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PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (PIB) IAS UPSC – 6th December to 19th December – 2020

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  • December 21, 2020
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PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (PIB) IAS UPSC – 6th December to 19th December – 2020

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GS-2

Ministry of AYUSH 

(Topic: Government policies – Health)

A. To set up an AYUSH Export Promotion Council

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of AYUSH have decided to work together to set up an Export Promotion Council to boost AYUSH exports.

  • The entire AYUSH sector will work together to achieve price and quality competitiveness to boost AYUSH exports.
  • Trade and commerce in the AYUSH Sector needed to upscale quickly in order to meet the growing demands from India and abroad, and to serve the larger number of people who are now looking up to these systems for maintaining their health.

The spurt in exports of AYUSH products in the recent months is a direct reflection of their growing popularity in many countries. The standardisation of the HS codes related to export will be considered on priority as a step to promote exports.

The following are the action points that emerged from the meeting:

  1. Ministry of AYUSH and Ministry of Commerce and Industry will work together for establishing an AYUSH Export Promotion Council (AEPC). The proposed AEPC can be housed at Ministry of AYUSH.
  2. Standardisation of HS code for AYUSH will be expedited.
  3. Ministry of AYUSH will work in collaboration with Bureau of Indian standards to develop international standards for AYUSH products as well as services.
  4. Ministry of AYUSH and AYUSH industry will identify best practices/ success stories and promote them amongst the public.
  5. AYUSH industry will work on ensuring quality and standards of AYUSH products as well as to become price-competitive.
  6. AYUSH will figure in the Brand India activities.

B. Ministry of AYUSH and AIIMS have decided to initiate work on setting up a Department of Integrative Medicine at AIIMS


Draft Indian Ports Bill, 2020

(Topic: Transportation)

Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways has circulated draft of Indian Ports Bill 2020 for public consultation which will repeal and replace the Indian Ports Act, 1908.

The draft Indian Ports Bill, 2020, seeksto, inter alia, enable the structured growth and sustainable development of ports to attract investments in the Port sector for optimum utilisation of the Indian Coastline by effective administration and management of ports. The proposed Bill will 

  • Provide measures to facilitate conservation of ports, taking into account the prevalent situation with respect to the high number of non-operational ports. 
  • It shall further ensure greater investment in the Indian maritime and ports sector through the creation of improved, comprehensive regulatory frameworks for the creation of new ports and management of existing ports.

The Bill also seeks to, inter alia, create an enabling environment for the growth and sustained development of the ports sector in India through the following broad methods:

  1. Constitution of Maritime Port Regulatory Authority
  2. Formulation of the National Port policy and National Port plan in consultation with Coastal State Governments, State Maritime Boards and other stakeholders.
  3. Formulation of specialised Adjudicatory Tribunals namely Maritime Ports Tribunal and Maritime Ports Appellate Tribunal to curb any anti-competitive practises in the port sector and act as a speedy and affordable grievance redressal mechanism.

The up-to-date provisions of the proposed Bill would ensure safety, security, pollution control, performance standards and sustainability of Ports. The Bill ensures that all up-to-date conventions /protocols to which India is a party, are also suitably incorporated. This will promote marine safety and security in the true sense. The Bill will fill up the gaps for achieving scientific development of Ports and Port Network.

The Bill seeks to provide increased opportunities for public and private investments in the Indian maritime and ports sector by way of removing barriers to entry, simplifying processes and establishment of agencies and bodies to plan and enable growth of the ports sector. Enhancing “Ease of Doing Business’,it will provide greater impetus to a self-reliant domestic investment climate in the maritime sector, towards Atamanirbhar Bharat initiatives of the Government.


NITI Aayog releases ‘Vision 2035: Public Health Surveillance in India’

(Topic: Health)

NITI Aayog released a white paper: Vision 2035: Public Health Surveillance in India with the vision:

  • To make India’s public health surveillance system more responsive and predictive to enhance preparedness for action at all levels.
  • Citizen-friendly public health surveillance system will ensure individual privacy and confidentiality, enabled with a client feedback mechanism.
  • Improved data-sharing mechanism between Centre and states for better disease detection, prevention, and control.
  • India aims to provide regional and global leadership in managing events that constitute a public health emergency of international concern.

‘Vision 2035: Public Health Surveillance in India’ is a continuation of the work on health systems strengthening. It contributes by 

  • Suggesting mainstreaming of surveillance by making individual electronic health records the basis for surveillance. Public health surveillance (PHS) is an important function that cuts across primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of care. Surveillance is ‘Information for Action’.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has provided us with an opportunity to revisit (re) emerging diseases due to increased interaction between human-animal-environment. Early identification of this interference is essential to break the chain of transmissions and create a resilient surveillance system. 
  • It envisions a citizen-friendly public health system, which will involve stakeholders at all levels, be it individual, community, health care facilities or laboratories, all while protecting the individual’s privacy and confidentiality.’
  • The white paper lays out India’s vision 2035 for public health surveillance through the integration of the three-tiered public health system into Ayushman Bharat. 
  • It also spells out the need for expanded referral networks and enhanced laboratory capacity. The building blocks for this vision are an interdependent federated system of governance between the Centre and states, a new data-sharing mechanism that involves the use of new analytics, health informatics, and data science including innovative ways of disseminating ‘information for action’.

Cabinet approves Atmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana (ABRY)

Objective: To boost employment in formal sector and incentivize creation of new employment opportunities during the Covid recovery phase under Atmanirbhar Bharat Package 3.0.

Cabinet has approved an expenditure of Rs. 1,584 crore for the current financial year and Rs.22,810 crore for the entire Scheme period i.e. 2020-2023.

  1. Government of India will provide subsidy for two years in respect of new employees engaged on or after 1st October, 2020 and upto 30th June, 2021
  2. Government of India will pay both 12% employees’ contribution and 12% employers’ contribution i.e.  24% of wages towards EPF in respect of new employees in establishments employing upto 1000 employees for two years,
  3. Government of India will pay only employees’ share of EPF contribution i.e. 12% of wages in respect of new employees in establishments employing more than 1000 employee for two years.
  4. An employee drawing monthly wage of less than Rs. 15000/- who was not working in any establishment registered with the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) before 1st October, 2020 and did not have a Universal Account Number or EPF Member account number prior to 1stOctober 2020 will be eligible for the benefit,
  5. Any EPF member possessing Universal Account Number (UAN) drawing monthly wage of less than Rs. 15000/- who made exit from employment during Covid pandemic from 01.03.2020 to 30.09.2020 and did not join employment in any EPF covered establishment up to 30.09.2020 will also be eligible to avail benefit,
  6. EPFO will credit the contribution in Aadhaar seeded account of members in electronic manner,
  7. EPFO shall develop a software for the scheme and also develop a procedure which is transparent and accountable at their end.
  8. EPFO shall work out modality to ensure that there is no overlapping of benefits provided under ABRY with any other scheme implemented by EPFO.

Cabinet approves the proposal of Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) tosign Bilateral Memorandum of Understanding between India and Luxembourg

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for the proposal of Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to sign a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Securities and Exchange Board of India and Financial and Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF), Luxembourg.

Objectives

  • Strengthen cross border cooperation in the area of securities regulations and facilitate mutual assistance
  • Contribute towards efficient performance of the supervisory functions aid in imparting technical domain knowledge
  • Enable effective enforcement of the laws and regulations governing the securities markets of India and Luxembourg.

Major impact

CSSF, like SEBI, is a co-signatory to International Organization of Securities Commissions’ Multilateral MOU (IOSCO MMoU). However, the IOSCO MMoU does not have under its scope the provision for technical assistance. The proposed bilateral MOU would, in addition to contributing towards strengthening the information sharing framework leading to effective enforcement of securities laws, also help in establishing a technical assistance programme. The technical assistance programme would benefit the Authorities by way of consultations on matters relating to capital markets, capacity building activities and training programmes for the staff.

