TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. Centre moves to sell data from smart cities project INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. India should not have joined U.S. ban, says Iran 2. India asks China, Pakistan to end activities related to CPEC in PoK 3. India, Nepal inaugurate Motihari-Amlekhganj oil pipeline C. GS3 Related ECONOMY 1. India, ASEAN agree to review free trade pact in goods 2. Delhi-NCR takes pole in India’s start-up grid D. GS4 Related E. Editorials ECONOMY 1. Factoring in safety: on stronger worker safety law INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 1. Motihari-Amalekhgunj Petroleum Pipeline SOCIAL ISSUES 1. One year after ‘Navtej Johar’, imagining an equality law F. Tidbits 1. Gurugram Police ties up with Google for traffic updates 2. Kashmir apples to escape lockdown G. Prelims Facts 1. Two new species of ginger discovered from Nagaland H. UPSC Prelims Practise Questions I. UPSC Mains Practise Questions
A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) officials have said that the open data platform for the 100 cities (part of the Smart Cities Mission) would be expanded to cover 500 cities by 2022 and all urban centres in the country by 2024.
- Beginning with an open data platform for the 100 cities by 2020, the government is planning to make a wide range of data of all 4,041 urban local bodies public by 2024.
- The data would range from health, education, finances to social aspects.
- The India Urban Data Exchange set up by the MoHUA for its Smart Cities would be expanded, eventually leading to a marketplace.
- While the plans are to eventually monetise the data, the immediate objective is making sure that cities are mature in dealing with data.
- This data would help cities plan their interventions better.
- All cities would have data officers and data coordinators by 2024.
Datasets are getting used by companies already. The cities could monetise the data and use the proceeds for funding infrastructure projects. However, any monetisation of data needs to comply with the data privacy and other related laws.
Smart Cities Mission:
- Smart Cities Mission, is an urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India.
- It was launched in 2015 with the mission of developing 100 smart cities across the country making them citizen friendly and sustainable.
- The mission is undertaken by the Urban Development Ministry. It works in partnership with the state governments in which the different cities are.
India’s decision to shut down oil imports from Iran due to sanctions imposed by the United States is also hurting India-Iran bilateral trade and India’s future in Chabahar port, said Iranian Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni.
- The US reimposed sanctions on Iran in November 2018, after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and six world powers.
- To reduce Iran’s crude oil export to zero, the US ended the waivers that had allowed the top buyers of Iranian oil, including India, to continue their imports for six months.
- As of late April, India had dropped its dependency on Iranian oil from about 2.5 billion tonnes a month to 1 million tonnes a month.
- India stopped importing oil from Iran after American waivers granted to eight buyers expired in May 2019, in compliance with the US sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear programme.
- In the first public comments about the Indian government’s decision to fall in line with U.S. sanctions, the Ambassador said India had fought hard for its independence and should not have given in to unilateral sanctions from the U.S.
- Pointing to China, Russia, and Turkey, who have kept up their energy engagement with Iran, he said “It is India’s sovereign decision, but others have chosen differently”.
- Of greater possible concern for India was the Iranian Ambassador’s outlook for the Chabahar port.
- India’s construction of the Shahid Beheshti terminal at Chabahar port since 2016 is a key component of its trade and connectivity routes to Afghanistan and Central Asia, circumventing Pakistan.
- The Chabahar port, considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries, is located on the Indian Ocean in the Sistan and Baluchistan province of Iran.
- Despite the U.S. sanctions waiver for Chabahar, Mr. Chegeni said that India’s development work had been very slow, and that trade to Afghanistan was much lower than it should be.
- It was also said that in view of the delay over India’s plans to build a railway line connecting Chabahar port to the Afghan border at Zahedan, the Iranian government had decided to complete the railroad through its own resources by 2021.
- In addition, Iran is now discussing an LNG pipeline to China along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as India is not expected to retain its prior interest in LNG imports from Iran.
India rejected the reference to Jammu and Kashmir in the latest China-Pakistan joint statement and called on both countries to stop activities related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Why does India oppose CPEC?
- India has consistently expressed concerns to both China and Pakistan on the projects in so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is on the territory of India that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947.
- The Chinese-funded CPEC, links China’s Muslim dominated Xinjiang province to the Gwadar deep-sea port in Pakistan.
