IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains
Focus)- 4th January 2018
Zoji La Tunnel: Between Ladakh and Kashmir
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Infrastructure
- The cabinet approved the construction of a 14.2 km tunnel in Zoji La, to provide all-weather connectivity between Ladakh and Kashmir, while also giving a strategic edge to the armed forces in the region.
- The project, said to be Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel, is estimated to cost Rs 6,809-crore.
- Situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway, Zoji La remains closed from December to April due to heavy snowfall and avalanches, cutting off the Ladakh region from Kashmir.
- This project, along with other ongoing projects like the 6.5 km long Z-Morh tunnel at Gagangir, would ensure safe, fast and cheap connectivity between the two regions of Kashmir and Ladakh.
- The project, on completion, would lead to enormous boost in employment as local businesses will get linked to the national market and the beautiful region is able to receive round-the-year tourist traffic.
- The region of Ladakh remains cut off from the rest of the country during the winter months due to heavy snowfall. The tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity to Ladakh region.
- It will also be of strategic value to the armed forces.
Article link: Click here
Jal Marg Vikas Project
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Infrastructure
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the more than ₹5,369 crore Jal Marg Vikas Project for development of fairway on National Waterway-1 with the technical and investment support of the World Bank.
- The project will extend over Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
- The project is expected to be completed by March 2023.
- The project will provide alternative mode of transport that will be environment friendly and cost effective.
- The project would contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country while providing a boost to infrastructure development.
- The NW-1 development and operations will lead to direct employment generation to the tune of 46,000 and indirect employment of 84,000 will be generated by vessel construction industry.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced JMVP in Budget Speech of July 2014, with an aim to enable commercial navigation of at least 1,500 tonnes vessels in Ganga.
Article link: Click here
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- India and its International 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, Indian diaspora.
Re-Engaging India and Pakistan
Intellectual partition: Background
While the two countries had been physically partitioned before, the ‘intellectual partition’ of India and Pakistan is now taking place.
The “intellectual and emotional partition” of the two countries is more stark today. Indian and Pakistani societies have learnt to look away from each other culturally.
Pakistani students learn a language more Arabic than Urdu, of a polity that begins in 1947, and about an ancient history that relates to foreign invaders from the country’s west more than the shared history with its east.
On the Indian side, contemporary cultural linkages have been severed, with Abida Parveen and Ghulam Ali no longer able to perform in India, Pakistani actors barred from work in Indian films, and a television network stopping the very popular telecast of Pakistani soap operas.
Sporting events are fewer, and there is little “healthy rivalry” when Indian and Pakistani teams do meet: instead a defeat becomes a national disgrace, while a victory is celebrated as a quasi-military conquest.
Visas are still granted for pilgrimages on both sides, but for all other travel they are tightly controlled and granted as exceptions to the rule.
Bilateral trade- At risk
- Bilateral trade, which had developed a low but steady normal, could be reduced even further now: as Indian development of Chabahar port in Iran circumvents Pakistan by sea, and an air cargo corridor to Afghanistan replaces land cargo entirely.
- Pakistan is willing to risk its trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia, but won’t allow Indian trade to Afghanistan come through Wagah.
Increasing ceasefire violations:
- ‘Trading fire’ at the Line of Control (LoC) has increased, where Pakistan attempts to push in infiltrators over the LoC into India under covering fire, and Indian troops fire back, taking also a high toll for civilians on both sides.
- After the 2003 ceasefire had been implemented, villagers on either side of the LoC had returned to their homes and rebuilt schools along the area.
Most of that peace has been undone by the past few years of ceasefire violations.
- From 12 ceasefire violations (CFVs) on both sides combined and one civilian casualty in 2006, 2016 saw 51 dead in about 900 CFVs.
The discourse on terrorism is even more divided.
- After the Mumbai attacks of 2008, Pakistan admitted in public statements at least that the perpetrators of the attacks would be brought to justice. Yet in the past three years, the Mumbai trial in Rawalpindi has all but ground to a halt.
- The Lashkar-e-Taiba’s operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi is out on bail.
- 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed, out of custody last month, plans to stand for elections in 2018 in Pakistan.
- On the Pakistani side, there’s growing belief that India funds groups such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as well as insurgent groups in Balochistan.
Re-engaging: A necessity
While both India and Pakistan have recently appointed new High Commissioners to Islamabad and Delhi, respectively, there is very little hope of any fresh initiative at this point.
It is necessary for both sides to stem the intellectual partition as:
- India has long opposed “third-party interventions”, but the lack of dialogue with Pakistan is imposing just that, with every dispute between the two countries now being taken up at global forums: the United Nations, Financial Action Task Force, International Court of Justice, and World Bank for the Indus Waters Treaty.
- With the U.S. drawing India into its Afghanistan policy, and China’s stakes in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the subcontinent is becoming an area of contestation by players bigger than both India and Pakistan.
