Mega job fair on March 15
A job-cum-free skill development training mela will be organised on March 15 in Bengalure under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY).
WHAT IS PMKVY?
It is a flagship program of Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) launched in 2015. National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) implements it with the help of training partners.
- It aims to mobilize youth to take up skill training with the aim of increasing productivity and aligning the training and certification to the needs of the country.
- Owing to the success of PMKVY 1.0 wherein more than 19 lakh students were trained as against the target of 24 lakh, the scheme was relaunched as PMKVY 2.0 (2016-2020) with an allocated budget of Rs. 12000 Crores that aims to train 10 million youth by the year 2020.
- Short Term Training: Training as per National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) is provided to those who are either school/college dropouts or unemployed.
- Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL): An individual with a certain set of skills or with prior learning experience is assessed and certified under RPL with grade according to the NSQF.
- Special Projects: This component ensures training in special areas and premises of government bodies and corporate. It aims to encourage training in vulnerable and marginalized groups of society.
- Training Partners (TPs) are mandated to organize Kaushal and Rozgar Melas every six months, thus providing placement assistance to certified ones.
- Out of 4.06 million candidates that got enrolled between its relaunch and 24 January 2019, 3.73 million completed the course.
- Certification Stats: Candidates who score at least 50% of total marks are provided with certification. Nearly, 30% of those who enrolled between the above mentioned period have not been certified yet. This shows that even skill training is not enough for such people. This point towards the lack of proper basic education at schools and colleges.
- Placement Stats: Tracking of placements is mandatory under PMKVY. Till 26 October 2018, 1.94 lakh candidates got a certificate and out of them, only 55% got employed across different sectors. This shows the low employability level under PMKVY.
- The government needs to ensure high-quality secondary education at the secondary level to prepare the youth for skills provided under the scheme. It should also promote vocational education in schools.
- Training Partners need to be made accountable for training and the number of placement opportunities that are provided under the scheme.
- Participation from more and more industries should be sought for placement of the candidates trained under the scheme.
- Around one million youth enter the workforce every month; it is necessary to increase the number of people that go under training under the scheme.
Shettyhalli: Nod for redrawing boundary brings great relief
Areas where human intervention is high to be excluded from sanctuary limits.
- The sanctuary that came into existence in 1976 has a total area of 396 sq.km.
- Its boundary description, however, stretches till Shivamogga city, covering an area of around 700 sq.km.
- More than 300-sq.km area was included inadvertently within the purview of the sanctuary and denotification of this area was a long-standing demand.
- The sanctuary comprises human habitations such as Shettyhalli, Chitra Shettyhalli, and Puradal, where families that were displaced owing to Sharavati hydel power projects were accommodated.
- After the sanctuary came into existence, restrictions were imposed on works related to upgrading of civic amenities in human habitations in its limits, including at Shettyhalli, Chitra Shettyhalli, and Puradal.
- The wildlife board, has decided to exclude Puradal and Kudi State forests, the total area of which is around 50 sq.km.
- In return, 50 sq.km of Umblebylu State forest, a crucial corridor for the movement of wildlife, including tigers and elephants, from Shettyhalli to Bhadra Tiger Reserve will be brought within the ambit of Shettyhalli sanctuary.
No spike in arrests on Bangladesh border
- In 2019, 1,351 held for bid to cross over
- The number of those apprehended by the Border Security Force (BSF) came down from 3,426 in 2015 to 1,118 in 2018.
- In 2019, there was a marginal increase when 1,351 persons were caught trying to enter India illegally.
- India shares a 4,096.7-km border with Bangladesh and all of it is guarded by the BSF.
- The fencing along the 900-km border along Bangladesh could not be completed due to reasons such as, difficult terrain, riverine and marshy land, short working season, land acquisition problems, public protests and objections by Border Guards Bangladesh.
- The largest area of 579.65 km remains unfenced along West Bengal as the State shares the longest border with Bangladesh at 2,216.7 km compared with the length shared by Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.
254 Kashmiri Pandits in govt. jobs since 2015
Home Ministry tells parliamentary panel that relief, rehabilitation provided to registered migrants
- The Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP) announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 7, 2015, the government approved creation of 3,000 additional State government jobs for Pandits at a cost of ₹1,080 crore.
- The special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 was revoked and the State was bifurcated and downgraded into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh by Parliament on August 6, 2019.
- As per the inputs provided by the government of Jammu and Kashmir, there are 64,827 registered migrant families comprising 60,489 Hindu families, 2,609 Muslim families and 1,729 Sikh families.
- Cash relief to the eligible Jammu and Kashmiri migrants is given at the rate of ₹3,250 per person with a ceiling of ₹13,000 per family a month.
