India already a world leader in 'Space': Dr Jitendra Singh



India already a world leader in 'Space': Dr Jitendra Singh


Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh said here today that even as India is making rapid strides towards achieving the goal of becoming a world power within next one decade, it has already attained the position of a world leader in "Space" technology through some of the recent landmark achievements.


 Dr Jitendra Singh expressed these views at a meeting of Space Department officials accompanying Dr A.S.Kiran Kumar, Secretary, Department of Space, Chairman, Space Commission and Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), during the first visit to New Delhi by the Secretary after assuming office.

 Dr Jitendra Singh said, in more ways than one, ISRO and the Indian space activities truly illustrate Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” concept. In this regard, he referred to “Mangalyaan” and the successful launch of “Mars Orbiter Mission” (MOM) which was developed and executed through 100% indigenous sources, material and equipment, making India the first nation which had succeeded in its maiden attempt and ISRO, the first Asian agency to reach Mars orbit. Similarly, India has achieved the distinction of providing cost effective launch pads for commercial satellites for several developed countries, he added.

 Today ISRO conducts a variety of experiments for foreign nations, said Dr Jitendra Singh and informed that till December 2014, India had already launched over 30 foreign satellites for 19 countries. Its telecommunication satellite network is one of the largest in the world, he claimed.

 Some of the world acclaimed scientists at the ISRO beginning from Vikram Sarabhai and Satish Dhawan to contemporaries like Dr U.R.Rao and Dr K.Radhakrishnan have not only done the nation proud but have also inspired generations of youth in this country, said Dr Jitendra Singh. The Minister added that today, the space achievements of ISRO team are looked up by the whole world with great respect.

 Dr A.S.Kiran Kumar, gave a resume to the Minister of some of the projects of ISRO in the near future and said that the ISRO plans to carry out a Mission to the Sun during the next one year and Chandrayaan-II Mission to the Moon around 2016-17. Similarly, Astronomy Satellite Missions as well as Multimedia Broadcast Satellite Missions will also be carried forward to a higher functional level in the times to come, thus further raising the graph of ISRO capabilities in the international arena, he added. 

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Shri Radha Mohan Singh to Visit Patna, Bihar on 25th of this Month


Union Agriculture Minister, Shri Radha Mohan Singh, will visit Patna, Bihar on 25-01-2015 to address the issue of establishing a Central Agriculture University in Pusa named Rajendra Central Agriculture University. An MOU in this regard will be signed by Agriculture Education and Research Department of Government of Bihar and ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research), Department of Agricultural Research and Education, Ministry of Agriculture.

 Shri Singh expressed his happiness and complimented Bihar Government for responding positively to his letter dated 19-01-2015. In his communication vide letter dated today, addressed to Shri Jitan Ram Manjhi, Chief Minister of Bihar, Shri Singh mentioned that Bihar is considered to be storehouse of knowledge in various sectors including Science and Agriculture from ancient times.

 Since long, demand for establishing a full fledged Central Agricultural University in Bihar was being made and present Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa was identified for making it into Central Agriculture University. Planning Commission had provided in-principle approval in 2009 to State Government’s proposal. During 12th Five year plan, an amount of Rs 400 cr has been proposed in this regard.

GG:SB Shri Radha Mohan Singh visit to Bihar 22.01.2015

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Recommendations of High Level Committee on restructuring of FCI
      
            High Level Committee (HCL) on restructuring of Food Corporation of India (FCI) has submitted its report to the Government. It was submitted by Shri Shanta Kumar, Chairman of the Committee to the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi yesterday. The HCL was set up by the Government on 20th August, 2014.The major issue before the Committee was how to make the entire food grain management system more efficient by reorienting the role of FCI in MSP operations, procurement, storage and distribution of grains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).

