ias-toppers-India-Russia-St-Petersburg-Declaration
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Current Affairs Analysis

2nd June 2017 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

India-Russia Agreements; St Petersburg Declaration; SMARTGRAM Initiative; INAM-Pro +; What is International Investment Agreement (IIA)? Early Warning Dissemination System (EWDS); Prithvi-II; LIGO & Third gravitational wave detection; APQN Quality Award to NAAC; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
June 02, 2017

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • SMARTGRAM initiative
  • INAM-Pro +

Economy

  • ‘Investment pact system needs review’

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Odisha to have first automatic coastal warning for disasters in India

Bilateral & International Relations

  • India and Russia Sign 5 Pacts & St Petersburg Declaration

Defence & Security Issues

  • Prithvi-II Missile Test Fired Successfully

Key Facts for Prelims

  • LIGO makes third gravitational wave detection
  • Internet usage rises 28% in 2016: report
  • Prestigious APQN Quality Award to NAAC

For IASToppers’ Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here

Polity & Governance

SMARTGRAM initiative

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee will visit village Dhaula, Gurugram (Haryana) to lay the foundation stone of a Driver’s Training Institute and a Secondary School under the SMARTGRAM Initiative.

ias-toppers-SMARTGRAM-initiative

What is SMARTGRAM Initiative?

  • On May 19, 2016, President of India while inaugurating an Intelligent Operations Centre (IOC) in Rashtrapati Bhavan had declared the President’s Estate a smart township.
  • He directed that the RB smart township model should be replicated in five selected villages in adjoining districts in NCR to convert them into smart model villages.
  • Following this, the Haryana government selected the following five villages for the pilot project
  1. Alipur,
  2. Rojka Meo,
  3. Harchandpur
  4. Taj Nagar and
  5. Dauhla

What is called SMARTGRAM?

  • A SMARTGRAM or smart village is a humane, hi-tech and happy village which ensures an enhanced quality of life that contributes to the harmony, happiness and well-being of all the villagers.
  • A smart gram would have the required basic physical and social infrastructure with a layer of smart information and communication embedded in the infrastructure to improve governance and delivery of services, livelihood and economic opportunities.
[Ref: PIB]

 

INAM-Pro +

The Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari launched INAM-Pro +.

ias-toppers-INAM-Pro-+

What is INAM-Pro +?

  • INAM-Pro+ is an upgraded version of INAM-Pro, the web portal launched by the Ministry in 2015 as a common platform to bring cement buyers and sellers together.
  • The web portal was designed by National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL).

INAM Pro and INAM-Pro+

  • More than 700 construction companies have used INAM-Pro during the last two years.
  • With 37 Cement companies registered on it, the portal facilitated comparison of price, availability of materials etc. and made it very convenient for the prospective buyers to procure cement at reasonable rates.
  • The publicly visible prices promoted transparency and enhanced ease of doing business.
  • The companies registered on INAM-Pro have a committed supply of 27 million metric tons of cement.
  • INAM-Pro has been highly acclaimed by the construction industry and IT sector and has also been recognized and listed in the Book-on-Innovations ‘New Beginning’ released by PM Narendra Modi.
  • Following the success with cement material, the portal was upgraded as INAM-Pro+ to include each and every construction material, machinery and services like purchase, lease of new or used products and services in the domains of Construction Materials like cement, steel, stone aggregates, concrete, bricks, wood, sanitary items, paint etc.

INAM-Pro+ will also offer:

  • Infrastructure machinery like paver finisher, backhoe loaders, etc.
  • Intelligent transport system equipment like CCTV, ECB, boom barriers, etc.
  • Road furniture like road signage, road studs, etc.
  • Haulage vehicles such as tippers, backhoe loaders, cranes, etc.
  • Other services like road marking, ambulance, route patrolling, tree plantation and transplantation.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Economy

‘Investment pact system needs review’

What is International Investment Agreement (IIA)?

