the global leaders in solar power are keen to invest in India to harness the ever increasing solar market. Already 40 companies have come forward to install solar home systems. The high initial costs of these systems needs to be shared by the financial institutions, especially banks in the rural areas. Policy support towards this will pave way for a sustained growth of off grid solar market with large customer base willing to use the products to meet the home needs. Like any consumer goods, the people would be willing to purchase the solar products across the counter with assured follow up services over the years.
In order to achieve the target of off grid solar systems will require the skilled manpower and barefoot technicians in rural areas to provide maintenance and services. The skill development programme launched by Government of India needs to be linked to building the capacities of rural youth that can provide livelihood opportunities and sustained source of income. The potential of creating 1 million green jobs to cater to the needs of solar energy as technicians will regenerate the rural economy.
Accessing energy is strongly linked to achieving millennium development goals.  The lack of accesses to modern forms of energy leads to energy poverty. In India 360 million people live without grid connectivity, suffering energy poverty.
The Solar Mission launched by Government of India has the capacity to alleviate this population above energy poverty and provide regular and clean source of renewable power.

Challenges of Skill Development in India

India enjoys a demographic dividend where more than 60 percent of its population is in the working age group. The youth bulge presents an opportunity for India to enhance its growth and also supply skilled manpower to the rest of the world. According to the World Bank Report, this is because India’s working age population will be more than the dependent population for at least three decades till 2040. The National Higher Education Commission, in its report estimated that the average age of population in India by 2020 would be 29 years as against 40 years in USA, 46 years in Europe and 47 years in Japan. It is also estimated that during the next 20 years, the labour force in the industrial world is expected to decline by 4%, while in India it will increase by 32%.
 However, the country is facing a paradoxical situation where on the one hand young men and women entering the labour market are looking for jobs; on the other hand industries are complaining of unavailability of appropriately skilled manpower. This paradox reflects the criticality of skill development to enhance the employability of the growing young population and also to gear-up the economy to realise the target of faster and inclusive growth. However, keeping in view the heterogeneity of the labour market and also preponderance of the unorganised sector; designing a model which benefits the key players of the ecosystem: employer, training providers, trainee and the government is a challenging task.
It is known that 93% of the total labour force is in the unorganised sector. Thus, the major challenge of skill development initiatives is also to address the needs of a vast population by providing them skills which would make them employable and enable them to secure decent work leading to improvement in the quality of their life.
The National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015 supersedes the policy of 2009. This primarily aims at meeting the challenge of skilling at scale with speed, standards (quality) and sustainability. According to India Labour Report 2012, it is estimated that 12.8 million new persons join the labour market annually vis-à-vis the current capacity of the skill development which is 3.1 million in our country.
It is estimated that incremental HR requirement for skill development in the period 2012 to 2022 for the whole country is 12.03 crore. Hence there is pressing need to expand the infrastructure for skill development many fold to cater to the target which is more than four times the present capacity.  As mid- term strategy, 104.62 million fresh entrants to the labour force between 2015 to 2022 would  be required to be skilled/provided vocational education. At present 21 Ministries/Departments of Government of India are engaged in skill development programme.
         There are several challenges which have been identified in skill development of the Indian Youth. For instance increasing the capacity of the existing system to ensure equitable access for all and at the same time maintaining their quality and relevance is a big challenge. This involves strong and effective linkages between the industry and the trainer institute with adequate provisions for constant knowledge upgrading of the trainers. Creating effective convergence between school education and the governmental efforts in the area of skill development also need to be reworked. All this has to be in consonance with Labour Market Information System. Other challenges include creation of institutional mechanism for research development, quality assurance, examination, certification, affiliation and accreditation. Needless to say that efforts should be on to make the skill development attractive and productive to motivate the youth to aspire for it.
Addressing the above challenges, government has taken some concrete steps which include dovetailing and rationalization of the Central Government Schemes on Skill Development in order to achieve maximum convergence and making skill development an integral part of all Government of India schemes which has ensured that all government schemes now has the component which takes care of skill development as per the programme’s requirement.  Skill gap studies conducted by NSDC for 21 high growth sectors of the country will project he human resource requirement in those sectors by 2022.
Monitoring and evaluation is the spine of any development plan. Since National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has been structured as an outcome oriented policy, it has been decided to set up a Policy Implementation Unit (PIU) for reviewing the implementation and progress of the various initiatives and undertaking corrective measures under this policy. For bringing improvements in the scheme through the feedback, provision has also been made to facilitate constant consultation with the stakeholder.  To ensure that the desired results are achieved on this account, it is necessary that along with monitoring, a quick evaluation of the Programme is undertaken at the earliest possible. Based on evaluation findings, we would be able to take effective measures and breach all the gaps in the implementation process.

