IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 4th December 2017
1st Phase of Chabahar port launched
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- International relations.
- The first phase of Iran’s Chabahar port, which holds significant strategic and economic importance for India, was launched recently.
- The overall development of the port is planned in four phases.
- India, Iran and Afghanistan have signed an agreement to grant preferential treatment and tariff reductions at Chabahar to Indian goods headed toward Central Asia and Afghanistan.
Significance of Chabahar port:
- The port allows India to bypass Pakistan and reach land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asian countries.
- New Delhi views the Chabahar port project as a strategic response to China’s development of the Gwadar port in Pakistan, and its aggressive pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative.
- It is also key to accessing the Central Asian markets for Indian goods.
- Once the project is complete, Chabahar will be linked with the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), which currently stretches from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas in the Gulf to Russia, Eurasia and Europe.
- The port will increase the capacity of loading and unloading of ships as well as the employment rate in the province, according to an official with the Sistan and Baluchestan Ports and Maritime Organisation.
Article link: Click here
US withdraws from the New York declaration
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- International relations.
- New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants intends at protecting the rights of migrants. The declaration calls for a global compact on migration, and is expected to be adopted next year.
- Rationale given- staying in the agreement would be inconsistent with American immigration policy.
- The decision is consistent with efforts by the Donald Trump administration to limit incoming immigration and refugee settlement.
Article link: Click here
‘Green Habitat’ Concept
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Environment and ecology.
Amid concerns about unscientific construction practises, the Kerala government is considering promoting a ‘green habitat’ concept giving thrust to eco-friendly and reusable building materials, natural water storage and solid waste management.
The ‘green habitat’ concept:
- The buildings, under the concept, are planned to be designed in such a way that natural sunlight and wind is used to maximum and the usage of electricity reduces to the minimum.
- A rainwater harvesting or natural water storage system will be a feature of such ‘green’ buildings, where even kitchen and drainage water would be recycled and reused for other household purposes.
- The danger posed by unscientific construction practices.
- The scarcity of conventional building materials.
Article link: Click here
TOPIC: General Studies 1 and 2:
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
- Social empowerment
- Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues
India: The Hungry Nation
‘An empty stomach is not a good political advisor.’ —Albert Einstein
Per capita food production in India has increased by 26% (2004-05 to 2013-14)
It has doubled in the last 50 years.
This kind of growth rate in food production is expected to reduce hunger significantly over time. However, Global Hunger Index (GHI) report prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) shows India’s hunger level in very poor light.
What does the Global Hunger Index (GHI) report highlights?
- The 2017 GHI score has ranked India 100 out of the 119 countries listed.
- India is identified as one among the worst performers and underachievers in addressing food and nutrition security.
- India’s 2017 GHI score is at the high end of the ‘serious’ category, and is one of the main factors pushing South Asia to the category of worst performing region on the GHI this year.
- As of 2015-16, more than a fifth [21%] of children in India suffer from wasting [low weight for height] — up from 20% in 2005-2006.
- India’s child wasting rate has not shown any substantial improvement over the past 25 years.
- India has made considerable improvement in reducing its child stunting rate, down 29% since 2000, but even that progress leaves India with a relatively high stunting rate of 38.4.
Despite improvements, India still faces a problem of undernourishment and poor child health. India’s high ranking on the Global Hunger Index [GHI] again this year brings to the fore the disturbing reality of the country’s stubbornly high proportions of malnourished children.
Even with the massive scale up of national nutrition-focused programmes in India, drought and structural deficiencies have left large number of poor in India at risk of malnourishment in 2017.
About Global Hunger Index
The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger globally and by country and region. Calculated each year by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the GHI highlights successes and failures in hunger reduction and provides insights into the drivers of hunger. By raising awareness and understanding of regional and country differences in hunger, the GHI aims to trigger actions to reduce hunger.
The GHI, now in its 12th year, ranks countries based on four key indicators — the percentage of population that is undernourished; percentage of children under five years who suffer from wasting; percentage of children under five who suffer from stunting, and child mortality.
The report ranked 119 countries in the developing world, nearly half of which have ‘extremely alarming,’ ‘alarming’ or ’serious’ hunger levels.
Major factors responsible for poor ranking:
Evidence shows that weight and height of children are not solely determined by food intake but are an outcome of a complex interaction of factors related to genetics, the environment, sanitation and utilisation of food intake. The IFPRI acknowledges that only 45% of child mortality is due to hunger or undernutrition.
India’s ranking in terms of child mortality, child stunting and child wasting is 80, 106 and 117, respectively.
- Typically, groups with the least social, economic, or political power suffer hunger or malnutrition. This uneven distribution of hunger and malnutrition in all its forms is rooted in inequalities of social, political, and economic power.
- Socioeconomic class and geography intersect with, and often surpass, gender as an axis of inequality. “Power imbalances, often stemming from economic inequalities, are key factors in the way food systems operate”. Families’ income, social status, and location often appear to play a greater role in determining hunger. Hunger and inequality are inextricably linked.
Recent policy actions:
- India has developed and launched an action plan on ‘undernourishment free India’ by 2022. The plan shows stronger commitment and greater investments in tackling malnutrition in the coming years.
- Article 47 of the Constitution, inter alia, provides that the state shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties.
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which India is a signatory, also cast responsibilities on all state parties to recognise the right of everyone to adequate food.
- The Food Security Bill recognises the right to food which is the aim to a hunger-free nation. The Food security is not just a matter of the availability of food, but even more of the access of households and individuals to sufficient nutritious food.
