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Government of India

Advancing Budget to Feb 1 will ensure quality in Govt expenditure

*Prakash Chawla  i201711801.jpg

The Central Government earmarked close to Rs 20 lakh crore on the expenditure head of the Budget for 2016-17. It would be safe to assume that for the financial year 2017-18, the total expenditure to be allocated by Finance Minister Mr Arun Jaitley would be between Rs 22 lakh crore and Rs 23 lakh crore. This would be about 14 per cent of India’s Gross Domestic Product at current prices.

Unlike in the past when the Budget was presented to Parliament on the last working day of February, the Finance Minister would do the honours on February 1, for 2017-18.  Without going into any political debate, an independent analysis would certainly make out a strong case for advancing the Budget presentation, purely on the ground that it would help the government to achieve two most import objectives.

The first and foremost goal is and should be to achieve the quality of expenditure and the way the Central schemes and projects are executed would certainly change when the money allocated to each of them is approved by Parliament well in time and transferred to the concerned departments or ministries. The second achievement following from the first would be the difference a quality government spend makes to the country’s GDP growth. The government expenditure in excess of Rs 20 lakh crore would make a huge difference to revival of investment and boosting consumer demand, also helped by implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission report for the Central Government employees.

Under the system  prevalent so far, the Budget is presented in the Lok Sabha on the last working day of February and a vote on account is obtained from Parliament to draw money from the Consolidated Fund of India from April 1, the opening day of the new financial year.

The Budget session is divided into two phases and it is in the first phase that the Vote on Account is obtained to enable uninterrupted functioning of the government while the full and final Parliamentary go-ahead is available some time in May towards the end of the  second phase of the Budgetsession.While the Finance Minister’s Budget Speech comprising tax and non-tax proposals at the time of the Budget presentation is considered an important policy direction of the government of the day, quite often his closing speech at the end of the exhaustive parliamentary debate on the Budget is used at times to make any amends, depending on the popular response to the Budget proposals.

But by the time the full and final outlays are available, at least first quarter of the financial year is over and out. It is in the second quarter that the departments begin work on implementing the projects and programmes as announced in the Budget, the most important blue-print of the government. The government funds cannot be spent just like a private business house does. It must follow well laid down procedures which can standRs 150 Rev.db1ef3fc-69ed-4c7f-968f-5ce912f819e6.jpg scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and various other agencies like the Central Vigilance Commission, besides Parliamentary committees.  No wonder, the bureaucrats tasked with the implementation of the programmes and policies would rather err on the side of caution. The entire procedure of floating tenders, finalizing the deals etc can take another few months, making it possible for the departments to place the orders with the contractors only in the middle or end of the third quarter in most cases. The money gets spent in the last quarter and somehow, has to be spent by March 31.

Naturally, the pressure is back-loaded on the system, resulting at times in dilution of the quality of expenditure, not by design but by default.

All that would change for better with advancement of the Budget, which should now get passed in the first phase of the Budget session even after demands for grants of different key ministries are adequately debated in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.  The intention of the government is to begin the spending programmes right in the beginning of the fiscal, making the Budget implementation front-loaded, rather than back- loaded.

While such an option is always welcome, the requirement of it is much more urgent at this state of economy which has to deal with the issue of revival in consumer demand and boost investment, which has to be led by the government, given the fact that the private sector is over-leveraged with idle capacity in several key sectors. As is well conceded by senior ministers in different economic wings of the government, the state expenditure in sectors like roads, airports, ports, shipping, agriculture infrastructure etc would show the way to the economic revival in the fiscal 2017.  Once a momentum is built, the private sector should then get a multiplier effect and the entire virtuous cycle would see a transformation.

With an expectation of great focus on the rural landscape in the Budget, the government programmes relating to agriculture and the allied sectors should really be catalytic in the GDP momentum in the coming months.

So, the entire Budget exercise must get completed sooner than later. The issues relating to the GDP relating to the current fiscal which become the basis for the next year’s Budget estimates can get sorted out with advance statistical tools and techniques. What matters is the intent.

*Prakash Chawla is a senior New Delhi-based journalist writing mostly on political-economic issues. 

 

The National Cancer Institute, AIIMS

One Year in the Making of India’s Largest Cancer Hospital

* V. Srinivas  i201711602.jpg

The Health Minister has called the National Cancer Institute, the largest public health investment project of Independent India. With 710 beds, 26 Operation Theaters, 15 laboratories for Principal Investigators, a separate Diagnostics Block – the National Cancer Institute is the behemoth of Indian cancer care. Bhumi_Pujan2.jpg

At full capacity it will deploy 2700 employees and cater to 10 lac patients per annum. The design of the largest cancer hospital of India brought together India’s best cancer experts for conceptualization and design.

The National Cancer Institute is the state of the art Tertiary Cancer care cum Research Institute, being constructed at the AIIMS Jhajjar campus
in an area of 31.2 acres. It is the nodal Institution for all activities related to cancer in the country and will have linkages with all Regional Cancer Centers and other Institutes of India.Research.jpg

As India’s premier institute of cancer, its responsible for identifying priority areas for Research & Development carrying out basic and applied research in molecular biology, genomics, proteomics, cancer epidemiology, radiation biology and cancer vaccines. It is also to act as the premier center for development of human resource in various branches of cancer management depending on the needs of our country.

The Objectives of National Cancer Institute are:

(a) To provide affordable quality tertiary cancer care to cancer patients;

(b) To act as the principal agency of the country in the field of oncology;

(c) To carry out innovative research and the development of novel interventions to prevent and treat cancer;

(d) To undertake clinical trials of newer drugs as well as vaccines;

(e) To carry out transnational research and incorporate newly developed techniques in cancer therapy into clinical practice.

