Status of implementation of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY)

The Cabinet today reviewed the implementation of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana. The Scheme was launched on 1st October, 2007 as the health insurance scheme for families living below the poverty line. It was operationalised on April, 2008.

The basic features of the scheme are as follows:

(i) Government of India contributes 75% of the annual premium. State Governments contribute 25%. In case of North-East region and Jammu & Kashmir, the premium is shared in the ratio of 90:10.

(ii) The beneficiary family pays Rs. 30 per annum per family as registration/renewal fee. Administrative cost is borne by the State Governments.

(iii) Beneficiaries are entitled to smart card based cashless health insurance cover of Rs.30,000 per family per annum on a family floater basis.

(iv) Coverage of all pre-existing diseases.

(v) Coverage of hospitalisation expenses, including maternity benefit.

(vi) Payment of transportation cost of Rs. 100/- per visit.

As on 31st December, 2011, about 2.57 crore smart cards are active and more than 29.25 lakh persons have availed hospitalisation facilities in 24 States/UTs.

The RSBY has also been extended to following occupational groups:

(i) Building and other Construction Workers

(ii) Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) beneficiaries

(iii) Street Vendors

(iv) Beedi Workers

(v) Domestic Workers

As is evident from the above, the scheme has been extended to a few segments of unorganised workers. In future, it is likely to be expanded to other segments of such workers.
Source - PIB -

Union Rural Development Minister to review Central schemes in West Bengal

Union Rural Development Minister Shri Jairam Ramesh leaves for Kolkata on Monday on a three-day visit to oversee the implementation of various schemes pertaining to the Ministry in 24 Parganas district and the naxal-affected districts of Bankura and Purulia. On January 23rd, after his arrival in Kolkata the Minister will attend a function in the morning to mark the birthday celebrations of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Later on, he will depart for Dongaria and 24 Parganas to meet with the officials to ascertain the implementation of various rural development schemes, besides status of water supply projects. On 24th January, Shri Ramesh will leave for Bankura to visit water testing laboratory, sanitary mart and roof-top rain water harvesting scheme at Purandarpur. On Wednesday, the Minister will visit the naxal affected district of Purulia and oversee the progress of Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana and water treatment plant at Raghunathpur block. He is also likely to meet the State Chief Minister Ms Mamta Banerji at Kolkata in the evening same day, before departing for New Delhi.

Source - PIB - 79762

Improve Livelihoods for 300,000 Village Households in North Eastern States

Government of India and World Bank Sign an Agreement Worth US $130 Million to Improve Livelihoods for 300,000 Village Households in North Eastern States
The Government of India and the World Bank today signed an IDA credit of US$ 130 million to finance the Government of India`s (GOI) efforts to empower rural communities in the growth-deficient North East (NE) region to improve their livelihood opportunities.

The North East Rural Livelihoods Project (NERLP) will enhance the livelihoods of the rural poor, especially women, unemployed youth and the severely disadvantaged in eight districts of the four participating states- Aizawl and Lunglei in Mizoram; Peren and Tuensang in Nagaland; South, West and 15 Panchayat wards of East District in Sikkim; and West and North Districts in Tripura.

Despite its rich natural resources and relatively good human development indicators, the North East (NE) region lags behind the rest of India in important parameters of growth. Almost 35 percent of its predominantly rural population lives below the poverty line; agricultural productivity is low; and high school drop-out rates and lack of skills have led to high unemployment among the youth. This low-growth scenario is exacerbated by problems of geographical inaccessibility, protracted insurgency in some areas, and recurring natural disasters. Recognizing the urgent need to put economic growth on track in the NE, the Government of India developed the North Eastern Region (NER) Vision 2020, endorsed by all NE states. The Vision envisages using a partnership-approach with all relevant stakeholders to make interventions responsive to people’s needs and aspirations for a better quality of life.

The agreements for the North East Rural Livelihoods Project (NERLP) were signed by Shri Venu Rajamony, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, on behalf of the Government of India; Shri D. L. Wankhar, Project Director on behalf of the North East Rural Livelihoods Project; and Mr. Roberto Zagha, World Bank Country Director in India.

