Weekly Indian Economic & Commercial Report (18th April – 24th May 2020)
Source: IBEF News Letter
Union HRD Minister launches AI-powered mobile app for mock tests for JEE Main, NEET 2020
Union Human Resource Development Minister Mr Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank launched a new mobile app called the ‘National Test Abhyas’. The App has been developed by NTA to enable candidates to take mock tests for upcoming exams such as JEE Main, NEET under the NTA’s purview. The app has been launched to facilitate candidates’ access to high quality mock tests in the safety and comfort of their homes since there was a demand for making up the loss to students due to closure of educational institutions and NTA’s Test-Practice Centers (TPCs) due to the continuing lockdown.
With this facility for the students, India has taken the lead in restoring a semblance of normalcy in one more crucial area –test preparations – even as we tackle these unprecedented times that have led to significant changes in life around the world.
Students across the country can use the App to access high quality tests, free of cost, in a bid to be fully prepared for the upcoming JEE, NEET and other competitive exams. The tests can be easily downloaded.
they can be completed off-line, thus economising on internet availability too.
Speaking at the occasion, the HRD Minister said, “This timely launch is designed to ensure that no student is left behind in getting exposure to practice testing, especially when Student’s loss due to closure of educational institutions is to be compensated and NTA’s Test-Practice Centers are shut due to the COVID-19 lockdown.”
The app will make available practice tests on smartphones or computers for all students in India irrespective of their level of access to devices and quality of network. The app also has an offline mode where students, on downloading the mock tests, can attempt the test without the internet. The app works on Android-based smartphones and tablets and can be downloaded from Google Play Store. The app will be soon available on iOS.
Once students download the app, they will need to sign-up or register with some basic details, create a free account, and then start accessing mock tests free of cost for their selected examination(s).
NTA plans to release one new mock test on the app every day, which students can then download and attempt offline. Once the test is completed, students can go online again to submit the test and view their test report. “It’s evident that one of the app’s major benefits is that once student downloads the test, it works perfectly even without internet connectivity, which will prove advantageous for students even in areas with low bandwidth and remove obstacles in the way of large-scale online test preparation. In addition to that, NTA has developed extensive support system at http://nta.ac.in/abhyas/help “The NTA has also instituted live support from 10 AM to midnight for the first seven days of the release to ensure that any issues experienced by student are proactively addressed”, said the HRD Minister.
Over the last year, edutech as a sector has witnessed a lot of innovation especially in leveraging advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, going beyond simple digital distribution of content. Every student is unique and requires specific guidance to detect and overcome gaps in knowledge and test taking strategy. The test report on the NTA Mock Test App comes with a detailed breakdown of students’ performance through which they can understand their personalised path to achieving better scores in their entrance examination.
Lower rate of EPF subscription 10 per cent with EPFO notified placing higher liquidity in the hands of employees and employers during COVID -19 pandemic
Various measures have been announced from time to time to provide relief to the employers and employees of the establishments covered under the EPF & MP Act, 1952 distressed by lockdown to prevent spread of COVID-19 and other disruptions due to Pandemic.
The reduction in statutory rate of contributions from 12 per cent to 10 per cent for wage months May, 2020, June, 2020 and July, 2020 for all class of establishments covered under the EPF & MP Act, 1952 announced on 13.05.2020 by the Central Govt. as part of Aatmanirbhar Bharat package has been notified vide SO 1513 (E) dated 18.05.2020 published in the Gazette of India. The notification is available under the TAB- COVID-19 on the home page of EPFO website.
The above reduction of rate of contribution is not applicable to establishments like Central and State Public Sector enterprises or any other establishment owned or controlled by or under control of the Central Govt. or State Govt. These establishments shall continue to contribute 12 per cent of basic wages and dearness allowances.
The reduced rate is also not applicable for PMGKY beneficiaries, since the entire employees EPF contributions (12 per cent of wages) and employers’ EPF & EPS contribution (12 per cent of wages), totalling 24 per cent of the monthly wages is being contributed by the Central Govt.
Reduction in rate of EPF contributions from 12 per cent to 10 per cent of basic wages and Dearness allowances is intended to benefit both 4.3 Crore employees/members and employers of 6.5 lakhs establishments to tide over the immediate liquidity crisis to some extent.
