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Cabinet apprised of MoU between India and Bangladesh for cyber security cooperation
Jul 12,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has been apprised of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Bangladesh on cyber security cooperation between Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of India and Bangladesh Government Computer Incident Response Team (BGD e-Gov CIRT) Bangladesh Computer Council of Information and Communication Technology Division under the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology of Bangladesh. The MoU was signed on 8th April, 2.017.

The MoU intends to promote cooperation between CERT-In and BGD e-Gov CIRT and includes exchange of information on Cyber attacks and cyber security incidents; Cyber security technology cooperation; exchange cyber security policies and best practices and Human Resource Development in this field in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations of each country and on the basis of equality, reciprocity and mutual benefits.

The MoU between CERT-In and BGD e-Gov CIRT would be implemented through a duly set up Joint Committee on Cyber Security.

Background:

CERT-In is a national nodal agency under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, with the objective of securing Indian cyber space. Hence, CERT-In is collaborating with overseas Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) for incident response and resolution.

The agreement comes in the backdrop of Governments, business and consumers are increasingly faced with a variety of cyber threats. Besides, there is a need to further improve cyber security readiness and raise awareness around the importance of keeping systems secure and security practices and procedures current and recognizing the importance of cooperation by the two organizations in the area of cyber security.

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Cabinet approves creation of three posts of Directors for the three new AIIMS in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra
Jul 12,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the creation of three posts of Directors in the pre-revised scale of Rs.80,000 (fixed) {plus NPA Ceiling limit 85000} for the three new AIIMS at Mangalagiri near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Kalyani in West Bengal and Nagpur in Maharashtra.

As per the AIIMS Act 1956 Amended vide AIIMS (Amendment) Act, 2012, there shall be a Chief Executive Officer of the Institute. He shall be designated as the Director of the Institute and shall be appointed by the Institute provided that the first Director of the Institute shall be appointed by the Central Government. The Director shall act as the Secretary to the Institute as well as the Governing Body and support proper functioning and governance of the three AIIMS.

The post will be immediately filled up following due procedures. The post of Director is in the pre-revised scale of Rs 80,000(fixed) {plus NPA Ceiling limit 85000}. The annual financial implication for each of the post of the Director will be around Rs.25 Lakhs, as per the 6th CPC.

Background

The Union Finance Minister in his Budget speech for the Year 2014-15 had announced for setting up of four new AIIMS in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Cabinet had approved establishment of new AIIMS at Mangalagiri near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, Kalyani in West Bengal and Nagpur in Maharashtra at a cost of Rs. 4949 Crore on 07.10.2015. The three AIIMS are being set up as a part of the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY).

The Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) was announced in 2003 with objectives of correcting regional imbalances in the availability of affordable/ reliable tertiary healthcare services and also to augment facilities for quality medical education in the country. PMSSY has two components: (i) Setting up of AIIMS like institutions (ii) Upgradation of Government Medical Colleges/Institutions. Under this scheme AIIMS have been established in Bhubaneshwar, Bhopal, Raipur, Jodhpur, Rishikesh and Patna while work of AIIMS Rae Bareli is in progress. Also, three AIIMS in Nagpur(Maharashtra), Kalyani (West Bengal) and Mangalagiri in Guntur (A.P) have been sanctioned in 2015 and two AIIMS have been sanctioned in Bathinda and Gorakhpur in 2016 and Assam in 2017. All necessary steps are being taken for creation of the physical infrastructure and creation of faculty and non-faculty position required for operationalization of these three new AIIMS in Nagpur(Maharashtra), Kalyani(West Bengal) and Mangalagiri in Guntur (A.P). Design Consultant have been appointed for all the three AIIMS on the basis of Global bid as per mandate of the Cabinet. The Master plan for these AIIMS has also been finalized. Detailed designs are under preparation. Proposal for creation of faculty and non-faculty position is under consideration/discussion with Department of Expenditure.

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Cabinet apprised of MoU between India and Palestine on cooperation in the field of Information Technology and Electronics
Jul 12,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has been apprised of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Palestine on Cooperation in the field of Information Technology and Electronics (IT&E).

The MoU intends to promote closer co-operation in the areas of e-Governance, m-Governance, e-Public Services Delivery, cyber security, software technology parks, start-ups ecosystem etc.

