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TB time bomb: the price of policy inertia

India’s TB burden is exacerbated by the government’s refusal to augment resources and enable access to newer drugs

A crumbling health system, slashed budgets and an overcrowded country — these factors make India the perfect playground for one of the world’s oldest diseases, tuberculosis.

In the past year, the global public health community, led by World Health Organization (WHO), has been looking at India with trepidation. In 2015 alone, 4.8 lakh Indians died of the airborne disease. In fact, India’s leading chest physician Dr. Zarir Udwadia called it “Ebola with wings” earlier this week during a TED Talk to mark World Tuberculosis Day, which fell on Friday, March 24.

Thousands without access

Two new TB drugs, Bedaquiline and Delamanid, being used in Europe and the United States for several years, are yet to be made available in India’s national health-care system. In January, an 18-year-old Patna girl took the government to court after she was refused Bedaquiline on the grounds that she was not a resident of Delhi. The drug is available only in six sites across the country and, according to Health Ministry’s annual TB report released on Friday, only 207 patients have access to the drug needed by at least 79,000 patients. Herein lies the crux of the matter, making India’s bureaucratic inertia the world’s problem: TB does not respect geographical boundaries and these patients continue to transmit drug-resistant forms of the disease due to the poor access to medicines. Not only does India shoulder the highest TB burden in the world with over 2 million of the 10 million cases reported here, it also accounts for the most drug-resistant patients — nearly 1.3 lakh people who do not respond to first-line drugs. “Transmission of drug-resistant TB will continue unabated unless patients get early diagnosis and the right treatment. India has to invest extensively and urgently if it has to expand the testing facilities and get the drugs to the patients. Currently, there is a mismatch between the urgency with which the government is talking and the resources we are committing,” says Chapal Mehra, a public health specialist on TB.

In a major embarrassment for the government, WHO had to revise global TB estimates last year after India informed that it had been under-reporting TB cases from 2000 to 2015. The global estimates were revised upwards to 10.4 million people infected with TB — a jump of 5,00,000 from 2014. In its annual TB report, the Health Ministry explained that “this apparent increase in the disease burden reflects the incorporation of more accurate data. With backward calculations, both tuberculosis incidence and mortality rates are decreasing from 2000 to 2015”.

The intent-action deficit

While the global spotlight for urgent action has sent the government back to the drawing board, experts maintain that it is not putting its money where its mouth is. The budget estimates in the annual TB report are in fact lower than that of 2014-15. As against ₹1,358 crore requested, the government approved ₹710 crore in 2014-15. In 2016, however, in the face of trenchant criticism, the budget requested actually went down to ₹1,000 crore and the approved budget was a measly ₹640 crore. “By no means is this enough to expand the programme. For the strategic plan to show impact, we must allocate enough resources,” says Mr. Mehra.

The government will soon be launching a new strategy, and Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda has announced that his Ministry will aim to “eliminate TB” by 2025. “Ensuring affordable and quality health care to the population is a priority for the government and we are committed to achieving zero TB deaths and therefore we need to re-strategise, think afresh and have to be aggressive in our approach to end TB by 2025,” he said on World Tuberculosis Day.

During the TED Talk, Dr. Udwadia, one of the first doctors to make Bedaquiline available in India, called tuberculosis patients “therapeutic destitutes”, adding, “Drug-resistant TB represents a collective indictment of all of us as a society. Of the tests too slow. The drugs too toxic. Of the government programme that’s underfunded and inefficient. Of the private practitioners who’ll dole out the drugs but not compassion. Of the public policy failure.”

For taking on government inertia, Dr. Udwadia was profiled by The New York Times in September 2016 in a report titled “Battling Drug-Resistant TB, and the Indian Government”.

The battle, for him, for patients and for caregivers is far from over.


Source: xaam.in




Egyptian vultures find their nest back in Delhi

The species— rarely spotted here— has made the Capital its home; ecologists say it’s a ‘good indication’

There’s good news for city dwellers. A flock of 10 Egyptian vultures— which are rarely spotted in the city— has been living on land near the Yamuna since January.

