SEBI proposes relaxed norms for infrastructure investment trusts

To make it easier to raise funds for infrastructure projects from capital markets, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on Thursday proposed to relax its norms for Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) by lowering the sponsors’ mandatory holding to 10 per cent and by allowing greater operational flexibilities.

Under the proposed norms for InvITs, a new investment product for arranging long-term financing for infrastructure projects, SEBI has suggested allowing such trusts to invest in two-level SPV (special purpose vehicle) structure.

Currently, InvITs can either hold infrastructure assets either directly or through an SPV, in which such a trust holds control. It has been now proposed to allow InVITs to invest in a holding company which would further invest in other SPVs.

Source: TH

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Govt. Chest Clinic gets Digital Radiography System

The installation of the fully computerised Digital Radiography System at the Government Chest Clinic in Puducherry is expected to help in early detection of diseases like tuberculosis, while bringing down costs of diagnosis and ensuring ease of maintaining records.

The monitor displaying the image of a patient’s x-ray and the newly-inaugurated Digital Radiography System (right) at the Government Chest Clinic in Puducherry. Photo: S.S. Kumar

The Digital Radiography System was inaugurated at the Government Chest Clinic, a tertiary care institution, by Chief Minister N. Rangasamy on Thursday, and is the first-of-its-kind in a unit of the Puducherry Government.

Some of the advantages of the new system include saving of time as the X-ray image can be sent directly to the doctor’s computer and the film need not be developed in every case.

The X-ray report can also be sent by email. Importantly, the provision to zoom into the X-ray image and its superior clarity will help detect minute issues thus aiding faster diagnosis in tuberculosis and respiratory system disorders, said Dr. S. Govindarajan, State Tuberculosis Control Officer.

The Digital Radiography System is a retrofitted unit, which caters specifically to chest X-ray, said Arun, technical specialist. While a regular unit can cost around Rs. 90 lakh, this has cost around Rs. 32 lakh because of the retrofitting, he said.

Capacity

The unit has a capacity of 300 patients a day.

The inauguration was also attended by Dr. K.V. Raman, Director, Department of Health and Family Welfare Services.

The Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) has seen the rate of tuberculosis cases fall from 140 per one lakh of population in 2006 to 96 per one lakh of population last year in the Union Territory of Puducherry, said Dr. Govindarajan.

At present, 1400 people are diagnosed and treated for TB every year in the UT, with 30,000 being screened every year, he added.

Last year, around 20 cases of Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) were detected in Puducherry.

Source: TH

#2015, #21, #august

HIV-related viruses infected primates 16 million years ago

Researchers studied the evolution of on an antiviral gene called TRIM5 in African monkeys.

A western lowland gorilla, cools down by water mist sprayed into its enclosure during a hot summer day at Prague Zoo, Czech Republic

Viruses closely related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that may cause AIDS, have infected primates in Africa for as long as 16 million years, says a new study.

“Lentiviruses closely related to modern SIVs (simian immunodeficiency virus) were present in Africa and infecting the ancestors of cercopithecine primates as far back as 16 million years ago,” the study noted.

Interested in the history of lentiviruses – the group of retroviruses to which HIV and its simian (monkey) relatives, the SIVs belong – Welkin Johnson, from Boston College, US, and colleagues studied the evolution of on an antiviral gene called TRIM5 in African monkeys.

TRIM5 is part of a group of antiviral genes called “restriction factors,” which have evolved to protect host cells from infection by viruses. The human version of TRIM5 does not interfere with——and therefore not protect against——HIV, but many monkeys have TRIM5 variants that do render HIV harmless and are therefore immune to HIV/AIDS, the study said.

The findings appeared in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

Source: TH

#2015, #21, #august

Aadhaar may soon replace roll numbers

Officials told to ensure all students apply for Aadhaar by the end of August

Students may soon end up using Aadhaar numbers instead of their roll numbers for examinations going by a circular from the Department of School Education and Literacy under the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Despite the Supreme Court verdict that Aadhaar card should not be made mandatory to get government subsidies, the MHRD is pushing all State governments to ensure that all school students apply for Aadhaar.

Based on a letter issued by MHRD, the State Education Department on Monday issued a notice to its officials directing them to order heads of government and aided schools in Karnataka to ensure students apply for an Aadhaar by the end of August.

Earlier, the Director of Department of School Education and Literacy wrote to the Secretary of Primary and Secondary Education, Karnataka, requesting the State government to implement Aadhaar among students.

Source: TH

#2015, #21, #august

UNSC: India eyes support from Pacific Island nations

Competition from China may throw a spanner in the works

Support for India’s claims for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council will be high on the agenda at the second Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) summit that will be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Jaipur on Friday.

On Thursday, addressing the heads of the Pacific Island nations who are in New Delhi for the summit, President Pranab Mukherjee said: “UNSC reform and expansion will be discussed and concrete proposals are expected to be considered in the forthcoming UNGA session next month. An inter-governmental negotiating text is already on the table, for which India needs their support.”