The MoU shall come into effect from date of signature of the parties and shall remain in force for a period of 5 years. The MoU shall be implemented by establishing a Working Group on IT&E composed of representatives of the two Parties. Bilateral Cooperation in ICT domain both B2B and G2G will be enhanced. It envisages improving B2B collaboration leading to employment opportunities.

Background:

India has strong political support to the Palestinian cause at international and bilateral levels. India has been contributing material and technical assistance to the Palestinian people. The MOU on cooperation in the field of IT&E was initiated during the 1st Session of JCM in November, 2016.After several negotiations draft MoU was finalised and signed during the VVIP visit from Palestine in May 2017.

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Powering India - Renewable Projects Leap Ahead of Thermal
Jul 12,2017

Private thermal projects are staring at muted power demand, which is the effects of non-remunerative tariffs partly due to aggressive bids and some adverse perception due to falling renewable tariff, says India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra). Ind-Ra believes that private developers are facing more challenges in operating thermal power projects than renewable energy projects.

In contrast, the large target by the government for renewable capacity addition and the focus on renewable purchase obligation along with falling tariffs in competitive bidding regime have led to an increase in demand for renewable energy. Strong counterparties for solar companies including Solar Energy Corporation of India and NTPC Limited (IND AAA/Stable) are providing comfort to developers on payment security. However, an improvement in the financial profile of distribution utilities is important for power projects to have stable revenue receipts.

For some states, particularly Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which houses a significant proportion of population, the average per capita supply of electricity is lower than the national average. Also, a reliable and continuous supply is yet to be ensured in most states. Electricity demand is likely to grow across the country, driven by industrialisation. In FY16, 44% of electricity demand nationally was attributed to industrial demand, while around 23% was domestic demand (Source: Central Electricity Authority of India; CEA). Per capita supply was 1,075kWh in FY16.

In a falling electricity deficit scenario and excess energy tie-ups by distribution utilities, even amid high demand growth, projected generation capacity is well placed to meet the demand. In the scenario of electricity replacing diesel in applications including diesel generators, agricultural implements and railways, the additional electricity demand can be addressed by a 6 percentage point increase in the plant load factor of thermal plants. Ind-Ra in its estimates considers the amount of electricity that would have been required if all vehicles had become electric in FY17, to indicate the quantum of demand that can arise from the electrification of road transport.

Short-Term Power Trading Set to Rise: Ind-Ra believes that short-term power trading is set to rise, as the difference between the landed cost of power for industries from third party sources remains competitive to the tariff charged by distribution utilities. The transition will be aided by easing transmission congestion, transparency, thermal plants looking to sell untied power, discoms trying to sell excess power, and falling solar power cost.

Solar Manufacturers Operating Margins Contract: Solar tariffs have fallen considerably, preceding even the pace of fall in solar panel prices. The pressure on price of solar panels is set to continue as there is a significant oversupply. The median gross margins were 8% and the median operating margin was negative 2% in 4Q16 for solar manufacturers which shipped about 30GW in 2016 (Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory). The rise of new technologies in solar modules may also lead to a further price reduction.

Wind Projects Face Grid Curtailment Hurdle: Grid curtailment remains a major risk for wind projects, while the distribution utilities are trying to manage the grid with increasing intermittent power. Wind resource is a major affecting the viability of a project, as wake effect and climate events such as El Nino take a toll on generation.

Counterparty Profiles Display Inconsistency: Inter-state transmission assets continue to exhibit stable operating and receivable parameters, despite being exposed to weak counterparties. Counterparties profile remains inconsistent as distribution utilities treat asset classes differently. Also, many distribution utilities have reported high payable days in their financial statements, while they pay within 90 days to independent power producers. Such anomalies lead to uncertainties in the assessment of counterparty behaviour.

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New Telecom Policy will be Application driven rather than Connectivity driven-Manoj Sinha
Jul 12,2017

The Minister of Communications Shri Manoj Sinha said that his Ministry is working on a new Telecom Policy which will be application driven as compared to National Telecom Policy, 2012 which was connectivity driven. He said that the new policy has to be focussed on the end users and should look at the newer opportunities for expanding the availability of Telecom services. He said, the advent of high speed data services and enhanced expectations of the users to get real time on-demand bandwidth to run near real time live applications enjoins us to prepare new policies and he underlined that for the first time, the Ministry has decided to involve a large pool of experts from outside the department to get more inputs from the citizens and stakeholders for the new policy.