Cabinet approves Memorandum of Understanding between India and Suriname on Cooperation in the field of Health and Medicine

The bilateral Memorandum of Understanding will 

  • Encourage cooperation between the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Health of the Government of the Republic of Suriname through joint initiatives and technology development in the health sector.
  • Strengthen bilateral ties between India and Suriname. It leads towards achieving Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self-Reliant India) by way of sharing of expertise in public health system, and by promoting mutual research in various relevant areas.

Salient Features:

          The main areas of cooperation between the two Governments include the following:

  1. Exchange and Training of medical doctors, officials, other health professionals and experts;
  2. Assistance in development of human resources and setting up of health care facilities;
  3. Short term training of human resources in health;
  4. Regulation of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cosmetics and exchange of information thereon;
  5. Promotion of business development opportunities in pharmaceuticals;
  6. Procurement of generic and essential drugs and assistance in sourcing of drug supplies;
  7. Procurement of health equipment and pharmaceuticals products;
  8. Tobacco control;
  9. Promotion of mental health;
  10. Early detection and management of depression
  11. Digital health and Tele-medicine

14th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus

(Topic: India and international organisations)

Online at Hanoi, Vietnam on 10 December 2020; marked the 10th anniversary of ADMM Plus.

ADMM Plus is an annual meeting of Defence Ministers of 10 ASEAN Countries and eight partner countries. This year marks the 10th year of inception of ADMM Plus forum.

In his address, Shri Rajnath Singh –

  • Underlined the key role of ASEAN-centric forum in promoting dialogue and engagement towards a pluralistic, cooperative security order in Asia
  • Highlighted the collective achievements of ADMM Plus in the past decade in advancing multilateral cooperation through strategic dialogue and practical security engagements
  • Complimented the achievements of the seven Expert Working Groups in sharing best practices in key domains including Maritime Security, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, Counter-terrorism and Peace Keeping Operations.
  • Addressed the thematic discussions during the ADMM plus meeting on the Regional and International Security Environment, where in, he emphasized that Indo-Pacific region in particular confronts numerous traditional and non-traditional security threats. 
    • He recalled the launch of the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) by India in last year’s East Asia Summit and stated that IPOI is an open global initiative which draws on existing regional cooperation architecture and mechanism. 
    • He noted the commonality between India’s IPOI and ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific, both being opportunities for cooperation. 
    • In his speech addressing the Defence Ministers of ASEAN member countries, USA, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, he emphasized India’s call for an open and inclusive order in Indo-Pacific based upon respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, peaceful resolutions of disputes through dialogue and adherence to International rules and laws. 
    • Reiterated India’s support to freedom of navigation and over-flight for all in International waters in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
    • Underlined the importance of mutual trust and confidence based on restraint in activities and actions that may further complicate the situation in the region.
  • Stated that terrorism remains a major scourge for the region and world, and reiterated that the structures that support and sustain terrorism continue to exist, including in India’s neighbourhood. He called for stronger commitment and need to strengthen International mechanism to fight terrorism, jointly and vigorously.

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare digitally addressed the Inter-Ministerial meeting on Vaccination of South Asia against COVID-19 by the World Bank

(Topic: India and international organisations)

Presenting a detailed summary of the proactive, preemptive, graded, whole of government and society approach to the COVID-19 pandemic undertaken by India, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said, “Effective planning and strategic management has enabled India to keep its cases per million at 7,078against the global average of 8,883. The fatality rate is 1.45%, well below the global average of 2.29%.”

Informed the audience of the vaccine distribution expertise, production and storage capacity of India along with the presence of an experienced and vast network of professionals to streamline COVID vaccination

  • India’s world-class research institutes have spearheaded the campaign against COVID-19 and are currently working towards facilitating capacity building for producing, distributing & administering the vaccine. 260 vaccine candidates are in different stages of development globally. Out of these, 8 are scheduled to be manufactured in India, including 3 indigenous ones. India has leveraged the support of international partners like Oxford University, UK, and Thomas Jefferson University, USA, for vaccine research with Indian entities, both public and private.
  • It is expected that the vaccine will be available in the coming few weeks and the vaccination process will kickstart in India as soon as it is approved by the concerned regulatory agency. With stringent oversight, we are ensuring, that there is no compromise on scientific and regulatory norms, stretching from safety of the trials to efficacy of the vaccines.
  • Detailed on how leveraging the existing digital interventions of India’s Mission Indradhanush Immunization programs, India is building the advanced CO-WIN digital platform which will allow citizens to self-register for vaccination, monitor their status and be provided with a QR code based electronic vaccination certificate upon completion of the process. 
  • The government has analyzed the present requirement of vaccines and is working towards augmenting capacities, healthcare infrastructure & workforce.

Government of India and World Bank sign $400 million project to protect India’s poor and vulnerable from the impact of COVID-19

(Topic: India and international organisations)

The Government of India and the World Bank today signed a $400 million project to support India’s efforts at providing social assistance to the poor and vulnerable households, severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the second operation in a programmatic series of two. The first operation of $750 million was approved in May 2020. The programme will strengthen the capability of state and national governments in India to provide coordinated and adequate social protection to the poor and vulnerable from the shocks triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early results from tracking the first operation through a representative household survey across India highlights the strengths and challenges of India’s social protection system. The Second Accelerating India’s COVID-19 Social Protection Response Programme signed will build on the shifts that the first operation has achieved.

  • This second operation will complement the expansion of India’s safety net programmes to create a portable social protection platform ensuring food and cash support for poor households, urban migrants, and unorganised sector workers across state boundaries.
  • Given the continent-like size and heterogeneity in India, the post COVID-19 economic shocks are likely to manifest itself differently at the sub-national, community and household levels. 
  • The new operation will allow flexibility for state governments to cater to their contexts, while ensuring that the needs of migrants, informal workers and the urban poor are addressed. 
  • The proposed reforms will allow states to access flexible funding from disaster response funds to design and implement appropriate social protection responses to COVID-19 and future disasters. 
  • Given that larger shares of COVID-19 cases in India are currently in urban and peri-urban areas, geographically targeted support to these hot-spot districts will help deepen social protection coverage in urban areas.

ADB, India sign $300 million loan to upgrade power distribution network in Uttar Pradesh

(Topic: India and international organisations)

The project will establish separate feeders for electricity supply to agriculture and residential consumers to promote better rationing and utilization of unmetered power; strengthen financial management of the state power distribution entity and improve bill collection in rural areas through community engagement involving the women’s self-help groups.

  • Overall, the $430 million multi-tranche financing facility (MFF) approved for the project constituting two tranches, envisages conversion of 65,000 kilometers (km) of rural low-voltage distribution lines from bare conductors to aerial bundle conductors (ABC) to create a robust distribution network that will benefit an estimated 70 million people in 46,000 villages. 
  • The feeder separation network to be established over 17,000 km for agriculture and domestic consumers will facilitate the use of solar energy to meet the agriculture demand, increase in electricity supply duration to rural residential consumers, and energy and water conservation. In addition, the project will improve the gender inclusivity, corporate governance, and financial management capacity of Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL).
  • To improve bill collection, the project will pilot test engaging rural women through women’s self-help groups as community collection agents which will also help increase their family income.

