IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 30th March 2018
Mobile internet users in India to reach 478 million by June
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Inclusive growth
- The number of mobile Internet users in India is likely to reach 478 million by June said the report titled “Mobile Internet in India 2017”, published jointly by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and KANTAR-IMRB.
- The report attributed the popularity of mobile Internet in the country to its affordability.
- It said: “Urban India witnessed an estimated 18.64 per cent year-on-year rise, while rural India witnessed an estimated growth of 15.03 per cent during the same period (December 2016 to December 2017).”
- The report estimates that there are 291 million urban mobile Internet users and 187 million rural users as on December 2017.
- NTP (National Telecom Policy) 2018 with focus on new technologies like 5G is expected to promote better quality data services at more affordable prices and can be expected to help address the digital divides and promote internet penetration in the rural areas via mobile internet.
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General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General Studies 3:
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Making Inland Water Transport viable by engaging private sector
India has nearly 14,500 km of navigable waterways, yet inland water transport (IWT) accounts for less than 1 per cent of its freight traffic, compared with ~35 per cent in Bangladesh and ~20 per cent in Germany.
This is despite IWT’s better cost arithmetic and materially less polluting nature.
The cost of transporting one tonne freight over 1 km by waterway is Rs. 1.19 compared with Rs. 2.28 and Rs. 1.41 by road and rail, respectively.
And the cost of developing an inland waterway is barely 10 per cent of a four-lane highway of similar capacity.
Recent moves by the government:
- The government has passed an amendment to the Central Road Fund Act, 2000, proposing to allocate 2.5 per cent of the funds collected for development of waterways.
- The budget for next fiscal has allocated Rs. 228 crore to the sector and allowed the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) to raise Rs. 1,000 crore from the capital market.
The sector’s investment requirements are ~ Rs. 90,000 crore over the next few years to develop navigable routes, connectivity infrastructure to and from hinterland, terminals, vessels and repairing facilities.
Public private partnership is the need of the hour.
Given IWT’s nascence, the government and IWAI need to work on two channels to draw private players in-
Development of physical infrastructure:
The government should focus on developing navigation, channel operation and maintenance, and external connectivity infrastructure.
Private players can undertake terminal development, cargo and passenger handling, and building low-draft vessels and related repair facilities.
Policy level interventions:
Incentivizing cargo transport through inland waterways is required to ensure there is enough freight to make physical infrastructure development viable, the following measures can be taken:
- Offering incentives, including tax subsidies, for transporting a portion of industry cargo through IWT.
- The Government can mandate/incentivise industries in the proximity of national waterways to use this mode for a portion of their shipments. Public sector entities such as Food Corporation of India, power plants and refineries can be similarly mandated.
- Higher road taxes can be levied on transportation of coal and inflammable material over longer distances because they are harmful to environment or pose a danger to those in proximity.
- Many waterways run parallel to transportation corridors and urban centres. For synergy, the government can promote industrial corridors along riverbanks and foster waterways-based industrialisation.
- Capital dredging, along with different waterways, will also offer opportunities to reclaim land along riverbanks.
- In many States, there are ferry services on national waterways, but these are mostly unorganised country boats. Terminal facilities are also woefully inadequate.
Along with passenger terminal development, the government needs to offer financial support to ferry operators to improve safety and facilitate insurance coverage.
The Centre and States need to join hands to package and market river tourism in a big way to trigger a virtuous cycle.
Resolving the protocol route issue with Bangladesh:
This is critical to the sector’s development.
Indo-Bangladesh joint dredging projects in on river Yamuna and on river Kushiyara in Bangladesh have been long delayed.
Completion of these projects will enable movement of larger vessels from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Sadiya in Assam through Bangladesh and crank up waterways cargo traffic.
A holistic and concerted effort can change India’s transportation landscape, de-congest arterial roads, and even improve quality of life across geographies. The above-mentioned policy interventions thus should be done on priority basis.
Connecting the dots:
- The government has taken various steps for the development of Inland Water Transport system. However, to make it viable the private sector should be engaged. For this adequate policy interventions should be made. Discuss.
General Studies 2:
- Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
General Studies 3:
- Indian Economy and issue
- Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
Happiness in India: World Happiness Report
In the UN’s World Happiness Report, published a few days ago, reveals Finland, Norway and Denmark bagged the first three positions, the remaining Scandinavian countries (Sweden and Iceland) found themselves in the top ten rankings.
India on the other hand is ranked terribly low (133 out of 156 countries) alongside some Sub-Saharan African countries, dropping 11 spots from last year.
Most of the emerging economies — Mexico (24), Brazil (28), Argentina (29), Malaysia (35), Russia (59), China (86) — are placed far ahead of India.
All the South Asian countries also ranked better compared to their big brother.
The World Happiness Report cannot correctly measure the subjective feeling of pleasure and comfort, let alone happiness.
This index is basically an appraisal of the general well-being of a nation rather than an indicator of personal happiness as many misunderstand.
- Besides measures of prosperity such as income and healthy life expectancy, the key variables that are used to ascertain happiness are generosity, having social support in times of trouble, and freedom to make life choices.
- Another important variable is trust, which is measured by the absence of corruption in business and government.
How could we explain India’s awful performance among otherwise comparable countries? There is no single or simple explanation, but it is worth taking a critical look at the underpinning reasons through the prism of happiness variables. The following five points are not answers, but pointers to the making of the ‘Great Indian Happiness Tragedy’.
- Despite being one of the fastest growing economies, India remains a non-egalitarian country, with burgeoning levels of economic inequality.
An Oxfam survey in 2017 has revealed that India’s richest 1 per cent has cornered almost 73 per cent of the total wealth created in the country.
- India’s public health spending is well below the global average (just 1.4 per cent of GDP), leaving the deprived millions to pitiable public healthcare facilities.
Oddly enough, even the well-off Indian professional class, who can afford expensive private healthcare, are not guaranteed a long, healthy and happy life. The shocking case of the early fading physicians in Kerala, the so-called most socially advanced State in India, signifies how scary the emerging situation is.
- India has failed in building a trustworthy social support system, helping people when they are in real trouble.
An atrocious incident was recently reported from Uttar Pradesh, where a team of patrolling policemen lets two teenage victims of an accident bleed to death as they “didn’t want blood to stain their car seats”. A perfect example of how little people can trust the state machinery.
- India’s political system and business establishments are unable to manage big cash flows in a sustainable, responsible and transparent way.
Corrupt and fraudulent practices still hold the key as exemplified in the Nirav Modi episode and similar occurrences.
- The timid Indian response towards the Asia’s most vulnerable refugees, despite being a country that once welcomed Tibetans and Sri Lankans, illustrates that generosity and altruism are giving way to pseudo-nationalism and self-obsession.
Certain conceptual and methodological lacunae do exist in the Happiness Index.
But it clearly exposes the deep-seated flaws in our social foundations making any grand claim for an imminent ‘advanced’ India as nothing more than a wild fantasy narrative.
Connecting the dots:
- UN’s World Happiness Report though has few flaws exposes deep seated flaws in our social foundations. Discuss.
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