- The project passes through Gilgit-Baltistan in PoK, which New Delhi considers its own territory.
- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Pakistan and discussed regional issues.
- During the discussion, China reiterated its support to Pakistan to protect its territorial integrity and sovereignty.
- The visit was part of continued consultation between Beijing and Islamabad after India ended special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019.
- India has expressed repeatedly, that it is resolutely opposed to any actions by other countries to change the status quo in PoK.
India launched South Asia’s maiden cross-border oil pipeline from Motihari in India to Amlekhgunj in Nepal.
- The cross border petroleum products pipeline was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli via video conference.
- The Motihari-Amlekhgunj oil pipeline project was first proposed in 1996.
- The project was put back on the agenda during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kathmandu in 2014.
- The two governments had signed an agreement to execute the project in August 2015. Construction had begun in April 2018.
- The project is one of the several connectivity schemes that India and Nepal have been planning for several years and was inked in 2015.
- A test supply was carried out in July 2019 after which both sides had agreed to operationalize the energy route, a first time effort in South Asia.
- It will help Nepal ensure stable energy supply for its domestic market.
- The 69-km pipeline, having a capacity of 2 million metric ton per annum, will provide cleaner petroleum products at affordable costs to the people of Nepal.
- The project is being led by the Indian Oil Corporation and the Nepal Oil Corporation which has built infrastructure in Amlekhgunj for distribution of energy in Nepal.
- India is already supplying diesel to Bangladesh through cross border train and plans to build pipeline to supply petroleum products to its eastern neighbour.
- The move seeks to bind Kathmandu closer to New Delhi, economically and strategically.
- The aim is to cement India-Nepal ties in the face of major inroads made by China into the Himalayan nation, and seeks to repair the trust deficit between the two countries due to an economic blockade seemingly imposed by India in 2015 to persuade Nepal to change some provisions in its new constitution.
- The development comes against the backdrop of recent plans for a rail link between Nepal and China cutting through the Himalayas.
- There were also plans to link Nepal and China through an energy pipeline running through the Himalayas. Both were seen as means by Nepal to find an alternative to its dependency on India and came on the back of tensions in 2015.
- India-Nepal pipeline serves to bind the people of the two countries and adds credibility to the argument that India is a development partner of Nepal.
Regular exchanges at the highest level have laid down a forward looking agenda for expanding India-Nepal partnership. It is believed that there is immense scope for expansion of ties between India and Nepal and that this project will further deepen and expand across diverse sectors.
C. GS3 Related
India and the 10-member ASEAN have agreed to initiate a review of the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) in goods to make it more user-friendly, simple and trade facilitative.
- This was agreed upon during the meeting between economic ministers of ASEAN and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal in Bangkok.
- The two sides also decided to constitute a joint committee for this purpose.
- The ministers agreed to initiate the review of the ASEAN-India trade in goods agreement to make it more user-friendly, simple, and trade facilitative for businesses.
- Both the sides also gained the recommendations of the ASEAN-India business council to further promote the potential of bilateral trade through the utilisation of the free trade pact as well as cooperation in some areas like financial technology, connectivity, startups and innovation.
India-ASEAN Trade in goods pact:
- The India-ASEAN trade in goods pact came into force from January 2010.
- Under the pact, two trading partners set timelines for eliminating duties on the maximum number of goods traded between the two regions.
- The 10 ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam.
- Based on preliminary ASEAN data, two-way goods trade with India grew by 9.8 per cent from $73.6 billion in 2017 to $80.8 billion in 2018.
Rising trade deficit:
- India is not happy about the fact that its trade deficit with ASEAN has widened significantly since the pact was implemented.
- A NITI Aayog study reveals that India’s trade deficit with ASEAN doubled to $10 billion in 2017 from $5 billion in 2011.
- One of the reasons for the growing deficit is the low utilisation of the FTA route by Indian exporters to ASEAN countries because of difficulties faced in negotiating the rules.
- A review of the India-ASEAN FTA could help improve utilisation in India by making the pact simpler and more user-friendly.
A report, “Turbocharging Delhi-NCR Start-up Ecosystem” states that, with over 7,000 start-ups, the Delhi-NCR area now has the largest number of active start-ups in the country.
