Government Schemes & Policies
- Export Credit Guarantee Corporation’s new scheme to enhance loan availability for exporters
- Hidden cost of global food, land use at $12 trillion: Report
- Digital Platform to Give Single Point Access to Exporters
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- India working to eliminate harmful HCFC by 2020
- No Uranium mining in Amrabad Tiger Reserve forest: Telangana CM
Bilateral & International Relations
- Taiwan loses biggest Pacific ally as Solomons embraces China
- How attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facility could impact Indian and world economies
Defence & Security Issues
- Former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah booked under Public Safety Act
- SITMEX 2019
Science & Technology
- NASA’s ‘LRO’ can help ISRO figure out Vikram Lander’s fate on Moon
- Survey of India to deploy 300 drones for mapping country
- New device harvests energy in darkness
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Government Schemes & Policies
Export Credit Guarantee Corporation’s new scheme to enhance loan availability for exporters
Union Minister of Commerce & Industry said that Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India (ECGC) has introduced a new scheme called ‘NIRVIK’ to enhance loan availability for exporters and ease the lending process.
About NIRVIK Scheme
- NIRVIK scheme strives to simplify the process of procuring a loan from financial institutions and aims to increase the loans offered to exporters in the country.
Benefits of NIRVIK scheme:
The scheme will:
- Ensures that the foreign and rupee exchange rates remain below 4 per cent and 8 per cent
- High premium rates for gems, jewellery and diamond (GJD) sectors with a limit of more than Rs.80 crore due to high loss ratio
- Enables the Indian exports to be competitive in national and international markets
- Reduced cost of insurance and tax reimbursements to increase productivity and increase credit loans
- Reduced cost of credit due to capital relief
- Enhances accessibility and affordability of credit for exporters.
- Helps make Indian exports competitive.
- Makes ECGC procedures exporter friendly.
- Ensures timely and adequate working capital to the export sector.
The insurance cover is expected to bring down the cost of credit due to capital relief, less provision requirement and liquidity due to quick settlement of claims.
About Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (ECGC)
- ECGC Ltd, wholly owned by Government of India, was set up in 1957.
- It was Formerly known as Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India
- It aims to promote exports from the country by providing credit risk insurance and related services for exports.
- It functions under the administrative control of Ministry of Commerce & Industry and is managed by a Board of Directors comprising representatives of the Government, Reserve Bank of India, banking, and insurance and exporting community.
- Finance Minister in Pandit Nehru’s cabinet appointed a special committee under the Chairmanship of T.C.Kapur to examine the feasibility of setting up an effective organization to provide insurance against export credit risks.
- The Government accepted the recommendations of Kapur Committee and thus the Export Risk Insurance Corporation (ERIC) was registered in 1957.
What does ECGC do?
- Provides a range of credit risk insurance covers to exporters against loss in export of goods and services.
- Offers Export Credit Insurance covers to banks and financial institutions to enable exporters to obtain better facilities from them.
- Provides Overseas Investment Insurance to Indian companies investing in joint ventures abroad in the form of equity or loan.
How does ECGC help exporters?
- Offers insurance protection to exporters against payment risks.
- Provides guidance in export-related activities.
- Makes available information on different countries with its own credit ratings.
- Makes it easy to obtain export finance from banks/financial institutions.
- Assists exporters in recovering bad debts.
- Provides information on credit-worthiness of overseas buyers.
Need for export credit insurance
- The Payments risks have assumed large proportions today due to the far-reaching political and economic changes.
- However, an outbreak of war or civil war may block or delay payment for goods A coup or an insurrection may also bring about the same result. Economic difficulties or balance of payment problems may lead a country to impose restrictions on either import of certain goods or on transfer of payments for goods imported.
- Export credit insurance is designed to protect exporters from the consequences of the payment risks, both political and commercial, and to enable them to expand their overseas business without fear of loss.
