IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 22nd May 2018
The Permanent Residency Status Scheme
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Indian Economy
- In news- Two years after it was launched by the Union government, the Permanent Residency Status (PRS) scheme is yet to find a single applicant.
- The Union Cabinet had cleared the PRS in 2016 to boost its “Make in India” policy. The scheme is open for foreign investors who invest a minimum of ₹10 crore within 18 months or ₹25 crore in 36 months.
- Except Pakistani citizens or third-country nationals of Pakistani origin, the scheme is open for citizens of every country.
- Most European Union countries, the U.S., Canada and others offer permanent residency to foreign investors.
- The U.S. offers the EB-5 visa programme where foreigners could apply for permanent residency if they created employment opportunities for 10 people with a minimum investment of ₹6.5 crore.
General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General Studies 3:
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
National Policy on Biofuel: Key features and Challenges
India’s new National Policy on Biofuel has been announced recently.
- The policy significantly expands the sources from which ethanol can be produced and also allows for blending ethanol from multiple bio feedstock — and not just ethanol produced from sugarcane, as was the case earlier — with petrol.
- The policy also holds significant potential gains for farmers.
Under the new policy, the raw material sourcing net for ethanol is being significantly expanded to include, besides sugarcane juice, sugar beet, sweet sorghum, corn, cassava, damaged wheat, broken rice and rotten potatoes. There is also a bonus for civic administrations, since ethanol can now be produced from municipal solid waste, as well as fuels like bio natural gas. To that extent, the policy can help turn refuse into gold.
- The policy also envisages using rice and wheat chaff and other biomasses as feedstock for ethanol production. This opens up a large and remunerative market for products on which the farmer was bearing the losses caused by erratic weather and poor storage conditions.
- Beyond this, used cooking oil can also double up as a feedstock for biodiesel which is welcome since India is one of the world’s largest consumers of edible oil and generates a huge quantity of used cooking oil as waste.
Execution will be a challenge:
- To convert India’s existing biofuel potential into reality, huge investments need to be made in creating bio refinery capacity. However, this is easier said than done. While state-owned oil marketing companies are in the process of setting up 12 bio-refineries, this can only be a base to build on.
On the ground, private sector investment in this space has been hampered by financial constraints and lack of cohesive support from the Central to the local level.
- Creating the requisite supply chain infrastructure to source and efficiently transport low value biomass to the refineries is another challenge.
- The Centre should ensure that it actively involves the private sector in this exercise especially for functions like procurement, storage and distribution.
- It should steer clear of micromanaging the supply chain but, instead, help in land acquisition for the bio-refineries and working with the stakeholders to fix a reasonable price for the end product.
- The policy should be followed up with coordinated action at the user end to ensure that the larger goal of the policy — of cleaning up the air, reducing the carbon footprint and shift to more sustainable renewable fuels — is not lost sight of.
From encouraging the use of biofuels in public transport to ensuring that civic bodies actually realise the potential of municipal waste and sewage the policy needs to be implemented in mission mode on a nationwide basis.
Connecting the dots:
- The government has recently released National Policy on Biofuel. Disucss its key provisions. Also, highlight steps required to ensure its effective implementation.
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
Improving connectivity in South Asia: India and China
One of the key non-military issues that does not just bedevil India-China relations but also significantly affects many countries in the region is the inability of the two Asian giants to communicate, cooperate and coordinate on matters of regional trade and connectivity which could have benefited all.
Poor connectivity in South Aisa:
Poor connectivity is the major reason why intra-regional trade is among the lowest in South Asia.
- South Asia, with its 1.8 billion population, is only capable of conducting around 5% intraregional trade as connectivity remains a constant barrier.
- Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) continue to plague the region and addressing infrastructure deficits can do away with 80% of the NTBs.
In addition to enhancing trade, connectivity can significantly improve people-to-people interaction leading to better understanding, greater tolerance\ and closer diplomatic relations in the region.
States in South and Southeast Asia are involved in multiple regional initiatives led by India and China but are unable to get the benefit due to their slow progress.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation remains moribund with little hope of it becoming functional in the near future.
The India-led Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, has made little progress.
Serving as a funnel to the Malacca Straits, one of the world’s busiest waterways, the Bay of Bengal has now become one of the most important strategic hotspots for global trade. All countries in BIMSTEC are losing out due to this prolonged period of dormancy.
The organisation till now has only had meetings, negotiations and leaders’ summit and stalled free trade agreement negotiations.
There has been some progress through the establishment of the BIMSTEC Energy Centre and a task force on Trans Power Exchange and Development Projects, established to develop a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection.
Initiatives by China and India: Complementary rather than competing
China is leading its own regional ambition with its BRI. A portion of the Maritime Silk Route crosses the Bay of Bengal and involves Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
Both China and India are pursuing regional initiatives on their own which could lead to benefit for all involved states.
Regional agendas could have been pursued efficiently if the initiatives were complementary rather than competing. The BRI, BIMSTEC and BBIN should be developed through coordination and consultation, led by the two Asian giants, so that the projects under the schemes can be implemented more efficiently.
With the minimum required cooperation in pursuing regional initiatives, India and China can significantly enhance trade, investment and connectivity in the region. This would not only would be a win-win for the two giants but also enormously benefit smaller countries.
The BBIN: An example
In South Asia, most multi-country connectivity initiatives are usually deemed to be mere talk shops, one recent positive development has been the trial run of a Bangladesh-Nepal bus service through India under the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicles agreement.
Although Bhutan failed to ratify the agreement due to opposition from its parliament, instead of halting progress, the country asked other stakeholders to move ahead and expressed hope of joining the initiative if and once it gets clearance from the parliament.
Bhutan’s positive go-ahead demonstrated the immense potential to be realised through simple cooperation and showed that it is possible to implement pragmatic plans even when all members are not able to participate at the same time.
Slow moving regional projects end up hurting the resource-constrained citizenry of the region who are deprived from the benefits emanating from well-thought-out and carefully strategised regional connectivity projects.
India and China must forge a pragmatic understanding on the efficacy of regional initiatives through greater communication, enhanced cooperation and better coordination.
Connecting the dots:
- States in South and Southeast Asia are involved in multiple regional initiatives led by India and China but are unable to get the benefit due to their slow progress. Discuss the need of improving connectivity in the region and also discuss the need of making the initiatives complementary rather than competing.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1) Which of the following statements are true regarding the Permanent Residency Status Scheme.
- The scheme was introduced so as to boost foreign tourism in India.
- Is open for foreign investors and the should result in generating employment to at least 20 Indians per financial year.
- PRS will be granted for a period of 10 years with multiple entry.
Select the correct option
- 1 only
- 2 only
- 2 and 3
- None of the above
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