- NITI Aayog Launches the ‘Grand Innovation Challenge’
- Bank Board Bureau’s first meeting discusses stressed assets
- Road to Smart Cities not smooth
- Dashboards to monitor Make In India, rank States
Environment & Ecology
- World Bank launches ambitious climate action plan
- North East-ASEAN Business summit
Science & Technology
- Solar boat makes its debut in Andhra Pradesh
- China successfully launches retrievable satellite
NITI Aayog Launches the ‘Grand Innovation Challenge’
NITI Aayog has launched the first phase of the ‘Grand Innovation Challenge’ to seek citizens inputs on the key developmental challenges facing India.
About the Grand Innovation Challenge:
- The ‘Grand Innovation Challenge’ is being launched on the MyGov portal.
- It aims at involving citizens at the very first stage in innovating for India’s development.
- The idea is to work together with the States and every citizen as Team India to ensure progress leaving no one behind.
- The focus is on the social sector, the most vulnerable sections and to involve citizens in crowd sourcing ideas to address challenges facing India’s development.
- It will be implemented in two phases-
- In Phase I of the Grand Innovation Challenge, NITI Aayog will seek the views of the citizens on the key challenges facing India, across areas significant for the country’s development.
- The idea is to find out from the people what are the critical issues which need to be addressed to develop the social sector and the challenges which need to be tackled on a priority basis. Phase I of the Grand Challenge ends on April 25th.
- In Phase II, a shortlist of the urgent challenges as suggested by citizens would be prepared and innovative solutions would be sought from the people to address them using appropriate technology.
- The idea is to encourage innovation, entrepreneurship & citizen-led solutions to problems through this Grand Challenge.
- NITI Aayog will ensure that the best, innovative solutions to pressing challenges receive full backing from the Government of India – from funding, mentoring, technical & academic support to scaling it up across the country and absorbing them in government schemes.
- These solutions should be specifically designed for India, be made in India, and adopted by Government of India to radically develop India.
- Citizens are expected to pick one of 14 given, crucial, sectors that need to be addressed on priority to ensure that most vulnerable, and maximum number of citizens, are best impacted.
At the end of the phase, NITI Aayog will identify and acknowledge 10 most pressing challenges from among those suggested by the citizens of India.
- The move comes in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative to reiterate the importance of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for India’s Development at various forums.
- NITI Aayog is leading this key goal for India by formulating guidelines for implementing the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM). With the launch of AIM, NITI will provide fillip to the swelling Innovation potential in the country.
Bank Board Bureau’s first meeting discusses stressed assets
The first meeting of the Bank Board Bureau (BBB) was recently held at the RBI headquarters in Mumbai.
Context of the meeting:
- During the meeting, board members discussed about non-performing assets (NPAs), or bad loans, as well as strategies for recapitalising banks.
- Filling up of vacancies of directors and non-executive chairmen was also discussed at the meeting.
About the Bureau:
With a view to improve the Governance of Public Sector Banks (PSBs), the Government had decided to set up an autonomous Banks Board Bureau in August last year.
- The bureau was announced as part of the seven-point Indradhanush plan to revamp PSBs.
- BBB is an autonomous body.
- The bureau will have three ex-officio members and three expert members, in addition to the Chairman. All the Members and Chairman will be part time.
- The Bureau is mandated to play a critical role in reforming the troubled public sector banks by recommending appointments to leadership positions and boards in those banks and advise them on ways to raise funds and how to go ahead with mergers and acquisitions.
- It will constantly engage with the boards of all 22 public sector banks to formulate appropriate strategies for their growth and development.
- They will also constantly engage with the Board of Directors of all the public sector banks to formulate appropriate strategies for their growth and development.
- The bureau will search and select heads of public sector banks and help them develop differentiated strategies of capital raising plans to innovative financial methods and instruments.
- It would also be responsible for selection of non-executive chairman and non-official directors on the boards.
Road to Smart Cities not smooth
According to a joint report prepared by World Economic Forum and PwC, there are challenges limiting private sector participation in urban development projects, and institutional, business-environment and sector-specific reforms are required to enhance private participation.
- The report is titled as ‘Reforms to Accelerate the Development of India’s Smart Cities’.
Highlights of the Report:
- The problems in the business environment stem from archaic bureaucratic processes, where obtaining licences and approvals takes a long time, and land acquisition is fraught with delays and uncertainties. The dispute resolution system also adds to businesses’ costs.
- In most cases, when an urban development project becomes involved in a dispute, activities are stalled, as are vendor payments. With poor cost recovery and high legal costs, companies engaged in disputes find it difficult to sustain their activities.
- ULBs (urban local bodies) will play a crucial role in implementing the urban rejuvenation programmes, but they lack the resources to execute the programmes.
- Also, city governments are the least-prepared to execute the programmes from among all the stakeholders, which include the national government, state governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academic institutions.
- The report highlights the paucity of funds which urban local bodies are facing. The revenue collected by ULBs in India is less than 0.9% of the gross domestic product, significantly less than that of Brazil (7.4%) and South Africa (6%).
- The report also highlights sector-specific problems, such as water management, where around 50% of water production is lost due to theft or leakages during the distribution process, the lack of metering, and low user charges.
- There are other infrastructural issues plaguing India’s urban centres, such as the unavailability of 100% power, the poor quality of roads, and the paucity of social infrastructure in healthcare, and safety and security.
Solutions suggested by the report:
- Reforms are needed in the areas of land acquisition, dispute resolution, permitting processes, information availability and procurement processes to accelerate the development of smart cities.
