Mega Food Park Inaugurated at Nalbari, Assam

A Mega Food Park was inaugurated at Nalbari, Assam recently by the Chief Minister of Assam. It Park has been set up in 50 acre of land at the cost of Rs. 76 crore.This project is having facilities of fully operational industrial sheds for SMEs, developed industrial plots for lease to food processing units, Dry Warehouse of 10000 MT, Cold Storages of 3000 MT, Common Effluent Treatment plant, Quality Control Labs etc.

  • The Park also has a common administrative building for office and other uses by the entrepreneurs.
  • 6 Primary Processing Centres (PPCs) are also proposed to be set up at Nagaon, Badarpur, Tinsukia, Barapani, Krishnai and Kajalgaon which will provide facilities for primary processing and storage near the farms.

Mega Food Parks Scheme:

The Scheme of Mega Food Park aims at providing a mechanism to link agricultural production to the market by bringing together farmers, processors and retailers so as to ensure maximizing value addition, minimizing wastages, increasing farmers’ income and creating employment opportunities particularly in rural sector.

Aim of the Scheme: The Scheme is aimed at providing modern infrastructure facilities along the value chain from farm gate to the market with strong backward and forward linkages.

What these food parks provide?

  • They facilitate the efforts to increase the level of processing of agricultural and horticultural produce, with particular focus on perishables, in the country and thereby to check the wastage.
  • The Scheme has a cluster based approach based on a hub and spokes model. It includes creation of infrastructure for primary processing and storage near the farm in the form of Primary Processing Centres (PPCs) and Collection Centres (CCs) and common facilities and enabling infrastructure at Central Processing Centre (CPC).
  • The PPCs are meant for functioning as a link between the producers and processors for supply of raw material to the Central Processing Centres.
  • CPC has need based core processing facilities and basic enabling infrastructure to be used by the food processing units setup at the CPC. The minimum area required for a CPC is 50 acres.
  • The scheme is demand-driven and would facilitate food processing units to meet environmental, safety and social standards.

Implementation and financial assistance:

  • Mega Food Park project is implemented by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which is a Body Corporate registered under the Companies Act. State Government/State Government entities/Cooperatives applying for setting up a project under the scheme are not required to form a separate SPV.
  • The financial assistance for Mega Food Park is provided in the form of grant-in-aid at 50% of eligible project cost in general areas and at 75% of eligible project cost in NE Region and difficult areas (Hilly States and ITDP areas) subject to maximum of Rs. 50 crore per project.

Benefits:

  • Reducing post harvest losses.
  • Maintainance of the supply chain in sustainable manner.
  • Additional income generation for the farmers.
  • Shifting the farmers to more market driven and profitable farming activities.
  • It will be a one stop shop where everything will be available at a single location.
  • As per experts, it will directly employ 10,000 people.
  • This integrated food park will help reduce supply chain costs.
  • It will also reduce wastage across the food value chain in India and improve quality and hygiene to create food products in the country.

Difficulties in implementation:

  • Major challenges being faced by the Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) in implementation of the Mega Food Park projects, include acquiring contiguous land of 50 acres or more in the name of SPV, obtaining term loan from the Banks, difficulties in obtaining various statutory clearances from the State Government Departments/Agencies, timely contribution of equity by the promoters, lack of cohesiveness amongst the promoters etc.

Sources: PIB, The Hindu.

No date set to roll out one-rank one-pension

Union Defence Minister recently said that he could not fix a date for the implementation of the One-Rank One-Pension (OROP) scheme for ex-servicemen. However, he also made it clear that the government will soon put in place the Scheme.

One-rank one-pension scheme:

This is a scheme which will ensure that soldiers of the same rank and the same length of service receive the same pension, irrespective of their retirement date. In simple words, it demands equal pensions for those who have retired in one particular year, as those who retire in another year at the same position, and for the same duration of services rendered.

  • The difference in the pension of present and past pensioners in the same rank occurs on account of the number of increments earned by the defence personnel in that rank.
  • So far, there was no such rule. While every pay commission bumps the salaries of government servants, pensions of ex-servicemen remain the same.

The implementation of one rank, one pension is also expected to push up the Centre’s defence pension payments by a record 40%, posing fresh challenges to keep the Centre’s fiscal deficit within the budgetary target of 4.1% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB

Revamp on cards

An expert panel set to expedite roll out of broadband in rural areas has suggested revamp of national optical fibre network (NOFN) initiative, increasing the scope of the project that will entail three fold increase in cost to Rs.72,778 crore from about Rs.20,000 crore approved earlier.

Other details:

  • The committee has estimated the total cost of the revised project at Rs.72,778 crore, which is three fold higher than Rs.20,000 crore approved earlier.
  • The report stresses on involvement of States, besides private players, for speedier implementation of the project that has fallen far behind its planned schedule.
  • The report stresses on involvement of States, besides private players, for speedier implementation of the project that has fallen far behind its planned schedule.
  • The Committee has also re-worked the timelines for implementation, stating that the project can be commissioned by December 2017.

Seven States have proposed to come up with their own model to roll out broadband network under BharatNet programme.

National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN):

The NOFN project was approved by Cabinet in 2011 and deadline to connect all panchayats was fixed by end of 2013 then deferred to September 2015 by UPA government. The Narendra Modi-led government re-examined project status and set target to complete roll out in 50,000 village panchayats by March 31, 2015, and another 1 lakh by March 2016 and the rest by end of 2016.

