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Bank accounts and Toilets: India’s corruption markers

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San Francisco: Bank accounts and toilets—these are the places to look at to figure out where India stands in its fight against corruption, said Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s minister of state for commerce and industry, while speaking at the Fortune Global Forum conference on Tuesday.

190 million Indian citizens have opened bank accounts for the first time, and that too in little over a year, even though the average account balance is just about $21 or Rs 1380.

“Financial inclusion” has been one of the prime areas of concentration for the Modi government, said Sitharaman. Apart from improving the finances of India’s poorest, this step can also help combat corruption.

When pensions are paid, or government officials are paid in cash, in most cases, middle men take a portion of the wages. But now, with the government wiring the money directly to the employees’ bank accounts, incidents of fraud have gone down to a large extent.

The simple act of counting toilets can give a glimpse into India’s journey towards a corruption-free nation, said Sitharaman.

The government has poured in money for 60 years towards the installation of toilets in small villages around the nation, but most were never installed, she added. However, the past year has seen a major push by the government to improve sanitation. This in turn has reduced corruption.

“India was spending money to put toilets in schools, but god knows where the money went,” says Sitharaman.

McKinsey managing director, Dominic Barton said that a recent report from the consulting firm found that apart from making a difference in the lives of its citizens, Indian government’s reforms were also attracting foreign businesses to the country.

“Three years ago, when clients would ask about doing business in India, I would say, ‘Don’t waste your time. It’s too complicated and too difficult,’” said Barton. “That’s changed dramatically.”

(Quotes and inputs from Fortune.com)

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Private Companies Now Allowed to Take Part in Planetary Exploration: Finance Minister

Government will aldo take steps to encourage private participation in the space sector

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planetary exploration
Private sector will be allowed to take part in planetary exploration from now on. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said that private companies will be allowed to take part in planetary exploration, outer space travel among other space activities, and the government will take steps to encourage private participation in the Indian space sector as per Finance News.

Speaking to the media, Sitharaman said that the government will provide level playing field for private companies in satellite launches and space-based services.

Centre will come up with a predictable policy and regulatory environment to private players.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on atomic energy research reactor
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the government will provide level playing field for private companies in satellite launches and space-based services. Wikimedia Commons

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The private sector will be allowed to use ISRO facilities and other relevant assets to improve their capacities. She further announced that liberal geospatial data policy will be framed for private sector to access remote sensing data to tech-entrepreneurs.

The announcement is part of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday. (IANS)

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Government to Establish Atomic Energy Research Reactor; Set Up Facilities in PPP Mode

Facilities will be set up in the PPP mode to use irradiation technology for food preservation

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atomic energy research reactor
Government to establish atomic energy research reactor. Wikimedia Commons

Announcing reforms in the atomic energy sector, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said the government will establish a research reactor and also set up facilities in public private partnership (PPP) mode, according to Finance News.

Under the reforms, the government will establish a research reactor in PPP mode for production of medical isotopes and promote welfare of humanity through affordable treatment for cancer and other diseases.

Facilities will be set up in the PPP mode to use irradiation technology for food preservation to compliment agriculture reforms and assist the farmers.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on atomic energy research reactor
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said India’s robust start-up ecosystem will be linked to the nuclear sector. Wikimedia Commons

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Announcing the fourth tranche of the Rs 20 lakh-crore economic package, Sitharaman said India’s robust start-up ecosystem will be linked to the nuclear sector and Technology Development cum Incubation Centres will be set up for fostering synergy between research facilities andtech-entrepreneurs.

Among other reform measures, Centre also announced the opening up of the space sector for private players and said the government will take up measures to promote private participation in the sector. (IANS)

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Union Government Raises FDI Limit From 49% to 74% for Defence Manufacturing

The government will also set up a project management unit to support contract management

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Nirmala Sitharaman talks about the new decision of the government on FDI
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said that time-bound defence procurement process and faster decision-making will take place under the new policy. Wikimedia Commons

In a big-bang reform measure, according to Finance News, the Union government has decided to raise the limit for foreign direct investment (FDI) for defence manufacturing from 49 to 74 per cent under the automatic route.

Speaking to the media here, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said that time-bound defence procurement process and faster decision-making will take place under the new policy.

The government will set up a project management unit to support contract management. Further, realistic setting of general staff qualitative requirements of weapons or platforms will be taken up.

Under the new regime, the government will also overhaul the trial and testing procedures.

In a bid to enhance self-reliance in defence production, the government will notify a list of weapons and platforms for a ban on import with year-wise timelines. Indigenisation of imported spares will also be taken up.

Government decision for FDI
The government will notify a list of weapons and platforms for a ban on import with year-wise timelines. Pixabay

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Further, the government will take up separate budget provisioning for domestic capital procurement. All these measures, according to the government will help reduce India’s huge defence import bill.

The government has also decided to corporatize Ordnance Factory Board to improve autonomy, accountability and efficiency in ordnance supplies.

The mega reform announcements are part of the Rs 20 lakh-crore economic package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday. (IANS)