Of the 14 Pacific Island nations, 12 have a vote in the United Nations, and India asserts it has “firm stated commitment of support” from at least 10 of these. According to MEA sources, of these two countries (that are yet to back India’s claim) one supports the G4 resolution, which indirectly supports the Indian position, while the other is yet to announce its stand.

Culture connect

New Delhi is banking on old, cultural ties with these nations, especially Fiji, which wields considerable influence in the region, and has a significant percentage of population that is of Indian descent, to garner support.

“While there hasn’t been much coordination on issues at the U.N., we hope the FIPIC conference will see a strengthening of coordination on the U.N. floor,” High Commissioner of Fiji, Yogesh J. Karan toldThe Hindu . However, it remains to be seen which country the FIPIC block would choose if the vote came down to a contest between India and China, which is a closer neighbour with heavy investments in infrastructure in the islands.

Source: TH

#2015, #21, #august

Govt. considering Bill to ensure right to services

 The Union government is considering a Bill to guarantee time-bound delivery of services, called the Right to Services Act, on the lines of the Acts already in place in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 10 suggesting such a Bill be prepared at the Central level.

Top sources in the government have confirmed that the Bill is now under the “active consideration” of the Personnel and Public Grievances Ministry.

“[The] government as a major service delivery agency does not enjoy a great reputation among citizens. People are generally unhappy about the government’s service delivery mechanism on account of delayed services, lack of accountability and transparency as well as poor quality of services delivered,” Mr. Gowda wrote in his letter.

He gave the example of Sakala, a service delivery programme in Karnataka launched when he was the Chief Minister and which covers 11 departments and 151 services routinely provided from a single portal.

Track work flow

Not only can one apply for services through the portal but also track the work flow; a system of fines has been put in place in case of a delay without reason.

The programme relies heavily on e-governance and e-tracking of service requests, delays and reasons for delay, something that the Modi government has been advocating for some time.

“This Bill would be important in curbing petty corruption in delivery of government services, some of it can be seen in the States where it has been implemented and also in places such as the passport office, where processes have been streamlined,” a top government official said.

“For the ordinary citizens the corruption one faces while applying for things like a driving licence or a scholarship for a student or ration card is the only interface with the government of the day. The efficacy of the government is reflected in the ease with which these services are rendered,” said the source.

The UPA government, too, had a similar Bill, called The Right of Citizens for Time-Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievance Bill, 2011, which had been introduced in the Lok Sabha but it subsequently lapsed.

While Mr. Gowda has advocated the adoption of the Sakala model for enacting the Bill, there are several versions available in various States.

Sakala has the distinction of having won the Prime Minister’s Medal for Excellence in Public Administration. While officials did not specify when the draft would go to the Cabinet, it is considered an idea close to the Prime Minister’s heart.

 Source: TH

#2015, #21, #august

Banks for the unbanked

For the first time in India’s banking sector, the Reserve Bank of India is giving out differentiated banking licences. The in-principle go-ahead given on Wednesday to 11 ‘payments banks’ is, by the RBI’s own admission, an experiment — the latest in a long series of attempts to take banks to the unbanked. The push towards financial inclusion started with the nationalisation of 14 commercial banks in July 1969 through the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Ordinance, 1969. Then a second round came in 1980, involving six more commercial banks. With a view to economically mainstreaming rural areas, the Indira Gandhi government established regional rural banks by means of an ordinance in 1975. But even 45 years later, all these attempts have had little success in expanding banking coverage to the desired extent and scale: only 7 per cent of India’s villages have a branch of a rural or commercial bank. The policymakers seem now to have finally understood that banking inclusion cannot be just one among many businesses of a bank: it has to be the core business. The licensing condition that puts a Rs. 1-lakh cap on deposits that payments banks can receive from customers defines the market they will target — primarily the unbanked population. The RBI expects payments banks to target migrant labourers and the self-employed, besides low-income households, offering low-cost savings accounts and remittance services so that those who now transact only in cash can take their first step into the formal banking system.

Going by the international experience, this innovation of basically transforming a citizen’s mobile phone into a stripped-down bank branch has a greater chance of success. The initiative takes Vodafone’s M-Pesa closer to the version that is working successfully in Kenya, where payments on this product constituted about 30 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2014. Similar products in India so far were essentially mobile applications dependent on tie-ups with banks to make cash withdrawals and interest payments. The licence frees these companies to provide such services on their own. The greater operational flexibility will enable them to draw in more customers. Their operations could now become more cost-effective as the licence-holders will be banks in their own right, albeit without the provision to extend loans to individuals. If they indeed succeed in becoming the target market’s chosen mode of financial transactions, this technological solution could also turn out to be a major step in achieving a truly cashless economy. So, while this is a bold move, and underscores that the RBI is anything but conservative, it is ironical too that the cycle of experiments that started with the 1969 round of nationalisation has now come full circle. The responsibility of financial inclusion is now almost entirely entrusted to the private sector.

Source: TH

#2015, #21, #august

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