ADB, India sign facility to support preparation of infrastructure projects in Tripura

(Topic: India and international organisations)

  • This is ADB’s first PRF facility for a state in the northeastern region of India.
  • Inadequate urban infrastructure and low institutional capacity of urban local bodies (ULBs) have impeded urbanization-led growth in Tripura. 
  • The PRF will help finance preparation of integrated infrastructure development plans for 7 districts headquarter towns (DHT) and 13 ULBs focused on water supply, sanitation, storm water drainage, urban roads, and urban amenities.
  • The state’s tourism growth is also hindered by inadequate infrastructure and lack of planned activities. The PRF will support the state government’s objectives of improving contribution of tourism to the economy and will support development of integrated tourism infrastructure plans. These include provisioning of amenities and improving road connectivity to the tourist destinations together with marketing and promotion strategies.

India-Bangladesh Virtual Summit

(Topic: India and its neighbours)

India-Bangladesh partnership

  • Emphasized that relations between Bangladesh and India are based on fraternal ties and reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that transcends a strategic partnership. 
  • Paid solemn tribute to the martyrs of the Liberation War of Bangladesh, the Muktijoddhas and the Indian soldiers, for their great sacrifices in 1971. They vowed to uphold and protect the cherished values of democracy and equality in line with the aspirations of the people of the two friendly countries.

Cooperation in Health Sector- addressing the global public health challenge

  • Expressed satisfaction at the manner in which sustained engagement between the two countries has been maintained during this ongoing crisis. 
  • Reiterating the highest priority India attaches to Bangladesh under India’s Neighbourhood First Policy, India assured that vaccines would be made available to Bangladesh as and when produced in India. 
  • India also offered collaboration in therapeutics and partnership in vaccine production.
  • Bangladesh appreciated India’s conducting capacity building courses for medical professionals in Bangla language.

Cultural Cooperation – Joint Celebration of Historical Links

  • Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina deeply appreciated the warm gesture of India in organizing various events on the occasion of ongoing ‘Mujib Borsho’. 
  • The two Prime Ministers jointly unveiled a commemorative postal stamp issued by the Government of India on the occasion of birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. 
  • India thanked the Government of Bangladesh for issuing a stamp in honour of Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations earlier in September 2020.
  • Both sides noted that the filming of the biopic on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, under the direction of Indian film director Shyam Benegal will commence in January 2021.
  • Noting that the year 2021 will be historic in India Bangladesh bilateral relations as they would be commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Liberation War and the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh, it was agreed to jointly organize several activities to commemorate these two epochal events in India, Bangladesh and third countries.
  • Bangladesh Prime Minister requested the Indian side to consider Bangladesh’s proposal to name the historic road from Mujib Nagar to Nodia on Bangladesh-India border as “Shadhinota Shorok” commemorating the historic significance of the road during Bangladesh’s Liberation War.

Border Management and Security Cooperation

  • Both sides agreed to hold an early meeting of the Joint Boundary Conference to prepare a new set of strip maps along the stretch of Icchamati, Kalindi, Raimongol and the Hariabhanga Rivers from Main Pillar 1 to Land Boundary terminus, with a view to finalizing the delineation of the boundaries as fixed. It was agreed to carry out necessary work to convert the International Boundary along Kuhsiyara river into a fixed boundary.
  • Bangladesh side reiterated the request for 1.3 km Innocent Passage through river route along River Padma near Rajshahi District. The Indian side assured to consider the request.
  • Both leaders agreed to facilitate completion of border fencing at all pending sectors at the international border between both the countries at the earliest beginning from the Tripura (India)- Bangladesh sector. 
  • Both leaders also agreed that loss of civilian lives at the border is a matter of concern and directed the border forces concerned to enhance coordinate measures to work towards bringing such border incidents to zero. The leaders stressed on full implementation of the ongoing Coordinated Border Management Plan. 
  • Both sides noted with satisfaction the recent stepped-up efforts of the two border guarding forces against smuggling of arms, narcotics and fake currency and to prevent trafficking, particularly of women and children.
  • Noting that Bangladesh and India were prone to frequent natural disasters, the two leaders directed officials on both sides to expeditiously conclude the MoU in the area of disaster management cooperation.
  • Recognizing that terrorism remains a threat to global peace and security, both sides reiterated their strong commitment to eliminating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
  • Both sides emphasized simplifying people to people movement between the two countries. Bangladesh side requested for early implementation of India’s commitment to remove remaining restrictions on entry/ exit from land ports in India for Bangladeshis travelling on valid documents in a phased manner, beginning with checkpoints at Akhaura (Tripura) and Ghojadanga (West Bengal).

Trade Partnership for Growth

  • Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appreciated the Duty Free and Quota Free access given to Bangladeshi exports to India under SAFTA since 2011. 
  • Both Prime Ministers emphasized on addressing issues of non-tariff barriers and trade facilitation including port restrictions, procedural bottlenecks and quarantine restrictions so that both countries can take full advantage of SAFTA flexibility. 
  • The Bangladesh side requested that as India’s export of essential commodities to Bangladesh are an important factor influencing their domestic market, any amendments in export-import policy of the Government of India may be conveyed in advance. 
  • Both the leaders commended trade and railway officials for the cooperation shown in maintaining uninterrupted supply chains during COVID-19, including facilitating bilateral trade through existing rail routes, using side-door container and parcel trains.
  • Recognizing the immense potential of bilateral economic and commercial ties, both Prime Ministers directed the officials to expeditiously conclude the ongoing joint study on the prospects of entering into a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
  • Welcoming the first meeting of the India-Bangladesh Textile Industry Forum, earlier this year, the leaders emphasized the importance of increased linkages and collaboration in the textile sector and directed the officials to conclude the ongoing negotiations on the MOU between Ministry of Textiles, Government of India and Ministry of Textiles and Jute, Government of Bangladesh at the earliest. They welcomed the consultations on anti-dumping/anti-circumvention duties imposed on export of jute products from Bangladesh to India held recently and expressed hope that the issues related to ADD will be resolved expeditiously.

Connectivity for Prosperity

  • Noted with satisfaction the continued progress made towards the restoration of pre-1965 railway linkages between both nations. They jointly inaugurated the newly restored railway link between Haldibari (India) and Chilahati (Bangladesh) and noted that this rail link will further strengthen trade and people to people ties between the two sides. It was decided to operationalize the train as and when the COVID situation improves.
  • The two leaders took stock of the ongoing bilateral connectivity measures and welcomed the recent initiatives including the signing of the second addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT), trial run of trans-shipment of Indian goods from Kolkata to Agartala via Chattogram and operationalization of Sonamura-Daudkandi Protocol route under the PIWTT. Both the leaders agreed to expeditiously operationalise trans-shipment of Indian goods through Chattogram and Mongla Ports.
    To facilitate better connectivity and simplify movement of passengers and goods between both the countries, both leaders agreed to an early operationalization of the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement through expeditious signing of the Enabling MoU for Bangladesh, India and Nepal to commence the movement of goods and passengers, with provision for Bhutan to join at a later date.
  • Bangladesh Prime Minister expressed keen interest in the ongoing India Myanmar Thailand trilateral highway project and sought support of India for enabling Bangladesh to connect with this project with a view to enhance connectivity between the regions of South and South East Asia. In the same spirit, the Indian side requested Bangladesh to allow connectivity from West Bengal (Hilli) to Meghalaya (Mahendraganj) via Bangladesh.
  • India reiterated its request to the Government of Bangladesh of having at least one Land Port with minimal negative list between the each neighbouring states of India and Bangladesh, beginning with Agartala-Akhaura. Bangladesh side proposed that Bangladeshi trucks avail of the Feni Bridge, once completed, for transportation of goods from Chattogram port to the North East of India.
  • Acknowledging the vibrant development partnership between the two countries, both sides stressed on active operationalization of the recently-constituted High Level Monitoring Committee headed by Secretary, Economic Relations Division from Bangladesh and the High Commissioner of India in Dhaka to regularly review the progress of the LOC Projects for their early completion.
  • Both sides noted with satisfaction the commencement of a temporary Air Travel Bubble between the two sides to facilitate the urgent requirements of travellers on both sides during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bangladesh side also requested the Indian side to resume regular travel through land ports at the earliest

