17, November 2016

1.Impact of FTAs- Ministry of Commerce & Industry

Source: PIB

India is a member of the following two regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs):

  1. Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area or SAFTA whose participating countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  2. India-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) on goods, services and investment whose participating countries are India, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam)

The free trade agreement (FTAs) do provide opportunities for export of agricultural (including processed) products of interest for macro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

India is negotiating the following new Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with trading partners:

  1. India-European Union Broad-based Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (India-EU BTIA) (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom)
  2. India – Thailand Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA)
  3. India – Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA)
  4. India – European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Trade & Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland)
  5. India – New Zealand CECA
  6. India – Israel FTA
  7. Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation BIMSTEC CECA (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal)
  8. India – Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Framework Agreement (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates)
  9. India – Canada FTA
  10. India – Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA)
  11. India – Australia CECA
  12. Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement among ASEAN + 6 FTA Partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand)

Before entering into negotiations with its trading partners, studies are undertaken internally, as well as through the Joint Study Group (JSG) to study the feasibility of the proposed FTAs including its benefits for and impact on the domestic industry.

2.Russia withdraws backing for International Criminal Court treaty

Source: Indian Express

The ICC angered Moscow by referring to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea as an armed conflict.

President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order removing Russia’s signature from the International Criminal Court’s founding treaty, piling pressure on a court that is already reeling from withdrawals by some African countries.

The executive order mentioned that Russia is pulling out of the 2002 Rome Statute, which establishes the ICC’s status and powers. However, Russia had never ratified the statue meaning it was never member subject to its jurisdiction.

Issue:

Russia was against by ICC’s declaration that Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula was an armed conflict. Russia is also under international pressure over its campaign of air strikes in Syria over the issue of bombing civilians and civilian targets. Russia has denied those allegations. Besides, ICC is also examining allegations of war crimes committed by Russian and Georgian forces during a brief 2008 war.

The International Criminal Court:

  • The ICC was established to pass judgement on four international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.
  • ICC based in The Hague, Netherlands is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal.
  • It was established by the Rome Statute which was adopted in July 1998 end entered into force in July 2002.
  • ICC is seen as a successor to Nuremburg trials after World War II and ad-hoc UN war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
  • The multilateral treaty of Rome Statute serves as the ICC’s foundational and governing document.
  • Currently, there are 124 states which are party to Rome Statute and therefore members of the ICC (India and China are not its members).

3.Merger of Rail Budget With Union Budget

Source: PIB

The Government has decided to merge Rail Budget with the Union Budget from budget year 2017-18. The merger of Railway Budget with General Budget is based on the recommendations of the Committee headed by Shri Bibek Debroy, Member, NITI Aayog and a separate paper on ‘Dispensing with the Railway Budget’ by Shri Bibek Debroy along with Shri Kishore Desai.

The salient features of merger and the benefits:

  1. Ministry of Railways will continue to function as a departmentally run commercial undertaking.
  2. A separate Statement of Budget Estimates and Demand for Grant will be created for Railways.
  3. A single Appropriation Bill, including the estimates of Railways, will be prepared and presented by Ministry of Finance to Parliament and all legislative work connected therewith will be handled by Ministry of Finance.
  4. Railways will get exemption from payment of dividend to General Revenues and its Capital-at-charge would stand wiped off.
  5. Ministry of Finance will provide Gross Budgetary Support to Ministry of Railways towards meeting part of its capital expenditure.
  6. Railways may continue to raise resources from market through Extra-Budgetary Resources as at present to finance its capital expenditure.
  7. The presentation of a unified budget will help present a holistic picture of the financial position of the Government.
  8. Merger of Rail Budget with Union Budget would facilitate multimodal transport planning between highways, railways and inland waterways.
  9. It will allow Ministry of Finance greater elbow-room at the time of mid-year review for better allocation of resources.

4.India’s food safety authority- FSSAI

Source: Indian Express

India’s food safety authority has not been sure-footed on the matter of issuing standards for fortified foods

The Food and Safety Authority of India (FSSAI) announced that it is working on fortification standards for packaged food products such as cereals and biscuits.

Fortification means bolstering the nutritional content of a food product by increasing essential micronutrients such as minerals and vitamins.

  • The FSSAI has also issued draft guidelines for five fortified products — rice, wheat, salt, flour, milk and edible oil.
  • For a country long beset by the lack of food safety standards, the new guidelines are a significant first step. However, the food safety authority has not been very surefooted about fortified foods.

On the one hand, it is contemplating operationalising the guidelines for rice, wheat, salt, milk and edible oil, even before issuing a final notification. On the other hand, the agency has not specified a deadline for setting standards for packaged foods.

Objectives of the Summit were to:

  • Review global and national scientific evidence in support of fortification of food.
  • Share global and national experience and lessons learned on fortification of food.
  • Develop a food-category wise roadmap for getting supply side ready for fortification.
  • Develop roadmap for mandating fortified food under key Government programmes.
  • Develop overall communication strategy for both supply and demand side interventions.

National Summit on Fortification of Food

Five categories of staple foods and micronutrients under focus were:

  • Wheat flour-Iron, Folic acid , Zinc, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pyridoxine
  • Rice-Iron, Folic acid, Zinc, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pyridoxine
  • Milk-Vitamin A and Vitamin D
  • Oil-Vitamin A and Vitamin D
  • Salt-Iodine or double fortified with Iodine and Iron

Background:

Food fortification: Opinion of certifying the salience of fortified foods to combat malnutrition.