As a result of reduction in statutory rate of contributions from 12 per cent to 10 per cent, the employee shall have a higher take home pay due to reduction in deduction from his pay on account of EPF contributions and employer shall also have his liability reduced by 2 per cent of wages of his employees. If Rs 10000 (US$ 141.86)/- is monthly EPF wages, only Rs 1000 (US$ 14.18)/- instead of Rs 1200 (US$ 17.02)/- is deducted from employee’s wages and employer pays Rs 1000 (US$ 14.18)/- instead of Rs 1200 (US$ 17.02)/- towards EPF contributions.
In Cost to Company (CTC) model, if Rs 10000 (US$ 141.86)/- is monthly EPF wages, in CTC Model the employee gets Rs 200 (US$ 2.83)/- more directly from employer as employer’s EPF/EPS contribution is reduced and Rs 200 (US$ 2.83)/- less is deducted from his/her wages.
Under the EPF Scheme, 1952 any member has the option to contribute at a rate higher than statutory rate (10 per cent) and employer can restrict his contributions 10 per cent (statutory rate) in respect of such employee.
6 cities rated 5 Star, 65 cities rated 3 Star and 70 cities rated 1 Star; MOHUA announces results of Star rating of garbage free cities
Shri Hardeep S, Puri, Minister of State (I/C) for Housing and Urban Affairs, has informed that for the assessment year 2019-2020, a total of six cities have been certified as 5-Star (Ambikapur, Rajkot, Surat, Mysuru, Indore and Navi Mumbai), 65 cities as 3-Star and 70 cities as 1-Star. While announcing the results of the Star Rating of Garbage Free Cities, here today, Shri Puri also launched the revised protocol for the Star Rating of Garbage Free Cities at the event. The Star Rating Protocol was launched by the Ministry in January 2018 to institutionalize a mechanism for cities to achieve Garbage Free status, and to motivate cities to achieve higher degrees of cleanliness. Shri Durga Shanker Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs and senior officials of the Ministry were also present.
Addressing the media, the Minister said, “The importance of sanitation and effective solid waste management has been brought to the forefront now due to the COVID crisis. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the present situation could have been much worse had it not been for the critical part that SBM-U has played in the last five years to ensure a high degree of cleanliness and sanitation in urban areas. Five years ago, we introduced Swachh Survekshan (SS), the annual cleanliness survey for urban India that has proven immensely successful when it comes to improving urban cleanliness through a spirit of healthy competition. However, since it is a ranking system, several of our cities, despite doing exceptionally well, were not being recognized appropriately. The Ministry, therefore, devised the Star Rating Protocol for Garbage Free Cities – a comprehensive framework similar to our examination systems where each ward in every city must achieve a certain standard across 24 different components of solid waste management (SWM) and is graded based on overall marks received”. He further added, “Our aim is to institutionalize as well as bring consistency and transparency when it comes to SWM. This certification is not only an acknowledgement of the clean status of Urban Local Bodies and strengthened SWM systems but also a mark of trust and reliability akin to universally known standards. Moreover, the performance of cities under the Star Rating Protocol is crucial as it carries significant weightage when it comes to their final assessment in Swachh Survekshan.”
The protocol has been devised in a holistic manner including components such as cleanliness of drains & water bodies, plastic waste management, managing construction & demolition waste, etc. which are critical drivers for achieving garbage free cities. While the key thrust of this protocol is on SWM, it also takes care of ensuring certain minimum standards of sanitation through a set of prerequisites defined in the framework.
Also present at the conference was Shri Durga Shanker Mishra, Secretary, MoHUA who added, “To ensure that the Protocol has a SMART framework, we developed a three-stage assessment process. In the first stage, ULBs populate their progress data on the portal along with supporting documents within a particular timeframe. The second stage involves a desktop assessment by a third-party agency selected and appointed by MoHUA. Claims of cities that clear the desktop assessment are then verified through independent field level observations. In the recent phase of Star Rating Assessment, 1435 cities applied. During the assessments, 1.19 crore citizen feedbacks and over 10 lakh geo-tagged pictures were collected, and 5175 solid waste processing plants were visited by 1210 field assessors. While 698 cities cleared the desktop assessment, 141 cities have been certified with Star Rating during field assessment. The low number of certifications signifies the rigorous and robust certification mechanism of the protocol”. Launching the revised protocol for the Star Rating Framework, Shri Mishra elaborated, “Our endeavor is to constantly revisit and strengthen the framework basis the feedback received from cities. The new protocol will consider ward-wise geo-mapping, monitoring of SWM value chain through ICT interventions like Swachh Nagar App and zone-wise rating in cities with population of 50 lakh+”.
