Weekly Current Affairs Mains ( 2nd to 8th September, 2018)

Current News

 

Weekly Current Affairs Mains ( 2nd to 8th September, 2018)

 

Topic : East Asia Summit

Topic in syllabus: GS II-  India and its neighbourhood- relations.

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Why in news: 

6th East Asia Summit- Economic Ministers’ Meeting (EAS-EMM) was recently held in Singapore.

Outcomes of the meeting:

  • The 6th East-Asia Economic Ministers’ Meeting was attended by Economic Ministers from 10  ASEAN countries and their eight  dialogue partners,  Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Russian Federation and the United States of America.
  • Acknowledging the potential for disruptions in the macro-economy that could affect overall market sentiments and global growth, the EAS-EMM forum expressed the hope that the economic linkages among the EAS members will enable them to address these challenges.
  • The Ministers agreed to theimportance of keeping markets open and fair as well as improving transparency and predictability of the business environment.
  • The meeting recognized theimportance of ongoing work to maximize the opportunities of, and address the challenges presented by, the digital economy and the rise of regional and global value chains, as part of their efforts to promote economic growth and integration in the region.

About East Asia Summit:

  • The East Asia Summit (EAS) is a forum held annually by leaders of, initially, 16 countries in the East Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian regions. Membership expanded to 18 countries including the United States and Russia at the Sixth EAS in 2011.
  • EAS meetings are held after annual ASEAN leaders’ meetings. The first summit was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 14 December 2005.
  • EAS is an initiative of ASEAN and is based on the premise of the centrality of ASEAN.
  • EAS has evolved as a forum for strategic dialogue and cooperation on political, security and economic issues of common regional concern and plays an important role in the regional architecture.
  • There are six priority areas of regional cooperation within the framework of the EAS. These are – Environment and Energy, Education, Finance, Global Health Issues and Pandemic Diseases, Natural Disaster Management, and ASEAN Connectivity. India endorses regional collaboration in all six priority areas.

Evolution of EAS:

The concept of an East Asia Grouping was first promoted in 1991 by the then Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir bin Mohamad. The final report of the East Asian Study Group in 2002, established by the ASEAN+3 countries (i.e. China, Japan and ROK), recommended EAS as an ASEAN led development limited to the ASEAN +3 countries.

However, the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) held in Vientiane on July 26, 2005 welcomed the participation of ASEAN, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia, India and New Zealand, in the first EAS. USA and the Russian Federation were formally included as members of the EAS at the 6th EAS held in Bali, Indonesia on 19 November 2011.

Way ahead:

EAS, representing nearly 50% of the world’s population and over 20% of global trade, is a mega gathering and is a testimony to the rise of Asia and how rapidly the world’s politico-economic equations are shifti

ASEAN 

Outcomes of the meeting:

  • The meeting attended by Economic Ministers from 10 ASEAN countries took stock of the current level of trade and economic engagement between India and ASEAN and reaffirmed the commitment to further strengthen ASEAN-India economic relations.
  • It was also announced in the Singapore meeting that the next ASEAN-India Business Summit will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in November 2018 with the theme “Towards Building Strategic Partnership between ASEAN and India in the Era of the 4th IR and Digital Economy”.
  • It will be followed by the 4th India-ASEAN Dialogue Partner Expo and Summit scheduled for 21-23 February 2019, in New Delhi.
  • Issues related to promoting connectivity, collaboration on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) development, blue economy, healthcare, and tourism as well as women and youth economic empowerment were discussed.

What is ASEAN?

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (more commonly known as ASEAN) is a political and economic organization aimed primarily at promoting economic growth and regional stability among its members.

There are currently 10 member states: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Why was it set up?

ASEAN was founded half a century ago in 1967 by the five South-East Asian nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. This was during the polarized atmosphere of the Cold War, and the alliance aimed to promote stability in the region. Over time, the group expanded to include its current 10 members.

Regional cooperation was further extended with the creation of the ASEAN Plus Three forum in 1997, which included China, South Korea and Japan. And then the East Asia Summit, which began taking place in 2005 and has expanded to include India, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.

