Budget: Low on Hype; High on Substance
Finance Minister Mr Arun Jaitley, in his Budget for 2017-18, has put the money where the mouth is. Among different descriptions about the Rs 21.46 lakh crore Budget, the most apt came from a top global banker who said it was a piece of workmanship and business-like.
Even though, expectations were running high, the final set of numbers and development roadmap was low on hype and substantive on deliverables for farmers, rural workers, lower middle class, aspirational youth and small and medium enterprises.
Given the kind of global challenges like protectionism being resorted to by the most developed economies and the capital flight away from the emerging markets, the Finance Minister had to factor in the domestic variables while presenting the Budget which had many firsts to its credit. For one, it was presented a month in advance that would have a qualitative impact on the government expenditure and secondly, the rigidities of the plan and non-plan expenditures were given a go-bye.
Coming after demonetization and imperative of giving a big push to the rural economy, Mr Jaitley has given a combined allocation of Rs 1.87 lakh crore .to the country’s rural landscape. The flagship rural job programme , Mahatama Gandhi (MNREGS) that has been given the largest ever outlay of Rs 48,000 crore would no more be meant for ‘digging holes and pits’ but used for building quality rural assets. So much so that, all MGNREGA assets would be geo-tagged and put in public domain for greater transparency. Even space technology would be used widely to plan MGNREGA works.
Initiatives like linking farmers to E-mandis and urging more and more states to de-notify lot more farm produce from the clutches of the APMC Act would go a long way to help farmers realise better prices for their harvest.
An important question is: whether this Budget can revive the consumption demand and investment in the private sector?
As has been recognised by the Economic Survey, a brilliant document making some brilliant and honest assessments about the state of the domestic and international economy, India’s private sector is battling the crisis of balance sheets with heavy debt on their books. So, it would logically take a while before India Inc starts committing fresh money, making it imperative for the government to front-lead the investment cycle and then follow it in the second order. That’s what exactly this Budget does. Despite global headwinds, as much as 24 per cent hike has been committed in the capital expenditure for capital formation. The most prominent sector receiving the government investment is the road, raid and shipping infrastructure with a combined outlays of Rs 2.41 lakh crore. In the following order of multiplier effect, the private sector would get orders for cement, steel, rolling stocks and so on, creating jobs for the skilled and semi-skilled people and increased revenue for the promoters.
When it comes to youth, the thinking is quite clear: to create an echo system where entrepreneurship flourishes with the help of easy bank credit, fiscal sops and technology enablers. As one of the analysts put it, the corporate India should not be seen only in terms of wealth creation in the stock market for five-ten top business houses but for millions of micro, small and medium entrepreneurs. The Budget makes a big difference to this lot of people. Even as the government has made a commitment to reduce the corporate tax to 25 per cent for the entire industry, the preference has been given to the SMEs who will pay lower taxes.
With the affordable housing receiving an infrastructure status after some tweaking of the nomenclature, a big boost has been given to the sector which had received a hit after the demonetization and subdued demand. As a growth driver, it would boost employment in construction and deliver on the promise of the government to give housing for all.
If there is one area, where the Budget has delivered in sync with the expectations, it is with regard to taking India digital. It has affirmed quite assertively that the digital drive was not limited to demonetisation but would be a new normal. Host of incentives and infrastructure support has been committed for making operational Apps like BHIM, fiber optics, points of sale and merchandise platforms to link the entire eco – system digitally. Making the economy cashless is one of the ‘TEC’ pillars , enunciated in the Budget to Transform, Energise and Clean India . In fact, it would not only help India clean up internally from the menace of black money and corruption but would also create jobs and energise youth.
Connected to this theme is abolition of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board, sending a loud and clear signal to the global investors about drastically cutting the red tap and removing the discretionary powers to clear or not clear foreign direct investment projects. Then, one of the most courageous initiatives is to bring in transparency in funding of political parties through the electoral bonds and limiting the cash contributions to just about Rs 2,000. This would go a long way in winning popular support for fight against corruption.
While the Finance Minister has given direct tax giveaways of Rs. 20,000 crore, he has done it without introducing any new taxes and sticking to the financial discipline. The fiscal deficit has been kept at eminently acceptable level of 3.2 per cent of the GDP; a measure that would help the country retain confidence of the global rating agencies.
Summing up, the Budget for 2017-18 is well-grounded and would set a stage for revival of GDP growth in excess of 8 per cent in the coming year, if not in the next fiscal itself.
*Author is a senior New Delhi-based journalist writing mostly on political-economic issues.
The views expressed in the article are author’s own.
Budget focuses on measures to raise farmers’ incomes
The Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley named agriculture as one of the 10 important sectors that were the focus of his budget for 2017-18. He backed it up with announcements of crucial measures towards raising farmers’ incomes including enhancing credit availability, formulation of a Model Law on Contract Farming for linking horticulture with agro-processing and setting up of Dairy Processing and Infrastructure Development Fund for additional source of income to farmers in the dairy sector.
In a major boost to the sector, the Finance Minister raised the availability of credit for farmers to a record Rs. 10 lakh crore. “For a good crop, adequate credit should be available to farmers in time. The target for agricultural credit in 2017-18 has been fixed at a record level of Rs. 10 lakh crores. We will take special efforts to ensure adequate flow of credit to the under serviced areas, the Eastern States and Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
A new Dairy Processing and Infrastructure Fund will be set up to encourage dairying as an additional source of income for farmers. Availability of milk processing facility and other infrastructure will benefit the farmers through value addition. The fund will be under NABARD with a corpus of Rs. 8,000 crores over three years. Initially, the fund will start with a corpus of Rs. 2,000 crores. The intention is to revive and modernise a large number of milk processing units set up under the Operation Flood Programme.
Looking to the vagaries of monsoon-- when 60 per cent of Indian farming is under rain-fed conditions--Mr Jaitley set aside Rs. 9000 crore under the newly-launched Prime Minister’s Fasal Bima Yojna. This spending under this programme in the 2016-17 Revised Budget estimates was Rs 13,240 crore against an estimate of Rs. 5,500 crore, which underscores the long-felt need for such a scheme that covers farmers from the losses to their crop due to inclement weather. The sum insured under this Yojana has more than doubled from Rs. 69,000 crores in Kharif 2015 to Rs. 1,41,625 crores in Kharif 2016.
The coverage of this demand-driven programme will be increased from 30 per cent of cropped area in 2016-17 to 40 per cent in 2017-18 and 50 per cent in 2018-19. The scheme was launched from April 1, 2016 and is a shift from claim-based insurance scheme to upfront subsidy for premium-based system with minimal burden to farmers.
As an immediate relief to farmers who have been demanding loan waiver, the government granted 60 days’ interest waiver on loans availed by farmers from the cooperative credit structure. If this could be extended to loans availed from other lending institutions including banks, this could have dulled the demand for a loan waiver.
However, for seamless credit to farmers, the Finance Minister announced the government’s support to NABARD for computerisation and integration of all the 63,000 functional PACS with the Core Banking System of District Central Cooperative Banks in three years at an estimated cost of Rs.1,900 crores, with financial participation from State Governments. Primary Agriculture Credit Societies (PACS) act as the front end for loan disbursements.
The Soil Health Card project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has been operational since last year. The scheme is to enable farmers get a thorough assessment of the health of the soil following which use of calibrated application of fertilizers would enhance fertility. The programme has gathered momentum but the real benefit will accrue to the farmers only when soil samples are tested quickly and the nutrient level of the soil is known. For this the government will set up new mini labs in the 648 Krishi Vigyan Kendras and ensure 100 per cent coverage. In addition, 1000 mini labs will be set up by qualified local entrepreneurs. The government will provide credit linked subsidy to these entrepreneurs which will accelerate the programme.
Since linking every field with water supply (Har Khet Ko Pani) is a commitment of the government towards raising farm incomes, the total corpus for the Long Term Irrigation Fund under NABARD has been raised to Rs. 40,000 crore with the addition of Rs. 20,000 crore announced earlier. A dedicated Micro Irrigation Fundfor drip and sprinkler irrigation will be now also be set up in NABARD to achieve the ‘per drop more crop’ goal with an initial corpus of Rs. 5000 crore. Ninety-nine irrigation projects are targeted to be completed by 2019 under the programme and the budget allocations indicate an effort to boost this critical programme.
Over 250 markets have been connected through an electronic platform (e-NAM) under the National Agriculture Market programme which was launched last year. This is meant to enable farmers to get better prices, in a transparent manner, for their produce in the post-harvest phase. The coverage of e-NAM will be expanded to 585 APMCs. For this, the government will provide assistance up to a ceiling of Rs. 75 lakhs to every e-NAM market for establishment of cleaning, grading and packaging facilities for value addition to the farmers’ produce. Towards this end, states will be urged to undertake market reforms and de-notify perishables from the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act (APMC). This will not only give opportunity to farmers to sell their produce and get better prices but also bring transparency to the system in terms of price realisation.