            The Committee had wide consultations with several Chief Ministers, Food Secretaries and other stakeholders in various States. Suggestions from public were invited through various newspapers also. Executive Summary of the report is as follows-

 Backdrop:

·        Government of India (GoI) set up a High Level Committee (HLC) in August 2014 with Shri Shanta Kumar as the Chairman, six members and a special invitee to suggest restructuring or unbundling of FCI with a view to improve its operational efficiency and financial management. GoI also asked HLC to suggest measures for overall improvement in management of foodgrains by FCI; to suggest reorienting the role and functions of FCI in MSP operations, storage and distribution of foodgrains and food security systems of the country; and to suggest cost effective models for storage and movement of grains and integration of supply chain of foodgrains in the country.

·        The HLC had wide consultations with various stakeholders in its several meetings in different parts of the country.  It also invited comments through advertisements in newspapers and electronic media. HLC would like to gratefully acknowledge that it has benefitted immensely from this consultative process, and many of its recommendations are based on very intensive discussions with stakeholders.

·        In order to conceive reorienting the role of FCI and its consequent restructuring, one has to revisit the basic objectives with which FCI was created, and what was the background of food situation at that time. It is against that backdrop, one has to see how far FCI has achieved its objectives, what the current situation on foodgrain front, what are the new challenges with regard to food security, and how best these challenges can be met with a reoriented or restructured institution like FCI.

·        FCI was set up in 1965 (under the Food Corporation Act, 1964) against the backdrop of major shortage of grains, especially wheat, in the country. Imports of wheat under PL- 480 were as high as 6-7 MMT, when country`s wheat production hovered around 10-12 MMT, and country did not have enough foreign exchange to buy that much quantity of wheat from global markets. Self-sufficiency in grains was the most pressing objective, and keeping that in mind high yielding seeds of wheat were imported from Mexico. Agricultural Prices Commission was created in 1965 to recommend remunerative prices to farmers, and FCI  was mandated with three basic objectives:  (1) to provide effective price support to farmers; (2) to procure and supply grains to PDS for distributing subsidized staples to economically vulnerable sections of society; and (3) keep a strategic reserve to stabilize markets for basic foodgrains.

·        How far FCI has achieved these objectives and how far the nation has moved on food security front?  The NSSO`s (70th round) data for 2012-13 reveals that of all the paddy farmers who reported sale of paddy during July-December 2012, only 13.5 percent farmers sold it to any procurement agency (during January-June 2013, this ratio for paddy farmers is only 10 percent), and in case of wheat farmers (January-June, 2013), only 16.2 percent farmers sold to any procurement agency. Together, they account for only 6 percent of total farmers in the country, who have gained from selling wheat and paddy directly to any procurement agency. That diversions of grains from PDS amounted to 46.7 percent in 2011-12 (based on calculations of offtake from central pool and NSSO`s (68th round) consumption data from PDS); and that country had hugely surplus grain stocks, much above the buffer stock norms, even when cereal inflation was hovering between 8-12 percent in the last few years. This situation existed even after exporting more than 42 MMT of cereals during 2012-13 and 2013-14 combined, which India has presumably never done in its recorded history. 

·        What all this indicates is that India has moved far away from the shortages of 1960s, into surpluses of cereals in post-2010 period, but somehow the food management system, of which FCI is an integral part, has not been able to deliver on its objectives very efficiently. The benefits of procurement have not gone to larger number of farmers beyond a few states, and leakages in TPDS remain unacceptably high. Needless to say, this necessitates a re-look at the very role and functions of FCI within the ambit of overall food management systems, and concerns of food security.
 
 Major Recommendations of HLC:   

Below is a summary of major recommendations of HLC keeping in mind how procurement benefits can reach larger number of farmers; how PDS system can be re-oriented to give better deal to economically vulnerable consumers at a lower cost and in a financially sustainable manner; and finally how stocking and movement operations can be made more efficient and cost effective in not only feeding PDS but also in stabilizing grain markets.

