News:The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has launched its Accelerator Lab in India.
About UNDP’s Accelerator lab:
- The Accelerator Lab is an innovative initiative by the UNDP, Qatar Government and the Federal Republic of Germany to find 21st century solutions to today’s complex new challenges.
- These labs seeks to identify grassroots solutions together with local actors and validate their potential to accelerate development.
Key approaches of Accelerator Lab:The four key approaches sit at the core of the Labs’ work are:
- Building on locally-sourced solutions, finding things that work and expanding on them
- Rapid testing and iteration to implement what works and go beyond the obvious solutions
- Combining the best understanding, ideas and expertise to generate collective knowledge
- Accelerating progress by bringing expertise, creativity and collective intelligence to bear.
About Accelerator Lab in India:
- The lab has been launched by UNDP in collaboration with Atal Innovation Mission and will look to solve issues through innovative solutions.
- It will seek to address some of the most pressing issues facing India, such as air pollution, sustainable water management and client-resilient livelihoods through innovation.
- The vision is also to make faster progress in meeting the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations(UN) by 2030.
- India’s Accelerator Lab will be part of a network of 60 global labs covering 78 nations that will test and scale new solutions to global challenges like climate change and inequality.
- The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the UN’s global development network.
- UNDP was established in 1965 by the General Assembly of the United Nations.It is headquartered in New York,US.
- It provides expert advice, training and grants support to developing countries, with increasing emphasis on assistance to the least developed countries.
- UNDP is central to the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG).
- UN SDG is a network that spans 165 countries and unites the 40 UN funds, programmes, specialized agencies and other bodies working to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
About Atal innovation mission:
- The Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) was set up by NITI Aayog in 2016.
- It aims to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
- It seeks to create institutions and programs that enhance innovation in schools, colleges, and entrepreneurs in general.
News:Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas has informed the Lok Sabha thatSATAT initiative has the potential of addressing environmental problems arising from stubble burning.
About SATAT initiative:
- SATAT stands for Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation(SATAT).
- The initiative aims to promote Compressed Biogas as an alternative, green transport fuel.It would benefit both vehicle-users as well as farmers and entrepreneurs.
- The potential for Compressed Biogas production from various sources in India is estimated at about 62 million tonnes per annum.
Features of the initiative:
- Compressed Biogas(CBG) plants are proposed to be set up mainly through independent entrepreneurs.
- CBG produced at these plants will be transported through cascades of cylinders to the fuel station networks of OMCs for marketing as a green transport fuel alternative.
- The entrepreneurs would then be able to separately market the other by-products from these plants including bio-manure, carbon-dioxide to enhance returns on investment.
Significance of the initiative:There are multiple benefits from converting agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste into CBG on a commercial scale which are:
- Responsible waste management, reduction in carbon emissions and pollution
- Additional revenue source for farmers
- Boost to entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment
- Support to national commitments in achieving climate change goals
- Reduction in import of natural gas and crude oil
- Buffer against crude oil/gas price fluctuations
- Bio-gas is produced naturally through a process of anaerobic decomposition from waste / biomass sources.
- These include agriculture residue, cattle dung, sugarcane press mud, municipal solid waste, sewage treatment plant waste among others.
- After purification,it is compressed and called CBG which has pure methane content of over 95%.
- Compressed Biogas is exactly similar to the commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential.Hence,it can be used as alternative, renewable automotive fuel.
News:Sri Lankan President is on his first overseas visit to India after taking over as Sri Lanka president.
Key takeaways from the visit:
- India has announced a line of credit of USD 400 million for development projects in Sri Lanka besides granting a separate fund of USD 50 million to help the country deal with challenges of terrorism.
- The two countries have also agreed to work closely on matters related to the economy and security in the backdrop of rising competition between China and the US for influence in the Indian Ocean region.
- On India’s concerns on Chinese projects,Sri Lanka has said that cooperation between India and Sri Lanka is multifaceted with priority given to security-related matters.
- While with other countries,initiatives for cooperation are by and large economic and commercial.
- Sri Lanka has also asked for India’s cooperation in the economic development of Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern regions which have a sizeable Tamil population.
- Indian Prime Minister has also raised the issue of Indian fishermen, mainly from Tamil Nadu who have been detained by Sri Lanka for crossing the maritime boundary.
