- Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) for differently-abled
- CEA-led committee suggests GST rate of 17-18 per cent
- China announces $60 billion to support Africa
Environment & Ecology
- India State of Forest Report 2015
- A third of India’s soil degraded: experts
Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) for differently-abled
The Union Government has launched “Accessible India Campaign” (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan), a nationwide campaign that will enable persons with disabilities to gain universal access, equal opportunity for development, independent living and participation in all aspects of life in an inclusive society.
About Accessible India Campaign:
- Under the campaign, at least 50% of all the government buildings of National Capital and all the State capitals will be made fully accessible for persons with disabilities by July 2018.
- All the international airports in the country and railway stations of A1, A & B categories will be made fully accessible by July 2016.
- As per campaign drafted by Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, at least 10% of government owned public transport carriers in the country will be converted into fully accessible carriers for these persons by March 2018.
- It will also be ensured that at least 50% of all public documents issued by the Central Government and the State Governments meet accessibility standards for persons with disabilities by March 2018.
- A web portal and mobile application for creating a crowd sourcing platform to get information about inaccessible was also launched
CEA-led committee suggests GST rate of 17-18 per cent
Committee headed by the Chief Economic Adviser Dr. Arvind Subramanian on Possible Tax rates under GST submitted its Report to the Finance Minister. The report has recommended standard rate for Goods and Services Tax (GST) at 17 to 18 per cent.
Highlights of the recommendations:
- The committee recommended a two-rate structure: The lower of these, it suggested, be kept at 12 per cent and the standard rate, at which most products are likely to be taxed, at 17-18 per cent. Standard GST rate is the rate at which most products would likely be taxed.
- Revenue-neutral rate is a single rate at which there will be no revenue loss to the centre and states in the GST regime. It will be 15 to 15.5 per cent.
- Essential goods will be taxed at a lower rate of 12 per cent. Demerit goods such as luxury cars, aerated beverages, pan masala and tobacco products will be taxed at 40 percent and remaining all goods will be taxed at a standard rate of 17 to 18 per cent. Excluded real estate, electricity and alcohol and petroleum products while calculating tax rates but suggests bringing them under the ambit of GST soon.
The GST will subsume indirect taxes such as excise, service tax and sales tax. It did not include real estate, electricity and alcohol and petroleum products and services such as education for calculating the tax rate, as some States are averse to giving up tax control from these items, but emphasised that the lower GST rates would become possible if the ambit of the GST is extended to these over time.
[Source: The Hindu]
China announces $60 billion to support Africa
Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced assistance and loans of US $ 60 billion African nations at a Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) organized in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The package will benefit Africa in 10 major areas: industry, agriculture, infrastructure, financial services, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction and public welfare, public health, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security.
- Africa’s aviation, tourism sectors, e-commerce, new energy and finance which are the areas of growing Chinese strengths, will be priority sectors in the future. China’s Alibaba group, led by Jack Ma has already become a world leader in the e-commerce segment.
- Analysts point out that the offer out-scales the $40 billion Silk Road fund that China has offered for Asia’s infrastructure development.
- In the bigger picture, the Chinese want to harmonise Africa’s Agenda 2063 — a 50 year developmental framework drawn by the African Union — with China’s One Belt and One Road blueprint of connecting Eurasia with roads, railways, cyber-optic highways, industrial parks and smart cities.
- Analysts say that Chinese companies could find further opportunities in Africa’s North-South Corridor, which stretches from Durban in South Africa to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. In between it passes through eight countries in eastern and southern Africa: Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
About Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC):
- FOCAC was formally established at the Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing in October 2000 under the joint initiative of China and 50 African countries with the purposes of further strengthening friendly cooperation between China and African states
- The summit mainly focuses on counter-terrorism, peacekeeping and funding to train troops within the framework of the African Union (AU).
[Source: The Hindu]
Environment & Ecology
India State of Forest Report 2015
The Central Government has released ‘India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2015’.According to it, India’s forest and tree cover has increased by 5, 081 sq km.
- According to the report, the total forest and tree cover is 79.42 million hectare, which is 16 percent of the total geographical area.
- The total carbon stock in the country’s forest is estimated to be 7, 044 million tonnes, an increase of 103 million tonnes, which is an increase of 1.48 in percentage terms over the previous assessments.
- The majority of the increase in forest cover has been observed in Open forest category mainly outside forest areas, followed by Very Dense Forest. The increase in total forest cover also includes an increase in the mangrove cover.
- While Open Forest area has increased by 4, 744 sq km, which is 14 per cent of the geographical area, the area under Very Dense Forest has increased by 2, 404 sq kms, which is 2.61 percent of the geographical area.
- The ISFR 2015 states that 15 States/Union Territories have above 33 per cent of the geographical area under forest cover.
A third of India’s soil degraded: experts
Agriculture and soil experts at a seminar organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, a United Nations agency have revealed that a third of India’s soil was degraded, and this could cast a shadow on the sustainability of agriculture in near future.
According to estimates of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (2010), of the total geographical area of 328.73 mha, about 120.40 mha is affected by various levels of land degradation.
- Land degradation is posing a major threat to India’s food and environmental security, resulting from the loss in the biological or productive capacity of soil.
- Land degradation, mainly caused by natural processes like wind or rain, is often exacerbated by human activity like deforestation and urbanisation. It is closely intertwined with climate change and biodiversity loss.
- Water and wind erosions were widespread across India; some 5.3 billion tonnes of soil got eroded every year. Of this, 29% was permanently lost to the sea, 10% was deposited in reservoirs, reducing their storage capacity, and the rest 61% got shifted from one place to another.
- Excessive use of chemical fertilisers, especially in the north-western parts of the country, was one of the major reasons for soil degradation.
- Imbalanced nutrient application, injudicious use of pesticides, intensive cropping system, decline in soil biodiversity and depletion of organic matter in soil were some areas of concern requiring urgent attention.
[Source: The Hindu]