13, July 2017

1.Cabinet approves establishment of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), South Asia Regional Center (ISARC) at campus of National Seed Research and Training Center (NSRTC) in Varanasi

Source: PIB

Under the proposal, a Centre of Excellence in Rice Value Addition (CERVA) will be set up in Varanasi. This will include a modern and sophisticated laboratory with capacity to determine quality and status of heavy metals in grain and straw. The Centre will also undertake capacity building exercises for stakeholders across the rice value chain.

Benefits from ISARC

  • The Centre will help in utilizing the rich biodiversity of India to develop special rice varieties.
  • This will help India to achieve higher per hectare yields and improved nutritional contents.
  • India’s food and nutritional security issues will also be addressed.
  • The Centre will support in adopting value chain based production system in the country.
  • This will reduce wastage, add value and generate higher income for the farmers. The farmers in Eastern India will benefit in particular, besides those in South Asian and African countries.

Management of ISARC

  • ISARC will operate under the governance of the IRRI Board of Trustees who will appoint an appropriate IRRI staff member as Director.
  • A Coordination Committee will be headed by Director General, IRRI as Chair and Secretary, Government of India, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DACFW) as Co-Chair.
  • The other members of Coordination Committee are Deputy Director General (Crop Sciences), ICAR; Director, NSRTC; IRRI representative in India, representative of Government of UP and representatives of Governments of Nepal & Bangladesh and Private Sector.
  • For setting up of the Centre, A Memorandum of Agreement, will be signed between DAC&FW and IRRI, Philippines. The Department of DAC&FW will provide physical space for laboratories, offices, training classes, etc. with associated infrastructure and land at NSRTC, Varanasi. The Centre will be commissioned within six months.

International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

  • It is an international agricultural research and training organization with headquarters in Los Baños, Philippines.
  • It is also the largest non-profit agricultural research centre in Asia. It was established in 1960 and has offices in 17 countries.
  • It aims to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure environmental sustainability of rice farming.
  • IRRI is known for its work in developing high yeilding rice varieties that contributed to the Green Revolution in the 1960s. It advances its mission through collaborative research, partnerships, and the strengthening of the national agricultural research and extension systems of the countries IRRI works in.

  1. Cabinet approves SASEC Road Connectivity Investment Program – Tranche 2

Source: PIB

The project is being developed with ADB’s loan assistance under the South Asian Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Road Connectivity Investment Program which aims at upgradation of road infrastructure in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India (BBIN) in order to improve the regional connectivity among BBIN nations.

  • The project corridor is also a part of the Asian Highway No. 01 (AH01) and acts as India’s Gateway to the East. Thus trade, commerce and tourism in the region will get a boost.

Key facts:

  • Manipur being a landlocked state with almost 90% of the area under difficult terrain presently has only road transport as a means of mass transport system within the state.
  • Hence development of the road infrastructure is of paramount importance to improve connectivity and progress of the State and to ensure that the administrative set up reaches the isolated and remote habitats.
  • The project will improve connectivity between Imphal with the eastern part of the state.
  • Based on the existing and projected traffic requirements the NH-39 will be widened to 4 lane between Lilong village and Wanginj village, while the stretch between Wanginj village to Khongkhang will be upgraded to 2 lane with paved shoulder.

Background

  • For fulfilling India’s “Look East” Policy and to promote and enhance trade link with South East Asia, the Government of India has notified an Integrated Custom Post (ICP) at Moreh.
  • The development of this project is essential in order to support the increased traffic volume due to coming up of ICP. T
  • he workers of Manipur who specialize in creating bamboo and wood based handicraft items and uniquely designed hand woven textile items will get a new market among the Myanmar’s customers. Small scale industries such as those making farm implements and tools, stationery, plastic extrusion items, carpentry units, could also develop markets beyond the border.

SASEC: ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK

  • Myanmar was accorded an observer status of SASEC in 2013 when ADB’s annual meeting was held in Noida, India. Myanmar has been participating in annual SASEC Nodal Officials’ meetings as an observer since 2014. It was invited by the participating countries of SASEC countries to become a full member in 2015.
  • The SASEC program was formed in 2001 in response to the request of the four countries of South Asia – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal – from ADB to assist in facilitating economic cooperation among them. These four countries comprise the South Asia Growth Quadrangle (SAGQ), formed in 1996, as a vehicle for accelerating sustainable economic development through regional cooperation.
  • As a project-based partnership, the SASEC program has been helping realize regional prosperity by enhancing cross-border connectivity, facilitating faster and more efficient trade and promoting cross-border power trade.
  • Maldives and Sri Lanka joined SASEC in 2014, further expanding opportunities for enhancing economic linkages in the sub-region.