Cooperation in Water Resources, Power and Energy:

  • Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina highlighted the need for early signing of interim agreement for sharing of the Teesta waters, as agreed upon by both the governments in 2011. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated India’s sincere commitment and continued efforts of the Government of India in that regard.
  • The two leaders underscored the need for early conclusion of Framework of Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six joint rivers, namely, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.
  • Bangladesh side requested the Indian side to inform its concerned border authorities to allow excavation work of the remaining portion of the Rahimpur Khal for utilization of Kushiyara River waters for irrigation purposes. The Indian side was also requested to provide early concurrence on the proposed MoU to be signed between the two countries for monitoring the withdrawal of water from the Kushiyara River by both the sides, pending signing of the Treaty/Agreement regarding sharing of water of the Kushiyara River. The two leaders recalled the positive contribution of the Joint Rivers Commission and looked forward to the next round of Secretarial level JRC meeting at the earliest.
  • Both sides expressed satisfaction at the robust cooperation in the power and energy sector, including between the private sector. It was agreed to expedite implementation of projects including India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline, Maitree Super Thermal Power Project as well as other projects. Both sides welcomed the signing of the Framework of Understanding on Cooperation in the Hydrocarbon Sector which would further augment energy linkages by streamlining investments, technology transfer, joint studies, training and promoting hydrocarbon connectivity. It was also agreed to enhance cooperation in energy efficiency and clean energy, including in biofuels. In line with commitment of both countries to move towards green, clean, renewable sources of energy, it was agreed to strengthen subregional cooperation including with Nepal and Bhutan. Both sides also agreed to strengthen cooperation in the area of power and energy connectivity.

Forcibly Displaced Persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi appreciated the generosity of Bangladesh in sheltering and providing humanitarian assistance to the 1.1 million forcibly displaced persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar. 
  • Both Prime Ministers reiterated the importance of their safe, speedy and sustainable return. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina congratulated India on its election as a member of the United Nations Security Council. She expressed Bangladesh’s expectation to see India assist in the repatriation of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas back to Myanmar.

Partners in the Region and the World

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for supporting India in its election to the United Nations Security Council. Both countries agreed to continue working together towards achieving early reforms of the UN Security Council, combating climate change, attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and protection of the rights of migrants. Both Prime Ministers reaffirmed the need for developed countries to fulfill their commitments under the Global Partnership for ensuring the means of implementation of the SDGs as enshrined in the Agenda 2030.
  • Both leaders highlighted that given the regional and global economic scenarios following the outbreak of COVID 19, regional organisations, such as SAARC and BIMSTEC have an important role to play. Bangladesh Prime Minister thanked the Indian Prime Minister for convening the SAARC leaders Video Conference in March 2020 in the outbreak of COVID-19. She also thanked the Indian Prime Minister for proposing creation of the SAARC Emergency Response Fund to counter effects of the global pandemic in the South Asian region. 
  • Bangladesh Prime Minister also reiterated the proposal for establishment of a SAARC Medical and Public Health Research Institute and sought support in this regard. Bangladesh will assume chairmanship of the IORA in 2021 and requested the support of India for working towards greater maritime safety and security. Prime Minister Modi appreciated the Presidency of Bangladesh at the Climate Vulnerable Forum in the current tenure.
  • Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appreciated the work of the New Development Bank and thanked India for inviting Bangladesh to join the Institution. She welcomed the work of the Bank in multiple sectors including infrastructure development and expressed Bangladesh’s willingness to be a part of the initiative.

Signing of Bilateral Documents and Inauguration of Projects

On this occasion, the following bilateral documents were signed and exchanged by the officials of the Governments of India and Bangladesh:

  • Framework of Understanding (FOU) on Cooperation in Hydrocarbon Sector;
  • Protocol on Trans-boundary Elephant Conservation;
  • MOU regarding Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) through Local Bodies and other Public Sector Institutions;
  • MOU on Supply of Equipment and Improvement of Garbage / Solid Waste Disposal Ground at Lamchori Area for Barishal City Corporation;
  • Terms of Reference of India-Bangladesh CEOs Forum;
  • MoU between Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum, Dhaka, Bangladesh and the National Museum, New Delhi, India; and
  • MoU on Cooperation in the field of Agriculture.

The following bilateral development partnership projects were also inaugurated:

  • Beautification and city development project in Rajshahi City
  • Construction of Khalishpur Collegiate Girl’s School in Khulna

GS-3

Indigenous mRNA vaccine candidate supported by DBT gets Drug Controller nod to initiate Human clinical trials

(Topic: Vaccine for COVID-19)

India’s first indigenous mRNA vaccine candidate has received approval from Indian Drug regulators to initiate Phase I/II human clinical trial. The novel mRNA vaccine candidate, HGCO19 has been developed by Gennova, Pune and supported with seed grant under the Ind-CEPI mission of Department of Biotechnology of M/o Science & Technology.

  • The mRNA vaccines do not use the conventional model to produce immune response. Instead, mRNA vaccine carries the molecular instructions to make the protein in the body through a synthetic RNA of the virus. 
  • The host body uses this to produce the viral protein that is recognized and thereby making the body mount an immune response against the disease. 
  • mRNA-based vaccines are scientifically the ideal choice to address a pandemic because of their rapid developmental timeline. 
  • The mRNA vaccine is considered safe as is non-infectious, non-integrating in nature, and degraded by standard cellular mechanisms. 
  • They are expected to be highly efficacious because of their inherent capability of being translatable into the protein structure inside the cell cytoplasm. 
  • Additionally, mRNA vaccines are fully synthetic and do not require a host for growth, e.g., eggs or bacteria. 
  • Therefore, they can be quickly manufactured in an inexpensive manner under cGMP conditions to ensure their “availability” and “accessibility” for mass vaccination on a sustainable basis.

A tough novel species of Muraingrass identified by scientists in the plateaus of Western Ghats of Goa

(Topic: Biodiversity)

A new species of Indian Muraingrasses known for their ecological and economic importance, such as fodder, have been spotted by scientists in Goa in the Western Ghats, one of the four global biodiversity hotspots of India. The species has adapted to survive harsh conditions, low nutrient availability, and blossoms every monsoon.

Globally 85 species are known from Ischaemum, of which 61 species are exclusively found in India. The Western Ghats have 40 species with the highest concentration of the genus.

  • Ischaemumjanarthanamii grows on low altitude lateritic plateaus in the outskirts of Bhagwan Mahavir National Park, Goa. 
  • The vegetation is exposed to extreme climatic conditions like desiccation in drier months and soils with low nutrient availability. 
  • However, withstanding these, the species has adapted to survive harsh conditions and blossom every monsoon.

Aerosols in Indo-Gangetic Plain have led to increased incidents of high rainfall in the Himalayan foothills

(Topic: Environment, Climate change)

Scientists have found that aerosols like black carbon and dust, which makes the Indo-Gangetic Plain one of the most polluted regions of the world, have led to increased incidents of high rainfall events in the foothills of the Himalayan Region.

The Indo-Gangetic Plain is located south and upwind of the Himalayan foothills. The region is associated with high aerosol loading, much of which is black carbon and dust, and thus provides an opportunity for studying how aerosol affects extreme rainfall events, particularly when air mass is forced from a low elevation to a higher elevation as it moves over rising terrain technically called orographic forcing.

