First installment of Rs. 1500 crore released to states as central assistance for 99 prioritized irrigation projects under AIBP

Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Sushri Uma Bharti announced today the release of first installment of Rs. 1500 crore to the states as central assistance for 99 prioritized irrigation projects under Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Program (AIBP). This amount has been released for 50 projects in the states of Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan and Telangana
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi today the Minister said today is historic day for AIBP as it will mark a new beginning for these projects. She said total funds required for completion of all the 99 identified projects have been estimated at Rs.77595 crore (Rs.48546 crore for project works and Rs.29049 crore for CAD works) with estimated CA of Rs.31342 crore. Likely potential utilization through these projects is estimated to be 76.03 lakh hectare (Lakh ha). Sushri Bharti said accordingly a proposal was made for providing Central Assistance and State share for above mentioned 99 projects through NABARD. The Minister said these projects will cover all most all drought prone districts of 18 States of country and will also go a long way to contain the incident of suicide by farmers. She expressed the hope that with regular monitoring the speedy implementation, the Government would be able to complete all the 99 projects well ahead of the schedule.
The Finance Minister in his budget speech of 2016 had announced for creation of dedicated Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) in NABARD with an initial corpus of about Rs. 20,000 crore and an amount of Rs.12517 crore was provided as budgetary resources and market borrowings during 2016-17.
The Union Cabinet on July 27, 2016 had approved establishment of the Mission to ensure completion of 99 prioritized projects in phases by December 2019 including Command Area Development and Water Management (CAD&WM). The arrangement of funds for Central share/Assistance (CA) has been made by taking loan from NABARD as per year-wise requirements which could be paid back in 15 years’ time keeping a grace period of three years. Further, the State Governments, if required, may borrow funds from NABARD for the States Share.
Central Government launched the AIBP in the year 1996-97 to provide Central Assistance to major/medium irrigation projects in the country, with the objective to accelerate implementation of such projects which were beyond resource capability of the States or were in advanced stage of completion. Priority was given to those projects which were started in Pre-Fifth and Fifth Plan period and also to those which were benefiting Tribal and Drought Prone Areas. From the year 1999-2000 onwards, Central Loan Assistance under AIBP was also extended to minor surface irrigation projects (SMI) of special category States (N.E. States & Hilly States of H. P., Sikkim, J&K, Uttaranchal and projects benefiting KBK districts of Orissa). Since its inception, 297 Irrigation / Multi Purpose Projects have been included for funding under AIBP. Out of this 143 projects have been completed and 5 projects were foreclosed. An irrigation potential of 24.39 Lakh ha. has been created through these projects. The cumulative Central Loan Assistance / Grant provided to States under AIBP to all of above project till March 31, 2015 was Rs. 67539.52 crore. Twenty five States got benefited from the programme.
During 2015-16, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) was launched with an aim to enhance physical access of water on farm and expand cultivable area under assured irrigation, improve on farm water use efficiency, introduce sustainable water conservation practices etc. Major and medium irrigation/multipurpose irrigation projects are being funded under PMKSY-AIBP and Repair, Renovation and Restoration (RRR) of Water Bodies, Surface Minor Irrigation (SMI) projects and CAD&WM projects are being funded under PMKSY-Har Khet Ko Pani (HKKP). During 2015-16, Central Assistance of Rs. 2327.82 crore was released for projects under AIBP and CA of Rs. 1905.81 crore was released for projects under CADWM, SMI and RRR of water bodies together. Total CA of Rs 4233.63 crore was released during 2015-16 for PMKSY (AIBP+HKKP)
The issues related to implementation of projects under PMKSY-HKKP including prioritization of projects were deliberated in the Committee headed by Shri Brijmohan Agrawal, Minister (Water Resources) of Chhattisgarh. As per the information supplied by concerned States to the Committee, 99 projects have been identified for completion upto 2019-20. 23 projects (Priority-I) have been identified to be completed by 2016-17 and another 31 projects (Priority-II) have been identified to be completed by 2017-18. The balance 45 projects (Priority-III) have been identified to be completed by December 2019.
One of the major reasons for the projects to remain incomplete was inadequate provision of funds by the concerned State Governments. As a result, large amount of funds spent on these projects were locked up and the benefits envisaged at the time of formulation of the projects could not be achieved. This was a cause for concern and initiative was required at the national level to remedy the situation.
A Mission has been established vide order dt September 07, 2016 with the Officer on Special Duty in the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR, RD & GR) as the Mission Director for completion of the identified 99 projects including development of their command area. Mission would be responsible for overall coordination and outcome focused monitoring of all components of PMKSY for achieving its targets.
A Council headed by CEO, NITI Aayog and having Secretary(WR, RD & GR), Secretary (A&C), Secretary (RD) and Secretary(Finance), Chairman, NABARD as members, has been established vide order dated September 07, 2016 which shall look after the overall implementation of works and policy matters. Chief Secretaries (or their representative) of the States having large number of projects to be completed under this programme i.e. Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Telangana shall also be members. Further, one of Chief Secretaries (or his representative) from rest of the States implementing projects, under this programme, shall also be a member by rotation. The Mission Director would be the Member Secretary of the Council. The Council shall be responsible for overall implementation of project works, coordination and monitoring in a manner so as to complete identified 99 projects as per targets. The Council would be responsible for overall supervision of the Mission to achieve it’s objectives and shall also undertake monitoring and course correction, where required during implementation.
A High Level Empowered Committee (HLEC) comprising Finance Minister, Minister (WR, RD & GR), Minister of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmer’s Welfare, Minister of Rural Development, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog has also been constituted vide order dt September 07, 2016 which would review the progress of the identified 99 projects and other components under PMKSY and also provide policy guidance for mid-term course correction.
Further, online monitoring as well as physical monitoring at various levels including third party monitoring has been contemplated for ensuring completion of these projects as planned. Expression of Interest (EOI) has already been sought for finalizing the agency in this regard. A MIS system and mobile based application being prepared in this regard in consultation with NITI Aayog is in advance stage of development.

Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) Plant, Inaugurated in IIIM Jammu

A newly built, state-of-the-art Plant for extraction, formulation, packaging of medicinal plant based phytopharmaceutical drugs under internationally accepted GMP guidelines was inaugurated by the Vice President, CSIR and Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan and Minister of State for DoNER (Independent Charge), Dr Jitendra Singh, PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, DoAE and Department of Space,at CSIR-IIIM, in Jammu on 20th October, 2016.

This is first such national Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) Plant facility established in the public sector in India. The facility has been issued a manufacturing license by Drug & Food Control Organization, Jammu & Kashmir.

The CGMP facility would provide a high level world-class infrastructure for the manufacture of botanical/phytopharmaceutical in a way to ensure their safety, efficacy and quality for global market. The establishment of this facility at CSIR-IIIM will also help all CSIR Institutes engaged in drug discovery & development in converting their natural product leads to pre-clinical and clinical development for marketing approvals.It will also provide opportunity to new entrepreneurs/SMEs engaged in manufacture of standardized extracts and botanical drug formulations, natural products etc. to evaluate their research leads and eventually graduate as entrepreneurs so that more number of industries can be setup and employment can be generated.

This facility will also be used as the Technology Business Incubator (TBI), for which Department of Science and Technology has already approved a project. The experience, expertise and infrastructure like state-of-the-art QC/QA division coupled with GLP standard Animal House available with IIIM are suitable to extend incubation ecosystem to entrepreneurs/SMEs by providing wide range of services available in the Institute as an overall holistic research and development support, mentorship and hand holding in all spheres of phytopharmaceutical product development cycle. The facilities will also be used in conducting certified training programs for students, entrepreneurs, etc.

Indian Railways organises Conference on Heritage Rail Tourism jointly with Asia Pacific Heritage & Rail Tourism Organisation

Heritage Rail Tourism Conference was organized by Indian Railways at National Rail Museum, New Delhi jointly with Asia Pacific Heritage & Rail Tourism Organization (APHRTO), from 19-21 October, 2016. Participants from many countries including Japan, UK, Germany, Australia, Taiwan, senior officers of Indian Railways and other stakeholders of Heritage Rail Tourism were present in the Conference. 

