Sunday, March 1, 2015

Economic Survey of India 2014-15: Highlights

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitely on 27 February 2015 presented Economic Survey of India 2014-15 in the Parliament. 
The Economic Survey reviews the developments in the Indian economy over the previous 12 months, summarises the performance on major development programmes and highlights the policy initiatives of the government and the prospects of the economy in the short to medium term.

Three pronged strategy suggested in Economic Survey 2014-15
  • To improve the investment climate and reduce the backlog of stalled projects, Economic Survey 2014-15 suggested a three-pronged strategy, namely
  • Revival of public investment in short term, to act as an engine of growth in infrastructure sector. It argues that public investment cannot be a substitute for private investment; but is required as a complement and to crowd it in.
  • Need of creative solutions to strengthen institutions relating to bankruptcy. This will ensure that exit options are available. This will also ameliorate over-indebtedness that lowers the capacity to generate new investments. Towards this end, it contemplates setting up of a high-powered Independent Renegotiation Committee.
  • Economic Survey highlights the need for reorientation and restructuring of the PPP model. This is expected to make them more viable in future.
Economic Survey 2014-15

Main Highlights of the Economic Survey 2014-15

General Highlights
  • Using the new estimate for 2014-15 as the base, GDP growth at constant market prices is expected to accelerate to between 8.1 and 8.5 percent in 2015-16.
  • Inflation declined by over 6 percentage points since late 2013 which is likely to remain in the 5-5.5 percent range in 2015-16, creating space for easing of monetary conditions.
  • The current account deficit declined from a peak of 6.7 percent of GDP in Quarter 3 of 2012-13 to an estimated 1.0 percent in the fiscal year 2015-16.
  • After a nearly 12-quarter phase of deceleration, real GDP has been growing at 7.2 percent on average since 2013-14, based on the new growth estimates of the Central Statistics Office.
  • Foodgrains production for 2014-15 is estimated at 257.07 million tonnes, which will exceed average food grain production of last five years by 8.5 million tones
  • Foreign portfolio flows have stabilized the rupee, exerting downward pressure on long-term interest rates which is reflected in yields on 10-year government securities and surge in equity prices.
  • From a cross-country perspective, a Rational Investor Ratings Index (RIRI) which combines indicators of macro-stability with growth illustrates that India ranks amongst the most attractive investment destinations.
  • It ranks well above the mean for its investment grade category (BBB), and also above the mean for the investment category above it (on the basis of the new growth estimates).
  • In the short run, growth will receive a boost from the cumulative impact of reforms, lower oil prices, likely monetary policy easing facilitated by lower inflation and improved inflationary expectations, and forecasts of a normal monsoon in 2015-16.
  • Growth in medium-term prospects will be conditioned the “balance sheet syndrome with Indian characteristics” that has the potential to hold back rapid increases in private sector investment.
  • In the long-run, private investments will be the engine of growth. However, there is a case for reviving targeted public investment as an engine of growth in the short run to complement and crowd-in private investment.
  • Expenditure control and expenditure switching from consumption to investment will be the key to growth in the short-run
  • It calls for complementing Make in India initiative with Skill India initiative to enable a larger section of the population to benefit from the structural transformation that such sectors will facilitate.
  • The Survey emphasizes on creation of a National Market for Agricultural Commodities in place of thousands of agricultural markets
  • The Model APMC Act, 2003 should be amended along the lines of the Karnataka Model that has successfully introduced an integrated single licensing system.
Fiscal Framework
  • The Survey calls for adhering to the medium-term fiscal deficit target of 3 percent of GDP. This will provide the fiscal space to insure against future shocks and also to move closer to the fiscal performance of its emerging market peers.
  • It also calls for moving toward the golden rule of eliminating revenue deficits and ensuring that, over the cycle, borrowing is only for capital formation.
  • Expenditure control combined with recovering growth and the introduction of the GST will ensure that medium term targets are comfortably met.
  • In the short run, the need for accelerated fiscal consolidation will be conditioned by the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC).
  • The quality of expenditure needs to be shifted from consumption, by reducing subsidies, towards investment.
Subsidies and the JAM Number Trinity Solution
  • Food Subsidy Bill stands at 107823.75 crore rupees during 2014-15 (up to January 2015) which means an increase of 20 percent over previous year
  • The direct fiscal cost of select subsidies is roughly 378,000 crore rupees or 4.2 percent of GDP in 2011-12.  
  • 41 percent of subsidy given for the PDS kerosene is lost as leakage and only 46 percent of the remaining 59 percent is consumed by households that are poor.
  • The JAM Number Trinity – Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar, Mobile – can enable the State to transfer financial resources to the poor in a progressive manner without leakages and with minimal distorting effects.
Indian Railways and Public Investment
  • The Indian Railways over the years has been plagued by host of issues. Some of them include underinvestment resulting in lack of capacity addition and network congestion; neglect of commercial objectives; poor service provision; and consequent financial weakness.  These have cumulated to below-potential contribution to economic growth.
  • As a result, the competitiveness of Indian industry has been undermined. Calculations reveal that China carries thrice as much coal freight per hour compared to India. Coal is transported in India at more than twice the cost vis-à-vis China, and it takes 1.3 times longer to do so.
  • The railways public investment multiplier (the effect of a 1 rupee increase in public investment in the railways on overall output) is around 5.
  • In the long run, the railways must be commercially viable and public support must be linked to railway reforms. These include adoption of commercial practices, tariff rationalization, and technology overhaul.