  • The first documented evidence of food fortification was in the early 1900s in the US when vitamin B3 was added to coarsely ground corn — the staple of the poor in the country — to help combat the rise of pellagra, a disease caused by the deficiency of this vitamin.
  • In Britain, after the First World War, the government ordered vitamins A and D to be added to margarine because butter had become a scarce commodity in the country.
  • In India, food fortification began in the early 1960s when iodine was added to salt to combat goiter. But while the UK and the US and many other countries have stringent standards on food fortification, India has been slow to get its act together.

View  of the government’s recent emphasis:

The FSSAI’s indecisiveness is especially troubling in view of the government’s recent emphasis on fortified food

  • Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare announced that fortified food would be a key element in the government’s fight against malnutrition.
  • Programmes such as the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Scheme and the Public Distribution System would be mandated to buy and distribute fortified food.

In a country where the unorganised sector plays a significant role in production, processing and packaging of food products, stringent standards are an elementary first step. It is unfortunate that the FSSAI has not been pro-active on the matter.

5.To combat air pollution, NGT comes out with a range of directions

Source: The Hindu

Panel directs the States to enforce their orders on vehicular pollution, dust pollution, solid waste and crop burning.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT):

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) passed a slew of directions, including the setting up of centralised and State level monitoring committees, to prepare action plans to combat pollution.

Terming “severe” levels of pollution when PM 10 and PM 2.5 are above 431 and 251 in the ambient air, a bench headed by NGT chairperson asked Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to consider banning 10-year-old diesel vehicles from plying on the roads.

State committee:

The NGT directed that every State committee should, in their first meeting, notify one district where land use of agriculture is high and make it a model district for implementing orders to stop stubble burning.

When air pollution enters alarming or ‘severe’ levels, immediate steps are required to be taken as environmental emergency. According to experts when PM 10 and PM 2.5 are above 431 and 251 micrograms per cubic metre respectively, then it is the situation of severe emergency in the ambient air.

  • In such emergency, States shall immediately provide happy seeders or other such machines in agriculture fields for removal of agriculture residue and incentives should be provided to farmers to sell their paddy straw to biomass plants, industries and board making unit.
  • All construction and demolition activities and transportation of construction material should be halted temporarily and stone crushers should be directed to shut down.

The panel directed the inter-State central monitoring committee and State committees to enforce their orders on vehicular pollution, dust pollution, solid waste and crop burning.

  1. Hand-in-Hand 2016

Source: PIB

It is a joint military exercise between India and China which recently began in Pune. India has organised this joint military exercise.

  • The exercise is aimed at sharing the expertise in drills and practices while tackling insurgency and terrorism and thereby promote healthy military-to-military relations between India and China.
  • This is the sixth such joint exercise being organised between the two countries. First such exercise was held in China at Kunming of Yunnan province in 2007.
  • The first phase of the exercise consists of familiarisation with weapons and equipment. Thereafter, the second phase consists of basic training that includes combat conditioning, firing of personal weapon, support weapon and practice of drills like establishment of covert observation post, house clearing, cordon & search and humanitarian and disaster relief operations.

  1. INS SUMITRA

Source: PIB

In pursuit of India’s ‘Act East’ policy and outreach to friendly countries, the Indian Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessel Sumitra, has arrived at Auckland, New Zealan.

The ship would represent the Indian Navy at the Royal New Zealand Navy International Naval Review 2016.

  • The ship’s visit to New Zealand is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and enhancing maritime security cooperation between the two countries.
  • Sumitra, is the fourth of the Saryu class ships, based on an indigenous design and constructed by M/s Goa Shipyard Ltd, India
  • Since commissioning in 2014, the ship has been deployed for multiple operational tasks, the most notable being ‘Operation Rahat’, which entailed the evacuation of personnel of various nationalities from war-torn Yemen in 2015.

  1. Successful Maiden Flight of Rustom – II

Source: PIB

Heralding a new era in the indigenous development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), DRDO today successfully carried out the maiden flight of TAPAS 201 (RUSTOM – II), a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV.

  • The test flight took place from Aeronautical Test Range (ATR), Chitradurga, 250 km from Bangalore which is a newly developed flight test range for the testing of UAVs and manned aircraft.

Key facts:

  • The flight accomplished the main objectives of proving the flying platform, such as take-off, bank, level flight and landing etc.
  • The UAV weighing two tonnes was put into air by a dedicated team of young scientists of DRDO. It was piloted (external and internal) by the pilots from the Armed Forces.
  • It is also the first R&D prototype UAV which has undergone certification and qualification for the first flight from the Center for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC) and Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA).
  • TAPAS 201, a multi-mission UAV is being developed to carry out the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) roles for the three Armed Forces with an endurance of 24 hours.
  • It is capable to carry different combinations of payloads like Medium Range Electro Optic (MREO), Long Range Electro Optic (LREO), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Communication Intelligence (COMINT) and Situational Awareness Payloads (SAP) to perform missions during day and night.

The  development of UAV immensely contributes towards the Make-in-India initiative as many critical systems such as airframe, landing gear, flight control and avionics sub-systems are being developed in India with the collaboration of private industries.



Leave a Reply