(f) To create international linkages with major cancer centers for exchanging cancer related information and for establishing exchange programmes for training and education.

The National Cancer Institute will have 710 beds  dedicated to treatment of those cancers which are based on research protocols. It will have equipment with latest technology.BDNCI.jpg Research will be conducted in collaboration with other cancer centers. The total personnel deployment for the National Cancer Institute has been projected at 2705. A Project Monitoring Committee under the chairmanship of Health Secretary supervises implementation and a sub-committee chaired by Head National Cancer Institute monitors the day to day progress of the project.

Following Cabinet approval for Rs. 2035 crores, the commencement of civil works took some time. The project commencement necessitated statutory approvals from local authorities. The environmental impact assessment for the National Cancer Institute required approvals from 34 agencies in the Government of Haryana. Subsequent to the Environment Impact Assessment sanctions, civil works for the Institute Block and residential block of the National Cancer Institute were awarded. The stipulated date for completion of works is March 2018 for the Institute Block and August 2018 for the Residential Block. The Machinery and Equipment Procurement will be completed by July 2018.

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December 2016 marks one year of commencement of civil works on the National Cancer Institute. The Institute Block of the National Cancer Institute comprises of several buildings namely the hospital and OPD block, Diagnostics block, Administration block, Academics block, Research Hostel for 200 students, and Service block.

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The 710 bedded, 8 storey Hospital Block has been divided between Surgical Oncology (200 beds), Medical Oncology (200 beds), Radiation Ocology (120 beds), Palliative Care (40 beds), and the remaining between Nuclear Medicine, Anaesthesia, Emergency, ICU and Day care. Necessary approvals from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Agency were obtained to commence works in the Hospital Block.

The Diagnostics Block comprises of Laboratory space for Microbiology, Central Instrumentation Facility, Haemato-Pathology, Histo-Pathology, Cytopathology, Tumor Immunology and Advanced Diagnostics Centre.

The National Cancer Institute would also have a Research (Basic Sciences) Block with 15 Principal Investigator Laboratories.

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The Academic Block would have Conference Halls, Auditorium, Office Spaces and the Faculty Cafeteria. The Research Hostel would also have a studio residence for visiting researchers and the Head NCI suite. In addition there would be the Administration Block for Office Space.

The Residential Block comprises of 216 Type III dwelling units, 84 Type IV dwelling units, 56 Type V dwelling units, 16 Type VI dwelling units, a total of 37 dwelling units.

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In addition a Hostel Block to house 440 nurses, 154 Junior Residents and 46 Senior Residents is being constructed. In 2016, a financial progress of Rs. 171 crores has been achieved. An average labor deployment of 600 per day was witnessed.

The National Cancer Institute attracted a lot of international attention in 2016 with senior faculty visits from the National Cancer Institute of Baltimore and the MD Anderson Cancer Centre Houston to AIIMS. In addition the French Academy of Medicine conducted a workshop in Toulose for a collaboration with the National Cancer Institute of France.

Looking ahead the National Cancer Institute would be amongst the great public Cancer hospitals in the world setting new benchmarks in translational research and patient care. We eagerly look forward to timely completion of works and the project being fully operationalized in 2018.

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*Author is a senior civil servant, an IAS officer of 1989 batch, presently serving as Deputy Director Administration, AIIMS New Delhi.

Swachh Bharat Mission: The Road Ahead

*Umakant Lakhera  i201711303.jpg

Two incidents from the South African years of Mahatma Gandhi stand out distinctly. The first is the worst kind of racial discrimination that he suffered on the first class compartment of a train.

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PMB 1898 Railway Station

He was heckled and thrown out of the train by a snobbish European at Pietermaritzburg station.

The second is related to cleanliness and sanitation. When Gandhi saw South Africa’s poor Black men, cleaning the toilet of others, and carrying buckets of excreta and leftover on their heads, he was deeply moved. It stirred his conscience in no small measure. That very day, he vowed to clean his own toilet. His vow resonated in his insightful remark: “If we do not keep our backyards clean, our Swaraj will have a foul stench.”

Apparently in keeping up with the ideals of Gandhi pertaining to cleanliness, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose October 2, 2014 Gandhi’s birth anniversary, as the day to launch the Swachh Bharat Mission.

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The Prime Minister’s idea and vision of Swachh Bharat epitomizes the “Stench-Free Swaraj” articulated by the Father of the Nation.

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The Mission, which is the Central Government’s largest-ever sanitation programme, has been subdivided into Swachh Bharat Urban and Swachh Bharat Gramin components. The principal resolve of the Mission is to make India open defection free by October 2, 2019- Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary.

Coming to Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), it is overseen by the Ministry of Urban Development and is mandated to provide sanitation and household toilet facilities in all 4041 statutory towns with a combined population of 377 million. The estimated cost is Rs 62,009 crore over five years with the centre slated to assist with Rs 14,623 crore. The Mission aims to cover 1.04 crore households, provide 2.5 lakh community toilet seats, 2.6 lakh public toilet seats and set up in all towns solid waste management facilities. At the core of this mission lie six components :sbu_620.jpg

  1. Individual household toilets;
  2. Community toilets;
  3. Public toilets;
  4. Municipal Solid Waste Management;
  5. Information and Educating Communication (IEC) and Public Awareness;
  6. Capacity Building

The Urban mission seeks to eliminate open defecation; convert insanitary toilets to flush toilets; eradicate manual scavenging; and facilitate solid waste management. This mission lays special emphasis on bringing about a behavioral change relating to healthy sanitation practices by educating people about the environmental hazards emanating from the strewn garbage, the harmful effects of open defecation etc. Towards these objectives, urban local bodies are being ushered in and being strengthened to design, execute and operate systems for fostering an enabling environment for private sector participation in capital and operational expenditure.