The Minister said that communications Sector has assumed the position of an essential infrastructure for socio-economic development in an increasingly knowledge-intensive world. He said that as of April 2017, the country has close to 1.2 billion telephone connections, including 1.17 billion wireless telephone connections and similarly witnessed the rapid growth of the broadband connections that now stands at 276.52 million. He said, more than the number, it is heartening to see the six-fold increase in Data traffic in India rom 561 million GB in the first quarter to 2988 million GB in the third quarter of 2016-17, which is a whopping 400 % jump.

Shri Sinha said that while our service providers are rapidly deploying the 4 G technology, his focus is on two important aspects- the need to expand the connectivity to all parts including the north-eastern and Left Wing Extremism affected areas and Secondly to keep an eye on future generation that is 5 G technology and ensure that India plays a key role in standards development and get a healthy share of the innovations and patents in the 5G technology pool. He also said that the FDI equity inflow in telecom sector from April, 2016 to March, 2017 was US $ 5564 million, which is more than four times the average inflow of about 1.3 billion dollars every year since 2013-14.

The Minister said that the digital India program and the digital economy requires underlying connectivity as a pre-requisite and added that as road infrastructure used to be a necessity for development in 19th and 20th century, the information superhighways are a must for growth in the 21st century. He said that the Indian Telegraph Right of Way Rules, 2016 was notified that further ease the cable laying approval process and helps in Ease of Doing Business for Telecom Service Providers. He also informed that the Department of Telecom has announced the Central Equipment Identity Register last week, which paves the way for setting up of International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) based device registration and authentication that will settle the cases of Mobile Phone Theft to a great extent. The department is also actively considering the TRAI recommendations on addressing Telecom Consumer Grievances and urged the officers to propose a state-of-the-art technology driven solution that records, monitors and provides end-to-end monitoring of every grievance.

Calling for a revisit of the current HR policies of the Government, the Minister said that there has been a recognition that specialized skills have to be drawn from both within the Government system and also from outside wherever possible as the Centre and the States are woefully short of such skilled resources.

Secretary, Telecom Ms Aruna Sundararajan said that world is looking at India as the next growth engine to grow from 7.6 percent to above 10 percent and it requires huge effort by both the government and the private sector. She urged the Department of Telecom to become an Engine of Transformation and to act as infrastructure builder rather than a regulator. Referring to the customer delight as a hallmark of business success, she urged the officials to achieve the target of 700 to 800 million internet penetration in the next five years for achieving the vision of the Prime Minister for a New India. The Secretary also underlined the need for Standard Development in new technology areas and referred to the case of digital payment, where India leapfrogged in setting the next standard.

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Indias fuel product consumption rises 0.4% in June 2017
Jul 12,2017

Indias fuel product consumption or sales rose 0.4% to 16.54 mt in June 2017 over a year ago. LPG sales moved up 15.9% to 1.87 mt, diesel 6.5% to 6.80 mt, petrol 11.9% to 2.07 mt and ATF 9.2% to 0.60 mt. However, the consumption of petcoke dipped 18.6% to 1.89 mt, kerosene 33.0% to 0.36 mt, fuel oil 12.9% to 0.55 mt, and lubes/greases 23.5% to 0.25 mt. The consumption of naphtha also declined 4.3% to 1.09 mt, others 5.3% to 0.54 mt, bitumen 5.3% to 0.48 mt, and light diesel oil (LDO) 5.7% to 0.03 mt in June 2017.

Consumption or sales of fuel products increased 3.0% to 51.10 mt in April-June 2017 over April-June 2016. Sales of diesel increased 5.8%, petrol 10.6%, LPG 10.6%, and ATF 9.9%. Consumption of petcoke also moved up 1.1% and others 2.1%. However, the consumption of kerosene declined 34.1%, bitumen 9.9%, fuel oil 7.7%, naphtha 3.4%, lubes/greases 10.7% and LDO 1.2% in April-June 2017.