How important is the region economically?

  • If ASEAN were a country, it would be the seventh-largest economy in the world, with a combined GDP of $2.6 trillion in 2014. By 2050 it’s projected to rank as the fourth-largest economy.
  • Home to more than 622 million people, the region has a larger population than the European Union or North America. It also has the third-largest labour force in the world, behind China and India.

 

Sample question:

Q. Explain the significance of East Asia Summit in the wake of rising economic challenges especially in ASEAN countries and their dialogue partners including India.

 


Topic : Conservation of Western Ghats

Topic in syllabus: Conservation related issues.

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Why in news: 

The six Western Ghats States, including Kerala, have been restrained by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) from giving environmental clearance to activities that may adversely impact the eco-sensitive areas of the mountain ranges.

Important directions issued by the NGT:

  • The extent of Eco-Sensitive Zones of Western Ghats, which was notified by the Central government earlier, should not be reduced in view of the recent floods in Kerala.
  • Any alteration in the draft notification of zones may seriously affect the environment, especially in view of recent incidents in Kerala.

Background:

The Western Ghats Ecological Expert Panel had earlier proposed “much larger areas for being included in the eco-sensitive zone” though the Kasturirangan-led High Level Working Group, also appointed by the MoEF to look into the WGEEP report, had reduced it. The Ministry had accepted the Kasthurirangan report and issued the draft notifications on ecologically sensitive zones.

Concerns:

Western Ghats region is under serious stress. The region is one of the richest biodiversity areas which needed to be conserved.

Gadgil Committee

Environment Ministry set up the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel under Gadgil. The panel was asked to make an assessment of the ecology and biodiversity of the Western Ghats and suggest measures to conserve, protect and rejuvenate the entire range that stretches to over 1500 km along the coast, with its footprints in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.

Gadgil Committee recommendations:

  • It defined the boundaries of the Western Ghats for the purposes of ecological management.
  • It proposed that this entire area be designated as ecologically sensitive area (ESA). Within this area, smaller regions were to be identified as ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) I, II or III based on their existing condition and nature of threat.
  • It proposed to divide the area into about 2,200 grids, of which 75 per cent would fall under ESZ I or II or under already existing protected areas such as wildlife sanctuaries or natural parks.
  • The committee proposed a Western Ghats Ecology Authority to regulate these activities in the area.

Important recommendations of Madhav Gadgil Committee:

  • Ban on the cultivation of genetically modified in the entire area.
  • Plastic bags to be phased out in three years.
  • No new special economic zones or hill stations to be allowed.
  • Ban on conversion of public lands to private lands, and on diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes in ESZ I and II.
  • No new mining licences in ESZ I and II area.
  • No new dams, thermal power plants or large-scale wind power projects in ESZ I.
  • No new polluting industries in ESZ I and ESZ II areas.
  • No new railway lines or major roads in ESZ I and II areas.
  • Strict regulation of tourism.
  • Cumulative impact assessment for all new projects like dams, mines, tourism, housing.

Kasturirangan committee

  • None of the six concerned states agreed with the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee, which submitted its report in August 2011.
  • In August 2012, then Environment Minister constituted a High-Level Working Group on Western Ghats under Kasturirangan to “examine” the Gadgil Committee report in a “holistic and multidisciplinary fashion in the light of responses received” from states, central ministries and others.
  • Its report revealed that of the nearly 1,750 responses it had examined, 81% were not in favour of the Gadgil recommendations. In particular, Kerala had objected to the proposed ban on sand mining and quarrying, restrictions on transport infrastructure and wind energy projects, embargos on hydroelectric projects, and inter-basin transfer of river waters, and also the complete ban on new polluting industries.

Way ahead:

Kerala flood is a lesson worth of learning for India’s disaster management system. India, having more than 7500 km of coastline, should have a strong disaster early warning and management system. Cooperation between the states can create an expert and integrated national structure, to manage any kind of natural disaster.

 

Sample question:

Q. Discuss the need for conservation of Western Ghats in the wake of recent disasters. Analyze recommendations of Kasturirangan committee and Madhav Gadgil Committee and suggest important measures for conservation.

