Current Affairs Government Schemes

  The Indian Railways has signed MoU with the RailTel, a Mini Ratna Public Sector Undertaking in order to implement Phase II of e-office programme. Also, the Indian Railways is to provide content on demand services in premium, suburban, express and mail trains.
  • MoU of E-Office
On January 13, 2020, the Indian Railways and RailTel signed an agreement to implement the Phase 2 of E-office project. E-Office system is an integrated file management system that will help employees manage data, content electronically. Under the new phase, around 39,000 users are to be registered in 34 Railway divisions on the National informatics Centre. The target is set to be completed by March 2020.
  • Phase I
The Phase I of the project aimed at registering 50,000 plus users in 58 stations by March 2020. However, the Indian Railways have completed the target well ahead of time. E-Office aims at adopting paperless culture. This will help reduce operational cost and also reduce carbon foot print.
  • National Informatics Centre
The National Informatics Centre was established in 1976. It operates under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. It provides infrastructure to deliver Government IT services and also the initiatives of Digital India.
  • Content on Demand Services
In order to generate more non fare revenue, Indian Railways will soon create content-on-demand in express, mail, suburban and express trains. The service is to be provided by the RailTel unit of GoI. The project is to be implemented in 2 years. Under the project, the content such as shows, movies, educational programmes are to be made available in paid and unpaid formats for a period of 10 years. The project will be implemented in several languages. The aim is to cover all the 17 zones of the Railways.

  The Union minister for women and child development Smriti Irani launched 3 welfare schemes for women in Goa. The schemes are Yashaswini Scheme for Women Entrepreneurship, Swasthya Sahayak Project and breast cancer screening initiative handheld device facilitating detection of cancer. Under the Yashaswini Scheme for Women Entrepreneurship, the state government provides interest-free loan up to Rs 5 lakh with a tenure of 5 years to self-help groups with repayment starting from the second year and the loan to be paid in four instalments. Under the Swasthya Sahayak scheme, a diagnostic kit will be supplied to primary healthcare workers and Anganwadi workers in the state to help them conduct basic diagnostic tests at people’s doorstep so as to bring an affordable and convenient solution to the common man, who had to stand in queues and wait for days for getting basic diagnostic tests done. The diagnostic kit has been developed by the Public Health Foundation of India, which has partnered with Procter and Gamble to manufacture and supply the kits using corporate social responsibility (CSR) fund. The Union minister handed over the kit to an Anganwadi worker at the function. The kit includes an interface unit, a tablet and the peripheral bag containing all the equipment needed to perform tests for blood pressure, blood sugar, blood haemoglobin and heart rate. Under breast cancer screening initiative the handheld devices the Anganwadi and healthcare workers will screen women for breast cancer, reaching out to the women in rural parts of the state. With the help of such a device, the delivery of health services will become more accessible and affordable, he said and added that 20,000 women would be screened for breast cancer. To mark the launch of the scheme, a cheque for the Rs 5 lakh loan was handed over by Irani to three women’s self-help groups – Umang Selfhelp Group, Salcete; Pheonix Women’s Self-help Group, Valpoi, and Adarsh Sateri Mahila Mandal, Guleli, Sattari.

  The Government of India has released new performance energy standards for the performance of air conditioners after consulting Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). The BEE operating under Ministry of Power develop strategies and policies with primary objective of reduction in energy usage. According to BEE, the total air conditioner capacity of India is 80 million tonnes of refrigeration. It is estimated that this will increase to 250 million by 2030.
  • Highlights of the new standards
The ISEER (Indian Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) according to the new standard should be in the range of 2.7 to 3.5 for window ACs and 3.3 to 5 for split air conditioners. ISEER is the ratio between total amount of heat an AC can remove when operated in active mode to the amount of energy required during the same period. Also, the air conditioners should have a default setting temperature of 24 degree Celsius. The default setting is applicable to all brands and types including unitary ACs, Split ACs, multi-stage ACs, and the ACs that are rated between 1 star and 5 star. The new standards come into effect from January 1, 2020.
  • Voluntary Star Labelling
In 2006, the BEE launched the voluntary star labelling programme. However, the labelling was applicable only to fixed speed Room Air Conditioners. The star labelling programme launched helped in saving 4.6 billion units in the year 2017-18 alone
  • Current Scenario in India
According to Power Ministry, every one degree increase in air-conditioner temperature results in saving 6% of electricity consumed. Countries like Japan has regulation to keep temperature set default at 28 degree Celsius. The concept of default setting was introduced in 2018. Since then several campaigns and surveys were conducted to spread awareness and get feedback about the default setting.

 On January 5, 2020, Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) and LED Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP) marked their fifth anniversary. The schemes were implemented by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL). EESL is a joint venture of PSU operating under Ministry of Power.
  • Highlights
Under the SLNP initiative, in five years around 1.03 crore smart LED street lights were installed. This helped in reducing Green House Gas emission by 4.8 million tonnes annually. Also, the initiative has created 13,000 jobs. Under UJALA programme, 36.13 crore LED bubs have been distributed so far. This helped in reducing the green house gas emission by 38 million tonnes annually.
  • Awards
The initiatives have been highly successful and hence gained world wide recognition. The programmes received South Asia Procurement Innovation Award (SAPLA) in 2017 and CIO 100 award in 2019.
  • Prices
The scheme has brought down the prices of LED bulbs to one-tenth of rates as in 2015. Also, they have helped in reducing customer bills by 15%.
  • Future Plans
The SLNP programme aims to replace 1.34 crore street lights with smart LEDs by March 2020. This will help in reducing peak demands by 1.5 GW. Also, this will reduce Green House Gas Emissions by 6.2 million tonnes. The implementing agency of the schemes has planned to invest another 8,000 crores of rupees by 2024 to install mote than 30 million LED street lights.