The Project seeks to develop an institutional platform for the communities, which will help them link up with the private sector, public sector, and civil society and to acquire the institutional, technical, and financial capacity needed for improving their livelihoods. Global development experience shows that absolute poverty can be overcome by equipping a member of the household (especially a youth) with employable skills. A separate activity for skills development and job placement has thus been included in the project to ensure that such opportunities are available to the rural poor. Some livelihood opportunities envisaged under the Project include natural resource management activities such as forest management, non-timber forest produce storage and processing, horticulture, preservation of riverine fishes, water harvesting and recharging of ground/surface water in the villages; community-based infrastructure activities like upgrading of small agricultural link roads, micro hydro-power schemes, wind-cum-solar mills, to name a few.

The Project comprises four main components (i) Social Empowerment; (ii) Economic Empowerment; (iii) Partnership Development and (iv) Project Management. The first component seeks to help rural communities to create sustainable institutions so that they can manage common activities around microfinance, livelihoods and natural resource management. The second component will provide funds to the community institutions to undertake various livelihood activities, as well as provide self-entrepreneurship opportunities to unemployed youth. To enable this, the Project with help develop partnerships with various formal financial intermediaries - such as microfinance institutions, commercial banks, development financial institutions such as National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), and specialized funding agencies such as North East Development Finance Institution (NEDFI) – and with the private sector and civil society to allow rural communities to access technical and marketing support. The project management component facilitates the implementation, coordination, monitoring and evaluation, learning and quality enhancement efforts of the project.

The credit from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm, has a final maturity of 25 years, including 5 year grace period.

Source - PIB - 79743

Rudrasagar Development Scheme Approved

Planning commission has given investment clearance for the scheme – “Rudrasagar Drainage Development Scheme, Tripura”. The scheme is an estimated to cost of Rs. 14.8978 Crore (Rs Fourteen crore, Eighty Nine Lakhs and Seventy Eight Thousand Only). The project is to be completed by the financial year 2012-13 and Plan account would be closed by 31st March 2013.

The implementation of the scheme will restrict water spread area of the lake during monsoon and maintain water level of 13 m during winter and maintain water level of 11 m for boosting the ecology of the area. An area of 2200 ha with a population of 1000 will benefit from the scheme.
Source - PIB -79747

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sets timelines to fix power sector woes

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday assured the country's leading industrialists, including Ratan Tata and Anil Ambani, that a "pragmatic and viable solution" would be found to the plethora of problems bogging down the power sector.
At the over hour-long meeting with the captains of industry at his 7, Racecourse Road residence, the Prime Minister said that a secretary level committee, chaired by his principal secretary, will suggest a roadmap for a time bound solution to the short term problems holding back the power sector.
Singh is reported to have told the demoralised industrialists "not to lose heart."
The industrialists highlighted the hurdles that are delaying the implementation of large power projects in the private sector.
These included acute shortages of domestic coal and gas, the sudden increase in prices of imported coal for power projects, delay in environment and forest clearances and financing problems.
The need to introduce reforms for turning around the power distribution companies and the proposal to slap duty on imported power equipment in the forthcoming Budget were also discussed at the meeting.
The Prime Minister assured the delegation that immediate action will be taken on these issues and his principal secretary will meet them after a month to apprise them of the progress made.
The delegation of the association of power producers, representing over a dozen companies, will meet the Prime Minister after a period of 90 days to review the progress, sources said.
Singh also assured the delegation of his government's commitment in taking all possible steps to mitigate the problems being faced by the power generation and distribution sector.
The Prime Minister underlined that the power sector is involved in the process of nation building and there is a need to reduce risks to make the power projects viable.
He also directed his Cabinet colleagues present at the meeting to make all-out efforts to resolve the key issues impacting the power sector. Those present included, power minister Sushilkumar Shinde, coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, deputy chairman Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and minister of state (independent charge) of environment and forests Jayanti Natrajan.
HEADS of the 12-odd private power companies also met these ministers separately in a series of meetings throughout the day to discuss the problems they face in getting fuel supplies for their projects.
Private power firms have been calling for pooling of domestic and international coal prices in the total cost to be shared by all the power firms.
The coal ministry has reportedly rejected this proposal, saying that it is not possible.
However, the ministry appears to have softened its stand on the minimum assured supply of coal to the power producers.
Jaiswal said that the ministry may agree for 65 to 70 per cent 'trigger-level', or the minimum level of coal supply to the projects, failing which the coal companies would be penalised.
Source - Today India

