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Set-up quotas for women to enhance their decision making role: Anupriya Patel, MoS, Ministry of Health and Family
Jan 16,2017

Establish quotas to increase womens willingness to compete in competitive mixed-gender environments result in more qualified candidates for competitive positions, said Ms. Anupriya Patel, Minister of State, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare at an ASSOCHAM event.

n++Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability. It will not only improve the quality of life of women, but for men, families, and communities as well. Empowerment of women has proven time and again across the world, to be the most efficient catalyst for rapid socio economic growth,n++ said Ms Patel.

Ms Patel further said, n++Modelling female leadership can go a long wayn++. The important factor is financial inclusion of women which can create gender equality by empowering them and giving them gender control over their financial lives. She said, 42% of women worldwide- approximately 1.1 billion- remain outside the formal financial system, according to the Global Findex database. Despite recent progress in financial inclusion rates in general, the gender gap has not narrowed.

While women represents a larger share of the self employed in developing countries and thus are less likely to secure bank credit according to the research by the World Bank.

n++When it comes to female labour force participation the situation is not very encouraging either. The South Asian Region has some of the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world,n++ added Ms Patel. It is therefore the need of the hour that we strive collectively for participation of women of south Asia region in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life as equal partners, added Ms. Patel.

She also said there is need for n++increasing funding and sustained advocacy for quality literacy programmes that empower women as literate women have a positive ripple effect on all development indicators.n++

Ms. Mridula Sinha Governor of Goa said the planned agenda of this forum is very critical as there is indeed an urgent need to locate strategies and develop systems that support womens entrepreneurship, education, empowerment, their financial inclusion, IT literacy and enhance their role in decision making. But we also should not ignore social empowerment of women as well because economic empowerment has to go hand with social change to make the vision of this forum a reality.

Ms. Preeti Saran, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs said for South Asia, we have also established a Gender policy advocacy group (GPAG), that works along with UN-ESCAP and UN women, for economic empowerment of small scale women entrepreneurs. Work is also underway to reach goals of gender equality as per the Beijing Platform for Action. A SAARC Gender information base (SGIB), a comprehensive pool of data/ information on gender issues in different formats, including multimedia for quick access, has also been initiated.

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Moodys and ICRA: Indian economy to remain strong in 2017, despite short-term impact of demonetization
Jan 16,2017

Moodys Investors Service and its Indian affiliate, ICRA Limited, say that India (rated Baa3 positive by Moodys) will remain one of the fastest growing major economies globally in 2017, although GDP growth will moderate in the first half of the year, as the economy adjusts after demonetization. Moodys also believes that the government will likely achieve its fiscal deficit target of 3.5% of GDP for the current fiscal year ending 31 March 2017.

ICRA expects the countrys growth of gross value added at basic prices to remain healthy in 2017, although such growth will ease somewhat to about 6.6% from around 7.0% in 2016, with a likely pick-up in H2 2017.

Even after the currency in circulation is replenished, we expect that Indias economic growth will stabilize with a lag, while remaining strong, says Aditi Nayar, an ICRA Principal Economist. The adjustment and recovery period could stretch to as much as 2-3 quarters for certain sectors.

ICRA says that the focus on digital transactions and the introduction of a goods and services tax (GST) will likely reduce the competitiveness of the unorganised sector. ICRA therefore anticipates a relatively healthier expansion of the organised sectors in 2017, at the cost of the unorganised sectors.

ICRA further points out that the low agricultural growth in H1 2016, as well as healthy reservoir levels on a seasonally adjusted basis, will support the pace of expansion of agricultural output in the first half of 2017. But agricultural growth in subsequent quarters will be influenced by various factors, the most important being the magnitude and dispersion of monsoon rainfall.

ICRA also says that the loss of incomes in some sectors and deferral of consumption are likely to weigh on capacity utilization, delaying the capacity expansion plans of the private sector. And, the extent of capital spending budgeted by the central and state governments for the fiscal year ending 31 March 2018 will affect the extent to which infrastructure spending can stimulate growth in a non-inflationary manner.

Nevertheless, economic and institutional reforms already introduced and potentially forthcoming, continue to offer a reasonable expectation that Indias growth will outperform that of its similarly rated peers over the medium term, and that the country will achieve further improvements in its macroeconomic and institutional profile, says William Foster, a Moodys Vice President and Senior Credit Officer.

