Polity & Governance
- Not a pipe dream: Govt to set up national gas hub
- National Student Startup Policy
- International Conference on Brucellosis 2016
Bilateral & International Relations
- Bhutan blocks India’s ambitious sub-regional road connectivity plan
- India is ‘non-committal’ on market economy tag for China
- Iran overtakes Saudi to becomes India’s top crude oil supplier
Key Facts for Prelims
- Faster-growing crops
- Jhelum-Tawi Flood Recovery Project
- ‘Sunway Taihulight’- Fastest Supercomputer
Polity & Governance
Not a pipe dream: Govt to set up national gas hub
The government is planning to come up with a national gas hub, which would be a trading platform for gas at market-determined price.
- A final form of this Indian benchmark will be ready within a year.
What is a gas hub?
- A gas hub is a physical point where several gas pipelines come together or intersect.
- It is a trading place for gas at market determined prices.
How it operates?
- A gas hub works exactly like a stock exchange does. There are buyers and sellers, and prices are determined by market forces. Gas is thus freely traded.
- The ministry of petroleum and natural gas is working towards setting up a common gas hub after the government introduced a new gas pricing formula in 2014.
- This gas price is applicable for six months wherein the average prices of US-based Henry Hub, the UK-based National Balancing Point, Canada’s Alberta Gas and Russian gas gets reflected.
Significance of this idea:
- If the idea gets cleared, India will also have a gas-trading place similar to international hubs such as the US’ Henry Hub and the UK’s National Balancing Point. While Henry Hub is a physical point where several gas pipelines come together, National Balancing Point is a virtual trading point.
- This is a huge positive for upstream companies in India as prices will be market-driven. Moreover, it seems like the domestic natural gas pricing will be uniform with the move.
- At present, the Indian domestic natural gas price is calculated on a half-yearly basis, based on a weighted average of Henry Hub, National Balancing Point, Russian gas and Canada’s Alberta Gas.
National Student Startup Policy
President Pranab Mukherjee recently launched the National Student Startup Policy.
- The National Student Startup Policy, formulated by AICTE, aims to create 100,000 technology based student start-ups and a million employment opportunities within the next 10 years.
- The policy plans on achieving this by developing an ideal entrepreneurial ecosystem and promoting strong inter-institutional partnerships among technical institutions.
- It emphasizes the much-desired need for an appropriate startup policy to propel the youth of India through and beyond the 21st century.
International Conference on Brucellosis 2016
The International Conference on Brucellosis 2016 and the 69th meeting of the International Society on Brucellosis was inaugurated in New Delhi.
- The conference has been organised by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in collaboration with Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR).
- On the sidelines of the conference, Brucella Free Villages programme was also launched.
- Provide a technical platform for scientist and experts from all over the world including Participants from 26 countries.
- Help endemic countries in designing effective control strategies and eradication methods as per the laws governing the livestock production systems.
- The conference is result of DBT’s network programme on Brucellosis launched in 2012 to address the epidemiology and development of new generation of vaccines and diagnostic kits.
About Brucella Free Villages programme:
- It will be implemented on pilot scale in 50 villages covering 10 states.
- This programme will be supported by guidelines and standard operating practices along with an IT enabled application.
- Brucellosis is a dreadful disease caused by genus of bacteria known as Brucella.
- It infects various species of Brucella cows, buffalos, goats, sheep, pigs, dogs and other animals and also humans.
- Brucellosis is endemic disease in India.
How it is transmitted?
- Human become infected by this disease by coming in contact with animals or animal products (meat and milk) contaminated with these bacteria.
- The persons who are exposed to high risk of brucellosis infection are dairy man, veterinarians, butchers and other animal handlers.
- In infected humans, range of brucellosis symptoms are seen.
- They are similar to the flu and may include fever, headache, sweats, back pain and physical weakness.
- In case of severe infections of the central nervous system (CNS) or lining of the heart may also occur.
- Often it is diagnosed after ruling out all other fevers such as those caused by typhoid, malaria, dengue etc. Chronic brucellosis can be treated with triple-antibiotic therapy.
Bilateral & International Relations
Bhutan blocks India’s ambitious sub-regional road connectivity plan
An ambitious road connectivity plan involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) has hit a roadblock with the upper house of Bhutan parliament deciding against ratifying the motor vehicle pact.
What are the reasons for denial?
- A large cross-section of people in Bhutan, including lawmakers, have expressed concerns over the environmental impact of allowing large number of vehicles enter the country after it ratifies the pact.
- The BBIN agreement – signed in Bhutan’s capital Thimpu in July – will become operational only when all the four countries ratify it. India, Bangladesh and Nepal have already ratified the pact.
- This might also derail the entire plan as any restrictions which are beyond the reasonable won’t be accepted by the other member countries.
- This is the second time that the Indian government’s sub-regional road connectivity plan has hit a hurdle. Earlier, Pakistan scuppered the SAARC motor vehicle agreement by refusing to come on board.
- India then decided to tap its eastern neighbours to boost regional connectivity. Bypassing Pakistan, India moved to have an agreement with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan to remove restrictions on vehicular movement in the subcontinent.