- The last enhancement was sanctioned in June 2018. In addition, dry ration is also provided
Hike in cash relief
- The monthly cash relief to the Kashmiri migrants was increased from ₹6,600 per family as sanctioned in 2004 to ₹13,000 per family per month in 2018.
- The cash allowance provided by the State governments is reimbursed by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Thermal coal imports for 2019 rise 12.6%
Lower production by Coal India spurs trend; coking coal registers decline
- India’s thermal coal imports rose 12.6% to nearly 200 million tonnes in 2019.
- Coal is among the top five commodities imported by India, the world’s largest consumer, importer and producer of the fuel.
- Imports of thermal coal — mainly used for power generation — jumped 12.6% to 197.84 million tonnes in 2019.
- Imports of coking coal — used mainly in the manufacturing of steel — fell marginally.
- India imported 51.33 million tonnes of coking coal in 2019, down from 51.63 million tonnes in 2018, the data showed.
- While higher coal imports may be bad news for the Indian government, they benefit international miners such as Indonesia’s Adaro Energy, U.S. coal miner Peabody Energy Corp and global commodity merchants such as Glencore.
Indonesia top supplier
- Indonesia accounted for nearly 60% of India’s thermal coal imports in the April-December period, government data showed.
- While South Africa accounted for 22% and Russia and Australia accounting for over 5% each.
Rainfall, outages hit CIL
- Traders said coal imports grew largely due to lower production by Coal India Ltd., whose output fell for five consecutive months ended November due to the highest annual rainfall in 25 years and frequent outages including strikes by workers and locals.
- Higher coal shipments to India were also due to increased imports by Indian utilities, whose imports rebounded after a three-year slide, mainly due to increased purchases by an Adani Power plant in western India.
The absence of playgrounds and electricity in govt. schools speaks poorly of policy priorities
- The framework of concurrent powers, the Centre operates its own schemes and sponsors several school education programmes covering the States, notably Samagra Shiksha and the Mid Day Meal scheme.
- Data for 2017-18, only 56.45% of government schools had electricity and 56.98% a playground, while almost 40% lacked a boundary wall.
- Even in politically well-represented Uttar Pradesh, almost 70% of schools lacked electricity.
- The allocation to the School Education and Literacy department has suffered a cut of 27.52%, amounting to ₹22,725 crore in the Budget Estimate for 2020-21, although public expenditure on education has been rising.
- A public school system that guarantees universal access, good learning and all facilities has to be among the highest national priorities.
A progressive system of taxation
Why reverting to the classical system of taxing dividend is a good move
- The Finance Bill, 2020 has reverted to the classical system of taxing dividends (in the hands of the shareholders).
- The Bill seeks to withdraw the dividend distribution tax (DDT) payable by the company.
Three methods of taxing dividend
- The three methods of taxing dividend are - the classical system; the simplistic system or DDT regime; and the imputation system.
- The classical system was in vogue till 1997-98.
- According to this system, the dividend was taxable in the hands of the shareholder, subject to the then available deduction under Section 80L for a maximum of ₹12,000. This was a progressive system.
- The Finance Act of 1997 analysed the merits and demerits of the classical system and embarked on the route of the simplistic system of taxing dividend in the hands of the distributing company.
- The DDT system replaced the classical system from 1997-98. The rate of DDT started at about 10% and climbed to 20.56%.
- The advantage of DDT was that tracking of dividend in the hands of the company became easier and collecting the tax on dividend was a painless process.
- The main drawback was that the treaty agreements with countries like the U.S. did not permit the set-off of the DDT paid against the tax liability of the shareholder. DDT was simple but inequitable since it made no distinction between a low taxpayer and a high taxpayer.
- With India registering substantial growth between 1997 and 2020, corporate performances also registered progress and dividend pay-outs increased.
- The income tax payer came under the radar of the IT department. This development made tracking of the shareholder much easier.
Maximum tax rate
- However, this means that the starting rate of tax works out to 10% and the highest rate works out to, say, 43%. Tax paid in dividend is out of money earned and received and more often than not represents holding of shares passed on by generations without any cost incurred.
- Shareholders in other countries with a protective treaty regime can receive dividend attracting tax rates as low as 5%.
Fighting locust attacks: How about putting them on the plate
Locust outbreaks create opportunities to develop protein-rich feed for fish and livestock, including poultry, pigs and pets.
- There is a millenia-long history of locust outbreaks in Africa and Asia. China has a 3,000-year history of dealing with locust upsurges and plagues. Over 800 such plagues were recorded from 707 BC to recent times.
- From the 23rd century BC until AD 1911, more than 8,000 locust occurrences were recorded. Plagues occurred every nine to 11 years in this time period.
- Between 1930 and 1960, they reached plague levels around 18 times across the world. But the period between 1965 and 2019 was a ‘recession’.