On procurement related issues

·        HLC recommends that FCI hand over all procurement operations of wheat, paddy and rice to states that have gained sufficient experience in this regard and have created reasonable infrastructure for procurement. These states are Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Punjab (in alphabetical order). FCI will accept only the surplus (after deducting the needs of the states under NFSA) from these state governments (not millers) to be moved to deficit states. FCI should move on to help those states where farmers suffer from distress sales at prices much below MSP, and which are dominated by small holdings, like Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam etc. This is the belt from where second green revolution is expected, and where FCI needs to be pro-active, mobilizing state and other agencies to provide benefits of MSP and procurement to larger number of farmers, especially small and marginal ones.

·        DFPD/FCI at the Centre should enter into an agreement with states before every procurement season regarding costing norms and basic rules for procurement. Three issues are critical to be streamlined to bring rationality in procurement operations and bringing back private sector in competition with state agencies in grain procurement: (1) Centre should make it clear to states that in case of any bonus being given by them on top of MSP, Centre will not accept grains under the central pool beyond the quantity needed by the state for its own PDS and OWS;  (2) the statutory levies including commissions, which vary from less than 2 percent in Gujarat and West Bengal to 14.5 percent in Punjab, need to be brought down uniformly to 3 percent, or at most 4 percent of MSP, and this should be included in MSP itself (states losing revenue due to this rationalization of levies can be compensated through a diversification package for the next 3-5 years); (3) quality checks in procurement have to be adhered to, and anything below the specified quality will not be acceptable under central pool. Quality checks can be done either by FCI and/or any third party accredited agency in a transparent manner with the help of mechanized processes of quality checking. HLC also recommends that levy on rice millers be done away with.  HLC notes and commends that some steps have been taken recently by DFPD in this direction, but they should be institutionalized for their logical conclusion.

·        Negotiable warehouse receipt system (NWRs) should be taken up on priority and scaled up quickly. Under this system, farmers can deposit their produce to the registered warehouses, and get say 80 percent advance from banks against their produce valued at MSP. They can sell later when they feel prices are good for them. This will bring back the private sector, reduce massively the costs of storage to the government, and be more compatible with a market economy.  GoI (through FCI and Warehousing Development Regulatory Authority (WDRA)) can encourage building of these warehouses with better technology, and keep an on-line track of grain stocks with them on daily/weekly basis. In due course, GoI can explore whether this system can be used to compensate the farmers in case of market prices falling below MSP without physically handling large quantities of grain.

·        GoI needs to revisit its MSP policy. Currently, MSPs are announced for 23 commodities, but effectively price support operates primarily in wheat and rice and that too in selected states. This creates highly skewed incentive structures in favour of wheat and rice. While country is short of pulses and oilseeds (edible oils), their prices often go below MSP without any effective price support.  Further, trade policy works independently of MSP policy, and many a times, imports of pulses come at prices much below their MSP. This hampers diversification. HLC recommends that pulses and oilseeds deserve priority and GoI must provide better price support operations for them, and dovetail their MSP policy with trade policy so that their landed costs are not below their MSP.

On PDS and NFSA related issues

·        HLC recommends that GoI has a second look at NFSA, its commitments and implementation. Given that leakages in PDS range from 40 to 50 percent, and in some states go as high as 60 to 70 percent, GoI should defer implementation of NFSA in states that have not done end to end computerization; have not put the list of beneficiaries online for anyone to verify, and have not set up vigilance committees to check pilferage from PDS.

·        HLC also recommends to have a relook at the current coverage of 67 percent of population; priority households getting only 5 kgs/person as allocation;  and central issue prices being frozen for three years at Rs 3/2/1/kg for rice/wheat/coarse cereals respectively. HLC`s examination of these issue reveals that 67 percent coverage of population is on much higher side, and should be brought down to around 40 percent, which will comfortably cover BPL families and some even above that; 5kg grain per person to priority households is actually making BPL households worse off, who used to get 7kg/person under the TPDS. So, HLC recommends that they be given 7kg/person. On central issue prices, HLC recommends while Antyodya households can be given grains at Rs 3/2/1/kg for the time being, but pricing for priority households must be linked to MSP, say 50 percent of MSP. Else, HLC feels that this NFSA will put undue financial burden on the exchequer, and investments in agriculture and food space may suffer. HLC would recommend greater investments in agriculture in stabilizing production and building efficient value chains to help the poor as well as farmers.