According to experts, Egyptian vultures have nearly disappeared from the city in the last few years. Their nesting areas would include areas near the Yamuna, Okhla Bird Sanctuary and Ghazipur landfill.

“This current population is being monitored for the last two months. But, we found that their feeding habits had changed due to a loss of habitat. The birds now feed mostly on biodegradable garbage,” said ecologist T.K. Roy.

He, however, added that the return of the bird was a “good indication”.

The vulture is a useful scavenger as it feeds on carrion and keeps the environment clean. It also controls the spread of diseases from decaying carrions.

Decline in population

The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), one among nine vulture species available in the Indian sub-continent, is a large-range distributed species in Europe, Africa and Asia, but its population has rapidly declined in India due to factors such as disturbance, poisoning, electrocution, scarcity of food and habitat loss, but largely due to the toxic effect of veterinary drug Diclofenac through livestock carcasses. Continuous efforts by BNHS for vulture conservation, Drug Controller General (India), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Department of Animal Husbandry and Ministry of Agriculture, have, however, proved to be a boon. In 2006, the government banned Diclofenac for veterinary purposes.


Source: xaam.in




Titu Mir returns to roil Bengal, 190 years after his fall in war

The leader of a peasant uprising against brutal British taxes has been given a communal colour in a State-approved textbook, say historians

Nearly 190 years after his death, Syed Mir Nisar Ali, or Titu Mir, a peasant leader, who led the Narkelberia Uprising in 1831 — often considered the first armed peasant uprising against the British — has made a controversial comeback in Bengal’s politics through a chapter in a prescribed tenth grade history textbook.

Celebrated in folklore as a peasant leader, Titu Mir remains a controversial political figure in Bengal for his religious identity as an Islamic preacher after he converted to Wahabism.

The current row has been sparked by the chapter in the textbook, approved by the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, that claims Titu Mir “killed” many Hindus and destroyed several temples.

Assertion challenged

Noted historian and scholar of Islam Gautam Bhadra, who was formerly with the Centre for Studies of Social Sciences, has challenged this assertion, while the Opposition described it as a “distortion of history.”

The chapter, titled Wahhabi Movement in Bengal, states that the Wahhabis under “Titu’s leadership destroyed many Hindu temples and killed several priests”, an assertion that Prof. Bhadra terms “baseless.”

“Titu destroyed one Hindu temple and killed one priest who worked in the temple of a talukdar (tax collector holding land) Deb Roy. (And) that is not because of any communal reason but because of the nature of his movement, [which was] directed against an irrational tax regime implemented by the land holders,” explains Prof. Bhadra, author of Iman O Nishan (Faith and the Flag), on the peasant movements in Bengal (1800-1850) which chronicles the Narkelberia uprising and Titu Mir’s role.

The controversial chapter goes on to say “thousands [and] thousands of poor and backward Muslims” joined Titu’s movement. Taking issue with the statement, Prof. Bhadra said, “Such phrases — ‘thousands (and) thousands’, ‘many’ or ‘several’— have no place in history. It was not the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 when ‘thousands [and] thousands’ would join a movement.”

The chapter further says that the Wahhabi movement “completely collapsed” following Titu’s death, an assessment questioned by Prof. Bhadra. “The Wahhabi movement continued in Bengal well after Titu’s death. There was a setback only in Barasat, following Titu’s death. The section is badly written,” Prof. Bhadra argues.

The uprising

In his essay, Titu Meer’s Rebellion: A profile (1983), Prof. Atis Dasgupta, formerly with the Sociological Research Unit of the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata, says Titu Mir adopted Wahhabism, and advocated Sharia laws, bypassing the “tradition of folkish Islam in Bengal”.