An International Investment Agreement (IIA) is a type of treaty between countries that addresses issues relevant to cross-border investments, usually for the purpose of protection, promotion and liberalization of such investments.

ias toppers International Investment Agreement

  • Most IIAs cover foreign direct investment (FDI) and portfolio investment, but some exclude the latter.
  • Countries concluding IIAs commit themselves to adhere to specific standards on the treatment of foreign investments within their territory.
  • IIAs further define procedures for the resolution of disputes should these commitments not be met.
  • The most common types of IIAs are Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) and Preferential Trade and Investment Agreements (PTIAs).
  • International Taxation Agreements and Double Taxation Treaties (DTTs) are also considered as IIAs, as taxation commonly has an important impact on foreign investment.

How are investments protected under an IIA?

An IIA contains obligations on the host State, which may include:

  • Treating foreign investors as favourably as domestic investors or foreign investors from other countries;
  • Treating foreign investors fairly and equitably, as well as giving them protection and security;
  • Establishing clear limits on the expropriation of investments and compensating foreign investors should expropriation occur;
  • Allowing foreign investors to freely transfer their capital in and out of the host State; and
  • Allowing foreign investors to submit investment disputes to international arbitration.

Why in news?

  • According to a senior Indian government official. the system of International Investment Agreements (IIA) — including the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism — needs to be urgently reviewed and reformed.

Why?

  • The IIA system currently has a pro-investor bias as it focuses on the protection of capital and the return on capital. No such protection has been extended to labour, indigenous people, migrants, or consumers, all of whom have linkages with investment.
  • The current ISDS mechanism, which is ad hoc, unpredictable and often arbitrary, needs urgent review.
  • The current ISDS regime can be quite costly for host countries. As per a UN Conference on Trade and Development report, as of end-2016, some 767 arbitration cases were publicly known to have been filed against host countries under IIAs.
  • The ISDS mechanism is contentious as it enables companies to drag governments to international arbitration without exhausting the local remedies and seek massive amounts as compensation citing losses due to reasons, including policy changes.

Background:

  • India, along with countries including South Africa, had recently opposed efforts by nations including China, Brazil, Australia and South Korea to begin discussions on a proposal for an investment facilitation agreement at the World Trade Organisation (WTO)-level that reportedly seeks to incorporate provisions including the controversial ISDS mechanism.
  • Following many companies suing the Indian government using the ISDS mechanism in the BITs that India had inked with various countries, the Indian government had revised its Model BIT Text and unilaterally terminated the BITs.

Way ahead:

  • The future IIA regime should incorporate different socio-economic conditions of host countries.
  • There should be a greater focus on other alternative modes of dispute settlement, including domestic remedies or compulsory negotiation and mediation, wherever possible.
  • Direct access to international mechanisms should be allowed only when there are no local remedies.
  • The regulatory freedom of governments to pursue measures for welfare or legitimate public policy purposes must not be compromised.
[Ref: The Hindu, Wiki]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Odisha to have first automatic coastal warning for disasters in India

Odisha State government is all set to commission the ambitious Early Warning Dissemination System (EWDS) that would enable loud sirens go off simultaneously from towers at 122 locations by July.

ias toppers Odisha EWDS

  • Odisha is the first State in India to have developed an automatic public address system that can be activated along its entire coast.
  • Neighbouring Andhra Pradesh is also building up such capability to face natural calamities.

Key features of the system:

  • The warning can be disseminated just by pressing a single button from a control room in the State capital in the event of the occurrence of natural disasters.
  • It would trigger loud sirens simultaneously from towers at 122 locations including tourist destinations, fish landing centres and coastal habitations situated across the state.
  • The sound emanating from the towers can be heard in localities up to a radius of 1.5 km.
  • The EWDS comprises of Satellite-Based Mobile Data Voice Terminals (SBMDVT), Digital Mobile Radio (DMR), Mass Messaging System (MMS) and Universal Communication Interface (UCI) for inter-operability among different communication technologies.
  • The project at an estimated cost of ₹ 82 crore will be implemented with assistance from the World Bank.