 


Topic : Section 377

Topic in syllabus: GS II -Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States. 

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Why in news: 

The Supreme Court has pronounced its much-awaited verdict on a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of section 377 of the IPC which criminalises consensual gay sex.

The verdict:

  • The Court said gay sex among consenting adults is not an offence. The verdict assumes significance as in the earlier round of litigation in 2013 the Supreme Court had reversed the Delhi high court ruling decriminalising homosexuality or same sex relationship.
  • However,bestiality will continue as an offence. Any kind of sexual activity with animals shall remain penal offence under Section 377 of the IPC.
  • The judgement is based on the interpretation ofArticle 14 (Right to Equality); Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth); Article 19 (Freedom of Speech and Expression); and Article 21 (Right to Life and Right to Privacy) of the Indian Constitution.

The law:

Section 377 of IPC – which came into force in 1862 – defines unnatural offences. It says, “Whoever voluntarily has carnal inter­course against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Background:

  • The Delhi high court had in July 2009 de-criminalised consensual homosexual acts in private by declaring as unconstitutional a part of Section 377 of IPC that criminalises unnatural sex, saying “the section denies a gay person a right to full personhood…”
  • The Supreme Court chose to reverse the verdict in December 2013. Upholding the constitutional validity of Section 377 IPC, an SC bench headed by Justice GS Singhvi (since retired), put the ball in the Parliament’s court, saying it was for the legislature to take a call on the desirability of the controversial provision.

Implications for heterosexuals:

The case has implications for heterosexuals also, as consensual sexual acts of adults such as oral and anal sex in private are currently treated as unnatural and punishable under Section 377 IPC.

Homosexuality:

Homosexuality is considered a taboo in a largely conservative Indian society which appears to be divided on the controversial issue. Freedom loving people (not necessarily belonging to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender or LGBT community) want homosexuality de-criminalised but many still consider it a “deviant behaviour” and not merely a question of one’s sexual orientation or preference.

International developments:

There have been many positive developments in favour of LGBT community on the international front. In May 2015, Ireland legalised same-sex marriage. The country which had decriminalized homosexuality in 1993 became the first country to allow same sex marriage a national level by popular vote.

  • In June 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that same sex marriages were legal. Near home, Nepal legalised homosexuality in 2007 and the new Constitution of the country too gives many rights to the LGBT community.
  • France, UK, Canada, United States, Australia and Brazil have de-criminalised homosexuality. Other countries like Belgium, Brazil, Canada,France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal,South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay allow either same sex marriage or a civil union.
  • India currently stands with a host of countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Qatar and Pakistan which criminalises homosexuality.

Criticism:

Child abuse and Section 377: Many child rights activists had criticised the Delhi HC verdict de-criminalising homosexuality on the ground that Section 377 was needed to be on the statute book to tackle cases of child abuse. However, the enactment of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012 has removed the need to use Section 377 in child sexual abuse cases. POCSO is more child-friendly and much more stringent.

Law and morality: Those against legalising gay sex argue that it is against the moral values of the society. However, activists arguing for it say what is forbidden in religion need not be prohibited in law. They argue that morality cannot be a ground to restrict the fundamental rights of citizens. A legal wrong is necessarily a moral wrong but vice versa is not correct. A moral wrong becomes a legal wrong only when its consequences are for society and not just the person/s committing it.

Challenges ahead:

The Supreme Court judgment only deals with a narrow interpretation of Section 377. Besides decriminalising homosexuality, the judgment does not confer any further rights.

Gay marriages: Marriages between same-sex partners are not recognised in india, but this can be changed by inserting a provision in the Special Marriage Act.

Adoption: Law prohibits adoption of a child by a gay couple.

Inheritance: One partner cannot inherit properties left behind by their same-sex partner, unless a will is drawn in favour of the person. A will, too, can be contested by family members of the partners.

On pending criminal cases: The judgment will have a bearing on criminal cases pending trial, appeal or revision on disposed off cases. The judgment will have no bearing on disposed off cases and old cases cannot be reopened. It opens the flood gates for securing other civil rights.