However, Dr. Dasgupta locates Mir’s revolt in the larger context of uprisings of peasants in Bengal, who were the first to suffer the impact of colonial systems of taxation and agricultural extraction. Dr Dasgupta writes that Mir refused to pay the enhanced tax imposed on poor peasants in North 24 Paraganas district and then organised and led protests, which irked the land holders, both Hindu and Muslim. Eventually the zamindars and British administrators jointly mobilised forces against Titu.

The essay records that a large British force was sent by Governor General William Bentinck to Narkelberia which laid seige to Titu’s bamboo fortress on November 18, 1831. The assault began on the morning of November 19 and continued for three hours.

Finally the fortress fell and Titu was bayoneted to death; 50 of his comrades were killed. At least 800 of Titu’s soldiers were captured and 140 were sent to prison.

In his extensively researched profile of Titu Mir, Dr. Dasgupta concludes, “In the stormy annals of anti-colonial peasant struggles in our country, Titu Meer and [his] Wahabi followers appeared as petrels with a message for a future peasant society, shorn of repression and exploitation.”

Given his complex historical identity as a peasant leader and an Islamic preacher, Titu Mir continues to present a problem for successive Bengal governments, which explains the absence of memorials even in Narkelberia.

‘BJP shadow’

The tone of the present chapter has prompted not just academic dissent but also political protests. Questioning the veracity of the information, CPI(M) State secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra tweeted that the “distortions of History continue in Bengal school text books”. He went on to charge that the Trinamool Congress government was colluding with Bharatiya Janata Party to communalise the State.

“Secular leader of d [the] oppressed Titu Mir [is] branded communal. A TMC-BJP joint venture,” Mr. Mishra tweeted.

Several calls made to reach Biswajit Bag, the author of the chapter went unanswered.


Source: xaam.in




The Finance Bill, 2017: a brute majority and its far-reaching consequences

This is not the first time this government has taken the Money Bill route to pass a controversial law.

While Yogi Adityanath made his maiden speech in the Lok Sabha as the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the government managed to pass The Finance Bill, 2017 on Wednesday with little or no opposition thanks to the introduction of it as a Money Bill.

Members opposed the introduction of the Bill. On Tuesday, after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced the Bill, N.K. Premachandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) objected to the Bill as he said many amendments in the Bill did not fall under the purview of taxation, which is what a money Bill was supposed to be about.

This is not the first time this government has taken the Money Bill route to pass a controversial law. The NDA government chose to introduce the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 as a Money Bill. A Money Bill is one that contains provisions for taxes, appropriation of funds etc. Money Bills can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha, where the BJP currently has a majority, and the Rajya Sabha cannot make amendments to such bills passed by the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha can suggest amendments, but it is the Lok Sabha’s choice to accept or reject them.

Another grievance of the RSP MP, supported by Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress, was that the amendments were not circulated to MPs, thus not giving them enough time to study the Bill. “Just now we have received the list of amendments. 40 existing Acts are proposed to be amended by means of this Finance Bill. When the original Bill was presented on 1st February, 2017, only 8 to 10 Acts were proposed to be amended,” he said.

But Mr. Jaitley contended that “it is much ado about nothing that you say 40 laws are being amended. What is the amendment? The amendments are incidental to the Acts. In fact these amendments relates to minor changes in the original Acts.” The Minister went on to quote a ruling by the first Speaker of the Lok Sabha, G.V. Mavalankar on the word ‘only.’

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan ruled in favour of the Minister saying that parliamentary Rules do not rule out the possibility of the inclusion of non-taxation proposals in a Money Bill. “I have accepted this. The Finance Bill may contain non-taxation proposals also. Now another thing is no doubt every effort should be made to separate taxation measures from other matters.”

BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab raised the issue of Aadhaar numbers being linked to PAN for income tax returns stating that Members had not discussed it until then. “I fail to understand as to why Aadhar card is being linked to PAN card. This has not been discussed in the House till now.” The Minister justified it by saying that Aadhaar would reduce tax evasion.