Railway Budget 2015-16: Major Initiatives

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on 26 February 2015 presented the Railway Budget 2015-16 in the Lok Sabha. The Budget plans to invest around 8 lakh crore rupees over the next 5 year to rejuvenate the Indian Railways.
In this regard, Railway Budget 2015 – 16 unveiled certain initiatives ranging from cleanliness drive to development of infrastructure to improving the overall quality of life in train journeys.
The major initiatives undertaken in the Railway Budget 2015-16
Station Redevelopment
  • Zonal and Divisional offices to be empowered for quicker decision making
  • Development of 10 Satellite Railway terminals in major cities with twin purpose of decongesting the city and providing service to suburban passengers
Network expansion
  • Fast-track sanctioned works on 7000 kms of double/third/fourth lines
  • Commission of 1200 km of network in 2015-16 at an investment of 8686 crore rupees
Expansion of freight handling capacity
  • Transport Logistics Corporation of India (TRANSLOC), to be set up for developing common user facilities to provide end-to-end logistics solution at select Railway terminals through Public Private Partnerships.
  • Policy for Private Freight Terminals (PFT) to be revised.
  • Automatic Freight Rebate Scheme for traffic to be expanded
  • Long haul freight operations to be used extensively and construction of long loop lines to be expedited.
Improving train speed
  • Speed of 9 railway corridors to be increased from existing 110 and 130 kmph to 160 and 200 kmph respectively.
  • Average speed of freight trains in empty and loaded conditions will be enhanced to 100 kmph for empty freight trains and 75 kmph for loaded trains.
Bullet train
  • Feasibility study for High Speed Rail between Mumbai-Ahmadabad is in advanced stage.
Upgrading manufacturing capability
  • Creation of job opportunities by upgrading the manufacturing capability and review of functioning of Indian Railways Production Units.
  • Workshops for technological upgradation and enhancing productivity be undertaken to make them self-sustaining.
  • RDSO to develop a suitable device with reliable power supply system based on theft-proof panels/batteries in consultation with Indian Space Research Organization using geo-spatial technology.
  • Train Protection Warning System and Train Collision Avoidance System to be installed on selected routes at the earliest.  
  • Better welding techniques being promoted and digital type machines to replace analogue type machines.
Technology upgradation
  • Constitution of an innovation council called Kayakalp for business re-engineering.  
  • Technology portal being constituted to invite innovative technological solutions.
  • Research Centers to be set up in selected universities for fundamental research.
Partnerships for development
  • PPP cell to be revamped to make it result oriented. Foreign Rail Technology Cooperation scheme to be launched.
  • Joint ventures to be set up with States for focused project development, resource mobilization, land acquisition and monitoring of critical rail projects.  
Improvements to Management Processes and Systems
  • Systems audit to be conducted for review of all processes and procedures.
  • Constitution of a working group to modify present system of accounting, to ensure tracking of• expenditure to desired outcomes and Train operations to be audited.
  • Paperless working in material management system to be expanded and Vendors to be integrated through Vendor Interface Management System.
Resource Mobilisation
  • Support from the Central Government for 41.6 percent of the Plan and Internal generation of 17.8  percent for setting up of a Financing Cell in the Railway Board.
  • Setting up an infrastructure fund, a holding company and a Joint Venture with an existing NBFC of a PSU with IRFC for raising long term debt from domestic as well as overseas sources.
  • Digitized mapping of land records and responsibility fixing for encroachments.
  • New strategy to tap latent advertising potential including offering stations and trains for corporate branding.  
  • Railways in partnership with ports will deliver rail connectivity to Nargol, Chharra, Dighi, Rewas and Tuna. Scrap disposal policy to be reviewed for speedier scrap disposal.
Human Resources
  • Human Resource Audit to be undertaken; Separate accounting head for HRD; ERP based Human Resource Management System.  
  • Setting up a full-fledged University during 2015-16 and  Improved delivery of health services to employees
Energy and sustainability
  • Environment Directorate to be constituted in Railway Board to give increased focus on environment management.
  • Initiative likely to save at least 3000 crore rupees in next few years will be taken up.  1000 MW solar plants will be set up by the developers on Railway/private land.
  • Water conservation mission will include water audit and expansion of water harvesting systems. 100 DEMUs to be enabled for dual fuel- CNG and diesel.
  • Noise levels of locos to be at par with international norms and concerns related to wildlife will be addressed.  
Transparency and Governance initiatives
  • System of on-line applications introduced for two categories of recruitment as a pilot project.  
  • All possible solutions be explored to address menace of corruption. E-procurement value chain to be expanded.
Social initiatives
  • Infrastructure like stations and training centers to be made available for skill development.
  • Promotion of products made by Self Help Groups, consisting mainly of women and youth on the model of Konkan Railway.
  • Incredible Rail for Incredible India to be launched and Promotion of training of auto-rickshaw and taxi-operators as tourist-guides on the model of Konkan Railway.  
  • Coaches in selected trains connecting major tourist destinations to travel agencies may be offered on a revenue sharing model.  
  • IRCTC to work on promoting the Gandhi circuit to attract tourists to mark the occasion of 100 years of the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India from South Africa.
  • IRCTC will work on Kisan Yatra, a special travel scheme for farmers for farming & marketing technique centres.

Railway Budget 2015-16: Quality of Life in Journeys:

