Draft e-commerce policy

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The government has released the draft e-commerce policy. The policy focuses on six broad issues of the e-commerce sector, which includes
  • data,
  • infrastructure development,
  • e-commerce marketplaces,
  • regulatory issues,
  • stimulating domestic digital economy and
  • export promotion through e-commerce.
Features of the Policy
The important features of the policy are:
  • Every e-commerce company will have to construct a registered business entity in India as the importer on record or as the entity through which all sales in India are transacted. This is aimed at ensuring compliance with extant laws and regulations for preventing deceptive and fraudulent practices, protection of privacy, safety and security.
  • e-commerce companies are mandated to disclose seller details such as their name, address and contact numbers. Sellers will also be required to provide an undertaking to the platform on the genuineness of their products.
  • Trademark (TM) owners will be given an option to register themselves with e-commerce platforms and whenever a trade-marked product is uploaded for sale on the platform, the platform shall notify the respective TM owner.
  • The policy says that framework will be created to provide the basis for imposing restrictions on cross-border data flow from specified sources including data collected by IoT devices installed in public space, and data generated by users in India by various sources, including e-commerce platforms, social media, search engines.
  • The policy grants data the status of the capital. The policy imposes conditions on a business entity that collects or processes any sensitive data in India and stores it abroad.
  • The conditions state that all such data stored abroad shall not be made available to other business entities outside India, for any purpose, even with customer consent.
  • The policy further stipulates that the data shall not be shared with a foreign government, without the prior permission of Indian authorities.
  • The policy calls for a Suitable framework for sharing of community data that serve the larger public interest (subject to addressing privacy-related issues) with start-ups and firms. The implementation of this shall be undertaken by a ‘data authority’ to be established for this purpose.
  • The policy stresses on developing physical infrastructure for a robust digital economy and suggests steps for developing the capacity for data storage in India.
  • The policy aims to invite and encourage foreign direct investment (FDI) in the marketplace model alone.
  • The policy mandates the online marketplaces not to adopt business models or strategies which are discriminatory and which favour one or few sellers/traders operating on their platforms over others, the draft clarifies. The policy also enlists certain steps which have to be followed by all e-commerce websites/applications.
  • On the issue of taxation related issues in the sector, the draft policy mentions the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions must be reviewed in the light of the changing digital economy and the increased role that additive manufacturing is expected to take.
  • On export promotion through e-commerce, the policy states that there is a need to incentivise and reduce administrative requirements for outbound shipments through this medium.
  • The policy calls to raise the cap of each export order placed online and dispatched through courier or postal mode from current 25000 to make Indian e-commerce exports attractive even for high-value shipments through courier mode.

National Policy on Software Products – 2019

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National Policy on Software Products 2019
  • The policy is aimed at developing India as a Software Product Nation. An outlay of Rs 1500 crore divided into Software Product Development Fund and Research & Innovation fund is envisaged to implement the programmes/ schemes envisaged under this policy over a period of 7 years.
  • The Policy is aimed at giving a direction for the formulation of several schemes, initiatives, projects and measures for the development of Software products sector in the country as per the roadmap envisaged therein.
Five Missions of the National Policy on Software Products – 2019
  • To promote the creation of a sustainable Indian software product industry, driven by intellectual property (IP), leading to a ten-fold increase in India’s share of the Global Software product market by 2025.
  • To nurture 10,000 technology startups in the software product industry, including 1000 such technology startups in Tier-II and Tier-III towns & cities and generating direct and indirect employment for 3.5 million people by 2025.
  • To create a talent pool for software product industry through (i) up-skilling of 1,000,000 IT professionals, (ii) motivating 100,000 school and college students and (iii) generating 10,000 specialized professionals that can provide leadership.
  • To build a cluster-based innovation-driven ecosystem by developing 20 sectoral and strategically located software product development clusters having integrated ICT infrastructure, marketing, incubation, R&D/testbeds and mentoring support.
  • In order to evolve and monitor scheme & programmes for the implementation of this policy, the National Software Products Mission will be set up with participation from Government, Academia and Industry.
The Indian IT Industry is predominantly a service Industry. It is necessary to move up the value chain through technology-oriented products and services to ensure sustainability. Hence to create a robust software product ecosystem the Government has approved the National Policy on Software Products – 2019 to develop India as the global software product hub, driven by innovation, improved commercialisation, sustainable Intellectual Property (IP).