Source: xaam.in




Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity [ Ethics | GS 4 ]

You are a government officer who works in some department that grants clearances to various projects. Recently, you come across a project in your hometown which is a massive project. The project involves creation of a very big shopping complex in the area. It is going to generate thousands of jobs in your home district. The project is actually going to change the face of your district. You have always had a weakness regarding your home district and had honestly wanted some development like this to take place there. 
But while granting the clearances you witness that the project has a lot of environmental hazards and is going to create a lot of trouble to the environment. A number of trees have to cut down for the project since the area chosen for the project is an entire forest belt. Apart from these there are also many other environmental hazards that the project would generate.
What would you do in such a situation? Would you ignore the environmental factor and give the necessary clearances? Or would you stop the project looking at the environmental factors?

Analysis:

The situation involves a conflicting circumstance between the good of the people or human beings and that of the environment. Looking at the short term goals, it is very easy to take a decision by allowing the project. It would create jobs; the major problem of unemployment in the district would be addressed so well. Since so many people would be benefited, therefore at once one can give clearance to the project and bring in development.
Now, coming to the larger issue- can development be done at the cost of our environment? The answer is no. Human beings are also a part of the environment. Harming the environment would ultimately harm the people. By only looking at the short term benefits, we welcome larger problems like pollution, disturbing the ecological balance, harming animals and birds since an entire forest area would be removed and most importantly, the climate change factor. These problems would be seen sooner or later and would have larger impact on human lives than the problem of unemployment.
Mother Nature must be respected at any cost. She is the one for whom we survive. Therefore, by harming the nature, no real development is possible. If problems like earthquake, soil erosion, food shortage, etc. affect us in the coming days, mere creation of jobs would not be of any help. 

Therefore, whatever weakness one might have for his home district, if he is a real well wisher, he would take care of the larger problems especially those related to the environment. And the person understands the impacts of environment much more than any common man since he is in the position of granting environmental clearances. He can rather suggest shifting the project to some other place, where the environmental impact would not be so prominent. In this way, a win-win situation would be created for both the people and the environment.


Source: xaam.in




UNESCO inscribes Yoga in the representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Yoga, India’s one of the ancient practices has now been inscribed as an element in the UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of humanity during the 11th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During this session, India’s proposal for inscribing Yoga as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity was unanimously supported by all the 24 members of the Intergovernmental Committee.
Yoga has become the 13th intangible cultural heritage that has been listed from India so far with UNESCO. Previous ones includes the Chhau dance( Inscribed in 2010), the Buddhist chanting of Ladakh ( inscribed in 2012), Sankirtana –the ritual singing, drumming, and dancing of Manipur( inscribed in 2013), the traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab(inscribed in 2014) and Ramlila- the traditional performance of the Ramayana ( inscribed in 2008).
Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has played a key role in having the United Nation declare June 21st as the International Yoga Day in 2014. Government of India has been taking forward the momentum created by celebration of International Yoga Day in 2015 and 2016 with greater and more active participation of youth & other stakeholders of the community. The government has continuously been promoting Yoga as a human treasure and a key to noble health.
The delegation from India that attended the Intergovernmental Committee Meeting was lead by the permanent representative of India to UNESCO, Ms. Ruchira Kamboj and a Government of India representative, Shri M. L. Srivastava, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Culture.
Source : PIB 
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Innovative Financing – The case of India Infrastructure Finance Company