Shri Tim Fischer, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia delivered a talk on ‘Heritage Rail Tourism in Australia’ in a curtain raiser held on 19th October 2016. 

Shri Tim Fischer (Australia), along with Shri Adrian Shooter (UK), Shri David Morgan (UK) and Dr. Nui (Taiwan) and accompanied by Secretary, Railway Board and Executive Director/Heritage, Railway Board met Hon’ble Union Minister for Railways Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu on 19th October 2016 to discuss ideas on developing Rail Heritage Tourism in India. The participants also visited Heritage Transport Museum, Gurgaon, being managed by Heritage Transportation Trust, New Delhi. 

Dr. Bibek Debroy, Member, NITI Aayog delivered keynote speaker in the inaugural session held on 20th October 2016. The inaugural session was graced by Shri Hemant Kumar, Member Rolling Stock, Railway Board, Shri Ashwani Lohani, CMD/Air India Ltd., Shri R.K. Verma, Secretary, Railway Board. The international conference, the first time ever organized in National Rail Museum on Heritage Rail Tourism is having three technical sessions with 14 papers being presented by national and international delegates primarily covering various aspects of Rail Heritage and promoting Heritage Rail Tourism in the world. 

The Annual General Meetings of APHTRO and WATTRAIN (World Association of Tourist Trams and Trains) had been held as a side event. It was envisaged that this APHTRO Conference will bring ideas and visions for strategizing Rail Heritage Tourism in India.

Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik : Civil Aviation Ministry’s Regional Connectivity Scheme “UDAN” Launched Today

The Ministry of Civil Aviation took a major step today towards making flying a reality for the small town common man. The Civil Aviation Minister Shri P Ashok Gajapathi Raju launched the Ministry’s much awaited Regional Connectivity Scheme “ UDAN” in New Delhi today. UDAN is an innovative scheme to develop the regional aviation market. It is a market-based mechanism in which airlines bid for seat subsidies. This first-of-its-kind scheme globally will create affordable yet economically viable and profitable flights on regional routes so that flying becomes affordable to the common man even in small towns. 

Speaking on the occasion Shri Raju expressed hope that the first flight under the scheme would be able to take off by January next year. He said the scheme had been prepared after a lot of stakeholder consultation and called for support from all players to make it a success. 

Also speaking on the occasion the Minister of State for Civil Aviation Shri Jayant Sinha said that the objective of the scheme was “Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik” He said this scheme ensure affordability, connectivity, growth and development. It would provide a win-win situation for all stakeholders – citizens would get the benefit of affordability, connectivity and more jobs. The Centre would be able to expand the regional air connectivity and market. The state governments would reap the benefit of development of remote areas, enhance trade and commerce and more tourism expansion. For incumbent airlines there was the promise of new routes and more passengers while for and start-up airlines there is the opportunity of new, scalable business. Airport operators will also see their business expanding as would original equipment manufacturers . 

The scheme UDAN envisages providing connectivity to un-served and under-served airports of the country through revival of existing air-strips and airports. The scheme would be in operation for a period of 10 years. 

UDAN has a unique market-based model to develop regional connectivity. Interested airline and helicopter operators can start operations on hitherto un-connected routes by submitting proposals to the Implementing Agency. The operators could seek a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) apart from getting various concessions. All such route proposals would then be offered for competitive bidding through a reverse bidding mechanism and the route would be awarded to the participant quoting the lowest VGF per Seat. The operator submitting the original proposal would have the Right of First Refusal on matching the lowest bid in case his original bid is within 10% of the lowest bid. The successful bidder would then have exclusive rights to operate the route for a period of three years. Such support would be withdrawn after a three year period, as by that time, the route is expected to become self-sustainable. 

The selected airline operator would have to provide a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 40 UDAN Seats ( subsidized rates )on the UDAN Flights for operations through fixed wing aircraft and a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 13 Seats on the Flights for operations through helicopters. On each such route, the minimum frequency would be three and maximum of seven departures per week. Route networks would also be encouraged under the scheme to achieve economies of scale and optimal usage of aircraft. 