  1. Cabinet apprised of MoU between India and Bangladesh for cyber security cooperation

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has been apprised of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Bangladesh on cyber security cooperation between Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of India and Bangladesh Government Computer Incident Response Team (BGD e-Gov CIRT) Bangladesh Computer Council of Information and Communication Technology Division under the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology of Bangladesh. The MoU was signed on 8th April, 2.017.

Key facts:

  • The MoU intends to promote cooperation between CERT-In and BGD e-Gov CIRT and includes exchange of information on Cyberattacks and cyber security incidents;
  • Cyber security technology cooperation;
  • Exchange cyber security policies and best practices and Human Resource Development in this field in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations of each country and on the basis of equality, reciprocity and mutual benefits.
  • The MoU between CERT-In and BGD e-Gov CIRT would be implemented through a duly set up Joint Committee on Cyber Security.

Background

  • CERT-In is a national nodal agency under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, with the objective of securing Indian cyber space.
  • Hence, CERT-In is collaborating with overseas Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) for incident response and resolution.
  • The agreement comes in the backdrop of Governments, business and consumers are increasingly faced with a variety of cyber threats. Besides, there is a need to further improve cyber security readiness and raise awareness around the importance of keeping systems secure and security practices and procedures current and recognizing the importance of cooperation by the two organizations in the area of cyber security.

  1. Four reasons why Ahmedabad has become India’s only World Heritage City

Source: Indian Express

Barely noticed by the modern day traveler and very often ignored by historians, Ahmedabad is one of those industrialised cities of India where the past and present have fused together beautifully and produced a landscape that owes very little to European domination.

The 606-year-old walled city of Ahmedabad, was declared India’s first World Heritage City.

The organisation for world heritage cities lists a number of criteria for a place to be listed in it which includes

  • Bearing testimony to a cultural tradition or civilisation which is living or has disappeared,
  • Representing a masterpiece of human creative genius and
  • Exhibiting an important interchange of human values over a span of time, or within a cultural area of the world among several others.

Background:

  • Ahmedabad has stood out among more popular Indian cities like Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai to fit into the criteria of the the world heritage city.
  • Established in the year 1411 AD by Sultan Ahmad Shah of Gujarat, Ahmedabad was a product of the Sultan’s ambitions to create a trading rival to the neighbouring Hindu trade centre of Asaval.
  • Further, he wanted Ahmedabad to be the centre of his own line of dynasty that would replace the old Hindu capital of Anhilvad Patan, located nearby. Later, Ahmedabad was taken over by the Mughals, the Marathas and the British.

From being one of the oldest trading points in India to becoming the centre of the Indian freedom struggle under Mahatma Gandhi and then later becoming a model for sustainable development in modern India.

Here are a few reasons why Ahmedabad deservedly won the tag for world heritage city

  1. A thriving centre for trade
  • When Sultan Ahmad Shah established the city, he invited merchants, weavers and skilled craftsmen to come to Ahmedabad and help build it into a flouring centre for trade and commerce.
  • While the city exchanged hands from one ruling dynasty to another, it remained a major attraction to enterprisers from across the globe.
  • Ahmedabad lay at the crossroads of the caravan routes to Rajasthan and Delhi in the north, Malwa in the east, Sind in the west and the ports of Cambay, Surat and Broach in the south.
  • Its location ensured it gained a status of a thriving industrial centre where Dutch and English East India company ships would come for trading in indigo, saltpetre and textiles.
  • By the time the Mughals took over in the late 16th century, it had already become a splendid city, rich in culture and architecture.
  1. An architectural blend of Hindu-Muslim culture
  • The richness of architecture present in Ahmedabad is enhanced by the cultural fusion of Hindu and Muslim elements.
  • For a long time while the city was ruled by Muslim monarchs, the wealth in the region was in the hands of the Hindu and Jain merchants.
  • Consequently, while most of the public buildings were of Muslim ownership, the tone of the architecture evidently loaned much from Hindu artistic traditions.
  • Pillars were brought in from the nearby Hindu kingdoms and Hindu and Jain craftsmen were employed to build them.