India needs large investments in infrastructure for accelerating inclusive growth aimed at poverty alleviation and improvement in quality of life. Given the fiscal constraints that leave little room for expanding public investment at the scale required, Public Private Partnership (PPP) has emerged as the principal vehicle for  attracting private investment in infrastructure. However, much of the private capital required for PPP projects has to be raised from domestic financial institutions that do not have the capacity or instruments to provide long-tenure debt for projects having a long payback period. While financial sector reform is a long-drawn process, this essay demonstrates how a well-designed intervention can help in bypassing the extant constraints without compromising on the integrity and prudence associated with debt financing. By setting up a government owned financial institution with a mandate to provide about 30 per cent of the project debt, a large volume of long-term debt was mobilised while leaving the remaining 70 per cent to be financed by the normal banking system. This was perhaps, a first-of-its-kind financial institution which not only lent long-term funds, but also gave a strong signal to the banking system to participate proactively in the financing of infrastructure projects. As a result, private investments aggregating about US$ 114 billion have been facilitated without any dilution in the prudential norms of banking. This essay explains the evolution and success of this initiative.

Infrastructure deficit
1. Until recently, India’s infrastructure was widely regarded as inadequate and inefficient. The power sector suffered from a peaking deficit of 14 per cent and an energy shortage of 11 per cent. Only 17 per cent of the total length of 70,548 km comprising the National Highways network was of four lane standards, with 53 per cent being two-lane and the remaining 17 per cent being single lane highways. Railways were plagued with old technology, saturated routes, low payload to Tare ratio of 2.5 and slow average speed of 22 kmph for freight and 50 kmph for passenger trains. A similar situation prevailed in other sectors like ports and airports where
congestion and inefficiency were all-pervasive.
2. For several decades prior to the 1990s, India experienced a low and stable growth rate of 3 to 4 per cent per annum, famously termed as the Hindu rate of growth. Following the economic liberalisation coupled with dismantling of the licensing regime in the early 1990s, the economy recorded a high trajectory of growth ranging between 7 to 9 per cent throughout the decade of 1990. With this acceleration in growth rate, the pressures on a deficient infrastructure increased manifold, especially since the growth story
of the 1990s was largely led by the manufacturing and services sectors while infrastructure development proceeded at a slower pace. As a result, infrastructure came to be regarded as a major constraint in sustaining the growth process and in attracting investment or doing business in India.
3. In the past, infrastructure projects were typically financed from the limited resources of the public sector, which was characterised by inadequate capacity addition and poor quality of service. Following the economic liberalisation of the 1990s, private investment began to flow in infrastructure with mobile telephony taking the lead. In power generation, private investment was initially aided by various forms of government guarantees, which were soon discarded as they came to be viewed as an unsustainable form of support for private sector projects. Other sectors, such as highways,
railways, airports and ports witnessed piecemeal attempts at reforms which led to marginal outcomes.
4. Initial reforms predictably failed to mobilise private investment at the scale envisaged. The total investment in infrastructure during the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-07) was thus limited to about US$ 240 billion, of which only 22 per cent came from private investment. Moreover, the total investment in infrastructure constituted only about 5 per cent of GDP, as compared to 9-11 per cent witnessed in the East Asian economies. As a result, there was a 3 growing realisation of the pressing need to accelerate the flow of private capital in infrastructure.
Paradigm shift
5. In order to mobilise private investment at the pace and scale necessary, the Government initiated concerted measures to create an enabling policy and regulatory framework for attracting private capital in infrastructure projects. A comprehensive architecture was, therefore, brought into effect for promoting Public Private Partnership (PPP) in sectors like power, highways, ports, airports and railways. The objective of this paradigm shift was to double the investment in infrastructure from about US$ 240 billion in the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-07) to US$ 500 billion during the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12), with greater emphasis on private participation.