- According to the report by TiE Delhi-NCR and consulting firm Zinnov, the Delhi-NCR area now has the largest number of active start-ups in the country, pipping cities like Bengaluru, Chennai and Mumbai.
- The National Capital Region (NCR) includes cities like Gurugram, Noida and Faridabad.
- As per the report ‘Turbocharging Delhi-NCR Start-up Ecosystem’, Delhi-NCR accounted for 23% of start-ups with a cumulative value of $50 billion.
- The study pointed out NCR is home to 10 unicorns, with at least 1 new unicorn emerging each year since 2013.
- The report noted that the region has a healthy mix of start-ups across sectors with the maximum number of over 2650 start-ups in the consumer product and services space, followed by enterprise products (1,767 start-ups), e-commerce (1,690), health (815) and edtech (763).
- What works in favour of Delhi NCR is firstly the well-established network of angle investors, giving better access to funding.
- Secondly, demographically it offers access to early adopters to services which are usually the younger customers, which in turn makes it easier to get venture capitalists interested in your project.
- It is believed that the people in this region are more business-oriented and their risk-taking capability is more.
- However, it is opined that unlocking the true potential of the Delhi-NCR startup ecosystem would require focusing on several core areas including building “three world-class affordable startup hubs, one each in Delhi, Noida and Gurugram” along the lines of T-Hub set up in 2015 by the Telangana government.
- The report said there is a need to boost seed and early-stage investments in Delhi-NCR.
- A unicornis a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion.
- The term was coined in 2013 by venture capitalist Aileen Lee,
- The mythical animal, Unicorn was chosen to represent the statistical rarity of such successful ventures.
- Not everything is good with the start-up ecosystem in the country.
- The reasons include lack of affordable co-working spaces, less number and quality of accelerators and incubators, shortage of technical talent, lack of seed and early-stage funding and low corporate participation.
- The report pointed out that the pace of new start-ups being founded has slowed over the past two years across India.
- The trend is also reflected in the new start-ups coming up in Delhi NCR region.
- Amitabh Kant, chief executive officer of government think tank NITI Aayog, who released the report, assured the startup community of the government’s continued support in setting up incubation centres in the region.
- He pointed out that six Indian cities—Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune—are among the top 100 startup hubs globally and except the US, no other country has more than five cities on the list, making India a broad-based startup ecosystem.
- A lot more seed and early-stage funding, creating more affordable co-working spaces, increasing the number and quality of accelerators and incubators, developing deeper pools of technical talent and developing sector-specific policies are needed.
D. GS4 Related
- India’s Industrial and work environment is based on productivity benefits but in promoting occupational and industrial safety remains weak even with years of robust economic growth
The consequences are frequently seen in the form of a large number of fatalities and injuries
- Deaths of four people, including a senior officer, in a fire at the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation gas facility in Navi Mumbai
- The tragedy that killed nearly two dozen people at a firecracker factory in Batala, Punjab
Such incidents make it imperative that the Central government abandon its reductionist approach to the challenge, and engage in serious reform.
The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019
- The bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in July to combine 13 existing laws relating to mines, factories, dock workers, building and construction, transport workers, inter-State migrant labour and so on, pays little attention to the sector-specific requirements of workers.
- One of its major shortcomings is that formation of safety committees and appointment of safety officers, the latter in the case of establishments with 500 workers, is left to the discretion of State governments.
- Evidently, the narrow stipulation on safety officers confines it to a small fraction of industries.
- On the other hand, the Factories Act currently mandates appointment of a bipartite committee in units that employ hazardous processes or substances, with exemptions being the exception. This provision clearly requires retention in the new Code.
Steps that need to be taken by the Govt
- A safe work environment is a basic right, and India’s recent decades of high growth should have ushered in a framework of guarantees.
- Unfortunately, successive governments have not felt it necessary to ratify many fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) covering organised and unorganised sector workers’ safety, including the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981.
- Those ILO instruments cover several areas of activity that the NDA government’s occupational safety Code now seeks to amalgamate, but without the systemic reform that is necessary to empower workers.
- It is essential, therefore, that the new Code go back to the drawing board for careful scrutiny by experienced parliamentarians, aided by fresh inputs from employees, employers and experts.
- Industries that use hazardous processes and chemicals deserve particular attention, and the Code must have clear definitions, specifying limits of exposure for workers.