Food inflation at (-)0.42 per cent, but RBI may not cut key rates yet

The falling cost of vegetables like potatoes and onions has put a lid on price rise, with food inflation confined to the negative zone for the third consecutive week at (-)0.42 per cent during the seven-day period to January 7.
However, experts feel that the decline in prices of food articles will not be enough to prompt the Reserve Bank to cut key interest rates at its forthcoming monetary policy review on January 24.
Food inflation, as measured by the wholesale price index (WPI), stood at over 16 per cent in the corresponding week of the previous year. It was (-)2.90 per cent in the previous week ended December 31, 2011.
The maximum drop was witnessed in prices of onions, which became cheaper by 75.42 per cent year-on-year during the week under review, while potatoes became 23.84 per cent less expensive. Overall, vegetables became 45.81 per cent cheaper, while wheat prices fell by 3.57 per cent.
The decline in food prices since the first week of November has been substantial, with the rate of price rise plummeting into the negative zone from double digits.
"Food inflation may remain in the negative zone for another two weeks before turning positive to low single-digit," Crisil Chief Economist D K Joshi said.
However, the time is not yet right for the RBI to start loosening the monetary policy, he said.
"While food inflation has moderated, there are major components like manufactured products where prices continue to rise at a high level. We believe the RBI will wait for some more time before starting to cut rates," Joshi said.
General inflation stood at a two-year low of 7.47 per cent in December, mainly on account of falling food prices.
After raising interest rates by 375 basis points since March, 2010, the RBI took a pause on its hawkish stance in December.
However, prices of other food items continued to go up. Prices of pulses were up 14.27 per cent, milk 11.48 per cent and eggs, meat and fish 19.64 per cent year-on-year during the week under review.
Experts attributed the decline in food inflation to the "high base" of the previous year and to good kharif output.
Food inflation stood at over 16 per cent in the same period last year.
"Once the impact of the favourable base effect wears off in February, 2012, food inflation is expected to rise to around 6-6.5 per cent in March, 2012," said ICRA Economist Aditi Nayar.
She also said: "The RBI is likely to attach greater importance to the elevated inflation related to non-food manufactured products and maintain policy rates at the current levels in next week's policy review."
Inflation in the overall primary articles category stood at 0.51 per cent during the week ended December 31, as against 0.10 per cent in the previous week, as per today's data.
Inflation in the non-food segment, which includes fibres and oilseeds, was recorded at 1.84 per cent for the week ended January 7, as against 1.29 per cent in the previous week.
Fuel and power inflation stood at 14.45 per cent, the same as in the previous week.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said the moderation in food prices will help bring down headline inflation to 6-7 per cent by March, 2012.
Source - India Today

Obama assures to bring jobs back to US

Washington: President Barack Obama has reiterated his call to make the government more efficient and assist companies to bring jobs back to the US from abroad.

"Right now, we have a 21st century, but we've still got a government organised for the 20th century," Xinhua quoted Obama as saying during his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday.

"Over the years, the needs of Americans have changed, but our government has not. In fact, it's gotten even more complex. And that has to change."

He proposed Friday to merge six trade and commerce agencies into one to make the federal government more streamlined and efficient.

Officials said that 1,000 to 2,000 jobs would be cut through the attrition.

"These changes will make it easier for small business owners to get the loans and support they need to sell their products around the world," said Obama urging the US congress to reinstate the authority that past presidents have had to streamline and reform the executive branch.