6. The new architecture for promoting PPPs included several measures beginning from the constitution of the apex Committee on Infrastructure under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. A streamlined mechanism for speedy appraisal and approval of PPP projects was also institutionalised. For projects which were economically justified but commercially unviable, the government introduced a scheme for providing capital grants of upto 40 per cent of project costs by way of viability gap funding.
7. A prominent feature of the PPP architecture was the adoption of model documents such as model concession agreements, model RFQ, model RFP and other bidding documents. The objective was to secure optimal sharing of risks and rewards while ensuring bankability of the projects coupled with efficient delivery of services at economic costs to be determined through a fair, transparent and competitive process of selection. It is noteworthy that in a study (Infrascope 2011) commissioned by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) of the Economist (UK) has commended this PPP architecture while rating it among the best, by international standards.
8. The above initiatives, especially the standardisation of documents and processes, helped in a rapid roll out of PPP projects that caused India to be recognised as the largest recipient of PPP investments during 2008-12, as 4 reported by PPIAF. According to the data published by the erstwhile Planning Commission, the total investment in infrastructure over the Eleventh Plan period (2007-12) aggregated US$ 480 billion, which constituted 7 per cent of GDP as compared to 5 per cent during the Tenth Plan (2002-07). In particular, private investment increased from about 22 per cent of the total investment in infrastructure during 2002-07 to about 37 per cent during 2007-12, which implied a three-fold increase in absolute terms.
Challenges of debt financing
9. One of the main challenges in scaling up private investment was the mobilisation of debt financing for meeting the ambitious targets set by the Government. Since PPP projects are usually financed on a 30:70 ratio of equity and debt, mobilisation of the requisite debt resources seemed a herculean task. Moreover, infrastructure projects typically bear a long period of gestation, which needs to be supported by debt of a longer tenure. Inadequate availability of long-term debt from domestic financial institutions, therefore, posed an added challenge for sustainable financing of PPP projects.
10. Unlike the developed world where long-term debt can be mobilised from the capital markets, the bond market in India did not present such an option as it was characterised by lack of liquidity and depth. Listed corporate debt formed only 2 per cent of GDP, which was significantly lower as compared to other emerging economies, such as Malaysia, Korea and China. Further, quasi-government entities like banks, public sector oil companies and government sponsored financial institutions have remained the principal issuers in the corporate debt market, leaving virtually no appetite for new infrastructure projects that are perceived as risk-prone. As a result, there was little possibility of relying on the bond market for financing infrastructure projects.
11. Insurance and pension funds, which are also a source of long-tenure debt in the developed economies, offered a limited window in India, primarily due to various regulatory requirements associated with risk mitigation. As a result, these funds were not available for the Special Purpose Vehicles typically used for implementing infrastructure projects. Moreover, 5 insurance and pension funds in India were heavily invested in government securities which were difficult to displace.
12. Foreign debt, a comparatively cheaper option as compared to domestic borrowings, provided a limited elbow room for infrastructure companies, given the limits imposed by the Central Bank on external commercial borrowings with a view to preventing excessive capital inflows in order to maintain macro-economic stability.
13. In the above scenario, commercial banks and non-banking financial institutions became the principal source of debt funds for infrastructure projects. However, the banks faced their own constraints arising from the nature of their asset base, which primarily consists of short to medium term deposits. This implied a potential asset-liability mismatch in lending for the long term. Moreover, banks also lacked the experience and capacity to undertake limited recourse financing of infrastructure projects that typically do not provide much collateral security. Since the security for such debt primarily comprises the expected revenue streams of the respective projects, commercial banks were unlikely to show much appetite for such lending.
14. Given the various constraints, there was an urgent need to evolve and introduce an intervention that would enable mobilisation of long-term debt for PPP projects in different infrastructure sectors. Government intervention had also become necessary since the available sources of finance offered a limited scope for expansion. Without such an initiative, there was every possibility of a significant shortfall in the projected investment for infrastructure.
Innovative financing vehicle
15. To kick-start the process of private participation in infrastructure, the Government decided to create a new financing vehicle that would overcome the extant constraints. This new vehicle was meant to address the various regulatory and other restrictions; raise long-tenure funds from the market at economic costs and on the scale required; and on-lend to PPP projects while
keeping the intermediation costs at the bare minimum.
16. In order to meet the above challenges, it was necessary to address several issues. Firstly, for mobilising funds on such a large scale, the proposed institution would have required a substantial contribution of equity, especially as the new entity would not have any net-worth of its own. Secondly, security of the on-lent debt had to be ensured through some form of a back-to-back arrangement that carried government support. Thirdly, the new entity had to be enabled to tap into insurance and pension funds besides raising external debt, including from multilateral development banks like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
17. Thus an innovative vehicle, fully owned by the Government, was
created with a mandate to provide long-term debt to PPP projects. It was called the India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited (IIFCL) and incorporated in 2006 as a non-banking finance company. To ensure that IIFCL delivered on its mandate, a detailed framework was set out to guide its functioning in mobilisation of resources, selection of projects, mode of lending and the approval processes.