Contract farming programme in the past has had a few concerns about regulations and protection to farmers from agri-processing giants. The government now wants to revive the scheme and sees in it an opportunity to integrate farmers who grow fruits and vegetables with agro-processing units for better price realization. For this it will bring a Model Law on Contract Farming which will be circulated to States for adoption.
The budget allocation to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare was more than doubled in 2016-17 to Rs. 35983.69 crore from Rs. 15296.04 in 2015-16. The allocation in the Revised Estimates was Rs. 39840.50 crore. In the 2017-18 Budget, the Ministry has an outlay of Rs. 41855 crore. Keeping inflation under check particularly the prices of pulses through “macro-management” has been a pressing need for the government last year after such a hue and cry was raised.
If the farm sector including dairying, fishery and horticulture grows by 4.1 per cent as was estimated by the Finance Minister, it will be a big boost to the overall economy. Farm sector share to the GDP is around 15 per cent.
Last year the government made a road map for doubling farmers’ incomes in five years with programmes like Fasal Bima Yojna, Soil Health Cards, e-market and Prime Minister’s Krishi Sinchai Yojna. In this year’s budget an attempt has been made to plug loopholes in these programmes and consolidate them with adequate budgetary provisions.
Affordable Health Care
Health sector policy making is extremely challenging and complex. The backdrop for policy formulation are low public spending and high out of pocket expenditures. The out of pocket expenditure on health care as a proportion of total household monthly per capita expenditure was 6.9 percent in rural areas and 5.5 percent in urban areas. Depsite India providing free care in public hospitals for maternity, new born and infant care, the burden of out of pocket expenditures remains quite high. The major policy direction is to enhance public health expenditure to 2.5% of GDP (from the present low level of ~1%) in 5 years.
The 2017 Union Budget estimates for health show an appreciable increase of more than 27%, from Rs. 37061.55 cr in 2016-17, the budget estimate for 2017-18 has been increased to Rs. 47352.51 cr. Further the Government has prepared an action plan to eliminate Kala-Azar and Filariasis by 2017; to eliminate Leprosy by 2018, Measles by 2020 and to eliminate Tuberculosis by 2025.
The sustainable development goals envisage that the global maternal mortality ratio will be reduced to 70 per 100,000 live births. From a baseline of 560 in 1990, the Nation has achieved an MMR of 167 in 2011. From a baseline of 126 in 1990, the Nation has achieved an U5MR of 39 in 2014. In the run up to the 2017 Union Budget, Government has formulated an action plan to reduce IMR from 39 in 2014 to 28 by 2019, and MMR 167 in 2011 to 100 by 2020. The challenges remain in the six large States of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh which account for 42 percent of national population and 56 percent of annual population increase.
India has developed a vast organization for public health care delivery and Primary care services. Infrastructure and Human Resource Development in Primary and Secondary Care Hospitals has been a key priority area. The 2017 Union Budget seeks to upgrade 1.5 lakh health sub-centres to health wellness centers and introduce a nationwide scheme for pregnant women under which Rs. 6000/- for each case will be transferred. These steps represent significant additions to the ongoing schemes for provision of free dugs, free diagnostics and free emergency care services and free transport system for the people. A well-functioning primary health system reduces the burden on high cost secondary/ tertiary care facilities and the 2017 Union Budget takes substantial steps in this direction.
AIIMS is a national and global brand - built on more than six decades of evolution and performance of our Institute. It is the bench mark for other centres of excellence in healthcare and academics, and a fountainhead of best practices in education, research and clinical standards. The unique status of AIIMSs has been reinforced in the 2017 Union Budget by significant infusion of financial resources for major expansion.India’s Apex Medical Sciences University has enabled us to address one of the great weaknesses of Indian society - the iniquitous utilization of modern health services. High out of pocket expenses on chronic conditions can push millions of people below the poverty line.
The Government has placed a lot of emphasis on creation of several AIIMS like Institutions across India. The 2017 Union Budget has proposed establishment of 2 new AIIMS in Jharkhand and Gujarat. This would provide a huge boost to tertiary care services in public sector. Additional resource allocations for primary, secondary and tertiary care sectors lays down a roadmap for India’s path to achievement of sustainable development goals. The replication of AIIMS is quite complex because of the high-end clinical services that it encompasses. It has been a challenge to get competent faculty especially at the senior level and to retain it. Infrastructure delays have affected the utilization.
Human resources represent a vital component of India’s health care. The 2017 Union Budget seeks to create 5000 Post Graduate seats per annum to ensure adequate availability of specialist doctors to strengthen secondary and tertiary levels of healthcare. The Union Government has indicated its commitment to take necessary steps for structural transformation of the Regulatory framework of Medical Education and Practice in India. The increased availability of PG seats along with a centralized entrance exam represent major steps in reform of medical education in the country. The expansion of postgraduate medical education is a priority as the shortage of PG medical seats in the country affects not only the availability of specialist doctors but also the ease of getting faculty for medical colleges.
The collaboration between Medical Colleges and Medical Research is being firmly established. India has 32 publically funded Department of Health Research institutions. The emphasis is on evidence for policy, medical product innovation and basic research; operations research; drug discovery; frugal innovation; antimicrobial resistance; partnerships for research; and creation of databases.
The Health for All policy that the Nation had envisaged in the mid 1970s, continues be relevant to this day.
Game changer budget for real estate & housing
Though devoid of any big bang announcements and not pandering to populism, this year's budget is fairly balanced, positive and progressive budget that aims to revive the fledgling real estate and housing sector and put it firmly on the path of sustained growth.
In line with Modi government's reformist approach to boost the real estate and housing sectors that hold key to the GDP growth, the budget has provided a big push to these sectors through a number of initiatives, especially focused on affordable and low-cost housing with a view to meet the objective of 'Housing for All' programme. Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana,(PMAY)is the biggest beneficiary of budget allocation with 39 percent hike in allocation totaling Rs 29000 crore. Keeping in view government's pro- poor approach, the hike for rural housing is even more steep at 44 percent. Under PMAY, there is a target to build 2 crore urban and 1 crore rural houses and in order to meet this target, the budget has made an allocation of Rs 23000 crore which is 8000 crore higher than last year. The provision of additional refinance of Rs 20000 crore has been made to National Housing Bank, in order to boost the housing stock.
The biggest game changing initiative on the housing front in this budget is to provide infrastructure status to affordable housing. Rightly so, as the highest shortage of housing is in affordable and low cost category. Moreover, the government realizes it well that the ongoing recession in real estate, particularly in residential real estate, has a lot to do with liquidity crunch being faced by the sector. The government's initiative to recognise affordable housing at par with infrastructure, will open gates for cheaper domestic and international finance. The abolition of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) will not only promote ease of doing business but also streamline and boost FDI inflows which touched 1.45 lakh crore mark in the first of half of FY 2016-17, in contrast to Rs 1.07 lakh crore in 2015-16. All this will boost the supply of housing. And since infrastructure plays a big role in providing a fillip to real estate and the overall economy, the budget has made a record provision of Rs 3.96 lakh crore for infrastructure- 25 percent more than the last year, with budgetary support for highways hiked to Rs 64000 crore.
The 2017-18 budget can also be dubbed as a landmark budget from the point of view of property consumers. The budget taxes the affluent and rewards the honest tax payers by way of big personal income tax relief for the lower middle class by halving the tax on yearly income of 2.5- 5 lakh, besides raising IT limit to 3 lakh. Moreover, budget provisions discourage speculative buying by High Net-worth Individuals and on the contrary encourage genuine end- user buying of affordable homes. And for that under PMAY, the government has already announced interest subvention of 4 percent on home loan up to 9 lakh and 3 percent on home loan of up to 12 lakh. The loan tenure under CLSS (Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme) has also been extended from 15- 20 years. Further, to bring more people under affordable housing scheme, the government, in this budget, has changed the eligibility criteria of home size (30sq mts or 300 sq ft- 60 sq mts or 600 sq ft) from built up area to carpet area. Now, effectively homes with sizes up to about 800 sqft, will fall under the affordable housing category. The government has also provided tax relief on home sales by bringing down the capital gains on sale of property, by changing the base year from 1981 to 2001 and increasing the fair value of assets. It has given further relief by bringing down the holding period for long-term capital gains from 3 years to 2 years by changing the base year.
By giving big boost to real estate, housing and infrastructure which are big job creators, the government has tried to negate the criticism that it is following the course of job- led growth. While the tax bonanza for small firms, is aimed at creating jobs, proposal to enhance MNREGA allocation to record Rs 48000 crore will provide greater rural employment. Further, the 38 percent increase in allocation for skill development to Rs 3000 crore, is meant to give a boost to Centre's ambitious plan of creating 10 crore jobs by 2022.
The entire focus of the budget is in line with government's policy of enhancing affordability. It may be mentioned that during UPA government, the home prices had shot up to an extent that these were beyond the reach of ordinary people. But ever since the NDA government came to power, it focused on checking artificial inflation of property prices and making homes affordable to masses. Together with an attempt to bring down home prices, the government is also making efforts to make available cheaper home loans for home buyers. The budget has several provisions to improve liquidity of banks. There are tax breaks and incentives for home loan. Also the push to digitization, and ban on cash transactions above 3 lakh, will help give a fillip to low cost bank deposits, thereby bringing down cost of funds. In fact, all the pro- housing policy measures will help reduce demand- supply gap, which in turn will make homes more affordable.