- By committing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the international community promised to eradicate hunger and reduce inequality by 2030. Yet the world is still not on track to reach this target.
India today is home to the third largest number of dollar billionaires in the world but, at the same time, harbours within its borders a third of the world’s poor and hungry.
It’s high time to think whether we have to accept the bullet train or control hunger, malnutrition and child mortality. The governments must actively include in the policy-making process under-represented groups, such as small-scale farmers and disadvantaged groups, to reduce poverty and hunger.
Connecting the dots:
- What do you mean by Global Hunger Index? India comes under the serious category in the report. This is despite multiple schemes launched by the government. Critically discuss the reasons behind.
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
Diversion of R. Brahmaputra by China
China is planning to divert the waters of the Yarlung Tsangpo (the upper stream of India’s Brahmaputra) to its water-starved Xinjiang province.
Xinjiang, China’s largest administrative division, comprises vast swathes of uninhabitable deserts and dry grasslands.
A 1000 km-long tunnel is being tested in order to transfer water.
South-North Water Transfer project:
The diversion has been a long-standing part of the grand South-North Water Transfer project conceptualised as early as in the 1950s by Mao Zedong.
Understanding the flow of the river:
The Brahmaputra is identified as the flow downstream of the meeting of three tributaries, namely Luhit, Dibang and Dihang, near Sadiya.
Out of the total length of the Brahmaputra of 2,880 km, 1,625 km is in Tibet flowing as Yarlung Tsangpo, 918 km is in India known as Siang, Dihang and Brahmaputra and the rest 337 km in Bangladesh has the name Jamuna till it merges into Padma near Goalando.
As a trans-Himalayan tributary, Yarlung is substantially fed by snow and glacial melts, in addition to rainfall. Snow and glacial melt, the main source of run-off in the Tibetan region, contributes negligibly to the total flow.
Understanding the geography of the region:
The Tibetan Plateau, often referred to as “the roof of the world”, stops the monsoon from the Indian Ocean reaching Xinjiang, leaving the Gobi Desert in the north and the Taklimakan desert in the south unsuitable for human settlement. The Xinjiang province of China comprises of this desert area.
- For India, national security implications follow as the Yarlung Tsangpo also flows into a disputed border region with China.
- Another concern relates to the impact of the projects on the sediment flows. Water diversion can affect sediment flow.
- The region is also earthquake-prone and it could lead to a huge natural disaster.
- Any project that diverts water from upstream Brahmaputra is likely to annoy both New Delhi and Dhaka, as the river is a major water resource for both northeastern India and Bangladesh.
There are four critical points that emerge from the history of interactions over water between China and India-
- The Brahmaputra agreement between China and India is a suboptimal arrangement within broader bilateral relations.
As per the current agreement, China has thus far agreed to share hydrological data on the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra (YTB) during the monsoon seasons. The agreement, at best, is a piecemeal discount offered by China.
Despite two decades of negotiation, further cooperation on water, however, is in a state of a deadlock.
- Discussions over the YTB have often been overshadowed by the border dispute.
Sino-Indian history is replete with examples wherein despite tense bilateral relations, cooperation over transboundary rivers have occurred. For instance, despite border incursion by the Chinese army in the Depsang Valley in Ladakh in 2013, China and India went ahead to sign the extension of the 2002 Memorandum of Understanding on data sharing on the Brahmaputra river.
However, there has been no progress in discussing more important issues of who has the right to how much water and the impact of dams and diversions on the upper reaches of the river.
- China’s approach to transboundary water sharing is shifting towards multilateral arrangements.
In 2015, China signed the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) framework along with five other countries through which the Mekong flows.
In South Asia, China has been insistent in establishing greater ties with Bangladesh on flood forecasting, water technologies, and water management.
India, on the other hand, prefers bilateral relations, as it has with Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.
China charges approximately $125,000 for the data it provides to India; at the same time, it sends similar data to Bangladesh for free. By way of improving relationship with Bangladesh, China could well be aiming to encircle India to reach a deal on the sharing of YTB that favours China’s objective of economic expansionism.
- The Indian approach to the YTB issue is influenced by developmental imperatives and domestic politics.
The Brahmaputra is an important resource for India’s own water diversion plans – the national river interlinking project – and is considered a powerhouse to meet India’s energy demands in the future.
India tends to play the lower riparian card to gain sympathy from its domestic political constituencies, especially of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
What India needs to do?
India will need to be more adept in responding to Brahmaputra river-related issues.
- India needs to clearly envision the desired end goal and strategic outcomes for dealing with impending water conflicts.
- India needs to de-emphasise China’s role for the time being and re-strengthen its relationship with Bangladesh.
It needs to push the impending Teesta river agreement and restore its image as a responsible upper riparian.
- India needs to mirror its strength and firmness in negotiations with China on water rights, as it did in the case of the Doklam stand-off and in opposing the Belt and Road Initiative, rather than projecting itself as a victim.
There are currently no water treaties between India, China, and Bangladesh. India will certainly have to take a strong stand as far as this project goes, as it can be disastrous for India and Bangladesh.
Connecting the dots:
- China is planning to divert the rivers of R. Brahmaputra by building 1000-km tunnel. Discuss the implications of such a diversion. Also suggest ways India needs to tackle the issue.
The gag on free speech
A misleading hunger index
An uncertain energy future
Return to alma ata
Evidence based policy mistakes
Don’t discount navy’s role in armed forces