26 October 2016

What happens when GPS fails? Wi-Fi, Li-Fi, Beacons to the rescue Researchers at University of California-Riverside develop ‘highly reliable and accurate navigation system’ that exploits existing environmental signals

f you ever thought that Global Positioning System, or GPS, is the only technology used to develop navigation systems and give directions, you may want to think again.
A team of researchers at the University of California-Riverside (UCR) has developed a “highly reliable and accurate navigation system” that exploits existing environmental signals such as cellular and Wi-Fi rather than GPS.
Most navigation systems in cars and portable electronics use the space-based Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), which includes the US system GPS, Russian system GLONASS, European system Galileo, and Chinese system BeiDou.
For precision technologies such as aerospace and missiles, navigation systems typically combine GPS with a high-quality on-board Inertial Navigation System (INS), which delivers a high level of short-term accuracy but eventually drifts when it loses touch with external signals, the UCR researchers point out.
However, GPS signals alone are very weak and unusable in certain environments like deep canyons. Second, GPS signals are susceptible to intentional and unintentional jamming and interference. Third, civilian GPS signals are unencrypted, unauthenticated, and specified in publicly available documents, making them spoofable, or prone to hacking, the researchers say.
Hence, current trends in autonomous vehicle navigation systems rely not only on GPS/INS, but a suite of other sensor-based technologies such as cameras, lasers, and sonar. “By adding more and more sensors, researchers are throwing ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ to prepare autonomous vehicle navigation systems for the inevitable scenario that GPS signals become unavailable. We took a different approach, which is to exploit signals that are already out there in the environment,” said Zak Kassas, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering, in a 13 October statement. He led the team that presented its research (bit.ly/2dYsBUm) at the 2016 Institute of Navigation Global Navigation Satellite System Conference (ION GNSS+), in Portland, Oregon, last month.
Instead of adding more internal sensors, Kassas and his team in UCR’s Autonomous Systems Perception, Intelligence, and Navigation (ASPIN) Laboratory have been developing autonomous vehicles that could tap into the hundreds of signals around us at any point in time, like cellular, radio, television, Wi-Fi, and other satellite signals.
In the research presented at the ION GNSS+ Conference, Kassas’ team showcased ongoing research that exploits these existing communications signals, called “signals of opportunity (SOP)” for navigation. The system can be used by itself, or, more likely, to supplement INS data in the event that GPS fails.
The team’s research approach includes theoretical analysis of SOPs in the environment, building specialized software-defined radios (SDRs) that will extract relevant timing and positioning information from SOPs, developing practical navigation algorithms, and finally testing the system on ground vehicles and unmanned drones.
While GPS is a good outdoor location technology, it is unreliable indoors. However, the idea to supplement GPS with other technologies for indoor location use with widely-used location technologies including Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity), Li-FI (light fidelity), Beacons and NFC (near field communication) is not entirely new.
Technologies like Beacons (such as Apple Inc.’s iBeacon) are low-cost, low-powered transmitters equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) that can be used to deliver proximity-based, context-aware messages. They are ideal for detecting smartphones indoors, where GPS isn’t always effective, and can communicate with apps on devices when they are indoors.
NFC requires users to pull out their phones and tap onto a NFC reader, thus requiring investments in tags, readers, etc. The range, however, is limited to 20cm and less. Beacons, on the other hand, typically have a wireless range of 1m to 70m but being radio transmitters, they too are susceptible to interference.
Skyhook Wireless Inc. has a Wi-Fi-based location system, which it calls Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS). Skyhook’s patented ‘Precision Location’ combines Wi-Fi with GPS, cell towers, IP (Internet protocol) address and device sensors to provide positioning for any device on any operating system (OS).
Li-Fi is another option. Almost four years back, Harald Haas, who was then professor of mobile communications at the University of Edinburgh and the person who coined the term Li-Fi. and Gordon Povey, now chief executive at Trisent, claimed that Li-Fi broadband can replace GPS (bit.ly/2dbiQ6A).
Haas, now co-founder and interim chief executive officer of pureLifi—a spin-out from the University of Edinburgh—believes that light fidelity (Li-Fi)-enabled LED light bulbs can also transmit data much faster than Wi-Fi (bit.ly/1Tn7rPM). According to a 2012 report in UK-based newspaper Independent (ind.pn/2e1Hoga), Li-Fi promised to challenge the dominance of GPS with Li-Fi LED bulbs so long as we are in the line of sight of the light source.