Though this budget scores on macro economic stability, yet it falls short of providing any immediate impetus to consumer spending to kick start private investment cycle. Though the budget institutionalizes the dispute resolution mechanism for infrastructure to help speed up projects, yet the critical issue of single window clearances has not been addressed. However, on the whole, the budget has lived up to the hopes of industry while reiterating Modi government's commitment to reform real estate to make it more affordable for the masses while at the same time develop it as an attractive asset class for investors.
Steel Industry: Unshackling the Barriers to Growth
*Chaudhary Birender Singh
It has been over half a year now when I took charge of the Steel Ministry, from a worthy predecessor. My experience in this Ministry as also in the previous charge, has reaffirmed my view that our Government under the visionary leadership of Shri Narendra Modi is a cohesive, collaborative and progressive team. His single-minded goal of making 21st century, the century of India and to bring back the golden era of India is keeping all of us focussed and committed to this unified mission.
Each Ministry is dependent on other Ministries and departments for various purposes, and when all the ministries work as a team, the ultimate beneficiary is India and all Indians.
Let me elaborate this point using the example of Ministry of Steel. The process of steel making starts with raw materials like coal, iron ore, nickel, manganese etc. Raw materials constitute a significant portion in production cost of steel. Our government brought in landmark reforms in Mining sector, which have removed a major bottleneck for raw material securitization. There were some issues related to duties and taxes on raw materials, for which we had detailed discussions with concerned Ministries and we are on course to resolve the issues to pave way for rapid growth of steel industry.
Railways have also agreed to our proposal to allow slurry lines crossing the railway tracks for bringing down cost and time of transportation of raw materials.
Ministry of Steel also took up the issues of tariff and non-tariff support measures for steel products which resulted in imposition of Minimum Import Price, Anti-dumping duties, Safeguard duties and adjustment in rates for movement of freight over a period of time. These steps have ensured a level playing field for Indian steel industry to grow and compete on equal terms with international steel companies. Moreover, India is on way to become net exporter of steel in the current financial year as a result of policy initiatives.
Issues related to Environmental clearances to projects were taken up and the results have been encouraging. There might be a few cases pending here and there for want of documentation at Centre and State level, which are being pursued, but the pendency has been brought down substantially.
All these decisions are enabling the steel industry to unshackle the barriers to growth and spread its wings to fly high and soon India will become the second largest steel producer in the world.
Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation the modernized and expanded facilities at two integrated steel plants of SAIL at Rourkela and Burnpur in 2015, thus taking India closer to its goal of being the 2nd largest steel producer. It has been under our Government only that India left behind USA to become the 3nd largest steel producer in the world.
MSTC, a PSU under Ministry of Steel signed a Joint Venture for setting up India’s first large-scale Auto-shredding Plant. Taking this idea forward, I have asked the Ministry to explore the possibility of setting up two scrap-based steel plants, one each in Northern and Western India. These are all included in “Indian Made Steel” strategy that we are adopting to give concrete shape to “Make in India” initiatives in steel industry. In Defence, Shipbuilding and other manufacturing sectors, the “Make in India” initiative is expected to witness significant investment, which will stimulate steel demand. The vision of Hon’ble Prime Minister has strengthened our resolve to work on innovative ways and out-of-the-box strategies to promote manufacturing in India.
This will help us move towards making cleaner, efficient and high quality steel closer to user markets and even in states with scarce natural resources. A couple of months back, MSTC also launched MSTC Metal Mandi, a Digital India initiative to provide an electronic platform for buyers and sellers of BIS steel.
It has been my endeavour that there should be a strict Quality regime in Indian steel industry for health and safety of the steel consumers, whether it be stainless steel, construction grade steel or other steel products. We have brought certain products under Quality Control Order and are gradually expanding the scope by bringing in more and more products under BIS certification.
Ministry of Steel is working on creating capacities for making special grade steels like electrical and auto-grade, with the objective of self-sufficiency and import substitution. I am of the firm view that Research and Development is a key growth driver for steel industry and we are pulling out all stops to promote R&D for market-driven growth. Steel companies have been asked to aim for attaining national and international benchmarks of performance and profitability. These decisions will make our Steel companies internationally competitive and capable of exporting high quality, value-added products from India.
In January 2017, we have released the Draft “National Steel Policy 2017” and have sought feedback and comments from different stakeholders. It aims at increasing per capita steel consumption in India to 160 kilogram and India’s steel production capacity to 300 million tonnes by 2030-31.
We need to also have a strategy for increasing steel demand for which support from Ministries influencing usage of steel is essential. I am glad to share that the support from Ministries has been forthcoming as per our expectations ---
whether it be Ministry of Rural Development mandating use of steel in rural houses, Ministry of Urban Development in promotion of steel usage in constructions, Ministry of Railways agreeing to examine options for increasing steel use and Ministry of Road Transport & Highways looking into using steel in road bridges, highways etc in response to our proposals.
Ministry of Steel is also approaching the concerned departments for promoting use of steel-intensive bridges / bailey bridges and steel crash barriers alongside roads. We have been in talks with different State Governments in hilly states, to discuss ways and means to minimize fatalities in accidents by use of crash barriers alongside roads.
Detailed technical studies are underway to arrive at optimal specifications of crash barriers depending on state-specific factors like topography and geography. Steel can also be used in place of conventional RCC bridges and concrete barriers respectively, to take advantages of lower cost, quicker installation and longer life span.
We have suggested that Indian Railways can enhance steel usage in making railway stations, foot over bridges, rail coaches, construction of steel based railway colony buildings, especially in seismic zones, construction of dedicated freight corridors & superfast rail corridors, thereby saving time & CAPEX.
MyGov platform has been helpful in crowdsourcing ideas for increasing consumption of steel, some of which are indeed innovative and actionable. We are working on these ideas.
We are working on short term plans and targets on half-yearly, yearly and 3-year basis for faster monitoring and implementation.
All these efforts are yielding rich dividends in the form of India leading the growth trend in production and consumption of steel in major steel producing countries of the world. Last year, Mr. Edwin Basson, Director-general of the World Steel Association (WSA) stated that there was really only one location that had the long-term potential to pull the global steel market out of its current slump, and that was India.
To sum up, behind the success of all the initiatives, strategies, decisions and proposals of Ministry of Steel, one major contributing factor has been the continuous support from the partner Ministries. So these bonds of steel are underlying all Inter-Ministerial deliberations and outcomes. Let me go one step further and assert that Ministry of Steel is only a case in point, and I can say with confidence that this camaraderie, this partnership and this understanding is the hallmark of each Ministry under the Narendra Modi Government.
Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana: A Perspective
Every year more than 13 million Indians enter the working age. The country has an annual training capacity of 3 million on adding up all the training and educational capacities in ITI s, polytechnics, graduate colleges, professional colleges etc. It takes 1 year to 4 years to create an educated/ skilled Indian. Therefore even if a rapid capacity building spree is undertaken, this gap of more than 10 million is very difficult to bridge as the long gestation periods for training make the pace of skilling slower than the pace at which new Indians are entering the working age. Addressing this issue is critical to realizing the demographic dividend potential of India.
It is in the above context that Government of India created a separate Ministry for Skill Development & Entrepreneurship which launched the flagship skill development scheme by the name of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) to provide fresh impetus to competency based skill development in India. The objective of this skill certification and reward scheme is to enable and mobilize a large number of Indian youth to take up outcome based skill training, become employable and earn their livelihood. This scheme would also addresses lack of industry driven competency based training institutions and hence address some of the market failures pertaining to competency based training.
The Scheme was launched on 15 July, 2015, on the occasion of World Youth Skills Day by Honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE). The first year (2015-2016) of the scheme was utilized in setting the right foundations to further scale up the scheme. Since then this scheme has been a major source of skilled manpower to the employers especially the informal sector.
Employment and unemployment surveys (EUS) conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation for 2011-12 estimated employment in the informal component to be about 75 per cent of total usual status employment (principal and subsidiary) in the rural areas and 69 per cent in urban areas. The figures for informal employment are likely to be even larger because enterprises identified as “employer’s households”, which account for employment like the provision of domestic services, are excluded from the definition of the informal sector.
PMKVY has a crucial role to improve productivity in the informal sector through creation of a pool of industry and National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) aligned skilled workforce. PMKVY (2016-2020) requires that at least 70% successfully assessed trainees are provided with wage employment. The scheme provides incentives to Training Providers for successfully attaining the required placement norms. Being a flagship skill development scheme, providing a significantly large pool of skilled manpower trained on industry aligned NSQF standards to informal sector for improved productivity is a key impact of this scheme.