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on 26 February 2015 presented his maiden Rail Budget 2015-16 in the Lok Sabha. This was also the second rail budget of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government.
In the budget, Prabhu gave 11 thrust areas to improve quality of life in train journeys which also includes Swachh Rail - Swachh Bharat drive. The 11 thrust areas include
•Swachh Rail - Swachh Bharat campaign
•New department for cleanliness
•Integrated cleaning by engaging professional agencies and training our staff
•Waste to energy conversion plants
•New toilets covering 650 additional stations compared to 120 stations in 2014
•Bio-toilets to be fitted in the coaches
Bed linen
•National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Delhi to design bed linen
•The facility of online booking of disposable bedrolls at select stations will be extended to all passengers through the IRCTC portal on payment basis
•Start a 24X7 helpline number 138 and a toll-free number 182 for security related complaints
•Operation Five Minutes to ensure Speedy Purchase of Tickets for Unreserved Class Passengers.  
•Provision of modified hot-buttons, coin vending machines and single destination teller windows will be launched to reduce the transaction time. 
•For the differently-abled travellers, a special initiative will be launched whereby they can purchase concessional e-tickets after one-time registration. 
•Proposal to work towards developing a multi-lingual e-ticketing portal
•Some other facilities include introduction of integrated ticketing system on the lines of rail-cum-road tickets on Jammu – Srinagar route will be expanded.
•Integrate Best Food Chains for E-Catering
•Railway passengers to order their food through IRCTC website at the time of booking tickets
Leveraging technology
•Introduce hand-held terminals to Travelling Ticket Examiners (TTEs) for verification of passengers and downloading charts. 
•Extending facility of SMS on mobiles as a valid proof of travel for PRS tickets
•SMS Alert service to inform passengers in advance of the updated arrival/departure time of trains at starting or destination stations
•Surveillance cameras will be provided on a pilot basis in selected mainline coaches and ladies’ compartments of suburban coaches without intruding into privacy
•Project for introducing on-board entertainment on select Shatabdi trains on license fee basis 
•Mobile phone charging facilities will be provided in general class coaches & its numbers will be increased in sleeper class coaches
Station facilities
•200 more stations to come under Adarsh Station scheme
•Wi-Fi will be provided at B category station
•Facility of self-operated lockers to be made available at stations 
•Provision of concierge services will be introduced through IRCTC at major stations
•Online booking of wheel chair on payment basis for senior citizens, patients and the differently-abled passengers will be available through IRCTC on select stations
Train capacity
•Capacity in identified trains will be augmented to run with 26 coaches
•More General class coaches will be added in identified trains
Comfortable travel
•NID to design user friendly ladders for climbing to the upper berths
•Quota of lower berths for senior citizens will be increased
•Middle bay of coaches will be reserved for women and senior citizens
•NID will develop ergonomically designed seats
•Provision of 120 crore rupees for Lifts and escalator has been made
•The newly manufactured coaches will be Braille enabled
•Entrances will be widened to ease of differently-abled passengers
•Corporate houses & MPs requested to invest in improving passenger amenities at Railway stations through CSR & MPLAD funds

Railway Budget 2015-16: Highlights

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on 26 February 2015 presented the Railway Budget 2015-16 in the Lok Sabha. In his first Railway Budget, Prabhu outlined a plan to invest over 8 lakh crore rupees over 5 years. 

The size of the Plan Budget has gone up by 52 percent from 65789 crore rupees in 2014-15 to 100011 crore rupees in 2015-16.
9 thrust areas of the Budget includes
•Indian Railway to become prime mover of economy once again
•Resource Mobilization for higher Investments
•Decongestion of heavy haul routes and speeding up of trains: emphasis on gauge conversion, doubling, tripling and electrification
•Project Delivery
•Passenger Amenities 
•Transparency & System Improvement
•Railways to continue to be the preferred mode of transport for the masses