Moodys and ICRA point out that after a temporary dampening effect on consumption and investment in the medium term, demonetization will likely strengthen Indias institutional framework n++ by reducing tax avoidance and corruption n++ and should support efficiency gains through a greater formalization of economic and financial activity.

Moodys also points out that in an environment of lackluster global trade, and with economies globally facing the increasing risk of protectionism, Indias very large domestic markets provide a relative competitive advantage when compared to smaller and more trade-reliant economies.

On the fiscal front, Moodys says that the government will likely remain committed to achieving its fiscal deficit target of 3.5% of GDP for the fiscal year ending 31 March 2017. However, room to reduce the deficit further to the target of 3.0% of GDP in the following year will be limited, due to the need for increased infrastructure spending and higher government salaries.

The government announced its intention to increase public capital expenditure in the last budget to help reduce supply-side bottlenecks and stimulate growth. Meanwhile, wages and salaries account for about 50% of total fiscal expenditure, with a large, one in 10-year increase in central government compensation just implemented. Moodys expects that the government will renew its commitment to increase capital spending and address the short-term disruptive impact of demonetization, during its budget speech on 1 February 2017.

Moodys explains that the implementation of the pending GST and other measures aimed at enhancing income declarations and tax collection will help widen Indias tax base and boost revenues. However, such a boost will only materialize over time, with the magnitude uncertain at this point.

As a result, the general government deficit will remain sizeable, and any reduction in Indias government debt burden will largely rely on robust nominal GDP growth. Moodys expects that Indias debt-to-GDP will hover around the current levels (at 68.6% in 2015) before falling gradually, as nominal GDP growth is sustained and revenue-broadening and expenditure efficiency-enhancing measures take effect.

On the issue of average CPI inflation, ICRA says that the rate will soften to 4.5% in 2017 from 4.9% in 2016, although the readings will continue to register month-to-month volatility. Key factors that will dominate CPI inflation in 2017 include monsoon dynamics, the impact of the GST on prices of various goods and services, commodity price movements, and the INR-USD exchange rate.

ICRA says that based on the minutes of the Monetary Policy Committees December 2016 meeting n++ which revealed a renewed emphasis of some members on achieving the mid-point of the inflation target range of 4% n++ the room for incremental repo rate cuts will prove limited, at 25 basis points over the next six months.

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App named SEZ India launched by Commerce Ministry
Jan 16,2017

A Mobile app named n++SEZ Indian++ has been launched by the Commerce Secretary on 06 January 2017. SEZ Division, Department of Commerce under its broader e-Governance initiative i.e. SEZ Online System, has developed mobile app for Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Commerce Secretary launched the app and mentioned that the App would help the SEZ Units and Developers to find information easily and track their transactions on SEZ Online System. Now the SEZ Developers & Units can file all their transactions digitally through SEZ Online system and track the status on the go through the SEZ India mobile app.

The app is available on Android Platform for use by SEZ Developers, Units, officials and others. The app has four sections i.e. SEZ Information, SEZ Online Transaction, Trade Information, and Contact details. Salient Features of the four sections are as under:-

1. SEZ INFORMATION: This is a compendium of the SEZ Act, 2005, SEZ Rules, 2006, MOCI Circulars, details of SEZs and Units etc. It gives up to date comprehensive details on all the above aspects.

2.TRADE INFORMATION: This provision gives access to important information / tools such as Foreign Trade Policy, Hand Book of procedure , Duty Calculator , Customs & Excise Notification and MEIS Rates.

3.CONTACT DETAILS: We see that the contact details of all Development Commissioners Office, DGFT, DG System, DGCI & S and SEZ online.

4. SEZ online Transaction This is a dynamic submenu that tracks the Bill of Entry / Shipping Bill processing status and also does verification. The app also helps the Importers / Exporters to track the status of Bill of Entry / Shipping Billn++ integration and processing in the EDI system of the ICEGATE.

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Indias merchandise exports up 5.7% in December 2016
Jan 13,2017

Indias merchandise exports increased 5.7% to US$ 23.88 billion in December 2016 over a year ago. Meanwhile, merchandise imports rose 0.5% to US$ 34.25 billion. The trade deficit declined 9.9% to US$ 10.37 billion in December 2016 from US$ 11.50 billion in December 2015.