·        HLC recommends that targeted beneficiaries under NFSA or TPDS are given 6 months ration immediately after the procurement season ends. This will save the consumers from various hassles of monthly arrivals at FPS and also save on the storage costs of agencies. Consumers can be given well designed bins at highly subsidized rates to keep the rations safely in their homes. 

·        HLC recommends gradual introduction of cash transfers in PDS, starting with large cities with more than 1 million population; extending it to grain surplus states, and then giving option to deficit states to opt for cash or physical grain distribution. This will be much more cost effective way to help the poor, without much distortion in the production basket, and in line with best international practices. HLC`s calculations reveal that it can save the exchequer more than Rs 30,000 crores annually, and still giving better deal to consumers. Cash transfers can be indexed with overall price level to protect the amount of real income transfers, given in the name of lady of the house, and routed through Prime Minister`s Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and dovetailing Aadhaar and Unique Identification (UID) number. This will empower the consumers, plug high leakages in PDS, save resources, and it can be rolled out over the next 2-3 years.

  On stocking and movement related issues

·        HLC recommends that FCI should outsource its stocking operations to various agencies such as Central Warehousing Corporation, State Warehousing Corporation, Private Sector under Private Entrepreneur Guarantee (PEG) scheme, and even state governments that are building silos through private sector on state lands (as in Madhya Pradesh). It should be done on competitive bidding basis, inviting various stakeholders and creating competition to bring down costs of storage.

·        India needs more bulk handling facilities than it currently has. Many of FCI`s old conventional storages that have existed for long number of years can be converted to silos with the help of private sector and other stocking agencies. Better mechanization is needed in all silos as well as conventional storages.

·        Covered and plinth (CAP) storage should be gradually phased out with no grain stocks remaining in CAP for more than 3 months. Silo bag technology and conventional storages where ever possible should replace CAP.

·        Movement of grains needs to be gradually containerized which will help reduce transit losses, and have faster turn-around-time by having more mechanized facilities at railway sidings.  
 
 On Buffer Stocking Operations and Liquidation Policy

·        One of the key challenges for FCI has been to carry buffer stocks way in excess of buffer stocking norms. During the last five years, on an average, buffer stocks with FCI have been more than double the buffer stocking norms costing the nation thousands of crores of rupees loss without any worthwhile purpose being served. The underlying reasons for this situation are many, starting with export bans to open ended procurement with distortions (through bonuses and high statutory levies), but the key factor is that there is no pro-active liquidation policy. DFPD/FCI have to work in tandem to liquidate stocks in OMSS or in export markets, whenever stocks go beyond the buffer stock norms. The current system is extremely ad-hoc, slow and costs the nation heavily. A transparent liquidation policy is the need of hour, which should automatically kick-in when FCI is faced with surplus stocks than buffer norms. Greater flexibility to FCI with business orientation to operate in OMSS and export markets is needed.

 On Labour Related Issues

·        FCI engages large number of workers (loaders) to get the job of loading/unloading done smoothly and in time. Currently there are roughly 16,000 departmental workers, about 26,000 workers that operate under Direct Payment System (DPS), some under no work no pay, and about one lakh contract workers. A departmental worker (loader) costs FCI about Rs 79,500/per month (April-Nov 2014 data) vis-a-vis DPS worker at Rs 26,000/per month and contract labour costs about Rs 10,000/per month. Some of the departmental labours (more than 300) have received wages (including arrears) even more than Rs 4 lakhs/per month in August 2014. This happens because of the incentive system in notified depots, and widely used proxy labour. This is a major aberration and must be fixed, either by de-notifying these depots, or handing them over to states or private sector on service contracts, and by fixing a maximum limit on the incentives per person that will not allow him to work for more than say 1.25 times the work agreed with him. These depots should be put on priority for mechanization so that reliance on departmental labour reduces. If need be, FCI should be allowed to hire people under DPS/NWNP system. Further, HLC recommends that the condition of contract labour, which works the hardest and are the largest in number, should be improved by giving them better facilities.  

