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IT policy document highlights low crime, clean air in Union Territory

Link failure: The sprawling IT hub at Rangreth on the outskirts of Srinagar wears a deserted look, in this photo of September 19, 2019.Vijaita Singh

The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) administration is highlighting good quality air and low crime rate in the newly created Union Territory to attract investors.

As per the J&K Information Technology (IT) Policy 2020, the administration is offering an incentive to IT companies to operate in three-shifts and to facilitate women working during the night by providing transportation and security.

At least 15% of “plug and play” premises in designated IT parks will be reserved for women entrepreneurs, the policy says. The policy document says that J&K contributes only 0.1% of the total cognisable crimes under the Indian Penal Code.

The document, shared with investors, says that two IT parks with an area of 5,00,000 sq ft are being developed in Jammu and Srinagar, which will have “dedicated and uninterrupted broadband connectivity and WiFi access”.

Across 14 sectors

Investment opportunities in 14 sectors in the Union Territory were unveiled at an investor conference in the National Capital last month.

Internet has been snapped in the Union Territory since August 5 last year after Home Minister Amit Shah moved two Bills in the Rajya Sabha to revoke the special status under Article 370.

Following the Supreme Court’s directions, 2G mobile connectivity was restored last month with access only to 301 government-approved websites.

The policy says that “as a special dispensation for IT units, the land allotment would be decided on top priority” and the government would encourage private sector participants to become Internet service providers to enable high-speed connectivity in all panchayats of J&K.

The Real Estate Policy states that a vast land bank owned by the government would be disbursed to “private developers” through a transparent bidding process.

The Union Home Minister had told a delegation from J&K on September 3 last year that “only government land would be used to establish industries, hospitals and educational institutions” and “nobody’s land would be taken away”. Participating in the debate in the Rajya Sabha on August 5, Mr. Shah said no industry could be set up and tourism could not develop in J&K because of restrictions on land purchase due to Articles 370 and 35A. The two revoked provisions of the Constitution let the J&K legislature decide the “permanent residents” of the State, prohibiting a non-J&K resident from buying property in the State and ensuring job reservation for residents.

Local concerns

Several groups in Jammu have demanded domicile rights, amid fears of losing land and jobs to outsiders.

“The existing land acquisition laws would be amended to incorporate the landowners as stakeholders in housing development … the authorities without going into the compulsory land acquisition will either partner with private players on equity basis or facilitate land assembly by acquisition or pooling through private players as done by development authorities in other States,” the policy says.

The developers will have to reserve 20% dwelling units in group housing projects for the economically weaker sections and the lower income groups. The UT of J&K is offering 100% exemption on stamp duty, land use charge, permission, construction and processing fee for the housing for the economically weaker sections and LIG groups.

The policy says that the government will persuade the National Housing Bank, HUDCO, financial institutions, commercial banks and the insurance sector to extend operations in J&K to provide affordable housing credit to people.

Space scientist launches electric scooter by start-up incubated at IIT-Hyderabad

IIT-H Director B.S. Murty, NITI Aayog member V.K. Saraswat, DRDO chief G. Satheesh and Pure EV founder Nishant Dongari.

The government wants to increase indigenous production in the defence sector up to 70% and reduce imports, said Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chairman G. Satheesh Reddy.

He, along with NITI Aayog member V.K. Saraswat, launched the EPluto 7G vehicle by Pure EV in the premises of the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (IIT-H), on Sunday.

Addressing the gathering, Mr. Reddy said they are looking for innovations in defence technology and are ready to support them.

Many start-ups have emerged in the past four years, he said while recalling the instance of a young entrepreneur’s material technologies idea.

The DRDO chief also mentioned that a proposal for 1,000 e-buses manufacturing plant near Hyderabad is under active consideration.

Mr. Saraswat said during 2020-2021, five to six 2 GWh battery manufacturing plants would come up and the NITI Aayog was ready to encourage those who come up with proposals.

He said India is also considering getting lease of lithium mines abroad so that manufacturing cells will be easy, which costs 40% of the battery, in India.

He also advised Pure EV to join hands with the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI).