The study shows that particulate emissions can alter the physical and dynamical properties of cloud systems and, in turn, amplify rainfall events over orographic regions downwind of highly polluted urban areas.

Why is the study important: The atmospheric aerosols play a key role in the regional/global climate system through scattering and absorption of incoming solar radiation and by modifying the cloud microphysics. Despite the large progress in quantifying the impact of different aerosols on radiative forcing, it still remains one of the major uncertainties in the climate change assessment. Precise measurements of aerosol properties are required to reduce the uncertainties, especially over the oceans and high altitude remote location in the Himalayas where they are scarce.

The transport of light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosols and dust from the polluted Indo-Gangetic Plain and desert areas over the Himalayas constitutes a major climatic issue due to severe impacts on atmospheric warming and glacier retreat. This heating over the Himalayas facilitates the “elevated-hat pump” that strengthens the temperature gradient between land and ocean and modifies the atmospheric circulation and the monsoon rainfall. A better understanding of the aerosol optical and microphysical properties through the study can improving the modelling of aerosol effects in view of aerosol-climate implications via modifications in atmospheric warming and changes in the snow/glacier albedo over the trans-Himalayan region.


Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu has called for the launch of a mass media campaign on the advantages of building green homes

(Topic: Environment) 

Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu has called for the launch of a mass media campaign on the advantages of building green homes, saying the Green buildings movement should become a people’s movement. 

  • Virtually inaugurating the 12th Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment Summit, the Vice President said that India has the potential to lead the Global Green Building Movement and emphasised the need to promote green building concept by both the private sector and the government. 
  • He also appealed to the Finance Commissions and local bodies to encourage green buildings through various measures including tax incentives, and urged states to create online portals to provide single window clearance to green buildings. 

According to the World Green Building Council data, buildings and construction account for 39% of energy-related CO2 emissions in the world. Therefore, there is an urgent need for concerted and coordinated efforts to ensure that the buildings are environment-friendly and energy & resource-efficient.

Green Buildings

A ‘green’ building is a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life.

There are a number of features which can make a building ‘green’. These include: 

  • Efficient use of energy, water and other resources
  • Use of renewable energy, such as solar energy
  • Pollution and waste reduction measures, and the enabling of re-use and recycling
  • Good indoor environmental air quality
  • Use of materials that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable
  • Consideration of the environment in design, construction and operation
  • Consideration of the quality of life of occupants in design, construction and operation
  • A design that enables adaptation to a changing environment

Any building can be a green building, whether it’s a home, an office, a school, a hospital, a community centre, or any other type of structure, provided it includes features listed above.

Several benefits –

Environmental: Green buildings can not only reduce or eliminate negative impacts on the environment, by using less water, energy or natural resources, but they can – in many cases – have a positive impact on the environment (at the building or city scales) by generating their own energy or increasing biodiversity.

Economic: Green buildings offer a number of economic or financial benefits, which are relevant to a range of different people or groups of people. These include cost savings on utility bills for tenants or households (through energy and water efficiency); lower construction costs and higher property value for building developers; increased occupancy rates or operating costs for building owners; and job creation. Post-Covid, there has been a consensus to “build back better” and invest in those sectors of the economy that can generate jobs as well as fuel green growth. Green buildings provide an ideal avenue to support this goal.

Social: Green building benefits go beyond economics and the environment, and have been shown to bring positive social impacts too. Many of these benefits are around the health and wellbeing of people who work in green offices or live in green homes.

Given the pandemic and its aftershocks, the appeal of green buildings has increased for the occupants of residential houses as well as workspaces. Post-Covid, individuals are expected to become all the more cautious about their health, well-being and comfort, and would want to live in buildings that have a better ventilation system, ample daylight and fresh water availability. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), respiratory and lung diseases associated with poor indoor environment quality are three of the top five causes of death. The features of green buildings have proven to have a positive impact on health and well-being. Green homes and offices optimise natural light in the construction design and limit the usage of artificial lighting. 

Research shows that natural daylight helps in reduction of stress levels, provides psychological comfort and increases employees’ productivity by approximately 15 percent in an office environment. Therefore, by investing in green designing and development, companies can ensure better returns on their most valued assets — employees.

GRIHA

GRIHA is an acronym for Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment. GRIHA is a Sanskrit word meaning – ‘Abode’.GRIHA , the green rating system developed by The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), is promoted by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) as the National rating system.

Given India’s commitments to Paris Summit, it has become all the more important to reduce GHG emissions and improve the environmental friendliness of every economic activity. Construction activities contribute a significant chunk to the Pollution level. Further careless building designs add onto the urban heating phenomena, which is on rise due to rising population and migration. The need to make constructions compliant to such codes are as follows:

  • Reduced energy consumption without sacrificing the comfort levels.
  • Reduced destruction of natural areas, habitats, and biodiversity, and reduced soil loss from erosion etc.
  • Reduced air and water pollution (with direct health benefits)
  • Reduced water consumption
  • Limited waste generation due to recycling and reuse
  • Reduced pollution loads
  • Increased user productivity
  • Enhanced image and marketability
  • Optimize energy performance of building within specified comfort limits

The Way Forward

  • The Finance Commissions and local bodies to encourage green buildings through various measures including tax incentives. 
  • States to create online portals to provide single window clearance for green buildings
  • The implementation of Bureau of Energy Efficiency’s Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) has not been uniform across the nation
  • The roof cooling should be an area of priority for all. In India, over 60 per cent of roofs are made from metal, asbestos, and concrete – thus trapping heat inside buildings and contributing to heat island effect in urban areas. Cool roofs offer a simple and a cost-effective solution that can lower indoor temperatures by 2 to 4 degrees Celsius as compared to traditional roofs, especially in low-income households and slums in urban areas.

Given the ongoing recession, green buildings can become a strong driver of economic growth and the prerogative to “build back better,” by providing nine million skilled jobs in both the renewable and construction sector by 2030. The government, in collaboration with the banking sector, can together provide fuel to the green construction sector and help India achieve its potential in this regard.

Our civilisation teaches us to live in harmony with nature. We need to revisit our traditional house designs refined over thousands of years. Unfortunately, our modern structures are such that no sparrow can come and make a nest in our house. This is not our culture.


Successful Trials of 5.56 x 30 mm Joint Venture Protective Carbine (JVPC)

(Topic: Defence)

Defence Research and Development Organsiation (DRDO) designed 5.56×30 mm Protective Carbine has successfully undergone the final phase of User trials on 7th December 2020 meeting all the GSQR parameters.  This has paved the way for induction into the services. This was the last leg of trials in a series of User trials which have been carried out in extreme temperature conditions in summer and high altitudes in winter. JVPC has successfully met the stringent performance criteria of reliability and accuracy in addition to quality trials conducted by DGQA.

JVPC is a Gas Operated Semi Bull-pup automatic weapon having more than 700 rpm rate of fire. The effective range of the carbine is more than 100 m and weighs about 3.0 kg with key features like high reliability, low recoil, retractable Butt, ergonomic design, single hand firing capability, and multiple Picatinny rails etc. These features make it a very potent weapon for Counter Insurgency /Counter Terrorism operations by security agencies.

Prelims oriented News

Armed Forces Flag Day – 7th December

Prime Minister of the State of Kuwait: Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah

Amir of the State of Qatar: His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani

Universal Healthcare Coverage Day: 12th December

Meghdoot awards: Postal Department confers this award to Postal Employees annually

A Sport recently recognized as a competitive sport: Yogasana

50th anniversary celebrations of Indo-Pak War: In December 1971, the Indian Armed Forces secured a decisive and historic Victory over Pakistan Army, which led to creation of a Nation – Bangladesh and also resulted in the largest Military Surrender after the World War – II. From 16 December, the Nation will be celebrating 50 Years of Indo-Pak War, also called ‘Swarnim Vijay Varsh’. Various commemorative events are planned across the Nation.