Four goals for Indian Railways to transform over next five years
• To deliver a sustained and measurable improvement in customer experience.
• To make Rail a safer means of travel.
• To expand Bhartiya Rail’s capacity substantially and modernise infrastructure: for this purpose daily passenger carrying capacity will be increased from 21 million to 30 million. Track length will also be increased by 20 percent from 114000 km to 138000 km. Annual freight carrying capacity will be grown from 1 billion to 1.5 billion tonnes.
• To make Bhartiya Rail financially self-sustainable.
Amount (Rs in crore)
Network Decongestion (including DFC, Electrification, Doubling
including electrification and traffic facilities)
Network Expansion (including electrification)
National Projects (North Eastern & Kashmir connectivity projects)
Safety (Track renewal, bridge works, ROB, RUB and Signalling & Telecom)
Information Technology / Research
Rolling Stock (Locomotives, coaches, wagons – production & maintenance)
Passenger Amenities
High Speed Rail & Elevated corridor
Station redevelopment and logistic parks
Key Highlights of the Railway Budget 2015-16
• No increase in passenger fares 
• Passengers can book tickets 120 days in advance instead of 60 days which was available till date
• Outlay for passenger amenities increased by 67 percent 
• New train sets that can save 20 percent journey time will be introduced in future. These trains will be similar to bullet trains in design but can run on the existing tracks
• The speed passenger trains across nine corridors will be increased to 160-200 km from 110 km
• SMS alert will be introduced for train timings and under this passengers will be informed in advance the updated arrival or departure time of the trains at starting or destination stations 
• Air-conditioned coaches for suburban trains will be introduced
• Wi-fi will be available at 400 railway stations 
• Railways Intends to set up an Innovation Council called Kayakalp for Purpose of Business Re-Engineering
• Railways Proposes to set up Malaviya Chair for Railway Technology at IIT (BHU), Varanasi
• Bidding system will be used for redevelopment of stations
• 10 satellite railway stations will be developed in 2015-16 
• 800 km of gauge conversion will be commissioned
• E-catering introduced in 108 trains can be accessed by ordering on IRCTC website 
• Water vending machines will be expanded on more stations
• On–board entertainment facility will be extended on Shatabdi trains 
• General class coaches will see introduction of mobile charging stations
• For benefit of the common man, more general class coaches will be added to select trains 
• Pension funds, multi-lateral banks have evinced interest in Railways
• Proposed the best operating ratio in nine years, of 88.5 per cent for 2015-16
• Track capacity will be increased by 10 percent to 1.38 lakh kilometers 
• Feasibility report of high speed train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is expected by mid-2015
• To ease private investment, wagon-making scheme will be reviewed
• All India 24x7 grievances helpline 138 will be started
• Bio-toilets will replace more than 7000 toilets, while 650 stations will get new toilets  
• Passenger travelling unreserved can produce a ticket within 5 minutes and for this purpose Operation Five Minutes will be introduced 
• To address complaints of people Mobile application is being developed 
• Integrated tickets will be introduced 
• Hand-held devices will be introduced for ticket checkers; it is move towards paperless ticketing 