On exports front, the engineering goods recorded an increase in exports by 19.9% to US$ 5.85 billion, followed by gems & jewellery 27.9% to US$ 3.16 billion, petroleum products 8.2% to US$ 2.77 billion, drugs & pharmaceuticals 12.5% to US$ 1.62 billion, organic & inorganic chemicals 18.2% to US$ 1.44 billion, cotton yarn/fabrics/made-ups, handloom products 7.8% to US$ 0.93 billion, marine products 23.9% to US$ 0.55 billion, and plastic & linoleum 0.7% to US$ 0.53 billion.

However, the exports declined for meat, dairy & poultry products by 45.7% to US$ 0.28 billion, coal & other ores, minerals including processed minerals 12.8% to US$ 0.29 billion, rice 7.6% to US$ 0.42 billion, electronic goods 4.8% to US$ 0.51 billion, fruits & vegetables 8.1% to US$ 0.18 billion, leather & leather products 3.1% to US$ 0.43 billion, RMG of all textiles 0.3% to US$ 1.45 billion, in December 2016.

Oil imports increased 14.6% to US$ 7.65 billion, while the non-oil imports declined 3.0% to US$ 26.61 billion in December 2016 over December 2015. The share of oil imports in total imports was 22.3% in December 2016, compared with 19.6% in December 2015. Indias basket of crude oil surged 47.8% to US$ 52.74 per barrel in December 2016 over December 2015.

Among the non-oil imports, the major contributors to the overall rise in imports were petroleum, crude & products imports rising 14.6% to US$ 7.65 billion, coal 56.6% to US$ 1.66 billion, electronic goods 6.6% to US$ 4.00 billion, electrical & non-electrical machinery 7.5% to US$ 2.62 billion, organic & inorganic chemicals 9.4% to US$ 1.43 billion, chemical material & products 27.7% to US$ 0.52 billion, artificial resins, plastic materials 6.4% to US$ 1.03 billion and machine tools 14.8% to US$ 0.30 billion. The imports also improved for dyeing/tanning/colouring materials by 15.8% to US$ 0.21 billion, cotton raw & waste 163.1% to US$ 0.04 billion, professional instrument, optical goods 7.7% to US$ 0.38 billion, non-ferrous metals 2.3% to US$ 0.86 billion and transport equipment 1.1% to US$ 1.60 billion.

On the other hand, the imports have declined for gold 48.5% to US$ 1.96 billion, silver 81.5% to US$ 0.09 billion, fertilizers, crude & manufactured 58.9% to US$ 0.26 billion, precious & semi-precious stones 9.2% to US$ 1.79 billion, vegetable oil 12.7% to US$ 0.95 billion, iron & steel 9.8% to US$ 1.20 billion, pulses 19.3% to US$ 0.51 billion and metaliferrous ores & other minerals 9.2% to US$ 0.52 billion in December 2016.

Merchandise exports in rupees increased 7.8% to Rs 162180 crore, while imports moved up 2.4% to Rs 232588 crore in December 2016 over December 2015. The trade deficit narrowed to Rs 70408 crore in December 2016 compared with Rs 76606 crore in December 2015.

Indias merchandise exports rose 0.9% to US$ 198.81 billion, while merchandise imports fell 7.1% to US$ 275.36 billion in April-December 2016. The decline in imports was driven by a 10.7% plunge in oil imports to US$ 60.92 billion. Indias merchandise trade deficit declined to US$ 76.55 billion in April-December 2016 from US$ 99.41 billion in April-December 2015.

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Rabi Crops Sowing Crosess 616 Lakh Hactare
Jan 13,2017

As per preliminary reports received from the States, the total area sown under Rabi crops as on 13th January 2017 stands at 616.21 lakh hectares as compared to 581.95 lakh hectare this time in 2016.

Wheat has been sown/transplanted in 309.60 lakh hectares, rice in 14.92 lakh hectares, pulses in 155.35 lakh hectares, coarse cereals in 54.87 lakh hectares and area sown under oilseeds is 81.47 lakh hectares.