Swahid Diwas: To pay homage to the martyrs of the Assam movement

Two new Zoos one each in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh granted recognition by Central government

  • Rajgir Zoo Safari in Nalanda, Bihar
  • Shaheed Ashfaque Ullah Khan Prani Udyaan in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh

‘CO-WIN’: A new digital platform for COVID 19 Vaccination Delivery called ‘CO-WIN’ is being used for COVID-19 Vaccination Delivery

  • About 30 crore line-listed for COVID-19 vaccination, includes healthcare and frontline workers, prioritized population groups
  • About 1.54 lakh ANMs working for Universal Immunization Programmes to work as COVID vaccinators, more vaccinators to be arranged in collaboration with states and UTs
  • A transparent, effective & sustained communication strategy on vaccine safety and effectiveness is crucial for educating people, dispelling doubts

India strengthens its commitment to Clean Sport, contributes USD 1 million to WADA for scientific research

  • Will allow WADA to develop innovative anti-doping testing and detection methods. The money will also be used to further strengthen WADA’s independent Investigations and Intelligence Department.
  • India’s contribution of USD 1 million is the highest among contributions made by other world governments, including China, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. 
  • The total contribution of all member nations will be matched by an equal sum by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to create a corpus of USD 10 million. 
  • The decision to build this corpus was made at WADA’s Fifth World Conference on Doping in Sport held in Katowice, Poland in 2019. This contribution is over and above the annual contribution made to WADA’s core budget by India.

India Post Payments Bank launches its digital payments’ services ‘DakPay’: To Transform Banking Experience at the last mile

DakPay is not just a digital payment app but a suite of digital financial and assisted banking services provided by India Post & IPPB through the trusted Postal (‘Dak’) network across the nation to cater to the financial needs (‘Pay’) of various sections of the society – be it sending money to the loved ones (Domestic Money Transfers – DMT), Scan QR code and make payment for services/merchants digitally (Virtual debit card & with UPI), enabling cashless ecosystem through biometrics, providing interoperable banking services to the customers of ANY BANK (AePS) and Utility Bill Payment services.

About India Post Payments Bank

India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) has been established under the Department of Posts, Ministry of Communication with 100% equity owned by Government of India. IPPB was launched by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on September 1, 2018. The bank has been set up with the vision to build the most accessible, affordable and trusted bank for the common man in India. The fundamental mandate of India Post Payments Bank is to remove barriers for the unbanked & underbanked and reach the last mile leveraging the Postal network comprising 155,000 Post Offices (135,000 in rural areas) and 300,000 Postal employees.

IPPB’s reach and its operating model is built on the key pillars of India Stack – enabling Paperless, Cashless and Presence-less banking in a simple and secure manner at the customers’ doorstep, through a CBS-integrated smartphone and biometric device. Leveraging frugal innovation and with a high focus on ease of banking for the masses, IPPB delivers simple and affordable banking solutions through intuitive interfaces available in 13 languages.

Launch of Socio-Economic Profiling of PM SVANidhi beneficiaries

  • Under this, a complete profile of each PM SVANidhi beneficiary and their family members will be prepared. Based on the profiled data, benefits of the various eligible Central Schemes would be extended to them for their holistic socio-economic upliftment.
  • The launch has been in the context of the vision of Hon’ble Prime Minister that PM SVANidhi scheme should not be seen merely from the perspective of extending loans to street vendors but should also be seen as an instrument for outreach to street vendors and their families for their holistic development and socio-economic upliftment.

“eSanjeevani” telemedicine service records 1 million tele-consultations

India has crossed a landmark milestone in its eHealth journey. eSanjeevani telemedicine service of the Health Ministry has crossed 1 million (10 lakh) tele-consultations today.Telemedicine entails delivery of health services from a distance using internet and it not only extends the reach of health services but also improves quality of health services besides saving time and money. The roll out of eSanjeevani in India is supposedly the first of its kind of digital transformation in the delivery of health services at national scale by a developing country. During the COVID-19 pandemic, eSanjeevani not only brought about a huge digital transformation in the delivery of health services but had also boosted the digital health ecosystem in the country.

eSanjeevani initiative of Health Ministry is serving in two streams in 28 States and Union Territories. The eSanjeevaniAB-HWC enables doctor to doctor teleconsultations and is being used at around 6000 Health & Wellness Centres which are being served by specialists and doctors in around 240 hubs which have been set up by States in District Hospitals or Medical Colleges etc. Over 20,000 paramedics, doctors and specialists have been trained to use eSanjeevaniAB-HWC.

QCI Launches Recognition Scheme for Hygiene Rating Audit Agencies: To scale up Hygiene Rating by increasing the number of recognised Hygiene Rating Audit Agencies in the country.

  • FSSAI’s initiative of ‘Food Hygiene Rating Scheme’ is a certification system for food businesses supplying food directly to consumers, either on or off premise. The food establishments are rated based on food hygiene and safety conditions observed at the time of audit.
  • The scheme aims to allow consumers to make informed choices/decisions pertaining to the food outlets where they eat by encouraging food businesses to improve their hygiene and safety standards. Currently, this scheme is applicable for Food service establishments (such as hotels, restaurants, cafeteria, dhabhas, etc), sweet shops, bakeries and meat retail stores.

2001 Parliament terror attack

On this day in 2001, a five-member suicide squad comprising Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists attacked Parliament house, while the Lok Sabha was in session: the Houses were adjourned at the time of the attack, but several parliamentarians and staff were present inside the building.

The attackers came in an Ambassador car, and were able to gain entry because of a forged government sticker. But as the car moved inside the Parliament complex, one of the staff members became suspicious. The vehicle was thus forced to turn back and in the course, hit then vice president Krishan Kant’s vehicle.

The gunmen, armed with AK-47s and grenades, then got down and opened fire. The attack lasted for about 30 minutes, and all the five terrorists were neutralised outside the building itself. However, five security personnel of Delhi Police, one woman constable of the CRPF and two security assistants of Parliament Watch and Ward section died preventing the entry of terrorists into Parliament House. A gardener and a photojournalist too lost their lives.

BJP leader L K Advani said in the Lok Sabha that the attack “was executed jointly by Pakistan-based and supported terrorist outfits, namely, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. These two organisations are known to derive their support and patronage from Pak ISI.”

Within days, four people were arrested and charged as masterminds of the attack. The case against the four – Mohammed Afzal Guru, Shaukat Hussain, Afsan Guru and SAR Geelani – went on for about a decade, with the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court eventually acquitting two, and upholding the death sentence of one.

Geelani, a professor in Delhi University, was acquitted for “need of evidence” by the Delhi high court in 2003, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2005. Afsan Guru, too, was cleared of charges and Hussain served jail time. Afzal Guru was hanged in 2013.

United Nations Declares ‘Invest India’, The Winner of the Investment Promotion Award 2020

The award recognizes and celebrates the outstanding achievements and best practices of Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) across the globe. The evaluation was based on UNCTAD’s assessment of work undertaken by 180 Investment Promotion Agencies.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has led to numerous challenges for Investment Promotion Agencies forcing them to shift focus from routine investment promotion and facilitation towards crisis management, notification of government emergency and economic relief measures, provision of crisis support services, and contribution to national COVID-19 business response efforts. 
  • UNCTAD highlighted good practices followed by Invest India, such as the Business Immunity Platform, Exclusive Investment Forum webinar series, its social media engagement and focus COVID response teams (such as business reconstruction, stakeholder outreach and supplier outreach) created as a response to the pandemic, in its publications. 
  • Invest India has also shared long-term strategies and practices being followed for investment promotion, facilitation and retention at UNCTAD’s high-level brainstorming sessions.