The Rural mission, known as Swachh Bharat Gramin, aims to make Village Panchayats free of open defecation by October 2, 2019.

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Removing bottlenecks and addressing critical issues that affect outcomes is the new thrust of this rural sanitation mission, which aims to provide all rural households with individual latrines; and construct cluster and community toilets on public-private partnership mode.

Considering the squalor and unhygienic conditions in village schools, this programme lays special emphasis on toilets in schools with basic sanitation amenities. Construction of Anganwadi toilets and management of solid and liquid waste in all Village Panchayats is the is the object of the mission. Nodal agencies will monitor the construction and use of toilets at the Village Panchayat and household levels. The rural scheme envisages building 11.11 crore toilets at an estimated cost of Rs.1,34,000.

Under the provision of Individual Household Latrines, villagers belonging to BPL and APL categories are given incentive – after construction and use – of Rs 9000 and Rs 3000 respectively for each toilet by Central and state governments. In the north-eastern states, Jammu and Kashmir and special category areas the incentive amount is amount of Rs 10,800 and Rs 1200.

There would be regular review of implementation. Results exceed expectations. The records show that 58,54,987 latrines were built against the expected outcome of 50 lakh in 2014-15. Achieving 117 per cent of the target is praiseworthy. During 2015-16, 127.41 lakh toilets have already been constructed against target of 120 lakh. In 2016-17, against a target of 1.5 crore latrines, 33,19, 451 have been constructed as on August 1, 2016

Under the Rural mission, 210.09 toilets have been constructed between October 1, 2014 and August 1, 2016. In the same period, sanitation coverage has been scaled up from 42.05 percent to 53.60 percent.

However, eventually, what matters is behavioural change in sanitation practices. This is a monumental task which requires capacity building of key stakeholders such as Collectors, CEO, Zila Panchayats, Chairmen of Zila Panchayats. This is being carried out in different states by roping in key resource centers for state-level workshops related to cleanliness drive.

Last but not the least, the Prime Minister has put his personal weight behind Swachh Bharat Mission. The coordination between the Centre and the states is enhanced by his representatives visiting the states and attending the coordination meetings. Swachh Bharat Mission is on the right track.

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*The writer is a senior freelance journalist based in New Delhi.

Bringing Youth to the Mainstream of Change

            *Sudhirendar Sharma  i20171901.jpg

It is befitting to dedicate Vivekananda’s birthday, January 12, to the youth of the countrySwami-Vivekananda.jpg whose entrepreneurial ambition and consumerist desires need be exposed to countervailing moral and ethical values for bringing sanity to their attitudes and actions. It makes for a compelling case as today’s youth are fed on a celebrity overdose in a market-driven consumerist culture.

Unlike other growing economies that face the risk of an ageing workforce, India is poised to become the world’s youngest country with 64 per cent of its population in the working age group by 2020. This ‘demographic dividend’ offers a great opportunity for the country. Not just by numbers, the youth make 34% contribution to the country’s Gross National Income as well.

India’s population is expected to exceed 1.3 billion by 2020 with a median age of 28 which is considerably less than the expected median ages of China and Japan. The working population of India, is expected to increase to 592 million by 2020, next only to China (776 million), pointing to the fact that youth will make a significant contribution to country’s economic development.

However, growing up in a hyper-connected space of the virtual world this aspiration class needs directions to contribute to the efforts of nation building. Enhancing their labour force participation in improving productivity will only realize part of their energies. Since ideology has been substituted by technology, the youth rarely see the world beyond ‘themselves’.

Such generic transformation has created a generation very different from any known before. The youth find themselves distanced from the nation-building narrative of the post-independent era, and locate themselves in a world that is bursting with hope, love and an air of cherubic optimism. The National Youth Day is thus an opportunity to connect youth to the ethos of the country.

Although January 12 is celebrated every year as the National Youth Day since 1985, the youth-targeted schemes and programmes of the government are predominantly guided by the National Youth Policy 2014 which seeks “to empower the youth of the country to achieve their full potential, and through them enable India to find its rightful place in the community of nations”.

The Government of India currently invests more than Rs 92,000 Crore per annum on youth development programmes or approximately Rs 2,710 per young individual per year, through youth-targeted (Rs.37,000 crores for higher education, skill development, healthcare) and non-targeted (Rs.55,000 crore food subsidies, employment) programmes.

In addition, the State Governments and a number of other stakeholders are also working to support youth development and to enable productive youth participation. However, individual organizations working on youth issues in non-Government sector are small and fragmented, and there is a felt need of enhanced coordination between the various stakeholders.

It must, however, be noted that all through history, youth have been the harbingers of change – from winning independence for nations, to creating new technologies that upset the status quo, to new forms of art, music and culture. Supporting and promoting the development of youth therefore is one of the foremost priorities, across all sectors and stakeholders.

The challenge is to engage youth in building a cadre that thinks and acts beyond the narrow confines of ‘self’. The task is to help them rise above the ideology of consumption, open them to appreciate vast cultural diversity, and create a multi-polar environment where they effortlessly embrace differences of religion, sexual orientation and race.

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Vivekananda in Chicago in 1983

What could be better than the teachings of Swami Vivekananda to offer philosophical directions to youth, whose speech at the World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893 had made him popular as ‘Messenger of Indian Wisdom to the Western World’? Vivekananda believed that a country’s future depends on its youth, and his teachings focused on their development.

