08th Jan, 2019-IAS Current Affairs
‘SITTWE port’ (GS2: International relations)
Issue: The Indian government has informed the parliament that the infrastructure at Sittwe Port in Myanmar, constructed with India’s assistance, is ready for operation.
Objective of the initiative
Its objective is to create a multi-modal sea, river and road transport corridor for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar through Sittwe port as well as to North-Eastern part of India via Myanmar. Once fully operational, the project would encourage investment and trade and also open up alternate routes for connectivity to India’s North East Region.
The construction of Sittwe Port is part of the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project.
More on Kaladan Multi Modal Transit transport project
The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project is a US$484 million project connecting the eastern Indian seaport of Kolkata with Sittwe seaport in Rakhine State, Myanmar by sea. In Myanmar, it will then link Sittwe seaport to Paletwa in Chin State via the Kaladan river boat route, and then from Paletwa by road to Mizoram state in Northeast India.
Concerns with the project
The route of the project around Paletwa and along the Kaladan river is troubled with Chin conflict, Rohingya conflict and militant groups such as Arakan Army and Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
‘Electric Mobility’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: Government has taken several steps in the near past to ensure the electric mobility in India is duly encouraged and adopted at all levels
Some of the steps taken in the recent past include:
- Government has granted exemption to Battery Operated Transport Vehicles and Transport Vehicles running on Ethanol and Methanol fuels from requirement of permit
- In order to promote electric vehicles, the Government has notified for retro-fitment of hybrid electric system or electric kit to vehicles and has specified the type approval procedure of electric hybrid vehicles.
- The Government has notified that the registration mark for Battery Operated Vehicles is to be on a plate with green background.
- The Ministry has notified certain specifications for the grant of license to age group of 16-18 years to drive gearless E scooters/ Bikes up to 4.0 KW.
- Further, for the promotion of electric mobility in the country, the Government had launched Phase-I of the FAME India Scheme [ Faster Adoption of Electric (& Hybrid) Vehicles in India] with effect from 1st April 2015. This was initially for a period of 2 years and has subsequently been extended till 31st March 2019. All electric & hybrid vehicles, including public transport, registered under the scheme are being incentivized under the Demand Creation focus area of this scheme.
- The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has commercialized indigenously developed lithium ion battery technology
- The NITI Aayog has taken an initiative to provide a Model Concessionaire Agreement (MCA) document for introducing Electric-Bus Fleet in Cities for Public Transportation on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode on Operational Expenditure (per km basis) Model rather than paying upfront capital cost.
- Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has made amendment in the Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI) guidelines to provide for electric vehicle charging stations in private and commercial buildings.
‘Road accidents in India’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways is in the process of implementing ‘Integrated Road Accident Database Project (IRAD)’ which will be applicable across the country.
More on the project
This project is proposed on IT based system for capturing the spot accident data using mobile app and tablets configured for this purpose. This data can then be utilized for various purposes like finding the causes of the accidents and remedial measures to improve the road infrastructure, to record the accidents data for the use of police, health services and other concerned departments.
‘DIVYANGS’ (GS2: Issues related to Human resources)
Issue: Several steps have been taken by the Government for ensuring employment for divyangs.
Who are Divyangs?
PM Narendra Modi had suggested that the term ‘divyang’ (divine body) instead of ‘viklang’ be used for persons with disability.
Major steps taken in this regard include:
- Section 34(1) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 mandates reservation of not less than four percent of the total number of vacancies in Government Establishments for persons with benchmark disabilities.
- Government implements incentive scheme for providing employment to persons with disabilities in the Private Sectors.
- Government has also set up 42 Special Employment Exchanges for Handicapped, 38 Special Cells for Handicapped persons in the normal Employment Exchanges, 21 National Career Service Centres for Differently Abled in the country.
- The Government also implements a National Action Plan for Skill Development of persons with disabilities so as to enhance their scope of employability in both Government and private sectors.
Section 34(1) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 is applicable to all establishments irrespective of areas of work unless they are exempted from the said provision.
‘Swadesh Darshan Scheme’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: A project for “Development of Gandhi Circuit: Bhitiharwa-Chandrahia-Turkaulia under Rural Circuit theme of Swadesh Darshan Scheme” has been sanctioned in Bihar with central financial assistance of Rs. 4465.02 lakh.
What is Swadesh Darshan scheme?
Under the scheme ‘Swadesh Darshan’, the Ministry of Tourism provides Central Financial Assistance (CFA) to State Governments/Union Territory Administrations for infrastructure development of circuits. Under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, 13 thematic circuits have been identified, for development namely: North-East India Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Desert Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Eco Circuit, Wildlife Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayana Circuit and Heritage Circuit. In Union Budget 2017-18, 959.91 crore has been allocated for the Integrated Development of Tourist Circuits around specific themes under Swadesh Darshan scheme.
‘Herbal products’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The total world herbal trade is currently assessed at USD 120 billion. However, India’s share in this market has remained low
Major reasons for such a low share are:
- Inadequate Agricultural practices.
- Inadequate Quality Control procedure.
- Lack of large scale Organic Cultivation.
- Lack of Processing and R&D.
- Lack of Standardization in Products, Processes and Services.
- Lack of regulatory framework in trade of Medicinal Plants.
In order to promote India’s exports, the Government has taken several measures:
- Department of Commerce has set up Export Promotion Councils for promoting exports of various product groups / sectors.
