9 PM Current Affairs Brief – January 6, 2018


Download the compilation of all summaries of all the news articles here


GS: 2


Rural BPO scheme: women from 40% of added headcount 

Rural BPO scheme: women from 40% of added headcount 

Context

The government’s India BPO promotion scheme, which aims to popularise the industry beyond metros, has so far provided employment to almost 11,000 people across the country, of which 40% are women

India BPO scheme

The scheme, under the Digital India Programme

  • Introduced in: It was introduced in April 2016 to incentivise BPO firms to extend operations to tier-2 and tier-3 cities in the country
  • Aim: With an outlay of about ₹500 crore, it aims to incentivise establishment of 48,300 seats, providing about 1.45 lakh jobs, under a three-shift strategy
  • Special incentives: Under the scheme, there are special incentives for employing women and differently-abled persons, and generating employment beyond target
  • Under the scheme, 109 units have been approved, through which about 40 firms such as Amazon Development Centre India and AGS Health, will be providing voice and non-voice services in about 16 languages. These will include English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Oriya, Marathi, Arabic, Urdu and Spanish
  • A total of 61 cities in 21 states and Union Territories have been already covered by the scheme

Employment stats under scheme

  • Till now, out of the reported employment of 10,968 persons under the scheme, approximately 40% are women
    • A Nasscom report had said that more than 34% employees working in the $155-billion IT industry are women
    • Under the scheme, about 18,160 seats were allocated by the Centre after four rounds of bidding, while close to 14,000 seats have been shortlisted after the fifth round and are likely to be allotted soon. This will take the total number of seats allocated under the scheme to nearly 32,000, or 66% of the targeted number
    • The seat allocation has been led by states such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir. The uptake has been on the slower side in Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal and almost Union Territories expect for Chandigarh and Puducherry
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Public stockholding of grains to stay 

Public stockholding of grains to stay 

Context

India’s ongoing public stockholding programmes would remain unaffected and continue, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu informed the Rajya Sabha on Friday

Backdrop

The minister’s assurance comes in the wake of the recent Eleventh Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (Nairobi) failing to reach a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes

Minister’s statement

  • In a statement he said that in a conference had agreed to extend an existing moratorium on imposing customs duties on electronic transmission in exchange for another moratorium preventing the ever-greening of patents in the pharmaceuticals sector
  • Some developed countries sought explicit language on existing safeguards, according to Mr. Prabhu, and the U.S. said it could not agree to a permanent solution
  • Our public stockholding programmes, however, continue to be protected due to the interim solution that the government negotiated in 2014, which is available in perpetuity,” he said
    • Moratorium extended: “An existing moratorium on imposing customs duties on electronic transmission was extended for two years in exchange for another moratorium on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights non-violation complaint, which, inter alia, prevents ‘evergreening’ of patents in the pharmaceutical sector, thereby ensuring accessibility and affordability of generic medicines.”

Ministerial declaration

  • Prabhu said that members could not arrive at an agreement regarding a ministerial declaration following the conference
  • “Ministers could not arrive at an agreed ministerial declaration at the end of the conference on the basis of a draft brought forward from Geneva,” the minister said.
  • “As the revised draft ministerial declaration subsequently proposed by the chairperson excluded or failed to adequately include important issues such as multilateralism, the Doha Development Agenda and special and differential treatment of developing countries, India could not support it,” he added
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Come july label mandatory for food certified as ‘organic’ 

Come july label mandatory for food certified as ‘organic’ 

Context

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had issued regulations that required food companies selling organic produce to get certified with one of the two authorities — National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) or the Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India). Companies could also get a voluntary logo from the FSSAI that marked its produce as ‘organic.’