Bereft of an ideological baggage than the previous generations, youth of the country are in a better position to accept such teachings provided these are packaged as products in the idiom that can be conveniently consumed by the present generation. Else, this generation will be the next big ‘disruptor’ because they have literally distanced themselves from the political and social spheres.

A study by J Walter Thompson offers a ray of hope, though. According to him today’s youth have seen the flipside of consumption, and are ‘more inspired by Malala than Beyonce’.National-Youth-Day-12th-January.jpg

This generation is characterized by ethical consumption habits, native digital technology use, entrepreneurial ambition, and progressive views. What they need is philosophical guidance in the right direction, and National Youth Day offers perfect platform to launch youth into the mainstream of ‘change’.

*Dr Sudhirendar Sharma researches and writes on development issues.

The Overseas Indians have come a long way

*PRIYADARSHI DUTTA  download

The 15th edition of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention will be heldin Bengaluru, Karnataka from January 7 to 9, 2017. The first annual convention was held between January 9 and 11, 2003. January 9 was adopted as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas or Overseas Indian Day based on the recommendations of a High Level Committee constituted in August, 2000.

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The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was keenly interested in the issue of overseas Indians. The oversubscription of the Resurgent India Bonds in 1998, when India was battling sanctions post-Pokhran II, showed their strong faith in an emerging India. In a post-Liberalization environment the Indian Diaspora was willing to engage back with their country of origin. India becoming an IT power hub, fast growing economy and atomic power gave the Diaspora much needed confidence. It was on display at various places – from sports field to trade conferences and international meets.

The concerns of the overseas Indians had been on the mind of the Indian leadership for long.The House of Commons in Britain was forced to investigate, as early as 1841, into the pitiable condition Indian indentured workers in Mauritius. This was within a few years of beginning of the indentured system following the abolition of slavery in British Empire (1833). Way back in 1894, the Madras session of Congress had adopted a resolution against disenfranchisement of the Indians in South African colonies. The Congress adopted similar resolutions at Poona (1895), Calcutta (1896), Madras (1898), Lahore (1900), Calcutta (1901) and Ahmedabad (1902) sessions. In those days the question of overseas Indians pertained mostly to Indians in South and Eastern Africa. It is they who had launched numerous struggles against encroachment on their rights by the local British government. The Gandhi-Smuts Agreement, 1914 signified a major victory for them.

But there were overseas Indians in South East Asia viz. Burma, Singapore, Malaya, Thailand etc. Many of them contributed towards India’s freedom movement in the 1940s by volunteering in or funding the Azad Hind Fauz of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Of particular interest could be the stories of those teenaged Tamil girls, born in rubber plantations of Malaya, who decided to shoulder guns for the independence of India, a country they had never actually seen.

The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas memorializes the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi to India on January 9, 1915. He had spent 21 years in South Africa fighting for the rights of Indian community. His technique of Passive Resistance, which he named Satyagraha, was developed in South Africa before being implemented in India. In the colonial world that Gandhi inhabited the profile, status and condition of the overseas Indians were markedly different from today. Those were the days when one could not have been starry-eyed about ‘going abroad’ and ‘settling abroad’. A bulk of those who migrated abroad went for toiling in plantations or factories under Indenture System (to Africa, West Indies, Fiji etc), Kangany System (to Sri Lanka) and Maistry System (Burma). But they deserve credit as the pioneers who reversed the religious prohibition on seafaring that had fallen upon the Hindu society in the medieval ages.

In colonial times racial discrimination was instituted as a state policy by the colonial government. But the de-colonization brought in its wake another set of problems. In Gandhi’s lifetime itself the Indians in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Burma (Myanmar) entered a critical phase with Ceylonese and Burmese population respectively wanting to get rid of them. The first two legislations passed by the D.S. Senanayake government in independent Ceylon deprived almost a million people of Indian origin of their citizenship. While Indians might have captured power in Mauritius, they have been reduced to a miniscule minority in Myanmar. Thus Indians face a new kind of racialism in those erstwhile colonies.

The age of colonialism was an age of maritime empires. Till late 1950s, steamships were the most dependable mode of inter-continental travels. In early 1960s, the air plane replaced ship as the most preferred mode for long distance travels. It reflected upon the pattern of migration in terms of reach, human resource quality and connectivity with India. Coincidentally around the same time the passage of Immigration and Nationality Act, 1965 in the USA paved path for immigration of highly skilled professionals and students. This historic piece of legislation changed the size and profile of the Indian immigrant community. From a meager 12,000 in 1960 the number of Indian immigrants has risen to 2.5 million now. Such educated and successful immigrants are providing sinews to the Indian Diaspora.

But there is another side of the coin. When during the years of ‘Socialism’ India remained trapped in poor economic growth rate, the immigrants to the West were somewhat apologetic about their Indian identity. In India also the Non Residents Indians were perceived as escapers. But faster economic growth rate post-Liberalization, India’s emergence as IT power hub and the advent of Vajpayee government etc boosted the morale of the overseas Indians. The advent of satellite television, Internet and rising tele-density in the 1990s meant overseas Indians could be in regular touch with India. It was now possible for an overseas Indian to spend time thinking the interests of his mother country. Indians, resident and overseas, could commonly exercise opinion on bolstering India’s position in the world stage. This gave rise to the concept of ‘New Global Indian’ as the title of magazine launched from Boston in 2008 by Kanchan Banerjee stated.