There are significant number of job roles in the PMKVY training ecosystem which readily lend themselves to creation of microenterprises. Select examples of such job roles for which training is undertaken in PMKVY include Self-employed tailor, Hand embroider, Small poultry farmer, E-rickshaw driver and service technician, Carpenter, Stitching operator (partially in traditional clusters across the country), etc. This is resulting a creation of new microenterprises by skilled and competent PMKVY trainees. Recent mobile app based market aggregators like Urban Clap, Housejoy, etc have provided a further fillip to the available self-employment avenues in select trades.
As part of the state component of the scheme, state skill development missions are encouraged to undertake traditional apprenticeship training in artisan and handicraft clusters of the concerned states. Creating a pool of next generation skilled craftsmen is extremely critical to preservation of traditional art and craft heritage of the country. Select pilots like training on Chikankari, Handmade sports goods, etc have already been approved under the PMKVY scheme
The Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) component of PMKVY is primarily focussed on assessing and certifying the skills of informal sector workers. Evaluation of trade learned skills and certification through assessment helps the trainees through increased mobility options to the formal sector employment. In certain cases, it has been observed that RPL certification has helped workers negotiate better wages and open possibilities for some vertical progression in their careers. In almost all cases, trainees have displayed enhanced self-confidence and pride through attainment of skill certificates.
While the first year of the scheme provided an opportunity to firm up the foundations of the program, it also threw up quite a few lessons. Thus, when the Union Cabinet approved the Scheme for another four years (2016-2020) to impart skilling to 1 crore youth of the country with an outlay of Rs.12,000 crores, it was felt that this scheme extension should be based on three key pillars:
1. Standardization of training infrastructure and developing clear quality benchmarks for training centres
2. Relentless focus on placements as a measure of final outcome
3. Promotion of transparency through an objective and process based decision making framework
Basis the above three principal pillars, a slew of reforms measures were implemented for PMKVY (2016-2020):
1. Accreditation and affiliation of training centres
A new process of training centre accreditation and affiliation shifts the focus from training providers to training centres. Sector Skill Councils have developed detailed infrastructure guidelines basis which an inspections are undertaken. The accreditation decision is based on the training centre rating and grading methodology. The concerned Sector Skill Councils provide affiliation to a training centre for the approved job roles. This process extensively leverages technology through inspection and self-reporting apps providing for geo-stamped and time-stamped pictures. A dedicated online portal (smartnsdc.org) has been developed to support this process.
2. Standardization of course content
Sector Skill Councils have published model content curriculum for trainings prescribed under PMKVY (2016-2020) thereby ensuring standardized quality of text books. A standardized induction kit is also provided to all trainees at the commencement of the training.
3. Mandatory Training of Trainers
Trainers have to mandatorily undergo the ‘Train the Trainer’ program of the concerned Sector Skill Councils.
4. Unique enrolments and Aadhaar based attendance system
Aadhaar ID of all trainees are validated at the time of batch creation which prevents bogus enrolments. Further, at this stage a duplication check is also carried out to weed out candidates who may have earlier received similar training in the NSDC ecosystem. Attendance through Aadhaar Enabled Biometric Attendance System (AEBAS) is mandatory under PMKVY. Training Providers in select states of North East and J&K, where Aadhaar penetration is low, are required to capture attendance through a biometric device.
5. Mobile application for assessments
A new mobile app for evidence based assessments is under development.
It is envisaged that the above interventions would lead to better training outcomes which will ultimately reflect in the quantum and quality of placements. 70% wage employment post training has been made mandatory under the scheme and the training providers have been incentivised accordingly.
PMKVY has taken some big strides in providing competency based training on a massive scale and prescribed quality. It is successfully pushing the frontiers of attitude, knowledge and skill of Indian workforce especially those employed in the informal sector. Going forward, the current focus of the scheme on entry level job roles will be expanded to include appropriate interventions along the entire occupational path of focus trades. Properly designed upskilling and reskilling initiatives will have to be suitably incorporated in the scheme. This has become especially critical in the context of anticipated disruptions due to Industry 4.0. Hence, this scheme will evolve to include perhaps longer duration trainings on cutting edge skills for some higher learner segments like graduates. Over time, the scheme should provide a comprehensive and holistic workforce training interventions by catering to current and anticipated future employment ecosystem.
Aditya ferry: Viakom’s new Satyagraha for clean energy
Vaikom, the land of Satyagraha is situated in the northwest of Kottayam district in Kerala created history again on 12th January 2017. The first solar-powered ferry in India named as Aditya started service between Vaikom and Thavanakkadavu, connecting Kottayam and Alappuzha districts. This Solar powered boat was built with the financial aid in the form of subsidy from the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy by the Kerala State Water Transport Department. The solar powered boat can perform journey for 5-6 hours on normal sunny days and the project is really a boon for the state like Kerala which uses the water transport effectively throughout the state.
During early 20th Century (between 1925 – 1930), Vaikom was in limelight for being the venue of Satyagraha aimed at securing free movement for all sections of the society through the public roads leading to Vaikom Temple. It was a great social revolution in Kerala History. The Vaikom boat jetty, which was used by the father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi to reach Vaikom for the Satyagraha on 9th March 1925, recently witnessed the inauguration of India’s first solar powered ferry by Chief Minister of Kerala, Shri Pinarayi Vijayan and Shri. Piyush Goyal, MoS (IC) for Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy. The successful launching of pollution free solar powered ferry is a land mark occasion in India’s journey towards the use of solar energy. It also showcases our efforts to create a better planet by relaying on clean energy.
Aditya is also the largest solar-powered boat in India with 75 seats capacity. This vessel was designed by Kerala based engineer Sandith Thandasherry, who is also the Managing Director of a private firm involved in solar energy field. The core technology and expertise for design and development of the boat was provided by a French firm. The ferry was built at Thavanakkadavu unit of Navgathi Marine Design and Constructions, based in Kochi, India.
The Ferry is 20 Meter long and 3.7 Meter height with a 7 Meter beam. Another significant feature is that the ferry is manufactured out of fiber glass instead of wood or steal. 78 Solar panels are fixed on the roof of the boat and it produces solar power and the electricity produced from the solar panel connected with two electric motors of 20kW, one in each hull. The boat have also fixed with 700 kg of lithium-ion batteries in the two hulls which can store a total capacity of 50 kWh. The design of the hull shaped in such a way which keeps the boat reach speeds up to 7.5 knots/hr. This was verified by the Technical committee of Govt. of India, Register of Shipping surveyor and Kerala Port surveyor. The normal operating speed is 5.5 knots (10 km/h) to cover a 15 minutes travel time between Vaikom and Thavanakkadavu, a distance of 2.5 km on water. For achieving this speed, about 16 kW power is needed.
Another major feature is that it cruises with minimal vibration compared to normal diesel ferries. It works out to be a cheaper option too. The ferry also maintains safety standards as per the norms stipulated by the Department of Shipping, Govt. of India and is very safe for operating anywhere in Kerala. This assumes significance as the state is moving to more water oriented transport system. Compared to a conventional boat powered by diesel with same functional features and safety standards which costs Rs. 1.58 crore, the solar ferry costs Rs. 2.53 crore. An ordinary boat, made of steel and with a carrying capacity of 75 passengers, may cost around Rs.1.9 crore. An efficient conventional boat consumes 120 litres oil per day (12 litres per hour), or 3,500 litres per month and 42,000 litres per year of diesel. This amounts to Rs. 26.55 Lakhs for diesel (@ Rs. 63.32/litre) and total operating costs including lube oil and other maintenance costs amounts to Rs. 30.37 Lakhs per year. While the operating cost of solar ferry is 40 units of electricity or Rs. 422.13 per day which amounts to 12,596 per month and 1.5 Lakhs per year. Solar powered ferries make no noise or cause any pollution, unlike the diesel powered ones.
Conventional ferries releases huge amount of CO2 into the atmosphere which has always posed a threat to ecosystem. Also the oil spill is harmful to aquatic ecosystem and to the water body. But solar ferry boats neither create pollution in atmosphere nor aquatic environment.
Inland water transportation is considered as the most efficient, economic and environment friendly means of transportation in Kerala. Inland water navigation system is the integral part of transportation in Kerala and is the cheapest means of transports. 41 out of 44 rivers in Kerala, several back waters, canals and lakes offer a good network of waterways within the state for traveling and transporting of goods. The backwaters of Kerala such as Ashtamudy and Vembanadu Lake provide a good means of inland navigation for journey and tourism sector.
The Government of India under the leadership of Prime Minister, Sri. Narendra Modi is very supportive of this green project. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has also agreed to sponsor the project considering the importance of the Green energy project which is a first of its kind in India. The benefit of sponsorship would mean that Kerala State Water Transport Department would get the boat almost free of cost from Govt. of India. At present Kerala State Water Transport Department has 49 boats which are made up of wood and steel. To reduce the operational cost of this wooden boat, department is recently exploring the possibility of manufacturing it out of steel and at a later stage by fiber glass. After the introduction of the first solar power boat, Kerala State Water Transport Department is in line of paradigm shift to deploy many more solar boats to meet the transport requirements of the state .