This United Nations Investment Promotion Award is the most coveted award for Investment Promotion Agencies. UNCTAD is a central agency that monitors performance of IPAs and identifies global best practices. Germany, South Korea and Singapore have been some of the past winners of the award.

India-Portugal Tech Summit: Identified several opportunities for engagement amongst stakeholders at various levels while deliberations on the possibilities of scaling up solutions to address societal challenges facing the world have yielded positive results

The bilateral cooperation between India and Portugal in the science and technology is the oldest and robust. Portuguese govt. is keen to work jointly in cleantech, healthcare, space etc. Since India is bringing in a new Geo-space policy, Portuguese Govt. is keen to collaborate in satellite areas. Intersection between space, earth and water is important for both the nations for generation of commercially viable sustainable solutions for the developing countries including waste and water management.

5th India – Myanmar bilateral meeting on Drug Control Cooperation

India 

  • Highlighted issues particularly regarding the trafficking of Heroin and Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS) in the country. High prevalence of drug abuse in the North Eastern States abutting the Myanmar border is a major cause of concern for India. 
  • Apart from porosity of the India-Myanmar border, drug trafficking through the maritime route in Bay of Bengal has emerged as a new challenge for both countries. NCB has remained committed towards strengthening the existing mechanism of sharing information and assistance with Myanmar, for combating the drug menace in the region.

Myanmar

  • Elaborated on the growing threat of the production of yaba tablets (methamphetamine) which has caused a grave concern in the region, even though the cooperation mechanism between Myanmar and India has been enhanced over the past years
  • Urged India to develop frequent information exchange on trafficking of drugs and precursor smuggling activities at every level
  • The Commander of the DED complimented the Government of India and the NCB for their continuous efforts to combat the growing threat of the drug menace.

Both countries agreed 

  • On the exchange of intelligence information in a timely manner to conduct follow-up investigations in drug seizure cases, new psychotropic substances and their precursors
  • Agreed to conduct Border Level Officers/Field Level Officers meetings on regular basis between frontline officers to strengthen the existing cooperation on drug law enforcement
  • It was decided to exchange information on illegal entry and exit points of illicit drug trafficking on the Myanmar-India borders and information on technology being used to interdict drug trafficking.

Cabinet approves MoU between India and USA for exchange of information in areas of mutual interest in the electricity sector

The MoU will help in improving regulatory and policy framework for developing efficient whole sale power market and enhancing grid reliability. 

  1. Identify energy-related issues and develop topics and possible agendas for the exchange of information and regulatory practices in areas of mutual interest;
  2. Organize visits by Commissioners and/or staff to participate in activities at each other’s facilities;
  3. Participate in seminars, visit, and exchanges;
  4. Develop programs of mutual interests and where appropriate hold these programs locally to enhance participation;
  5. When practical and of mutual interest, provide speakers on energy issues and other personnel (management or technical).

Human Rights Day: 10th December

About National Human Rights Commission:

The National Human rights commission is a statutory body established under the provisions of Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. It is responsible for looking into cases of excesses which are violating human rights and to strengthen the efforts to uphold the human rights in the country. Recently Lok Sabha cleared Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2019 which will strengthen the Human Rights Institutions of India and in perfect sync with the agreed global standards and benchmarks towards ensuring the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual in the country.

Constitution of NHRC

The Commission consists of:

  • A Chairperson
  • One Member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India
  • One Member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court
  • Two Members to be appointed from among persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights
  • In addition, the Chairpersons of four National Commissions of ( Minorities, SC, ST, Women) serve as ex officio members.

Functions and Powers of NHRC/SHRC

  • They are empowered to inquire into the violations of human rights committed by state authorities, either upon petitions presented to them, or upon their own initiative.
  • While conducting these inquiries, the Commissions are granted identical powers to that of civil courts, such as the examining witnesses, ordering for documents, receiving evidence, and so on. 
  • Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act empowers the Human Rights Commission to “recommend” to the concerned government 
    • to grant compensation to the victim 
    • to initiate prosecution against the erring state authorities, 
    • to grant interim relief, and to take various other steps. 
  • Furthermore, Section 18 of the Human Rights Act also obligates the concerned government to “forward its comments on the report, including the action taken or proposed to be taken thereon, to the Commission”, within a period of one month.

National Family Health Survey-5

Objective: To provide reliable and comparable datasets on health, family welfare and other emerging issues.  

  • Four rounds of NFHS (1992–93, 1998–99, 2005–06 and 2015–16) have been successfully completed in India.  
  • The state factsheet released include information on 131 key indicators.
  • These important indicators on population, health and family welfare, nutrition and others will help track progress of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the country.

The key results from the State/UT factsheets are as follows:

  • The Total Fertility Rates (TFR) has further declined since NFHS-4 in almost all the Phase-1 States and UTs. The replacement level of fertility (2.1) has been achieved in 19 out of the 22 States/UTs and only 3 states viz. Manipur (2.2), Meghalaya (2.9) and Bihar (3.0) have TFR above replacement levels now.
  • Overall Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) has increased substantially in most States/UTs and it is the highest in HP and WB (74%). Use of modern methods of contraception has also increased in almost all States/UTs.
  • Unmet needs of family planning have witnessed a declining trend in most of the Phase-1 States/UTs. The unmet need for spacing which remained a major issue in India in the past has come down to less than 10 per cent in all the States except Meghalaya and Mizoram.
  • Full immunization drive among children aged 12-23 months has recorded substantial improvement across States/UTs/districts. More than two-third of children are fully immunized in all the States and UTs except Nagaland, Meghalaya and Assam.  In almost three-fourths of districts, 70% or more children aged 12-23 months are fully immunized against childhood diseases.

Due to the launch of Mission Indradhanush

  • There is increase in the per cent of women receiving the recommended four or more ANC visits by health providers in many States/UTs. This percentage has increased in 13 States/UTs between 2015-16 to 2019-20.
  • Institutional births have increased substantially with over four-fifth of the women delivering in institutions in 19 States and UTs.  Institutional delivery is over 90 per cent in 14 out of the total 22 Sates and UTs. Almost 91% of districts recorded over 70% institutional deliveries of births in the 5 years preceding the survey.
  • Along with an increase in institutional births, there has also been a substantial increase in C-section deliveries in many States/UTs especially in private health facilities.
  • Sex ratio at birth has remained unchanged or increased in most States/UTs. Majority of the states are in normal sex ratio of 952 or above. SRB is below 900 in Telangana, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, DNH & DD.
  • Child nutrition indicators show a mixed pattern across states. While the situation improved in many States/UTs, there has been minor deterioration in others. Drastic changes in respect of stunting and wasting are unlikely in a short period.
  • Anaemia among women and children continues to be a cause of concern. More than half of the children and women are anaemic in 13 of the 22 States/UTs. It has also been observed that aanaemia among pregnant women has increased in half of the States/UTs compared to NFHS-4, in spite of substantial increase in the consumption of IFA tablets by pregnant women for 180 days or more.
  • For both women and men, there is a lot of variation in the high or very high random blood glucose levels across States/UTs. Men are more likely to have slightly higher blood glucose levels in the range of high or very high compared to women. The percentage of men with high or very high blood glucose is highest in Kerala (27%) followed by Goa (24%). Prevalence of elevated blood pressure (hypertension) among men is somewhat higher than in women.
  • The percentage of households with improved sanitation facility and clean fuel for cooking has increased in almost all the 22 States/UTs over the last four years (from  2015-16  to  2019-20). The Government of India has made concerted efforts to provide toilet facilities to maximum households through Swachh Bharat Mission, and improved household environment through Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana in the country. For instance, the use of cooking fuel has increased more than 10 percentage point in all the States and UTs during the last 4 years with over 25 percentage point increase in states of Karnataka and Telangana.
  • Women’s empowerment indicators portray considerable improvement across all the States/UTs included in Phase 1. Considerable progress has been recorded between NFHS-4 and NFHS-5 in regard to women operating bank accounts.  For instance, in the case of Bihar the increase was to the tune of 51 percentage point from 26 per cent to 77 per cent. More than 60 per cent of women in every state and UTs in the first phase have operational bank accounts.