News

From July 2018, it would be illegal to sell organic food that was not appropriately labelled so

FSSAI’s notification

  • Labelling on the package of organic food shall convey full and accurate information on the organic status of the product. Such product may carry a certification or quality assurance mark of one of the systems mentioned… in addition to the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India’s organic logo,” said a FSSAI notification on January 2 and published in the Gazette
  • These rules were finalised after almost a year of being sent out as a draft for public comments

PGS vs NPOP

  • For nearly two decades now, organic farming certification had been done through a process of third party certification under the NPOP
  • It was run by the Ministry of Commerce and was used for certifying general exports. Nearly 24 agencies were authorised by the NPOP to verify farms, storages and processing units and successful ones got a special ‘India Organic’ logo
  • The PGS-India programme, in contrast, had been around for only two years and — unlike the top-down approach of the NPOP — involves a peer-review approach. Here, farmers played a role in certifying whether the farms in their vicinity adhered to organic-cultivation practices. This programme was implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture through the National Centre of Organic Farming
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GDP growth seen slowing to 4 year low of 6.5% in 2017-18

GDP growth seen slowing to 4 year low of 6.5% in 2017-18

Context

The Central Statistics Office (CSO)’s GDP forecast

What has happened?

CSO has forecast that GDP growth in the current financial year ending March 31 will slow to a four-year low of 6.5%, from the provisional 7.1% pace seen in 2016-17, dragged down by deceleration in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors

Other forecasts

  • Gross Value Added (GVA) was also projected to expand by 6.1% in 2017-18, slowing from 6.6% in the preceding fiscal year, according to the first advance estimates of national income for 2017-18, released by the CSO

Within this,

  • The GVA growth rate for ‘agriculture, forestry and fishing’ is expected to slow sharply to 2.1%, compared with the previous year’s 4.9% pace
  • Manufacturing sector growth has been forecast at 4.6% in 2017-18, compared with the 7.9% expansion provisionally estimated for 2016-17
  • Quarrying & Mining: The CSO’s estimates project the mining and quarrying, and construction sectors to grow faster in 2017-18 than they did in the previous year. While mining and quarrying is estimated to expand by 2.9%, compared with 1.8% growth in 2016-17, the construction sector is expected to grow by 3.6%, versus1.7% in the prior period

Double digit growth

  • The core sector data for November, the latest release so far, showed the steel and cement sectors registering strong double-digit growth

Base effect in agriculture

In agriculture, what we are seeing is a base effect because last year saw a very high growth rate because it followed two years of drought. In terms of production, the total production would probably be the second highest in a very long time. It is not unusual growth in agriculture in a good year

RBI’s forecast

  • The CSO’s GVA full-year growth estimate of 6.1%, compares with a 6.7% pace that the Reserve Bank of India had forecast at its December policy meeting
  • The central bank had at the time flagged rising oil prices and “shortfalls in kharif production and Rabi sowing” as posing downside risks to the outlook for GVA growth

Impact on fiscal deficit

For this year, the nominal growth is expected to be far lower than what was estimated in the Budget, so the fiscal deficit number will have to be adjusted if the 3.2% of GDP target is to be maintained. And, for next year, the base is now lower, so that year’s fiscal deficit figure will also have to be adjusted

More robust GDP in 2018-19

Economic activity has been picking up over the last three quarters and can be expected to strengthen in the coming period with the manufacturing PMI [Purchasing Managers’ Index] now reading at a five-year high of 54, and FMCG demand picking up briskly,” Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog Rajiv Kumar said in a written statement. “Hence, the GDP growth will become more robust in 2018-19

Gross Fixed Capital Formation

Gross fixed capital formation — a key investment metric — is expected to accelerate to 4.5%, from 2.4% in 2016-17

Growth rates of various sectors

  • Growth in the trade, hotels, transport and communication and services related to broadcasting is estimated at 8.7%, quickening from 7.8% in the previous year
  • Similarly, the financial, insurance, real estate and professional services sector is estimated to expand faster at 7.3% in 2017-18, from 2016-17’s 5.7% pace
  • However, the public administration and defence and other services category is expected to grow at 9.4% in 2017-18 compared with 11.3% in 2016-17
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