He also repeated his promise to put forward new tax proposals to reward companies that choose to bring jobs home and invest in America and eliminate tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas
Source - Zee News

Railway safety: Tiny device developed to prevent derailment

After fabricating Jugnu, the country's tiniest satellite launched last month, Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur graduates have now come up with a matchbox-sized device to monitor wear and tear of railway tracks and prevent derailment.

The new device is aimed at replacing a bulky, box-like contraption that is currently used by Indian Railways.

"Our device is a supplementary system for monitoring track health, making it simpler to integrate with the existing railway infrastructure," said Kshitij Deo, M.Tech in mechanical engineering, who developed the device with three others from the vibration and dynamics lab of the IIT.

For Railways, safety is important as thousands of trains use around 114,500 km tracks of its network - the world's fourth largest. With regular use, the tracks develop cracks and fissures, including problems linked to loose nuts and bolts at the joints. If the tracks are less firmly anchored on the soil, it could lead to derailment.

All these faults can now be detected in real time and recorded automatically to prevent derailment thanks to the oscillation monitoring system, a cutting-edge device weighing just 100 grams.

The device has been designed and developed by a team of IIT-Kanpur's mechanical engineering graduates, under the guidance of N.S. Vyas, professor and head, mechanical engineering, and the Railways' Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), Lucknow.

The device, based on micro-electro mechanical system, can monitor track health more comprehensively and enable efficient track maintenance.

"The extremely handy package locates and logs track faults accurately with the help of the GPS (global positioning system), eliminating human errors and making train journeys safer. It has a battery life of 10 hours and can be recharged by USB port on computers," said Deo who developed the device with three others from the vibration and dynamics lab under Vyas.

On the other hand, the existing railway monitoring equipment is bulky and operated manually, with two people being required to feed the location into the bulky device.

It is mounted on a special coach, the oscillation monitoring unit. Since it forms part of a small train, the exercise cannot be undertaken frequently. Track clearances have to be sought and the routes planned and finalised in advance, said Deo.

"The biggest challenge lay in engineering a device that could pinpoint faults with a high degree of precision while simplifying use with a drastically reduced size. We did manage to reduce the number of buttons to one as against 50 required on the keypad of the railway equipment," said Deo.

The device once placed on the floor of a running train's coach measures and records vibrations. Any fault or irregularity on the tracks changes the pattern of vibrations. The device feeds all such data and locational faults into a fingernail-sized data storage card with the help of a GPS receiver.

If the vibrations cross a certain threshold, especially in case of a critical fault, the device alerts engineers with audio-visual signals (beeps and flashing LEDs). Post- journey, the storage card is retrieved from the device and plugged into the computer for reading the track's actual condition and analysis by the railways.

The plan is to install at least three-four such devices on trains running on each route to monitor each track on a regular basis.

The project grew out of a visit by the director of the RDSO to IIT-Kanpur. "We were demonstrating a similar vibration measurement instrument developed by us. In subsequent meetings, the project was finalised and we designed the device in close coordination with RDSO officials," said Deo.

"The project took a year to fructify, involving some 25 field trials on trains, including Shatabdi and Rajdhani Expresses. The RDSO has been optimistic about the project. Many times we actually walked on the track to verify faults as predicted by the device," recalled Deo.

After the successful completion of the first phase, the RDSO is keen on going ahead with the second phase and testing the device on trains in all the railway zones. If its performance is found satisfactory, it would be approved by the Railways.
Source - India Today

Facebook launches app for users to post 'last words'

Social network Facebook has launched a new application through which an user can post one last message on his "wall" after his death. But there is a catch -- three "trustees" have to confirm the person is actually dead.
The free application is called "If I Die", the Daily Mail reported.
It, however, has no option to automatically post a person's "last words". An user has to appoint three trustees from the friends list, who will be messaged when the user dies.
Only when the three friends confirm the death, will the final message be posted.
The application has been made by an Israeli startup company.
Facebook already offers a "memorial" service. Once it is confirmed someone has died, a memorial page is created, which only friends can see.

Source - India Today

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