But overseas Indian community, in several parts, continues to face severe challenges of racism, religious fanaticism and legislative disabilities. As against popular misconception not everyone is successful. Thus it is not yet time to lower the baton raised by Gandhi in South Africa in the 1890s.

*The writer is a columnist and independent researcher based in New Delhi.

Long-term steps to boost agriculture growth

*Gargi Parsai  i2016123027.jpg

Agriculture was at the centre-stage of priority sectors for the government in 2016, upstaged only at the fag-end of the year by the demonetisation drive of the government. Significantly two consecutive droughts did not dampen the indomitable spirit of Indian farmers who, as per the fourth advance estimates for 2015-16 crop year, produced 252.22 million tonnes of foodgrains as against the output of 252.02 million tonnes last year.

There was a marginal dip in the output of rice, coarse cereals, oilseeds, pulses and cotton

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New Delhi on December 29, 2016

due to monsoon deficiency that hit kharif crops in parts of the country this year.  Although rabi wheat yield was projected to be higher at 93.5 million tonnes in 2015-16 as against 86.53 million tonnes the previous year, procurement this year was lower than the set target, Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Radha Mohan Singh said at a press conference in New Delhi on 29th December.

To augment supplies and keep prices under check, it was decided to allow wheat import at zero per cent duty on private account.

The government has assured farmers that it will procure more foodgrains for the Public Distribution System and swiftly intervene in the market to ensure that wheat growers get the minimum support price, which is set at Rs. 1625 per quintal for 2016-17 marketing season.  Needless to say, the government is closely monitoring the situation.

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In a way, the year 2016 saw digitisation of the agriculture sector in a big way with mobile apps being launched in quick succession. The Agriculture Ministry launched Kisan Suvidha for weather information, market prices and crop diseases; PUSA Agriculture that gave information about new variety of seeds and latest techniques;

Agri Market that gives news about mandi prices in a radius of 50 kms from the location of a farmer; Crop Insurance relating to all information about fasal bima; Crop Cutting Experiments for asking for crop cutting experiments. Lakhs of farmers have benefitted from downloading these apps.

This year, not only was the limit for farm sector lending by formal banking system raised to an all-time high of Rs. 900,000 crore, initiatives were taken—post-demonetisation—to encourage farmers to move towards cashless transactions and Direct Benefit Transfer of payments. If this happens it will be a big step towards easing out of middle-men/commission agents from mandi operations and a tiny measure to ensure that farmers get at least the minimum support price for the produce they bring to the market place.

Be that as it may, the year 2016 saw the government give high priority to the agriculture sector in order to address the major fundamental concerns about imbalanced use of fertilizers affecting soil health (issuance of soil health cards, neem-coated urea and organic farming)  ill-effects of climate change hitting farmers’ income (fasal bima yojna) creating an electronic-platform market for seamless trade (National Agriculture e-Market) and bringing more land under irrigated farming (PM’s Krishi Sinchai Yojna). Related sectors of pulses, oilseeds, horticulture, fishery, livestock, milk, agro-forestry, bee-keeping, agriculture education, research and extension were also given focussed attention.

Pledging the government’s commitment to doubling farmers income by 2021, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced long-term measures and raised the agriculture outlay to Rs. 39894 crore from Rs. 15809 crore in the 2015-16 budget. In the interim, the sector is set to receive additional Rs 5000 crore from the Krishi Kalyan cess in supplementary budgets.

Apart from this, a Rs. 20,000 crore corpus fund has been created in collaboration with NABARD for the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna which is dedicated to bringing water

Banner3.jpg to every field (Har Khet Ko Paani) through completion of last-mile projects and drip and micro-irrigation. An area of 76.03 lakh hectare is proposed to be brought under irrigation by 2019.

One of the ambitious programme launched during the year was the weather-based

0.64907500_1452772273_1155-548-pradhan-mantri-fasal-bima-yojana-a-boost-for-farmers-pm.jpg Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PM’s Crop Insurance Scheme) for which Rs. 5500 crore were set aside. Under the scheme there will be no cap on who can be covered and the states and central government pick up 90 per cent of the premium. In this year’s kharif, 366.64 lakh farmers were covered under the scheme in 21 states.

Marketing of their produce and to get remunerative prices is the biggest concern of farmers for which over 250 mandis in 10 states have been integrated under the e-NAM

img1.png (National Agriculture Market) portal for better price recovery and wider access. Till last week farm produce worth Rs. 7131.21 crore were transacted on this electronic platform bringing a never-before transparency in marketing.

To keep prices of pulses under check, the government set up a 2-million tonne buffer stock of pulses and augmented availability through imports as well as domestic supplies.nfsm.png At the same time, under the National Food Security Mission, the highest allocation was made for pulses and steps were taken to enhance production which had a cooling effect on prices. The production target for pulses next year is 20.75 million tonnes as against output of 16.47 million tonnes last year. Likewise, efforts were made to clear the bulk of the pending arrears of sugarcane farmers.

With effects of climate change threatening to adversely affect the farm sector, the government took a major initiative to revise the norms for compensation for damaged crop as a result of drought, floods and hail etc. Instead of 33 per cent, farmers who suffer 50 per cent crop damage shall be eligible for compensation. The outgo of funds to states under the National Disaster Relief Fund in the last two years has been Rs. 24,556 crore. Using modern technology, smart phones can be used for uploading pictures of damaged crop and drones will be used to assess damage.

The year also saw focus with renewed vigour on the second green revolution in eastern and north eastern states for meeting food security needs of a growing population. The growth of this sector is crucial to the overall economy. Expectations are that the farm growth rate this year will be higher than 1.1 per cent last year.