Kaziranga National Park
Protection Measures considerably increase population of one-horned rhino
*Dr. Satyendra Singh
The Kaziranga National Park is one of the oldest wildlife conservancy reserves of India, first notified in 1905 and constituted as Reserved Forest in 1908 with an area of 228.825 Sq. Km specially established for conservation and protection of the Greater One Horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros Unicornis) whose number was estimated at twenty pairs then. Kaziranga was declared a Game Sanctuary in 1916 and opened to visitors in 1938. It was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1950, and notified as Kaziranga National Park in 1974 under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, with an area of 429.93 Sq. Km. which has now extended to 899 Sq. Km. subsequently.
Kaziranga National is famous for the Big Five namely the Rhinoceros (2,401 nos), Tiger (116 nos), Elephant (1,165 nos), Asiatic Wild Buffalo and the Eastern Swamp Deer (1,148 nos). It houses the largest population of One Horned Rhinoceros in the world and has about 68% of the entire world population of One-horned Rhinoceros. It also has one of the highest densities of tigers in the wild in the world. It also houses almost entire population of the Eastern Swamp Deer. Besides these big five, Kaziranga supports immense floral and faunal biodiversity. The Kaziranga National Park has on its North the river Brahmaputra, entire stretch of which from Golaghat district boundary on the east to the Kaliabhomora bridge on Brahmaputra in the west. On one hand the annual flood waters of the river bring nourishment, leading to a very high productive biomass, but on the other hand, the phenomenon of erosion takes away lot of valuable and prime habitat.
The Kaziranga National Park has in its vicinity several notified forests and protected areas namely Panbari Reserve Forest and Deopahar Proposed Reserve Forest in Golaghat District, Kukurakata Hill Reserve Forest, Bagser Reserve Forest, Kamakhya Hill Reserve Forest and Deosur Hill Proposed Reserve Forest in Nagaon District, Bhumuraguri Reserve Forest in Sonitpur District, North Karbi Anglong Wildlife Sanctuary in Karbi Anglong district; all these areas are of great ecological importance to the Kaziranga National Park.
Poaching of Rhinoceros in Kaziranga has always been a menace since a long time. But, due to excellent protection measures taken by the Park officials in coordination with local people, there was considerable increase in the population of rhino from a few dozens to the present population of 2401 Rhino. The spurt in rhino poaching in Assam in Kaziranga may be attributed to various factors such as astronomical increase in price of the rhino horns in international market in the last few years, easy escape route via Dimapur-Moreh, availability of illegal fire arms in the region, involvement of various insurgent groups in the rhino poaching and trade, highly porous boundary of the Park etc.
The Kaziranga National Park is an important tourist destination of north eastern region of the country. During the year 2015-16, a total of 1,62,799 tourist, including 11,417 foreign tourists, visited the National Park and Rs. 4.19 crore revenue was earned from entry fees.
Anti poaching Interventions:
Park authorities have taken all efforts to contain poaching within the available means by rigorous patrolling and extensive field duties. Despite all odds such as lack of infrastructure, equipment, shortage of staff, a very porous border all along, a very hostile terrain, every attempt has been made to contain poaching. Following major initiatives have been taken by Government:
v The Kaziranga National park was declared a Tiger Reserve in the year 2007 and since then it is getting sufficient financial support under “CSS Project Tiger” which is under the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Govt. of India. During the year 2016-17, the Authority sanctioned Rs. 1662.144 lakh (Central share- Rs. 1495.03 lakh).
v An electronic surveillance system, called the Electronic Eye has been installed in Kaziranga from the fund provided by the NTCA under “Project Tiger”. Under the scheme, seven tall towers have been erected at different locations, fitted with visual and thermal imaging cameras with 24x7 real time video access from the control room.
v The State Government of Assam has brought about policy and legislative changes, bringing Wildlife (Protection) (Assam Amendment) Act, 2009 for strict enforcement in handling wildlife crime including poaching of Rhinos. The penalty for the offence committed under Wildlife (Protection) Act has been raised to minimum seven years and fine not less than fifty thousand rupees.
v In the year 2010 the Government conferred the power to use arms by forest officials and immunity to forest staff in use of fire-arms under Section 197 (2) of the CrPC, 1973.
v Additional support for control of poaching in Kaziranga National Park has been provided by placing 423 numbers of the Assam Forest Protection Force personnel and 125 home guards. Process is on to acquire more sophisticated arms for the frontline staff.
v Kaziranga Biodiversity and Development Committee was constituted with members from other concerned departments of the State Government and technical experts to examine the infrastructural development in holistic manner for better conservation in the fringe area of the Kaziranga National Park.
National Deworming Day
World's Largest Deworming Programme
*Dr. Vandana Jatav
India is observing its third National Deworming Day today. It is the world’s largest deworming programme covering 340 million children under-19 years of age across 36 states/ UTs. The deworming programme is India’s commitment to a comprehensive national response to the public health threat posed by worms.
India carries the highest burden of worm infestation and 64 per cent of Indian population less than 14 years of age are at risk of Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) or worms’ infestation (WHO). Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) interfere with nutrients uptake in children; can lead to anaemia, malnourishment and impaired mental and physical development. The situation of undernutrition and anaemia which is linked to STH ranges from 40 per cent to 70 per cent in different population groups across the country (WHO). They also pose a serious threat to children’s education and productivity later in life.
Assessing the problem:
To assess the exact burden of STH or worms in India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has appointed National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as a nodal agency to conduct nationwide STH mapping. NCDC in partnership with other agencies has done STH mapping across the country. The data show varied prevalence range from 85% in Tamil Nadu to 12.5 % in Madhya Pradesh during 2015. The brief State wise detail of prevalence is as follows:-
> 50% (14 States-High Prevalence)
Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, J&K, Lakhsadweep, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, UP and Uttarakhand
20% - 50 % (19 States-Moderate Prevalence)
A&N , Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, West Bengal and Tripura
< 20% (2 States-Low Prevalence)
Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan
In 2015, the MoHFW created a technical expert group to advice on frequency of deworming based on the STH prevalence data. The expert group suggested implementing bi-annual round of deworming in the States where prevalence of STH infection is more than 20% and annual round in other (less than 20% prevalence) states. Only two States namely Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have reported less than 20% prevalence and recommended for annual round. All the remaining States/UTs will implement bi-annual round of deworming.
National deworming programme
To combat STH infections, government has adopted a single day strategy called NATIONAL DEWORMING DAY (NDD). The programme is being implemented through the combined efforts of Department of School Education and Literacy under Ministry of Human Resource and Development, Ministry of Women and Child Development and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
During NDD single dose of Albendazole is administered to children from under 1 to 19 years of age group through the platforms of schools and aanganwadi centers. Albendazole is an extremely safe drug that has been used for decades by millions of people around the world and in India, with no or minimal side effects. Side effects such as nausea and vomiting can manifest in the children with high worm load.
To manage adverse events, Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC) is supporting and assisting in monitoring through the robust system of Pharmacovigilance Programme of India (PvPI) which has established 210 Adverse Drug Reaction Monitoring Centres (AMCs) across the country.
The first round of NDD was observed in February 2015. The brief snapshot of previous rounds is as follows:
Target (in crores)
Covered (in crores)
Building on this success, the target for February 2017 is 34 crore children under 1 to 19 years of age group. The following new initiatives have been taken for this round:
1. 7.8 crore children are targeted in private schools across the country for the first time.
2. 4.3 crore out of school children will be covered through aanganwadi workers and ASHAs.
3. MOHFW has developed NDD app for quick and better data collection.
Community mobilisation and awareness
For Community Mobilisation and Awareness, the Child Health Division has provided a package of updated materials and guidelines on its usage for different levels of the cascade to the States/UTs. (Soft copy uploaded on the website (http://www.nrhm.gov.in/). This contains NDD operational and financial guidelines; NDD brief note; NDD training toolkit; NDD IEC toolkit; letters; timelines; reporting forms; monitoring forms etc.
In order to monitor and supervise the implementation of NDD program at the field level, National monitors have been deputed for the States/UTs. They will visit the States on the date of implementation of NDD.
National deworming DAY is a commendable step that will go a long way in ensuring healthy India. On India’s glorious record sheet of eradicating Polio, Guinea worm, Small pox, Maternal and neonatal tetanus, this may become yet another entry. Together as a nation we have an obligation to put sunshine into the lives of our little ones. They deserve all that life can offer. This can be best expressed in these words:
“ghar se masjid hai bahut duur chalo yuuñ kar leñ
kisī rote hue bachche ko hañsāyā jaa.e”
Radio is You
When Neil Diamond crooned “reaching out, touching me, touching you” in that iconic song Sweet Caroline, he could as well be singing about radio. Radio, which reaches out across seemingly insurmountable geographical divides, touches countless lives and yet remains in the background. Like a good friend who never pries but steps in on a bad day with alacrity as the world has witnessed again and again when natural disasters strike. When all new fangled media fail in the face of Nature’s fury, radio is that saviour that connects people, connects lives and connects hope.
It was to honour this radio that the United Nations proclaimed 13 February as World Radio Day in 2011, with the vision of celebrating how it helps shape our lives.