U.S. author Paul Beatty wins Man Booker Prize

U.S. author Paul Beatty wins Man Booker Prize

File photo shows author Paul Beatty posing for a photograph in London.

Paul Beatty was on Tuesday named as the first American to win the prestigious Man Booker fiction prize, for “The Sellout”, a biting satire on race relations in the United States.
The narrator of “The Sellout”, an African-American called “Bonbon” tries to put his Californian town back on the map, from which it has been officially removed, by re-introducing slavery and segregation in its high school.
The 289-page novel begins with “Bonbon” facing a hearing in the Supreme Court, looking back over the events that led up to that point.
The language is uncompromising and may offend some readers. So might some of the content — one old black film actor asks to become Bonbon’s slave — as Beatty lampoons racial stereotypes. The protagonist’s father is unjustly shot by police.
“This is a hard book. It was hard for me to write, it’s hard to read,” said a tearful Beatty immediately after winning the award at a ceremony at London’s historic Guildhall.
“For me, it’s just really gratifying that something that’s important to me is also important for other people,” he later told a news conference.
Chair of the five judges for the £50,000 ($60,900) prize Amanda Foreman said “The Sellout” had been a unanimous choice, reached after a meeting lasting some four hours.
“It plunges into the heart of contemporary American society with absolutely savage wit of the kind I haven’t seen since Swift or Twain,” she said.
“It manages to eviscerate every social nuance, every sacred cow, while making us laugh and also making us wince ... It is really a novel for our times.”
Asked about the language, Foreman said, “Paul Beatty has said being offended is not an emotion. That’s his answer to the reader,” Foreman said.
The Sellout” is 54-year-old Beatty’s fourth novel. He has also edited an anthology of African-American humour.
It was publisher Oneworld’s second Man Booker victory after winning the 2015 prize for “A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Jamaican Marlon James.
Beatty said he would not have written the book had his partner not persuaded him to apply for a grant that allowed him time to complete the book.
“I don’t like writing,” he said. “I’m a perfectionist in some ways and I get easily disgruntled and discouraged with what I’m doing.”
Apart from the £50,000 prize, each of the six shortlisted authors wins £2,500 ($3,045) winning the Man Booker can have a major impact on a writer’s sales and readership. James told Reuters recently that winning the prize can have a “seismic” impact.
In its 48-year history, the prize has gone to authors including Salman Rushdie, Hilary Mantel and Margaret Atwood. Three years ago the rules were changed to cover any novel written in English, regardless of the writer’s nationality, and published in Britain. Previously it was confined largely to authors from the Commonwealth.
Since January, the judges have read 155 novels before whittling the pile down to a “longlist” of 13 then a shortlist of six.
This year’s shortlist comprised works by two Britons, a Briton born in Canada, a Canadian and two Americans.
Deborah Levy, whose “Hot Milk” was in the final six this year, has been on the shortlist before, while Ottessa Moshfegh’s “Eileen” was her debut novel.