- Compromising on safety can lead to extreme consequences that go beyond factories, and leave something that is etched in the nation’s memory as in the case of the Bhopal gas disaster.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart K P Sharma Oli “switched on” the Motihari-Amalekhgunj Petroleum Pipeline from their offices in New Delhi and Kathmandu.
- The Motihari-Amalekhgunj pipeline project was first proposed in 1996, but progress was slow.
- Things began to move after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Kathmandu in 2014.
- In 2017, state-owned Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) signed a petroleum trade agreement to supply about 1.3 million tonnes of fuel annually to Nepal with a promise to double the volume by 2020.
- In July 2019, the two countries successfully concluded a “testing transfer” through the oil pipeline.
- The pipeline will transport fuel from Barauni refinery in Bihar’s Begusarai district to Amalekhgunj in southeastern Nepal, situated across the border from Raxaul in East Champaran district.
- The Amalekhgunj fuel depot will have the capacity to store up to 16,000 kilolitres of petroleum products.
- The 69-km pipeline will drastically reduce the cost of transporting fuel to landlocked Nepal from India.
- The Motihari-Amalekhgunj pipeline will help in tackling the oil storage problem in Nepal and doing away with transportation of petroleum products through tankers
- It’s been a year since Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code– a draconian, British-era law criminalizing same-sex relationship– was read down.
- With this we have moved from a society where transgender, intersex, lesbian, gay, bisexual and gender non-confirming persons were treated as criminals to the constitutional recognition of the rights to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
Navtej Johar v. Union of India
- This judgment in the Supreme court not only laid the ground for stronger equality recognition such as the judgment in the Joseph Shine case decriminalising adultery (2018) and the judgment in the Sabarimala case recognising the rights of women to enter religious shrines (2018), but also led to the decriminalising of same-sex intercourse in other jurisdictions such as the High Court of Botswana and inspired a constitutional challenge to Section 377A in Singapore.
- The recognition of these rights impacts not only LGBTI persons, but everyone, for it protects all our rights of self-expression, equality and autonomy.
Steps for equality
The Navtej decision has to be followed by positive steps for equality. Transgender persons still face a number of legal barriers and LGBTI people continue to face discrimination, exclusion, abuse and harassment at work, school, health care settings and in public places.
- One reason for this is that we still do not have an equality and anti-discrimination statute that would protect persons from discrimination on different protected grounds.
- Legislation such as the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 make certain caste discriminatory acts criminal offences but do not provide civil remedies of injunctions or damages for acts of discrimination.
- We have the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, but this is limited to sexual harassment at work.
- The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 addresses only transgender and intersex persons’ rights and there is severe criticism of this Bill. The rights of equality and non-discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation are not covered under this Bill.
An overarching legislation
- The need of the hour is a comprehensive legislation that guarantees equality to all persons on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, sex, caste, religion, age, disability, marital status, pregnancy, nationality and other grounds.
- The law should impose obligations of equality and non-discrimination on all persons, public and private, and in the areas of education, employment, healthcare, land and housing and access to public places.
- It should provide for civil remedies including injunctions to stop discriminatory behaviour, costs and damages, and positive action to make reparations.
Most importantly we need an equality law to define what equality would encompass.
- Supreme Court comes to rescue on the question of what equality is, because it held in its privacy judgment in S. Puttuswamy v. Union of India (2017) that equality and liberty cannot be separated, and equality encompasses the inclusion of dignity and basic freedoms.
- Situations like what we see in J&K also show us that we need an equality law that not only addresses discrimination against individuals but also addresses structural forms of discrimination and exclusion.
- On the first anniversary of Navtej, the time is right for these reforms, so that we are able to see these battles being won in the next 25 years.
- The Gurugram traffic police have tied up with Google maps for dissemination of traffic related information in real time for public use.
- The information such as planned road closures, diversions, traffic alerts regarding road crash etc. is now shared by Gurugram traffic police with Google maps.
- Based on the information shared by the traffic police, Google maps immediately updates the information on its public maps.
- If traffic police plans to close a particular road on a particular date and at a particular time for a proposed marathon, then this information is passed on to Google maps in advance.
- Google maps then automatically redirects the commuters to alternate roads.
