18&19, February 2018

  1. Compensatory Afforestation Act

Source: The Hindu

The government has notified the draft Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Rules, 2018 to facilitate utilisation of over Rs50,000 crore among states to expand India’s forest cover. The draft rules, which come nearly one and half years after the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill was passed by Parliament in July 2016, specify the activities that would be allowed or restricted in a forest area.

Draft rules:

  • According to the proposed rules, 80% of the “net present value (NPV)” can be used for forest and wildlife management activities like assisted natural regeneration, artificial regeneration (by plantations), protection of plantations and forests, pest and disease control in forest, forest fire prevention and others. 20% of the NPV, in a financial year, “shall be utilised for strengthening the forest and wildlife related infrastructure, capacity building of the personnel of state forest departments and other associated agencies and organisations involved in utilisation of these monies”.
  • The draft rules also specified a list of activities that can be undertaken or are not allowed from the fund. It allows activities like establishment, upgradation and maintenance of modern nurseries, purchase and maintenance of communication devices, construction, up-gradation and maintenance of inspection paths. These activities “shall be taken up in consultation with the Gram Sabha or Van Sanrakshan Samiti (VSS) or Village Forest Committee as the case may be” and shall be in consonance with the provisions of FRA 2006.
  • The fund will not be used for activities like payment of salary, travelling allowances, medical expenses to regular employees of the state forest department, undertaking foreign visits, payment for legal services, purchase of cars, construction of residential and official buildings for officers above forest range officers.

Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act 2016:

  • This act provides for setting up Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) at both central and state level to ensure expeditious and transparent utilization of amounts realized in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose.
  • The act also seeks to establish the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India, and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of each state. The payments into the funds include compensatory afforestation, NPV, and any project-specific payments.

Criticisms:

  • Environmentalists and forest rights activists have criticized the draft rules stating they violate the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.
  • They say these will result in further atrocities and crimes against tribals and forest dwellers. FRA Act mandates that gram sabhas (village councils) have both the right and the power to protect, manage and conserve their forests.

  1. Chabahar port

Source: The Hindu

India and Iran have signed a significant pact which gives New Delhi operational control of a part of the strategically located Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman for 18 months. The first phase of the Chabahar port was inaugurated in December last, opening a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.

Where is Chabahar port?

  • Iran’s Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country. The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast and India can bypass Pakistan with the Chabahar port becoming functional.

Why Chabahar port is crucial for India?

  • The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan. Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
  • Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
  • With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
  • With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
  • Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This is will, in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.
  • From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.

 Way ahead:

  • Chabahar port is crucial for India as it is easily accessible from Indian western ports of Mumbai and Kandla. While, Iran would benefit from increased trade, earn transit fees and witness major infrastructural investments and developments. Also, development of Chabahar port will have a multiplier effect on the growth of its economy and boost foreign investments in the country.

  1. ‘Watan ko Jano’

Source: The Hindu

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had recently organized the programme “Watan Ko Jano”.

Watan Ko Jano:

  • “Watan Ko Jano” is sponsored jointly by Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India (Kashmir Cell) and State Rehabilitation Council Social Welfare Department. The programme aims to give exposure to the youth and children of Jammu and Kashmir about the cultural and socio-economic development taking place in other parts of the country.
  • Youth and children hit by militancy and from weaker sections of the society have been identified for the purpose.

  1. Northeast Venture Fund

Source: The Hindu

In a bid to make Northeast a favourite destination for young Startups, the government has invited young start-ups to avail the benefits of Northeast Venture Fund.

Northeast Venture Fund:

  • The Ministry of DoNER had rolled out “Venture Fund” for anybody who wishes to Startup in the Northeast region, which would provide a huge financial relief particularly to young entrepreneurs. Northeast Venture Fund is the first dedicated venture capital fund for North-Eastern region and the initiative to set it up began in April this year.
  • It has been set up by North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd (NEDFi), which already has the mandate to encourage entrepreneurship in the region, primarily by offering support to the first-generation entrepreneurs. In addition, the NEDFi also performs the role of hand-holding and capacity building.

Significance:

  • While all the avenues of livelihood and new ventures are gradually getting exhausted in other parts of the country and States, the immense unexplored avenues and potentials of North Eastern region are still available. With its vast unexplored avenues, those looking for livelihood will soon find a potential enterprise in the Northeast, particularly in fruit, food, handicraft and tourism industry.

  1. Kerala to get MGNREGS assets geo- tagged

Source: The Hindu

Kerala is planning to get assets generated under MGNREGS geo- tagged and perhaps become the first state to achieve this distinction. The state Rural Development Department has already geo- tagged over 1 lakh assets.

Need for geotagging:

  • The scale of rural assets created under MGNREGA is very large. Since the inception of the programme in financial year 2006-07, about 2.82 Crore assets have been created under the programme. On an average, about 30 Lakh Assets are created annually which includes a variety of works such as water harvesting structures, plantations, rural infrastructure, flood control measures, individual assets for sustainable livelihood, community infrastructure and so on.

What is geotagging?

  • Geotagging is the process of adding geographical information to various media in the form of metadata. The data usually consists of coordinates like latitude and longitude, but may even include bearing, altitude, distance and place names.



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