  • It is a project to provide broadband connectivity to over two lakh (200,000) Gram panchayats of India at a cost of Rs.20,000 crore.
  • The project provides internet access using existing optical fiber and extending it to the Gram panchayats. Connectivity gap between Gram Panchayats and Blocks will be filled.
  • The project was intended to enable the government of India to provide e-services and e-applications nationally.
  • A special purpose vehicle Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) was created as a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Companies Act of 1956 for the execution of the project.
  • The project will be funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) and was estimated to be completed in 2 years.
  • The project envisaged signing a tripartite MoU for free Right of Way (RoW) among the Union Government, State Government and Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL).
  • All the Service Providers like Telecom Service Providers (TSPs), ISPs, Cable TV operators etc. will be given non-discriminatory access to the National Optic Fibre Network and can launch various services in rural areas. Various categories of applications like e-health, e-education and e-governance etc. can also be provided by these operators.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, NOFN.

Leak not radioactive, says AERB

Alarm bells were sounded at the Indira Gandhi International Airport recently when a leak from a medicinal consignment that was thought to be radioactive was reported in the cargo area of the airport.

  • However, after investigation, security personnel said that the reports of a radioactive leak were false.

What happened?

A package arrived from a foreign country carrying Iodine 131 which is used in radiotherapy for thyroid. Next to these containers was another container carrying N Venal Pyrodine, which is not radioactive, that had leaked.

Iodine 131:

  • Iodine-131 (131I), also called radioiodine, is an important radioisotope of iodine.
  • It has a radioactive decay half life of about 8 days.
  • Its uses are mostly medical and pharmaceutical. It also plays a role as a major radioactive hazard present in nuclear fission products.
  • It is a major uranium fission product, comprising nearly 3% of the total products of fission.
  • It is used in nuclear medicine therapeutically and can also be seen with diagnostic scanners if it has been used therapeutically.
  • Major uses of 131I include the treatment of thyrotoxicosis (hyperthyroidism) and some types of thyroid cancer that absorb iodine.
  • The 131I isotope is also used as a radioactive label for certain radiopharmaceuticals that can be used for therapy for imaging and treating pheochromocytoma and neuroblastoma.

The only naturally occurring isotope of iodine is stable iodine-127.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

GDP grows by 7.3 % but fails to overtake China

A recently released data by the Central Statistics Office shows that India’s economy grew by 7.3% during 2014-15 failing to overtake China as the world’s fastest growing major economy.

Other Details:

  • Capital formation continued to be lower at 28.7% of GDP against 29.7% during 2013-14.
  • Gross fixed capital formation – a barometer for investments – slowed for the second straight year.
  • The manufacturing sector grew by 7.1% against the 2013-14 growth of 5.3%.
  • The prime drivers of the growth were the significantly stronger performance of ‘manufacturing’, ‘electricity, gas, water supply and other utility services’ and the ‘financial, real estate and professional services’.
  • Almost all sectors of the economy picked up during the year. The exceptions were the sectors of ‘agriculture, forestry and fishing’, ‘mining and quarrying’ and ‘public administration defence and other services’ that’s linked to government spending.

The International Monetary Fund has projected that India will outpace China during the current fiscal year.

Sources: The Hindu.

India tops world hunger list with 194 million people

According to United Nations annual hunger report, India is home to the highest number of hungry people in the world, at 194 million, surpassing China. The Report is titled ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015.’

The Report says:

  • At the global level, the corresponding figure dropped to 795 million in 2014-15, from 1 billion in 1990-92, with East Asia led by China accounting for most of the reductions.
  • India too saw a reduction between 1990 and 2015. In 1990-92, those who were starved of food in India numbered 210.1 million, which came down to 194.6 million in 2014-15.
  • India has made great strides in reducing the proportion of food insecure persons in the overall population, but according to FAO, it still has over 194 million hungry persons. India’s numerous social programmes are expected to continue to fight hunger and poverty.
  • However, China stood out as the reduction in the number of hungry people was much higher than in India, which came down to 133.8 million in 2014-15 from 289 million in 1990-92.
  • A majority — 72 out of 129 — of the countries monitored by FAO have achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015, with developing regions as a whole missing the target by a small margin.

Talking of noticeable progress, the report made a specific mention of Latin America and the Caribbean, southeast and central Asia as well as some parts of Africa. The overall analysis suggested that inclusive economic growth, agricultural investments and social protection, along with political stability, can eradicate hunger.

Sources: The Hindu.

Digital Locker – 1,00,000 Mark in 100 Days

After Digital Locker trial version was launched in Feb, 2015 over 1,00,000 Digital Lockers have been opened by the Citizens, within 100 days of its launch.

Digital Locker:

It is dedicated personal storage space, linked to each resident’s Aadhaar number. DigiLocker can be used to securely store e-documents as well as store Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) link of e-documents issued by various issuer departments. The e-Sign facility provided as part of DigiLocker system can be used to digitally sign e-documents.

  • The initiative was launched by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, under the Ministry of Communications and IT.
  • Here, the users can store their documents such as insurance, medical reports, PAN card, passport, marriage certificate, school certificate and other documents in the digital format.
  • With this, the government is trying to create an electronic version of documents, which can be easily verified and stored in printable format.
  • At present, the digital locker gives 10MB of free space for individuals to store documents and links of government department or agency-issued e-documents. The government is also planning to subsequently increase the storage space to 1 GB.

digital locker

Benefits:

  • It will minimize the use of physical documents and will provide authenticity of the e-documents.
  • It will provide secure access to Govt. issued documents.
  • It will also reduce administrative overhead of Govt. departments and agencies and make it easy for the residents to receive services.

Digital Locker is one of the key initiatives under the Digital India vision, which is aimed at eliminating the usage of physical documents. Digital Locker will allow various agencies to push the documents into the Digital Locker of citizens mapped to their Aadhaar Number.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, digitallocker.gov.in.