- The basic idea behind this arrangement is to prompt commuters to make intelligent choices in order to make their commuting experience hassle-free.
- Earlier, traffic police had to force people to take alternate routes whenever road closures occurred.
- Now, with people having access to information in real time, they can plan their travel judiciously.
- Kashmir’s famed apple is battling to get exported outside the State this year.
- The reasons ranging from suspected militants campaigning against the fruit’s export to the government’s inability to rope in enough trucks.
- The Centre’s Special Market Intervention Price Scheme (MISP) is now providing much-needed assistance to growers’ hopes of salvaging the 16,000 crore apple industry amid the continuous lockdown.
- Chief Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam has announced the government’s plan to procure almost 12 lakh metric tonnes of apple this season, under the MISP, with the help of the National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED).
- Under the scheme, the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, GoI and the National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) will procure Apple in J&K from the growers/aggregators so as to ensure remunerative prices for the Apple crop.
- It would be in the history of J&K that such a special scheme is being introduced wherein nearly 60% of the estimated annual Apple production, will be procured from the Apple growers nearer their door steps.
- The scheme is expected to enhance the income of the growers in Kashmir Valley by about Rs 2000 crore.
- The period of procurement would be six months.
- The fund requirement for the scheme has been estimated as Rs 8000 Crore.
- It would also help maintain a uniform rate in the open market across the country, after India raised tariffs on apple imports from the United States earlier this year.
G. Prelims Facts
- Scientists from the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have discovered two new species of Zingiber, commonly referred to as ginger, from
- While Zingiber perenense has been discovered from the Peren district of Nagaland.
- Zingiber dimapurense was found in the Dimapur district of the State.
- Zingiber dimapurense is taller in size, with leafy shoots measuring 90-120 cm high, whereas the leafy shoots of Zingiber perenense reach up to 70 cm in height.
- Zingiber dimapurense:
- The lip of the flower (modified corolla) is white in colour, with dense dark- purplish red blotches.
- Its pollen is a creamy-white and ovato-ellipsoidal
- The fruit is an oblong 4.5 cm-5.5 cm long capsule.
- Zingiber perenense:
- The lip of the flower is white with purplish-red streaks throughout
- The pollen is ellipsoidal.
- The genus Zingiber has 141 species distributed throughout Asia, Australia and the South Pacific, with its centre of diversity in Southeast Asia.
- More than 20 species have been found in northeastern India. The high diversity of ginger species in northeast India reveals that the climate is conducive for the growth and diversity of the genus.
- Previous discoveries of Zingiber include:
- Hedychium chingmeianum from the Tuensang district of Nagaland
- Caulokaempferia dinabandhuensis from the Ukhrul district in Manipur,
- Zingiber bipinianum from Meghalaya.
- The rhizome of Zingiber officinale (common ginger) is used as a spice in kitchens across Asia, and also for its medicinal value. Some wild species of Zingiber have immense horticultural importance.
H. UPSC Prelims Practise Questions
Q1. Consider the following statements:
- The Smart Cities Mission is undertaken by the Urban Development Ministry.
- The Smart Cities Mission works in partnership with the state governments in which the different cities are located.
Which of the given statement/s is/are INCORRECT?
a. 1 only
b. 2 only
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2
Q2. Consider the following statements with respect to Gwadar Port:
- Gwadar Port is situated on the Arabian Sea.
- It lies to the West of Chabahar port.
Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?
a. 1 only
b. 2 only
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2
Q3. Consider the following statements:
- Motihari-Amlekhganj oil pipeline is a project between India and Bangladesh.
- It is South Asia’s first cross-border oilproduct pipeline.
Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?
a. 1 only
b. 2 only
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2
Q4. Consider the following statements:
- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising six countries in Southeast Asia.
- India is a Member of ASEAN
- ASEAN is headquartered atJakarta in Indonesia
Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?
a. 1 and 2 only
b. 2 and 3 only
c. 3 only
d. 1 and 3 only
I. UPSC Mains Practise Questions
- Critically Analyse the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019. (10 Marks, 150 Words)
- With a year having passed since Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was read down, LGBTI people continue to face discrimination, exclusion, abuse and harassment at work, school, health care settings and in public places. The Indian society needs a comprehensive legislation that guarantees equality to all persons on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, marital status and other grounds. Discuss (15 Marks, 250 Words)
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