*Gargi Parsai—the author is an award-winning, senior journalist based in New Delhi.

Successful Test launch of AGNI V

*Dilip Ghosh  i2016122703

India successfully conducted the fourth and final experimental test of its indigenously developed Inter Continental Ballistic Missile, ICBM, Agni-V from Wheeler Island off Odisha coast on yesterday, the 26thDecember 2016.The nuclear-capable missile with its strike range of over 5,000-km was test-fired from its canister on a launcher truck.

Designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, DRDO,DRDO-Logo-for-branding.jpg the three stage solid propellant missile will now go for user trials before its induction into the tri-service Strategic Forces Command, SFC which manages India’s nuclear arsenal.  The 17.5 meter long, 50 ton missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one ton. It can be transported and swiftly launched from anywhere.

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The surface to surface Agni V missile is the most advanced among the Agni series, having new technologies incorporated with it in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine. The Circular Error Probable, CEP on board makes it one of the most accurate strategic ballistic missile of its range class in the world. This is important because a highly accurate ballistic missile increases the “kill efficiency” of the weapon. It will allow Indian weapons designers to use smaller yield nuclear warheads while increasing the lethality of the strike. In other words, Indian defence forces will be able to deploy a much larger nuclear force using less fissile material than other nuclear powers.

Incidentally, India has also started working on Agni-VI.  It will be capable of being launched from submarines as well as from land, and will have a strike-range of 8,000–10,000 km.

Agni series of missiles was conceptualized by Indian defence planners in the 1980s keeping in view India’s threat perceptions particularly from its neighbours. The two-stage Agni technology demonstrator, with a solid-fuel first stage, was first tested at the Interim Test Range in Chandipur in 1989. It was capable of carrying a conventional payload of 1,000 kg  or a nuclear warhead. This technology demonstrator evolved into the solid-fuel Agni-1 and Agni-2 missiles later. India then developed the single-stage Agni-1, which was first tested in January 2002. The 700–1250 km range Agni I missiles are rail and road mobile and powered by solid propellants. Thereafter, India developed the 2,000–2,500 km range  Agni – II missiles and 3000- 3500 km range Agni III missiles  which  were claimed to be a part of the credible deterrence against China and Pakistan. All these three missiles of Agni series have already been inducted into Indian Army.On 20 January 2014 India successfully test fired the 3,000–4,000 km Agni-IV missile. Equipped with state-of-the-art technologies that includes indigenously developed ring laser gyro and composite rocket motor, the two stage Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile, IRBM, Agni IV can take a nuclear warhead of one ton. It is now undergoing field trials before induction in the armed forces.

With thetest firing of the three stage Inter Continental Ballistic Missile, Agni V,India’s missile development program has now reached a new high. Under its range falls not only entire Pakistan but also the northern most parts of China. This would significantly add to our defence preparedness. While India being a peace loving nation which has never attacked any country, it was attacked thrice by Pakistan and once by China. The geopolitical situation in this part of the world compels India to remain prepared for any eventuality. The threat has increased in recent years because China is continuously arming Pakistan, the country which not only gives safe haven to terrorists but also gives them all logistic support. Recently, Beijing has decided to sell eight submarines to Islamabad on concessional rates and in all likelihood it will continue selling weapons to Islamabad.

One may recall what India’s Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshall Arup Raha said at a high-level Indian armed forces seminar in New Delhi in April this year. Raha said China’s growing influence in the Indian subcontinent is a major security challenge for New Delhi. He pointed to tensions along the Indian-Chinese border in the Himalayas and China’s longstanding but fast-growing ties with India’s main regional rival, Pakistan, as key concerns. He said, China has increased its economic and military ties with all the India’s neighbours. Rapid infrastructure development is taking place in the TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region). The world’s highest airfield at DaochengYading; the highest railway line from Xiniang to the TAR capital; the development of the Gwadar port in Pakistan and the Chinese economic corridor through Pakistani-held Kashmir and Pakistan; the development of roads in TAR up to the Indian border; and increasing economic and military ties with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar are all strategic moves by China to contain India.

            Therefore, India has a genuine reason for concern because so far, China is much ahead of India in military power; it has a bigger armed force, more and better nuclear warheads and is modernizing its armed forces at a much faster pace than India, especially in cyber and space.  According to the 2016 Fact Sheet issued by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China’s military budget was approximately USD 215 billion while India’s military budget was measly USD 51.3 billion, which is less than one fourth of China’s military budget.

Defence experts are of the view that with the successful test firing of Agni V, the country has sent a strong message on its strategic capabilities. As the Union Minister for Urban Development, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation, Information & Broadcasting Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu has said the successful test has propelled India’s security to the next level.

*The Author regularly writes on Science and Technology. 

 

Protection from Tsunami

*Dr. Satheesh C.Shenoi  i2016122611

Where there is a will, there will be a way. India has proven this axiom once more with aplomb.

Cut back to year December 26, 2004, the day world’s one of the most devastating disaster struck killing 2,30,000 people in 14 countries along the rim of the Indian Ocean. Massive waves swept away buildings and people as if they were just pieces of paper. The damage was worst in Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka. In India, an estimated 10,749 persons lost their life and 5,640 people were reported missing.

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The disaster led to much soul searching as it soon became clear that much of the casualty could have been avoided if only there had been an early warning system for tsunamis in the Indian Ocean region. There were two tsunami warning centres at the global level. But, they catered to the pacific region only. Nobody expected a tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

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The Tsunami was generated by an undersea earthquake about 250 km south west of the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh and it took anywhere between 15 minutes to seven hours for the fatal waves to reach the various coastlines.