Pure EV CEO Rohit Vadera said EPluto 7G has a range of 116 km per full charge and runs with a maximum speed of 60 kmph. Battery warranty is for 40,000 km.

He said the company presently has 50 outlets and they are going to increase it to 200 by the end of this year. The vehicle has been designed to suit Indian terrain and weather conditions.

Nishant Dongari, IIT-H associate professor and founder of Pure EV, said the battery technology was patented and they have state-of-the-art facilities for the assembly and testing of the lithium battery packs.

Agartala-Akhaura line work under way

Jitendra Singh

The landmark rail line to connect the northeastern region with Bangladesh will be ready by the end of 2021, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said on Sunday.

Mr. Singh said the completion of the line between Agartala in Tripura and Akhaura in Bangladesh would pave the way for the first train to run from the northeastern region to Bangladesh on the eve of the 75th anniversary of India’s independence in 2022.

The line between Agartala and Akhaura would be completed before the end of next year, he said.

Briefing journalists about some of the upcoming projects in the region, Mr. Singh, Minister for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), said his Ministry would bear the cost of the 5.46-km track on the Indian side, and the cost of the 10.6-km track on the Bangladesh side was being borne by the Ministry of External Affairs.

The link will connect Gangasagar in Bangladesh to Nischintapur in India and from there to Agartala.

Land handed over

Mr. Singh said land had been bought and handed over to the executing agencies in both countries, and ₹580 crore had been sanctioned for the work on the Indian side. The soil condition on the Indian side is soft, therefore the latest technology was being used. Around 600 skilled workers were working round the clock to complete the work.

The train to Bangladesh will be one of the most glorious achievements of recent years, he said.

India lacks manufacturing capacity and is the world’s largest importer

India has quadrupled its imports of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and more than tripled its import bill on the product, vital for powering a range of devices from cellphones to electric vehicles, from 2016-2018, the Union Science Ministry said in the Lok Sabha last Friday.

Responding to a query, the Ministry said 175 million such batteries were imported in 2016, 313 million in 2017, 712 million in 2018 and 450 million from January 1, 2019, till November 30 of that year. The cost of these imports rose from $383 million (₹2,600 crore approximately) in 2016 to $727.24 million (₹5,000 crore) in 2017, $1254.94 million (₹8,700 crore) in 2018 and $929 million (₹6,500 crore) in 2019.

Indian manufacturers source Li-ion batteries from China, Japan and South Korea and the country is among the largest importers in the world.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) manufactures such batteries but volumes are limited, and they are restricted for use in space applications.

In June 2018, the Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI) in Tamil Nadu’s Karaikudi, under the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), and RAASI Solar Power Pvt. Ltd. signed a Memorandum of Agreement for transfer of technology for India’s first lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery project.

NITI initiative

To promote indigenous development of such batteries, the Union Cabinet in 2019 approved a programme, called a National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage, under the NITI Aayog to “drive clean, connected, shared, sustainable and holistic mobility initiatives.”

China dominates the Li-ion battery market.

Electric vehicles are expected to account for a significant share in the growth of the Li-ion battery demand in India, though reports say this is unlikely at least until 2025 because electric cars are still significantly costlier than their combustion-engine counterparts. The government has announced investments worth $1.4 billion to make India one of the largest manufacturing hubs for electric vehicles by 2040.

Prime Minister Lotay Tshering says Thimpu’s commitment to sustainability justifies the decision to levy a tourism fee and stay out of regional transport pact

Though Bhutan joined a meeting of the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement as an observer, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said the decision to stay out of the transport treaty and introduce a levy on Indian tourists is based on the country’s environmental carrying capacity.

Does the new fee mean that you want to discourage too many visitors from coming?

Absolutely not. Actually we are trying to encourage tourists. Our policy of “high value, low volume” comes from our leaders, is because we have a limited size and our carrying capacity for visitors is limited, our road surface area is limited, and we have 72% of our land under forest cover. We are trying to enhance that.

With time, we have no doubt that we will have many more tourists from India and regional countries. In the last few years, their numbers have grown from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand each year. In order to provide the value for the money they spend, we needed a better system in place. We also want to redistribute the tourists amongst destinations. Which is why the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) will not be charged to those travelling to 11 out of the 20 districts in Central and Eastern Bhutan, while we will charge for those travelling to the Western tourist destinations.

