Morning Brief: New Consumer Protection Law On Way; Rajasthan Boosts OBC Quota; Siddaramaiah Poll Sop

by Swarajya Staff - Oct 27, 2017 06:27 AM +05:30 IST
Morning Brief: New Consumer Protection Law On Way; Rajasthan Boosts OBC Quota; Siddaramaiah Poll SopPrime Minister Narendra Modi. (Sean Gallup/GettyImages) 

Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.

Modi Vows New Consumer Protection Law: Pledging to protect the interest of consumers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said a new law is on the anvil that will crack down on misleading advertisements and provide time-bound redressal of their grievances. "Today we are in the process of enacting a new Consumer Protection Act keeping in view business practices and requirements of the country. The proposed Act lays great emphasis on consumer empowerment," he said. Addressing a global conference on consumer affairs, Modi stressed that consumer interest has not just been protected by giving them rights, but also by taming inflation and various schemes that have helped poor and middle class save on spending. The rules are being simplified to ensure that consumer grievances are redressed in a time-bound manner and at least possible cost, he said, adding that stringent provisions are proposed against misleading ads.

Union Government Speeds Up Jammu And Kashmir Projects: The Union government has decided to fast-track infrastructure projects in Jammu and Kashmir after a meeting between Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The meeting was conducted to review the progress of projects under the Rs 80,000-crore Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP). "Funds are getting released and many development works are going on," she added. The Home Ministry said it had decided to fast-track projects under PMDP by making free land available for infrastructure projects in road, power and health sectors. "It was also decided to accelerate the development projects relating to additional jobs to Kashmiri migrants, transit accommodations, transfer of cash relief/honorarium through Direct Benefit Transfer mode and providing employment to youth of Kashmir," it said. Under a package for 63 major development projects in Kashmir, an amount of Rs 62,599 crores has already been sanctioned and an amount of Rs 22,042 crores has been released.

Rajasthan Assembly Passes Bill Raising Reservation For OBCs To 26 Per Cent: The Rajasthan assembly on Thursday passed a bill to increase the reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the state’s educational institutions and government jobs from 21 per cent to 26 per cent. The move takes the total reservation in the state to 54 per cent and comes before bypolls to Ajmer and Alwar, both of which have a high concentration of OBC votes. The OBC category in Rajasthan has 91 castes and represents 52 per cent of state’s population. The bill proposing 5 per cent hike in the OBC quota in government jobs was tabled during the assembly's monsoon session this year in the wake of widespread agitation by the Gujjar community demanding reservation under the backward classes category.

Siddaramaiah Election Sop: 100,000 Houses For Bengaluru’s Urban Poor: In yet another election sop, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Thursday launched the process for building 100,000 houses for the urban poor in Bengaluru. He has been announcing a series of populist schemes as the state heads into elections next year. The scheme — titled Chief Minister’s 1 Lakh Bengaluru Housing Scheme for urban poor — is part of the Congress government’s budgetary assurance to provide a total of 700,000 homes across the state (600,000 in rural areas and 100,000 in Bengaluru). The Chief Minister said that those who have been residing in Bengaluru for over five years, do not have a home and those falling below the poverty line would be considered for the scheme. Each home would cost Rs 5.50 lakh. Beneficiaries falling under the general category would get a subsidy of Rs 2.7 lakh, while those falling under the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe category would get Rs 3.7 lakh, the Chief Minister said. Beneficiaries can apply for loans for the remaining amount, he said.

Sitharaman Vows To Improve Navy’s Infrastructure: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday vowed to address "critical capability shortfalls" of the Indian Navy with regard to conventional submarines, multi-role helicopters, and mine counter-measure vessels. Sitharaman was addressing the naval leadership at the ongoing Naval Commanders' Conference, which began in Delhi on Tuesday and ends on Friday. "She (Sitharaman) took note of the critical capability shortfalls that the Navy is facing in ship-borne multi-role helicopters, conventional submarines and mine counter measure vessels, which need urgent redressal to maintain the combat edge of the Navy. The Raksha Mantri assured the Commanders that that these issues were being given due impetus and efforts were in hand to mitigate these shortcomings at the earliest," the Defence Ministry said.

