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India’s Forest and Tree Cover Rises by Over 8,000 Sq Km



Photo: PIB

The latest India State of Forest Report released on Monday says India has now come to occupy the 10th spot in the world where expansion of forest and tree cover is concerned.

Compared to 2015, India has increased its forest and tree cover by 8,021 square kilometres.

The green credentials of the country have risen in a commendable manner.

The India State of Forest Report 2017 has reported an increasing trend in the forest and tree cover, in comparison to the global trend of decreasing forest cover during the last decade.

Now, India ranks among the top ten countries in the world in terms of forest area.

The report states that there is an increase of 8, 021 sq km in the total forest and tree cover of the country, compared to the previous assessment in 2015.

Much of the increase in the forest cover has been observed in Very Dense Forest which is an encouraging sign as the Very Dense Forest absorbs maximum carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

With an impressive statistic of 2141 sq km, Andhra Pradesh tops the list of states that have shown the maximum increase in forest cover.

Karnataka is second after adding 1101 sq km while another southern state of Kerala came in close third after adding 1043 sq km to the forest cover.

Odisha is at fourth place with adding 885 sq km while Telangana grabs the fifth position with 565 sq km of increase in forest area.

While the states where forest cover has decreased are Mizoram (531 sq km), Nagaland (450 sq km), Arunachal Pradesh (190 sq km), Tripura (164 sq km) and Meghalaya (116 sq km).

In the North Eastern region, the total forest cover is very high i.e. more than 70% in each state.

Madhya Pradesh remains the state with the largest forest cover of 77,414 sq km, followed by Arunachal Pradesh with 66,964 sq km and Chhattisgarh with 55,547 sq km.

Forests play a vital role in water conservation and improve the water regime in the area.

As per the latest assessment, water bodies inside forest cover have increased by 2,647 sq kms during the last decade. Mangrove forests have increased by 181 sq km.

Mangrove ecosystems are rich in biodiversity and play a major role in protecting coastal areas from erosion, tidal storms and Tsunamis.

India is striving towards achieving its goal of creating additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3.0 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030

The information given in the report will serve as an important tool to monitor the country’s forest resources and plan suitable scientific and policy interventions for its management.

The India State of Forest Report 2017 is 15th such report in the series.

Forest Survey of India has been assessing the forest and tree resources of our country on a biennial basis since 1987.

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Cabinet Approves ‘Ayushman Bharat’, the World’s Biggest Health Protection Scheme

The scheme will provide 10 crore poor and vulnerable families in the country health cover worth 5 lakh rupees.



Union Cabinet approves the launch of National Health Protection Mission Ayushman Bharat; the scheme will see over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families in the country getting health cover worth 5 lakh rupees.

Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 21 has approved the launch of Ayushman Bharat.

The scheme has a benefit cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year.

The target beneficiaries of the proposed scheme will be more than 10 crore families belonging to poor and vulnerable population based on SECC database.

Cabinet also approves moving of official amendments in Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016.

Union Cabinet has also approved the continuation of the National Health Mission – with effect from 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2020 with a budgetary support of Rs. 85,217 crore as Central Share over this period.

Cabinet has also approved the continuation of the Prime Minister’s Development Package for Jammu & Kashmir 2015 – “Stepping up of support by creation of Infrastructure in District Hospitals, Sub-district Hospitals and Primary Health Centers over 5 years” – with effect from 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2020 with a budgetary support of Rs. 625.20 crores as total centrally-funded scheme.

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for Central Sector Scheme “Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry” for the next three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The Scheme has four components –

1. Research & Development (R&D), Training, Transfer of Technology and IT Initiatives

2. Seed Organizations and farmers extension centres

3. Coordination and Market Development for seed, yarn and silk products and

4. Quality Certification System by creating amongst others a chain of Silk Testing facilities, Farm-based and post-cocoon Technology Up-gradation, and export brand promotion.

A total allocation of Rs.2161.68 Crore has been approved for the implementation of the Scheme for three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

Cabinet has also approved the North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS), 2017 with financial outlay of Rs.3000 crores up to March 2020.

The government will provide necessary allocations for the remaining period of the scheme after assessment before March 2020. NEIDS is a combination of the incentives covered under the earlier two schemes with a much larger outlay.

Ayushman Bharat – world’s biggest health protection scheme

All groundwork has been laid by the govt for rolling out its ambitious National Health Protection Scheme Ayushman Bharat. 10 crore poor and vulnerable families will get a medical cover of 5 lakh rupees to take care of their health. A little over 6 weeks after its announcement, the govt has prepared nearly 1,300 packages for providing free health care to over 50 crore people in the country.