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Govt. may accord infrastructure status to smaller tourism projects- Secretary Tourism, GoI
Jul 12,2017

The Government of Uttarakhand is working towards unveiling a new policy to give a fillip to the tourism sector in the state. The home to paanch dhams - Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri, Gangotri along with Sri Hemkund Sahib - Uttarakhand is promoting spiritual tourism by developing circuits such as Devi Circuit and Shiv Circuit. This year the number of tourist arrivals in the state has already crossed the 17 lakh mark and this reflects the immense potential it has as a tourist destination, said Satpal Maharaj, Minister of Tourism, Irrigation, Minor Irrigation, Cultural, Watershed Management, Pilgrimage and Religious Fairs, Flood Control, Rain Water Harvesting, India-Nepal-Uttarakhand River Projects, Government of Uttarakhand.

Satpal Maharaj said that adventure tourism, medical and wellness tourism, and culinary tourism, were being developed. Besides, to make Uttarakhand a worldclass winter destination, the government was planning to set up skiing resorts and was undertaking other such initiatives. He added that homestays were also being promoted to allow tourists to spend time in the lap of nature.

Satpal Maharaj said that funds have been sanctioned by the Central government for construction of all-weather roads and laying down of railway tracks. He urged the industry to invest in the state as it offered immense opportunities and develop the varied tourism destinations.

Ms. Rashmi Varma, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, said that the tourism sector suffers from a gap in terms of world-class infrastructure development in the countrys tourism destinations. There was a shortage of one lakh classified hotel rooms in the country and this gap can be bridged only by the states alone as they adopt investor-friendly policies. The government was looking into giving infrastructure status to smaller units and was making the ministrys website more dynamic and robust to make all relevant information available online.

Ms. Varma said that there was a need to develop experiential tourism for foreign tourists such as cruise tourism and textile tourism. The overseas offices were also being revamped to reach out to tourists across the globe. She added that for promotion and marketing of tourism products, social media was being leveraged to reach global tourists.

Dr. Jyotsna Suri, Past President FICCI & Chairperson, FICCI Tourism Committee and Chairperson & MD, Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, said that the challenge lies in creating world class infrastructure to significantly increase tourist arrivals and create a strong, unequivocal Brand India. The Government and industry need to join hands to jointly create a policy landscape that can spur the growth momentum. She urged the stakeholders to utilize the varied FICCI platforms which were promoting tourism to realize the true potential of this sector.

Mr. Hari Ranjan Rao, Managing Director, Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation Ltd., said that tourism is private sector driven and action lies in the state for the development of tourism infrastructure as 80 per cent of the items related to it were in the State List. Speaking about the initiatives undertaken by the Madhya Pradesh government, he said that the new tourism policy which came into effect in 2016 in the state has made it easier for investors to acquire land by creating land banks for developing hotels. The process of lease, tenders and bids have been made transparent by making all the information available online. The Madhya Pradesh government was facilitating the investors in various segments such as water sports and cruise tourism with its policies in diverse sectors related to tourism.

Mr. Rana Kapoor, CEO & MD, YES BANK and Chairman, YES Global Institute, said, n++Indias Travel & Tourism industry is the seventh largest in the world and is also a major generator of employment and livelihood in India, accounting for 9.3% of total employment in 2016 and expected to generate nearly 50 million jobs by 2027. The FICCI- YES BANK Knowledge Report Investment in Tourism Infrastructure: Igniting Indias Growth Engine makes key recommendations towards unleashing the true potential of this vital sector through sustainable infrastructure development. I am confident that this publication will encourage productive dialogue amongst all stakeholders in the Travel & Tourism value-chain and contribute towards making tourism a key driver of Indias growth story.n++

Mr. Nikhil Sahni, Senior President and Country Head of Government Relationship Management & Strategic Government Advisory at Yes Bank, said that the way forward to develop tourism sector in India was by granting infrastructure status to smaller projects; improving ease of doing business; enhancing private sector participation; promoting medical and wellness tourism; developing MICE infrastructure; developing coastal area; promoting heritage destinations; converging government schemes with organizations such as NABARD, SIDBI; and having niche-based PPP interventions.

Mr. Rahul Chakravarty, Consultant - Tourism, FICCI, said that structured pre-fixed B2G meetings were going to be held during the two-day Meet, and FICCI was facilitating face to face business meetings with the prominent investors to encourage investments in tourism infrastructure.

