06, September 2016

First cargo truck under BBIN pact reaches Delhi

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express

The first cargo truck under the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement for cross border movement reached. The cargo truck was dispatched from Dhaka on August 27 as part of a trial run and arrived at the Inland Customs Depot (ICD). The consignment did not have to undergo any customs clearance at the border. The truck was issued an E-permit for the trial run through an online web-based system. This will help establish a customer friendly process acceptable to and recognized by all BBIN countries.

The BBIN agreement was signed on June 15 last year in Thimphu, Bhutan to facilitate cross border movement of both passengers and cargo vehicles. Protocols to implement the agreement are being negotiated by the four countries for passengers and cargo vehicles separately. A similar trial run of cargo vehicle from India was conducted in November last year from Kolkata to Agartala through Dhaka.

Benefits to India:

By these arrangements time and cost can be saved through facilitation of seamless transport through the sub-region. With such facilitation, the distance of more than 1,550 km from Kolkata to Agartala through Chicken’s Neck (the Siliguri corridor) will be reduced to 650 km if the truck travels through Dhaka resulting in reduction of overall transaction costs.

About BBIN:

The Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative is a sub-regional architecture of countries in South Asia. It meets through official representation of member states to formulate, implement and review quadrilateral agreements across areas such as water resources management, connectivity of power, transport, and infrastructure.

Motor Vehicle Agreement of BBIN:

India proposed a SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in 2014. Due to objections from Pakistan, an agreement could not be reached. India instead pursued a similar motor vehicle agreement with the BBIN. The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement was signed on 15 June 2015.

It enables vehicles to enter any of the four nations without the need for trans-shipment of goods from one country’s truck to another’s at the border. Under the system, cargo vehicles are tracked electronically, permits are issued online and sent electronically to all land ports.

Sedition charges can’t be slapped for criticizing government, clarifies Supreme Court

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express

The Supreme Court clarified that sedition charges cannot be brought against a person merely for raising a voice against the government or its policies. The clarification became necessary in view of the controversy generated after sedition charges were recently slapped in a number of cases, sparking demands for the law to be scrapped.

The court had clarified in its 1962 verdict that a “citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the government, or its measures, by way of criticism or comment, so long as he does not incite people to violence against the government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder”.

What is Sedition according to SC?

The court had pointed out two essential ingredients required to establish the crime of sedition,

The acts must be intended to have the “effect of subverting the government” by violent means

The acts must be intended to create disorder or disturbance of public peace and order by resort to violence and must incite violence.

To this, the bench said, “We don’t have to explain the sedition law. It’s already there in the five-judge constitution bench judgment in Kedar Nath Singh vs state of Bihar of 1962.”

What is not a Sedition?

It had clarified that comments, however strongly worded, expressing disapproval of government actions, without exciting those feelings which generate the inclination to cause public disorder by acts of violence was not sedition.

Petitioner’s arguments:

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for an NGO, said sedition was a serious offence and the law on it was being grossly misused for stifling dissent.

He cited the examples of sedition charges being slapped on agitators protesting against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project and cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, among others.

The bench, however, was not convinced and refused to pass any direction.

EU and neighboring states join global aviation emissions pact

Source: The Hindu, Reuters

The European Union and 16 surrounding countries including Turkey, Ukraine and Georgia, said on Saturday they would join the first phase of an UN-brokered deal to limit carbon emissions from international flights, following a similar pledge by China and the United States. China’s participation had been seen as critical to covering around 80 percent of the expected rise in emissions from international flights after 2020. Mexico, Canada and Indonesia had already said they would join.

What next?

The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will meet soon to finalize the deal, which would aim to cap the carbon pollution of all international flights at 2020 levels.

Why this deal?

Aviation was excluded from last December’s climate accord in Paris when countries agreed to limit the global average rise in in temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

What is in the deal?

The proposed new deal on aviation will be voluntary between 2021 and 2026 and then mandatory from 2027 for the world’s largest emitters.

Airlines in participating countries would need to limit their emissions or offset them by buying carbon credits from designated environmental projects around the world.

Criticism:

EU lawmakers on criticized the draft deal for including a voluntary phase, saying it did not justify extending the exemption on international flights beyond the end of the year.

G20 nations for global forum to address excess steel capacity

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express

Major steel producers China, India and Japan along with other G20 nations have called for increased sharing of information as well as more cooperation by forming a global forum to address the issue of excess steel capacity.

Significance:

The development assumes significance in the backdrop of the problem caused in international markets due to excess steel capacity amidst softening of prices, which eroded sales and profits of firms across countries, especially at a time when the global economy recovery is weak.

This move also assumes significance as it comes in the backdrop of nations such as the U.S. imposing heavy duties on imports of cheap steel from countries such as China.

