The government sought to provide incentives to the people reeling under the pressure of cash crunch resulting from the demonetisation. With the state elections looming ahead, the actions taken to help the people tide over the currency crisis might do the government some good. Further, it showed resolve to act fast on controlling climate change, even as the developed nations drag their feet on the issue. India will now soon be among the few nations to have ratified the Kyoto Protocol commitments, binding it to limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Here are the five key decisions from the Union Cabinet meeting of January 24:
- The Cabinet has approved giving more time to farmers to repay the crop loans to ease the pain of demonetisation. The farmers will be given two more months to repay the crop loans that were originally due in Nov-Dec under the prompt repayment incentive of 3%. Farmers get an additional interest rebate of 3% if they repay the loans within the actual repayment date, or by the date fixed by the bank. The Cabinet has also approved waiving Rs 660.5 crore interest on short-term crop loans to farmers for November-December 2016. The waiver would be applicable for farmers accessing short term crop loans from cooperative banks across the country. The decision intends to ensure that availability of resources with cooperative banks help farmers in easily accessing crop loans to overcome the difficulties in view of the reduction in availability of cash for carrying out Rabi operations, the government said.
- The Cabinet has approved a new interest subsidy scheme for promotion of rural housing, under which it will provide subsidy to the rural households which are not already covered under the Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana (Grameen), PMAY(G). The scheme will be available for people in rural areas who construct new houses or add to their existing pucca houses to improve their dwelling units. The government will give 3% subsidy on loans up to Rs 2 lakh. The scheme would be implemented by the National Housing Bank. The Government would provide net present value of the interest subsidy to the National Housing Bank upfront which will, in turn, pass it to the Primary Lending Institutions (Scheduled Commercial Banks, NBFCs etc.)
- The Cabinet has approved ratification of the second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The second commitment on Kyoto Protocol on climate change, a binding treaty seeking to limit greenhouse gas emissions by the developed countries, has not yet been ratified by many nations despite the commitment period already having begun in 2013. However, India is going ahead with the ratification to take an active lead in the climate action. So far, 65 countries have ratified the Second Commitment Period. “Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by India will encourage other developing countries also to undertake this exercise. Implementation of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects under this commitment period in accordance with sustainable development priorities will attract some investments in India as well,” the government said.
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- The Cabinet has approved swapping of 11.35 acres of AAI (Airports Authority of India) land with equivalent land of Bihar govt for expansion of Jai Prakash Narayan International Airport in Patna. Earlier November, Bihar state government had signed an agreement with the AAI, under which the state would give 11.35 acres land to AAI near the airport for expansion, in lieu of the AAI providing it equal measure of land elsewhere. AAI will give Bihar government land at Anisabad. The new terminal building will have a capacity of 3 million passengers per annum. The existing terminal building at Patna Airport was built for a capacity of 0.5 million passengers per annum, against which 1.5 million passengers per annum are already using the airport. This has led to extreme crowding in the terminal building, the government said.
- The Cabinet has approved the Indian Institutes of Management Bill, 2017, which seeks to give statutory power to the Indian Institutes of Management to grant degrees, as opposed to the diplomas that it gives out at present. Other provisions of the Bill seek to grant more power and more autonomy to the institute. The Bill provides for the management of IIMs to be board-driven, with the Chairperson and Director of the respective Institution to be selected by the board. The Bill also provides for periodic review of the performance of Institutions by independent agencies, and placing the results of the same on public domain. At present, IIMs are not authorised to award degrees and, hence, they have been awarding Post Graduate Diploma and Fellow Programme in Management. While these awards are treated as equivalent to MBAs and PhD, respectively, the equivalence is not universally acceptable, especially for the Fellow Programme.