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To be an IAS officer remains among preferred choices for youth: ASSOCHAM survey
Jul 12,2017

To be a civil servant, more specifically, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, remains among the top most preferred choices for the youth, as is evident from a sharp rise in the number of the applicants for the coveted positions, an ASSOCHAM Paper has noted.

As many as 11,35,943 candidates took the civil services preliminary examination in 2016 as compared to 9,45,908 in the previous year, with number of aspirants increasing by almost two lakhs, as per the data sourced from the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

The Paper said the IAS remains the top most choice for the aspirants who are enamoured by the clout and powers, much improved salaries- perks and above all, the social status that goes with the civil servants in the drivers seats of administration. A field survey of over 650 appearing for the civil services examination by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) endorsed this view.

While traditionally, the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) has been the second best choice for the aspirants because of its cool and intellectual nature of the job, more and more youth are now falling for the Indian Police Service (IPS) if they cannot make it to the IAS.

Again the power, position and social status are the driving forces, though the job involves security risks especially in some of the troubled regions, requiring a different kind of personal commitment, the paper noted.

It also found that there has been an increase intake in the civil services from some of the economically backward states like Bihar, Odisha. This may also be possible because more and more boys and girls from the advanced states like Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Maharashtra are opting for high end private sector jobs either in India or abroad; after completing engineering and MBAs again from global educational institutions, remarked the ASSOCHAM Secretary General Mr D S Rawat.

As per the official data, in 2015, a total of 4,65,882 candidates took the civil services preliminary examination as compared to 4,51,602 in 2014.

However, it has also been noted that some of the students from high end business schools and engineering colleges are also opting for the civil services. Here, the driving force is the desire to make a difference to the society, more than anything else.

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NITI Aayog sorts out the pending issues of Punjab with various Ministries of Union Government
Jul 12,2017

NITI Aayog is closely working with the States to foster cooperative federalism through structured support and mechanisms. One of the mandates assigned to NITI Aayog is to offer a platform for resolution of pending issues with the Central Government to accelerate the implementation of developmental agenda of the States. In this regard, a meeting was held on 11th July, 2017 under the Chairmanship of Dr. Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog with the Senior Officers of Government of Punjab headed by Chief Secretary Sh. Karan Avtar Singh and officers of Central Ministries. The issues flagged by State Government covering Ministries of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare; Water Resources; and Departments of Revenue and Financial Services of Ministry of Finance were discussed.

On the issue relating to providing financial support to District Central Cooperative Banks of the States for their sustainable growth, it was agreed in principle to setup an Expert Group under the Chairmanship of Prof.Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog with members from NABARD, State Governments, RBI, Department of Financial Services and subject experts for evolving possible pathways for strengthening the cooperative banks in the country. It was decided that regulatory issues for cooperative banks would also be discussed by the Expert Group.

As regards issue of inclusion of livestock and dairy farming as a component in the Crop Diversification Plan under RKVY, the representative of Ministry of Agriculture indicated that there is flexibility under the scheme for states. It was indicated that under the CDP, the State can include green fodder as a crop for replacing area under paddy.

As regards issue pertaining to clearance of Project for Extension, Renovation and Modernisation of Canals being fed from river Sutlej, the Ministry of Water Resources indicated that the approval would be provided within a week of receipt of revised proposal from the state Government of Punjab. Shri Karan Avtar Singh, Chief Secretary, Punjab expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting and thanked Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog for taking this initiative.

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JNPT Records Improvement in Performance during First Quarter of 2017-18 Container traffic up by 5.11 per cent
Jul 11,2017

Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), countrys largest container port registered a 5.11 per cent growth in container traffic in the first quarter of the current financial year by handling 1.20 million TEUs as compared to 1.14 million TEUs in the corresponding quarter of the last financial year. Jawaharlal Nehru Port Container Terminal (JNPCT) handled 4.01 lakh TEUs during this period as against 3.99 lakh TEUs in the corresponding quarter of the last year, showing 0.5% growth. The APM terminal handled 4.99 lakh TEUs, up by 14.5 per cent and NSIGT handled 1.34lakh TEUs as compared to 1.17 lakh TEUs last year.