On direct subsidy to farmers

·        Since the whole system of food management operates within the ambit of providing food security at a national as well as at household level, it must be realized that farmers need due incentives to raise productivity and overall food production in the country.  Most of the OECD countries as well as large emerging economies do support their farmers. India also gives large subsidy on fertilizers (more than Rs 72,000 crores in budget of FY 2015 plus pending bills of about Rs 30,000-35,000 crores).  Urea prices are administered at a  very low level compared to prices of DAP and MOP, creating highly imbalanced use of N, P and K. HLC recommends that farmers be given direct cash subsidy (of about Rs 7000/ha) and fertilizer sector can then be deregulated. This would help plug diversion of urea to non-agricultural uses as well as to neighbouring countries, and help raise the efficiency of fertilizer use. It may be noted that this type of direct cash subsidy to farmers will go a long way to help those who take loans from money lenders at exorbitant interest rates to buy fertilizers or other inputs, thus relieving some distress in the agrarian sector.

On end to end computerization

·        HLC recommends total end to end computerization of the entire food management system, starting from procurement from farmers, to stocking, movement and finally distribution through TPDS. It can be done on real time basis, and some states have done a commendable job on computerizing the procurement operations. But its dovetailing with movement and distribution in TPDS has been a weak link, and that is where much of the diversions take place.

On the new face of FCI

·        The new face of FCI will be akin to an agency for innovations in Food Management System with a primary focus to create competition in every segment of foograin supply chain, from procurement to stocking to movement and finally distribution in TPDS, so that overall costs of the system are substantially reduced, leakages plugged, and it serves larger number of farmers and consumers. In this endeavour it will make itself much leaner and nimble (with scaled down/abolished zonal offices), focus on eastern states for procurement, upgrade the entire grain supply chain towards bulk handling and end to end computerization by bringing in investments, and technical and managerial expertise from the private sector. It will be more business oriented with a pro-active liquidation policy to liquidate stocks in OMSS/export markets, whenever actual buffer stocks exceed the norms. This would be challenging, but HLC hopes that FCI can rise to this challenge and once again play its commendable role as it did during late 1960s and early 1970s.   

Full text of the report of HLC is available on

http://fciweb.nic.in/app/webroot/upload/News/Report%20of%20the%20High%20Level%20Committee%20on%20Reorienting%20the%20Role%20and%20Restructuring%20of%20FCI_English_1.pdf

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 Chief of the Air Staff Inspects Air force Establishments near Chennai

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha proceeded on a tour of the twin Air Force Establishments at Avadi and Tambaram, near Chennai. He inspected Air Force Station Avadi on 21 Jan 15. Avadi is a major logistic base for the Air Force and also houses the Mechanical Transport Training Institute which is responsible for imparting training about vehicles and the Base Repair Depot. The Air Chief also visited the Ordnance Clothing Factory which meets the clothing requirements of the Indian Air Force. The Air Chief then inspected the Base Repair Depot and got briefed about the maintenance activities undertaken. The Air Chief later proceeded to Air Force Station Tambaram, a premier training base, where he took stock of the training activities being conducted there. On 22 Jan 15, the Air Chief visited the Flying Instructors’ School which churns out flying instructors for the Air Force, followed by visit to Mechanical Training Institute, the Workshop Training Institute, the Ground Instructors’ School and the Air Force Instructors’ Training School.

 During the visits, the Air Chief interacted with the personnel of both the stations and emphasised the need for inculcating the habits of professionalism and hard work. He exhorted the instructors to lead by personal examples and be role models for the trainees whom they mould. The Air Chief was appreciative of the high training standards maintained by the training establishments and exhorted the staff to achieve greater heights by exemplary dedication and hard work.

