IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 4th April 2018
India and Nepal to jointly lay 900 MW Hydropower Project
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- International relations
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart KP Sharma Oli will jointly lay the foundation stone of the 900 MW Arun III hydropower project.
- The foundation stone of the hydroelectricity project will be laid in Sankhuwasabha district of eastern Nepal.
- The power project has been developed by Sutlej Jala Vidhyut Nigam (SJVN), an Indian state-run utility.
- This is the largest hydroelectric project undertaken by the India government in Nepal and it gained momentum after Modi came to power in 2014.
- India will provide a total of $ 1.5 billion for the project which is being constructed on the build, operate, own and transfer ( BOOT) model.
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NAM Conference, Azerbaijan
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- International relations
- External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj has embarked a three-day official visit to Azerbaijan’s capital city Baku to participate in Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Ministerial Conference.
- The NAM Mid-Term Ministerial Conference will be held in Baku on 5-6 April under the theme of “Promoting international peace and security for sustainable development“.
India and Azerbaijan:
- During the visit, EAM will hold bilateral consultations with her Azerbaijani counterpart. The two sides will discuss bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.
- India and Azerbaijan enjoy warm and friendly relations based on historical and cultural ties.
- They have growing bilateral cooperation in many areas including energy, transportation, and capacity building.
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General Studies 3:
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Financial inclusion has been recognised as a key building block which will form the foundation for achieving several of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
As a construct, it provides much more than access to financial services.
Steps taken in promoting financial inclusion:
- The first step towards achieving financial inclusion was to begin with providing a bank account to a majority of our population.
This was enabled through the Jan Dhan Yojana under which the government has opened over 30 crore accounts with almost 60 per cent being in rural areas.
Importantly, the zero balance accounts amongst these have declined from 77 per cent in 2014 to 20 per cent nowshowing that the government has been successful in getting unbanked people to actively use it.
Part of this has been driven through the linking of Aadhaar and doing Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to these Jan Dhan accounts.
- The next step was to create an infrastructure which could handle all aspects of servicing such a large segment of the population.
A multitude of solutions, be it UPI, BHIM, NeSL and BBPS amongst others have been created.
All the above changes have started showing results.
About a month ago, Crisil disclosed the findings of its Inclusix financial inclusion index for FY2016 reporting an improvement in the overall score for India.
The index gives us a rough indicator of how we have accelerated the path to financial inclusion in the last few years.
The score has moved from 50 in FY2013 to 58 in FY2016 and would have been much higher at 62 this year, were it not for the re-basing and inclusion of insurance data.
More needs to be done:
Despite the improvement, credit penetration remains low at 56 per cent compared with 78 per cent deposit penetration.
By providing bank accounts and establishing the requisite infrastructure, the government has created a strong foundation and ensured the availability of the bare minimum. .
It now needs to gear up for the next stage in this evolution.
- Democratisation of credit:
Availability of credit remains a major roadblock for a vast majority of the population.
The biggest deterrent to resolving this has been the lack of tangible data points, which can help the credit bureaus put together better underwriting models for these unbanked customers.
This problem is now slowly being resolved as these bank accounts are linked to Aadhaar providing a consistent flow of payments data, an increasingly important parameter whilst underwriting individual credit.
- Financialisation of savings:
The last couple of years have seen intensive flows into investment avenues like mutual funds.
The challenge will now be to translate this model to the bottom of the pyramid. However, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work here.
With the investible surplus being much lower for this segment, innovation will hold the key in designing products which are suitable for this segment.
- Promoting financial literacy:
Increasingly enhancing financial literacy across society is critical for the success of any other inititatives for financial inclusion.
This needs to be achieved across all age groups, for the younger populace through school education and through special programmes for the adult population. A financially literate society makes the job of financial inclusion that much easier.
A lot of efforts have been put in creating widespread access and the infrastructure backbone. The next steps mentioned above requires concerted efforts, not just by the government but equally importantly by the regulators and the financial services participants.
Connecting the dots:
- India has come far ahead in its path of financial inclusion. The next steps to achieve the goal should be- democratisation of credit, financialisation of savings and promoting financial literacy. Discuss.
General studies 1:
- Effects of Globalization on Indian Society; Urbanization and related issues
General studies 2:
- Important aspects of governance and e-governance
- Issues regarding services relating to Health, Education, Human Resource
Improving public spaces in India
Public spaces are defined by UN-Habitat as “all places, including streets, publicly owned or of public use, accessible and enjoyable by all for free and without a profit motive”.
Public spaces yields benefits of greater inclusion, safety, democratic engagement, quality of life, gender parity and economic returns.
Sustainable Development Goal 11, sustainable cities and communities, focuses on making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable by providing “universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible green and public spaces”.
Sorry state of public spaces in India:
A study on public spaces in Mumbai highlights that merely 1.28 sq. m of the city’s public space is available per person whereas all major global cities provide healthy public space: for instance, London (31.68 sq. m), New York (26.4), and Chicago (17.6).
There is a growing and palpable demand that India should expedite its efforts on the availability of, and access to, public spaces.
The real problem lies in identifying the policies that could achieve the desirable level of public space.
In 2015, UN-Habitat also launched the “Global Public Space Toolkit: From Global Principles To Local Policies and Practice”. However, the trouble lies in picking practical, actionable and realistic policy measures and replicating them as per the Indian local context.
What needs to be done?
- Cities should direct meaningful focus and resources towards non-motorized transport (NMT).
Cities can identify key markets, bustling roads and transport junctions and only allow non-motorized transport during one day of the week.
This will unleash the humanist element of our cities, where people would gather, but without the symbol of exclusivity and private space—automobiles.
- The city administration can identify streets, sidewalks, neighbourhoods, marketplaces and places of historical importance, and allocate them for cultural expression.
Reviving the cultural scene can usher gains in tourism, social cohesion, and liveliness.
- The state and local governments should work on leveraging privately-owned public spaces (POPS), also referred to as pseudo-public spaces. These are owned and managed privately but provide access to the public. Shopping malls are an example of such spaces.
- Private neighbourhoods should be encouraged by municipalities to adopt nearby public spaces.
This could be a win-win situation, since there is evidence that well-managed and planned public spaces bolster the prices of nearby residential neighbourhoods.
- We need to rejuvenate the existing inventory of public spaces- parks, beaches, historical landmarks, places of worship, and centuries-old architecture.
Indian public spaces can be revived if the government addresses the four basic needs of infrastructure, hygiene, security, and accessibility.
- Cities should target the conversion of old infrastructure, wastelands, landfills and other such places into public places.
Such a move will minimize the cost of developing a new public space. This effort should also involve reversing the encroachment of city water bodies such as ponds, beaches, mangroves and seafronts.
With the above mentioned measures, the state of public spaces in Indian cities can be improved. These measures provide early and easy gains on the issue of public spaces in Indian cities.
Connecting the dots:
- Discuss the importance of improving public spaces in India. Also suggests ways to do so.
The data sets stack up
Dangers of the ‘lynch mob’ mentality
River of discontent