The area sown so far and that sown during last year this time is as follows:n++


CropArea sown in 2016-17Area sown in 2015-16Wheat309.60289.07Rice14.9219.48Pulses155.35139.93Coarse Cereals54.8758.40Oilseeds81.4775.06Total616.21581.95

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Indias services exports up 11% in November 2016
Jan 13,2017

As per the data released by the Reserve Bank of India, Indias services exports declined 11.0% to US$ 13.34 billion in November 2016 over November 2015. Meanwhile, Indias services imports moved up 46.4% to US$ 8.32 billion in November 2016.

Indias services trade surplus narrowed 20.8% to US$ 5.02 billion in November 2016 from US$ 6.33 billion in November 2015.

Indias services trade surplus fell 8.4% to US$ 42.81 billion in April-November 2016 over a year ago, with 11.8% rise in services imports to US$ 63.26 billion. Indias services exports rose mere 2.7% to US$ 106.07 billion in April-November 2016.

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Government Decides to Revoke The Suspension of Deemed Recognition of IOA with immediate Effect
Jan 13,2017

Government has decided to revoke the suspension of deemed recognition of IOA with immediate effect in the light of the corrective action taken by them in reversing its earlier decision making Shri Abhay Singh Chautala and Shri Suresh Kalmadi, Life Presidents of IOA. Since IOA has admitted the faux pas committed and regretted the inconvenience and embarrassment caused to all concerned, it is expected of IOA that it will uphold the highest standard of probity and ethics in its functioning in future.

In the light of the above developments and keeping in view the larger interest of promotion and development of sports in the country, the Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has revoked the suspension of deemed recognition of IOA, imposed on 30 December 2016, with immediate effect.

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Rabi crops sowing crosses 616 lakh hactare
Jan 13,2017

As per preliminary reports received from the States, the total area sown under Rabi crops as on 13 January 2017 stands at 616.21 lakh hectares as compared to 581.95 lakh hectare this time in 2016. The Rabi crop sowing has increased 5.9% above last year level.

Wheat has been sown/transplanted in 309.6 lakh hectares as on 13 January 2017, up 7.1% compared with sowing of 289.07 lakh hectares same time last season. The area under pulses also moved up 11% to 155.35 lakh hectares, while that under oil seeds also increased 8.5% to 81.47 lakh hectares.

However, the area under rice has declined 23.4% to 14.92 lakh hectares, while that under coarse cereals also fell 6% to 54.87 lakh hectares as on 13 January 2017 over a year ago.

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Per capita availability of milk in India is 337 gram/day as compared to the average world per capita availability of 229 gram/day
Jan 13,2017

Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Shri Radha Mohan Singh has said that milk production has become a major economic activity amongst rural households and farmers are adopting dairying along with agriculture for augmenting their incomes.

Shri Radha Mohan Singh said that about 70 million rural households are engaged in milk production. The small and marginal farmers & landless labourer produce about one to three litres of milk per day and are responsible for production of most of the milk for the country. About 78 percent farmers in India are small and marginal, who own about 75 percent of female bovine but own only 40 percent farm land. Milk contributes to one third of gross income of rural households and in case of landless its contribution is half in their gross income.

Agriculture Minister said that India continues to hold the number one position among milk producing nations of the world since 1998. India has largest bovine population in the world (18.4 percent share). Milk production in India has increased from 22 million tonne in 1970 to 156 million tonne in 2015-16, which shows a growth of 700 percent during last 46 years. As a result, the per capita availability of milk in India is 337 gram/day as compared to average world per capita availability of 229 gram/day.

Shri Singh said that during last two years 2014-16, milk production has registered a growth rate of 6.28 percent, which is more than last year growth rate of about 4 percent and more than three times higher than the world growth average of 2.2 percent. If wheat and paddy is combined together, even then, in Gross Value Addition (GVA) of Rs.4.92 crore in 2014-15, the contribution of milk is more than 37 percent. About 54 percent of milk produced in the country is surplus, out of which about 38 percent is handled by the organized sector. The Co-operatives and private dairy organisations have equal share in it. Shri Singh said that women participation in dairying is about 70 per cent.

Union Agriculture Minister said that in order to encourage the farmers for increasing milk production, it is imperative that milk collection facilities need to be upgraded and farmers be given remunerative price for their produce. This is possible only when an effective management system is in place to link the farmers to the market. Shri Singh said that BPL households, small and marginal farmers will be encouraged to rear descript indigenous breeds.

