Polity & Governance
- Union Cabinet clears proxy voting for NRIs
- India, ASEAN-5 more fetching to FDI than other emerging markets
Bilateral & International Relations
- India could benefit from Trump’s merit-based immigration policy
- Cabinet apprised of MOU between India and Spain on India-Spain cooperation in renewable energy
- Memorandum of Association (MOA) to establish the ISARC
- Cabinet approves MoU to set up BRICS Agriculture Research Platform (BRICS-ARP)
Science & Technology
- Venμs, Israel’s first environmental research satellite launched
Key Facts for Prelims
- Coconut palm declared State tree of Goa
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Polity & Governance
Union Cabinet clears proxy voting for NRIs
The Union Cabinet has cleared a proposal to extend proxy voting to overseas Indians by amending electoral laws.
- If the proposal passes political muster in Parliament, NRIs will be able to exercise their voting rights through “proxy”.
- Currently, only service personnel are permitted to vote through proxy.
- This decision will enable nearly 16 million NRIs to cast vote their in Indian elections (assembly and Lok Sabha elections) by appointing proxies residing in their constituencies.
- Overseas electors will have to appoint a nominee afresh for each election — one person can act as proxy for only one overseas voter.
- For overseas Indians, the Representation of the People Act needs to be amended to include proxy voting as other means to cast their votes.
- Government (Election Commission) will frame suitable rules and guidelines to make this move effective soon.
- An expert committee in the Election Commission of India (ECI) working on the issue in 2015 had forwarded the legal framework to the Union Law ministry to amend electoral laws to allow overseas Indians use proxy voting.
Need for Proxy Voting:
Currently, Indian voters residing abroad can only cast their votes in their respective constituencies where they are registered.
- This regulation is seen as restrictive as only a few thousand Indians living overseas have registered themselves as voters (maximum from Kerala).
- Of these, barely anyone has travelled to the country to exercise his or her franchise during the elections.
According to rough estimates, there are about 1 crore Indians settled abroad, of which 60 lakh may be within eligible voting age.
- By granting them proxy voting rights, NRIs will be able to exercise franchise during elections and also need not to spend foreign currency to come to India during elections.
- This decision will also enable NRIS and overseas Indian to considerably sway in election results, especially in states such as Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat where a number of expats hail from.
India, ASEAN-5 more fetching to FDI than other emerging markets
As per a report of the Nomura, a Japanese financial services major, India along with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam has emerged as attractive destinations to FDIs as compared to other emerging markets and flows to these nations are expected to surge to around USD 240 billion by 2025.
Highlights of the report:
- The report has dubbed India and ASEAN-5 (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) as “Asias tiger cubs”.
- FDI inflows to these nations will increase from around USD 100 billion per year now to around USD 240 billion by 2025.
- Moreover, sources of FDI to these nations are also witnessing a significant shift with more inflows expected from countries as China and Japan.
What are the reasons behind the projections?
- Rising labour costs in China and an ageing population in Northeast Asia have disincentivised foreign direct investment (FDI) and they are in search of new destinations and “India and the ASEAN-5 are well placed to emerge as that destination.
- Other factors that are expected to encourage FDI into India and ASEAN-5 include – large and growing domestic markets; reforms focussed on improving infrastructure and the ease of doing business; a more open and liberal FDI regime; sound economic management and political stability; and availability of low-cost labour.
Bilateral & International Relations
India could benefit from Trump’s merit-based immigration policy
President Donald Trump has announced his support for the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act that would cut in half the number legal immigrants allowed into the US while moving to a “merit-based” system favouring English-speaking skilled workers for residency cards.
About the RAISE Act:
The RAISE Act would scrap the current lottery system to get into the US and instead institute a points-based system for earning a green card.
- Factors that would be taken into account include English language skills, education, high- paying job offers and age.
- The RAISE Act ends chain migration, and replaces the low-skilled system with a new points-based system for receiving a Green Card.
- If passed by the Congress and signed into law, the legislation titled the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act could benefit highly-educated and technology professionals from countries like India.
How could India be affected?
- Indians, the single largest pool of legal migration into the US today, would be affected by the loss of about 500,000 immigrant visas. But this would be partly offset by the fact Indians will fare well in the competition for the remaining visas.
- According to an analysis of 2013 figures by the Migration Policy Institute, Indian migrants to the US had double the English proficiency of the average migrant to the US and were twice as likely to have professional or advanced degrees.
- They were also four years younger than the median age of a US immigrant.