Hidden cost of global food, land use at $12 trillion: Report
According a report of Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), the current methods of food production, consumption and land use systems incur ‘hidden’ environmental, health and poverty costs estimated at almost $12 trillion a year.
Key findings of report
- Food and land use systems are defined as the way “land is used, food is produced, stored, packed, processed, traded, distributed, marketed, consumed and disposed of”.
- It will also put the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement climate targets out of reach.
- Current Food and land use systems are the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions which are responsible for the degradation of the world’s natural habitats. They are also the leading cause behind the ongoing ‘sixth extinction’ of biodiversity.
- Global farm subsidies are triggering climate crisis as much of subsidies is used to promote high-emission cattle production, forest destruction and pollution and just 1% of subsides is used to benefit the environment.
- The current food systems are driving widespread malnutrition, leading to the largest hidden costs: Today, one-third of the world’s population is malnourished; by 2030 it is expected to rise up to 50 per cent.
- It cites example of the return of forests in Costa Rica due to the elimination of cattle subsidies and payments for improving nature.
- The hidden costs ($12 Trillion a year) of current methods of food production, consumption and land use systems can cause irreversible damage to ecosystem and increase public health costs.
- These hidden costs can cause irreversible damage to key ecosystems, fundamentally undermine food security in certain regions, and increase public health costs.
- If action is not taken timely the costs will rise to more than $16 trillion a year by 2050.
- This can further unleash food scarcity, disrupt markets and cause political instability, particularly in poor countries, and greately affect women and children.
The report proposes a reform agenda:
- Healthy diets
- Productive and regenerative agriculture
- A healthy and productive ocean
- Protecting and restoring nature
- Diversifying protein supply
- Reducing food loss and waste
- Local loops and linkages
- Harnessing the digital revolution
- Stronger rural livelihoods
- Gender and demography
Digital Platform to Give Single Point Access to Exporters
Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways launched Common Digital Platform for Issuance of electronic Certificates of Origin (CoO).
What is a certificate of origin?
- A certificate of origin is a document declaring in which country a commodity or good was manufactured. It contains information regarding the product, its destination, and the country of export.
- It is essential in international trade transactions because it is the proof certifying the origin of the product, which is in turn the basis to determine the tariffs and other trade measures that will be applied.
Certificate of origin in India
- India has 15 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)/ Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) with various partner countries under which Indian exporters avail reduced import tariffs in the destination country. In order to avail this benefit, the exporters must provide a preferential CoO.
- These certificates are issued by designated agencies in India after vetting of the rules of origin criteria as per the respective FTA/PTA.
- Some designated agencies for CoO issuance are Export Inspection Council India (EIC), Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), Textile Committee and Tobacco Board.
About the Common Digital Platform for Issuance of electronic Certificates of Origin (CoO):
- A new common digital platform for issuance of electronic preferential CoOs has been conceptualized to address various challenges in the current process.
- The platform has been designed and developed by DGFT and Regional & Multilateral Trade Relations (RMTR) Division, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
- This platform is a single access point for all exporters and for all free trade agreements (FTAs)/ preferential trade agreements (PTAs).
- Further, it provides administrative access to Department of Commerce for reporting and monitoring purposes.
Changes made in new Platform
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
India working to eliminate harmful HCFC by 2020
On the World Ozone Day, Environment ministry said that India is proactively working to completely phase out harmful ozone depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) by 2020.
About draft India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)
- Draft ICAP was released by environment minister to provide sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all while securing environmental and socio-economic benefits for the society.
- ICAP aims to assess of cooling requirements across sectors in next 20 years and the associated refrigerant demand and energy use,
- India is the first country in world to develop such a document (ICAP).