 

Sample question:

Q. With reference to the recent Supreme Court judgment decriminalizing homosexuality, explain the role of judiciary in protecting the fundamental rights of people. Explain with special reference to Article 21- right to life and personal liberty- of Indian constitution.

 


Topic: India and the U.S. — 2+2 dialogue

Topic in syllabus: GS II- International relations

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Why in news:

The first round of the India-U.S. 2+2 talks at the level of External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister and their counterparts is scheduled for September 6 in Delhi.

Significance of the dialogue:

  • The dialogue is an indication of the deepening strategic partnership between our two countries, and India’s emergence as a net security provider in the region.It is a significant development but one that appears perfectly logical when seen against the two-decade-old trend line of India-U.S. relations.
  • The trend line between two countries has not been smooth but the trajectory definitively reflects a growing strategic engagement.

Outcome of the dialogue:

Key security agreement

  • During the 2+2 meeting, the two countries also signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, or COMCASA. The agreement is one of three considered to be “foundational” for a viable India-U.S. military relationship. In 2016, India and the U.S. had signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), allowing their militaries to replenish from the other’s bases.
  • The argument in favour of signing COMCASA is that it “will facilitate access to advanced defence systems and enable India to optimally utilise its existing U.S.-origin platforms”. India’s U.S.-sourced P-8I and C-130J aircraft had to use low-tech communication equipment as the U.S. could not provide India with such technologies due to domestic legal restrictions, unless India signed COMCASA.
  • Moreover, in the absence of COMCASA, and the attendant high-tech equipment, the interoperability between Indian and U.S. forces would be severely hampered.

Concerns regarding COMCASA:

  • there is the issue of visits by U.S. inspectors to Indian bases to carry out inspections on the COMCASA-safeguarded equipment sold to India.
  • COMCASA will apply end-use monitoring and reconfiguration restrictions on India.
  • There is also a related concern whether the installation of U.S. communication systems would compromise the secrecy of Indian military communication systems. Most importantly, it might also be useful to debate the utility of such India-U.S. agreements since, at the end of the day, the two countries are not likely to be deployed alongside each other in a conflict situation. 

Other Concerns:

  • Consider the U.S.’s insistence that India should bring down its oil imports from Iran to ‘zero’ in deference to the restrictions imposed by its unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. The U.S. also recommends that India buy American oil to make up the deficit.
  • Second, Washington seeks to impose the punitive provisions of a U.S. federal law called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on countries dealing with Russian defence and intelligence sectors, making it difficult for India to buy the much-needed S-400 missile system. For a country with close to 60% of its weapons systems originating from Russia, this would be a huge setback. Again, it’s clear the U.S. would like India to buy its weapons instead.

Growth of Defence Relations over time:

Strategic convergence:

Three factors have contributed to the emerging strategic convergence between India and US.

  • First, the end of the Cold Warprovided an opportunity to both countries to review their relationship in the light of changing global and regional realities.
  • Second,with the opening of the Indian economy, the American private sector began to look at India with greater interest.
    • Trade grew and today stands at more than $120 billion a year with an ambitious target of touching $500 billion in five years.
    • If U.S. foreign direct investment in India is more than $20 billion, Indian companies too have invested $15 billion in the U.S., reflecting a sustained mutual interest.
  • The third factor is the political coming of age of the three-million-strong Indian diaspora. Its influence can be seen in the bipartisan composition of the India Caucus in the U.S. Congress and the Senate Friends of India group.

The U.S. is used to dealing with allies and adversaries. India is neither, and is also determined to safeguard its strategic autonomy.

Indians become wary of the U.S.’s attempts to drive unequal bargains, and Americans find the Indian approach rigid and sanctimonious.

Despite this, significant progress has been registered over the years resulting in the 60-plus bilateral dialogues, to which the 2+2 Dialogue is now being added.