Cabinet apprised of MOU between India and Spain on India-Spain cooperation in renewable energy
The Union Cabinet has been apprised of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Spain on India-Spain Cooperation in renewable energy.
- The MoU was signed in May 2017 at Spain.
- The MoU will help in strengthening bilateral cooperation between the two countries with the exchange of expertise and networking of information.
- Both sides aim to establish the basis for a cooperative institutional relationship to encourage and promote technical bilateral cooperation on new and renewable energy issues on the basis of mutual benefit equality and reciprocity.
- The MoU envisages to establish a Joint Working Committee to review, monitor and discuss matters relation to areas of cooperation.
Location of Spain:
[Ref: Business Standard]
Memorandum of Association (MOA) to establish the ISARC
In order to establish the IRRI-South Asia Regional Centre (ISARC), a Memorandum of Association (MOA) has been signed between the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC & FW), DAC&FW and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines.
The Center will be the first international Center in the eastern India.
- This would be a Centre of Excellence in Rice Value Addition (CERVA) and will include a modern and sophisticated laboratory with the capacity to determine quality and status of heavy metals in grain and straw. The Centre will also undertake capacity-building exercises for stakeholders across the rice value chain.
- ISARC will operate under the governance of the IRRI Board of Trustees who will appoint an appropriate IRRI staff member as Director. A Coordination Committee will be headed by Director General, IRRI as Chair and Secretary, Government of India, DACFW as Co-Chair.
- The Centre will play a major role in harnessing and sustaining rice production in the region.
- It is expected to be a boon for food production and skill development in the eastern India and similar ecologies in other South Asian and African countries.
- It will support in adopting value chain based production system in the country. This will reduce wastage, add value and generate higher income for the farmers.
- The farmers in Eastern India will benefit in particular, besides those in South Asian and African countries.
Cabinet approves MoU to set up BRICS Agriculture Research Platform (BRICS-ARP)
The Union Cabinet has approved for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed among India and various BRICs countries for establishment of the BRICS Agriculture Research Platform (BRICS-ARP).
About the BRICS-ARP:
- BRICS-ARP will serve as a global platform for science-led agriculture-based sustainable development for addressing the issues of world hunger, under-nutrition, poverty and inequality (between farmers’ and non-farmers’ income) and enhancing agricultural trade, climate resilient agriculture and bio-security.
- It will further intensify cooperation among BRICS countries in agricultural research policy, science and technology, innovation and capacity building, including technologies for small-holder farming in the BRICS countries.
- The BRICS-ARP will promote sustainable agricultural development and poverty alleviation through strategic cooperation in agriculture to provide food security in the BRICS member countries.
- The establishment of BRICS-ARP was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 7th BRICS Summit held in July 2015 at Ufa, Russia.
- MoU on establishment of this platform was signed by the foreign Ministers of BRICS countries in the 8th BRICS Summit held in October, 2016 at Goa, India.
Science & Technology
Venμs, Israel’s first environmental research satellite launched
Israel has launched its first environmental research satellite named as Venus (Vegetation and Environment Monitoring New Micro-Satellite).
- It is a joint venture between the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and its French counterpart CNES.
About the Venus satellite:
- The Venus satellite is an earth-observation micro-satellite.
- It is considered the smallest satellite of its kind in the world.
- It is equipped with a special camera that can visualize details on Earth that are not visible to the naked eye.
- The Satellite has a dual mission-scientific and technological.
- The scientific mission will monitor Earth’s vegetation using a camera capable of recording 12 narrow spectral bands.
- The technological mission will test the operation of an innovative electric propulsion system based on the Israeli-designed Hall Effect Thrusters (HET). HET is a relatively low power device used to propel a spacecraft after entering orbit or farther out into space.
- The satellite will circle the earth 29 times in each 48-hour period and will stay in commission for 4.5 years.
- Venus satellite will be used to survey and monitor large areas to study soil, vegetation, forests, agriculture, water and air quality and other aspects of the environment.
- It will help to obtain high-resolution photographs of specific sites to track environmental issues such as erosion, desertification, pollution, natural disasters, and other phenomena linked to climate change.
Key Facts for Prelims
Coconut palm declared State tree of Goa
- The Goa State government has decided to include coconut palm as tree in the Goa, Daman and Diu (Preservation of) Trees Act, 1984 to regulate felling of coconut trees under this Act.
- The State government also resolved to declare the coconut tree as the “State tree”.
- As per the critics, the reclassification of coconut tree as a ‘palm’ faciltated its axeing since state laws made felling of ‘trees’ difficult.