Personality in News

Sardar Patel – The Iron Man of India

“By common endeavour we can raise the country to a new greatness, while a lack of unity will expose us to fresh calamities.”

These pragmatic but profound remarks defined the vision and the sterling character of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the principal unifier of modern India.

  • First Deputy Prime Minister of India
  • Widely considered to be the architect of modern India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel played an important role in the integration of all the princely states (especially Hyderabad, Junagadh and Kashmir) into the Indian Union after the British left India in 1947.
  • Provided good governance as an able administrator in diverse fields like modern farming and empowerment of tribal communities
  • Organised peasants from Kheda, Borsad, and Bardoli in Gujarat in non-violent civil disobedience against the British Raj, becoming one of the most influential leaders in Gujarat.
    • He earned the title of “Sardar” after spearheading a no-tax campaign by peasants at Bardoli in Gujarat.
    • He also led the relief and rehabilitation operations when Gujarat was ravaged by floods and worked tirelessly during a plague outbreak in Ahmedabad.
  • He is also remembered as the “patron saint of India’s civil servants” for having established the modern all-India services system. “A civil servant cannot afford to, and must not, take part in politics. Nor must he involve himself in communal wrangles. To depart from the path of rectitude in either of these respects is to debase public service and to lower its dignity,” he had cautioned them on April 21, 1947.

India without Sardar:

  • Subcontinent would be divided into two regions, one part a democratic India surrounded by the other part—close to 560 smaller states ruled by kings and their descendants. 
  • Half of the Indians would be living under a democratic set-up with freedoms and the rest living under some monarchy. 
  • The principle of Unity, Liberty, Equality enshrined in the Constitution would exist in one part and not in the other.
  • There would be restrictions on travelling and transporting goods from one part to another.
  • One part of India would be governed by the ideas of Justice and Liberty, whereas the other would have survived devoid of these ideas. 
  • Chaos and anarchy would have followed, and the idea of India would have failed at the very start of its journey.

Force behind unification

  • Sardar Patel’s foresight and tactful navigation of the most turbulent period in post-Independence, and the resolve he demonstrated in integrating the more than 500 princely States into the Dominion of India is an unparalleled accomplishment in modern history.
  • Hailing Patel’s feat, Lord Mountbatten declared the unification of India as the first great success of the new independent government.
  • Patel was a statesman with a strong sense of realpolitik, a realist to the core and an earthy politician whose sole aim was to build a strong and united India.
  • The princely rulers had the option at that time to either accede to India or Pakistan or remain independent.
  • Patel’s wisdom, foresight, patriotism, tact, persuasive powers and abiding commitment to fair play enabled him to untangle a highly complex political and social problem without triggering any kind of revolt or civil unrest.

Operation Polo (Hyderabad) and case of Junagarh

  • Patel was also compelled to use coercion by launching ‘Operation Polo’ to liberate and integrate Hyderabad after the Nizam of Hyderabad entertained false hopes of either joining Pakistan or remaining independent.
  • In a swift operation lasting five days, Hyderabad State was liberated in September 1948.
  • It was the most critical time when the country’s political unity was in jeopardy, India found the man of the moment in Sardar Patel.
  • He displayed amazing patience, tact and a steely determination in dealing with an intransigent ruler, who refused to see the writing on the wall and even wanted to take the issue to the United Nations.
  • Displaying statesmanship of the highest order, Sardar Patel prevented the attempts to not only Balkanise India but internationalise the issue as well.
  • The complicated case of Junagarh, Gujarat, was also handled with dexterity by Patel.
  • The problem of Jammu and Kashmir may have been resolved long back had Sardar Patel been given a free hand to handle it at that time.

A builder of India

  • Patel himself termed the entire exercise as a “bloodless revolution” when he wanted the Constituent Assembly to consider privy purse settlements for the surrender by the rulers of all their ruling powers and the dissolution of the States as separate units.
  • Patel was an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi and never swerved in his loyalty to his mentor, although there were occasions when he differed with him.
  • Similarly, he did not see eye-to-eye with Jawaharlal Nehru on certain issues, including the handling of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • But he did not allow these differences or personal ego to come in the way of protecting the larger interests of the country.
  • He worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Nehru in building a modern India.
  • Patel was a multifaceted personality. He was a dynamic political leader, an organiser par excellence, a competent administrator and a skilful negotiator.
  • After coming under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi, he became his loyal follower and successfully organised peasants against the imposition of taxes by the British at Kheda and Bardoli, Gujarat, and in the process he earned the title of ‘Sardar’ for his leadership qualities.
  • The manner in which he marshalled the peasants and the unflinching stand taken by him eventually forced the authorities to roll back the taxes.

Architect of the steel frame

  • The Iron Man of India was the chief architect of India’s steel frame — the civil services.
  • Thus, the All India Services were seen as an important cementing force in promoting the unity and integrity of the nation.
  • It will be relevant to recall his famous address to the civil service probationers in 1947. when Patel told them that the service will have to adopt its true role of national service without being trammelled upon by traditions and habits of the past.
  • He said: “Your (officers’) predecessors were brought up in the traditions in which they felt out of touch and kept themselves aloof from the common run of the people. It will be your bounden duty to treat the common men in India as your own or to put it correctly, to feel yourself to be one of them.”

The man of integrity and intentions of “nation first”

  • He readily accepted the Mahatma Gandhi’s advice to withdraw his candidacy for the post of Congress President in favour of Pandit Nehru in 1946, although a majority of State Congress committees supported his candidature.
  • It was apparent that the Congress President would become the first Prime Minister of India. It once again proved his noble intention of placing the country’s interests above self.
  • His love for the motherland was best described by Maulana Azad when he said: “He made his choice out of two courses that come before a man, namely would he live for his country or for himself? Sardar chose his country.”

Criticisms:

  • Patel’s idea of unity was incomplete. 
  • He may have created a united India, but this India remains full of contradictions and inequalities, both social and economic.
  • Politically, we may be equal and united, but socially and economically we are not.

Acknowledging the monumental contribution of Patel in nation building, Jawaharlal Nehru said, “History will call him the builder and consolidator of new India.”

The remarks Patel made during the Quit India Movement are also relevant today. He said: “We have to shed mutual bickering, shed the difference of being high or low and develop the sense of equality and banish untouchability. We have to live like the children of the same father”.

Statue of Unity

  • On Sadhu Hill
  • Standing at 182 meters in the middle of river Narmada at Kevadia in Gujarat’s Narmada district, the Statue of Unity is the tallest statue in the world– much taller than the 153 metre Spring Temple Buddha in China and almost twice the size of the Statue of Liberty in New York. (remember the places for Prelims)
  • One can have a view of the Satpura and Vindhyachal mountain ranges, which also form the point where Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra meet. (Prelims centric fact)
  • Visitors can also get a distant view of the 12-km-long Garudeshwar Reservoir (which will help ensure there is always water around the statue), which is located downstream from the Narmada dam. (Prelims centric – location of the reservoir)
  • Man Behind the Statue: Shri Ram Vanji Sutar, the 93-year-old sculptor.

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