Finance Minister Arun Jailey had made the announcement of the world’s most ambitious health care scheme during his budget speech on the 1st of February.

The govt will contribute 60% of the expenses for the scheme. The rest will come from states. The figure will be 90% North-East and hill states and 100% for all union territories. An authority will also be constituted to regulate the scheme’s implementation. Hospitals will treat and then get re-imbursed.

According to the scheme, the work of appointing a special nodal officer and identifying beneficiaries on the of basis socio-economic and caste data has been assigned. The families will be linked to Aadhar database through which they will get their reimbursement directly in their bank accounts.

Apart from this, the govt will also start 24 govt medical colleges and hospitals by upgrading existing district level govt hospitals. This scheme will see at least 1 medical college come up in every 3 Lok Sabha constituencies or one in each district.

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Government Grants ‘Historic’ Approval for Admission under Disabilities Quota

The percentage of seats to be filled up by persons with disabilities has been increased to 5% from 3% in accordance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.



The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has granted approval to amend the regulation for admission to PG medical courses in order to expand the scope of persons with disabilities getting the benefit of reservation.

The percentage of seats to be filled up by persons with disabilities has been increased to 5% from 3% in accordance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Commenting on this decision, Health Minister J P Nadda stated that after twenty years the government has taken a historical decision for the welfare of divyang sisters and brothers in line with the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikaas’, ensuring that they are equal contributors to the progress of the nation.

“Now all 21 benchmark disabilities as per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 can register for admission to medical courses”, Nadda added.

According to the amended provision, 21 kinds of Disabilities (as per Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016) that includes Blindness, Low-vision, Leprosy Cured persons, Hearing Impairment (deaf and hard of hearing), Locomotor Disability, Dwarfism, Intellectual Disability,  Mental Illness, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Chronic Neurological conditions, Specific Learning Disabilities, Multiple Sclerosis, Speech and Language disability, Thalassemia, Hemophilia, Sickle Cell disease, Multiple Disabilities (including deafblindness), Acid Attack victim, Parkinson’s disease, will now be considered under the reservation provided for persons with disabilities.

Accordingly, the software used by DGHS for central counselling has also been amended to allow registration of all such candidates. Registration/allotment of seats would be followed by a medical examination to ascertain the level of Disability before finally granting admission to candidates selected under the reserved quota.

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Digital Transactions in India to Cross $1 Trillion a Year by 2025



Demonetisation and cashless drive has pushed the growth trajectory of digital payments in India significantly, and by 2025, digital transactions in the country could be worth USD 1 trillion annually, says a report.

According to a white paper by ACI Worldwide along with AGS Transact Technologies (AGSTTL), digital transactions in India could be worth USD 1 trillion annually by 2025, with four out of every five transactions being made digitally.

“The user base for digital transactions in India is currently close to 90 million, but could triple to 300 million by 2020 as new users from rural and semi-urban areas enter the market”.

“Flexible, scalable and reliable technology will be critical to the future of payments in India as the market continues to experience incredible growth,” said Manish Patel, Vice President, ACI Worldwide.

Meanwhile, with the rise in digital payments, cybersecurity costs for companies in India is also rising.

Mahesh Patel, Group Chief Technology Officer, AGS Transact Technologies said, “we understand that rapid rise in internet users nationwide is spurring an increase in digital transactions. However, the Indian market unlike many western nations is still to mature and remains threatened due to lower awareness levels”.

As per the report, Cyber attacks cost India an estimated USD 4 billion annually and could rise to USD 20 billion by 2025, with the digitisation of payments presenting new challenges for cybersecurity.

“It is necessary that the rise in digital transactions remain holistic thereby supporting growth with scalable processing platform. Also, it should be accompanied by allied precautionary measures such as cybersecurity and fraud prevention,” Patel said.

Mass adoption of e-payments and a thriving fintech scene, combined with regulatory policy, are set to propel India into a leading position in the global payments landscape, it said adding unified payments interface (UPI) transactions are a key driver of greater financial inclusion.

The white paper titled “Transactions 2025” noted that India’s smartphone user base is likely to double to 500 million by 2020 as affordable devices and data will spur safe, fraud-resistant digital transactions based on biometrics and multi-factor authorisation.

ACI Worldwide is a global provider of real-time electronic payment and banking solutions, while AGS Transact Technologies (AGSTTL), is an end-to-end payment solutions company.

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