India ranks 87 in WEF gender gap report

The global workplace gender gap is getting wider and economic parity between the sexes could take as many as 170 years to close after a dramatic slowdown in progress.
The slowdown is partly because of chronic imbalances in salaries and labour force participation, despite the fact that, in 95 countries out of the 144 that are ranked, women attend university in equal or higher numbers than men. These are the key findings of The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report 2016, released on Wednesday.
The report is an annual benchmarking exercise that measures progress towards parity between men and women in four areas: educational attainment, health and survival, economic opportunity and political empowerment.
In the latest edition, the report finds that progress towards parity in the key economic pillar of gender has slowed dramatically with the gap—which stands at 59%—now larger than at any point since 2008.
Behind this decline are a number of factors. One is salary, with women around the world on average earning just over half of what men earn despite, on average, working longer hours, taking paid and unpaid work into account.
Another persistent challenge is stagnant labour force participation, with the global average for women at 54%, compared to 81% for men.
In 2015, projections based on the Global Gender Gap Report data suggested that the economic gap could be closed within 118 years, or by 2133.
The education gender gap has closed 1% over the past year to over 95%, making it one of the two areas where most progress has been made to date. Health and survival, the other pillar to have closed 96% of the gap, has deteriorated marginally. Two-thirds of the 144 countries measured in this year’s report can now claim to have fully closed their gender gap in sex ratio at birth, while more than one-third have fully closed the gap in terms of healthy life expectancy. The pillar where the gender gap looms largest, political empowerment, is also the one that has seen the greatest amount of progress since the WEF began measuring the gender gap in 2006. This is now over 23%; 1% greater than 2015 and nearly 10% higher than in 2006. However, improvements are starting from a low base: only two countries have reached parity in parliament and only four have reached parity on ministerial roles, according to the latest globally comparable data. The slow rate of progress towards gender parity, especially in the economic realm, poses a particular risk given the fact that many jobs that employ a majority of women are likely to be hit proportionately hardest by the coming age of technological disruption known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “Women and men must be equal partners in managing the challenges our world faces—and in reaping the opportunities. Both voices are critical in ensuring the Fourth Industrial Revolution delivers its promise for society,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF.
Which are the world’s most gender-equal countries?
Globally, the leading four nations continue to be Scandinavian: Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden, in that order. The next highest placed nation is Rwanda, which moves one place ahead of Ireland to the fifth position. Following Ireland, the Philippines remains unchanged at seventh, narrowly ahead of Slovenia (8) and New Zealand (9), which both move up one place. With Switzerland dropping out of the top 10, the 10th position is taken up by Nicaragua.
The US (45) loses 17 places since last year, primarily due to a more transparent measure for the estimated earned income. Other major economies in the top 20 include Germany (13), France (17) and the UK (20). Among the BRICS grouping, the highest-placed nation remains South Africa (15), which moves up two places since last year with improvements across all pillars. The Russian Federation (75) is next, followed by Brazil (79). India (87) gains 21 spots and overtakes China (99) with improvements across Economic Participation and Opportunity and Educational Attainment.
Where does India stand?
India is ranked 87 out of 144, improving from its 108 position in 2015. It has closed its gender gap by 2% in a year: its gap now stands at 68% across the four pillars of economy, education, health and political representation. The major improvement, however, has been in education, where it has managed to close its gap entirely in primary and secondary education. In the economic sphere, much work remains to be done. Overall, it ranks 136 in this pillar out of 144 countries, coming in at 135th for labour force participation and 137 for estimated earned income.
India is also among a group of countries that have made key investments in women’s education but have generally not removed barriers to women’s participation in the workforce and are thus not seeing returns on their investments in terms of development of one half of their nation’s human capital. This group also includes Iran, Islamic Republic, the United Arab Emirates and Chile. These countries have an educated but untapped talent pool and would have much to gain from women’s greater participation in the workforce.
The report shows that there remain huge differences in the opportunities for women in the best and worst performing countries around the world.

24 October 2016

Now, India has a nuclear triad

Now, India has a nuclear triad
India has quietly completed its nuclear triad by inducting the indigenously built strategic nuclear submarine INS Arihant into service.
With this India joins the select group of countries which have a nuclear triad, i.e. capable of delivering nuclear weapons by aircraft, ballistic missiles and submarine launched missiles.
Key facts:
Arihant is capable of carrying nuclear tipped ballistic missiles, the class referred to as Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear (SSBN). SSBNs are designed to prowl the deep ocean waters carrying nuclear weapons and provide a nation with an assured second strike capability — the capability to strike back after being hit by nuclear weapons first.
The vessel weighing 6000 tonnes is powered by a 83 MW pressurised light water nuclear reactor.
It will be armed with the K-15 Sagarika missiles with a range of 750 km and eventually with the much longer range K-4 missiles being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation

producing electricity from water hydroelectric cell

Scientists have developed a novel way using of producing electricity from water hydroelectric cell at room temperature without using any power or chemicals. The major breakthrough was developed by team of scientists led by Dr. RK Kotnala from Delhi’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL). How does it works? In this new method, scientist had used zinc and silver as electrodes to make a cell that produces electricity. They had used nanoporous magnesium ferrite to split water into hydroxide (OH) and hydronium (H3O) ions. As magnesium has high affinity for hydroxide, it spontaneously splits water into hydroxide and hydronium ions. The H3O ions get trapped inside the nanopores of magnesium ferrite and generate an electric field. The electric field helps in further dissociation of water. To further enhance the activity of magnesium ferrite, about 20% of magnesium is replaced with lithium. The substitution of lithium at magnesium site increases the sensitivity of magnesium ferrite. This is helpful in dissociating water at room temperature as the electrons get trapped in the oxygen deficient sites. Significance: The hydroelectric cell using magnesium ferrite of 1 sq. inch size can produce 8 mA current and 0.98 volt. Further if these four cells [of 2-inch diameter] are connected in series the voltage increases to 3.70 volts and can operate a small plastic fan or a LED light of 1 watt.