Defence Cooperation :

  • Two parallel tracks of dialoguebegan in the 1990s. The strategic dialogue covering nuclear issues shifted gears following the nuclear tests of 1998 and imposition of sanctions by the U.S.
  • The over a dozenrounds of talks between both the countries during 1998-2000 marked the most intense dialogue between the two countries. It helped change perceptions leading to the gradual lifting of sanctions.
  • Thenext phase was the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership steered by the then National Security Advisers, Brajesh Mishra and Condoleezza Rice.
  • The momentum received anew impulse, eventually leading to the conclusion of the India-U.S. bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement in 2008.
  • The defence dialogue began in 1995 with thesetting up of the Defence Policy Group at the level of the Defence Secretary and his Pentagon counterpart and three Steering Groups to develop exchanges between the Services.
  • A decade later, this wasformalised and enlarged into the India-U.S. Defence Framework Agreement which was renewed for 10 years in 2015.
  • Today, theS. is the country with which India undertakes the largest number of military exercises which have gradually evolved in scale and complexity. During the Cold War, more than three-fourths of India’s defence equipment was of Soviet origin. This gradually began to change, and in recent years, the U.S. and Israel emerged as major suppliers.

Engaging with Indian Air Force, Indian Navy and the Indian Army:

  • The Indian Air Forcewent in for C-130J Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster aircraft, along with Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy lift helicopters.
  • The Indian Navy acquired a troop carrier ship and theP-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance  An agreement for 24 multi-role helicopters for the Indian Navy is expected soon.
  • The Indian Armywent in for the M-777 howitzers and artillery radars. From a total of less than $400 million of defence acquisitions during 1947-2005, the U.S. has signed defence contracts of over $15 billion since.
  • During the Obama administration, the US understood that a defence supply relationship needed to be backed by technology sharing and joint development and came up withthe Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTII).

    In 2016, India was designated as a ‘Major Defence Partner’ country.

Another step forward in the middle of this year was the inclusion of India in the Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) category, putting it on a par with allies in terms of technology access

 

Sample question:

Q. Comment on the changing dynamics India-US Defence relations over a period of time. Explain the significance of recent 2+2 dialogue.

 


 Topic: The nature of dissent

Topic in syllabus: GS IIConstitution, Social justice, Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

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Why in news:

Recent arrests of activists in certain states of India, started a debate on importance of Dissent in Democracy.

General trait of Dissent or disagreement

  • Disagreeing with each other is a fundamental human trait. There is not a single individual who does not disagree with something or the other all the time.
  • Philosophers argue that a baby meaningfully attains its sense of the self — its recognition of ‘I’ and the concept of ‘mine’ — when it first begins to say ‘no’.
  • At a primordial level, we become individuals only through this act of stating our disagreement.
  • There is no family without dissent between parents and the children, or between the siblings. A family which learns to deal with dissent rather than authoritatively dismissing it is a more harmonious family.

A way of being

  • We dissent at home, with our friends and with our colleagues in the places we work. It is through these ways of dissenting that we establish a relationship with them.
  • Our relations with our friends and family are based as much on how we learn to live with our disagreements as on other things.
  • If our friends and family consist only of those who agree with us all the time, then we will not have any friends and family.
  • Learning to live with others, the first requisite for a social existence is about learning how to live with them when they disagree with us.
  • Dissent is so ingrained in us that we don’t even need others to disagree. We argue with our own selves all the time as if each one of us is an individual made up of many selves.

Social dissent and Democracy

  • Dissent is thus a condition of existence and the real problem is not dissent but silent assent. When we agree collectively, we are silently assenting, agreeing with what is being said and done.
  • This is really not the existential characteristic of a human being but only that of a ‘bonded mind’.
  • However, some might say that assent is the way societies come together, and it is needed for a stable society. But this is plain wrong.
  • We will have a stronger identity of what our society and nation are through forms of dissent. Dissent, paradoxically, is the glue which makes a decent society possible.
  • A group made up of people who agree to everything all the time is not really a society but an oligarchy. A mature society is one which has the capacity to manage dissent since members of a society will always disagree with each other on something or the other.
  • No society has survived without making changes to what was present earlier. New knowledge and new ways of understanding the world, for good or bad, has always been part of every society.
  • Democratic societies are the best of the available models in managing dissent with the least harmful effect on the dissenter. This is the true work of democracy; elections and voting are the means to achieve this.