Nine national scientific missions

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The Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Council (PM-STIAC) has identified nine national missions to address major scientific challenges to ensure India’s sustainable development. Through the nine missions, the PM-STIAC aims to facilitate collaboration to solve complex problems.
Nine Missions Identified
  1. Natural Language Translation : Through a combination of machine and human translation, the mission aims to enable access to teaching and research material bilingually i.e. in English and one’s native Indian language.
  2. Quantum Frontier : This mission aims to initiate works in control of the quantum mechanical systems, with a large number of degrees of freedom, as one of the great contemporary challenges in fundamental science and technology.
  3. Artificial Intelligence : The mission focuses on efforts that will benefit India in addressing societal needs in areas such as healthcare, education, agriculture, smart cities and infrastructure, including smart mobility and transportation
  4. National Biodiversity Mission : This mission involves
    • Comprehensive documentation of India’s biodiversity with the potential for cataloguing and mapping all lifeforms in India including associated cultural and traditional practices.
    • Assessment of the distribution and conservation status of India’s biodiversity.
    • Development of a cadre of professionals adept at handling large sets of environmental data for management and monitoring of biodiversity.
    • Expansion of knowledge in ecosystem functioning that will inform restoration efforts.
    • Establishment of a vibrant biodiversity based economy on a solid foundation of reliable information, engagement with the public.
    • Enhanced options for agricultural production and livelihood security and the general well-being of society.
  5. Electric Vehicles : The mission aims to reduce India’s fossil fuel emissions and mitigate emissions by making Electric Vehicles economical and scalable through focused research, development and innovation and building of indigenous capacity.
  6. BioScience for Human Health : The mission through the use of healthy and disease samples aims to understand the impact of nature and nurture on health. The mission aims to construct comprehensive reference maps of genomes and to understand the dynamics of how exposure to different environments have an impact on our bodies.
  7. Waste To Wealth : The mission aims to identify, develop and deploy technologies to treat waste to generate energy, recycle materials and extract worth. The mission will work to identify and support the development of new technologies that hold promise in creating a clean and green environment.
  8. Deep Ocean Exploration : The mission aims to scientifically explore the deep oceans towards improving our understanding of the blue frontier. The information from this mission will address issues arising from long term changes in the ocean due to climate change.
  9. Agnii : This mission aims to support the national efforts to boost the innovation ecosystem in the country by connecting innovators across the industry, individuals and the grassroots to the market and helping commercialise innovative solutions. It will provide a platform for innovators to bring their technology ready products and solutions to industry 6 and the market thereby helping propel techno-entrepreneurship which can usher a new era of inclusive socio-economic growth.

RBI on Demonitisation

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The minutes of meeting which had approved the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes has been revealed through RTI. The government had contested that demonetisation would help curb black money and a steep rise in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes; check the circulation of fake currency and promote e-payments and financial inclusion.
Observations made by RBI
  • RBI Directors had contested the government’s claim about curbing black money by highlighting that most of the black money is held not in cash but in the form of real sector assets such as gold or real estate and this move would not have a material impact on the assets.
  • RBI Directors refuted the government’s argument about the growth in high denomination notes being much faster than the pace of economic expansion, by reasoning that when adjusted for inflation, the difference may not be so stark.
  • RBI has stated that even though the incidence of counterfeiting is a concern, Rs 400 crore as a percentage of the total quantum of currency in circulation is not very significant.
Despite these reservations and disagreements, the RBI board had approved the demonetisation in larger public interest as it provided an opportunity to promote financial inclusion and digital payments. Further the government had assured the RBI directors that it would take measures to contain the use of cash and promote financial inclusion and electronic modes of payment.

