Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015

The Union Cabinet recently gave its approval to introduce a new Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015. The new Bill will provide legislative framework for following new provisions other than the provisions in the existing Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 which is proposed to be repealed:

Important provisions in of the Bill:

  • It seeks to establish the Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) as the National Standards Body of India.
  • The Bureau will perform its functions through a Governing Council, which will consist of its President and other members.
  • It seeks to include goods, services and systems, besides articles and processes under the standardization regime;
  • It enables the Government to bring under the mandatory certification regime such article, process or service which it considers necessary from the point of view of health, safety, environment, prevention of deceptive practices, security etc. This will help consumers receive ISI certified products and will also help in prevention of import of sub-standard products;
  • It seeks to allow multiple types of simplified conformity assessment schemes including Self Declaration Of Conformity (SDOC) against any standard which will give multiple simplified options to manufacturers to adhere to standards and get a certificate of conformity, thus improving the “ease of doing business”;
  • It seeks to enable the Central Government to appoint any authority, in addition to the Bureau of Indian Standards, to verify the conformity of products and services to a standard and issue certificate of conformity;
  • It also seeks to enable the Government to implement mandatory hallmarking of precious metal articles;
  • It seeks to repeal the BIS Act, 1986.

Benefits:

  • The proposed provisions in the new Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015 will empower the Central Government and the Bureau of Indian Standards to promote a culture of quality of products and services through mandatory/voluntary compliance with Indian standards through the process of ‘product certification’ and ‘Certificate of Conformity’ with a broad objective of consumer’s welfare.
  • It is also expected to improve enforcement of Indian standards.
  • The proposed provisions will also promote harmonious development of the activities of standardization, marking and quality certification of goods and services.

Sources: PIB.

Govt. plans 20 million houses for urban poor

The Union Cabinet recently approved the launch of the “Housing for All by 2022” programme for the rehabilitation of slum-dwellers and promotion of affordable housing for the urban poor. The target is to provide nearly 20 million houses over seven years.

The components of the scheme are as follows:

  • Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource;
  • Promotion of affordable housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy;
  • Affordable housing in partnership with Public & Private sectors and
  • Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction or enhancement.

Details of the scheme:

  • Central grant of Rs. one lakh per house, on an average, will be available under the slum rehabilitation programme. A State Government would have flexibility in deploying this slum rehabilitation grant to any slum rehabilitation project taken for development using land as a resource for providing houses to slum dwellers.
  • The scheme will be implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme except the credit linked subsidy component, which will be implemented as a Central Sector Scheme.
  • The Mission also prescribes certain mandatory reforms for easing up the urban land market for housing, to make adequate urban land available for affordable housing. Houses constructed under the mission would be allotted in the name of the female head of the households or in the joint name of the male head of the household and his wife.
  • A Technology Sub-mission under the Mission would be set up to facilitate adoption of modern, innovative and green technologies and building material for faster and quality construction of houses. The Technology Sub-Mission will also facilitate preparation and adoption of layout designs and building plans suitable for various geo-climatic zones. It will also assist States/Cities in deploying disaster resistant and environment friendly technologies.
  • The Technology Sub-Mission will coordinate with various regulatory and administrative bodies for mainstreaming and up scaling deployment of modern construction technologies and material in place of conventional construction. The Technology Sub-Mission will also coordinate with other agencies working in green and energy efficient technologies, climate change etc.
  • In the spirit of cooperative federalism, the Mission will provide flexibility to States for choosing best options to meet the demand of housing in their states.
  • The process of project formulation and approval in accordance with Mission Guidelines would be left to the States, so that projects can be formulated, approved and implemented faster. The Mission will provide technical and financial support in accordance to the Guidelines to the States to meet the challenge of urban housing.
  • The Mission will compile best practices in terms of affordable housing policies of the States/UTs designs and technologies adopted by States and Cities with an objective to spread best practices across States and cities and foster cross learning.
  • The Mission will also develop a virtual platform to obtain suggestions and inputs on house design, materials, technologies and other elements of urban housing.

Sources: PIB.

Bonus for lentils, higher MSP for paddy

To boost production of pulses during the kharif season, the Centre recently announced a bonus of Rs. 200 a quintal on the revised minimum support price for tur, moong and urad dal (lentils) for the marketing season of 2015-16.

  • The minimum support price for paddy was increased by Rs. 50 a quintal for the kharif marketing season of the financial year.

Minimum Support Price (MSP):

  • The Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme is a scheme of the Government of India (GOI) to safeguard the interests of the farmers.
  • Government fixes MSPs of various kharif and rabi crops every year on the recommendations of Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP.
  • Under this Scheme the government declares the minimum support Prices of various agricultural produces and assures the farmers that their agricultural produce will be purchased at the MSP, thereby preventing its distress sale.
  • Procurement under MSP is undertaken by the designated Central and State Government agencies and Cooperatives.
  • MSP is in the nature of minimum price offered by the Government. Producers have the option to sell their produce to Government agencies or in the open market as is advantageous to them.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB.

Two panels to facilitate rollout

Union Finance Minister has approved the formation of two committees to facilitate the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from next April.

About the Committees:

  • A steering committee, chaired by the Additional Secretary, Department of Revenue, and the Member Secretary of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers, will monitor the setting up of IT infrastructure for the GST network, the Central Board of Excise and Customs and other tax authorities. The committee will monitor the progress of consultations with stakeholders such as trade and industry and the training of officers.
  • The other committee, chaired by Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser, will recommend possible tax rates under the GST that would be consistent with the present level of revenue collected by the Centre and the States. While making recommendations, the committee will take into account the expected levels of economic growth, the different levels of compliance, and the broadening of the tax base. The panel would assess the sector- and State-wise impact of the GST on the economy.