Dissent is progressive in nature

  • Academics and research are two important activities where dissent is at the core. Many new ideas arise by going against earlier established norms and truths.
  • Science, in its broadest meaning, is not possible without dissent since it is by finding flaws with the views of others that new science is created.
  • No two philosophers agree on one point, and no two social scientists are in perfect harmony with each other’s thoughts.
  • Artists are constantly breaking boundaries set by their friends and peers. Buddha and Mahavira were dissenters first and philosophers next.
  • The Ramayana and Mahabharata are filled with stories of dissent and responsible ways of dealing with it.
  • Thus, when academics dissent, it is part of their job expectation to do so! Dissent is not just about criticism, it is also about showing new perspectives.
  • The scientific community does not imprison scientists for dissenting, so do the same applies to social scientists and artists. They should not be targeted in the name of dissent.

Why Dissent is necessary?

  • It is not that dissent is necessary only for democracy — it is necessary for the survival of the human race.
  • Any society which eradicates dissent has only succeeded in eradicating itself. We cannot afford to forget the examples of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.
  • A sustainable, harmonious society can only be formed from practices which deal with dissent respectfully and ethically.

Ethics of dissent

  • There are two ethical principles associated with dissent.
  • First, its relation to non-violence (Satya Graha), a principle which is so integral to the unique Indian practices of dissent from ancient times to Gandhi and Ambedkar.
  • Second, dissent is an ethical means of protecting those who are worse off than others (Gandhi’s Talisman). Dissent is not mere complaint which all of us, however privileged we are, indulge in.
  • Social dissent is a necessary voice for all those who are oppressed and are marginalised for various reasons. This is the only thing they have in a world which has denied them the basic dignity of a social life.
  • This is the truly ethical principle that can sustain a mature society. Thus, when we hear the voices of dissent from the oppressed and the marginalised, it is ethically incumbent upon those who are better off than them to give them greater space and greater freedom to dissent.

Conclusion

  • Dissent and disagreement is part of human nature, suppressing it may lead to destruction of society and democracy.

 

Sample question:

Q. Discuss the importance of dissent in a democracy giving suitable examples from Indian democratic system.

 


Topic : Nepal gets access to 4 China ports, ending Indian monopoly on transit

Topic in syllabus: GS II- India and neighbourhood relations

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Why in News:

Nepal and China finalised the protocol of the Nepal-China Transit and Transportation Agreement. It will give Kathmandu access to four Chinese ports.

Transit and Transportation Agreement (TTA)

TTA  will allow Nepal to transport its imports and exports via its neighbour’s territory, China.

  • Nepal will be able to access seaports like Shenzhen, Tianjin etc and land ports ( dry ports) like Lhasa to conduct international trade.
  • Both sides decided to access Chinese territory from six checkpoints.

Reasons to sign the TTA between two Nations:

  • Geographical reasons: Nepal is wedged between China and India. So being a landlocked nation, Nepal is trying to diversify its trading routes.
  • Political reasons:     The Madhesi agitation in 2015 had forced Nepal to explore trade links with China and reduce its long term dependence on India.
  • Economic reasons:  India’s prolonged blockade across border crossings with Nepal in 2015 and 2016 left the country short of fuel and medicine for several months which impelled Nepal to sought alternatives.
  • External influences:   China is making fast inroads into Nepal with aid and investment, challenging India’s long-held position as the dominant outside power.
  • Logistic issues:   Nepali cargo from Japan, South Korea and other north Asian countries if routed through China would cut shipping time and costs as overland trade through Kolkata port  takes up to three months.

Benefits to Nepal:

  • It will be one of the milestones because Nepal will be  getting access to four Chinese ports in addition to two ports ( Kolkata and Visakhapatnam)  in India.
  • Nepal will no longer be dependent only on India for trade with other countries as it will be able to use Chinese sea and land ports.
  • Nepalese traders will be allowed to use any mode of transport – rail or road to access  seaports of China for third-country trade.
  • It would cut shipping time and costs as overland trade to Nepal via port of Kolkata  takes up to three months.