Nevertheless, are you worried at all that the decision to levy a fee on Indians, who have always enjoyed free entry to Bhutan, will impact bilateral ties?

The worry is whether we can cater to hundreds of thousands of visitors with our carrying capacity. The bigger worry is about motor vehicle accidents involving regional tourists. In the long run, I think we will only value-add to the good relations between our two neighbours. I don’t think this ₹1,200 is a problem, given the paying capacity of most Indian tourists.

Do you think Bhutan will reconsider its decision not to join the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN-MVA)?

Our decision [to stay out] is for reasons similar to the reasons for our decision on the tourist fee: our infrastructure does not have the capacity to allow all the truck traffic to travel through Bhutan. If our infrastructure improves, our economy improves, trade improves at some point, we would definitely want to be a part of the [BBIN-MVA], but currently given our current infrastructure we cannot even cater properly to our own local needs. As a result, we cannot consider this plan despite its economic potential for Bhutan.

As you know, we are a carbon negative country, and today motor vehicles are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. This is the reason we can’t have too many visitors, and we can’t be a part of BBIN-MVA. This is the essence of Gross National Happiness (GNH), not to measure what you have in monetary terms alone.

How do you answer critics who say Bhutan’s policies on transit and tourism are elitist?

It all depends on how you look at it. Our main objective for tourism is not to make money, but to use it as a way to build Bhutan’s brand and have visitors who wish to visit again and again. Our mountains, our forest cover, clean rivers, being a deeply spiritual country, simple and accommodative people…these are all what make us unique. Bhutan may be economically under-developed, but we give our environment the top priority. We take pride in these. People may criticise us for this, but we are committed to our policies to the next generation.

Swabhiman Anchal has remained backward owing to poor connectivity, hilly terrain

Striking at the root: Marijuana plants seen near the Balimela reservoir in Odisha’s Malkangiri district. The government is planning to promote turmeric cultivation in such areas. Biswaranjan RoutBiswaranjanRout

After the security forces made their presence felt in Swabhiman Anchal, a stronghold of the CPI (Maoist), in Odisha’s Malkangiri district, the State government has lined up development projects, including livelihood programmes and irrigation facilities, besides critical road networks for the region.

Swabhiman Anchal remained outside the ambit of development for years due to its remoteness, poor connectivity, hilly and inhospitable terrain and above all the presence of outlawed left wing extremists.

Integrated farming

The administration has decided to promote turmeric cultivation by replacing prohibited cannabis cultivation, while all nine gram panchayats will be covered under integrated farming.

Avoiding top-down approach in development, the government has taken a decision to listen to locals who understand the ground situation better than others. A five-day workshop has been proposed at the Gopabandhu Academy of Administration at Bhubaneswar.

According to the proceedings of a meeting held recently under the chairmanship of the State Development Commissioner, implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) will be given priority before taking up projects. Approval and sanction of community forest rights (CFR) and individual forest rights (IFR) under the FRA will be taken up in the mission mode. Prompt sanction of titles under the FRA is seen as a confidence building measure in Swabhiman Anchal.

The government will emulate the model of Maharashtra where CFR has been granted in an expeditious manner for making tribals partners in development. People of Swabhiman Anchal are likely to be taken to Maharashtra for a field visit.

The administration is contemplating to take up millet cultivation in the region in a big way and procure the surplus produce from villages.

For the overall development, a plan has been mooted to install lift irrigation points alongside the Balimela reservoir basin. The administration proposed to provide an 11-kv power line exclusively for irrigation projects.

The Odisha police claims to have established their domination in 70% of Swabhiman Anchal, which was considered a liberated zone by the Left ultras. Along with the Odisha police and their counterparts in Andhra Pradesh, paramilitary forces such as the BSF and the CRPF are deployed in the cut-off area consisting of 151 villages, surrounded by a water channel on three sides.

One-and-a- half years ago, the Odisha government managed to construct a bridge over the Gurupriya River despite stiff resistance from the extremists, ending its decades-old remoteness.

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