About the agreement:
The Union Cabinet had approved a proposal to sign the SAARC MVA during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014.
- The SAARC declaration at the Kathmandu Summit in November 2014 also encouraged Member States to initiate regional and sub-regional measures to enhance connectivity.
- Accordingly, it was considered appropriate that a sub-regional Motor Vehicle Agreement among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) may be pursued.
- The pact will allow seamless movement of passenger and cargo vehicles among the four countries.
- Under the agreement, the “contracting parties” will allow cargo vehicles for inter-country cargo, including third country cargo and passenger vehicles or personal vehicles, to ply in the territory of another country “subject to the terms of the agreement”. All vehicles, however, will require a permit for plying through the other country.
Significance for India:
India is in a bilateral motor vehicle agreement with Nepal and Bangladesh, but a multilateral pact would go a long way in boosting trade in the region.[Ref: Hindustan Times]
India is ‘non-committal’ on market economy tag for China
Indian government has indicated that it is not inclined to automatically grant the coveted ‘Market Economy Status’ (MES) to China this December under World Trade Organisation (WTO) norm.
Why India is reluctant to grant MES to China?
- According to India, granting MES to China will severely curb the ability of nations including India to impose anti-dumping duties on “unfairly priced” Chinese imports.
- With this, India has taken sides with the U.S. and European Union in stating that unlike in ‘market economies’ where prices of items are market determined (based on demand & supply conditions), there is still a significant government influence in the Chinese market.
What’s the issue?
- As per the 2001 agreement (Protocol on accession of China to the WTO), WTO-member countries had then decided to deem China as a ‘market economy’ from December 2016.
- The 15-year time period (i.e. till December 2016) was given to China to carry out internal reforms and transition into a ‘market economy.’
- This period allowed WTO member nations to ignore selling price and production costs in China for 15 years in calculating the ‘normal value’ of the exported goods.
- It also gave permission WTO member nations to compare prices or costs with external benchmarks to calculate the ‘normal value’ and ‘dumping margin’.
- Unlike in ‘market economies’ where prices of items are market determined there is still a significant government influence in the Chinese market. So many countries are opposing to give MES status to China.
What is a non-market economy?
- A “non-market economy” is any foreign country that does not operate on market principles of cost or pricing structures.
- Under WTO norms, once a country gets MES status, exports from it are to be accepted at the production costs and selling price as the benchmark. Prior to this status, country is considered as a Non Market Economy (NME).
- Under the WTO norms, the importing countries are allowed to use alternative methodologies for the determination of normal values for the exports from NME country.
- It often leads to imposition of higher anti-dumping duties by importing countries to protect its domestic market.
Iran overtakes Saudi to becomes India’s top crude oil supplier
As per a ship tracking data and a report compiled by Thomson Reuters Oil Research and Forecasts, Iran for the first time ever has surpassed Saudi Arabia to become India’s top crude oil supplier.
Earlier, Iran used to be India’s second-biggest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia till 2010-11. However, it had ceded its position to Iraq after the tougher western countries sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear development programme.
Reasons for sudden surge:
- Iran produces almost 4 million bpd of oil and exports 2.4 million bpd. Its arch rival Saudi Arabia, has increased its capacity to refine oil rather than exporting more crude.
- Iranian price discounts has attracted purchases from India’s programme to build up its strategic petroleum reserves (SPR).
- For the SPR stocks, India imported 2 million barrels of Iran and is going to import another 4 million barrels in November 2016.
- Buyers of Iranian oil which had stopped imports during the sanctions period again have returned. It includes, Indian refiners including Reliance Industries Ltd, operator of the world’s biggest refinery complex at Jamnagar.
Key Facts for Prelims
- Scientists have improved the photosynthesis process in the plants to produce faster-growing crops.
- They had used genetic modification technology to improve photosynthesis in the plants.
- This modification increased amount of sunlight energy crop plants can channel into food production.
- The breakthrough has increased the yield in the experimental crop by 15%.
- This is seen as a critical step towards increasing crop production to feed a growing global population.
Jhelum-Tawi Flood Recovery Project
- The project has been launched by the Jammu and Kashmir Government to give push to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure post-2014 floods in the state.
- The project is funded by the World Bank.
- The loan assistance from the World Bank would be shared by Centre and the State Government on 90:10 basis and it would be operative for five years ending June 2020.
‘Sunway Taihulight’- Fastest Supercomputer
- China’s ‘Sunway Taihulight’ has won the fastest supercomputer title in the recently released 48th edition of Top 500 list of supercomputers.
- TaihuLight has retained the top spot in the list of the world’s fastest supercomputers for the eighth consecutive year.
- In this list, the number of systems installed in China had increased to 171 from 168 on last list released in June 2016. United States also now has 171 systems up from 165 in previous list.
- TaihuLight is built entirely using processors designed and made in China.
- TaihuLight made its appearance in June, replacing the former champion, Tianhe-2, also a Chinese system but built based on Intel chips.