To quote from the UNESCO website, “By listening to its audiences and responding to their needs, radio provides the diversity of views and voices needed to address the challenges we all face.”
This is most relevant for the developing societies which are clearly disadvantaged by their lack of access to the latest information technologies. The switch to the global information super highway would give an unfair advantage to rich nations over the poor, feels the Third World which continues to root for radio. Radio broadcasting crosses the barriers of isolation and illiteracy and it is the cheapest electronic medium to broadcast and receive.
Though World Radio Day is only a 6-year-old, radio itself is a Long Playing story with India getting into the groove in 1927 with the setting up of the first station of the Indian Broadcasting Company in Bombay. It is in fact, a ninety-year-old story!
Radio perhaps faces the most impossible challenge in India with its population of 1.25 billion and humongous diversity in ethno-socio-linguistic characteristic, literacy levels, economic disparities, gender inequality, disparity in distribution of resources, rural-urban gulf, digital divide and so on.
The public service radio broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) has risen admirably to this challenge by its steadfast focus on the development of a learning society/a knowledge community, inculcating scientific temper, empowerment of women, amelioration of the underprivileged, spreading the message of planned parenthood, diffusion of agricultural innovation, rural regeneration, skill development to capture benefits of the demographic dividend, preserving and strengthening India’s cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity and fortifying India’s democratic and secular traditions and values.
Fulsome praise for radio’s development initiatives came from no less than eminent agricultural scientist and Father of the Green Revolution, M S Swaminathan:
“Even those who were excluded from the technological transformation could be included because they heard about new technologies through radio. In fact, I remember in 1967 – 68, many farmers in UP and Bihar would call the new varieties of rice, wheat and other crops as radio varieties because they had heard about them on radio. This is why I would like to pay a tribute to All India Radio which is in some respects the unsung hero of the Green Revolution.”
What does radio mean to the world’s largest middle class society, a fast changing society at that? New radio seems to have created yet another division in and already fragmented milieu – the smart alec go getter minority versus the ordinary folk (spelt losers) majority.
In consonance with the concept of smart cities, what is urgently required are global middle class citizens to inhabit them, to avoid a sheer mismatch; creating an atmosphere of cerebral modernity paired with the best of national values and culture, ensuring inclusivity for all (not just a select smarter few). And that is what underscores the role and significance of the national public broadcaster, All India Radio. Armed with its motto (Bahujana hitaye bahujana sukhaye), pedigree and network, AIR possibly is the only national media institution left which has the wherewithal to address myriad sections of society in an unbiased and sensitive manner.
Before the misdirected disillusioned youth of India reach a stage where they are not able to speak a single legible sentence, before they begin to rebel violently on account of sheer cerebral inactivity, it is only All India Radio that is endowed with the capability to provide linguistic engagement and enrichment to today’s partly intellect deprived youth, a population that numbers dangerously high. A random audio survey done in any city/rural neighbourhood of the country will reveal the abyss of linguistic bankruptcy that our youth are gradually being dragged into. Public speaking is not part of the curriculum in our private schools, let alone the public ones. All India Radio, with its gigantic AM network has the power to pull them back to the mainstream of self development and hence nation building collectively.
Critics may argue that the wheels of this juggernaut inch a tad sluggishly; what they do not realise (or do not want to realise) is that nation building is not just radio ads and jock talk trying to sell one, two or three BHK houses - it is ensuring cultivation and preservation of the human element in HOMES, that too all homes.
Public Service Radio disseminates information in the most democratic manner. It speaks the language of the masses and it reaches the last man. Serving a variety of fare in variable formats – plays, news, talk shows, music, running commentaries, special programmes for special audiences, leaving none out.
Radio rules the imagination. Radio is theatre for the blind. Radio is an intimate story telling medium. Is it any wonder then that the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy should choose AIR over others for his intimate heart to heart talk with the citizens? As someone quipped, when it comes to radio, people are all ears! We can’t do better than to quote the Prime Minister himself when he said: “If we touch those questions (questions that touch the heart) we will be able to reach out to the common man.” No wonder, Mann ki Baat became an instant success as it decidedly is packaged with precision and put through on a dissemination network with vast domestic and global reach.
AIR is arguably one of the largest radio networks of the world, with 422 stations throughout the country, serving different segments of the population, including the underdog. You can’t have a more potent instrument than AIR for exchange of ideas between the country’s Prime Minister and his people. Indeed, Mann ki Baat epitomizes all that is best in public service broadcasting.
Radio is a Long Playing song that changes its beat with the times. It is adapting to 21st Century changes and offering new ways to interact and participate. Becoming more and more interactive. This explains why the theme for World Radio Day 2017 is “Radio is You!” – a call for greater participation of audiences and communities in the policy and planning of radio broadcasting.
To quote UNESCO again, “Where social media and audience fragmentation can put us in media bubbles of like-minded people, radio is uniquely positioned to bring communities together and foster positive dialogue for change.”
Procurement Made Smart
*Binoy Kumar &**S. Radha Chauhan
Public procurement forms a very important part of Government activity and reform in Public Procurement is one of the top priorities of the present Government. Government e-Marketplace (GeM - gem.gov.in) is a very bold step of the Government with the aim to transform the way in which procurement of goods and services is done by the Government Ministries and Departments, Public Sector Undertakings and other apex autonomous bodies of the Central Government.
Government e-Marketplace owes its genesis to the recommendations of two Groups of Secretaries made to the Prime Minister in January 2016. They recommended setting up of a dedicated e-market for different goods & services procured or sold by Government/PSUs besides reforming DGS&D. Subsequently, the Finance Minister in his Budget speech for FY 2016-17, announced setting up of a technology driven platform to facilitate procurement of goods and services by various Ministries and agencies of the Government.
DGS&D with technical support of National eGovernance Division (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) has developed GeM portal for procurement of both Products & Services. The portal was launched on 9th August 2016 by the Commerce & Industry Minister. Procurement on GeM has been authorized by General Financial Rules by making necessary changes in government rules. Presently more than 7400 products in about 150 product categories and hiring of transport service are available on GeM POC portal. Transactions for more than Rs 140 Crore have already been processed through GeM.
GeM is a completely paperless, cashless and system driven e-market place that enables procurement of common use goods and services with minimal human interface.
GeM brings in Transparency
GeM eliminates human interface in vendor registration, order placement and payment processing, to a great extent. Being an open platform, GeM offers no entry barriers to bonafide suppliers who wish to do business with the Government. At every step, SMS and e-Mail notifications are sent to both buyer, his/her head of organization, paying authorities as well as sellers. Online, cashless and time bound payment on GeM is facilitated through integration with PFMS and State Bank Multi Option System (SBMOPS); web-services integration is being extended to payment systems of Railways, Defence, major PSUs and State Governments. Seamless processes and online time-bound payment, which is also mandated by the Department of Expenditure, has given confidence to the vendors and reduced their ‘administrative’ cost involved in pursuing officers for timely payment.
GeM enhances Efficiency
Direct purchase on GeM can be done in a matter of minutes and the entire process in online, end to end integrated and with online tools for assessing price reasonability. For procurements of higher value, the bidding/Reverse Auction (RA) facility on GeM is among the most transparent and efficient, in comparison to e-procurement systems in vogue within the Government sector. For creating a bid/RA, the buyer does not need to create his/her own technical specifications as they have been standardized on GeM. The bid/RA can be created in a matter of minutes and finalized within a minimum of 7 days. The bid/RA is notified via e-mail and SMS to all the eligible suppliers; new suppliers are also notified once they get themselves registered online on GeM and are determined as ‘eligible’ by the system. GeM bidding/RA therefore ensures competition, fair play, speed & efficiency and leads to proper price discovery. The reasonableness of the rates can also be confirmed through online comparison with market price on leading e-Commerce portals.
Very soon, GeM will also start getting feeds from various other public procurement portals which will ensure that the same item has not been procured at a lesser rate by any other Government agency, from the same or a different vendor. The reasonability of price would be further strengthened by way of integration with Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) and Indian Customs and Central Excise Electronic Commerce/Electronic Data interchange Gateway (ICEGATE) that will enable the buyer to ascertain the price of an item when it exited the factory gate or when it got imported into the country. These would make GeM an extremely powerful tool in the hands of Government organizations to plan and procure.
GeM is Secure and safe:
GeM is a completely secure platform and all the documents on GeM are e-Signed at various stages by the buyers and sellers. The antecedents of the suppliers are verified online and automatically through MCA21, Aadhar and PAN databases. In addition, SEBI empaneled credit rating agencies are also being used for conducting third-party assessment of suppliers. This would further strengthen due diligence about the veracity of suppliers wanting to do business on GeM. For high value bids/RA on GeM, an e-Bank Guarantee is also being introduced.
GeM is a far better system than the existing one which relies more on financial instruments (EMD in case of tenders for large procurements only) to guarantee good conduct by the suppliers. In the existing system, there is zero check on the antecedents of the suppliers for small value procurements (upto Rs 1 lakh) whose cumulative value is huge across the Government organizations. GeM does a 100% online verification of all vendors irrespective of the value of procurement.
