11, January 2017

1.Tamil Nadu to be declared drought-hit

Source: The Hindu

The rains have failed and the Cauvery delta is bone dry. Finally, the Tamil Nadu government declared the state drought-hit.

Across Tamil Nadu there has been rainfall deficit during the north-east monsoon. All districts in the state are declared drought hit.

As 17 farmers had ‘committed suicide’ due to ‘various reasons’, the government would grant a solatium(compensation) of Rs. 3 lakh to families of each of these farmer.

Drought hit:

  • The rain deficit in the state is being pegged at 70%, in the Delta districts, farmers say that it is between 80-90%. With the failure of the monsoon and reluctance from Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu, crops have failed, leaving farmers with a drought they have not witnessed in several years. IMD
  • Even though the state witnessed a good spell of rain during December in the form of cyclone Vardah, it did not manage to garner sufficient rainfall from the strong weather system This is a bad year for farmers in Tamil Nadu. The north-east monsoon, which brings rain to the Cauvery delta, failed and the south-west monsoon, which makes landfall in Kerala and drains the slopes of the Western Ghats and the Cauvery, brought much less rainfall than usual.
  • The government was caught unprepared. It moved court in a bid to force neighbouring Karnataka to release more water from the Cauvery when it became apparent that the rains would stay away.
  • Now, after a spate of suicides in Nagapattinam district at the tail end of the Cauvery, the government had recently appointed a team to take stock of the crops.

Delayed onset of Northeast Monsoon and feeble weather systems in Bay of Bengal in 2016 were key factors leading to deficit Northeast Monsoon.

Measures tackle to crop failures:

  • The measures to tackle drought include efforts to convert crop loans from cooperative banks and commercial banks into medium term loans. Cooperative banks have lent loans to the tune of Rs. 3,028 crore this year and all of them would be converted into medium term loans.
  • Relief for crop failure would be paid as per an order notified in this regard on October 27, 2015. Crop cutting experiment would be undertaken to ensure that farmers received insurance claims.
  • Ensure employment to farmering workers: The days of work for workers under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme would be increased to 150 days from the existing 100 days to ensure livelihood for farmers affected by drought.
  • A sum of Rs. 78 crore would be spent for the fodder needs of cattle and Rs. 160 crore would be earmarked for works for improving resources for the drinking water needs in urban areas through the Municipal Administration and Water Supply Department.
  • A sum of Rs. 350 crore would be allocated for the same in rural areas through Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department.
  • While Rs. 5 crore would be allocated to boost fodder and drinking water resources to the wildlife, Rs. 25 crore would be allocated to the PWD for improving the groundwater table and to boost drinking water resources.

2.World’s Largest Street Light Replacement Programme to the Nation

Source: PIB

24×7 Affordable, Quality Power to all Citizens of the country

Union Minister of Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy and Mines, dedicated the LED based Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP), currently running in the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) area, to the Nation.

It is the World’s Largest Street Light Replacement Programme, which is being implemented by the Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a joint venture under the Ministry of Power, Government of India.

Key facts:

  • The SLNP programme is presently running in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tripura, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
    • A total of 15.59 lakh street lights have already been replaced in the country with LED bulbs, which is resulting in energy savings of 20.66 crore kWh, avoiding capacity of 51.47 MW and reducing 1.71 lakh tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per annum.

The programme aims to install LED bulbs street-lighting across different cities in the country. The LED lights will replace inefficient lamps. The initiative is part of the Government’s efforts to spread the message of energy efficiency in the country. It will result in energy savings and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions

Government believes in empowering the people and the power infrastructure in the country so as to make available 24×7 Affordable, Quality Power to all Citizens of the country.

UJALA Scheme

The fundamental achievement of one of government’s first energy efficiency pan-India programme is reflected by UJALA or the LED bulb programme.

Objectives of National LED Programme

  • Promote the use of the most efficient lighting technology at affordable rates to consumers
  • Reduce energy consumption in lighting which helps DISCOMs to manage peak demand
  • Enhance the awareness of consumers about the efficacy of using energy efficient appliances
  • Increase the demand of LED lights by aggregating requirements across the country and reduce costs; in fact cost have already reduced over 80% in last 2 years
  • Encourage and support domestic manufacturing of LED bulbs by sustaining demand and making it consistent with the ‘Make in India’ policy of the Government
  • Create robust arrangements for monitoring and verification of energy savings in a simple and transparent manner.

3.Revamped IDF gets more donations

Source: PIB

The India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians (IDF) is set to transform the Indian landscape where people from the Indian diaspora can contribute for building infrastructure in the country.