18. IIFCL was allowed to raise funds from domestic and overseas markets on the strength of sovereign guarantees. This helped to keep the borrowing costs low. Moreover, such borrowings did not have to meet the net-worth and equity requirements as their repayment was backed by a sovereign guarantee. This arrangement was similar to the one followed by the World Bank which raises market borrowings on the strength of callable capital from its shareholders, without actual subscription of such capital.
19. IIFCL was tasked to provide financial assistance through multiple modes, viz. debt financing, subordinate debt and refinancing. Further, the exposure of IIFCL in any project was limited to 20 per cent of the project costs, which translated to about 30 per cent of project debt, assuming a debt equity ratio of 70:30. The guidelines also provided that upto one-half of IIFCL lending could be in the form of subordinated debt, which could serve as quasi-equity.
20. PPP projects in India typically carry a compulsory buy-back arrangement which requires the Government to take over a project in the 7 event of termination, primarily because such projects cannot be abandoned due to the public service that they provide. The buy-back arrangement requires the Government to repay the lenders, which in turn implied that lending by IIFCL would be secure.
21. In order to keep the intermediation costs low, IIFCL was visualised as a lean organisation. Therefore, all lending by IIFCL was to be undertaken through a consortium of lenders. Since 70 per cent of the debt was to be provided by commercial banks, the task of project appraisal and risk assessment was left to the banks while IIFCL lending was based on the premise that the principal lenders, especially the lead bank, would undertake the requisite due diligence. This allowed IIFCL to remain a lean institution with a clear focus and low costs.
22. Since many infrastructure projects required substantial imports, especially in case of power generation projects, IIFCL incorporated a subsidiary at London in 2008, to be known as IIFC (UK) Ltd in order to provide foreign currency loans to Indian infrastructure projects that were privately financed.
23. An important aspect of IIFCL lending was the longer tenure of its loans, which helped in extending the average maturity of the project debt and also encouraged the commercial banks to follow suit. Thus, IIFCL has become an important instrument in extending the average tenure of debt for infrastructure projects, making them more bankable and financially viable.
Robust outcomes
24. Upto March 2015, IIFCL has raised about US$ 6.5 billion from the domestic markets through a mix of instruments comprising taxable bonds, tax-free bonds and long-term loans from Life Insurance Corporation and National Small Savings Fund. It has also established a strong relationship with bilateral and multilateral institutions like ADB, World Bank and KfW who have committed lines of long-term credit to the extent of US$ 1.9 billion, US$ 195 million and Euro 50 million respectively. IIFCL has also entered into an agreement with the European Investment Bank for a loan of Euro 200 million.
25. Upto March 2015, IIFCL had approved 342 projects that would mobilise private investment of US$ 110 billion, of which IIFCL share would be about US$ 12 billion. It has so far disbursed US$ 7.6 billion to the aforesaid projects. A major chunk of loans has been sanctioned for the road sector (47 per cent), followed by the power sector (40 per cent). Till March 2015, IIFC (UK) has accorded cumulative sanctions of US$ 3.5 billion, of which disbursements of
about US$ 1.4 billion have since been made.
26. IIFCL has so far contributed to the development of more than 19,000 Km of highways, creation of generating capacity of more than 40,000 MW of power, addition of about 50 million tons of port capacity, development of several urban infrastructure projects, including metro rail projects, and the development of Delhi and Mumbai International Airports which handle bulk of the air traffic in the country, besides several other projects.
27. The above initiatives have also spurred a rapid growth in infrastructure lending by banks, which increased from a level of about US$ 1.4 billion in 2000 to about US$ 173 billion in 2013, accounting for about 13 per cent of the total lending by banks in India. The term loans extended by banks also constituted more than half of the debt financing for infrastructure sector. It is noteworthy that during this period, bank loans for infrastructure projects grew at a compound annual grown rate of about 40 per cent.
Learnings from the initiative
28. The success of this initiative has demonstrated how an innovative arrangement helped in leveraging limited public resources for providing the much needed long-tenure debt for PPP projects on an unprecedented scale and at economic costs. IIFCL was perhaps, the first-of-its-kind Government owned institution which borrowed extensively from the market without exposing the public exchequer to unmanageable risks. The guarantee exposure of the Government was strictly confined to the limits specified under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003 while extension of sovereign guarantee for IIFCL borrowings was justified since the PPP projects it supported were meant to provide services that were hitherto provided by the Government.
29. During this entire process, the banks were encouraged to lend in a commercially prudent manner without any Government exposure or interference. Thus, the prudential norms normally applicable to lending by banks were not compromised. Yet, by combining IIFCL debt with the debt raised by project sponsors from other financial institutions, a mutually reinforcing arrangement was brought about.
30. This initiative should be regarded as a resounding success as it played a catalytic role in enabling a three-fold jump in the flow of private capital to infrastructure projects which not only helped in doubling the total investment in infrastructure between the two Five Year Plans but also increased its share in GDP from 5 per cent to 7 per cent. In effect, this initiative was one of the principal contributors to India being recognised as the highest recipient of PPP investments during the recent years.