Goals of ICAP
- Recognition of cooling and related areas as a thrust area of research under national science and technology programme
- Reduction of cooling demand across sectors by 20% to 25 % by 2037-38
- Reduction of refrigerant demand by 25% to 30% by 2037-38
- Reduction of cooling energy requirements by 25% to 40% by 2037-38, and
- Training and certification of 100,000 servicing sector technicians by 2022-23
Benefits of ICAP:
The following benefits would accrue to society over and above the environmental benefits:
- Thermal comfort for all – provision for cooling for EWS and LIG housing
- Sustainable cooling – low GHG emissions related to cooling
- Doubling Farmers Income – better cold chain infrastructure – better value of products to farmers, less wastage of produce
- Skilled workforce for better livelihoods and environmental protection
- Make in India – domestic manufacturing of air-conditioning and related cooling equipment’s
- Robust R&D on alternative cooling technologies – to provide the push to innovation in a cooling sector
About Montreal Protocol
- The Montreal Protocol, finalized in 1987, is a global agreement that regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 man-made chemicals referred to as ozone depleting substances (ODS).
- The Protocol is to date the only UN treaty ever that has been ratified by all 197 UN Member States.
- The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol was established in 1991 to provide assistance to developing country parties to the Montreal Protocol.
- In 2007, the Parties decided to accelerate their schedule to phase out Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Developed countries will completely phase them out by 2020 while Developing countries agreed to complete phase-out of HCFCs by 2030.
- In 2016, Parties to the Montreal Protocol adopted the Kigali amendment in Rwanda to phase down production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) worldwide. Countries approved gradual reduction by 80-85 per cent by the late 2040s.
India’s effort in eliminating HCFC
- In 2017, India launched the ‘HCFC phase out’ programme under its goal to end use of harmful ozone-depleting substances (ODS) by switching over to non-ozone depleting and low global warming potential technologies.
- As part of this programme, India has decided to phase out HCFC 141b, which is a chemical used in foam manufacturing, by January 1, 2020.
- Government has partnered with the Central Institute of Plastics Engineering and Technology (CIPET) for providing competency enhancement of system houses and Micro, Small and Medium enterprises in foam manufacturing sector for ensuring smooth phase out of HCFC-141b.
- Government is implementing a project jointly to enhance skills and provide certification to one lakh refrigeration and air-conditioning service technicians with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) under Skill India Mission – Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY).
- “Keep Cool and Carry on”: The Montreal Protocol is the theme of 24th World Ozone Day celebrations.
No Uranium mining in Amrabad Tiger Reserve forest: Telangana CM
Asserting that the Telangana government is against uranium mining in Amrabad Tiger Reserve (ATR), Telangana Chief Minister said that an appropriate resolution would be passed in the Assembly and Council, expressing the opinions of both houses.
Why unrest against Uranium mining?
- The Chenchu tribals, residing in Amarabad forests spread over Mahbubnagar and Nalgonda districts of Telangana, protested the Uranium mining in the Nallamala forest.
- They protested because of the possible water and land contamination near the exploration area which is close to Nallavagu and Dindi, tributaries which join the Krishna River.
- During 1992-2012, the Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD) under Department of Atomic Energy carried out survey for exploration of uranium in Nalgonda, Telangana and estimated that 18,550 tonnes of uranium deposits are available there.
- In May 2019, AMD was given approval by the Forest Advisory Committee under the Ministry of Forest to conduct the survey and drill boreholes for the radioactive mineral in Amrabad tiger reserve.
- AMD does not require any permission for survey and investigation for uranium exploration in revenue lands. However, it needs Forest Department clearance for forest lands for exploration.
Legal provisions related to Uranium mining:
- Since Uranium is a major mineral, it is managed by the Union Government under provisions of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. However, with respect to minor minerals, the rulemaking powers have been delegated to the States through this act.
- The policy and legislation relating to Major mineralsare managed by the Ministry of Mines But, Uranium being an atomic mineral is managed by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).
- Many of these mineral deposits are found in rich forest reserves and thus approval of Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change becomes necessary.
Mineral Concession System
- In India, the State Governments are the owner of minerals located within the boundaries of the State concerned.