The fare for a one hour journey of appx. 500 km on a fixed wing aircraft or for a 30 minute journey on a helicopter would now be capped at Rs. 2,500, with proportionate pricing for routes of different stage lengths / flight duration. 

This would be achieved through (1) a financial stimulus in the form of concessions from Central and State governments and airport operators and (2) a Viability Gap Funding to the interested airlines to kick-off operations from such airports so that the passenger fares are kept affordable. 

• Central Government would provide concessions in the form of reduced excise duty, service tax, permission to trade ASKMs for Non-RCS (UDAN) Seats and flexibility of code sharing at the RCS (UDAN) airports. 

• State governments will have to lower the VAT on ATF to 1% or less, besides providing security and fire services free of cost and electricity, water and other utilities at substantially concessional rates. 

• Airport operators shall not impose Landing and Parking charge and Terminal Navigation Landing Charges in addition to discounts on Route Navigation Facility Charges. 

A Regional Connectivity Fund would be created to meet the viability gap funding requirements under the scheme. The RCF levy per departure will be applied to certain domestic flights. 

The partner State Governments (other than North Eastern States and Union Territories where contribution will be 10 %) would contribute a 20% share to this fund. For balanced regional growth, the allocations under the scheme would be equitably spread across the five geographical regions of the country viz. North, West, South, East and North-east. 

The States have a key role under the scheme. The selection of airports where UDAN operations would start would be done in consultation with State Government and after confirmation of their concessions. It may be recalled that revival of dysfunctional airports and starting operations on un-served airports has been a long standing demand of most States and this will be addressed through UDAN to a large extent. 

The UDAN is likely to a give a major fillip to tourism and employment generation in the hinterland. Through introduction of helicopters and small aircraft, it is also likely to significantly reduce travel timings in remote and hilly regions, as well as islands and other areas of the country.

‘Forests, Tribal Forest Dwellers and Life Forms Living in Forests Complement one another and are not Rivals”: Anil Madhav Dave

Environment Minister Inaugurates Two-Day Conference of Senior-Level Officers from States
“Jungle is a living entity and it also communicates, provided we have the ability to listen to it. The three essential components – forests, tribal forest dwellers and life forms living in forests complement one another and are not rivals”, Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Anil Madhav Dave, said today. He also said that large-scale felling of trees in forests is not being done by tribal forest dwellers. Calling for a change in the colonial outlook that has existed from the pre-Independence period towards forests, tribal forest dwellers and life forms living in forests, the Minister emphasised the need to reduce pressure on forests. He said that agro-forestry, bamboo, or grass can be possible alternatives to reduce this pressure. “Right way of development is the right way of environment. Right way of life and leading a life with minimum carbon footprint is the answer to climate change”, Shri Dave said. 

Addressing the inaugural session of the two-day conference of Additional Chief Secretaries (Forests)/Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Wardens here today, the Minister highlighted that India has agreed to take a number of actions on avoluntary basis to meet the commitment under Paris Agreement, Self Development Goals 2030, as well as the recently-concluded agreement on HFCs. The Minister referred to the recent developments at the global as well as national level in the environment sector. He underlined the need to develop an effective strategy to achieve forestry-related NDC targets, which India had submitted under the Paris agreement. Shri Dave also referred to new developments at the national level, such as passing of the CAMPA Bill, which paves the way for effective utilization of large sum of funds available under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund. He pointed out that environment and development have always gone hand-in-hand. He highlighted the need to plant trees and more importantly, protect and conserve them Shri Dave also underlined the importance of connecting the younger generation to forests. 

The central theme of the conference is development without destruction, peoples’ participation, building skills and capacities of the workforce, as well as people dependent on forests and illegal trade in wildlife and timber. The Conference will discuss important issues related to forestry and wildlife. 

The focus will be on various issues related to wildlife conservation and management on the second day of the conference tomorrow. Some of the identified areas for discussion will include human-animal conflict, wildlife crime, illegal wildlife trade and discuss ways to address these issues effectively. 