National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage

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Mandate of the Mission
  • The Mission will recommend and drive the strategies for transformative mobility and Phased Manufacturing Programmes for Electric Vehicles and its Components and Batteries.
  • The National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage will determine the contours of Phased Manufacturing Program (PMP) which will be launched to localize production across the entire EV value chain.
  • The Mission will finalise the value addition that can be achieved with each phase of localisation with a clear Make in India strategy for the electric vehicle components as well as battery.
  • The Mission will coordinate with key stakeholders in Ministries/ Departments and the states to integrate various initiatives to transform mobility in India.
Impact of the Mission
  • The Mission will boost mobility solutions that will bring in significant benefits to the industry, economy and country.
  • These solutions proposed by the Mission will help improve air quality in cities along with reducing India’s oil import dependence and enhance the uptake of renewable energy and storage solutions.
  • The Mission will lay down the strategy and roadmap which will enable India to leverage upon its size and scale to develop a competitive domestic manufacturing ecosystem for electric mobility.
  • The Mission will promote ‘Ease of Living’ and enhance the quality of life of our citizens and also provide employment opportunities through ‘Make-in-India’ across a range of skillsets.

Global Environment Outlook 2019: Findings about India

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The United Nations Environment Programme has released the Global Environment Outlook 2019. The report makes the following observations about India:
  • India could save at least $3 trillion (Rs 210 trillion approx.) in healthcare costs if India implements policy initiatives which are consistent with ensuring that the globe didn’t heat up beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius by the turn of the century.
  • Among India’s commitments under INDC, India is on track to achieve the target of lowering the emission intensity of its GDP by 33-35% compared to 2005 levels by 2030 and increasing the total cumulative electricity generation from fossil-free energy sources to 40% by 2030.
  • To achieve the goal to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5.deg c, India needs to abandon plans to build new coal-fired power plants.
The Paris Accord of 2015 aims to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But there has been limited progress by countries since then in committing to greenhouse gas emissions cut since then.

National Supercomputing Mission

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National Supercomputing Mission initiated in 2015 is being implemented and steered jointly by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) at an estimated cost of Rs.4500 crore over a period of seven years.
Objectives of the Mission
  • The Mission envisages empowering India’s national academic and R&D institutions spread by installing a vast supercomputing grid comprising of more than 70 high-performance computing facilities.
  • To bring supercomputing within the reach of the large Scientific & Technology community in the country.
  • To provide a significant qualitative and quantitative improvement in R&D and higher education in the disciplines of Science & Technology.
  • To enable the country with a capacity of solving multi-disciplinary grand challenge problems.
The mission envisages installing vast supercomputing grid comprising of over 70 high-performance computing facilities spread across the county.

Report: India – Spearheading Climate Solutions

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Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released a publication titled  “India – Spearheading Climate Solutions” on 12 February, 2019. This document mentions India’s key actions taken towards combating and adapting to climate change.

India’s Key Actions Towards Combating and Adapting Climate Change

  • India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) that has eight major missions on Solar, Enhanced Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Habitat, Water, Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, Green India, Sustainable Agriculture and Strategic Knowledge on Climate Change.
  • International Solar Alliance (ISA) – It is an alliance of 121 countries, most of them sunshine countries (i.e. lying either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn). It was founded in 2015 at Paris and was initiated by India. Membership now has been extended to all the members of the United Nations
  • State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC)
  • FAME Scheme – It stands for Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME-India) Scheme, which was launched in 2015 under the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP). It aims to create the infrastructure for and promote e-mobility.
  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation & Urban Transformation (AMRUT) –The scheme was launched in the year 2015 and is solely aimed for Smart Cities
  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana – The scheme was launched in 2016. It aims for providing access to clean cooking fuel
  • UJALA scheme – It stands for Unnat Jeevan by Affordable LEDs and Appliances for All and was started in 2015. Its aim is to embrace energy efficient LED bulbs
  • Swachh Bharat Mission – It is a nationwide campaign from 2014 to 2019 aiming to clean up India.
  • National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC) – It was launched in 2015-16 and aims to support robust adaptation techniques to reduce adverse effects of climate change.