Potential to support Make in India
On GeM, the filters for selecting goods which are Preferential Market Access (PMA) compliant and those manufactured by Small Scale Industries(SSI), enables the Government buyers to procure Make in India and SSI goods very easily. Easily accessible MIS also enables the administrators and policy makers to easily and effectively enforce the Government regulations on PMA and SSI sourcing. After the launch of GeM it has been noticed that several leading computer manufacturers have placed PMA compliant products on GeM.
Savings to the Government
The transparency, efficiency and ease of use of the GeM portal has resulted in a substantial reduction in prices on GeM, in comparison to the tender, Rate Contract and direct purchase rates. The average prices on GeM are lower by atleast 15-20%, and in some cases even upto 56%. GeM is also doing Demand Aggregation for items that are to be procured by various Central/State Government Departments. Demand Aggregation is expected to further drive the prices south, by way of standardization of specifications and economy of scale. Demand aggregation for most of the common use goods and services is estimated to result in annual savings to the tune of Rs 40,000 Crore per annum.
If pursued to its logical conclusion, GeM would eventually emerge as the National Public Procurement Portal, keeping in tune with the Global best practices; most of the OECD countries, like USA, South Korea, UK, Singapore etc, have a single NPPP and as a result annual savings of billions of dollars are made in public procurement, besides giving a fillip to the domestic industry.
ISRO Makes History
Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO made history yesterday when its PSLV rocket placed 104 satellites into the space in a single mission. The record for highest number of satellites launched in one go was till then held by Russia. The country’s rocket Dnepr which was a converted ICBM, launched 37 satellites in June 2014. Earlier, the US space agency NASA had launched 29 satellites in a single mission in 2013.
The ISRO used its mightiest rocket this time, the one used in Chandrayaan and Mars Orbiter Missions. The 320 ton rocket, PSLV –C 37 carried a 714 kg CARTOSAT -2, two ISRO Nano Satellites INS A and INS B and 101 foreign satellites of different countries including the US, Israel and UAE together weighing about 700 kg and placed them into polar Sun synchronous orbit about 520 km away from the earth. While the high resolution CARTOSAT-2 will monitor the movements of even one metre long vehicle and goods in our neighborhood, the two nano satellites are for technology demonstration. The images sent by CARTOSAT-2 will also be useful for the country in coastal land use, road network monitoring, distribution of water and creation of land use maps.
The successful launch of 104 satellites in one go by an ISRO rocket has been hailed not only by President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi but also by internationally known space experts. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation commented a day before the launch of the satellites that it is going to be a big deal. She said, it shows the sophistication of India's space program. Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor and space specialist at the US Naval War College thought that it was a mission aimed at what he called “anything that gets you into the records book, like breaking the Russian satellite launch record.
Ever since ISRO sent 23 satellites into the space in a single mission in June 2015, the scientists of the space agency were almost confident that they would achieve this majestic feat also. Dr. K. Sivan, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram explained in response to a query from a newsman a few days back how the satellites were going to be placed into orbit. He said, the every satellite would be separated in a different angle and at a different time from the launch vehicle in order to prevent collision between satellites. Sivan clarified, the satellite that got launched first would move at a relatively faster velocity than the next satellite that was to be launched. Due to different relative velocities, the distance between the satellites would increase continuously but the orbit would be the same, he said.
But, when did the ISRO’s glorious journey begin? India's Mangalyaan probe which started in November 2013, Asia's first successful Mars orbiter, in fact, forced the world to take note of this space program. The probe was sent to the Red Planet for only 74 million dollars, less than the 100 million dollars the Hollywood spent making the space thriller "Gravity." The success gave Mangalyaan its pride of place on India's new 2,000 rupee note. Ms Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan said, the Mars mission was not just a "sound and light show". It established India's credibility as a space power and translated into tangible economic benefits when it came to the big business of satellite launches.
Professor Johnson-Freese says, recognition of the multifaceted benefits from space exploration and space technology dates back to the Apollo program. He said, Asian countries have been following that model and seeking those benefits ever since. To date India has launched 79 satellites from 21 countries, including satellites from big companies like Google and Airbus. According to Government figures, India earned at least 157 million dollars from these launches, he said.
All the three Asian giants, India, China and Japan have now made bold space exploration plans for 2017 and beyond. In the first half of 2018, India plans to launch its second lunar mission -- in 2008, it became the fourth country to plant its flag on the moon after the US, Russia and China. The Chandrayaan-2 will orbit, land and send a wheeled rover on the moon to collect lunar rock and soil. India also plans a mission to study the sun. Besides, it proposes mission to Venus and a follow up to its first Mars mission. Last year, India tested a reusable launch vehicle which resembles the US space shuttle.
China, perhaps the most rapidly accelerating space power is planning to test its Tianzhou-1 cargo and resupply spacecraft in April this year. The plan is aimed at maintaining the supply line for the country's space station that's expected to be up and running by 2022. Later this year, China will send a probe to the moon that will collect and return with soil sample. By the end of the decade, China says, it will have also become the first country to land on the far side of the moon and also land a rover on Mars. Japan is also not to be lagging behind. It wants to send an unmanned rover on the moon’s surface in the next year itself.
India firm to ensure equity on World Social Justice Day
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, said Martin Luther King. It is not just judicial justice. Judicious society is expected to ensure a just regime across colour, creed, class, caste – any social barrier for an inclusive system so that nobody is excluded.
Exclusion is also against the tenets of social justice. The inclusive society is expected to ensure equal opportunity, fair deal and does not deprive anyone.
This is enshrined in World Day of Social Justice (WDSJ), which the United Nations General Assembly decided to observe on February 20 every year as WDSJ in accordance with the objectives and goals of the world Summit for Social Development. The UN approved the decision on November 26, 2007. The observance of the day started in 2009.
Observance of WDSJ would support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all.
It is a day that recognizes the need to promote efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion and unemployment. We find the Narendra Modi government proactively doing many things to rout these social evils out. The most recent is the amendment to Payment of wages Act that ensure payment through cheque or to the bank account. The ostensible reason is stated to be to ensure full payment of promised wages to the workers.
The UN stated that social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. “We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability”.
The new economics recognises that the economy is embedded in a society and culture that are embedded in an ecological life-support system, and that the economy can't grow forever on this finite planet.
Indian society has been striving for ages to ensure equity and justice. Some of the most devoted workers for social justice in the history of India have included Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Swami Raavidas, Swami Vivekananda, MG Ranade, Veer Savarkar, KM Munshi, Mahatma Gandhi, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Tarabai Shinde, Behramji Malabari among others. The resolute force and courage of these reformers along with the ardent support from the people enabled them to take robust actions against injustice.
What Indian government is doing is in accordance with the International Labour Organization (ILO) resolution of 2013 concerning sustainable development, decent work, and green jobs putting forward a policy framework for a just transition. Key policy areas as per ILO are macroenconomic and growth policies, industrial and sectoral policies, enterprise policies, skill development, occupational safety and health, social protection, labour market policies, rights, social dialogue and tripartism.
The Constitution of India accepts the use of social justice in wider sense, which includes both social and economical justice. As former Chief Justice P. B.Gajendragadkar put it, “In this sense social justice holds the aims of equal opportunity to every citizen in the matter of social and economical activities and to prevent inequalities”.
In the Third Committee, 67th UN General Assembly , Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar reaffirmed that India will provide full support to the efforts of the UN, in particular ‘UN Women’, which has recorded significant achievements in only two years since its establishment and assist the General Assembly in all their efforts to ensure Social Justice. It may be noted here that UN Women is the global champion for gender equality, working to develop and uphold standards and create an environment in which every woman and girl can exercise her human rights and live up to her full potential.
As a measure to facilitate Social justice, India has enacted a comprehensive Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act which recognizes that violence can take various forms, including physical, economic, social and psychological. This act provides a legal tool for women to fight violence within the family – both marital and familial abuse. The law seeks to provide support to women victim of domestic violence in form of shelter, medical help, compensation, maintenance orders, and temporary custody of children.
The MGNREGA is the biggest action for ensuring right to work. The corporate social responsibility in the Companies Act brings a new dimension of sharing profits.
The central government in the union budget announced around 54 per cent of the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry's budgetary allocation in the year 2016-17, was spent on Scheduled Castes (SC) scholarships benefitting about 60 lakh SC persons and another 53 lakh from OBCs..
“Budget of the ministry has been steadily increasing from Rs 54.52 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 69.08 crore in 2017-18. This is an increase of 6 per cent,” Minister for Social Justice Thavar Chand Gehlot says. He also says the definition of "atrocity" has been widened and amendments were introduced in June 2016 to protect the Scheduled Castes.
"Compensation payable to victims of atrocities has been enhanced and in the previous year 42,541 people were given compensation of Rs 139 crore," he said.
"The three corporations of the ministry -- National Scheduled Caste Finance Development Corporation (NSFDC), National Backward Class Finance Development Corporation (NBCFDC), and National Safai Karamcharis Finance Development Corporation (NSKFDC) -- distributed around Rs 552 crore through digital mode to almost two lakh beneficiaries," he added.