Shri Radha Mohan Singh said that the National Bovine Breeding and Dairy Development Programme (NPBBDD) has been started in 2014-15 converging four existing programmes. The objective of this programme is to prepare a comprehensive and scientific programme to meet the increasing demand for milk. The programme has two components - National Bovine Breeding programme (NPBB) and National Dairy Development Programme (NPDD). The NPBB focusses on expanding field coverage for artificial insemination network, monitoring of programmes for indigenous breed development and conservation in the breeding areas. The NPDD is focusing on creating and strengthening of infrastructure for milk unions/federations for production, procurement, processing & marketing of milk and training of dairy farmers and extension.

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Gartner Says Worldwide IT Spending Forecast to Grow 2.7 Percent in 2017
Jan 13,2017

Worldwide IT spending is projected to total $3.5 trillion in 2017, a 2.7 percent increase from 2016, according to Gartner, Inc. However, this growth rate is down from earlier projections of 3 percent.

2017 was poised to be a rebound year in IT spending. Some major trends have converged, including cloud, blockchain, digital business and artificial intelligence. Normally, this would have pushed IT spending much higher than 2.7 percent growth, said John-David Lovelock, research vice president at Gartner. However, some of the political uncertainty in global markets has fostered a wait-and-see approach causing many enterprises to forestall IT investments.

The Gartner Worldwide IT Spending Forecast is the leading indicator of major technology trends across the hardware, software, IT services and telecom markets. For more than a decade, global IT and business executives have been using these highly anticipated quarterly reports to recognize market opportunities and challenges, and base their critical business decisions on proven methodologies rather than guesswork.

Worldwide devices spending (PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones) is projected to remain flat in 2017 at $589 billion. A replacement cycle in the PC market and strong pricing and functionality of premium ultramobiles will help drive growth in 2018. Emerging markets will drive the replacement cycle for mobile phones as smartphones in these markets are used as a main computing device and replaced more regularly than in mature markets.

The worldwide IT services market is forecast to grow 4.2 percent in 2017. Buyer investments in digital business, intelligent automation, and services optimization and innovation continue to drive growth in the market, but buyer caution, fueled by broad economic challenges, remains a counter-balance to faster growth.

Table 1. Worldwide IT Spending Forecast (Billions of U.S. Dollars)

Growth (%)
Growth (%)
Growth (%)
Data Center Systems170-0.61752.61761.0Enterprise Software3335.93556.83807.0Devices588-8.95890.15890.0IT Services8993.99384.29814.7Communications Services1,384-1.01,4081.71,4261.3Overall IT3,375-0.63,4642.73,5532.6

Source: Gartner (January 2017)

The range of spending growth from the high to low is much larger in 2017 than in past years. Normally, the economic environment causes some level of division, however, in 2017 this is compounded by the increased levels of uncertainty, said Mr. Lovelock. The result of that uncertainty is a division between individuals and corporations that will spend more n++ due to opportunities arising n++ and those that will retract or pause IT spending.

For example, aggressive build-out of cloud computing platforms by companies such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon is pushing the global server forecast to reach 5.6 percent growth in 2017. This was revised up 3 percent from last quarters forecast and is sufficient growth to overcome the expected 3 percent decline in external controller-based storage and allow the data center systems segment to grow 2.6 percent in 2017.

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Import of Vegetable Oils down by 14% in November to December 2016-SEA
Jan 13,2017

Import of vegetable oils during December 2016 is reported at 1,209,685 tons compared to 1,420,902 tons in December 2015, consisting of 1,174,296 tons of edible oils and 35,389 tons of non-edible oils. This is down by 15%. The overall import of vegetable oils during first two months of current oil year 2016-17, November & December 2016 is reported at 2,385,149 tons compared to 2,758,337 tons i.e. down by 14%, as per Solvent Extractors Association (SEA) of Indias compiled data on Import data of Vegetable Oils (edible & non-edible) for the month of December 2016.

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EPF Statutory dues for the month of December can be paid by 20th January 2017
Jan 13,2017

Considering the issues arising out of stabilisation of the Unified Portal for employers with UAN Based simplified Electronic Challan cum Return filing system the remittance for the month of December 2016 can be paid by 20th January 2017.