The year 2016 represents a very important milestone in the evolution of the Indian Forest Service, as it completes 50 years of its formation as an All India Service. To mark the occasion, a book titled, ‘Golden Leaves - Celebrating 50 years of Indian Forest Service’ was released by the Minister. A short film on the evolution and contribution of IFS to the growth and development of the nation was also screened. 

Director General, Forest and Special Secretary, Dr. S.S Negi delivered the welcome address, while Additional Director General of Forest, Shri Anil Kumar gave the vote of thanks.

Over 2000 visitors thronged Consumer Mela to register their grievances

The Consumer Mela organized by Department of Consumer Affairs yesterday at Central Park, Connaught Place in New Delhi generated enough enthusiasm among the Consumers and more than 2000 visitors thronged the Mela to register their grievances or for counseling. National Consumer Helpline Stall registered more than 200 visitors. State Bank of India reported that 100 visitors to their counter with different queries and suggestions. There were 60 visitors in the ASCI counter enquiring about misleading advertisements. FSSAI had 250 visitors while TRAI had 200 visitors in their stall.
The Mela organized in association with the industry bodies, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, CII, PHD CHEMBER and DICCI as well as sector regulators like TRAI FSSAI, BIS etc was inaugurated by Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister for Food and Consumer Affairs. Justice Shri D.K Jain, President NCDRC, Shri Hem Pande, Department of Consumer Affairs, Senior Officers of Government of India and Senior members /office bureau of the industry bodies were present during the event.
The main objective of the mela was to bring the consumers and company face to face so as to resolve the grievances to the extent possible. This was also an opportunity for the consumers to register their grievances on the spot.
During the inauguration, the Minister also launched week long Consumer Awareness programme to be observed throughout the country during 20 to 27 Oct 2016 this year. He announced that from next year the consumer awareness week will be observed for one week from March 15, which is World Consumer Rights Day. Incidentally, the department is also observing Swachhta Pakhwada from 16 to 31 Oct 2016 . During the Mela the visitors were informed about the responsibility of the Consumers to keep their surroundings clean.
In the Mela, apart from National Consumer Helpline, BIS, FSSAI, NTH, NCDRC, Weights and Measures, reputed private companies also participated in good number.All together there were 50 stalls put up by Participants.
While wrapping up of the Mela, Shri Hem Pande, Secretary Department of Consumer Affairs exhorted all the State Governments to replicate the Mela in their respective State and UTs so as to empower the Consumers.

President Shri Pranab Mukherjee meets delegates of the international conference on voter education for inclusive, informed and ethical participation

The heads of election management bodies and international electoral institutions of different countries attending the ‘International Conference on Voter Education for Inclusive, Informed and Ethical Participation’ called on the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan today (October 20, 2016). 

Addressing the international delegates, the President quoted Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the co-founder of erstwhile Czechoslovakia and said “Democracy is the political form of humanity”. He said that the heads of election management bodies present there were custodians of democracy and therefore of humanity. He stated that democracy would succeed through their responsibility of discharging free and fair elections as per the Constitution of the country concerned. 

The President said that after India became independent and was transformed into a Republic, there were many doubting voices with regard to success of adult suffrage in the country. However, the Election Commission of India, which has an important role in our democracy, has been delivering the citizens well managed elections in a country with a vast area and a huge population. The country has seen consistent rise in voters’ participation in successive elections. The General Elections to the lower house of Indian Parliament in 2014 recorded a historic turn out. He stated that he was happy that the voters also chose a stable political regime by electing a single majority Government. 

The President said that the basic objective of democracy is to have an electorate which is informed and constantly engaged with the affairs of the State. It is important to create a conducive atmosphere to enable people to exercise their voting rights without fear or favour and see that the outcome of elections is not vitiated. Voters must be educated to exercise their right to vote with full responsibility and seriousness. He told the delegates that being experts in their field it was for them to decide how successful elections were to be implemented. He hoped that the deliberations at the Conference would lead to better voters’ education and increased voters’ participation.