The northern regions of the Indonesian island of Sumatra were hit very quickly. But, east coast of India was affected two hours later and west coast in four hours.

In other words, there was enough time to warn the people in India. Seismologists knew that a massive earthquake with a magnitude of 9.3 on the Richter scale had occurred. But, it was not known that it had generated a tsunami.

As a result, huge tsunami waves swept India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand and other countries along the Indian Ocean with no warning what so ever. In India, the coastal communities in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands were devastated.

Sea change in 12 years

Since then, the situation has undergone a sea change. Today, a  24X7 early warning system is operational.  It has a capability to issue tsunami bulletins in less than 10 minutes after any major earthquake in the Indian Ocean. This provides a response/lead time of about 10 to 20 minutes to regions nearer to the epicentre of the quake and a few hours in the case of regions further away.

The great Indian Ocean tsunami occurred on December 26, 2004 and within a year the Government approved the setting up of an early warning system after detailed brainstorming sessions with experts in the field both within and outside the country. Set up at a cost of Rs. 150 crore, the system became operational on October 15, 2007. Initially, it had a capability to issue a warning within 20 minutes. It has since then been fine tuned and first warning is now available within 10 minutes.

The Indian Tsunami Early Warning System [ITEWS] comprises of a real time network of seismic stations, tsunami buoys and tide gauges. These are linked to a state-of-art tsunami centre – Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre [ITEWC], where the data are analysed using high power computational systems. Advisories are issued automatically to the various stakeholders beginning from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Disaster Management Authority to State and district level disaster management centres for necessary follow up action.

The ITEWC is located at the Union Ministry of Earth Science’s Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services [INCOIS] in Hyderabad.

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The real time seismic monitoring network comprises of 17 broadband seismic field stations transmitting real time data through V-SAT communication to the central receiving stations located at INCOIS and the National Centre for Seismology at New Delhi simultaneously for processing and interpretation. In addition, data from around 300 global seismic stations is received at INCOIS in near real time. These data sets form the basis for determining the preliminary parameters of earthquake epicentre, focal depth and magnitude. The earthquakes are auto-located within 5-10 minutes of occurrence.

The brain of the early warning system is a state of the art decision support system at ITEWC, which has a database of all possible earthquake scenarios for the Indian Ocean.

The moment a tsunamigenic earthquake — an undersea quake with a magnitude of 6.5 and above occurs, the decision support system gets activated and rapidly goes through the database and fishes out the matching advisory.

However, as historical studies have shown clearly, not all underwater earthquakes generate tsunami. There is a need to measure changes in water level in the open ocean with a high level of accuracy in real time to confirm whether a tsunami has actually been triggered. For this, there is need for what are called tsunami buoys.

The ITEWS has a network of seven tsunami buoy systems equipped with the bottom pressure recorders that transmit real time data through satellite communication to INCOIS 24X7. The buoys are strategically placed at locations where a tsunami wave can reach in less than 30 minutes in case an earthquake occurs anywhere in Andaman-Sumatra and Makran Subduction zones.

In addition, INCOIS has established a real time network of 31 tide gauge stations along the Indian coast and receives data from 300 international real time tide gauge stations across the world. The tide gauges supplement the work of the tsunami buoys.

Generally located at the land-sea interface, tide gauges are the ones that physically detect the tsunami waves. Though they provide little advance warning to the place where they are located, they are of great importance as they provide coastal areas where the waves have not yet reached an indication of its speed and strength.

The ITEWS has a unique Standard Operating Procedure (SOP. The criteria for generation of tsunami advisories (warning/alerts/watch) for a particular region of the coast are based on the available warning time. The Indian warning criteria are based on the premise that coastal areas falling within 60 minutes travel time from a tsunamigenic earthquake source need to be warned based solely on earthquake information, since enough time will not be available for confirmation of water levels from the tsunami buoys and the tide gauges. Coastal areas falling outside the 60 minute travel time can be initially placed under a watch status and upgraded to a warning or given an all-clear message depending on the water level data.

The tsunami warning centre disseminates the advisories to the various stakeholders through multiple modes simultaneously such as email, fax, phone, GTS and SMS . The earthquake information, tsunami bulletins as well as the real time sea level observations are also made available on INCOIS website for officials, public and media.

The centre serves not only as a national facility but also as a regional tsunami advisory service provider responsible for providing tsunami advisories to all the countries in the Indian Ocean region. This responsibility was formally handed over to it by UNESCO on October 12, 2011.

ITEWC has been organizing national & international workshops, trainings and seminars to create awareness about tsunamis in general public, school children and disaster management community. To test the communications links with disaster management authorities, the centre conducts Communications test every 6 months.

ITEWC regularly conducts tsunami mock drills to test the efficiency of communication links and evaluate the readiness of the disaster management system and the local community to handle emergency situations. The latest tsunami mock drill IOWave16 was conducted on September 7-8, 2016. For the first time, around 40,000 people participated from about 350 villages from 33 Coastal Districts of 8 States/UTs.

In line with consistent improvements to the tsunami warning services, ITEWC is currently establishing a network of 35 strong motion accelerometers and GNSS receivers at Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The major objective of the exercise is to improve the capability to characterise the rupture direction and area as to enable quicker estimation of the tsunamigenenic potential of an earthquake. In addition to this, a national network of near real time seismic and GNSS stations has been established.

The new geospatial technologies such as 3D GIS  has transformed the way in which coasts can be mapped and managed, which in turn can be used for improving the accuracies of coastal inundation modelling.