- In accordance with article 297 of the Constitution, the Central Government is the owner of the minerals underlying the ocean within the territorial waters or the Exclusive Economic Zone of India.
- The State Governments grant the mineral concessions for all the minerals located within the boundary of the State, under the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR) and Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 (MCR) framed thereunder.
- There are three kinds of mineral concessions, viz Reconnaissance Permit(RP), Prospecting License(PL) and Mining Lease(ML).
Reconnaissance Permit (RP)
- RP is granted for preliminary prospecting of a mineral through regional, aerial, geophysical or geochemical surveys and geological mapping. It is granted for 3 years.
Prospecting License (PL)
- PL is granted for undertaking operations for the purpose of exploring, locating or proving mineral deposit. It is granted for a maximum period of 3 years. It can be renewed in such a manner that the total period for which a PL is granted does not exceed 5 years.
Mining Lease (ML)
- ML is granted for undertaking operations for winning any mineral. A ML for any mineral or prescribed group of associated minerals is granted for a minimum period of 20 years and a maximum period of 30 years.
Nuclear Energy Resources
- India has 22 nuclear power reactors and domestic uranium is used in nuclear plants which are not under the international nuclear energy watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Location of uranium deposits:
- Currently, India is facing a shortage of uranium and is growing increasingly dependent on imports of uranium from Canada, Kazakhstan and Japan.
- Uranium deposits occur in the Dharwar rocks. Geographically, uranium ores are known to occur in several locations along the Singbhum Copper belt.
- It is also found in Udaipur, Alwar and Jhunjhunu districts of Rajasthan, Durg district of Chhattisgarh, Bhandara district of Maharashtra and Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh.
- Thorium is mainly obtained from monazite and ilmenite in the beach sands along the coast of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
- World’s richest monazite deposits occur in Palakkad and Kollam districts of Kerala, near Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Mahanadi river delta in Odisha.
- Nallamala Hills is located in the Eastern Ghats in eastern Andhra Pradesh.
- These hills are Located south of the Krishna River and run parallel to the Coromandel Coast on the Bay of Bengal.
- Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve (India’s largest tiger reserve) and Amrabad Tiger Reserve are located in Nallamala Hills. Amrabad Reserve was created after the separation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh.
- The rocks of the Nallamala ranges are among the oldest in the world.
- Chenchus are Hindu Aboriginal tribes residing in the Nallamala hills of Andhra Pradesh.
- The Origin of Chenchu is connected to Lord Malikarjuna of the Srisailim temple.
- India has a tiger population of 2,226 spread across 50 tiger reserves.
Bilateral & International Relations
Taiwan loses biggest Pacific ally as Solomons embraces China
Taiwan has lost its largest ally in the Pacific after the Solomon Islands confirmed that it is switching diplomatic allegiance to China.
- This move is geopolitically significant because Solomon Islands are located directly between Australia and the U.S. and were the site of battles during World War II.
- China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and wants to bring the island back into its territory.
- Taiwan split from mainland China during a civil war in 1949 and set up a rival government.
- Currently, only 16 countries worldwide recognise Taiwan as an independent country, many of them small, less-developed nations in Central America and the Pacific, including Belize and Nauru.
Location of Soloman Islands
- It is located in the continent of Oceania.
- It does not share land borders with any countries.
- It lies east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu.
- The country takes its name from the Solomon Islands archipelago, which is a collection of Melanesian islands that also includes the North Solomon Islands (part of Papua New Guinea).
Location of Taiwan
- Taiwan is bordered by the East China Sea, South China Sea, Luzon Strait, Taiwan Strait and Pacific Ocean.
- It does not share land borders with any countries.
- The Taiwan Strait (Formosa Strait or the Tai-hai) separates mainland China from the island of Taiwan.
How attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facility could impact Indian and world economies
Recently, the Houthis, a rebel Shia group of Yemen that is backed by Iran, bombed the Abqaiq plant as well as the Khurais oil field via drone in Saudi Arabia. This is the largest-ever disruption in crude oil production in Saudi Arabia.
Impact on world
- As the above chart shows, even without the latest disruption, the second half of the 2019 saw decline in oil inventory because of already stagnating supplies. Now, the latest attack will further decrease the oil supply.
- However, even if Saudi’s disrupted oil supplies remain out of the market for the next three months, it can be serviced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s strategic oil buffer.
Impact on India
India imports 80 per cent of the oil it consumes, which means there are multiple ways in which the India will be impacted by this disruption.
- India is already trying to make up for the loss of supply from Iran after US-imposed sanctions.
- After Iraq, Saudi Arabia is India’s second-largest supplier of crude oil, accounting for almost 17 per cent of the country’s imports.
- If the process of oil restoration takes more time than anticipated, India would have to look for alternatives. This may not be easy since the global supply has been fairly volatile because of disruptions in some of the other big suppliers such as Venezuela, Libya and Nigeria.
- Supply constraints and rising oil prices will weaken rupee further against the dollar because as the dollar prices of crude oil rise, India would need to buy more dollars for the same amount of oil, thus depreciating the value of the rupee.
- Rising oil prices will worsen the Indian government’s fiscal balance.
- Moreover, higher crude oil prices would also lead to higher domestic oil prices, which, in turn, will further depress the demand for all things, especially those that use oil as the primary input such as cars.
- This dip in consumption demand could lower economic activity and lower revenues for the government.
Defence & Security Issues
Former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah booked under Public Safety Act
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who had been kept under house arrest since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, has been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
- Recently, Former IAS officer Shah Faesal was also detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
What is the J&K Public Safety Act (PSA)?
- The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA),1978 was introduced to prevent the smuggling of timber. It is often referred to as a draconian law.
- The law allowed the government to detain any person above the age of 16 without trial for a period of two years.
- It allows for detention for up to two yearsin the case of persons acting prejudicial to the security of the State and for detention up to one year where any person is acting prejudicial to the maintenance of public order.
- Detention orders under PSA can be issued by Divisional Commissioners or District Magistrates.
- Section 22 of the Actprovides protection for any action taken “in good faith” under the Act: “No suit, prosecution or any other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of the provisions of this Act.”
Misuse of PSA
- The law was being misused widely and was repeatedly employed against political opponents by consecutive governments until 1990.
- After the emergence of militancy, the J&K government frequently invoked the PSA to detain separatists.
- In August 2018, the Act was amended to allow individuals to be detained under the PSA outside the state as well.
- Under Section 23 of the Act, the government is empowered to make rules consistent with the provisions of the Act. However, global human rights organisations have noted that no Rules have so far been framed to lay down procedures for the implementation of the provisions of the PSA.
- Between 2007 and 2016, over 2,400 PSA detention orders were passed of which about 58% were rejected by the courts.
- PSA does not provide for a judicial review of detention. To checkmate the J&K High Court orders for release of persons detained under the act the state authorities issue successive detention orders. This ensures prolonged detention of people.
- PSC has been used against human rights activists, journalists, separatists and others who are considered as a threat to the law & order. Right to dissent is stifled by these Acts.
- The terms under which a person is detained under PSA are vague and include a broad range of activities like “acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State” or for “acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”.
- The detaining authority need not disclose any facts about the detention “which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose”.
- The vagueness provided in the act gives unbridled powers to the authorities. The detainees, therefore, are effectively debarred from contesting the legality of their detention.
- A maiden trilateral exercise, SITMEX 2019, involving navies of Singapore, Thailand, and India commenced at Port Blair.
About the SITMEX 2019
- It is a 5-day long military exercise between navies of Singapore, Thailand, and India.
- It is aimed at bolstering the maritime inter-relationships amongst Singapore Thailand and India, and contribute significantly to enhancing the overall maritime security in the region.