Challenges:

  • ConnectIvity of Nepal with China could face issues due to a lack of proper roads and customs infrastructure on the Nepalese side of the border.
  • The nearest Chinese port is also located more than 2,600 km (1,625 miles) from Nepal border. So distance would remain a major issue in the trade and transit.

 

Sample question:

Q. Discuss the development of India Nepal relations over a period of time. Explain with reference to growing economic relationship of Nepal with China.

 


Topic: Food grain storage in India

Topic in syllabus: GS III: Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.

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Why in news

Poor Food grain storage and resultant food wastage has been a persistent problem in India

Extent of the Problem:

  • According to Food Corporation of India (FCI) reply to an RTI activist in 2014 as much as 1.95 Lakh MT of food grains was wasted in India between 2005 and March 2013.
  • In the damaged stock, around 84% was rice and 14% wheat.
  • Punjab accounted for nearly 50% of the damages followed by Maharashtra (10% of the total loss)
  • According to a report by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, nearly 60000 tons of food grains godowns have got damaged and become useless for human consumption between 2013-2017-18
  • According to FAO, produce worth $14 billion is damaged annually. It is a paradox that millions go hungry in India everyday while food goes to waste.

Food Grain Management in India:

  • FCI is the only government agency entrusted with movement of food grains from the procuring states to consuming states through a network of storage infrastructure owned or hired by FCI in the whole of India.
  • These food grains are distributed by the state governments through TPDS and other welfare schemes (OWS).
  • The food grains are also disposed of in the open market through sale under open market sales scheme (OMSS) to suppress any inflationary tendencies and generating storage space in the states
  • Operational stock: Four months requirement of food grains for issue under TPDS and OWS
  • Buffer Stock: the surplus over the operational stock is treated as buffer stock

Storage Management:

  • Due to increasing procurement of food grains from 2008-09 onwards, FCI has had to depend on hired space made available from Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC), State Warehousing Corporations(SWC), and private parties.

Commercial Methods of Storage:

  1. Covered Storage:

The most popular storage system in India followed by the FCI, CWC and SWCs is bag (jute bags) storage in warehouses. The grain is packed in jute bags and stacked inside covered structures called warehouses or godowns.

  1. Cover and Plinth (CAP) Method:

In this method food grains are stored in the open with adequate precautions such as rat and damp proof plinths, use of dunnage and covering of stacks with specially fabricated polythene covers etc.

  1. Silos:These are tall tower like structures used to store grains. In these structures, the grains in bulk are unloaded on the conveyor belts and, through mechanical operations, are carried to the storage structure. There are four silos- in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and Hapur-Ghaziabad.
  2. . Silo bag technique: For bulk storage of food grains at procurement sites silo bags are used. These bags are made of HDPE and protect grains from rain, UV rays, atmospheric humidity and dust etc.

Issues and Challenges:

  1. Poor farm storage facilities:

The storage facilities at farm levels are poor often leading to damage by pests and insects. The storage facilities are also not suitable for long-time storage of grains

  1. Imbalances in availability of storage capacity:

There has been an increase in storage capacity of FCI over the past years. The CAG report 2013 revealed serious imbalances in availability of storage capacity and huge shortage of storage space in consuming states. According to the report, out of the total storage space available with FCI, 64% was located in the large procurement states like Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

  1. Storage of grains in open space:
  • During procurement season, due to lack of proper CAP storage facilities, stocks are simply dumped open spaces and much of these stock gets damaged because of seepage of water from the ground in the absence of proper plinth or height of ground or due to floods and rains.
  1. Poor infrastructure of Storage facilities:
  • The warehouses lack adequate ambience such as proper temperature and moisture which greatly affects the quality of grains and leads to damage and wastage of the produce. The grains get infested with moulds and insects due to lack of safe and scientific storage practices.
  • For example, 2013 CAG report stated that inadequate safe and scientific storage practices resulted in excessive damages to food grains in the central pool maintained by SGAs in Punjab and Haryana.

