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Schemes in place, Modi government seeks to improve delivery, make electoral gains

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New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) : Having launched schemes to improve incomes, speed up governance, foster cleanliness and improve social security, the Narendra Modi government is now seeking to enhance the footprint of its initiatives to reap electoral dividends in a clutch of assembly elections next year.

The first year of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, which assumed office on May 26, 2014, saw the launch of several initiatives. Now, there appears to be a thrust on consolidating the schemes and taking them to the people. There is also growing focus on schemes meant for the poor and the rural sector.

However, Key legislation such as the Goods and Services Tax bill have been stuck in parliament due to the BJP’s constant tussle with the Congress and its lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha. The government’s critics have also raised questions over the efficacy of the schemes and their implementation on the ground. Dissonance caused by controversial remarks of some BJP leaders and fringe elements have also sought to take focus away from governance. But the BJP’s victory in the Assam assembly polls appears to have handed it back the political momentum it lost after successive defeats in the Delhi and Bihar assembly polls.

Modi has set out ambitious targets including Housing for All by 2022, a clean India as part of Swachh Bharat Mission by 2019 and giving free cooking gas cylinders to 50 million families living below the poverty line under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana by 2019 – the year of next general elections.

With jobs and employment a major concern in a country where an estimated 65 percent of population is below 35 years of age, the government has launched missions such as Skill India and Make in India and given focus to improve physical infrastructure in rural and urban areas.

The government has used the direct benefit transfer and Aadhar to cut down on leakage of subsidies.

It has taken steps to boost investment, strengthen higher education, enhance the share of solar and renewable energy and step up agricultural growth.

Former cabinet secretary T.S.R Subramanian said initiatives such as Digital India, Aadhar, crop insurance, micro-finance and health insurance have the potential to transform India.

“If one gets money at reasonable rates (through micro-finance), India will transform in 10 years. Make in India will come from small factories, this the government has understood,” Subramanian told IANS.

He said the Modi government was short of talent but was more decisive and “cleaner” compared to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

Senior journalist and political commentator H.K. Dua said the Modi government has done well on foreign policy and has been active as far as economy was concerned and results were expected to flow in a year.

“On the social front, they have not been very wise. Fringe elements…they have been stirring the pot too much. I have a feeling they have learnt lessons from Delhi and Bihar. They were not as shrill in Assam. If that continues it is good for the country,” he said.

The Modi government took a major decision last year by creating the NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog in place of the Planning Commission, which had been formulating five-year plans for the country’s development since it was set up in 1950.

Modi launched “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” (save the girl child, educate the girl child) as part of the government’s move to improve skewed sex ratio.

With air pollution and climate change emerging as the key areas of focus, the government launched the Air Quality Index. India’s ambitious Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) include reducing emissions intensity per unit of Gross Domestic Product by 33-35 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.

The government has aimed to double farmers’ income over the next seven years and has come up with a slew of initiatives including Soil Health Card Scheme. The government hopes to issue over 140 million soil health cards by 2018.

The Digital India initiative seeks to make citizens digitally literate and bring internet and e-governance to all sections of society. As part of efforts to improve governance, the government has launched PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation), a multi-purpose, multi-modal platform aimed at addressing the common man’s grievances.

Modi launched the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA (Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency) Yojana and Start Up India and Stand Up India schemes to boost entrepreneurship.

The social schemes – Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY) and Atal Pension Yojana (APY) – two insurance products and one a pension product – are mainly targeted at the unorganized sector and economically weaker sections.

Other initiatives of the government include “Namami Gange” programme, which integrates the efforts to clean and protect the Ganga river, gold monetization schemes to reduce the country’s reliance on importing gold, Smart Cities Mission and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation. (AMRUT) and Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) aimed at development of rural growth clusters.

As part of its plans to expand higher education, the government has approved setting up of more IIMs and AIIMSs in the country.

The government also issued a notification to implement the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme for defence forces personnel.

Disaster

Covid woes in Delhi’s AIIMS, 479 test positive

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New Delhi, June 4 : The All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) here has turned to be a ”hotspot” of coronavirus infection with as many as 479 persons — staff as well as their dependents — testing positive for the highly contagious disease.

A source told IANS that as on May 30, a total of 479 people tested positive. “This includes two faculty members, 17 resident doctors, 38 nursing staff, 74 security staff and hospital attendants each and 54 sanitation staff.” The number also includes 14 labs, x-ray and other technical staff while the number of others (dependents) stood at 193.

However the source also told IANS that the AIIMS has scaled up its testing. “AIIMS has now started testing most patients before admission to wards and before taking to OTs. A new rapid test, called CBNAAT, which gives results in 2 hours is now available at AIIMS. This may help to reduce exposure of healthcare workers in hospitals. Last month and before, very few patients and with symptoms were tested. Many patients tested positive in wards when they were tested in view of symptoms,” said the source.

He also added that the new machine for testing is available for Emergency department too, so that emergency patients can be tested.