- It has two phases: During the harbour phase, professional exchanges would be organised. The sea phase will host surface and air operations involving Gunnery, Force Protection Measures and Communication drills.
Science & Technology
NASA’s ‘LRO’ can help ISRO figure out Vikram Lander’s fate on Moon
ISRO’S attempts to figure out what happened to Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram will get a boost when a NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) flies over the lander’s landing site on the Moon.
- ISRO lost contact with the Vikram lander of Chandrayaan-2 mission during its attempt to land on the Moon.
- NASA will share any before and after flyover imagery of the area around the targeted Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lander landing site to support analysis by the ISRO.
What is NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)?
- The LRO is a robotic spacecraft of NASA currently orbiting the Moon.
- Launched in 2009, the primary mission of the LRO is to measure the entire lunar surface to create a high-resolution 3-D map of the Moon to aid in the planning of future robotic and crewed missions.
- In addition, LRO would map the polar regions and search for the presence of water ice.
Objectives of LRO:
- Identify potential lunar resources.
- Gather detailed maps of the lunar surface.
- Collect data on the moon’s radiation levels.
- Study the moons polar regions for resources that could be used in future manned missions or robotic sample return missions.
- Provide measurements to characterize future robotic explorers, human lunar landing sites and to derive measurements that can be used directly in support of future Lunar Human Exploration Systems.
LRO’s technical innovations:
- First global thermal mapping of a planetary body covering a full range of local times and seasons
- First bi-static radar imaging measurements from Earth to a planetary orbiter
- First use of tissue-equivalent-plastic (TEP) in deep space radiation detectors.
Survey of India to deploy 300 drones for mapping country
The Survey of India (SoI), the country’s oldest scientific department, will be using drones to map the country for the first time in its history.
About the Survey through Drone
- The aim of the survey is to map 75 percent of India’s geography. However, the mapping of forests, hills and deserts will not be done.
- The project will cost ₹400-500 crore and is likely to be completed in next two years.
Significance of survey
- Using drones will give high resolution maps of land in villages. This will help in digitalisation of land titles in villages. It will help residents to get property cards and proper legal titles to their land.
- Currently, the Survey of India (SoI) maps have a resolution of 1: 250000 (1 cm on the map represents 2500 cm on the ground). However, the maps created with the help of drones will have more detailed 1:500 resolutions (1 cm will represent 500 cm on the ground).
- Aerial photography, conducted by taking pictures from planes, is expensive and has its limitations. On the other hand, Drone photography is cheap.
About Survey of India
- Survey of India is the National Survey and Mapping Organization of India under the Department of Science & Technology.
- Set up in 1767, it is the Oldest Scientific Department of the Govt. Of India.
- To ensure that the India’s domain is explored and mapped suitably
- To provide base maps for expeditious and integrated development
- To ensure that all resources contribute with their full measure to the progress of India.
New device harvests energy in darkness
An electrical engineer demonstrated a way to harness a dark night sky to power a light bulb through radiative cooling, the phenomenon that makes buildings and parks feel cooler than the surrounding air after sunset.
- According to the laws of thermodynamic, every object emits heat.
- At night, in the absence of cloud to trap emitting heat from earth, objects on the Earth can lose so much heat that they reach a lower temperature than the air surrounding them.
- Six thousand years ago, people in Iran and Afghanistan constructed beehive-shaped structures called yakhchal, which used this passive cooling effect to create and store ice in the desert.
How the prototype works?
- It has polystyrene disk coated in black paint (Radiative cooler) and covered with a wind shield.
- It has also a thermoelectric generator, which uses the difference in temperature between opposite sides of the device to generate a current. It uses the atmosphere’s ambient temperature as the heat source.
- During night, the disk loses warmth. The upward side (side facing the stars at night) grows colder than the side facing at bottom. This slight difference in temperature generates a flow of electricity.