Railways Draws Up Plan For Full Electrification Of Its Network: In a move that will help save Rs 10,500 crore a year in fuel bill, Indian Railways has prepared a Rs 35,000 crore plan to electrify its entire network in the next four years. “We’re going for 100 per cent electrification by 2021. This will reduce the energy bill from Rs 26,500 crore currently to about Rs 16,000 crore,” a senior Railway Board official said. The cost works out to be slightly more than Rs 1 crore per kilometre over parts of the 66,000-km network yet to be electrified, the official said. “We’ll be funding it through our own resources,” he said. So far, nearly half of the railway tracks in the country have been electrified. But these tracks account for 55 per cent of coaches and 65 per cent of freight traffic at just about 35 per cent of railways’ total fuel bill. Indian Railways consumes about 15.6 billion units of electricity every year and foots a power bill of Rs 9,500 crore. It pays almost Rs 17,000 crore a year in diesel bill.

Pension Funds Can Finance Infrastructure Projects: Amitabh Kant: NITI Aayog Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant has pitched for channelling insurance and pension funds for financing infrastructure projects and also for a complete re-examination of the viability gap funding (VGF) scheme. The infrastructure sector has suffered in India due to under-investment for a long time, he said. “We need to build up environment to tap pension and insurance funds for investments in infrastructure projects. VGF scheme needs a complete re-examination,” Kant said at India Infrastructure Conclave on Thursday. Kant said, in the last three years, the government has put in a lot of resources in building infrastructure like roads and airports, almost making up for the lack of private sector investment in such projects. “You can do it for short run but not for long run. The challenge is to bring private sector investments back in the infrastructure sector,” he said.

New Japanese Plan To Counter China’s “Belt and Road” Initiative: In a plan aimed at countering China’s cross-continent “Belt and Road” plan, Japan is set to propose a strategic dialogue with India, the United States and Australia to build ports and high-speed road networks across Asia to Africa. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to propose the idea of the four-party dialogue to US President Donald Trump on 6 November, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said on Thursday. The Japanese proposal will be significant for India. The proposal is for the leaders of the four nations to promote free trade and defence cooperation across the land and sea to Southeast, South and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East and Africa, Kono said. “We are in an era when Japan has to exert itself diplomatically by drawing a big strategic picture,” Kono said and added, “To maintain free and open ocean, the economy and security will surely be on the table.”

MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS

A Lease Of Life Called Bank Recapitalisation: A window to clean up balance sheets is opening, and banks would do well to grab it. PSBs would be well advised to bite the bullet and crank up provisioning, especially on large corporate NPAs, this fiscal itself.

Is Globalisation Going To Be Unravelled? In future trade negotiations, industrialised countries are likely to focus less on tariff reductions and more on harmonisation of standards. We need to remain committed to maintaining an open trade policy and not be distracted by the noise about increased protectionism in the West.

Why Consumer Companies Need To Buck Up: Great value does not necessarily mean buying the cheapest product available in the market. It’s about getting the best value for the money spent.

Industry As A Stakeholder In Revitalising India’s Rivers: Industry plays a very important role in this and is an important stakeholder in river revitalisation. Tree-based products such as fruits have a shorter shelf life, so industry must invest in value addition and in creating supply chains to make it viable for the farmer.

SWARAJYA SPECIAL

Brigadier Rajinder Singh: Remembering One Of India’s Little-Known War Heroes: As Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession to India on this day, 70 years ago, Brigadier Rajinder Singh defended a state under siege. What better tribute can we pay this unsung war hero other than declaring 26 October as Martyrs’ Day.

We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!

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