Issues that could potentially delay the rollout of GST include:

  • The States have been demanding that the Centre compensate them fully for any revenue loss due to the implementation of the GST for five years. But, the Centre has agreed to full compensation for three years, 75% compensation in the fourth year and 50% in the fifth year.
  • States are demanding that they should be allowed to levy an additional sales tax on tobacco and tobacco products.
  • Some States have favoured abolition of the entry tax, while others have demanded that purchase tax not be merged with the GST.

Sources: The Hindu.

ADB to increase India lending by 50 % to $12 b by 2018

Asian Development Bank has proposed to increase lending to India by almost 50% to $12 billion by 2018. This was stated by ADB President Takehiko Nakao recently.

  • He also said that India’s growth rate was expected to exceed that of China in this year. India’s projected growth rate of 7.8% for the 2015-16 fiscal was higher than China’s estimated 7.2% in 2015 calendar year.

Asian Development Bank:

It is a regional development bank established on 22 August 1966 and is headquartered in Philippines.

Aim: to facilitate economic development of countries in Asia. It also aims for an Asia and Pacific free from poverty.

Membership:

  • The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP, formerly known as the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East) and non-regional developed countries.
  • Currently, it has 67 members – of which 48 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside.

ADB was modeled closely on the World Bank, and has a similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed in proportion with member’s capital subscriptions.

Funding:

  • ADB raises funds through bond issues on the world’s capital markets.
  • ADB also rely on its members’ contributions, retained earnings from its lending operations, and the repayment of loans.
  • Japan holds the largest proportions of shares at 15.67%. The United States holds 15.56%, China holds 6.47%, India holds 6.36%, and Australia holds 5.81%.

Board of Governors:

  • It is the highest policy-making body of the bank.
  • It is composed of one representative from each member state.
  • The Board of Governors also elect the bank’s President who is the chairperson of the Board of Directors and manages ADB.

The Alternate Board of Governors are nominated by Board of Governors of ADB’s 67 to represent them at the Annual Meeting that meets formally once year to be held in a member country.

Loans:

  • It offers both Hard Loans and Soft loans.
  • The ADB offers “hard” loans from ordinary capital resources (OCR) on commercial terms, and the Asian Development Fund (ADF) affiliated with the ADB extends “soft” loans from special fund resources with concessional conditions.

ADB focuses on five core areas of operations: infrastructure; the environment, including climate change; regional cooperation and integration; finance sector development; and education.

Sources: The Hindu, ADB, Wiki.

‘Sakaar’ …for ISRO

Minister of State in the Department of Atomic Energy, Dr. Jitendra Singh recently launched an Augmented Reality application named ‘Sakaar’ to highlight the achievements of the Department of Space during one year in office of the present Government.

  • DECU-ISRO has developed this application for Android devices.
  • Sakaar consists of 3D models of MOM, RISAT, rockets (PSLV, GSLV Mk-III); videos of INSAT 3D-predicting cyclones, GSLV D5/Cryo, Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) orbit insertion, launch video of MOM, 360 degree animated view of MOM; Anaglyph of Mars surface.
  • The Multimedia content which is embedded in the Sakaar app is generated with the support of multimedia & editing facilities of DECU-ISRO.

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

  • Augmented Reality is a live direct view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated 3D models, animations, videos etc. The technology enhances user’s current perception of reality.
  • Augmentation is in real time and the information is overlaid on the live view of the device’s camera.
  • Essentially, AR requires three elements: Android device with back camera, AR application, AR Markers.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

Rs. 1,500-cr. nuclear insurance pool set up

The Union government has launched an insurance pool of Rs. 1,500 crore, mandatory under the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act to offset the financial burden on foreign nuclear suppliers in case of an accident.

  • With this, several projects such as the long-pending Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Pariyojna held up in the absence of the pool are now expected to move forward.

About the Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP):

The pool has been set up by General Insurance Corporation of India and 11 other non-life insurers, including New India, Oriental Insurance, National Insurance and United India Insurance, from the public sector, apart from private insurance companies.

  • Under the pool, nuclear operators’ liability and suppliers’ special contingency insurance policies will be offered.
  • With this launch, India has joined an exclusive list of countries having nuclear pools and the INIP will be 27th nuclear insurance pool in the world managing nuclear liabilities.
  • The pool will address third party liability insurance under Civil Liability of Nuclear Damage Act (CLNDA) 2010 to begin with and later expand into property and other hot zone risk for which it will work in close co-ordination with nuclear power industry.
  • This pool will provide the risk transfer mechanism to the operators and suppliers to meet their obligations under the CLND Act. At a later stage, this pool also looks to provide reinsurance support to other such international pools.

Background:

The idea of forming a pool was mooted in early 2013 and got stuck due to differences among stakeholders on certain clauses. In 2010, Parliament passed the Civil Liability of Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act, which creates a liability cap for nuclear plant operators for economic damage in the event of an accident.

  • The CLND Act provides for Rs 1,500 crore as maximum liability for nuclear damage.
  • Clauses in the Act, which give the operator the right to legal recourse and allow it to sue the suppliers in case of any accident, were seen as being a major hindrance to the growth of the nuclear industry. These concerns led to the formation of the Indian nuclear insurance pool.
  • The CLND Act also provides for state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India, which operates all atomic power plants in India, to seek compensation from suppliers in an accident due to faulty equipment.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, BS, TOI.