- Collaboration among multiple administrative entities is necessary if smart city projects are to be completed within budget and timeframe.
- For ULBs to function independently, the devolution of power to determine and collect user charges and local taxes, along with capacity development, are necessary. They also need to streamline internal processes by adopting e-governance and by making data-driven decisions.
- Single-window systems that ease the permitting process will accelerate project execution, reduce cost and time overrun, and improve intra- and inter-departmental collaboration.
- For sectors that deal with physical infrastructure, reforms will be required to establish independent regulators, ensure metering, develop skilled resources, enforce collections (of user charges and taxes) from large defaulters and adopt integrated planning.
Dashboards to monitor Make In India, rank States
The government has unveiled two dashboards to dynamically monitor progress made in its ‘Make In India’ (MII) initiative as well as rank States on a real-time basis based on ‘Ease Of Doing Business’ (EODB).
- The MII Dashboard will allow ministries to update on the progress made by them in short and medium-term targets, facilitate timely delivery of identified action points and allow for monitoring and identification of delays in implementation.
- The EODB Dashboard will allow States to report their progress on the reforms they need to undertake under the State Level Business Reforms Action Plan as well as in validation of responses received from the States/Union Territories (UTs) by the DIPP.
Environment & Ecology
World Bank launches ambitious climate action plan
The World Bank has unveiled an ambitious climate action plan.
- The plan will help developing countries add 30 gigawatts of renewable energy, bring early warning systems to 100 million people and develop climate- smart agriculture investment plans for at least 40 nations.
- The World Bank has set the target for achieving this by 2020.
- The new Climate Change Action Plan aims to accelerate efforts to tackle climate change over the next five years and help developing countries deliver on their national climate plans submitted for the historic climate agreement reached at COP21 in Paris in December last year.
Highlights of the Action Plan:
- The Action Plan recognizes that climate change is a threat to efforts to end poverty, and that there is an increasing urgency to protect poor people and poor countries. As part of its response, the Bank Group plans to bring early warning systems to 100 million people across 15 developing countries, and help bring adaptive social protection – social safety nets that can quickly support people affected by a disaster or an economic shock – to an additional 50 million poor people by 2020.
- At the same time, the Bank Group will pilot a new approach in 15 cities that aims to boost urban resilience by integrating infrastructure, land use planning and disaster risk management.
- To maximize impact, the Action Plan is focused on helping countries shape national policies and leverage private sector investment. IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, aims to expand its climate investments from the current $2.2 billion a year to a goal of $3.5 billion a year.
- The World Bank also intends to mobilize $25 billion in commercial financing for clean energy over the next five years. The Bank Group will also continue to deepen its work to help countries to put a price on carbon pollution to create incentives for public and private sector decision makers to make the right climate choices.
- The Action Plan also lays out plans to quadruple funding over five years to make transport systems more resilient to climate change, as well as invest at least US$1 billion to promote energy efficiency and resilient building by 2020.
- The World Bank Group will also develop climate smart agricultural investment plans for at least 40 countries, design sustainable forest strategies for 50 countries by 2020 and promote climate-informed fisheries management.
- The Bank Group will also help “green” the financial sector through a coordinated approach across banking, pensions and capital markets to implement changes needed nationally and globally. It will also create special teams to work with countries to generate a robust pipeline of bankable projects, with a focus on areas like rooftop solar and boosting the growth of distributed solar in Sub-Saharan Africa
- The Action Plan aims to deliver on the Bank Group’s commitment – announced in October 2015 – to increase climate financing to potentially $29 billion annually by 2020, with the support of its members.
- It also sets out a new approach to take the growing threat of climate change into account across the Bank Group’s operations. Climate risk screening – which is already applied to projects supported by IDA, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries – will be extended across other World Bank operations in early 2017.
North East-ASEAN Business summit
The first-ever two-day North East-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Business Summit was recently inaugurated in Imphal.
- The Summit was organised by Manipur Department of Commerce and Industries in association with ICC, an apex business organisation and ICSI, an apex professional organisation.
- It was organised with an aim to attract investment from both domestic and foreign firms to the North-East states of India. It also tried to increase productivity and generate employment in the region.
Science & Technology
Solar boat makes its debut in Andhra Pradesh
An eco-friendly solar-powered boat was launched on the pristine waters of River Krishna in Andhra Pradesh recently.
- There are only a handful of such boats operating on solar power in the country.
- The solar boat, facilitating clean and efficient cruise, has been imported from China.
- Using electric motors and storage batteries charged by solar panels fitted to the roof, these boats can significantly reduce or eliminate use of fossil fuels.
Surya – first solar boat in India:
- The firs solar boat designed in India was named Surya, a 25-seater, by Kerala-based TeamSustain in 2008.
- It operated in the backwaters of Kerala ferrying passengers and in 2010, it was included in the Limca Book of Records as Asia’s largest solar-powered passenger boat.
China successfully launches retrievable satellite
China recently launched a retrievable scientific research satellite in a bid to aid scientists to study microgravity and space life science.
- SJ-10 was put into orbit by Long March 2-D rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in north-western China’s Gobi desert.
- SJ-10 is the second of four scientific satellites under a CAS space program. Unlike the others, SJ-10 is returnable.
- While in space, the probe will house 19 experiments involving microgravity fluid physics, microgravity combustion, space material, space radiation effect, microgravity biological effect and space biotechnology.
- On-board experiments include one that will study early-stage development of mouse embryos in microgravity to shed light on human reproduction in space, and another studying space radiation effects on genetic stability of fruit flies and rat cells.