  • At the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, it received more donations than last year.
  • The IDF platform existed earlier too but contributions were never significant as there were many legal hurdles and lack of transparency. Taking these matters into account, the Centre has now made it a more dependable and transparent platform that can help build infrastructure anywhere in the country.

Indian Development Foundation:

Indian Development Foundation (IDF) has taken its enlarged and new responsibilities spanning health, education and development areas. These are priority health areas of the Govt. and IDF is focusing its efforts in these areas.

To be a Knowledge/ Execution Partner of Schools, NGOs, Corporates, and Government agencies for development programmes across India.

India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians (IDF-OI)

  • Is a not-for-profit Trust set-up by the Government of India to facilitate philanthropic contributions by Overseas Indians to social and development projects in India. IDF-OI is chaired by External Affairs Minister.
  • Presently, IDF-OI is promoting flagship programmes of Government of India- Swachh Bharat Mission and National Mission for Clean Ganga; and projects identified by the State Govts, for funding by Overseas Indians.
  • Working with State Governments in areas such as sanitation; education; drinking water; women’s empowerment et/c. Working with State Governments in areas such as sanitation; education; drinking water; women’s empowerment et/c.

4.Second Scorpene submarine ready

Source: The Hindu

Khanderi, the second Scorpene submarine under Project-75 being built at Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL) in Mumbai is all set to be launched.

  • Khanderi is named after the Island fort of Maratha forces, which played a vital role in ensuring their supremacy at sea in the late 17th century.
  • The state-of-the-art features of this Scorpene class submarine include superior stealth and the ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision guided weapons. The attack can be launched with torpedoes, as well as tube-launched anti-ship missiles, whilst underwater or on surface. The stealth features will give it an invulnerability, unmatched by many submarines.
  • The submarine is designed to operate in all theatres, including the tropics. All means and communications are provided to ensure interoperability with other components of a Naval Task Force.
  • It can undertake multifarious types of missions typically undertaken by any modern submarine like anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering, mine laying and area surveillance.
  • It is built according to the principle of modular construction, which involves dividing the submarine into a number of sections and outfitting them concurrently.

5.Environment Ministry Invites Comments on Draft Notification for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules, 2016

Source: PIB

To  Prevent Infliction of Unnecessary Pain or Suffering on Animals

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has invited comments on the draft notification of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing Rules), 2016.   The Ministry will be notifying the proposed draft Rules in the Gazette of India for public information.

Objective of the Rules:

  • The objective of the Rules is to make dog breeders and their marketers accountable and to prevent infliction of any cruelty in this process.
  • There were also no specific rules, or guidelines for mandatory registration of breeders and establishments and requirements to be met by such breeders.
  • Dog breeding and their marketing trade also mushroomed all around. At times, some cruelty has been caused in breeding and marketing of dogs, with little or no accountability.

The proposed Rules provide as under

  • It will be mandatory for all dog breeders and the dog breeding establishments to register themselves with the State Animal Welfare Board of the respective State Governments.
  • It defines the breeding requirements/conditions for sale.
  • It defines the requirements to be met by the breeders and the establishments used for breeding, or housing dogs, such as health-related requirements, housing facilities, manner of housing dogs, conditions for sale, breeding, micro-chipping, vaccination etc.
  • An inspector authorised by the State Board can inspect the establishment.
  • It is mandatory for dog breeders to maintain proper records of both male and female dogs, their breed, micro-chip number, number of litters, sale, purchase, death, rehabilitation etc.
  • Every dog breeder is required to submit yearly report to the State Board regarding animals sold, traded, bartered, brokered, given away, boarded or exhibited during previous year or any other information asked for by the State Board.

Violation of Rules:  Non-compliance of the proposed Rules will lead to cancellation of the registration of the dog breeder.

The Ministry has implemented Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960 to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain, or suffering on animals.

6.Malaysia key player in China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Maritime Silk Road takes root, China docks submarine in Malaysia

Source: The Hindu & World Economic Forum

The building of the Malacca Gateway project, a ports alliance and the recent visit of a China submarine to Kota Kinabalu signal a greater Beijing presence in the region in future.

The MSR is part of the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — a massive connectivity undertaking on land and sea, which covers 65 countries. Malaysia is fast emerging as Beijing’s top partner along the Maritime Silk Road (MSR).

  • Kota Kinabalu, is being seen as a trigger for elevated tensions in the South China Sea (SCS). The Malaysian port has a naval base facing the SCS.
  • According to the information office of China’s Ministry of Defence, the submarine and support ship arrived at the port for “rest and recreation” after completing an escort mission to the Gulf of Aden and Somalia.

Why is China building a New Silk Road?

Announced in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, the idea is that two new trade corridors – one overland, the other by sea – will connect the country with its neighbours in the west: Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe as they celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations.