The Portal was launched by EPFO on 23.12.2016, which helps in submission of UAN based returns and challans. It has been noticed that due to increased traffic on the portal, many employers have faced some difficulty in upfront allotment of UAN, connectivity/login issues, website slowing down and also unfamiliarity of the new processes. The Statutory dues are to be paid by 15th of every month.

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Gartner Says Worldwide Semiconductor Capital Spending Is Forecast to Grow 2.9 Percent in 2017
Jan 13,2017

Worldwide semiconductor capital spending is projected to increase 2.9 percent in 2017, to $69.9 billion, according to Gartner, Inc. This is down from 5.1 percent growth in 2016.

The stronger growth in 2016 was fueled by Increased spending in late 2016 which can be attributed to a NAND flash shortage which was more severe in late 2016 and will persist though most of 2017. This is due to a better-than-expected market for smartphones, which is driving an upgrade of NAND spending in our latest forecast, said David Christensen, senior research analyst at Gartner. NAND spending increased by $3.1 billion in 2016 and several related wafer fab equipment segments showed stronger growth than our previous forecast. The thermal, track and implant segments in 2017 are expected to increase 2.5 percent, 5.6 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively.

Compared with early 2016, the semiconductor outlook has improved, particularly in memory, due to stronger pricing and a better-than-expected market for smartphones. An earlier-than-anticipated recovery in memory should lead to growth in 2017 and be slightly enhanced by changes in key applications.

Table 1: Worldwide Semiconductor Capital Spending and Equipment Spending Forecast, 2015-2020 (Millions of Dollars)

20162017201820192020Semiconductor Capital Spending ($M) 67,994.0 69,936.6 73,613.5 78,355.6 75,799.3Growth (%) Manufacturing Equipment ($M)35,864.438,005.438,488.741,779.739,827.0Growth (%) Fab Equipment ($M) 34,033.2 35,978.6 36,241.1 39,272.8 37,250.4Growth (%) Packaging and Assembly Equipment ($M)1,831.22,026.82,247.62,506.92,567.7Growth (%)3.910.710.911.52.8

Source: Gartner (January 2017)

Foundries continue to outgrow the overall semiconductor market with mobile processors from Apple, Qualcomm, MediaTek and HiSilicon as the demand driver on leading-node wafers. In particular, fast 4G migration and more-powerful processors have resulted in larger die sizes than previous-generation application processors, requiring more 28 nanometer (nm), 16/14 nm and 10 nm wafers from foundries. Nonleading technology will continue to be strong from the integrated display driver controllers and fingerprint ID chips and active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) display driver integrated circuits (ICs).

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Government mounted SECC with the purpose of ranking households for receiving benefits under government programmes
Jan 13,2017

The Government mounted the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) with the purpose of ranking households for receiving benefits under government programmes. The Socio Economic and Caste Census has been concluded. The Ministry of Rural Development has decided to use SECC data for identification of beneficiaries and for generating priority list of beneficiaries under its programmes.

An Expert Group under the Chairmanship of former Finance Secretary Shri Sumit Bose was constituted to study the objective criteria for allocation of resources to States and identification and prioritization of beneficiaries under various programme using Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) data.

The Expert Group during its interim discussion with MoRD had given a road map on selection of beneficiaries as well as criteria for allocation of resources to the states for Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana- Gramin (PMAY-G).

The Expert Groups interim advice has been accepted by the Ministry and accordingly appropriate guidelines have been issued to make inter -state allocation based on SECC data to cover households under Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAG) and Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana - National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM).

The Expert Group has concluded that the use of SECC data and its TIN Number would enable the government to improve the efficacy of its interventions and will result in improved outcome. However, the Expert Group has observed that regular updation and verification of SECC data is prerequisite to eliminate the need to mount standalone SECC in the long run, which would put additional burden on public resources. The SECC has the potential to move from being only a census-like socio-economic database to becoming the core of a functioning Social Registry Information System (SRIS). SRIS would result in several advantages in implementation of social sector schemes. It has the potential to streamline programme administration, reduce duplication of benefit and fraud, saving on time and costs for both programme applicants and services providers, monitoring the living standards of beneficiaries over time, better targeting of vulnerable and marginalized sections of the society and enable expansion of the coverage of the programmes. Finally, the use of SECC data would lead to better budgetary planning and allocation of resources for various programmes.