The port also registered a 2.8 % growth in the total volume of cargo handled in the first quarter of the current financial year. A total volume of 16.35 million tonnes of cargo was handled as compared to 15.90 million tonnes in the corresponding period of the previous year.

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ESIC & DGFASLI sign MoU for collaboration on occupational health and prevention of occupational injuries and diseases
Jul 11,2017

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between ESIC and Directorate General Factory Advice Service & Labour Institutes (DGFASLI) for collaboration in the field of occupational health and prevention of occupational injuries and diseases. Speaking on this occasion, Shri Bandaru Dattatreya, the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Labour & Employment, said that Ministry is committed to providing social security for the workers across the country. The MoU will help in spreading awareness for healthy working conditions, reduce the danger of diseases or injuries and provide good quality life for workers.

The MoU seeks to establish a mutual collaboration that will enhance Occupational Health of workers; reduce the occurrence of work related injuries and diseases. Special focus shall be paid to precarious working conditions in the formal and informal sectors. The main focus is occupational health by establishing DGFASLI-ESIC Occupational Health Training, Research & Development Centre (OHTRDC) at Regional Labour Institute, Faridabad followed by at other institutes located at Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Kanpur. The collaboration aims at improving the quality of life through joint scientific research following other activities:-

a. Assessment of OSH challenges in all the spheres of economic activity.

b. Special activities for prevention and control of Asbestosis, Silicosis and other occupational diseases.

c. Development of training modules for different target groups.

This Memorandum comes into force from today and will remain in force for a time period of three (03) years.

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Mission Parivar Vikas to focus on 146 districts in 7 states with high TFR
Jul 11,2017

n++Mission Parivar Vikas will focus on 146 high fertility districts in 7 states with high TFR. Under this, specific targeted initiatives shall be taken for population stabilisation through better services deliveryn++. This was stated by Shri J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare.

Shri Nadda stated that Mission Parivar Vikas is a new initiative conceived by the Ministry with a strategic focus on improving access through provision of services, promotional schemes, commodity security, capacity building, enabling environment and intensive monitoring. Shri Nadda congratulated the team for undertaking micro-planning for these districts and developing need-based programmes to address TFR. The Health Minister also advised the officials to undertake half yearly review of the programme and correlate the achievements with time to gauge whether the programme is moving in the right direction or not. He stated that n++We have enhanced the basket of contraceptive choices to meet the changing needs of people and have taken steps to ensure quality assured services and commodities are delivered to the last-mile consumers in both rural and urban areas.n++

During the event, Shri J P Nadda introduced the new injectable in the public health system under the n++Antaran++ program and launched a new software - Family Planning Logistics Management Information System (FP-LMIS) - designed to provide robust information on the demand and distribution of contraceptives to health facilities and ASHAs to strengthen supply chain management.

As a part of the new communications campaign linked to the rollout, the Health Minister also launched a new consumer friendly website on family planning and a 52 week radio show for couples to discuss issues related to marriage and family planning, which will be aired across the country. The Health Minister further highlighted the life cycle approach of the Ministry and stated that a continuum of care approach has been adopted by the Ministry with the articulation of Strategic approach to Reproductive Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent health (RMNCH+A), bringing focus on all the life stages.

Smt. Anupriya Patel, Minister of State (HFW), said that population dynamics have a significant influence on sustainable development. The changes in population growth rates and age structures are closely linked to national and global developmental challenges and their solutions. She further stated that the issue of population stabilization is so gigantic in its proportion that the government alone cannot address the issue and thus the collective involvement of NGOs, private sector and corporate sector shall play a pivotal role.

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No GST is applicable on free food supplied in anna kshetras run by religious institutions
Jul 11,2017

There are media reports suggesting that GST applies on free food supplied in anna kshetras run by religious institutions. This is completely untrue. No GST is applicable on such food supplied free.

Further, prasadam supplied by religious places like temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras, dargahs, etc. attracts Nil CGST and SGST or IGST, as the case may be.

However, some of the inputs and input services required for making prasadam would be subject to GST. These include sugar, vegetable edible oils, ghee, butter, service for transportation of these goods etc. Most of these inputs or input services have multiple uses. Under GST regime, it is difficult to prescribe a separate rate of tax for sugar, etc. when supplied for a particular purpose.