Proposed Four GST slabs

Proposed Four GST slabs
The GST is proposed to be levied at 6% (lower rate), 12% (Standard 1 rate), 18% (Standard 2 rate) and 26% (Higher rates) on the goods and services. It will be 0% on host of goods and services, including food, health and education services, and 26% on luxury items, such as fast-moving consumer goods and consumer durables. On consumption of ultra-luxury items and demerit goods, such as big cars and tobacco products, cess must be imposed over and above a 26% GST rate.
What is GST Council? As per Article 279A of the Constitution, GST Council will be a joint forum of the Centre and the States. It shall consist (i) Union Finance Minister (Chairperson). (ii) The Union Minister of State (MoS) in-charge of Revenue of finance (Member) and (ii) The Minister In-charge of taxation or finance or any other Minister nominated by each State Government (Members).

current affairs 23rd october

What is National SC/ST hub? 
The objective of the SC/ST (Schedule Castes/Schedule Tribes) Hub is to provide professional support to entrepreneurs from the SC/ST. It also seeks to promote enterprise culture and entrepreneurship among the SC/ST population and to enable them to participate more effectively in public procurement. It will work towards strengthening market access/linkage, capacity building, monitoring, sharing industry-best practices and leveraging financial support schemes.

Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal has been appointed as a member of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Athletes’ Commission. It is rare honour for an Indian sportsperson. In this regard, Saina has received a letter to the effect from the IOC President Thomas Bach mentioning that she has been appointed in consultation with Chair of Athletes’ Commission. The Athletes’ Commission of IOC is chaired by Angela Ruggiero. It comprises nine vice presidents and 10 other members.

Noted British statistician Sir David Cox (92) was awarded inaugural recipient of the International Prize in Statistics. The International Prize in Statistics Foundation has bestowed this award on Sir David Cox in recognition of Survival Analysis Model (or Cox Model) Applied in Medicine, Science, and Engineering.



Kashmir’s Red Stag critically endangered:

Kashmir’s Red Stag critically endangered:
In order to get more attention and protection to Kashmir’s Red stag, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has decided to put Red Stag on the critically endangered species list.
The organisation is also aiming to enhance the conservation efforts to increase its declining population.
It is listed under Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and J&K Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978 and has also been listed among the top 15 species of high conservation priority by the Government of India.
The cited reasons for the decline in its population are said to be habitat destruction, over-grazing by domestic livestock, and poaching.

Prime Minister dedicates three Hydro Projects to the Nation

Prime Minister dedicates three Hydro Projects to the Nation
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi today dedicated three flagship 800 MW Hydro Power Station of NTPC- Koldam, 520 MW Parvati Project of NHPC and 412 MW Rampur Hydro Station of SJVNL projects to the Nation in Mandi , Himachal Pradesh here today. Shri Acharya Devvrat, Governor of Himachal Pradesh, Shri Vir Bhadra Singh, Chief Minister, Himachal Pradesh, Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare; Shri Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of State ( IC) for Power, Coal , New & Renewable Energy and Mines and eminent dignitaries were present on the occasion.
Appreciating the contribution of Public sector companies in country’s growth, Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi said that these hydro projects will bring prosperity to the State of Himachal and other parts of the nation.
NHPC’s Parbati-III Power Station is a run of the river scheme having a 43m high rockfill dam, underground Power House and 10.58 km long water conductor system. A net head of 326 meter is utilized to run four vertical Francis turbines with an installed capacity of 520 MW (4x130 MW). The power plant is designed to generate 1963.29 Million Units annually. The power generated from the Parbati-III Power Station is distributed to beneficiary states i.e. Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Union Territory of Chandigarh. The Power Station is supplying 13% free power to home state i.e. 12% as home state share and 1% for Local Area Development fund. The completion cost of the project is around Rs 2600 crore and as on 30.09.2016 the total power generation is 1880 MU with revenue realization of Rs 816 crore.
With commencement of generation from four 200 MW units, NTPC- Koldam has achieved capacity of 800 MW and provides peaking capacity to the Northern grid. It shall annually generate 3054 GWh electricity at 90% dependable year basis. Twelve percent of the electricity generated from Koldam is being supplied to the home state Himachal Pradesh free of cost while 1 percent to the state on account of Local Area Development fund. All the Project Affected Families are being provided 100 units of electricity every month free of cost which accounts for 0.62 percent of the total generation. Thus a total 13.62 percent of electricity generated from the plant is supplied free of cost to Himachal Pradesh, remaining power supplied to other beneficiaries namely Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttrakhand and Chandigarh.
SJVN’s Rampur Project (412MW) in Kullu district will be operated in tandem with Nathpa Jhakri Hydro Power Station (HPS). This project will provide 13 percent free power to the state of Himachal Pradesh