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India needs 80 lakhs Wi-Fi hotspots: ASSOCHAM-Deloitte study
Jan 13,2017

India needs over 80 lakhs hotspots as against the availability of about 31,000 hotspots with a view to reach the global level of one Wi-Fi hotspot penetration for every 150 people, according to ASSOCHAM-Deloitte joint study.

There are currently over 31,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots installed in India. However, for India to match the current global average of one public Wi-Fi hotspot per 150 people, an additional 80 lakhs hotspots need to be deployed, noted the study titled Digital India: Unlocking the Trillion Dollar opportunity, jointly conducted by ASSOCHAM and research firm Deloitte.

The biggest challenge faced by the Digital India programme is the slow/delayed infrastructure development. Spectrum availability in Indian metros is about a tenth of the same in cities in developed countries. This has put a major roadblock in providing high speed data services.

For Digital India to have a large scale impact on citizens across the nation, the digital divide needs to be addressed through last mile connectivity in remote rural areas. Currently, over 55,000 villages remain deprived of mobile connectivity. This is largely due to the fact that providing mobile connectivity in such locations is not commercially viable for service providers, adds the joint study.

n++For digital technology to be accessible to every citizen significant efforts are needed to customize apps and services to cater to local needs. Finding vendors who can provide such applications has become a challengen++.

Policy framework for Digital India: Challenges in policy, such as taxation, right of way, restrictive regulations etc. are major roadblocks in realizing the vision of Digital India.

Some of the common policy hurdles includes lack of clarity in FDI policies, for instance, have impacted the growth of e-commerce. Transport services like Uber have had frequent run-ins with the local government due to legacy policy frameworks which have not become attuned to the changing business landscape.

Implementation of the Digital India program has been hampered by contracting challenges such as several projects assigned to PSUs are delayed given challenges related to skills, experience and technical capabilities. Several RFPs issued by the government are not picked up by competent private sector organizations since they are not commercially feasible.

The reports suggest that, as recently as 2014, nearly 70% of Indian consumers indicated that lack of awareness was the main reason for not using internet services. Non-availability of digital services in local languages is also a major concern, noted the study.

With the proliferation of cloud-based services like DigiLocker, data security has emerged as a major challenge. The recent data breach in August 2016, in which debit card data for more than 3.2 million subscribers was stolen highlights the importance of implementing foolproof security systems, adds the study.

Development of digital infrastructure is a critical component of Digital India. To further enable development of digital infrastructure, the following measures should be considered as uniform policies for deploying telecom and optic fibre infrastructure.

A uniform RoW policy across all states with a reasonable cost structure is required along with a single window mechanism for granting RoW permissions. PPP models need to be explored for sustainable development of digital infrastructure, as has been the case for civic infrastructure projects like roads and metro project. In addition, the government should make efforts to make additional spectrum available to telecom service providers for deployment of high speed data networks.

Encourage collaboration with the private sector; Effective collaboration with the private sector is critical to the development of the digital infrastructure. Innovative engagement models that ensure commercial viability needs to developed jointly through consultation with industry bodies. This will encourage private sector participation and ensure a better response to infrastructure RFPs. In addition, startups need to be incentivized for the development of the last mile infrastructure and localized services and applications.

Existing government infrastructure assets (e.g., post offices, government buildings, CSCs) should be further leveraged for provision of digital services. In rural and remote areas, private sector players should be incentivized to provide last mile connectivity. USOF can be effectively used to incentivise and create a viable business model. The deployment of funds so far has been erratic and not been used to effectively to fund the cost of infrastructure creation in rural areas. Currently, the fund has over INR 451 billion in reserves which can be used to finance rural digital infrastructure growth in India through direct investment or subsidies.

Satellite communication solutions could be used to speed up broadband access in rural and remote areas. For instance, banks can use VSAT technology to connect remote ATMs, remote branches that need instant access to customer data. It could be used as a last mile connectivity solution in rural areas which lack telecom networks. Another example could be of the navigational system NAVIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation), which can have applications in terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management, integration with mobile phones, precise timing, mapping and geodetic data capture, terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travellers and visual/ voice navigation for drivers.

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