Significance of the visit:
- The visit assumes significance owing to the growing influence of China in the Indian Ocean region.
- The visit could set the tone of India-Sri Lanka relations as Sri Lanka has positively reciprocated India’s gesture of partnership and stressed that India remains our relative even as China is its trade partner.
- However,Sri Lanka cannot wish away China completely as by the end of 2017,10% of its debt was owed to China.
News:Mauritius has called the UK an illegal colonial occupier after it ignored a UN mandated deadline to return the Chagos Islands.
About Chagos Islands:
- The Chagos Archipelago is an island group in the central Indian Ocean.It is located about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) south of the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent.
- In the 19th century, Chagos were governed from Mauritius which was a British Colony.
- However,UK retained possession of the Chagos archipelago even after Mauritius gained its independence in 1968 by paying compensation to and fishing rights to Mauritius.
- In 1971,UK forced the Chagos islanders to leave their homes so that the largest island named Diego Garcia could be leased to the US for a strategic airbase.
Global Stand on Chagos Islands:
- In 2015,Mauritius had initiated legal proceedings in these matters against the United Kingdom in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in the Netherlands.
- The Permanent Court of Arbitration had ruled that the United Kingdom has failed to give due regard to Mauritius’ rights and declared that the United Kingdom had breached its obligations.
- In 2017, at the UN General Assembly, 94 countries voted in support of Mauritius resolution to seek an advisory opinion on the legal status of the Chagos Islands from the International Court of Justice.
- However,the US and the UK were among the 15 countries that voted against the resolution.
- In 2019, International Court of Justice has ruled that the United Kingdom should hand over the administration of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean to Mauritius in order to legally complete its decolonisation.
- However, as the matter was referred to the Court by the UN General Assembly, it is not binding to either country but will remain only as an advisory for the UN to use in future.
News:Union Minister of Textiles has informed Lok Sabha about the scheme for Integrated Textile Parks.
About Scheme for Integrated Textile Parks:
- The Scheme for Integrated Textile Parks(SITP) has been launched in 2005.
- The objective of the SITP is to provide the industry with world class state of the art infrastructure facilities for setting up their textile units.
- The scheme is a demand driven scheme in which the prospective entrepreneurs can send their proposals to the Government.
- The scheme would facilitate textile units to meet international environmental and social standards.
- It targets industrial clusters/locations with high growth potential which require strategic interventions by way of providing world-class infrastructure support.
- The scheme was launched by merging two schemes namely the Apparel Parks for Exports Scheme(APES) and the Textiles Centre Infrastructure Development Scheme(TCIDS).
Funding of the scheme:
- The total project cost shall be funded through a mix of Equity from the Ministry of Textiles, State Government, State Industrial Development Corporation, Industry and Loan from Banks or Financial Institutions.
- The Government of India’s(GOI) support under the Scheme by way of Grant or Equity will be limited to 40% of the project cost subject to a ceiling of Rs.40 crore.
- The combined equity stake of State Governments or Corporation if any, should not exceed 49%.
- However,Government of India’s grant is up to 90% of the project cost for the first two projects (each) in the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir with ceiling limit of Rs 40 crore for each textile park.
News:Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) has said that state-of-the-art indigenous Anti-Tank Guided Missile(ATGM) Nag is in advanced stages of development.
About Nag missile:
- Nag is a third-generation, fire-and-forget, anti-tank guided missile developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
- The missile is an all weather,top attack missile with a minimum range of 500 metres and maximum range of 4km.
- The missile uses an imaging infrared seeker in lock-on-before-launch mode.It can seek and destroy all known enemy tanks during day and night or under any adverse weather conditions.
- The missile can be launched from both the land and air-based platforms.
- The missile has been indigenously developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme(IGMDP).
- The Integrated Guided-Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) was conceived by Dr. APJ. Abdul Kalam to enable India attain self-sufficiency in the field of missile technology.
Missiles under IGMDP:The missiles developed under this IGMDP programme includes:
- Prithvi: Short range surface to surface ballistic missile.
- Agni:Intermediate Range surface to surface ballistic Missile
- Trishul: Short range low level surface to air missile.