Further, GST being a multi-stage tax, end use based exemptions or concessions are difficult to administer. Therefore, GST does not envisage end use based exemptions. It would, therefore, not be desirable to provide end use based exemption for inputs or input services for making prasadam or food for free distribution by religious institutions.

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Moodys: Asian Liquidity Stress Index weakens to 25.6% in June from 25.2% in May
Jul 11,2017

Moodys Investors Service says that its Asian Liquidity Stress Index (Asian LSI) weakened in June, rising to 25.6% from 25.2% in May 2017.

The Asian LSI measures the percentage of high-yield companies with SGL-4 scores as a proportion of high-yield corporate family ratings (CFRs) and decreases when speculative-grade liquidity improves.

The June figure ends six months of continuous improvement, and the reading now remains just above the long-term average of 22.9%, highlighting that weak liquidity is still a concern for many companies in Asia, says Brian Grieser, a Moodys Vice President and Senior Credit Officer.

The Moodys report points out that the liquidity stress sub-index for North Asian high-yield companies increased to 26.2% in June from 24.7% in May, and within this portfolio, the Chinese sub-index rose to 27% from 25.4%.

Meanwhile, the Chinese high-yield property sub-index remained at 7.5% in June, an all-time low. The Chinese high-yield industrials sub-index also increased to 50% from 48.4%.

The South and Southeast Asian liquidity stress sub-index also improved to 24.4% in June from 26.1% in May, and the Indonesian sub-index decreased to 19% from 22.7%, the lowest level since November 2015.

Moodys further notes that the strong momentum seen in high-yield issuance this year continued in June. Rated high-yield issuance totaled $5.4 billion in the month, driven by China Evergrande Groups (B2 stable) issuance of $3.8 billion of new notes.

Junes total also raised year-to-date issuance to $21.6 billion, which is near the $23.3 billion issued in 2013, the strongest level in the past five years.

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Dismantling check posts, post- GST save 24-36 hrs trucking time on trunk routes: ASSOCHAM
Jul 11,2017

Notwithstanding some teething troubles, the GST is saving trucking time on trunk routes, connecting top cities, between 24-36 hours besides saving the fleet owners Rs 5,000 -7,500 per trip by way of corruption at the octroi and sales tax/VAT check posts which have since been dismantled by most of the states, an ASSOCHAM quick check has noted.

n++Our quick check has shown that on an average a lorry/truck runs for 10-12 hours a day and should cover a distance of about 2200 KMs between, say Delhi - Chennai in 3 days. However, traversing through different states and braving the stoppages at several check posts of VAT, octroi, other local taxes was resulting in additional two-3 days , including those taken for no entry traffic restrictions for big cities during the day time . So, the consignment between Delhi-Chennai, for instance was taking 5-6 days. At least 24-36 hours would easily be saved for these trunk routes after dismantling of the check posts, by a conservative estimate, said the ASSOCHAM QC after interacting with the fleet owners and transport intermediaries.

Besides, the bigger nuisance of corruption at each of the check posts and through various states would have meant an additional expenditure of Rs 5,000-7500 per trip. Thankfully, that has also been done away and one hopes a new avatar is not found for the same. For now, it has come as a big relief for the transporters who say, the ultimate advantage is accruing to the customers and to the trade and manufacturing value supply chain.

The interaction with the fleet owners revealed that before start of a trip, the crew, comprising driver(s) and helpers was given out of pocket or petty cash of at least Rs 10,000 for the trunk routes of Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Kolkata, Mumbai-Jaipur, Ahmedabad-Delhi, Bengaluru- Delhi and so on.

On completion of the trip, the driver would give his account hissab that would include the expenses at each of the forced halt points.

What a relief, it is.... We hope, further improvement is done in this direction in terms of improving other infrastructure. For instance, the no entry traffic restrictions can be done away if high class dedicated bye-passes are constructed around the major cities so that the truckers can play seamlessly. , said ASSOCHAM Secretary General Mr D S Rawat.

Improvement in freight movement through road and rail would not only result in a huge cost saving for the trade and industry but would take India quite high on the global index of Ease of Doing Business.

One hopes that the GST is implemented in earnest by all the states in coordination with the Centre and comes out as a success story for the country, the chamber said.

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