 The inspection visit came to an ends on 22 Jan 15.

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Updated 'Status paper on Government Debt'-2014
         



Click here to see Updated Status Report:


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Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issues Information Memorandum (IM) for conduct of e-auction of First Batch of Private FM Radio Phase III Channels

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India today issued the Information Memorandum (IM) for e-auction of 135 channels of Private FM Radio in 69 existing cities of Phase II in the first batch. It was issued in continuation of the Union Cabinet’s approval on 16.01.2015 for conduct of FM Phase-Ill auctions for these channels and migration (renewal) of Private FM Radio licenses from Phase-II to Phase-III.

Issuance of the Information Memorandum is part of the process of FM Phase III Policy for expansion of FM Radio Broadcasting through private agencies, with the objectives of attracting the agencies to supplement and complement the efforts of All India Radio by operationalizing radio stations that provide programmes with local content and relevance, improving the quality of fidelity in reception and generation, encouraging local talent and generating employment.

The Memorandum comprises the rules and timetable applicable to the auction and is aimed at informing the prospective bidders about the steps they needed to take in order to pre-qualify and take part in the forthcoming auction.

The Memorandum is for information purpose only and has no binding force. Broadly, it outlines the Government’s expectations in relation to the proposed auction.  All information contained in it is subject to updating, modification and amendment and does not purport to be complete. 

The Ministry has issued it to facilitate and encourage potential new entrants to the Indian Broadcasting sector, as well as existing operators, to take an informed decision while participating in the auction.

The Ministry has clarified that the Memorandum is not intended to form any part of the basis of any investment. Also, neither does it constitute an offer or invitation to participate in the auctions, nor does it constitute the basis of any contract which might be concluded in relation to the auction. It has been put in public domain to merely supplement and update Phase III Policy guidelines and to acquaint the prospective bidders with the design of ascending e-auction.

The Ministry has also informed that the recipients of the Memorandum intending to participate in the forthcoming auctions should note that Ministry of Information & Broadcasting would separately issue a Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) for participation in the Auction which would be definitive and would take precedence.

Details of the Information Memorandum are available on the Ministry’s website www.mib.nic.in.

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Combined Defence Services Examination (I) – 2015

Union Public Service Commission will be conducting the Combined Defence Services Examination (I) -2015 on 15/02/2015 (Sunday) at 41 Centres all over India as per notification dated November 08, 2014.  e-Admission Certificates are available on the Union Public Service Commission web-site http://www.upsc.gov.in Candidates are advised to download and check their e-Admission Certificates carefully and bring discrepancy, if any, to the notice of the Commission immediately.  Rejection Letters citing the ground(s) for rejection have been issued through e-mails and also put on Commission’s web-site http://www.upsc.gov.in.  In case any difficulty faced by the candidates in downloading e-Admission Certificates, they may contact the UPSC Facilitation Counter on Telephone Nos.  011-23385271, 011-23381125 & 011-23098543 on any working days between 10.00 AM to 5.00 PM.  The candidates can also send FAX message on FAX No. 011-23387310.  No Admission Certificate will be sent by post.

 In case the photograph is not printed clear on the e-Admission Certificates,  candidates are advised to carry three (3) photographs (one identical photograph for each session) alongwith proof of Identity such as Aadhar Card or Identity Card or Voter Identity Card or Passport or Driving License and printout of e-Admission Certificate at the venue of the Examination. 

                                    MOBILE PHONES BANNED

(a)    Mobile Phones, Pagers or any other communication devices are not allowed inside the premises, where UPSC Examination is being conducted.  Any infringement of these instructions shall entail disciplinary action including ban from future examination.

(b)   Candidates are advised in their own interest not to bring any of the banned items including mobile phones/pagers to the venue of the examination, as arrangements for safekeeping can not be assured.

India already a world leader in 'Space': Dr Jitendra Singh India already a world leader in 'Space': Dr Jitendra Singh Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 7:05 PM Rating: 5

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