- Under Market Access Initiative (MAI) Scheme of the Department of Commerce, the EPCs / Trade Bodies are provided financial assistance for participation and organizing Trade Fairs, Buyer Seller Meets (BSMs), Reverse Buyer Seller Meets (RBSMs), Research & Product Development, Market Studies, etc.
- Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) provides incentives to the exporting community for specified goods so as to offset infrastructural inefficiencies and the associated costs of exporting products produced in India, giving special emphasis to those which are of India’s export interest and have the capability to generate employment and enhance India’s competitiveness in the world market.
- ‘Niryat Bandhu Scheme’ has been galvanized and repositioned to achieve the objectives of ‘Skill India’ and trade promotion/awareness.
- The National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB), Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India has launched a “Voluntary Certification Scheme for Medicinal Plants Produce (VCSMPP)” on 22nd November, 2017 in order to encourage the Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Field Collection Practices (GFCPs) in medicinal plants.
- Ministry of Ayush through its Quality Certification programme like Ayush mark and Premium mark is also assisting industry in setting up of quality standards.
- Ministry of Ayush has entered into MoUs with few countries for promotion of traditional medicine which will help exports in long run.
‘Gems and Jewellery’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The gem and jewellery sector contributes significantly to the economy of the country in terms of exports as well as employment generation.
In the year 2017-18, the gem and jewellery export was 13.69% of total merchandise exports from the country. As per estimates, the sector provides employment to around 5 million people.
Measures taken by the government to ensure a growth of this sector in recent times include:
With a view to strengthen the gems and jewellery industry, the Government has taken a number of steps, such as establishment of Special Notified Zone (SNZ), setting up of common facility centres for gems and jewellery sector, creation of separate ITC HS Code for lab grown diamond, reduction of GST rates for cut and polished diamonds and precious stones, exempting IGST on import of gold by specified agencies and banks, Exemption from GST on supply of gold by Nominated Agencies to exporters and providing financial assistance for participation of international fairs, for organizing buyer seller meets, creation of export related infrastructure etc. under various schemes of Department of Commerce.
‘India and WTO’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: India has been involved in several World Trade Organization (WTO) related trade disputes. Some of the details of such disputes are mentioned below
- Import of poultry and poultry products from United States
- Countervailing duty by United States on Indian steel products
- National Solar Mission dispute with United States
- Export Subsidies measures of India, Complainant: United States
Main concern of India vis-à-vis WTO is:
- United States has been blocking the appointment of members of the WTO Appellate Body on some systemic and procedural issues. About 1/4th of the 164 WTO members, including India, have expressed concerns on the matter at every relevant WTO meeting
- India along with EU and 12 other countries have submitted a communication to the WTO General Council for addressing the issues raised by United States on functioning and operations of Dispute Settlement Body, including appointment of Appellate Body members.
What is Dispute settlement body?
The General Council convenes as the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) to deal with disputes between WTO members. Such disputes may arise with respect to any agreement contained in the Final Act of the Uruguay Round that is subject to the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (DSU). The DSB has authority to establish dispute settlement panels, refer matters to arbitration, adopt panel, Appellate Body and arbitration reports, maintain surveillance over the implementation of recommendations and rulings contained in such reports, and authorize suspension of concessions in the event of non-compliance with those recommendations and rulings.
‘Monkey fever’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: The Karnataka government has decided to form a committee to investigate the outbreak of the Kyasanur Forest Disease, or monkey fever
Kyasanur Forest Disease – named after the forest in the state where it was first detected – is caused by a virus of the Flaviviridae virus family. The disease, which has no cure, spreads through the bite of ticks called Haemaphysalis Spinigera. Infected monkeys serve as blood meal for these ticks, which in turn bite humans.
The initial symptoms are chills, fever and headache. As the disease progresses, the infected person experiences severe muscle pains with vomiting, gastrointestinal symptoms and bleeding, accompanied by abnormally low blood pressure and low platelet, red blood cell and white blood cell counts.
Some patients recover in about two weeks. Others relapse into a second bout of fever accompanied by mental disturbance, impaired vision and tremors. The disease is fatal in 2%-10% of cases. Patients are given supportive therapy such as hydration and measures to prevent bleeding.
‘Indian Navy’ (GS3: Security)
Issue: Indian Navy will commission a new airbase 100 miles north of Port Blair in the strategically located Andaman and Nicobar islands.
Significance of this decision
This will be India’s fourth air base and the third naval air facility in the archipelago, which are closer to Southeast Asia than to the Indian mainland, overlooking key sea lanes of communication and strategic choke points.
With increased contestation in the region and in an effort to keep an eye on movements, India has considerably upgraded military infrastructure and facilities and deployed long range assets to monitor the region including the Malacca Strait. The islands also houses India’s only tri-service command.
‘Gas hydrates’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have experimentally shown that methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) can exist as gas hydrates at temperatures and pressures seen in interstellar atmosphere
What are gas hydrates?
Gas hydrates are formed when a gas such as methane gets trapped in well-defined cages of water molecules forming crystalline solids. In terrestrial conditions, gas hydrates are formed naturally under the sea bed and glaciers under high pressure, low temperature conditions. Methane hydrate is a potential source of natural gas.
Applications of this research
The carbon dioxide hydrate produced in the lab raises the possibility of sequestering or storing carbon dioxide as hydrates by taking advantage of ice existing in environmental conditions favourable for hydrate formation
CO2 hydrate is thermodynamically more stable than methane hydrate. So if methane hydrate has remained stable for millions of years under the sea bed, it would be possible to sequester gaseous CO2 as solid hydrate under the sea bed