But the situation in the world is not that bright. The UN’s department of economic affairs says that despite global efforts the popular contention that the rich get richer and poor get poorer appears to be largely based on fact. Moreover, extreme or absolute poverty, experienced by those whose income is barely sufficient for survival, remains widespread.
The time has come to move the developmental discourse beyond the current discussion of outcomes of opportunities and ensure a framework for free environment of opportunities and coherent redistributive policies that would make the global society equitable
Protecting Language Diversity in India
India is one of unique countries in the world that has the legacy of diversity of languages. The Constitution of India has recognised 22 official languages. Multilingualism is the way of life in India as people in different parts of the country speak more than one language from their birth and learns additional languages during their life time.
Though officially there are 122 languages, Peoples Linguistic Survey of India has identified 780 languages, of which 50 are extinct in past five decades.
The twenty two languages that are recognised by the Constitution are: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri,Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Kannada, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdue are included in the Eigth Schedule of the constitution.
Among these three languages, Sanskrit, Tamil and Kannada have been recognised as classical language with special status and recognition by Government of India. The classical languages have written and oral history of more than 1000 years. In comparison to these, English is very young as it has the history of only 300 years.
In addition to these scheduled and classical languages, The Constitution of India has included the clause to protect minority languages as a fundamental right. It states” Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part of thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.”
The language policy of India provides guarantee to protect the linguistic minorities. Under the Constitution provision is made for appointment of Special Officer for linguistic minority with the sole responsibilities of safeguarding the interest of language spoken by the minority groups.
During the colonial rule the first linguistic survey was conducted during 1894 to 1928 by George A. Grierson that identified 179 languages and 544 dialects. Due to lack of trained personnel as linguists this survey had many deficiencies.
In the post independence era Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), based in Mysore was assigned to carry out an in-depth survey of languages. However this is still remains incomplete.
In 1991 the Census of India listed 1576 mother tongues’ with separate grammatical structures and 1796 speech varieties that is classified as other mother tongues’.
Another unique feature of India is the concept of protecting the interest of children to get basic education in their mother tongue. The Constitution provides” it shall be the endeavour of every State and of every local authority within the state to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups”.
Thus, even before the United Nations declared the International Mother Language Day (February 21) the founders of the Indian Constitution gave top priority to teaching in mother tongues’, enabling the child to develop its full potential.
This concept is in total agreement with the 2017 theme of United Nations World Mother Language Day “to develop the potential of multilingual education to be acknowledged in education, administrative systems, cultural expression and cyber space”.
In 1956 reorganisation of states in India was carried out with linguistic boundaries that had its own script. Sardar Vallab Bhai Patel, the then home minister played key role in formation and amalgamation of states based on linguistic attributes.
The language policy of India has been pluralistic, giving priority to the use of mother tongue in administration, education and other fields of mass communication. The Language Bureau of Ministry of Human Resource Development is set up to implement and monitor the language policy.
Supporting the cause of promoting and conserving the language diversity in cyberspace, Union Minister of Electronic and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad cautioned the Internet providers “the language of internet cannot be English and English alone. It must have linkages with the local and local means local languages. I appeal to make local languages available for more internet users”.
He said that the ministry has initiated Technology Development for Indian Languages with the objective of developing information processing tools and techniques to facilitate human machine interaction without language barrier, creating and accessing multilingual knowledge resources.
The Government of India under the vision of digital India has mandated the mobile phones sold from July 2017 should support all Indian languages. This will pave way for bridging the digital divide, empowering one billion people who do not speak English with connectivity in their own languages. This will also enhance the capacity of large number people to be part of e-governance and e- commerce.
Despite these efforts by the central government minority languages are under threat of extinction due to multiple causes. In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the death of Boa, the last speaker of Bo language is one of those instances that have lead to extinction of Bo language with the history of 70000 years.
In recent years the language diversity is under threat as speakers of diverse languages are becoming rare and major languages are adopted after abandoning the mother tongues. The problem needs to be addressed at societal level, in which the communities have to take part in conservation of language diversity that is part of cultural wealth.
Combatting Non-communicable Diseases
Santosh Jain Passi*
“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease”
- Lord Buddha
Our country is afflicted with the dual burden of disease – non-communicable diseases (NCDs) posing a major public health challenge. On one end are the nutritional deficiencies/infectious diseases associated with poverty, deprivation and poor environmental conditions; while on the other are the NCDs caused due to dietary excesses/imbalances and metabolic disturbances.The epidemic of NCDs is mainly attributed to modernisation, urbanisation, sedentary lifestyles and longevity. There is an upsurge in the incidence of overweight/obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cancers, respiratory diseases and mental illnesses. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted that if “business as usual”continues, globally by 2030, the annual mortality due to NCDs will touch 55 million mark.
As per the WHO report (2015), in India, 60% deaths are caused by NCDs; and that 1 out of 4 Indians are at a risk of dying from one of the NCDs before the age of 70 years. Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO-SEAR has remarked that the NCDs are afflicting younger generations and, thus, hampering socioeconomic development. Due to huge loss of potentially productive years (35-64 y), there is massive economic loss at the household, national and international levels.
The NCD burden can, however, be reduced immensely through appropriate preventive/curative actions. Healthy dietary practices, increased physical activity, weight management, abstinence from tobacco/substance use and alcohol abuse play an important role in their prevention/management. More than 80% of the CVDs and T2DM; and 33% of the cancers can be averted through lifestyle modifications; nutritionally balanced diet being inevitably important.
For maintaining an ideal body weight, total energy intake and energy expenditure need to be balanced; and the diet should be adequate in protein. There is a close link between quality/quantity of dietary fat and NCDs. A high intake of fat/oil – particularly saturated fat, poses profound risk for CHD, cancer, T2DM and hypertension. Replacing saturated fat with PUFA rich oils can significantly lower the CHD rates. Dietary fat also impacts glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. Consumption of MUFA containing oils (like olive, mustard and groundnut oils) confer numerous health benefits including reduced risk of CHD and lung/oesophageal/breast/colorectal cancer. On the contrary, trans fats elevate CHD risk through undesirable effect on serum lipids.
In the prevention/management of NCDs, increased consumption of vegetables (2-3 servings/day) and fruits (2 servings/day) is imperative for providing adequate amount of dietary fibre, phytochemicals, antioxidants and various vitamins/minerals. Dietary fibre plays an important role through its impact on atherogenic lipoproteins, blood pressure and thrombogenesis. Regular intake of dietary fibre rich foods not only helps in weight management but also in lowering serum lipids, improving glucose metabolism, regulating blood pressure and reducing chronic inflammation of the tissues. Further, probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics improve lipid profile and glycaemic control by selectively supporting the health-promoting gut bacteria. Prebiotics can also prevent colorectal cancer by modifying the composition/activity of colorectal microflora.
Tobacco (in all forms) and alcohol abuse are major risk factors for NCDs particularly chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Physical inactivity is one of the leading contributors to global mortality (~6% deaths) and NCD burden. Psychosocial factors and emotional stress (depression, anxiety & chronic stress) also contribute significantly to the pathogenesis of NCDs.
In 2012, the World Health Assembly endorsed the important ‘25 by 25 goal’ aimed to reduce NCD mortality by 25% by the year 2025. India is the first in developing specific national targets/indicators for reaching this goal and reducing the number of NCD related premature deaths.
To contain the ever-increasing NCD burden, our government has launched several programmes including National Cancer Control Programme, National Tobacco Control Programme and National Program for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, CVD and Stroke (NPDCS). The major objective of NPDCS is prevention, early detection and control of NCDs; awareness generation on lifestyle changes; and capacity building/strengthening of the existing healthcaresystems. For major NCDs, diagnosis/treatment facilities will be provided through NCD Clinics and CCUs in district hospitals/community health centres under NHM.
Before end March 2017 (1st phase), population based screening will be conducted in 100 districts (32 states/UTs); operational screening guidelines for diabetes, hypertension and common cancers have been released. Data will be gathered for counselling the at-risk individuals. Subsequently, chronic obstructive respiratory diseases will be included and the programme will be scaled up.
The Ministry of AYUSH has constituted an expert panel for preparing yoga protocol and its research organizations (Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences, Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy and Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine) have initiated the integration of Ayurveda, Homoeopathy and Unani with NPDCS. Further, a mobile application - 'mDiabetes' has been launched to generate awareness, promote compliance and inculcate healthy dietary habits/lifestyle practices among the masses. The Indian NCD Network has been created for networking scientists from varied fields to support NCD related research/training activities.
The current overall health budget (2017-18) has increased from INR 39,879 crore to 48,878 crore (2.27% of the total budget).
It is hoped that adequate resources are provided for generating awareness regarding the adoption of preventive health-seeking behaviours. For primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of NCDs, interventions aimed at lifestyle modifications should emphasise on improvements in dietary practices and physical activity along with cessation of smoking/tobacco consumption, alcohol restriction and appropriate stress management. It is a matter of satisfaction that government is taking various measures to ensure that the people can lead healthier lives coupled with longevity.