- Desert locusts are currently unleashing mayhem in the Horn of Africa. Their destructive power was in full display in seven African countries, with the pests initially tearing across East Africa with varying intensities.
- The economic impact to control and prevent locusts at a global scale in the last few centuries was huge.
- When the locust swarm infested 5,000 square miles in China in July 2008, the government deployed 200 tons of pesticides, spraying biopesticides in around 386 square miles.
- The economic impact of the locust outbreak in west Africa in 2004 was valued at about $2.5 billion, with $122 million needed to control it.
- Since 1611, upsurges of another kind of locust (Schistocerca piceifrons) reportedly affected every country in Central America with an average of three to five plagues per century thereafter.
- In 2013, when more than 60 per cent of Madagascar — with a population of 13 million — was affected by locusts, around 2.3 million acers of farmland were sprayed with pesticides.
- The situation was brought under control through three successive years of campaigns with a total estimated budget of $41.5 million. The government, with the help of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other partners kept a check on the menace.
A call to combat
- As of February 24, 2020, the FAO’s locust watch showed the situation remained extremely alarming in the Horn of Africa. The current outbreak was described as the worst in seven decades in Kenya and in 25 years in Ethiopia.
- The FAO is currently helping countries in the Horn of Africa deal with the current upsurge to avoid further catastrophes in the region.
- It called for an estimated $76 million in January to help scale up efforts to urgently combat the rapid spread of this pest.
- But as more countries were affected and the scale of need in affected areas became clearer, the cost nearly doubled to $138 million.
- The international community responded with a pledge of $52 million to date. While this was appreciated, there is still a large funding gap.
Integrated solutions at scale
- In recent times, integrated and environmentally safer solutions are being used to deal with the upsurge of locusts. These include:
- Preventive measures: Early-detection infrastructure — surveillance, monitoring and rapid target of nymphal bands of locusts — help in keeping a check on the spread of locusts.
- Post-outbreak control measures: Using biopesticides help allay earlier environmental concerns.
- In addition to the two options above, there are other aspects to be explored further:
- Humanitarian support: In addition to control measures including biopesticide sprays, there is a need to balance efforts to include humanitarian relief.
- Integrated approach including social protection: Countries need to put in place effective policies and governance that strengthen social protection schemes, including insurance to farmers, producers and local community dwellers.
Use of locusts to scale
- Locusts are a part of the earth's biodiversity. Considering the availability of the insect on a massive scale, it is possible to build viable enterprises around locusts as alternative food and feed sources.
- The insects can be a part of human diets especially since the world’s protein supply is inadequate.
- The FAO, in 2013, demonstrated the importance of insects as sources of edible protein in many cultures in Africa and Asia.
Super food or super feed?
- Locust outbreaks create opportunities to develop protein-rich feed for fish and livestock, including poultry, pigs, pets and other domestic animals.
- Locusts have high feed conversion efficiencies. The insects convert low-value carbohydrates like twigs and vegetation into body mass and high-quality food or feed.
- Locusts are superior to beef, according to non-profit food tank. The locust has 72 per cent protein, including essential amino acids.
- They contain Omega-3, iron, zinc, Vitamin C, folic acid, B12 and chitin, without cholesterol or saturated fat, antibiotics and hormones. Protein in locust meals exceed fish meal and reduces costs substantially.
Wild harvest of locusts
- The challenge is that locusts are available in surplus — more than necessary for local communities to handle and use.
- So can locust upsurges be put into effective use at scale? Agri-food industries that already invest in insect farming can expand to wild harvesting.
- The dry weight of 1,000 whole locusts is about one kg, the price of which is about $5 per kg in the market (higher in Alibaba).
- On 19 February 2020, Kenyan billionaire-industrialist Peter Kuguru, offered to buy and process locusts for animal feed at an offering price of 50 Kenyan shillings per kg. A critical mass of collectors is needed to sustain this activity.
- Collecting locusts for food and feed is, however, only recommended where pesticides are not used.
- Locusts can be seen as low hanging fruits to scale up production at times of upsurges. This would require mechanical innovation in large scale harvesting and developing value chain of locust for food and feed products.
- An integrated approach for the prevention and control of locust outbreaks should be an important part of the resilience and social protection systems of more vulnerable countries.
- For immediate control, pesticide sprays, especially biopesticides, remain the most feasible and practical option.
- Adequate infrastructure for surveillance and monitoring systems, budget provisions and capacity development, including effective policies for prevention and control are needed.
- The importance of using locusts as food and feed security cannot be overemphasized. However, this further development in this aspect is needed.
- Agri-food industries should consider investing in massive scale of harvesting locusts for food, food supplements and feed for both poultry and aqua-feed meals, considering the sheer quantities of locusts during upsurges.