Global Conference to Make India the Centre for Arbitration

Three daylong Global Conference to Make India the Centre for Arbitration gets underway in New Delhi tomorrow
The first ever Global Conference to Strengthen Arbitration and Enforcement in India gets underway in New Delhi tomorrow. The three daylong conference titled, “National Initiative On Strengthening Arbitration And Enforcement In India” from October 21st to 23rd, 2016 is being launched by the Government and Judiciary as a major initiative to change the face of dispute resolution in India.
NITI Aayog, Ministry of Law & Justice, DIPP, National Legal Services Authority, International Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution, National Institute of Labour Economics Research and Development have collaborated to make India the centre of arbitration. Also for the first time six leading international arbitral institutions (HKIAC, ICC, KLRCA, LCIA, PCA and SIAC) and all major industry associations (FICCI, PHD Chamber, CII and ASSOCHAM) have come together to drive this initiative. The Conference seeks to provide impetus to commercial arbitration in India, which is fast gaining pace across the world, for faster, more efficient dispute resolution outside the court room.
The President, Shri Pranab Mukherjeea will inaugurate the three-day global Conference on Friday, the 21st October while the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will deliver the valedictory address on 23rd October. The Conference will have the Chief Justice of India, Shri T.S. Thakur as its Patron-in-Chief. Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Shri Arun Jaitely and the Union Minister for Law and Justice and Electronics and Information Technology, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad will also address the conference in addition to luminaries from legal and corporate world.
Chief Justices of six countries are participating at the first ever Global Conference on Arbiration in India to share their thoughts. Distinguished Jurist Fali Nariman and William Rowley, QC, Chairman, LCIA Board are amongst the keynote speakers. The best minds from Indian and international legal bodies, corporate houses and the legal fraternity are participating in the Conference. The Conference will serve as a platform for discussing critical issues, sharing experiences on the best international practices and creating a roadmap to strengthen arbitration and its enforcement in the country.
The Conference will have 7 intensive brainstorming technical sessions. These will dwell on different facets to strengthen institutional arbitration and ensure a facilitative judiciary to encourage Indian and foreign parties to arbitrate in India. More than 1000 experts and Government functionaries are expected to participate in the Conference besides 1200 students and faculty from various law colleges.
The Conference comes in the backdrop of the immense losses suffered by the business enterprises and the economy at large, due to enormous backlogs involved in dispute resolution in Indian courts. This keep resources and money of the businesses trapped till resolution of the dispute. This is a major disincentive for foreign companies coming to invest in India. So they seek alternatives. One such alternative is arbitration which can be cost effective and quick.
Increasingly, foreign companies that partner with Indian businesses are approaching countries outside of India for dispute resolution. In the World Bank Report on the Ease of Doing Business India has improved its position by 12 ranks. However, on the Enforcement of Contracts India fares extremely poorly and ranks 178 out of 189 countries. The World Bank Report suggests that improving the mechanism to resolve commercial disputes in India will go a long way in bettering India’s rank. Many Indian companies are going to foreign arbitration centres like Singapore, London and Paris taking a huge chunk of dispute resolution business outside India. Statistics make this picture clear. In 2012, 49 of the total 235 cases in Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) involved an Indian party. This figure grew to 85 out of 259 cases in 2013.
India has already undertaken major structural reforms to facilitate ease of doing business recently, including legal reforms to revamp the existing arbitration framework. The Parliament has recently passed an Amendment to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. Moreover, the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act, 2015 has been passed to fast track commercial dispute resolution.
Building over these reforms, the initiative by Government and Judiciary will help to improve the institutional capacity necessary to create a vibrant ecosystem to make India the next big hub for international commercial arbitration

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