Other Initiatives Taken by Government

  • Apart from the above, Government of India has taken an ambitious goal of generating 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022.
  • India will leapfrog from Bharat Stage -IV to Bharat Stage-VI emission norms by April 2020.
  • India’s renewable energy capacity stands at more than 74 GW today including about 25 GW from solar.
  • Further, India submitted its Second Biennial Update Report (BUR) to UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in December 2018 as per the reporting obligations under the convention, which stated that India’s GDP emissions came down by 21% between 2005 & 2014.
  • It also stated that India’s climate-goal for pre-2020 is well on track.

 

Improving Research Ecosystem in India

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The central government has launched the following schemes to improve the research ecosystem in India:

  • Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship : To attract the bright and meritorious students into research within the country, the Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship has been initiated. Students selected for the fellowship are given fellowship for 5 years – Rs.70,000/- per month for the first two years, Rs. 75,000/- per month in the third year and Rs.80,000 per month in 4th and 5th year with an annual research grant of Rs. 2 lakh.

  • Setting up of Research Parks : The Government has approved setting up of Research Parks at IIT Kharagpur, IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Guwahati, IIT Kanpur, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Gandhinagar and IISc Bangalore.
  • Impacting research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT) : IMPRINT India scheme aims to provide solutions to the most relevant engineering challenges and translating knowledge into viable technology (products or processes) in ten selected technology domains.
  • Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY) : Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana has been launched to promote innovation of a higher order that directly impacts the needs of the Industry and thereby improves the competitive edge of Indian manufacturing.
  • Smart India Hackathons : Smart India Hackathons are organized on yearly basis since 2017 to find out digital solutions to various problems faced by the people and gives hands-on working and research opportunity for engineering students.
  • Institution’s Innovation Council (IIC) : Institution’s Innovation Council (IIC) have been established in 960 Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) for promoting the innovation ecosystem within their campuses.
  • Trainee Teacher Scheme : A Trainee Teacher Scheme has been initiated in NITs with the objective to attract, motivate and sponsor best graduate engineers for part-time M.Tech and PhD programmes.

Further schemes like Colleges with Potential for Excellence (CPE), University with Potential for Excellence(UPE), Centre with Potential for Excellence in Particular Areas(CPEPA), Special Assistance Programme (SAP), Major Research Project (MRP) have been initiated by the government to boost the research ecosystem in the country

National Gas Grid

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The Union Government has envisaged the development of the National Gas Grid. The government is implementing various projects of about 14,239 Km gas pipelines which would add to the existing 16,788 Km natural gas pipeline.

Objectives of the National Gas Grid

The objectives of the National Gas Grid are:

  • To remove regional imbalance within the country with regard to access for natural gas and provide clean and green fuel throughout the country.
  • To connect gas sources to major demand centres and ensure availability of gas to consumers in various sectors.
  • Development of City Gas Distribution Networks in various cities for the supply of CNG and PNG.
  • The National Gas Grid together with providing gas connections to households will provide better infrastructure for automobiles using gas.
  • The National Gas Grid will also aid in renewing of the fertilizer sector and also give a boost to the Power and Automotive sector.

Authorisation Authority

  • Under the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Act, 2006 Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) has been recognised as the authority to grant authorization to the entities for the development of City Gas Distribution (CGD) network in Geographical Areas.
  • Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board identifies the geographical areas for authorizing the development of the CGD network in synchronization with the development of natural gas pipeline connectivity/ natural gas availability.