Additionally, in the light of the COVID crisis, MoHUA has issued detailed guidelines to all States and cities on special cleaning of public places and collection and disposal of bio-medical waste from quarantined households. MoHUA, in the first week of April, also revised its hugely popular citizen grievance redressal platform, Swacchata App in order to enable citizens to get their COVID-related issues also redressed by their respective ULBs. Touching upon the aspect of safety and well-being of sanitation workers, the Minister added, “MoHUA has also issued an advisory in this regard which touches upon the aspect of provision of PPEs, health-check-ups and payment of regular wages to sanitation workers. I am happy to see that the services of sanitation workers are being duly recognized by authorities and citizens alike. Cities have also undertaken several other innovations to tackle COVID – some cities have been making use of drones for the sanitization of public areas while others have been making extensive use of fire tenders for the same. Cities like Ghaziabad have done commendable work in provision of food and shelter to needy. Technology has been leveraged to provide all essential services to citizens and monitor the status of Quarantined Homes.”
He added, “My Ministry is aware of the adverse impact in terms of financial stress during lockdown. A Special Micro-Credit facility for the Street Vendors to facilitate easy access is being launched to support nearly 50 lakh vendors. Similarly, to mitigate the hardships of urban migrants be it workers in manufacturing industries etc, Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (AHRCs) is being launched.”
Elaborating on the way forward for the Mission, the Minister said, “Our vision is to ensure holistic and sustainable sanitation across urban India through effective faecal sludge management through safe containment, transportation, disposal and processing along with 100 per cent wastewater treatment in cities before discharging into water bodies, and their maximum possible reuse. We also intend to achieve 100 per cent scientific and resource efficient SWM based on 3R and circular economy. While we will continue our work on the fundamentals of SWM, i.e. effective collection, segregation and processing, our focus will also include bioremediation of all dumpsites, single use plastic free India and efficient construction and demolition waste management. We are confident that in the next phase of SBM – U, we will be able to make all our cities ODF+ and at least 3-Star Garbage free certified and our cities and towns will continue to set new benchmarks in Swachhata thus paving the way for a “Swachh”, “Swasth”, “Shashakt” and “Sampann” AtmaNirbhar New India.
Since its launch in 2014, Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) has made significant progress in the area of both sanitation and solid waste management. Today, 4324 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) have been declared ODF (4204 certified ODF), 1306 cities certified ODF+ and 489 cities certified ODF++. Moreover, 66 lakhs individual household toilets and over 6 lakhs community/ public toilets have been constructed/ or are under construction. In the area of solid waste management, 96 per cent of wards have 100 per cent door-to door collection while 65 per cent of the total waste generated is being processed.
Annexure 1- Star Rating of Garbage Free Cities
5 Star Cities
|ULB Name||State||Final Rating|
|Indore||Madhya Pradesh||5 Star|
|Navi Mumbai||Maharashtra||5 Star|
3 Star Cities
|ULB Name||State||Final Rating|
|Tirupati||Andhra Pradesh||3 Star|
|Vijayawada||Andhra Pradesh||3 Star|
|Bhilai Nagar||Chhattisgarh||3 Star|
|Jashpur Nagar (M)||Chhattisgarh||3 Star|
|Narharpur (NP)||Chhattisgarh||3 Star|
|Patan (NP)||Chhattisgarh||3 Star|
|Saragaon (NP)||Chhattisgarh||3 Star|
|Barsur (NP)||Chhattisgarh||3 Star|
|New Delhi (NDMC)||Delhi||3 Star|
|Bhopal||Madhya Pradesh||3 Star|
|Burhanpur||Madhya Pradesh||3 Star|
|Chhindwara||Madhya Pradesh||3 Star|
|Kanthaphod||Madhya Pradesh||3 Star|
|Katni||Madhya Pradesh||3 Star|
|Khargone||Madhya Pradesh||3 Star|
|Omkareshwar||Madhya Pradesh||3 Star|
|Pithampur||Madhya Pradesh||3 Star|
|Singrauli||Madhya Pradesh||3 Star|
|Ujjain||Madhya Pradesh||3 Star|
|Bhiwandi Nizampur||Maharashtra||3 Star|
|Deolali Pravara||Maharashtra||3 Star|
|Mauda CT||Maharashtra||3 Star|
1 Star Cities
|ULB Name||State||Final Rating|
|Chirala||Andhra Pradesh||1 Star|