“As such it is highly possible that the number is because AIIMS has resources and cares for its employees, and is able to scale up its testing. More the testing, more the diagnosed healthcare workers. Masks and PPE are of good quality but the problem is that they don”t seal properly. So from around the margins of masks, aerosols can enter. There should be a proper sealing test and different sizes of masks should be made available on a person to person basis,” said the source.

On May 25, a senior sanitation supervisor posted at Rajkumari Amrit Kaur OPD in the AIIMS had died from Covid-19. A mess worker of the AIIMS also lost his life due to the disease on May 22.

–IANS

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Disaster

Nine in 10 migrants in Delhi consumed less food during lockdown: Survey

Nearly four in 10 (37 per cent) households were unable to get ration and 96 per cent of vulnerable households did not have a Jan Dhan account.

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New Delhi, June 4 : As many as 73 per cent informal and migrant workers lost their jobs in Delhi during the lockdown, according to a survey conducted by the Azim Premji University.

The survey of 240 respondents found that the average earnings of non-agricultural self employed and casual wage workers fell by 63 per cent.

As per the survey, women suffered more employment losses, as 77 per cent women lost their jobs against 66 per cent men.

Indicating distress, the survey said that nine in 10 migrant households reported consuming less food than before, while three out of four households or 75 per cent did not have money to buy a week”s worth of essentials.

More than half of the vulnerable households did not receive ration, while nearly seven in 10 migrants did not receive the same.

Seven out 10 (73 per cent) vulnerable households did not get any cash transfer, as per the survey.

The survey conducted by the Azim Premji University has shown heavy job losses among informal and migrant workers, up to 70-80 per cent, in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi and the city of Pune.

The disruption in the economy and labour markets in these places is enormous. Livelihoods have been devastated at unprecedented levels during the lockdown. The recovery from this could be slow and very painful, the survey said.

It found that Covid-19 and its associated safety measures, such as the lockdown since March 24, have taken a heavy toll on the economy, and particularly on the vulnerable informal and migrant workers and their families.

The sample for the survey was selected using the networks of civil society organisation collaborators. “The findings pertain only to the sample and are not representative of the entire state. Findings should not be compared across states,” it said.

For the state of Gujarat, a survey of 315 respondents showed that seven out of 10 (71 per cent) workers lost their employment. Urban workers were more severely affected with nine out 10 losing their jobs since the lockdown. As many as 96 per cent of regular salaried workers in the urban areas lost their jobs.

The survey said that nearly nine in 10 farmers were not able to sell their produce at full price. Nearly seven in 10 households did not have enough money for a week”s worth of essentials and the situation was worse in the urban areas at 89 per cent.

As many as 95 per cent of urban households reported reducing their food intake during the lockdown. Six per cent of urban households did not receive any cash transfer compared to 51 per cent of rural households.

In Rajasthan, a survey of 484 respondents showed that nearly nine in 10 (88 per cent) workers reported losing their employment. Casual wage workers in the urban areas were the worst hit, as 95 per cent of them lost their jobs. Sixty-eight per cent of salaried workers were not paid salaries or received only partial payments.

More than three in four households reported consuming less food during the lockdown while 63 per cent of vulnerable households did not have money to buy even a week”s worth of essentials.

Four in 10 households had to take a loan as a result of the lockdown, as per the survey. Three in 10 migrants working in the urban areas did not have a ration card. Nearly four in 10 vulnerable households in the urban areas received no cash transfers.

In Pune, a survey of 307 respondents showed that nearly eight out of 10 (78 per cent) lost their employment during the lockdown. Men were worse affected, as 86 per cent reported employment loss compared to 72 per cent women. More than two-third (67 per cent) of salaried workers did not receive salary or were paid partially.

Eight in 10 households were consuming less food than before, while nine in 10 households were unable to pay the next month”s rent.

Nearly four in 10 (37 per cent) households were unable to get ration and 96 per cent of vulnerable households did not have a Jan Dhan account.

Nine in 10 (94 per cent) vulnerable households did not receive any cash transfer, as per the survey.

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Business

Amazon in talks to buy stake in Bharti Airtel

In just around a month, RIL has sold over 17 per cent stake in Jio Platforms for a combined Rs 78,562 crore.

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New Delhi, June 4 : E-commerce giant Amazon is in talks to purchase a stake worth at least $2 billion in telecom major Bharti Airtel.

According to reports, the Jeff Bezos-led Amazon would acquire around 5 per cent stake based on the current market value of India”s third largest telecom company in terms of subscribers.

Describing the reports as speculations, an Amazon spokesperson said: “We don”t comment on speculation about what we may or may not do in future.”

An Airtel spokesperson said: “We routinely work with all digital and OTT players and have deep engagement with them to bring their products, content and services for our wide customer base. Beyond that there is no other activity to report.”

Reports suggested that the talks are in initial stages currently. The talks come at atime when Jio Platforms has attracted several investors in the past one month led by Facebook which took up around 10 per cent stake.

In just around a month, RIL has sold over 17 per cent stake in Jio Platforms for a combined Rs 78,562 crore.

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