Morning Brief: NITI Aayog’s Growth Blueprint; Drones Law On Way; Go-Ahead For Rs 5,000 Crore FDI Proposals
Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.
NITI Aayog’s New Blueprint For Growth: Suggesting a host of reforms, government think tank NITI Aayog has said that India has good chances of achieving over 8 per cent growth within two-three years. It has come out with an elaborate blueprint for reforms in the economy, judiciary, regulatory structure and social sectors, in its 'Three Year Action Agenda, 2017-18 to 2019-20'. It proposes linking central government expenditure to future priorities, shifting additional allocations to high-priority sectors, which are more likely to promote development. The 211-page document suggests ways to facilitate urbanisation in the country and deal with key challenges like affordable housing, infrastructure development, public transport and promotion of Swachh Bharat. It also recommends a host of actions to eliminate corruption and black money, and increase tax base besides recommending reforms in civil services and electoral process.
Drones Law On Way: India is planning to bring in a legislation to prevent the misuse of drones, especially near airports of the country. The Union home secretary organised a meeting to discuss the draft policy and set of standard operating protocols prepared by the Delhi Police. This comes as the pilot of an Air Asia flight complained of getting distracted by drones while landing at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. Representatives of aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, were also present in the meeting and said that they are also preparing a guideline on the usage of any flying objects near the vicinity of airports. Sources said that the Home Ministry will issue a notification, which will apply for the airports across the country. In the guideline, there will be provision of punishment for those selling and buying drones illegally.
Pollution Crisis Alert: NITI Aayog Draws Up Action Plan: Government think-tank NITI Aayog has proposed a series of measures to tackle air pollution which has reached crisis level in Northern India. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley released the Aayog’s ‘Three Year Action Agenda, 2017-18 to 2019-20’ which recommended a slew of initiatives like imposing higher taxes on petrol in and around the more polluted cities and discourage the use of private vehicles. It has also identified coal power plants, brick kilns, vehicles, cooking and heating fires which burn biomass, rubbish burning and burning of crop residue and dust from construction as the “major” source of air pollution. The Aayog recommended actions like finding alternatives to crop residue burning, reducing pollution from cooking fires and installing flu gas de-sulpherisers on all coal power plants
Nilekani Returns Amid Major Shakeup Of Infosys Board: In a widely anticipated move, Nandan Nilekani has returned to Infosys after he was unanimously named by the board as its non-executive chairman. Nilekani’s appointment has also brought about sweeping changes on the board, as R Seshasayee has resigned as non-executive chairman and Ravi Venkatesan has stepped down from his position as co-chairman. Venkatesan will, however, retain his seat on the board as an independent director. The move also saw the resignations of directors Jeffrey Lehman and John Etchemendy. This appointment is seen as a major victory for co-founder N R Narayana Murthy in his fight against the board, and will soothe the nerves of the company’s largest investors, who have been worried by the events of the past week, during which Vishal Sikka stepped down as chief executive.
Call For New Data Protection Framework: India’s premier policy think tank NITI Aayog has called for a comprehensive framework on data protection specially covering digital transactions. “Currently, India has no comprehensive privacy or data protection laws that cover digital payments specifically. An existing law for data protection, section 43(A) of the Information Technology Act (ITA), offers basic protection,” NITI Aayog said. The recommendation coincides with the Supreme Court order declaring right to privacy as a fundamental right. The Aayog acknowledged that from a transparency perspective, the additional data will help with better governance and prevent tax evasion. “However, without any clear guidelines on ownership, use and sharing of the data, there is a large scope for misuse. This should be addressed as early as possible as an increasing number of people transact digitally,” it said.
Centre Tells Universities To Digitise Books: In a new move to boost the capacity of the National Digital Library, the Union government has instructed universities across the country to digitise textbooks and other study material in their libraries and hand them over to the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur for posting on the national digital library website. The library currently provides students with free access to 80 lakh books, audio-visual lectures and other study material stored in digital format. The University Grants Commission has also asked the vice chancellors to turn their respective universities into “digital campus” by the end of this year so that students can avail the benefits of Swayam, launched recently to offer massive open and online courses. The national digital library is managed by the IIT-Kharagpur as the virtual repository of learning resources was created by it.
Green Light For Rs 5,000 Crore FDI Proposals: The government has given the go-ahead for 10 foreign direct investment (FDI) proposals that have a potential worth of Rs 5,000 crore for food product and single brand retail trading, including those of Amazon, Grofers and Urban Ladder. Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion also rejected four applications, while another six were either closed or withdrawn. Amazon, which proposes to invest Rs 3,500 crore, got the go ahead to set up a subsidiary company in India with 100 per cent FDI “to engage in the business of retail trading of food products manufactured or produced locally”. Grofers’ Rs 160 crore proposal “to undertake retail trading, including through e-commerce, of food products manufactured or produced in India with 100 per cent FDI” has also been approved. The cleared proposals also include MTR Foods. Supermarket Grocery is investing Rs 105 crore and subsequently bringing in Rs 800-1,000 crore in the next 18 months.
Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Pacts Among Eight Signed By India And Nepal: India and Nepal on Thursday signed eight pacts that included four on post-earthquake reconstruction. Following comprehensive talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba on a wide range of issues, two cross-border power transmission lines in Nepal were also inaugurated. Both leaders jointly inaugurated Katiya-Kushaha and Raxaul-Parwanipur transmission lines each of 132 KV. While India assured its commitment towards overall growth and development of the Himalayan neighbour, Nepalese Prime Minister Deuba said the country would “never allow any anti-India activities on its soil”.
MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS
Real Estate: Will Headwinds End Soon, Or Is This The New Normal? The real estate sector is yet to experience the actual long-term impact of interventions, such as GST, RERA and demonetisation. The real test, however, would be the effectiveness of its implementation at the state level where political considerations are likely to come into play.
The Importance Of Data In Smart Cities: The need of the hour is to effectively analyse the current state of the infrastructure and identify need gaps, encourage citizens to become more active participants in the smart city design, and build a culture of innovation and collaboration that will help realise the vision of a smart city.
India’s Public Finance Architecture Is The Real Culprit In Gorakhpur And Bhagalpur: By fixing India’s public finance management system, lives could be saved and corruption detected when it does arise. It is time for all governments to get on board.
Real-Time Digital Reporting Of Toilets Can Bring Girls To School: Lack of hygiene and sanitation needs at schools is one of the major reasons that lead to high drop-out rates among girl students. Use of a simple smartphone can ensure equitable access to facilities, challenging patriarchal insensitivity and facilitating gender equality.
After Triple Talaq, Time For The Anti-Women Article 35-A To Go: There is hope among the daughters of Jammu and Kashmir that Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution, which makes unjust distinctions between the sons and daughters of the state, will also be scrapped by the apex court.
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