Ahmad Shah’s mosque, Teen darwaza, the Jama masjid and Qutub Shah’s mosque are some of the finest examples of a rich historicity in the city.

  1. The centre for Gandhi’s freedom struggle
  • If trade is what marked the antiquity of Ahmedabad, then the nationalist uprising is what ushered it into a phase of modernity.
  • Ahmedabad’s place in modern history writing owes a great deal to Mahatma Gandhi choosing it to be his starting point for carrying out his struggle in India.
  • While much is said about Gandhi’s personality and skills to motivate the indigenous population to rise against the British, what is often forgotten is how the intrinsic qualities of a certain urban centre might have aided Gandhi in the process.

In Ahmedabad, unlike in Bombay or Calcutta, the elite who became a part of the freedom struggle, did not in any way identify with the Europeans. The trading class who made up Ahmedabad was rooted in local traditions and were fiercely opposed to European impact much before Gandhi set up his base there.

  1. Opposition to European interference in shaping cityscape
  • In his work, ‘Colonialism, Indigenous Elites and the Transformation of Cities in the Non-Western World: Ahmedabad (Western India)’, author Siddharth Raychaudhuri says that the process of transformation of non-western cities in the colonial period has most often been described as a one way process, where European rulers have shaped the physical and social dimensions of the city.
  • In the case of Ahmedabad though, Raychaudhuri maintains that a section of the indigenous elite opposed the restructuring of the city by the colonial government and instead carried out their own reorganisation of the urban centre.
  • Further, they also maintained an indigenous political and social hegemony in the city.
  • What gives Ahmedabad its distinct flavour as opposed to any other Indian metropolis or industrial hub, is that despite being a modern centre for commerce and industry, the city owed very little to the Western world for attaining that modernity.

The city’s tradition of resisting European influence also ensured that its methods of bringing about development were also locally viable and consequently more sustainable.

5.Respect and execute verdict on SYL canal issue, says Supreme Court

Source: The Hindu

Conveying its hope that the people of Punjab and Haryana to “behave properly”, the Supreme Court endorsed the Centre’s efforts to resolve the crisis between the two neighbouring States over the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal.

What SC says over the SYL Canal?

  • The court remarked that focus should be on the construction of the canal and the issue of water supply could be decided later once the work is completed.
  • A five-judge Constitution Bench had in November last year set aside the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004 which “unilaterally” terminated the 1981 water-sharing pact of the State with Haryana.
  • The apex court had concluded that the Act was illegally designed to terminate the December 31, 1981 agreement entered into among Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to re-allocate the waters of Ravi and Beas in “overall national interest and for optimum utilisation of the waters”.

Background:

  • The SYL Canal was a product of this 1981 agreement.
  • By introducing the 2004 Act, Punjab had defied two back-to-back apex court verdicts, pronounced in 2002 and 2004. The first one had directed Punjab to complete the SYL Canal in a year. The second judgment had ordered the formation of a central agency to “take control” of Punjab’s work on the canal.
  • However, Punjab maintains that the 2004 is still in force. It has argued that the November 2016 Supreme Court verdict was only an opinion given by the court on a Presidential reference and not a verdict as such to be complied as law

  1. Bitcoin trade may come under SEBI

Source: The Hindu

Currently, neither illegal nor legal in India, Bitcoin affords anonymity, in grey area

  • The government is considering the introduction of a regulatory regime for virtual or crypto currencies, such as Bitcoin, that would enable the levy of the Goods and Services Tax on their sale.
  • The new regime may possibly bring their trading under the oversight of the stock market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

Significance of this move:

  • The idea is to treat such currency in a manner similar to gold sold digitally, so that it can be traded on registered exchanges in a bid to “promote” a formal tax base, while keeping a tab on their use for illegal activities such as money laundering, terror funding and drug trafficking.

 

  • Crypto-currency that is planned to be brought under the regulatory regime is a digital currency which allows transacting parties to remain anonymous while confirming that the transaction is a valid one. It is not owned or controlled by any institution – governments or private.
  • There are multiple such currencies — bitcoin, ethereum, ripple are some of the popular ones. Currently, they are neither illegal nor legal in India. “One bitcoin today is worth as much as 60 grams of gold. The market cap for all crypto-currencies has just crossed $100 billion, with most of the increase coming in the past few months. On April 1, 2017, the total market cap was just over $25 billion, representing a 300% rise in just over 60 days.