• In next 2 years, centrally managed railway display network will be introduced in over 2000 stations
• Rail-cum-road ticket to be extended in many stations
• Rail connectivity will be enhanced in North Eastern states 
• To aid expanding freight handling capacity and provide end-to-end logistic solutions, Transport Logistic Corporation of India will be set up 
• PPP model will be used to augment resources and generate more employment 
• 6608 kilometer of track will be electrified
• 96182 crrore rupees will be spent to expand capacity of 9420 km rail lines 
• For women safety, CCTVs will be introduced in selected trains and suburban trains 
• Train Protection Warning System and Train Collision Avoidance System will be installed on select routes at the earliest
• Projects for rail connectivity to many ports and mines
• Foreign Rail Technology Cooperation Scheme will be launched in order to achieve the higher quality service 
• Programme to improve design, quality and cleanliness of bed linen will be launched within the next six months

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

87th Academy Awards (Oscar Awards 2015)

87th Academy Award, popularly called Oscar Awards, was conferred on 22 February 2015. The award ceremony was held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles.
The Oscar Awards for the year 2015 were presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) in 24 categories.
The awards were produced by Neil Meron and Craig Zadan and directed by Hamish Hamilton. Actor Neil Patrick Harris hosted the ceremony for the first time.
The list of winners of 87th Academy Awards
  • Best Picture: Birdman
  • Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman
  • Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything
  • Best Actress: Julianne Moore for Still Alice
  • Best Supporting Actor: JK Simmons for Whiplash
  • Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
  • Achievement in Costume Design: Milena Canonero for The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling: Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier for The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Best Foreign Language Film: Ida directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
  • Best Live Action Short Film: The Phone Call
  • Best Documentary Short Subject: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
  • Original Screenplay: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo for Birdman
  • Achievement in Sound Mixing: Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, Thomas Curley for Whiplash
  • Achievement in Sound Editing: Alan Robert Murray Bub Asman for American Sniper
  • Achievement in Visual Effects: Ian Hunter, Scott Fisher, Andrew Lockley and Paul Franklin for Interstellar
  • Best Animated Short Film: Feast directed by Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed
  • Best Animated Movie: Big Hero Six 6
  • Achievement in Production Design: Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock for The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Achievement in Cinematograph: Emannuel Lubezki for Birdman
  • Achievement in Film Editing: Tom Cross for Whipalsh
  • Best Documentary Feature: Citizen Four directed by Laura Poitras
  • Best Original Song: John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn for Glory
  • Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat for The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Graham Moore for The Imitation Game