Source : PIB 
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PM Modi picks IAS officer B Chandralekha to head Swachh Bharat Mission – Know about her

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi has picked IAS officer B Chandrakala to be the director of his Swacch Bharat Mission.

Chandrakala had served as district magistrate in various Uttar Pradesh cities prior to her current posting. She was highly praised for her work in the state.

Here are some details about her:

# B Chandrakala is a 2008 batch IAS officer.

# She’s known for pulling up erring officials and contractors for public works.

# She was born on Sep 27, 1979.

# She originally hails from Andhra Pradesh.

# Her mother tongue is Lambadi.

# B Chandrakala completed her graduation in economics from Osmania University in Hyderabad.

# She had extensively worked for ‘Clean India’ campaign while she was discharging her duties as the DM of Bulandshahr, Bijnor and Meerut.

# She was also praised for efforts to make Bijnor an ‘open defecation free’ district.

# She is well-known for taking tough stand against corrupt practices.

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International Vision Zero Conference on Occupational Safety and Health

With an objective to improve the health, safety and working conditions of the workforce of our country, a three days International Vision Zero Conference on Occupational Safety and Health is held in New Delhi. This is a serious step towards bringing about labour reforms in the country which has long been awaited.

It is being organized by Directorate General Factory Advice and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI), Government of India, Ministry of Labour and Employment and German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), Germany in association with International Social Security Association- Manufacturing, Construction and Mining.

It is important to set higher level of labour standards in the country. Labour safety is an important factor in labour reforms. The government is also trying to bring in more transparency in labour laws. By taking the help of digitization and information technology in today’s globalized world, it will be easier to bring in more transparency in the labour laws.

Moreover, in line with the Make in India campaign, there will also be a boost in the manufacturing sector if there is a proper and good health standard of the labour workforce. Productivity also increases manifold if the health of the workers is good.

An exhibition on OSH – INOSH EXPO 2017 is also being organized during this conference. The main aim of the exhibition is to share new information and trends on Occupational Health Promotion, High-risk Management, etc. A number of manufacturers are also participating in the exhibition. In this way, investments in the country would increase by making such efforts.

Source : PIB 
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