Proposal to Ban the Bitcoin:

Banning will give a clear message that all related activities are illegal and will disincentives those interested in taking speculative risks, but it was pointed out it will impede tax collection on gains made in such activities and that regulating the currency instead would signal a boost to block chain technology, encourage the development of a supervision ecosystem (that tracks legal activities and may also assist in tracking illegal activities) and promote a formal tax base.

  • The discussion on whether crypto-currencies should be banned or regulated has been on for some time. The pros and cons for both aspects were put forth in the meeting chaired by Finance Minister.
  • A proposal to ban such currency altogether was also considered at the meeting, but found few takers among top officials from the Ministries of Finance, Home Affairs and IT as well as SEBI, the Reserve Bank of India, the State Bank of India and NITI Aayog.
  • Bitcoins were in the news recently when during the two global cyber ransomware attacks — WannaCry and Petya — attackers sought about $300 in bitcoin as ransom.
  • Crypto-currency can also be used for a lot of legal activities — such as booking tickets, buying coffee or fast food, depending of which retailers accept such currency.

Way ahead:

  • It was also suggested that government maintain limited regulation. “This means reiterating that crypto currencies are not recognised and those who deal in them do so at there own risk, while focusing on curbing illegal activitie. Blockchain technology can be separately encouraged.
  • If a decision is taken to regulate such currency, these would be treated as “digital asset, similar to gold,” which means that crypto currency owners will be able to trade them on registered exchanges.

  1. Why Djibouti is strategically important for world military powers

Source: Indian Express

In a sign of Beijing’s growing clout, the Communist country sent ships carrying its military personnel to its first overseas base in Djibouti, Africa in a bid to rapidly expand its military reach.

Significance:

  • China had already begun construction of a logistics base in Djibouti last year that they claimed will aim to resupply naval vessels working for peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Somalia and Yemen.
  • This will be China’s first naval base overseas, though Beijing describes it as simply a ‘logistics facility’.

China’s foray into Djibouti is, however, not the first one. US, France, Japan and Italy already have small military installations.

  • But the narrative of a tiny country with almost no natural resources, high unemployment rate, and vast stretches of semi-arid desert doesn’t quite explain why global military powers are making a beeline for the Horn of Africa.

What is Djibouti important?

  • Djibouti has largely weathered the storm in an otherwise volatile region marred by internal and external strife, and is viewed by many countries as a model of stability.
  • Situated on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, gateway to one of the world’s busiest trade route Suez Canal, Djibouti provides an essential port for its landlocked neighbour Ethiopia.
  • It assumes significance as the railway between their respective capitals is completed. Infrastructure projects led by China, which include construction of maritime and airports, are present here much like in the rest of Africa.
  • Djibouti’s proximity to edgy regions in the Middle East and Africa makes it strategically important for military superpowers to set up their bases here. For instance, to its south-east, Somalia continues to witness unrest with global ramifications with pirates and al-Shabab Islamic militants posing a grave threat to the tense region.
  • Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, which is situated less than 20 miles north-east across the Bab -el-Mandeb Strait, provides a rather easy passage into the Middle East without having the need to be based there.
  • Such crises have justified the need to set up military bases in the vicinity and justified international intervention.

China’s foray into Djibouti and implications for India

  • Djibouti’s location in the Indian Ocean’s northwestern edge could potentially become another of China’s ‘string of pearls’ of numerous military alliances surrounding India, including Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

(The String of pearls is a geopolitical theory on potential Chinese intentions in the Indian Ocean region. It refers to the network of Chinese military and commercial facilities and relationships along its sea lines of communication, which extend from the Chinese mainland to Port Sudan)

What does China’s state-run daily say about the development?

  • The People’s Liberation Army Daily, wrote that this development was ‘landmark move’ that seeks to expand China’s ability to ensure global peace.
  • It supported its argument saying it has so many United Nations peacekeepers in Africa and therefore its role in anti-piracy patrols is of utmost importance.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the overseas base would enable China to make “new and greater contributions” to peace in Africa and the world and would also benefit Djibouti’s economic development.



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