1. RBI constitutes Deepak Mohanty Committee to frame action plan on financial inclusion
i. Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has constituted a committee to prepare a 5 year action plan to spread the reach of financial services across country to unbanked population. The committee will be headed by RBI executive director Deepak Mohanty and comprise total of 14 members
ii. It will review the existing policy of financial inclusion, including customer protection framework and supportive payment system. In this regard it will take into account the recommendations made by various committees set up earlier.
iii. Suggest a monitorable medium-term action plan for financial inclusion. It will cover various components including payments, credit, deposit, social security transfers, pension and insurance. Articulate the underlying institutional and policy framework for financial inclusion. Cover financial literacy and consumer protection, as well as delivery mechanism of financial inclusion.
iv. For this the committee will encompass both households and small businesses, with more emphasis on rural inclusion including group-based credit delivery mechanisms.
2. Kumbh Mela Begins in Nashik, Thousands Take Holy Dip
i. Simhastha Kumbh Mela, the largest congregation of faith in the world, began today with the traditional ceremony of hoisting of flags and thousands of people taking a holy dip in Kushawart and Ramkund in Godavari river in the two towns.
ii. The festival, known as the largest peaceful gathering, occurs once in 12 years as per Hindu calendar and is marked by participation of 'sadhus' from different denominations (akhadas), and lakhs of devotees. Kumbh is also known for the religious pomp and colourful processions.
iii. The festival will last for 58 days till August 11. On the occasion of flag-hoisting at Trimbakeshwar, a Naval chopper showered rose petals on the sea of humanity that has gathered for the mega event.
iv. After the ceremony, thousands of people who have come to Nashik from different parts of the country took a dip at Kushavart teerth (pond) located near the temple of Lord Shiva.
3. Varanasi chosen as 'city of music' by UNESCO
i. In a development set to tremendously boost its age-old traditions, Varanasi has joined the global bandwagon of UNESCO "Cities of Music" under the Creative Cities Network.
ii. It has been chosen in the music category under UNESCO's "field of excellence" plan. The fields of excellence are classified into categories of literature, film, music, craft and folk art, design, media arts and gastronomy
iii. The inclusion in the network has also paved way for representing the cultural heritage of the holy city on the world stage through the UNESCO project. It will not only provide a fillip to tourism, but will also give a chance to local artists and musicians to visit countries that are a part of this network
iv. Nine cities — Glasgow in the UK, Hanover and Mannheim in Germany, Ghent in Belgium, Hamamatsu in Japan, Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo, Bogota in Columbia, Seville in Spain and Bologna in Italy — are a part of UNESCO "Cities of Music".
4. FM Arun Jaitley tries to improve BJP-SAD ties, launches HRIDAY for 12 cities in Amritsar
i. Jaitley choose Amritsar to launch the "National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana " ( HRIDAY) for 12 cities in the country.
ii. Government of India has sanctioned ` . 69.31 crore as 100% grant for Amritsar city.
iii. The Union Finance Minister said that Punjab, being a cradle of Indian civilization, was all set to lead the country in the arena of agriculture and defense for which it was aptly known as the sword arm and granary of the nation.
iv. Making a strong case for the farmers, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said that it was the high time to redress the grievances of beleaguered peasantry, which was on cross roads due to the apathy of the previous Congress governments at the Centre.
5. Agri Ministry launches 3 portals
i. The Centre launched three new websites for farmers here on Wednesday aimed at making organic farming certification, fertiliser quality checks and disbursal of soil health cards easier. The portals, developed by National Informatics Centre, are part of the existing schemes.
ii. The ‘Participatory Guarantee System’ portal will help small and marginal farmers engaged in organic farming to secure certification after checks for compliance to standards are carried out.
iii. The ‘Soil Health Card’ portal has been developed to register soil samples and record tests results along with fertiliser recommendations to create a national database on soil health for future use in research.
iv. The ‘Fertiliser Quality Control System’ portal will collate results of drawn samples of imported fertilisers helping both consumers and importers with analysis reports.
6. Net neutrality report: Fate of Airtel's zero rating plan left to TRAI
i. Airtel had launched Airtel Zero under which it offered a platform for content owners, e-commerce players, and start-ups to offer free data access to users. This was seen to be against the principles of net neutrality by some sections as it allowed free access to only those companies which had resources to partner with Airtel.
ii. The Committee, after consideration of all opinions expressed by Net Neutrality proponents and network operators, feels that there are a multitude of possibilities in designing tariff plans and it would not be possible to either pre-think all possibilities or determine its validity with respect to Net Neutrality principles.
iii. The Committee proposed that tariff plans (including zero rating plans) be dealt with in the following ways: (i) Ex-ante determination — Before a licensee launches any tariff plan, the same would need to be filed before TRAI within a reasonable period prior to the launch of the plan. TRAI would examine each such tariff filing carefully to see if it conforms to the principles of Net Neutrality and that it is not anti-competitive by distorting consumer markets.
iv. Such a filing requirement would include a deemed approval clause, if the regulator does not decide within a reasonable period. This would ensure balance of interests, protecting the liberty of service providers to design specific tariff plans attuned to specific customer demands and at the same time ensure that the principles of Net Neutrality are not breached.