Associated Health issues:

  • According to a WHO paper, disease causing mycotoxins are found in mouldy grain/foods. These release Aflatoxins which have serious health implications and are cancer-causing
  1. Non-adherence to the principle of principle of First-In-First-Out (FIFO)
  • Improper estimates resulting in extra procurement is a major issue which strains storage capacity
  • Failure to ensure early disposal of damaged stock led to blockage of storage space and also cause damage to existing stock.
  • According to CAG report, 2013 brought a total of 126 LMT of food grains pertaining to crop years 2008-09 to 2011-11 was lying in the central pool even in March 2012.
  1. Issues with FCI:
  • Non adherence of safe and scientific storage methods
  • Poor and reckless management
  • Delay in getting approval for want of disposal approvals for damaged stock from FCI
  • undue delay in obtaining of various clearances for land allotments by state government

Important Supreme Court Judgement

PUCL Vs UOI & ORS, 2010

SC Observation- “In a country where admittedly people are starving, it is a crime to waste even a single grain…all out efforts must be made that not a single grain is wasted….”

Committee and Recommendations:

High-level Committee headed by Shanta Kumar, 2014

The Committee made following recommendations on stocking and movement related issue:

  1. FCI should outsource its stocking operations to various agencies such as Central Warehousing Corporation, State Warehousing Corporation, private Sector under Private Entrepreneur Guarantee (PEG) scheme, and even state governments that are building silos through private sector on state lands
  2. Better mechanization in all silos as well as conventional storages
  3. Covered and plinth (CAP) storage should be gradually phased out with no grain stocks remaining in CAP for more than 3 months. Silo bag technology and conventional storages where ever possible should replace CAP
  4. Movement of grains needs to be gradually containerized which will help reduce transit losses

Government Initiatives for Augmenting Grain Storage Capacity:

  1. National Policy on Handling and Storage of Food Grains, 2000
  • It aims to reduce storage and transit losses at farm and commercial level and to modernize the system of handling, storage and transportation of food grains.
  1. Gramin Bhandaran Yojna
  • Under the scheme subsidy is provided for construction/ renovation of rural godowns. The scheme aims to create scientific storage capacity in rural areas to meet the requirements of farmers for storing farm produce.
  1. Private Entrepreneurs Guarantee (PEG) Scheme
  • The scheme promotes construction of godowns through Private Entrepreneurs with Guaranteed utilization by the FCI
  1. Recent Initiatives:
  • The Government is planning to take steps to utilize vacant government land with railways and other government agencies. A joint venture between CWC and Indian Railways has resulted in a Rail-side Warehousing Company Ltd. which is constructing godowns at selective railheads
  • Pilot projects for rice silos have been undertaken by FCI at Kaimur and Buxar in Bihar to test the technology.
  • The FCI has awarded contracts to operators for construction of wheat silos with a capacity of 2.5 lakh tonnes at six places in Punjab, Delhi, Bihar, Assam and Karnataka.

International Best Practice: USA

  • USA has more than 310 Million Ton Silo storage capacity.
  • It has an effective on farm storage which helps farmer to store Grain at the site at harvest time and move to off farm

Way Forward:

  1. Traditional means of storage should be strengthened with modern inputs cheaper storage structures such as low cost bins should be provided to farmers so as prevent enormous storage losses.
  2. It is important to develop management protocols for safe and scientific storage. Further for safe and scientific storage it is important to carefully select the storage site, storage structure, undertake cleaning and fumigation ensure proper aeration of grains followed by regular inspection of grain stock.
  3. Research and Development efforts are required in the areas of impact of biotic and abiotic factors during storage, detection and monitoring of spoilage, safe fumigants, uniform fumigation etc.
  4. An integrated software application linking overall production, demand, procurement and storage, keeping in view the associated regions and infrastructure available should be developed.
  5. The First-in-First-Out policy should be strictly followed to avoid wastage and damage of stocks

 

Sample question:

Q. Discuss the problems faced by India in food storage. Also discuss potential of food processing and how a proper and advanced storage system and food processing can lead to increase in farmers income and higher economic growth and development?