  • The initiative merges both the land-based Silk Road (from China via Central Asia to Turkey and the EU) with the Maritime Route (via the Indian Ocean and Africa to Europe).
  • Both routes were created with the intention of developing transportation infrastructure, facilitating economic development and increasing trade. This 21st-century initiative is merely for China to carries major strategic economic and geopolitical calculations.

The project has proved expensive and controversial. So why is China doing it?

There are strong commercial and geopolitical forces at play here, first among which is China’s vast industrial overcapacity – mainly in steel manufacturing and heavy equipment – for which the new trade route would serve as an outlet.

  • As China’s domestic market slows down, opening new trade markets could go a long way towards keeping the national economy buoyant.
  • Hoping to lift the value of cross-border trade to $2.5 trillion within a decade, President Xi Jinping has channelled nearly $1 trillion of government money into the project.
  • It is clear that relationships with the ASEAN region, Central Asia and European countries stand to improve significantly if China directs more of its capital into developing infrastructure overseas.
  • Moreover, by striking up economic and cultural partnerships with other countries, China cements its status as a dominant player in world affairs.

India has opposed Maritime Silk Road: From Kuala Lumpur it will head to Kolkata before crossing the northern Indian Ocean to Nairobi.

The main aim of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative is to develop its landlocked western provinces and enable them to access the markets of Southeast Asia and the Middle East, thus shaping China’s regional periphery by exercising economic, cultural and political influence.

  • India was cordially invited to be a part of the new MSR but so far its response has been lukewarm.
  • India, however, remains wary of the ambitious project, especially because it includes China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC) running through PoK

China’s view:

In China’s view, the MSR will increase maritime connectivity and cooperation on disaster mitigation and the development of fisheries between the Indo-Pacific, East Africa and the Mediterranean.

In India, there are diverse views about the initiative. Some are in favor of India becoming an active partner while others are cautious of the covert military side of the MSR.

China’s view along with TPP:

  • Many view the MSR as part of a Chinese attempt to reorder Asia and undermine US influence in the region.
  • Another explanation is that the US ‘pivot’ to Asia — which focuses on concentrating additional forces and equipment in the Asia Pacific, along with establishing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — is part of a strategy to contain China by the US and its allies in Asia.

But with the future of U.S.-China relations an open question for the incoming Donald Trump administration, many have focused on whether the president-elect’s promise to withdraw from negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will enhance Beijing’s growing influence in East Asia.

China has a tradition of using a checkbook policy against India in South Asia.

  • Under this latest initiative, China is developing ports in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and is trying to enlarge its sphere of influence using its economic might in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.
  • Thus the MSR may be nothing but an economic disguise for the ‘string of pearls’ theory, which concerns the build-up of Chinese commercial and military facilities, and relationships in the India Ocean.

In the above backdrop, India is located at such a prime position that it can’t miss out on the opportunity to be part of MSR. Both the maritime and continental Silk Roads are going to traverse India’s periphery.

  • India could gain a lot from being an active partner to the initiative. India has expressed its desire to attract Chinese investments and being part of the MSR will certainly help with that.
  • Indian investment in neighboring littoral countries could help in reducing China’s sphere of influence and dominance in South Asia to some extent.
  • More than anything, if India refuses to be part of the Silk Road and the rest of the South Asian and ASEAN countries decide to join then India may become isolated. In this situation, it would be best for India to accept the invitation to join the MSR while availing itself every opportunity to join the US-led TPP.



Source: The World Economic Forum

7.Project Mausam

Source: PIB

‘Mausam’, a Ministry of Culture project. which is to be implemented by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as the nodal agency with research support of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) and National Museum as associate bodies.

  • One of the main deliverables of this project is nomination of maritime cultural landscapes across the Indian Ocean as a trans-national property on the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
  • This project aims to explore the multi-faceted Indian Ocean ‘world’ – collating archaeological and historical research in order to document the diversity of cultural, commercial and religious interactions in the Indian Ocean – extending from East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent and Sri Lanka to the Southeast Asian archipelago.
  • It also aims to promote research on themes related to the study of Maritime Routes through international scientific seminars and meetings and by adopting a multidisciplinary approach.
  • It aims to encourage the production of specialized works, as well as publications for the general public with an attempt at promoting a broader understanding of the concept of a common heritage and multiple identities.
  • Project ‘Mausam’ is not aimed to counter China’s Silk Route strategy. Instead it focuses on monsoon patterns, cultural context, maritime trade routes and coastal landscapes and examines key processes and phenomena that link different countries along the Indian Ocean littoral as well as those that connect the coastal centers to their hinterlands.

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