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sunday, February 15, 2015


1. Think - tank of Government of India that replaces Planning Commission of India is...
1) NITI Vakya
2) NITI Vajpayee
3) NITI Prasasthi
4) NITI Dharma
5) NITI Aayog

2. NITI Aayog stands for......
1) National Institution for Transition India
2) National Information for Transforming India
3) National Institution for Take India
4) National Institution for Transforming India
5) None

3. NITI Aayog come into effect from....
1) 1 April 2015
2) 1 April 2016
3) 1 March 2015
4) 1 January 2015
5) 25 Dec 2014

4. The NITI Aayog headed by....
1) President of India
2) Finance Minister
3) Minister for Planning
4) RBI Governor
5) Prime Minister

5. To reflect changes required in India's governance structures and provide a more active role for the state governments in achieving national objectives, NITI Aayog initiated. Its Vice Chairman appointed by .....
1) President of India
2) Vice President of India
3) Finance Minister
4) Home Minister
5) Prime Minister

6. Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog is...
1) Montek Singh Ahluwalia
2) Arvind Panagariya
3) Abhijith Sen
4) Amartya Sen
5) None

7. NITI Aayog has been tasked with a role of formulating policies and direction for the government and serving as a think-tank, which will have Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Present CEO is....
1) Arvind Mayaram
2) Rajiv Meharshi
3) Sudha Pillai
4) Sindhushree Khullar
5) None

8. NITI Aayog will have full time members. It will have how many part time members selected from leading universities research organizations and other relevant institutions in an exofficio capacity?
1) 4
2) 6
3) 8
4) 2
5) None

9. An Economist Bibek Debroy and V.K.Saraswat were appointed as full-time members of NITI Aayog. Who is V.K.Saraswat ?
1) former DRDO Chief
2) former ISRO Chairman
3) former Finance Secretary
4) former Defence Minister
5) None of above

10. Maximum of how many Ex-officio members selected from the Union Council of Ministers to be nominated by the Prime Minister in NITI Ayog?
1) 12
2) 7
3) 4
4) 10
5) None

11. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu and ........... were made ex-officio members of NITI ayog.
1) Tribal Affaris Minister Jula Oram
2) Rural Development Minister Chaudary Birender Singh
3) Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh
4) External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj
5) None

12. Roads and National Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani and ...... were made Special invitees to the NITI Aayog?
1) Law and Justice Minister D. V. Sadananda Gowda
2) Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar
3) Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot
4) Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu
5) None

13. Planning Commission was the centre-tostate one-way flow of policy, where as NITI Ayog is a genuine and continuing partnership of states. NITI Ayog depends on how many pillars of Effective governance?
1) 7
2) 5
3) 10
4) 8
5) 12

14. NITI Ayog will have .......... comprising the Chief Ministers of all the States and Lt. Governors of Union Territories.
1) Presidium
2) Co-ordination committee
3) General Committee
4) Governing Council
5) Administrative Council

15. Regional Councils will be formed to address specific issues and contingencies impacting more than one state or a region. They are headed by......
1) Governor of the state or Finance Minister of India
2) Chief Minister
3) Chairperson of the NITI Aayog or his nominee
4) President of India and Governor of state
5) None of above

1-5, 2-4, 3-4, 4-5, 5-5, 6-2, 7-4, 8-2, 9-1, 10-3
11-3, 12-3, 13-1, 14-4, 15-3