|GVMC Visakhapatnam||Andhra Pradesh||1 Star|
|Palamaneru||Andhra Pradesh||1 Star|
|Sattenapalli||Andhra Pradesh||1 Star|
|Baramkela (NP)||Chhattisgarh||1 Star|
|Berla (NP)||Chhattisgarh||1 Star|
|Chikhalakasa (NP)||Chhattisgarh||1 Star|
|Katghora (NP)||Chhattisgarh||1 Star|
|Pakhanjur (NP)||Chhattisgarh||1 Star|
|Delhi Cantt.||Delhi||1 Star|
|Badnawar||Madhya Pradesh||1 Star|
|Gwalior||Madhya Pradesh||1 Star|
|Hathod||Madhya Pradesh||1 Star|
|Khandwa||Madhya Pradesh||1 Star|
|Maheshwar||Madhya Pradesh||1 Star|
|Sardarpur||Madhya Pradesh||1 Star|
|Shahganj||Madhya Pradesh||1 Star|
|Anjangaon Surji||Maharashtra||1 Star|
|Kalyan Dombivali||Maharashtra||1 Star|
|Shirpur- Warwade||Maharashtra||1 Star|
|Uran Islampur||Maharashtra||1 Star|
|Vasai Virar||Maharashtra||1 Star|
KEC International bags orders worth Rs 1,203 crore
KEC International, an infrastructure firm, has bagged orders worth Rs 1,203 crore (US$ 170.66 million) across various businesses.
The power transmission and distribution segment, T&D business and SAE Towers of RPG group have secured orders worth Rs 917 crore (US$ 130.09 million) for transmission and distribution (T&D) projects in India, Bangladesh, Africa and the Americas.
Whereas, the civil business of the company has secured orders of Rs 176 crore (US$ 24.97 million) for industrial civil works for Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) project and residential projects in the country, while its cables business has secured orders of Rs 110 crore (US$ 15.61 million), the statement added.
“We are pleased with the new order wins in the face of challenging global headwinds. The order wins in Bangladesh along with the earlier order wins in Nepal consolidates our leadership in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) T&D market.
“We are particularly enthused by the first order in the FGD segment which opens up a large opportunity for us in this area,” said Mr Vimal Kejriwal, MD & CEO, KEC International.
KEC International is a global infrastructure Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) major and the flagship company of the RPG Group.
RPG Enterprises was founded in 1979, has diverse business interests in the areas of Infrastructure, Tyres, Pharma, IT and Specialty as well as in emerging innovation led technology businesses.
Lendingkart raises Rs 319 crore in Series D funding
Lendingkart Technologies Pvt Ltd, a fintech firm, has raised a Series D funding round of Rs 319 crore (US$ 45.25 million), led by existing investors including Fullerton Financial Holdings Pte Ltd, and Bertelsmann India Investments, Sistema Asia Fund and IndiaQuotient.
The Series D round is divided in two part consisting of Rs 233 crore (US$ 33.05 million) as part of its D1 raised in last August and a recent D2 raise of Rs 86.24 crore (US$ 12.23 million). The total funds raised by the firm is more than Rs 1,050 crore (US$ 148.96 million) of equity capital from investors to date.
The company plans to utilise these funds to expand its lending base and further reach out to small and under-served micro and small enterprises and strengthen the company’s technological and analytics capabilities.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 and the resultant slowdown have had a tremendous impact on the economy. During these unprecedented times, MSMES who are the backbone of the economy have significantly suffered grappling with varied economic uncertainties. The fresh round of funding will play a pivotal role in aiding us to help these impacted MSMEs to ensure business continuity amidst the ongoing crisis,” said Mr Harshvardhan Lunia, co-founder and Managing Director, Lendingkart, in a statement.
Lendingkart Finance has evaluated nearly half a million applications, disbursing 1,00,000-plus loans to more than 89,000 MSMEs in over 1,300 cities across 29 States and Union Territories since its inception. The company has one of the largest geographical footprints in the country, the statement said.
The company make use of in-house technology tools based on big data analytics and machine learning algorithms to evaluate creditworthiness. Lendingkart objective is to disburse loans with minimal paperwork within 72 hours by analysing thousands of data points to assess factors like financial health, comparative market performance, social reliability and compliance and has a distinctive evaluation process, it added.
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