- Even in Afghanistan, their interests are being increasingly defined by the coalitional arcs being drawn: with the U.S., India, and Afghanistan ranged on one side; and Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and the Taliban on the other.
- India’s decision to stay out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meet in Pakistan has complicated its standing as a regional leader.
While alternative arrangements such as The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) initiative and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) represent some parts of the region, they cannot replace the whole, and the region becomes easier to fragment, as China has managed to do by making inroads into Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
- The growing distance between the people of both countries will be much more difficult for their governments to bridge in the future.
The two sides can explore simple engagements on the environment, medical tourism, energy pipelines and electric grids in the interim. In a world where connectivity is the new currency, and multiple alignments are replacing polar geopolitics, it is hard to justify the disconnected space between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Connecting the dots:
- India and Pakistan are going intellectual partition today. Discuss why is it important for the two countries to sort out the issues mutually.
TOPIC: General Studies 3:
- Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment
Financial security for poor and the elderly
India is home to one-fifth of the world’s population which includes a third of the world’s poor and one-eighth of the world’s elderly. Several million of them who spend their whole lives as informal workers have no retirement security other than the hope that their children will care for them in their old age.
This arrangement worked well as long as the joint family structure was the dominant characteristic of Indian society. However, with new social norms eroding the family-based system of support, old-age care for low-income citizens has become a critical challenge.
With poor financial literacy, these people face considerable challenges in making decisions for retirement planning.
India is experiencing a demographic transition leading to lower fertility, increased life expectancy, and a consequent increase in the proportion of the elderly.
- Families are shrinking and transforming into nuclear units.
- Individualistic attitudes and rising aspirations with the accompanying changes in lifestyles are widening the generation gap
- India’s ageing population is expected to grow at more than double the rate of the general population. The UN Population Division estimates that by 2050, India will have 21.16 per cent of the population above the age of 60 as compared to 60.34 per cent aged between 15 and 59 years.
Issues with old age in India-
According to the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) of the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), 45 per cent of elderly males and 75 per cent of elderly females are currently fully dependent on others.
The main issues that characterise old age security are:
- Traditional systems of inter-generational care are either breaking down or are no longer perceived as reliable.
- Assets, especially land and property, are seen as the best way to guarantee old-age security but seem to be out of reach for many poor people.
- Poor people usually have a low estimate of and little experience with their capacity to use savings as a route to old-age security.
Immature pension industry-
India has a very young and immature pension industry and a population that is not particularly keen to secure its retirement.
A mere 7.4 per cent of the total Indian population is covered under any form of pension plans, which is an alarming a figure in itself. India spends 1.45 per cent of its GDP on social protection, among the lowest in Asia, far lower than China, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and even Nepal.
- The biggest challenge is the fact that almost 85 per cent of Indian labour is still deployed in the informal sector, mostly as daily wage workers. It is extremely difficult to cover informal sector employees under a national pension scheme.
- The reluctance of people towards investing any part of their income over a large period of time, an absence of regular income for clients, poor infrastructure and connectivity, and remote spread of clientele.
Government schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana and the New Pension Scheme (NPS) of 2003 are steps in the right direction. The NPS is slowly gaining popularity and expects huge enrolment from the informal labour segment.
For the poor and vulnerable, two types of pension could be provided.
- Public or social pension, where the state raises revenue and redistributes to citizens when they reach a stipulated age in order to guarantee them a dignified life.
- Micro-pension, a personal retirement savings plan.
Though informal sector workers may not “retire” in the formal sense like employees in the organised sector, they need to prepare for the eventual reduction in earning capacity that will occur during old age, especially on account of ill health. Micro-pension, therefore, aims to provide an income stream to coincide with this decline in earning capacity.
A pension is a financial tool that is generally defined as a system of monthly payments by an individual during his working life to enable her/him to maintain a decent standard of living post-retirement.
There is an immediate need for a reliable and convenient pension programme to address the old age problems of the poor.
- To determine how long-term saving products might help solve the problem of old-age income security, an improved understanding of the behavioural, economic and institutional barriers to participation are required.
- For micro-pensions to succeed, a delicate balance between economic viability, generation of adequate returns, and customised features for the participants is required.
- As the flow of income of low-income communities is uncertain or volatile owing to the nature of their economy, they should be offered a degree of financial flexibility.
- In order to facilitate the making of frequent deposits, convenient door-to-door deposit collection has to be organised.
An ideal micro-pension programme needs to address governance, design, administrative and efficiency issues to succeed and requires a multi-model implementation of micro-pension plans in addition to a separate set of regulations. The pension system of the economy has to evolve quickly, or else the economy will be left in a dire state.
Connecting the dots:
- Discuss the issues the old age in India when it comes to financail security post-retirement. Micro-pension programmes help sort out the issues. Discuss.
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