 On January 1, 2020, the Government Think Tank released its Draft “Model Concession Agreement for Setting Up Medical Colleges under Public Private Partnership” guideline document. Under the guideline the think tank has suggested Public Private Partnership (PPP) model to link private medical colleges and district hospitals.
  • Highlights
The suggestion will address the issues of limited resources and finances in medical education. The model is already operative in the states of Gujarat and Karnataka. This will also help in increasing medical seats. Also, this will help to bridge the gap of shortage of doctors in the country. According to WHO, there is only one government doctor for every 10,189 people in the country. Also, there is shortage of 2 million nurses in India. Therefore, the move is very much required.
  • Concessionaire
The think tank has suggested appointment of concessionaire to design, operate, build and maintain the medical colleges. The concessionaire shall also be allowed to charge of Rs 10 as registration fees. The concessionaire shall absorb minimum of 150 students annually. The concessionaire is the holder of concession, grant to complete the assigned task completely.
  • Significance
The PPP model ensures high quality and timely provision of services. They also help in hastening Government projects. Overall, PPP models provide better public services.

  A Group of Ministers (GoM) has been constituted to to expedite revival plan of BSNL & MTNL. The GoM will fast-track and oversee the implementation of the Rs 69,000 crore revival plan for state-owned telecom corporations BSNL and MTNL. The GoM includes Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, IT and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. The government had approved a Rs 69,000 crore revival package for BSNL and MTNL which includes merger of the two loss-making firms, monetising their assets and giving VRS to employees. The GoM will expedite the smooth implementation of decisions taken on revival of BSNL and MTNL.
Source: The Hindu

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched Atal Bhujal Yojana (ATAL JAL) which aims to improve groundwater management. During the launch, the strategic tunnel under Rohtang Pass was renamed after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The 8.8 km long tunnel is the world’s longest tunnel above an altitude of 3,000 metres.
Atal Bhujal Yojana (ATAL JAL) has been designed with the principal objective of strengthening the institutional framework for participatory groundwater management. It aims to bring behavioral changes at the community level for sustainable groundwater resource management in seven States. The 7 states includes Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The scheme will promote panchayat led ground water management and behavioural change with primary focus on demand side management. The Government has outlaid Rs. 6000 crore for the scheme. Out of the total outlay of Rs. 6000 crore to be implemented over a period of 5 years (2020-21 to 2024-25), 50% shall be in the form of World Bank loan, and to be repaid by the Central Government. The remaining 50% shall be through Central Assistance from regular budgetary support. The entire World Bank’s loan component and Central Assistance will be passed on to the States as Grants.
Source: The Press Information Bureau

 On December 25, 2019, Union Minister of Communication and IT Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad inaugurated “Digital Village Guruwara”. During the launch, it was announced that the Government has planned to offer free Wi-Fi services to all villages till March 2020.
Highlights The Government of India has so far connected 1,30,000-gram panchayats through Bharatnet. More than 50,000 Gram Panchayat are yet to be connected. The government is working under the current target that at least 15% of villages are to be digitalized in next four years. The free Wi-Fi services are being announced under Bharatnet project. The GoI in June 2018 announced that all gram panchayats will receive broadband connectivity by 2020. However, the connectivity has been made free now.
Bharatnet Project The initiative was launched in 2011. Under the initiative, 100 Mbps speed internet were to be provided to around 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats. The aim is to increase their speed to around 2 to 20 Mbps in the future to all households in rural areas. The project is a National Optical Fibre Network project. It is seen as a major initiative in order to succeed Digital India. It is being implemented by the Ministry of Telecommunications.

 Centre government is planning to revamp ‘All India Radio’ officially known as ‘Akashvani’ by introducing Digital Radio in India by 2024, when the country will be technologically-equipped for it. The announcement in this regard was made by Union Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Prakash Javadekar at the 2019 Akashvani Annual Awards in New Delhi.
Significance All India Radio is an institution which is a part of people’s lives in form of music, news or entertainment and with AIR news commanding huge credibility, as being one of the largest news gathering and dissemination apparatus in world, there is a needs for AIR to stay ahead of competition from private players. Therefore, once Digital Radio is launch by 2024, there will be more clarity as the audio of digital radio will be more clear, and with digital radio having higher reach Akashvani will be heard for longer range. There will also be four times more stations.
About All India Radio (AIR) AIR was established in 1936 and is officially known as Akashvani since 1956. It is the national public radio broadcaster of India and is a division of Prasar Bharati, which is India’s largest public broadcasting agency. AIR is sister service of Prasar Bharati’s Doordarshan elevision Network.

  The government announced Rs 436 crore outlay for skilling 4 lakh professionals in futuristic areas such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cybersecurity over the next 3 years. The ”Future Skills PRIME” programme will be jointly rolled out by the information technology ministry and industry body Nasscom and will seek to position the initiative as India stack for digital talent. The programme will increase employability.
Source: The Economic Times

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