- Nag: 3rd generation anti-tank missile.
- Akash: Medium range surface to air missile.
About Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO):
- DRDO was established in 1958 by the government of India.It is under the administrative control of Union Ministry of Defence.
- DRDO aims to enhance India’s self-reliance in Defence Systems.It undertakes design & development leading to the production of a world-class weapon system.
News:The Sri Lankan Army will be participating in the annual joint military exercise Mitra Shakti between the Indian and Sri Lanka Army.
About the exercise:
- Exercise Mitra Shakti is an annual joint military exercise between the Indian Army and the Sri Lanka Army.
- The exercise is being conducted between both the countries since the year 2012.
- The aim of the exercise is to build and promote close relations between the armies of both the countries and to enhance the ability of joint exercise commander to take military contingents of both nations under command.
- The exercise will also involve training in tactical level operations during international Counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorist environment under United Nations mandate.
Other exercises between India and Sri Lanka:
- SLINEX is a bilateral naval exercise between Indian and Sri Lankan Navy.
- The exercise was started in 2005.It was previously held once in two years and now it has been converted to an annual event.
- The exercise is a continuation of ongoing operational interaction between both navies wherein regular ships visits are being undertaken between the two countries.
News:India and Japan are going to hold the 2+2 Dialogue in Delhi.
About 2+2 Dialogue:
- The 2+2 is a format of dialogue where the defense and foreign ministers or secretaries meet with their counterparts from another country.
- India and Japan had started the 2+2 dialogue at the level of officials in 2010.But they decided to upgrade it to the ministerial level during their summit in October,2018.
- Currently,India has a 2+2 ministerial mechanism with the US and 2+2 official level mechanism between India and Australia.
- Hence with this,India has 2+2 mechanism with all the Quad countries.
India-Japan 2+2 Dialogue:
- The 2+2 meeting between India and Japan would provide an opportunity for the two sides to review the status of and exchange further views on strengthening defence and security cooperation.
- The two sides will also exchange views on the situation in the Indo-Pacific region and their respective efforts under India’s ‘Act East Policy’ and Japan’s ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision’ for achieving their shared objectives of peace, prosperity and progress in the region.
About About the Quad group:
- Quadrilateral Security Dialogue(QSD) is the strategic dialogue between four countries viz. India, United States, Japan and Australia.
- It was originally initiated in 2007 but later disbanded with withdrawal of Australia.It has later revived in 2017.
- The Quad is viewed as a group of four democracies with a shared objective to ensure and support a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
- The foundation of Quad is also based on collective effort and shared commitment on counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security cooperation, development finance and cybersecurity.
News:According to data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO),India’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP) growth has fallen to 4.5% for the second quarter (July-September) of the year 2019-20.
About the slowdown in GDP growth rate:
- The GDP growth rate has slowed down for the sixth consecutive quarter at 4.5% from 5% in the preceding quarter.
- The growth is the lowest in six years and three months with the previous low recorded at 4.3% during the January – March 2013.
- In terms of quarterly growth,India has also lost the tag of the fastest growing economy to China which posted a growth of 6% in the September quarter.
Reasons for growth slowdown:
- The slowdown in GDP growth happened due to a number of factors including slowdown in private consumption, investment and export.But the key indicator is lack of credit growth and demand in the market.
- However,only government expenditure has supported the growth by growing at 11.6%.
Steps taken by Government:To overcome the growth slowdown,the government has undertaken a number of measures.
- It has announced a cut in the corporate tax rate to 22% from 30%.It also lowered the tax rate for new manufacturing companies to 15% to attract new foreign direct investments.
- It has also taken other initiatives such as bank recapitalization, mergers of 10 public sector banks into four, support for the auto sector, plans for infrastructure spending as well as tax benefits for startups.
- However, none of these measures directly address the widespread weakness in consumption demand which has been the chief driver of the economy.
Implications of growth slowdown:
- The slowdown in the economy is expected to adversely affect income growth which in turn would further dent consumption demand.
- The decline in household savings and lower buoyancy in government’s revenue collections will also lead to a limited fiscal space to spur economic growth.
- Hence,the continuous slowdown may force the Reserve Bank of India to go for another round of interest rate cuts in its upcoming monetary policy review.