Background:

G20 leaders in a communique today recognized the “structural problems, including excess capacity” in some industries, exacerbated by a weak global economic recovery and depressed market demand that have caused a negative impact on trade and workers.

The leaders also recognized that “subsidies and other types of support from government or government-sponsored institutions” can cause market distortions and contribute to global excess capacity and therefore require attention.

What are the implications on India?

India, the world’s third largest steel producer, too is facing a spate of cheap imports from China, Japan and Korea.

This has hit the sales and profits of domestic steel producers and also impacted their liquidity, which in turn has affected their capacity to repay loans and meet interest payment deadlines having a cascading effect on the number of non-performing assets (NPAs) with the banks. Steel sector in India accounts for the highest number of NPAs with the banks.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently said in Parliament: “Highest NPAs are in steel sector… Second is national highways… Imported steel is cheaper than domestically manufactured steel. Wherever, steel dumping is happening, we have imposed anti-dumping (duty).”

Expansion of India – Chile Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA)

Source: PIB

An agreement on the expansion of India–Chile Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) was signed between India and Chile on 6th September, 2016. A Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) between India and Chile was earlier signed on March 8, 2006 and came into force with effect from August, 2007.

Exports and Imports between India and Chile:

India’s export to Chile consists of transport equipment, pharmaceuticals, and yarn of polyester fibres, tyres and tubes, chemicals, textiles, readymade garments, plastic goods, leather, engineering goods, imitation jewellery, sports goods and handicrafts.

Major items of import are copper ore, iodine, copper cathodes, molybdenum ores, lithium carbonates, metal scrap, chemicals, pulp and waste paper, fruits and nuts, fertilizers and machinery.

“India’s export basket with Chile is diversified and keeping in view the wide variety of tariff lines offered by Chile, the expanded PTA would immensely benefit India.

Giant panda no longer endangered

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express

IUCN has now classified Giant Panda as a “vulnerable” instead of “endangered” species, reflecting its growing numbers in the wild. This was achieved due to strong conservation efforts.

Findings of the Report:

The wild panda population jumped to 1,864 in 2014 from 1,596 in 2004, there are now estimated to be some 2,060 giant pandas in the world. The result of work by Chinese agencies to enforce poaching bans and expand forest reserves.

Warnings of the Report:

The report warned, however, that although better forest protection has helped increase panda numbers, climate change is predicted to eliminate more than 35 per cent of its natural bamboo habitat in the next 80 years, potentially leading to another decline.

Conservation Efforts:

The panda population reached an estimated low of less than 1,000 in the 1980s due to poaching and deforestation. China made strong conservation efforts to save Giant Panda from extinction, which has been sent to zoos around the world as a gesture of Chinese diplomatic goodwill. Also China heavily cracked down the skin trade and gradually expanded its protected forest areas to now cover 1.4 million hectares. China and NGOs working in this effort spent enormous amount of money for t=which they also received more criticisms

As a part of the efforts China and the WWF first established the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan province in 1980.

WWF, whose logo has been a panda since 1961, celebrated the panda’s re-classification, saying it proved that aggressive investment does pay off “when science, political will and engagement of local communities come together.

Gorillas Close to Extinction: Report by IUCN

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express

The eastern gorilla, mainly found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, has seen its population decline by more than two-thirds (70 percent) in the last 20 years.

The species’ numbers are now less than 5,000, with one of its subspecies, the Grauer gorilla, falling in numbers by 77 percent since 1994. It fell from 16,900 gorillas to 3,800 in 2015. The mountain gorilla slightly increased in number but they remain low at around 880.

Threats for extinction:

The fall is mainly due to the ongoing illegal hunting of gorillas, and the great ape species—the group of species closest to human beings—is also bearing the brunt of conflict in Africa. The news means that four of the world’s six species of great apes—the eastern gorilla, western gorilla, Bornean orangutan and Sumatran orangutan—are now “critically endangered.”

DST commits 500 Crores for PM’s Vision on Startup India – Ministry of Science and Technology

Source: PIB

NIDHI (National Initiative for Development and Harnessing Innovations), an umbrella program is pioneered by the Department of Science & Technology(DST), Government of India, for nurturing ideas and innovations (knowledge-based and technology-driven) into successful startups.

DST aims to bring both speed and scale to transform the Startup Ecosystem in the country and has committed 500 crores to implement these new programs in next few years.

TargetsNIDHI focuses on building a seamless and innovation driven entrepreneurial ecosystem especially by channelizing youth towards it and thereby bringing in the positive impact on the socio-economic development of the country and to create new avenues for wealth and job creation.

Key stakeholders: NIDHI includes various departments and ministries of the central government, state governments, academic and R & D institutions, mentors, financial institutions, angel investors, venture capitalists, industry champions and private sectors.



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