INCOIS has, among other things, initiated preliminary work on cutting edge research areas such as: (i) Multi-hazard Vulnerability Mapping, (iii) Real-time tsunami inundation modelling as well as (iii) 3-D GIS. The broad scientific methodologies have been established and pilot work has been successfully completed for a few areas.

*The author is Director, ESSO-Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services [an autonomous body under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India]

 

Cultivating Rural Technology for Development

*Ratnadeep Banerji i2016122602.jpg

Simple ideas make lofty technology. Rural traditions of life and workmanship need a scientific revamp still maintaining its rural identity. The second annual event of India International Science Festival (IISF) this year towed along several such instances of profound ideas.

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Drinking water often remains contaminated with microbes and particles. Who has thought of making a earthen pot subjected to a compression that minimizes its pores that let in contamination? A simple strategy with profound effect costing barely 350 to 450 Rs! A baked clay technology for microbial filtration as well as for turbidity removal in drinking water at point-of use was on display at the Unnat Bharat Abhyan pavilion at IISF 2016.

The contaminated drinking water is filled in the frustum (upper-half of inverted cone) shaped filtering container made of baked salty clay, having micro- pores of nano size through which water percolates due to gravity. An average of 8 liters percolates in 10 hours. The percolated water filtrate remains free from contaminants of sizes larger than 10-6m to 10-9m. ‘The microbial test of E.Coli strains of MC4100 and W3110 showed 99.99% removal efficiency conforming to the required standards of drinking water set by the World Health Organization. Approximately 90% reduction in turbidity and 50% reduction of total dissolved salts and electrical conductivity is also achieved.’ asserts Prof A.K. Plappally from IIT Jodhpur. It has also been tested by National Test House, Jaipur.

This technology is the outcome of doctoral research performed by mechanical engineering students of IIT Jodhpur, Mr.Sandeep Gupta, Ms.Amrita Kaurwar and Mr. Raj Kumar Satankar under the guidance of Prof. A.K. Plappally. The research was supported by a seed grant from IIT Jodhpur. A Jodhpur based NGO called Rupayan Sansthan is enabling the technology transfer and dissemination to the individual potters by conducting small workshops.

Clay pots compatible for microwave ovens is an intriguing thing. Dr Lalithambika is a retired scientist from CSIR with expertise in Clay Science and Technology. ‘Clay has a lot of metal presence, mostly iron and lead. We use density separation and particle separation to get rid of their presence. And then the baked pot can withstand heating in a microwave oven.’ explains Dr Lalithambika about her heat-resistant pots.

“We are providing training to potters on how to apply France’s ‘decoupage’ technique to decorate finished products, mainly those in terracotta category. Customer-specific decorations can be made on clay products using the technique. ” informs Dr Lalithambika who has been working with potters for over three decades.  “We have already trained over 200 potters in Palakkad and they all feel that the value addition is beneficial. It helps them regain lost markets,” she says.

The state of Kerala has a sizeable potter population of over 650 colonies who were practicing traditional methods impinging upon efficacious production. The Department of Science and Technology of Government of India has been sponsoring the core support program of, ‘revamping of traditional pottery’. Integrated Rural Technology Centre (IRTC)timthumb.jpg under the Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) has launched a major value-addition initiative by blending traditional Kerala pottery with French aesthetics, to ensure livelihood security for potters sponsored by Khadi and Village Industries Commission of Government of India. The value-added products are helping the potters find newer markets and earn better revenue. IRTC is also sending the products to retail networks in Delhi, Mumbai, and other major cities. The Department of Science and Technology of Government of India has also been sponsoring the initiative of, ‘value-addition of terracotta materials by modernization of techniques and introduction of innovative products’ and also the initiative of, ‘decorative pottery as an income generating activity for the weaker sections of the society’.

In the hilly regions above 6000 feet in the Himalayas, domestic fuel wood consumption tantamount to 10 metric tons per household of 5 to 6 members. 70% of this fuel is used up solely for heating house space and water. Dr Lal Singh surveyed this fact in Himachal Pradesh while running his NGO called Himalayan Research Group, a core group under the Department of Science & Technology of Government of India. According to him, solar water and space heating collectively mitigates around 5 metric tons of carbon emission per household per annum. Besides, indoor pollution is cut down and there is remarkable amount of forest conservation.

‘These areas have sunny days for most of the period in a year. We went on to install 200 solar water heating panel and 100 space heating panels in Shimla, Manali and Kullu districts of Himachal Pradesh. Now installing of 160 such panels is underway in remote and tribal valley of Zanskar in Jammu & Kashmir under DST-TIME-LEARN programme’, declares Dr Lal Singh.  About the efficiency he says, ‘Solar water heating panel achieves 900 C water temperature in full sun initially in 35-45 minutes and successively in 20-25 minutes. It can provide 100-200 litres of water per day on sunny days. Space heating panel blows air maximum at 650C and improve 100-150 C temperature of living space inside house and some warmth remains far beyond sunset lasting up to 10 pm. The entire installation can be made by a local carpenter and its cost hovers around Rs. 35,000 and after subsidy it comes down to below Rs. 20,000.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Development has been goadingbcLgCznb.jpg scientific transformation through Unnat Bharat Abhiyan. Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG) is located in eight IITs and coordinated by the Office of the Principle Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Govt. of India. The National Innovation Foundation has also been giving fillip to innovative ideas at the inception level and has success stories appreciated worldwide.

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Water heating panel
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House space heating panel
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Decoupage  on earthenware
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Heat-resistant earthen pots for microwave-ovens
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Earthern pot filter named G Filter

*The writer is a senior journalist, author and a radio documentary maker.

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