- Andhra Pradesh govt’s scheme- ‘Giriputrika Kalyana Pathakam’ launched
- 400 railway stations to get airport-like facilities
- Ninety seven per cent of retail transactions still cash-based: USAID report
Environment & Ecology
- New thrush species found in eastern Himalayas
Andhra Pradesh govt’s scheme- ‘Giriputrika Kalyana Pathakam’ launched
At a time when infant mortality and child marriages are rampant among tribal people, the Andhra Pradesh State government has come out with a novel scheme to support the tribal women in their quest for livelihood.
About the scheme:
- ‘Giriputrika Kalyana Pathakam’ is a scheme designed to provide a onetime financial assistance of Rs.50,000 to each tribal woman who gets married.
- The amount would be disbursed through District Tribal Welfare Office directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiary.
- Each beneficiary would have to fulfil some mandatory conditions like submission of marriage certificate, income certificate etc to avail benefits of the scheme.
- The scheme is envisaged to provide nutritional food to infants till the age of seven years.
400 railway stations to get airport-like facilities
The Ministry of Railways has identified 15 key parameters on which the 400 railway stations will be redeveloped with “world-class” facilities.
- The government plans to invite bids from private developers.
- The railway stations will be built on ‘design, build, finance, operate and transfer’ model and the developer will meet the entire cost of redevelopment by commercial development of land and air space in and around station which will be leased for a period of 45 years.
- Also, the onus of securing approvals such as environment clearance, heritage clearance, archaeological clearance and others will be on the developers.
- Rail passengers may soon get to see airport-like facilities such as separate entry and exit points, connectivity with local transportation, pick up or drop off points and access to Internet at 400 stations across the country.
- The stations will have separate arrival and departure terminals, easy connectivity with local transportation such as bus or metro and will be accessible from both sides of the city.
- Parcel movement across the platforms will be restricted and facilities such as food courts, retail outlets and medical facilities will be provided at the railway stations. Helipads near railway stations may also be built.
- The developer will also have to take care of the traffic circulation around the stations
The government plans to adopt the ‘Swiss Challenge’ mode to invite bids for redeveloping the stations.
- First, the government will invite developers to submit their master plans.
- After evaluating the proposals, the selected design will be uploaded over the Ministry of Railways website.
- Financial bids will be invited and the developer quoting the highest upfront premium to be paid to the government will win the bid. However, the project developer, who had originally submitted the plan, will be given an opportunity to match the bid amount.
Ninety seven per cent of retail transactions still cash-based: USAID report
As per a new report by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in India, an overwhelming 97 per cent of retail transactions are still cash-based and only 29 per cent of bank accounts have been used in the last three months.
- Only 29 per cent of bank accounts in India have been used in the last three months. The use of electronic payment methods, such as debit cards and mobile wallets, is even lower.
- Only 11 per cent of Indian consumers used debit cards for their payments.
Significance of the report:
- The report’s findings assume significance in the backdrop of the government’s stated commitment to promote a cashless economy and switch all government transactions to electronic payments by the end of 2016.
One way to curb the flow of black money is to discourage transactions in cash, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said in this year’s Budget, promising measures to incentivise credit or debit card transactions and discourage cash transactions. The specific measures are yet to be announced.
- The Confederation of All India Traders called for the inclusion of incentive schemes for the adoption of credit and debit card payments in the upcoming Budget.
- The Indian government proposed several incentives for electronic payments such as tax-breaks for the payee and the payer, but hasn’t moved ahead with implementing them so far.
- The up-front cost of trial is a major barrier to merchant acceptance.
- The report finds that the major hindrances to merchants adopting electronic payment systems are that vendors need to be paid in cash and the merchants themselves don’t know how to go about obtaining the electronic payment infrastructure.
Various steps recommended by the report:
The report recommends several steps the government can take to incentivise electronic payments both on the consumer side as well as from the merchant’s point of view.
- Consumers who are paid digitally are more likely to transact digitally. To support this effort, the Indian government should continue digitising benefit transfers, and also consider providing incentives for organisations to pay their employees digitally. This ties into the government’s ongoing push to provide an increasing share of its subsidy payments directly to bank accounts.
- Another recommendation involves the government implementing digital payments for mass transport, in much the same way as private taxi services like Ola and Uber accept payments from digital wallets.
- The report also recommends that the government implement tax incentives for consumers who transact electronically and also for banks to develop flexible and convenient micro-savings products for low-income consumers, since it found that those who save digitally are more likely to spend digitally.
- To encourage acceptance of digital payments, banks and payment players can consider removing upfront fees and device installation charges and move towards pay-per-use models.
Environment & Ecology
New thrush species found in eastern Himalayas
An international team of scientists have found a new species of the thrush in north-eastern India and adjacent parts of China.
About the species:
- The Himalayan Forest Thrush (Zoothera salimalii) is common in the eastern Himalaya range but was overlooked till now because of its similarity in appearance to the plain-backed thrush, now renamed as Alpine thrush.
- The bird’s scientific name will be Zoothera salimalii. This is the first Indian bird to be named after late Salim Ali, who was closely associated with Bombay Natural History Society as researcher, honorary secretary and president.
- The bird has been named after him in recognition of his huge contribution to the development of modern Indian ornithology and wildlife conservation.
- The species was distinguished by its musical song. It has short wings and legs, but longer bills.
- New bird species are rarely discovered to science nowadays, when most natural habitats are shrinking.
- The Himalayan Forest Thrush is only the fourth new bird species described from India by modern ornithologists since Independence.
- Scientists find the fact that the ones found in forests (Himalayan forest thrush) had a rather musical song, whereas those found in the same region on bare rocky habitats above the tree-line (Alpine thrush) had a much harsher, scratchier and unmusical song.