Significance:

  • At present, the meteorological prediction has improved considerably and authorities handling disasters are able to know the intensity of cyclones two to three days in advance. But what would happen if the tsunami alert is to be disseminated in the dead of the night? Then the siren alert system would come handy.
  • The EWDS will help the people to move to safer places before government agencies commenced evacuation.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

India and Russia Sign 5 Pacts & St Petersburg Declaration

India and Russia have inked 5 pacts after wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Russia.

ias-toppers-India-Russia-St-Petersburg-Declaration

MoUs/Agreements include:

  1. The program of cultural exchanges between the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of India for 2017-2019.
  2. The General Framework Agreement for the construction of the third stage of the Kudankulam NPP (KK5 & KK6) along with the Credit Protocol.
  3. Agreement between the Federal Service for Intellectual Property (Rospatent) and the Council of India on Scientific and Industrial Research on granting access to Rospatent experts to the Indian Digital Library of Traditional Knowledge (TKDL).
  4. Contract between JSC (Russian Railways) and the Ministry of Railways on the preparation of the justification for the implementation of the high-speed service at the Nagpur-Secunderabad section has been signed.
  5. Memorandum of cooperation between ALROSA Joint Stock Company and the Council for the Promotion of the Export of Precious Stones and Jewellery of India has been signed.

St Petersburg Declaration:

  • To mark the 70 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the St Petersburg Declaration.
  • The declaration envisages an action plan for deepening relations in all areas, including political and economic development of the two countries and also to ensure that their ties contribute to the establishment of a more peaceful and just world order.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Defence & Security Issues

Prithvi-II Missile Test Fired Successfully

Surface to Surface Ballistic Missile Prithvi-II was successfully launched from ITR, Chandipur, Balasore off Orissa coast.

ias toppers Prithvi-II test fire

About Prithvi-II:

  • The Prithvi-II is a short-range surface-to-surface missile.
  • The missile is capable of carrying warheads weighing 500 kg to 1,000 kg.
  • Notably, Prithvi is India’s first indigenously-built ballistic missile.
  • With a strike range of 350 km, Prithvi-II is powered by twin-engines which use liquid propulsion.
  • It uses advanced inertial guidance system with manoeuvring trajectory to hit its target.
  • It is one of the five missiles being developed under the country’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.
  • The missile was inducted into the armed forces in 2003.
[Ref: Times of India]

 

Key Facts for Prelims

LIGO makes third gravitational wave detection

ias-toppers-LIGO-GW170104

  • The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors in the U.S. have detected yet another merger of two black holes forming gravitational waves.
  • Named as GW170104, this is the third confirmed detection of gravitational waves coming from a binary black hole merger.
  • Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago.
  • The study had a major Indian contribution and the LIGO-India facility, which is making immense progress will join the club in 2024.

iastoppers LIGO GW170104

 

Internet usage rises 28% in 2016: report

ias toppers Mary Meeker Internet Trends 2017

  • According to Mary Meeker Internet Trends 2017 report, internet users in India grew to an estimated 355 million users in 2016, up 28% from 277 million in the previous year.
  • However, Internet penetration still stands at 27%.

Highlights of the report:

  • While the average selling price of a smartphone and the cost of wireless data were declining, they were still unaffordable for many people.
  • Data prices have fallen more than 48% over the past last year.
  • Indians spent 150 billion hours between 2014-16 on Android phone at and are the biggest downloaders of applications from Google Play with more than six billion downloads during the two-year period. This, however, does not include China.
  • In India, little less than 80% of Internet usage happens via mobiles as opposed to the global average of 50%.

 

Prestigious APQN Quality Award to NAAC

ias-toppers-National-Assessment-and-Accreditation-Council-(NAAC)

  • National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) of India has received prestigious International Award of Asia Pacific Quality Network (APQN) titled “APQN Quality Award 2017 for International Co-operation in Quality Assurance.”
  • APQN Quality Award are among the most prestigious International Awards in quality assurance of higher education.
  • As one of the founder agencies of Asia-Pacific Quality Network (APQN) and The International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE), the NAAC has played pro-active role in international quality assurance scenario.
  • Similarly, NAAC and its faculty have worked with UNESCO on various projects, events and publications.
  • In the recent past NAAC has also joined hands with various European partners for collaborative projects sponsored by European Commission.”

 

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